Keith Strudler - 2012 In Review

Dec 26, 2012

So as years go, 2012 may not have been our finest.  But, alas, and mercifully, it is coming to a close.  Yet generally time is not the best aid to remembrance nor perspective.  And with that we look back on the year that’s nearly past, not with an acute vision on recent events but with a more reflective eye on this year’s whole body of work.  In other words, sometimes it’s hard to remember something that happened even a month ago, much less 10 or 11.

That’s particularly true in sports, where everyone’s only as good as their last completion or failed drug test.  And if nothing else, this year was complete.  It brought Olympic heights, labor strife, gloried comebacks, concussive suicides, and really enough highs and lows to fill an entire Tony awards show.

Tomorrow the Marist College Center for Sports Communication will release its year-end study of the biggest stories in sports done with the Marist Poll.  The poll asks sports fans to choose the greatest performances, the best titles, and the most influential moments both in and outside the field of play.  It’s a snapshot of what we think of the year that was through whatever subjective lens we each carry.

Since the poll doesn’t come out until tomorrow, I can’t reveal any of its particulars.  Like who was the most overhyped athlete, although you can probably guess, or which sports story outside the field of play had the greatest impact, and there were a few of those.  Those details will be released tomorrow, and I encourage you to go to the Center’s web page to get the numbers and the nuance.

But I can speak in generalities about the results and what they mean, so I will.  And generally speaking, we’re seemingly as enamored as we are anguished.  We love Olympic heroes doing superhuman things, especially when they’re young or cute or historic.  We love football as well, the teams that win and the players that play.  And we don’t like deviants, especially anyone that preys on children.  And we don’t all see things the same way.  Prisms of race, sex, and age help decide what each of deem relevant, important, even extraordinary in sports.  If there’s no one America, there’s no singular sporting American either.  So even when we watch the same things, which in sports we sometimes do, we often don’t see it the same way.

And perhaps there lies the relevance of this study to be released tomorrow.  Not the winners and losers, the top jocks and best champions.  It’s that in our sports year, we searched for heroes and at times found villains.  We despised deviant behaviors yet glorified sanctioned violence.  We wanted desperately to believe in this country but occasionally disagreed whether the accolades were warranted.   We are hopeful, divided, hypocritical, and at times disappointed.  That’s what sports offered us this year, and perhaps to some degree, that’s what we deserved.

I suppose these year-end recaps are supposed to be chances for reflection and remembrance, to relive the near past before filing it into our long term recesses sports history.  And yet that feels like a waste.  When I rehash the months gone by on field and court and our collective response, it only affirms that we’re just as confused and confounded in play as we are everywhere else.  In fact, in not a single poll did one choice break 50%, not a single place where a majority of Americans believed the same thing.  Without revealing too much, it seems the only thing we all seem to agree on is, well, Tim Tebow.  Young and old, men and women, white, black, brown; we’re pretty tight on Tim Tebow.  I’ll leave it at that.

So as you watch the nation tear itself apart on gun control and tax reform and way too many things for the supposedly United States of America, know those aren’t singular artifacts.  That’s just who we are.  And the thought that sports might somehow bridge that gap in either a superficial or authentic way is probably simply a pipe dream, no more likely than the Jets winning a Super Bowl or the Mets sweeping the pennant.  That’s just the way it was in 2012.

But as they say in sports, there is always next year.  And so on the court, and in this case off, for 2013 I suppose, even after a dismal 2012, hope does spring eternal.

Keith Strudler is chair of the communication department at Marist College and director for the Marist College Center for Sports Communication.