The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

December 28, 2012

Year in Sports: Sad sagas the story of 2012


Associated Press

— (AP) — Jerry Sandusky will spend the rest of his life in prison, Penn State football played under NCAA sanctions and Joe Paterno passed away.

Lance Armstrong abandoned his fight against doping allegations. Roger Clemens won his court battle, despite lingering skepticism over whether he used steroids. The impact of early-stage dementia forced Pat Summitt to step down from her coaching perch.

Again and again, it seemed, the sports world in 2012 saw the end of long tales with tragic or, at best, bittersweet endings.

And in so many cases, off-the-field news overshadowed what happened on it:

• In State College, Pa., where the Sandusky mess at Penn State destroyed lives and radically changed the face of a proud football program.

• In Washington, where Clemens emerged from court a winner, after a mistrial the first time around on charges he lied to Congress about performance-enhancing drug use.

• In Kansas City, Mo., where Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher shot and killed his girlfriend, then drove to the team’s facility in the Arrowhead Stadium complex, thanked his coach and general manager, and turned the gun on himself.

• In Austin, Texas, where the news broke that Armstrong decided to give up his long fight against doping charges, saying “enough is enough” but acknowledging no wrongdoing. The move began the cyclist’s swift fall from his spot as cancer-fighting sports hero in the public eye. And though he maintains he was victimized by a “witch hunt,” Armstrong still was stripped of all seven of his Tour de France victories.

“We must create a culture in which people are not afraid to speak up, management is not compartmentalized, all are expected to demonstrate the highest ethical standards, and the operating policy is open, collegial and collaborative,” Penn State President Rodney Erickson said the day the NCAA levied massive sanctions against the Nittany Lions including a four year postseason ban.

Erickson was speaking of his own school.

But in 2012, at least some of those lessons could have applied to any number of topics.