Even though we are often frustrated as sports fans, we are not entirely powerless. We can control the impressions we take from the games, and as ESPN The Magazine’s year-end issue on sale December 16 demonstrates, 2011 provided us with plenty of moments that were positive and negative, remarkable and teachable, wonderful and head-scratching. It was a year that brought us the shine of the Packers and shame of Penn State, a year in which a deep Freese saved the Redbirds, but not even a matchup between No.1 and No. 2 could keep the BCS from being scorned.
Greatness was measured by both ticks (the 1.306 seconds that separated Tony Stewart from Carl Edwards) and years (the 43 that Mark Recchi lived before becoming the oldest player to score a goal in the Stanley Cup Finals). As for villains, well, we can now stop hissing at the people responsible for those temporary play stoppages. So it’s up to us to decide what kind of year this was in sports. Whatever the verdict, though, we’ll walk away from 2011 as exhilarated as we are exhausted. Just wait until next year.
Between what we know now about Syracuse and Penn State, parents of athletes would not be far off in worrying about their children’s safety. The Mag investigates how such scandals are changing the perception of and trust in youth sports. By Wayne Drehs
MLB: Down to His Last Strike
In 2011, teams were still alive down to the very last strike of the very last game, and nobody exemplified this better than St. Louis Cardinals’ David Freese. Before he provided the hits that kept his team alive and winning, he quit baseball early in his career and made a comeback, making him the most unlikely of World Series stars. By Molly Knight
NFL: National Pass Time
By the time the NFL season wraps up, passing records of all kinds will have been shattered as QBs put up the most epic seasons ever. But there’s more: a look at the ripple effect of so much passing. By Eddie Matz
CFB: BCS Preview
The Mag has been analyzing the five teams that are BCS title contenders, so they can fully preview the two teams that will end up in New Orleans. Plus, moments from this season that fans would have their teams do over if they could are recalled. By Ryan McGee
CFB: A Rich Tradition
Late at night, at computers around the country, a group of college football fans enraged by the lack of playoff is hard at work trying to topple the system. Playoff PAC, a loosely affiliated organization consisting mostly of ex-Washington, D.C. political operatives, is prodding the nation’s college football power brokers into getting rid of the bowl system.
·In his latest column, The Mag’s Howard Bryant analyzes Jim Boeheim and Joe Paterno from a psychological perspective, looking at the siege-like, self-protectionist mentality coaches go into when their programs are under pressure and in trouble. ·As an antidote to this year’s countless sports scandals, The Mag’s Chris Jones writes an optimistic year-end column focusing on Garrett McNamara, who just surfed the biggest wave ever. ·“Breaking Bad,” by Scott Eden recounts the aftermath of the “interview of the year” (lasting 101 seconds) where Steve Williams became nearly as notorious as the man whose bag he used to carry. When it was over, the world’s most famous athlete would learn there’s nothing as dangerous as a caddie scorned. What drove the caddie to put Tiger Woods on blast?
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