Attempts by professional sports to rid themselves of performance-enhancing drugs proved futile in 2013, as two different sports were rocked by athletes who were lined to PEDs.
That’s why my list of the top 10 national sports stories are led by two prominent stories about illegal drug use in sports.
Here now is my opinion of the top 10 national sports stories of 2013.
1. The Biogenesis scandal: A Miami alternative newspaper obtained documents showing a Miami clinic was distributing performance-enhancing drugs to Major League Baseball players, and some were even big names. It started with Milwaukee Brewer Ryan Braun, who had gotten away with a positive test one year earlier, getting 65 games off. But the big name is Alex Rodriguez, who to this day continues to fight to keep $35 million of his $275 million contract when he was hit with a 211-game suspension. The fight is currently in an arbitrator’s hands, but Rodriguez promises a court battle if unsuccessful.
2. Lance Armstrong admits he doped: Armstrong had gone through years of successful lawsuits, suing anyone who accused him of doping. But faced with a scathing U.S. Anti-Doping Agency report of his use, on Jan. 18 he confessed to doping during an interview with Oprah Winfrey, saying he was on EPO when he won all seven of his Tour de France titles. Armstrong’s world is now courtrooms and lawyers after being sued multiple times for fraud.
3. The Boston Marathon bombing: The Boston Marathon was going along well, just like many before it. But at the finish line some three hours after the start, two bombs went off near the finish line, injuring dozens of bystanders. Because of the possibility of it being a terror attack, many runners were unable to finish the course because police ushered everyone off it. However the bombing was pinned on two rogue young men who had no ties to terrorism, and those who didn’t finish were given a free entry to the 2014 race. The motto of Boston then became “Boston Strong.”
4. Ravens win the Super Blackout Bowl: The Baltimore Ravens were leading the San Francisco 49ers easily in the third quarter of Super Bowl 47, but then something happened that people would remember more than the game: the lights went out in half the stadium due to a power outage. After a long delay the 49ers would come back to make a game of it, but the Ravens held on for their second Lombardi Trophy.
5. The Boston Red Sox win the World Series: Who needs Terry Francona to win a Series? The Red Sox sure didn’t after the bearded BoSox boys beat the St. Louis Cardinals to win their third title in 10 seasons. The Red Sox pitched right around the vaunted Detroit Tigers hitters to get to the series, while the Cardinals needed to dispatch NL Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers to make it to the big dance.
6. The Miami Heat make it two in a row: When he first arrived in Miami, LeBron James said “not five, not six, not seven.” After being highly ridiculed by everyone for saying that, he proved he is well on his way to those numbers with the second straight championship, knocking off the San Antonio Spurs on the way to the title. The Heat had to go through the resurgent Indiana Pacers in seven games to get to the NBA Finals, while the Spurs downed Oklahoma City for their ticket.
7. Alabama makes it three: The Crimson Tide and former Michigan State head coach Nick Saban picked up their third crystal football after hammering Notre Dame 42-14 for the Fighting Irish’s first loss of the season. That was the Crimson Tide’s third trophy in four years. Alabama won’t get to defend their title as they were third behind Auburn and Florida State this year.
8. The NFL settles the concussion lawsuit: Thousands of retired players, who were getting very little from the NFL after they retired, decided to use the courts to get more of the $9 billion the league rakes in a year. But in a move that many hailed as a win for the league, the NFL settled with the former players for just $765 million when the players were seeking $3 billion. Most estimates work out to just $14,000 per player in the settlement. But that’s one public relations nightmare the NFL doesn’t have to worry about any more.
9. Jimmie Johnson’s six-pack: Johnson did it again in 2013, winning his sixth Cup championship in eight years when he beat out Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick. That leaves the driver of the 48 car just one championship shy of tying Dale Earnhardt Sr. for most Cup titles. Next-closest among active drivers? Jeff Gordon with four and Tony Stewart with three.
10. The Chicago Blackhawks win a second Stanley Cup: Even though it was in a lockout-shortened season, the Blackhawks were able to pick up a second ring for Patrick Kane and Jonathon Toews when they knocked off the Boston Bruins in the finals. Chicago had to get past a feisty L.A. Kings team with a hot goaltender in Jonathan Quick in the Western Conference finals while the Bruins shut out the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern finals to make it to the title series.