Top 20 national stories
1 Penn State
The news of Jerry Sandusky’s sexual abuse of boys was revealed in November 2011, but the aftershocks were felt well into 2012. The former Penn State defensive coordinator was convicted of assaulting 10 boys and sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison. And the NCAA punished Penn State with a four-year bowl ban, scholarship reductions and a stunning $60 million fine.
2 LeBron’s most excellent
Ripped and ridiculed by critics, the most scrutinized athlete in sports responded resoundingly, leading the Heat to an NBA title, winning the MVP award for both the regular season and the Finals and capturing Olympic gold in London. To top it off, he was named Sportsman of the Year by Sports Illustrated.
The cycling star was stripped of his seven Tour De France victories after the U.S. Doping Agency determined that he not only used performance-enhancing drugs, but also that his cycling team “ran the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program the sport has ever seen.”
4 College football playoff approved
After 14 years of crowning a champion through the hardly reliable Bowl Championship Series, the college presidents finally approved a four-team tournament beginning in 2014.
The U.S. won the medal count, as expected, with 104 to China’s 88. Michael Phelps won four golds and two silvers to push his all-time medal count to 22, most in history. Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt became the first athlete to win the 100 and 200 meters in consecutive Olympics.
6 New York Giants make unlikely
Super Bowl run
The Giants beat the Patriots 21-17 to earn the distinction of the Super Bowl champion with the worst regular-season record (9-7).
7 San Francisco
unlikely run to
The Giants overcame a 3-1 deficit to St. Louis in the National League Championship Series, swept Detroit 4-0 in the World Series and did it all without one of their best hitters, Melky Cabrera, who was suspended in August for violating MLB’s drug policy.
biggest scandal since the Patriots’ SpyGate fiasco rocked the New Orleans Saints’ foundation and resulted in a season-long suspension for coach Sean Payton and an eight-game suspension for general manager Mickey Loomis. But former commissioner Paul Tagliabue overturned Roger Goodell’s suspension of four players.
9 NFL players die on consecutive weekends
The NFL mourned two tragedies in December: Kansas City Chiefs player Jovan Belcher killed his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, and then shot himself. The following weekend, Dallas Cowboys player Josh Brent’s DUI incident resulted in the death of teammate Jerry Brown.
The former MVP, who missed the 2011 season with a neck injury, was released by the Colts, who decided to start rookie Andrew Luck instead of paying Manning $28 million. Manning chose the Denver Broncos over several other suitors and quickly regained his old form, throwing 37 touchdowns this season.
11 NHL work stoppage
The league, which lost its 2004-05 season to a labor dispute, lost the first three-plus months of this season — and potentially more — because of another disagreement about how to share revenue with the players.