Editor's note: There is an enhanced version of this story available here.
1 Near the finish line of the signature spring marathon, the Boston Marathon, two bombs exploded. Three lost lives. Hundreds of others sustained injuries. New England used sports as a balm on psychological wounds that might never heal. The NHL’s Bruins made a stunning third period comeback to take Game 7 from Toronto on the way to losing in the Stanley Cup Finals to Chicago. The Red Sox rebounded from a disastrous 2012 to win the World Series.
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2 The NFL paid $765 million to settle the class-action lawsuit brought by former players over concussion damage. Now, the lawsuit goes away. The NFL doesn’t have to tell anybody what it knew about brain trauma as it relates to football or when the NFL knew it. What didn’t go away: the impression the NFL tried to suppress the damage possible (as the PBS documentary League of Denial says) and then tried to suppress the knowledge of that suppression (ESPN, an NFL broadcast partner, pulled out of a partnership with PBS on the documentary).
3 Or, A-PED. Aging Yankees star and Miami Westminster Christian graduate Alex Rodriguez came back from hip surgery and immediately got slapped with a 211-game suspension for alleged performance-enhancing drug use. Rodriguez appealed, but admitted to having “consulting” ties with Coral Gables’ Biogenesis clinic, which a Miami New Times investigation tied to PED use by several major leaguers.
Another Lights Out Super Bowl
4 Baltimore gave San Francisco the what-for in the Super Bowl until the lights went out in half of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome during the third quarter. A 34-minute delay ensued. Players stretched. CBS bumbled about, failing at informing or improvising. When the game resumed, the Ravens’ 28-6 blowout into the blackout turned into a fireworks show of big plays worthy of Beyonce’s halftime show. Baltimore won 34-31 after a fourth-down Colin Kaepernick pass to Michael Crabtree fell incomplete.
Sweet Home Alabama
5 In January’s BCS Championship Game at Sun Life Stadium between storied programs, Alabama crushed Notre Dame for its third national title in four years. On the way to four in five, in-state rival Auburn exploded Bama’s title dreams (and, nearly, Twitter) when Chris Davis ran a missed field goal back 109 yards for a game-winning touchdown as time expired in the Iron Bowl in November.
The Invisible Girl
6 Notre Dame star linebacker Manti Te’o came with a three-Kleenex sweet story concerning his supposedly dead girlfriend. Turns out, she was just fictional. Whether he knew or was just a gullible young man suckered by modern social-media relationships is debatable. The Te’o lie — perpetuated by many mainstream outlets and uncovered by website Deadspin doing old-fashioned dogged research — also showed how the sports-media landscape continues to evolve.
These Kids Today
7 Remember when Heisman Trophy voters carded more strictly than Kilroy’s Bar & Grill? No underclassmen allowed? In 2013, for the second consecutive season, a redshirt freshman quarterback took the award. Unlike predecessor Johnny Manziel, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston found himself being accused of a sexual assault that allegedly took place 11 months earlier. In a news conference that veered strangely into jocularity at times, state attorney Willie Meggs announced Winston wouldn’t be charged. Winston won the Heisman in a runaway and will lead Florida State into the BCS National Championship Game against Auburn.
8 The NHL and NHL Players Association proved almost stupid enough to take the nuclear option on a season for the second time in nine years. They came together on a new collective-bargaining agreement in time to save a 48-game regular season. This clearly appeased the hockey gods: fans saw the most exciting postseason since at least 1994. Chicago won the Stanley Cup with two late goals against Boston in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
The Closet Door Opened
9 In a Sports Illustrated cover story, NBA player Jason Collins became the first active player in the NBA, NFL, NHL or Major League Baseball to publicly state his homosexuality. Some outlets reported an NFL player or players were ready to make the same move, yet none did (various NFL players over the years have come out after their career ended). Collins, a free agent, remained unsigned into the 2013-14 NBA season.
The Mask Under the Helmet
10 Murder charges topped the list of problems facing New England tight end Aaron Hernandez, a key player in the Patriots’ relentless passing game. The murder of Odin Lloyd, boyfriend of the sister of Hernandez’s fiancee, prompted police and media investigations of Hernandez’s life. His connection to numerous violent incidents in college and afterwards, his possible connection to drugs and gangs called into question whether the University of Florida and the Patriots were Hernandez’s failed saviors or his enablers.