Closing out 2013 in the world of sports means reminiscing about some of the most sensational stories of the year, including Lance Armstrong's dubious life of lies to the ongoing scandal surrounding Alex Rodriquez to the championship run of a scraggly bearded bunch of Boston Red Sox players in late October. Sports rarely failed to entertain.
The year will end with a poignant reminder of the social and political influence behind sports as a change agent since the passing of the iconic and revolutionary Nelson Mandela. Mandela once claimed, "Sport has the power to change the world. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers." His proclamation of peace over politics, unity over obscurity and acceptance over apartheid extends far beyond the cricket, rugby, and soccer fields scattered throughout his South African homeland.
The world also bid farewell to great sport legends who passed in 2013, including NFL coach Bum Phillips, heavyweight contender Ken Norton, acclaimed swimmer Esther Williams, Super Bowl announcer and football legend Pat Summerall and MLB Hall of Famers Stan Musial and Earl Weaver.
Indeed, 2013 soon will pass by too, capping off another year of predictable sport outcomes such as Florida State's freshmen Jameis Winston winning the Heisman race by a landslide. There were also plenty of unexpected surprises on the year, too. Just ask Auburn's football team what it means to be lucky. At least after the shortened NHL season, there were no work stoppages in American Professional leagues which meant another profitable year for greedy sport owners who have nothing but visions of dollar signs in their heads as they sleep.
Some recurring themes that surely will extend into the new year include the emphasis on concussion prevention and treatment, anti-bullying propaganda in locker rooms, and scrutiny of the NCAA, EA Sports company, and any other entity that attempts to capitalize on a college player's image and name without legal consent. Need a Johnny Manziel jersey, anyone?
Toledo had a terrific reason to celebrate 2013 when named as the top minor league sports city in America among 235 markets, 47 leagues and 408 teams. According to a Walleye report, Toledo has won the most minor league championships of any other city in North America in the past five years. Klinger would be proud of his famed Mud Hens and Walleye teams who have done their part to boost the local economy while creating an extremely loyal, family-friendly fan base.
LeBron James also continued a dominant role in 2013, not only by adding to his championship ring collection and MVP honors, but for helping boost the techno-evolution of sport communication via digital and social media. Communication technology relying on ease and accessibility has propelled sports into the global race of instantaneous regurgitation of news, statistics, scores, and an overabundance of public rants and tirades from fans, athletes, agents, coaches, and bloggers galore. Credibility has become a high commodity, even when it's supposedly the REAL King James with the tweet of the day.
This was also a year of other globally significant sport news from the changing of the guard at the IOC (German Thomas Bach replacing Jacques Rogge as President) to the protesting Brazilians over public subsidies for stadium and venue construction in preparation of the World Cup and Olympic Games. The mega dollars tied up in mega sport events continue to fuel the debate of whether economic prosperity truly exists for developing countries selected as host sites. Even prosperous host cities face the social burden of justifying spending for the sake of sport competition.
The winter Olympics are less than two months away in the Russian Federation of Sochi which is actually a beach resort with plenty of palm trees lining the Black Sea. Imagine Malibu or Tampa being transformed into a winter wonderland fit for an ice princess. The $50 billion valuation of Russian improvements is much higher than the actual initial $12 billion projection, but still is less than the sticker price for Rio de Janeiro's 2016 party. Frugality seemingly is unheard of by any host nation, otherwise Sochi wouldn't have been investing in more than 500,000 meters of artificial snow to ensure great conditions for every event from alpine skiing to the bobsled races.
Bring on the Olympic Games and stay tuned for more interesting and entertaining views on sports from around the globe to our local corner of the world here in northwest Ohio.
Bonnie Tiell is the associate professor of sports management at Tiffin University.