What were Boston's biggest sports stories in 2012?
The historic 93-loss season turned in by the Red Sox, and the chaos that followed the manager and the team all year long, were two big stories we talked about for months. Ray Allen jumping the Celtics’ ship to join the Heat, and the Patriots' stunning Super Bowl loss to the Giants caused an uproar throughout New England.
There was the Boston Marathon being run in extreme heat, a hockey star staying on the sidelines, and two local Olympians who didn’t let a golden opportunity pass them by.
Click through the gallery to see our Top 20 list for the year, and then rank the stories your way at the end. Next
20. Harvard makes NCAA tournament
It was a season of firsts for the Harvard men’s basketball team. It made the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time and clinched its first outright Ivy League title since 1946, but the most notable of all the firsts for coach Tommy Amaker’s squad was that Harvard advanced to its first NCAA Tournament game in 66 years as the No. 12 seed in the East Regional.
The core group of Kyle Casey, Brandyn Curry, Keith Wright, and Oliver McNally vaulted the Crimson into The Dance last March, but Harvard advanced no further. It all ended quickly against Vanderbilt in a first-round matchup.
The Crimson, who went 36-5 to earn the Ivy title, trailed the Commodores by 18 points with 7:48 remaining in the game. Instead of accepting the inevitable, Harvard fought back—led by the lights-out second-half shooting from Laurent Rivard—and cut the deficit to 5 points before falling to the No. 5 seed, 79-70, to end the historic season.
“We just didn’t do some of the things we needed to do well,’’ McNally said after the defeat.
In the following fall, co-captains Casey and Curry left the team in the wake of a school-wide investigation into a campus cheating scandal related to a final exam.
Amaker, who came to Harvard in 2007 after being dismissed from Michigan and has coached the Crimson to 20-win seasons in each of the past three years, remained confident despite the roster setback.
“We believe in our system, our philosophy, and our approach,” he said before the start of the season.
Harvard is 6-4 this season, with Ivy League play about to begin. Next
19. NHL lockout puts Bruins season on ice
This was not the feel-good story of 2012, but it may be the never-ending story.
For the third time in 19 years, an NHL lockout has kept Bruins players and fans away from the hockey rink, and there are no signs of a deal on the horizon.
This work stoppage comes just two seasons after a Bruins Stanley Cup run that saw a revitalization of the sport in New England and unprecedented support from Boston’s rabid fan base.
While players have reportedly agreed to reduce their share of league revenue from 57 to 50 percent, owners are trying to strike a 10-year collective bargaining agreement that will help 13 of its 30 franchises get out of the red.
Each game lost costs Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs and the team approximately $3 million in tickets and related spending, not to mention the economic damage done to the bars and restaurants that surround TD Garden.
The NHL and players' association didn't speak before the Christmas holiday, but will likely be back in touch with each other following the holiday for another attempt to reach a deal before the entire season is lost.
The NHL already has the dubious distinction of being the only major North American professional sports league to have scrapped an entire season — 2004-2005 — because of a work stoppage that nearly inflicted irreparable damage to the sport.
If the entire season is scrapped again, it may be harder than ever to convince fans to come back to support this dysfunctional league. Next
18. BC hockey wins national title
This could be the quietest dynasty in sports.
In April, the Boston College men’s hockey team won its third national championship in five years and fifth NCAA title overall.
Led by coach Jerry York, the winningest active coach in NCAA hockey, BC earned the 2012 national title with a 4-1 victory over underdog Ferris State in Tampa, Fla.
Junior goaltender Parker Milner—the Frozen Four’s Most Outstanding Player—was rock solid in net with 27 saves as Eagles won their 19th straight game, a team record. Milner allowed only two goals on 112 shots in four NCAA tournament games.
With BC clinging to a 2-1 lead from midway through the first period of the title game, the Eagles scored a highlight-reel goal in the third period on a Bobby Orr-like move from freshman left winger Johnny Gaudreau to break the game open. BC winger Steven Whitney scored an empty net goal — his second goal of the game — to put the Bulldogs away moments later.
“It was great team defense,” Milner said after winning the title. “It’s everyone on the ice. On the power play, I didn’t have any tough shots, the guys were in the lanes and most of the shots hit me in the chest. It was an incredible effort tonight.” Next
17. Racist tweets in aftermath of Bruins’ Game 7 loss
Talk about things going from bad to worse.
The Black-and-Gold were unceremoniously dumped by the Washington Capitals via a Game 7 overtime goal in the first round of the 2012 NHL playoffs. Every game was decided by one goal and four went into overtime. But that wasn’t the end of the story.
The Bruins found themselves having to address a series of racist tweets, first spotlighted by the web site Deadspin following the Game 7 loss. Joel Ward, a black forward for Washington, was targeted in a barrage of ugly commentary after he scored the winning goal in overtime.
The Bruins, Capitals, and NHL immediately condemned the racist tweets, but soon media across the country were raising questions about Boston’s turbulent racial history, even though the majority of the postings were from outside the Boston area and were posted by people who weren’t necessarily Bruins fans.
“Shame on these folks who decided to take to their keyboards and show their ignorance and their racism and hate,” Capitals owner Ted Leonsis wrote on his blog. “What these people have said and done is unforgivable. I hope they are now publicly identified and pay a huge price for their beliefs.”
Ward generally downplayed the racial slurs, telling USA Today they were “shocking to see, but it didn’t ruin my day.’’
“It didn’t faze me at all,’’ Ward said. “We won, and we are moving on … Growing up, at a few minor tournaments, you catch a few kids saying things. But at that age, I didn't even know what the terminology meant. But [in the NHL] I've never heard anything. I know other guys have, I believe, but I've had nothing directed to me like that."
The Bruins and NHL also issued statements condemning the tweets.
“These classless, ignorant views are in no way a reflection of anyone associated with the Bruins organization,” the Bruins’ statement said.
The Capitals’ playoff run ended in New York with a Game 7 loss in the second round to the Rangers. Next
16. Celtics eliminated in Game 7 of Eastern Conference Finals
The not-getting-any-younger Celtics had the tall task of getting past LeBron James and the Miami Heat to advance to the NBA Finals last season. They came up one game short.
Ending an unlikely championship run in 2012, the last roundup of the Big Four in Boston lost to the Heat, 101-88, in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
James, the recently crowned Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year, took over the game in the fourth quarter, scoring 11 of his 31 points as the Heat pulled away for a 13-point victory.
The Heat went on to defeat the Oklahoma City Thunder and win their first NBA title since the arrival of James from Cleveland.
The Celtics were left to pick up the pieces, which included the return of Kevin Garnett and coach Doc Rivers, but saw guard Ray Allen taking his talents to South Beach, ending a run of the Big Three of Pierce-Garnett-Allen that started with a championship in 2008 and continued with a Game 7 NBA Finals loss to the Lakers in 2010 and last year’s run to the final game of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
“I don't know if I've ever had a group like this,” Rivers said after the disappointing loss. "They did everything I asked them to do. They came up short." Next
15. Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield retire
Two longtime fixtures on Yawkey Way decided to call it quits in Fort Myers last spring.
Jason Varitek, a two-time World Series champion, three-time All-Star and Red Sox team captain, announced his retirement at JetBlue Park two-weeks after 200-game winner and renowned knuckleballer Tim Wakefield ended his 19-year career.
A member of the Red Sox from 1997 to 2011 after coming over with Derek Lowe in a one-sided trade with the Mariners, the most famous Boston catcher not named Carlton Fisk batted .256 with 193 home runs and 757 RBIs.
"After months of deliberating what to do, I've decided that it's best for me and family that I retire, that I retire a Red Sock,'' Varitek said during an emotional farewell.
Varitek finished his Red Sox career ninth in team history in games played (1,546), doubles (306) and extra-base hits (513). He is 10th in plate appearances (5,839) and RBIs (757), and one big glove in A-Rod’s face during a memorable 2004 Yankees-Red Sox showdown at Fenway Park.
Wakefield, who spent his final 17 seasons with the Red Sox, going 186-168, pitched the most innings (3,006) and made the most starts (430) in team history. He was second in games pitched (590) and strikeouts (2,046).
After the Pirates castaway was picked up by the Red Sox in 1995, Wakefield was called up to Boston and ripped off 14–1 record through 17 games — 6 of which were complete games — to go along with a 1.65 ERA. He ended his first-year year in Boston 16-8 with a 2.95 ERA, helping the Red Sox win the AL East title while capturing the Comeback Player of the Year award.
The 45-year-old Wakefield retired seven wins shy of breaking the franchise record of 192 held by Cy Young and Roger Clemens. In Red Sox history, only Carl Yastrzemski (23), Ted Williams (19), and Dwight Evans (19) played more years with the team.
“I’m still a competitor,” Wakefield said after hanging up his cleats. “But ultimately I think this is what was best for the Red Sox and I think this is what’s best for my family and, to be honest with you, seven wins isn’t going to make me a different person or a better man.”
The 40-year-old Varitek is currently an assistant to Boston GM Ben Cherington, while Wakefield has served time as a studio analyst for Red Sox broadcasts on NESN. Next
14. Kevin Youkilis traded to White Sox, signs with Yankees
After 11 years in the Red Sox organization, the Red Sox traded longtime Fenway fan favorite Kevin Youkilis to the South Side of Chicago last June for long gone and easily forgotten righthander Zach Stewart and utility player Brent Lillibridge. The White Sox needed a third baseman and the Red Sox already had one in then red-hot rookie Will Middlebrooks. Boston was also on the hook for $5.5 million of the $6.6 million Youkilis had remaining on his contract.
In his final game at Fenway, the hard-grinding Youkilis was lifted for a pinch runner after hitting a triple in the seventh inning against Atlanta, and he received a huge Fenway ovation when he was removed from the game. The often surly first-and-third baseman removed his helmet and waved to the crowd, blew a kiss and was lured back out of the dugout out for a curtain call by his teammates before heading down the steps into the home clubhouse for the final time.
Youk was a member of two World Series championships during his time in Boston and was in his ninth season with the Red Sox when the move was made. He made three All-Star teams (2008, 2009, and 2011) and finished third in the AL MVP voting in 2008. He was also a Gold Glove winner as the Red Sox first baseman in 2007. When he was at his best, Youkilis worked American League pitchers deep into counts, which made him an on-base machine for much of his time in Boston.
After Alex Rodriguez was diagnosed as needing offseason hip surgery, Youkilis signed with the rival Yankees to fill in at third base. He’ll visit Fenway as a member of the Bronx Bombers this summer and one thing is for sure, there’s going to be a lot of noise in the ballpark that night. Next
13. Rob Gronkowski’s legend grows on and off-the-field
The fall hasn’t been nearly as much fun as the “Summer of Gronk,” but NFL megastar Rob Gronkowski was in the spotlight all year long for on and off-field antics.
Despite being out since breaking his forearm on Nov. 18, Gronk remains one of the league’s most popular players.
Gronkowski entered 2012 coming off a season that saw the tight end catch 90 passes for NFL single-season tight end records of 1,327 yards and 17 touchdowns, but he was also coming off an ankle injury suffered in the AFC Championship Game. While the Patriots prepared to face the Giants in the Super Bowl, football fans speculated about Gronkowski’s ability to be at full strength. Gronk was part of Tom Brady’s arsenal for the big game in Indianapolis, but was largely ineffective.
After the crushing loss the Giants, a shirtless Gronkowski was spotted on YouTube dancing the night away at the Patriots postgame party. Then he appeared nearly naked on the cover of ESPN The Magazine’s “body issue.” Add in an appearance on a TV dating show, getting paid five figures to star and shotgun beer at a 21st birthday party, winning a celebrity home run derby in Buffalo, NY, acting up on the red carpet of the ESPY Awards, and signing a six-year, $54 million contract extension with the Patriots — the richest contract for a tight end in NFL history — and you have The Summer of Gronk.
Yo Soy Fiesta time continued at the start of this season with Gronk racking up the catches and spiking the mike and imitating the “dude that guards the house” during the Patriots’ trip to London.
Before Gronkowski was injured on an extra-point play against the Colts, he had scored 10 touchdowns to go along with 53 receptions and 748 yards.
Now Patriot Nation anxiously awaits his return with another Super Bowl in New England’s sights.
“I'm anxious to get out there,” Gronkowski said. “Obviously I want to go." Next
12. Red Sox make trade to hire John Farrell away from Blue Jays
One way or another, the Red Sox were going to get their man.
When lightning-rod skipper Bobby Valentine was shown the door when the disastrous 2012 season ended, all signs pointed to the Red Sox going after John Farrell full-throttle.
The former Red Sox pitching coach had a year remaining on his contract with the Blue Jays, but Boston was able to pry the 50-year-old manager away from Toronto by trading starting shortstop Mike Aviles as compensation.
“His integrity, leadership skills, intelligence are second to none and make him the right person for this job,” Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said when Farrell—who got a three-year deal—was introduced at Fenway in October.
It was only the seventh time in major league history a manager under contract was essentially traded to another team.
Farrell was 154-170 in two seasons managing the Blue Jays. The choice of Farrell as the 46th manager in team history appears popular with Red Sox players. Veteran lefthander Jon Lester posted, “Welcome back John!! Can’t wait to get back to work!!” on Twitter when the deal was announced.
"Yes, there are some relationships still existing with some of the players here, but by no means will that be taken for granted," Farrell said at his introduction.
Farrell won a World Series ring during his first year in Boston as the team’s pitching coach in 2007. From 2007 to 2010, Red Sox pitchers ranked first in the AL in strikeouts (4,771) and opponents’ batting average (.254) and were third in ERA (4.11).
Now Farrell inherits a team that managed to win only 69 games and finished in last place for only the second time in the past 80 years. Next
11. Kayla Harrison wins first US judo gold
Kayla Harrison made Olympic history this year when she became the first American, of either gender, ever to win the gold medal in judo.
The 22-year-old Harrison, who lives in Marblehead and entered the Olympics ranked fourth in the world, won the final match of the women's 78-kg weight class against Great Britain’s Gemma Gibbons.
Harrison jumped out to an early lead and won the gold-medal showdown with a pair of yukos, which she scored at 3:54 and 0:59. Previously, the best finish by an American in the 78 kg category was ninth place by Amy Tony at the 2000 Sydney Games.
“I hope it changes America’s perspective on Judo,” said Harrison after the win in London. “I hope that it changes some of the things that are going on. I hope to be able to use it to benefit everyone in my sport. I love my sport. It’s the best sport in the world. Hopefully, this will help create that splash of new judo interest.”
Harrison, who trains at coach Jimmy Pedro’s Judo Center in Wakefield, overcame years of childhood sexual abuse by a former coach, and her decision to go public with her story likely changed many lives as she has been using her post-Olympic celebrity to raise awareness.
“Because Big Jim and Jimmy believed in me and the fact that I could get over it, after a while I believed in myself again,” she says. “They changed my life and saved my life.” She also credits the support of fellow judo athlete Aaron Handy, who is now her fiance. Next
10. Fenway Park celebrates 100th anniversary
It was a memorable anniversary weekend … for all the wrong reasons.
In a ceremony rich in pageantry, the Red Sox celebrated the 100th anniversary of the first game at Fenway Park in 1912 by bringing 213 players out onto the field to take their positions before the April 20th game against the Yankees.
Red Sox legends Carl Yastrzemski, Carlton Fisk, Pedro Martinez, Jim Lonborg, and Nomar Garciaparra were among the former players who honored the old ballpark’s 100th birthday. Two-time World Series champion manager Terry Francona received the loudest cheers, getting a standing ovation from the crowd and chants of “Tito, Tito.” At the end, 92-year-old Johnny Pesky and 93-year-old Bobby Doerr were introduced to the cheering crowd.
The Red Sox opened Fenway Park with a 7-6 victory over the New York Highlanders on April 20, 1912, but 100 years later the Sox would go on to lose to New York, 6-2, on the day of the widely-publicized celebration of “America’s most beloved ballpark.”
The next day, fans witnessed one of the most stunning collapses in team history. The Red Sox blew a 9-0 lead after the Yankees posted back-to-back seven-run innings in the seventh and eighth in a shocking 15-9 win over Boston.
The 100th anniversary season went downhill from there as the Sox found a way to lose 93 games under an avalanche of injuries and the stewardship on controversial manager Bobby Valentine. Next
9. Boston Marathon run in extreme heat
Was that hot enough for you? The weather stole the show at the running of the 116th Boston Marathon in April.
Over the course of the day, more than 2,100 runners were treated for dehydration, exhaustion, and other heat-related ailments at medical tents along the 26.2-mile Boston Marathon course as temperatures rocketed into the upper 80s, shattering records.
The number of runners requiring medical attention, mostly at the finish line, was 800 to 1,200 higher than during typical Boston Marathons, said Chris Troyanos, medical coordinator for the Boston Athletic Association.
Boston-area hospitals reported that while patient volumes were higher than usual on Patriots Day, most runners were recovering and being discharged. Troyanos said that 152 runners were treated at hospitals, and that eight to 10 runners were in critical condition at some point.
“The running became kind of like a death march,’’ said Tyler Husak—a 25-year-old runner from Olin, Iowa, who began wilting at the 23-mile mark.
The race was the most scorching Boston Marathon since the infamous “Run for the Hoses’’ in 1976, when, with temps in the 90s, Georgetown undergrad Jack Fultz ran through a rainbow of garden hoses to win the 80th Boston Athletic Association race. In the end, however, 96 percent of the runners who started finished the race. The BAA said 2,160 runners were granted a deferal to the 2013 race.
Except for Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot’s 2:14:13 clocking amid the wind and rain five years ago, it was the slowest winning time since Geoff Smith’s 2:14:05 in 1985, the year before sponsor John Hancock began awarding prize money. Next
8. Former Patriot linebacker Junior Seau’s suicide
Junior Seau, a 43-year-old 12-time NFL Pro Bowl and former New England Patriots linebacker, was found dead in his home, the result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest, on May 2. Seau's suicide stunned football fans and left many seeking an explanation.
The 6-foot, 3-inch, 275-pound Seau—who was known for his upbeat personality—had no alcohol or illicit drugs in his system when he committed suicide, and an initial examination of his brain showed no apparent damage from his years of football, according to the autopsy and toxicology reports released by the San Diego County medical examiner in August.
After establishing his football legacy with the Chargers and Dolphins, Seau joined the Patriots before the start of the 2006 season. Seau started 10 of the first 11 games for the Patriots in 2006, recording 69 tackles before breaking his right arm in a game against the Chicago Bears. In September 2007, Seau was named one of the Patriots' seven captains and he re-signed with the Patriots again for the 2008 and 2009 seasons before retiring for good in January 2010.
The San Diego County medical examiner’s office recently released preserved brain tissue to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. Next
7. Red Sox legend Johnny Pesky dies
Longtime Red Sox legend and fan favorite Johnny Pesky died at 92 years old at the Kaplan Family Hospice House in Danvers, Mass. The loss was a significant blow to Red Sox Nation, as he had been an ambassador to the franchise for more than half a century as player, manager, broadcaster, coach, and executive.
Pesky served the United States in the military from 1943-45 and his final numbers in eight years as a Red Sox player—a .313 batting average, one All-Star appearance — might have been even more impressive had he not left to defend his country, alongside other like teammate Ted Williams.
During his playing days, Pesky batted second. “I hit behind Dominic DiMaggio and in front of Ted Williams,” he once said. “I hung on Ted and Dominic’s coattails.”
In 2008, he was the first player who was not a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame to have his number, 6, retired by the Red Sox.
Only four of the 25 active Red Sox players attended Pesky's funeral on Aug. 23 — David Ortiz, Clay Buchholz, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Vicente Padilla. Another report said Red Sox ownership was unhappy with the turnout because buses were provided for the team. The team had returned from a road trip at approximately 3 a.m. the night before the funeral.
Pesky was also honored by all the current players and a host of past Red Sox greats in ceremony that was held after the team played the Orioles on Sept. 23. Next
6. Tim Thomas skips White House, then the season
First he skipped a big trip, and then he decided to sit out altogether.
Goalie Tim Thomas, who won the Vezina Trophy along with the playoff most valuable player award in 2011, chose not to attend the Bruins’ Stanley Cup championship ceremony at the White House last January.
He explained it with a statement on his Facebook page:
"I believe the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People. This is being done at the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial level. This is in direct opposition to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers vision for the Federal government. Because I believe this, today I exercised my right as a Free Citizen, and did not visit the White House. This was not about politics or party, as in my opinion both parties are responsible for the situation we are in as a country. This was about a choice I had to make as an INDIVIDUAL."
The Bruins were reportedly not happy with Thomas’s decision.
"As an organization we were honored by President Obama's invitation to the White House," Bruins president Cam Neely said in a statement. "It was a great day and a perfect way to cap our team's achievement from last season. It was a day that none of us will soon forget. We are disappointed that Tim chose not to join us, and his views certainly do not reflect those of the Jacobs family or the Bruins organization."
In June, Thomas posted a message on his Facebook page about his plans to take the 2012-13 season off.
“At the age of 38, I believe it is time to put my time and energies into those areas and relationships that I have neglected,” Thomas wrote. “That is why at this time I feel the most important thing I can do in my life is to reconnect with the three F’s: Friends, Family, and Faith.”
So for now, Thomas is out of hockey… along with the rest of the NHL. Next
5. Aly Raisman wins gold at Olympics
Aly Raisman, the US women's gymnastics captain from Needham, won gold in the floor exercise at the London Olympics, about an hour after getting a bronze on balance beam. Raisman left London with three medals, most of any of her “Fierce Five” teammates and was the toast of New England.
"Today has been a dream come true,'' said Raisman after winning gold. "I'm so glad I got the medal I wanted."
Prior to taking gold in the floor exercise — her strongest event — Raisman surprised many by taking the bronze medal on the beam after winning an appeal with the judges, who initially had her fourth, and then a tiebreaker with Romania’s Catalina Ponor.
In the floor exercise, Raisman's tumbling passes were some of the most difficult of the event. Her routine had a 6.5 degree of difficulty and she earned a 9.1 for execution.
When her score, a 15.6, was posted, teammate McKayla Maroney yelled "whoa!" so loudly from the stands it could be heard across the arena.
"It was the best routine I've ever done," Raisman said of her floor exercise. "My coach said it was the best routine he'd ever seen me do."
Raisman missed out on a bronze medal in the all-around when she finished tied for third with Russia’s Aliya Mustafina, only to have the tiebreaker bounce her from the podium.
Thousands of fans packed a Needham parade ground on Aug. 26 for a glimpse of the town’s Olympic star. Since the gold medal run, Raisman has been busy with TV appearances, celebrity gigs, and plans to attend college next year. Next
4. Ray Allen signs with the Miami Heat
In a move that sent shock waves through Celtic Nation, Ray Allen followed LeBron James and took his talents to South Beach, making the Big Three a memory in Boston.
Allen reportedly took half the money the Celtics were offering to sign a three-year contract with the rival Heat and get a fresh start with LeBron & Co.
Allen was reportedly unhappy during his final season in Boston — especially with point guard Rajon Rondo — and again placed on the trading block because of his expiring contract. He was forced to approach coach Doc Rivers about moving to the bench when second-year guard Avery Bradley began to shine as a defensive force.
The 37-year-old Allen scored 19 points in 31 minutes of a 120-107 Heat victory in the 2012-13 season opener in Miami in October as Heat fans chanted, “We got Ray! We got Ray!’’
But the takeaway moment came when Kevin Garnett refused to acknowledge Allen when Allen patted KG on the shoulder before checking into the game for the first time. Garnett didn't even flinch, staring straight ahead, refusing to acknowledge the gesture in any way.
Allen missed his first game of the season Dec. 26 because of a right shoulder stinger sustained late in the Heat’s Christmas Day win over Oklahoma City. Allen was hit hard by Kendrick Perkins—another former Celtic—on a screen and bruised the shoulder.
Allen has been clutch off the Heat bench for most of the season, averaging 11.7 points and shooting 45.8 percent from three-point range in 25.7 minutes per game. Next
3. Patriots lose to Giants in Super Bowl
It was another Giant loss for New England.
The Patriots led the Giants by two points with less than four minutes to play. But then it all came undone for the Patriots at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, four years after New England saw its perfect season implode against the same New York Giants in Arizona.
The final score was 21-17 in Super Bowl XLVI and instead of their fourth Super Bowl victory since 2001, the Patriots have two straight last-minute losses to the Giants.
The Patriots led 17-15 with 4:06 remaining when quarterback Tom Brady dropped back to pass on second-and-11 from the New York 44-yard line. Brady threw toward a wide open Welker with the end zone just 20 yards away. But Welker could not come down with the ball.
“It’s one of those plays I made 1,000 times,” Welker said. “The ball is right there. I’ve just got to make the play.”
Shortly afterward, it was a 38-yard sideline pass from Eli Manning to Mario Manningham with three and a half minutes to play that set New York on its way to victory. The Patriots defense eventually let running back Ahmad Bradshaw score the game-winning touchdown with the hopes of giving Brady as much time as possible to lead the team to a miracle finish.
But a last-gasp end zone Hail Mary pass for Aaron Hernandez bounced around and then fell to the ground as the New England comeback fell short. Next
2. Red Sox ship Beckett, Gonzalez, and Crawford to Dodgers
It was one of the biggest trades in the history of earth in terms of dollars.
The Red Sox dealt first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, embattled starter Josh Beckett, rehabbing outfielder Carl Crawford, and utility infielder Nick Punto to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for first baseman James Loney and four prospects.
But this move was all about the money for Boston, which shed more than $250 million in salaries through 2018. The trade also signaled that the Red Sox were more focused on winning in 2013 than 2012.
The centerpiece of the trade for the Dodgers was Gonzalez, a four-time All-Star and Gold Glove winner, who was batting .300 with 15 home runs and 86 RBIs in 123 games for the Red Sox before being dealt.
For the Red Sox, ridding themselves of Crawford’s $142 million contract was a major motivator in making the deal, along with moving disgruntled pitcher Josh Beckett. After the 2011 September collapse, reports of Red Sox starters drinking beer and eating fried chicken in the clubhouse during games surfaced, and Beckett's questionable behavior and lack of success on the mound continued to alienate fans.
"I had an awesome time in Boston. I had some tough times. There are some great people there," Beckett said. "For me, I think it was time to move on and start this new chapter."
Crawford—who battled injuries throughout his time in Boston—hit .282 with three homers and 19 RBIs in 31 games for the Red Sox before being dealt. He was a four-time All-Star with Tampa Bay before signing with Boston.
In addition to the cost savings, the Red Sox hope to see contributions from pitchers Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa, the two prized prospects shipped to Boston in the deal. Next
1. The Bobby Valentine saga
Bobby Valentine made more headlines in a week than most managers make in a year, and his tenure as the Red Sox manager was the most dominant story line throughout the 2012 sports year.
The Red Sox stumbled through one of their worst seasons in team history under Valentine and the skipper was a boatload of controversy for his entire season in Boston.
Valentine stirred controversy right out of the gate by calling out shortstop Mike Aviles during a cutoff drill in Fort Myers. In April, Valentine made surprising comments that Kevin Youkilis did not seem engaged in the games, after which Dustin Pedroia publicly criticized Valentine for publicly criticizing a teammate.
"I don’t think he’s as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past for some reason,” Valentine told Ch. 7’s Joe Amorosino. The comment sent shockwaves through the clubhouse and across Red Sox Nation. And the drama-filled season was off and running.
In August, Yahoo! Sports reported that Red Sox star players blasted Valentine to team ownership during a meeting in late July after Valentine left starter Jon Lester in a game in which he gave up 11 runs. Adrian Gonzalez reportedly texted owner John Henry and team president Larry Lucchino to voice complaints, and general manager Ben Cherington confirmed the meeting occurred. A text message with a photo of Dustin Pedroia making fun of Valentine was also circulated among the team, according to the report.
In September after the blockbuster deal with the Dodgers left the Red Sox shorthanded, the manager said the team’s September depth chart was inadequate.
“This is the weakest roster we've ever had in September in the history of baseball,” Valentine said. “We could use help everywhere.”
Reports all season also suggested Valentine and some of his Red Sox coaches didn’t see eye-to-eye, and Valentine told WEEI that his coaches undermined him last season. Pitching coach Bob McClure, as well as bullpen coach Gary Tuck and bench coach Tim Bogar, all had difficulty working with Valentine, who was fired on Oct. 4 after the Red Sox surpassed the 90-loss mark for first time in 46 years.
"I understand this decision," Valentine said. "This year in Boston has been an incredible experience for me, but I am as disappointed in the results as are ownership and the great fans of Red Sox Nation.”
Sox GM Ben Cherington took the high road and refused to lay all the blame for the 2012 debacle at Bobby V’s feet.
“Our 2012 season was disappointing for many reasons,” Sox GM Ben Cherington said after Valentine was let go. “No single issue is the reason, and no single individual is to blame.” Next
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