Year in Review: The Biggest Sports Newsmakers of 2013

2013 has been a year of ups and downs for sports. There has been inspiring highs and devastating lows.

Below, Impact Sports looks at 10 of the biggest sports newsmakers of 2013. These newsmakers changed the human eye of sports this year and had an impact on the future of athletics.

10. Kevin Ware

March Madness has always been known for its unpredictability, and Louisville Cardinals’ guard, Kevin Ware, happened to be the victim of this during the Elite Eight matchup against the Duke Blue Devils. While trying to block a three-point attempt by Tyler Thornton, Ware fell and broke his right leg. The incident, that quickly spread to Youtube and throughout news channels, received widespread attention from the media.

Ware showed his resilience throughout the ordeal, reportedly lying on the ground and repeating “I’m fine, just win the game.” Ware went through a two-hour surgery on his tibia. The injury proved to be just the push the Cardinals needed to drive ahead and beat the Blue Devils 85-63. He managed to become well enough to travel with the Cardinals to the Final Four in Atlanta where he watched his team win the national championship.

Ware returned to basketball during the 2013-2014 season midway through the second half of the Cardinals’ game against the University of Pikeville. He received two standing ovations, one upon entering the game and another after making his first shot. Ware’s story became one of the more inspiring stories of 2013.

9. Oscar Pistorious

During the 2012 Olympic Games in London, South African man Oscar Pistorious became the first amputee to win an able-bodied track world medal. Pistorious, often known as “the Blade Runner” for his racing blades, inspired the world as he managed to overcome insurmountable obstacles. Pistorious went on to compete in the 2012 Summer Paralympics winning two gold medals and setting two world records. To many across the globe, it was the most inspiring story of the 2012 Olympic Games.

In February 2013, Pistorious returned to the headlines after being arrested for the murder of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, a South African model. Pistorious allegedly killed her by firing four shots into the locked bathroom door in his apartment. Pistorious claims that he thought it was an intruder while the prosecution argues that the murder was intentional with Pistorious taking the time to put on his prosthetic legs. Pistorious was back in the limelight again but this time not for the same reasons. ABC News aired a recreation of the night of the murder. The incident led to many in the media questioning South Africa’s culture of violence as well as the fame that comes with being an Olympian.

Pistorious’s trial is scheduled for March 2014. Pistorious’ rise to international prominence for inspiring the world instantly made him a newsmaker of 2012, but his fall from grace has kept the world watching.

8. Alex Rodriguez

News broke in January 2013 that several Major League Baseball players had been receiving performance-enhancing drugs, specifically human growth hormone (HGH) from a Floridian anti-aging clinic called Biogenesis of America. Definitive confirmation came in August that New York Yankees’ third baseman Alex Rodriguez had been taking these drugs. Rodriguez was suspended from August 8 through the end of the 2014 season for his role in the scandal. The suspension cost 211 games in total, plus any possible postseason games, more than quadruple the minimum 50 games. According to the MLB, the actions of Rodriguez were detrimental to the league and baseball.

Rodriguez chose to appeal the decision. The appeal has allowed him to continue playing until a decision is made. If the suspension is upheld, Rodriguez will exit the game of baseball until sometime in the 2015 season as the longest non-lifetime suspension in baseball history.

7. Florida Gulf Coast Eagles

Like a diamond in the rough, the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles’ men’s basketball team provided shocker after shocker in their NCAA debut. TIME Magazine described the team message as “play like you don’t have a care in the world and the rest of the world may soon care about you.” T

he No. 15 seeded Eagles defeated the No. 2 seeded Georgetown University Hoyas 78-68, creating the madness that March had been clamoring for. In the next round they took on the San Diego State Aztecs, winning 81-71. They were the first No. 15 seed to ever advance to the Sweet Sixteen where they ultimately lost to the Florida Gators.  

The Eagles provided a true underdog story for fans to root for in the tournament. TIME dubbed them the “Darlings of March Madness.” Though they did not progress past the Sweet Sixteen, they managed to leave their mark during the 2012-2013 season. Following the season, the USC Trojans hired second-year Eagles head coach Andy Enfield to be their head coach. The Eagles took home an ESPY at the 2013 award show for Best Upset.

6. Michigan State University Spartans

Michigan State has been all successful in more than just one sport this year in advancing to finals, winning awards and rising in rankings. After the 2012 football season that left Spartan football with a 7-6 record and much to be desired, the Spartans started out timid. But they slowly built a dominant program led by their powerhouse defense. Head coach Mark Dantonio led the team to the Big Ten title, and the Spartans punched their first ticket to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena since 1988. Pat Narduzzi, MSU’s defensive coordinator, received the Broyles Award for top college assistant coach.

Elsewhere, the Spartan basketball team rose to No. 1 in the nation after defeating the Kentucky Wildcats, 78-74. At Midnight Madness, head coach Tom Izzo created the illusion that he was shot out of a cannon.

The men’s soccer team advanced to the Elite Eight for the first time in 45 years, led by Coach Damon Rensing before falling to Notre Dame. Women’s volleyball advanced to the Sweet Sixteen.

All of these events added up to a great year for the Spartans, that had them in headlines for more than just the basketball.

5. Richie Incognito

In November, Miami Dolphins starting left tackle Jonathon Martin left the team amid allegations that longtime Dolphin guard Richie Incognito had been abusing him over a period of time. According to Fox Sports 1, Incognito allegedly sent Martin threatening and racially charged messages. CBS Sports later reported that the team and league were in possession of these text messages as well as voice messages, with some of the messages going as far as threatening to kill Martin. Martin told Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports that Incognito’s actions led Martin to fear for his life.

The graphic voicemails led to the suspension of Incognito by the Miami Dolphins, bringing the NFL in on the investigation. In December, The Miami Herald reported that Incognito and Martin were both finished on the Miami Dolphins and they had played their last game. The allegations sparked a nationwide debate regarding bullying and the team locker room culture, making Incognito and Martin’s story a headliner this year.

4. The NFL

While discussions regarding concussions in American football have been a topic for the past 20 years, things finally came to a head this year when a federal hearing was held regarding the NFL’s motion to dismiss mounting lawsuits against them. The list of lawsuits were brought on behalf of more than 4,500 players.

More and more current and former players had been coming out to speak of brain damage due to concussions sustained from football. Brett Favre reported symptoms in 2013 of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, citing “a lot” of concussions as a cause.

In August, the NFL reached a settlement in which they will contribute $765 million, to give medical help to more than 18,000 players. Another $10 million would go towards brain injury research as well as safety and education programs.

The situation is continuing to brew and one will probably be talked about in years to come, as more studies come about the dangers of youth, high school, and professional football.

3. Manti Te’o

In January 2013, Deadspin broke a story that the University of Notre Dame’s All-American linebacker, Manti Te’o, had been either the victim (or complicit) in a complex hoax. In 2012, Te’o told Sports Illustrated that within the span of six hours, he learned of the deaths of his grandmother and his girlfriend Lennay Kekua. Kekua was said to have died of leukemia.

With that supposed burden, Te’o led the Fighting Irish to a 20-3 victory over Michigan State.  Te’o would go on to appear in many interviews talking about Kekua, even bringing up moments from their collective past. The media played up the story as the heartbreaking and inspiring story that it was. Then, two Deadspin reporters uncovered the truth.

Lennay Kekua did not ever exist. The entire relationship was an elaborate hoax created by Te’o’s friend Ronaiah Tuiasosopo. Te’o released a statement saying that the whole thing was an online relationship that went awry. According to Te’o, he had been “catfished.” However, according to friends of Te’o and Tuiasosopo, they believe Te’o was in on the whole thing. The story received widespread national attention negatively, hurting Notre Dame’s program and Te’o’s standing.

The Fighting Irish ended up losing in the BCS National Championship Game 42-14. Largely due to his off-field problems, Te’o was not selected in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Te’o was instead picked in the second round signing a four-year contract with the San Diego Chargers.

2. Auburn University Tigers

The 2013 year did not start out on the most positive note for Auburn University. In April, the large 130-year old oak trees at Toomer’s Corner, school spirit symbols for the university, were cut down after an Alabama fan poisoned them after Auburn defeated Alabama in the 2010 Iron Bowl. Thousands of students, fans and alumni swarmed Toomer’s Corner as the trees were cut down. The school plans to rebuild the site in 2014, issuing graphics of what a future Toomer’s Corner would look like.

Though the year started poorly for the Tigers, the end of the year marked one of celebration, as the Tigers defeated the Crimson Tide in the annual Iron Bowl, 34-28. A touchdown pass from Tigers’ Marshall to Coates tied the game at 28-28. With one second remaining in regulation, Alabama freshman Adam Griffith’s 57-yard field goal attempt fell short. Auburn’s Chris Davis was positioned at the back of the end zone, caught the kick, and returned it 109 yards to the opposite end zone to seal the upset victory. The play might be one of the greatest plays in college football.

The Tigers have been newsmakers all year long, from their sad start to their memorable, game-winning finish. The Tigers will take on the Florida State University in the BCS Championship in Pasadena on the January 6, 2014.

1. The Boston Marathon

There has not been a greater story of triumph and hope this year than the Boston Marathon. On April 15, 2013, during the marathon, two pressure cooker bombs exploded near the finish line killing three people and injuring roughly 264 others. The investigation led to a manhunt across Watertown in Boston, with thousands of police officers searching the 20-block area. Boston was in lockdown with public transportation and most businesses closed. Dzhokar Tsarnaev was ultimately captured and arrested, pleading not guilty to 30 charges. His brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, had been shot by police in a shootout.

There was an outpouring of local, national and international reactions to the bombings. Many sent donations to Boston to help in medical efforts. International leaders extended condolences and denounced the bombings.

On May 16, the Boston Athletic Association announced that participants who ran at least half of the race but did not complete the marathon would be granted early entry into the 2014 Marathon, regardless of qualifications needed to enter. The early entries numbered 5,633.

The Boston Marathon was the culmination of what sports are all about. Sports are popular because of the community that supports them. It could be a handful of parents rooting on their children at a soccer game or college kids cheering in unison for their basketball team or a city celebrating their love of athletics by hosting an annual marathon. Even though Boston was dealt a heavy blow in 2013, they still plan to push forward and host the event again next year. Just like a team may lose a game, they still get up, push forward and prepare for the next one.

Who would you say was the biggest sports newsmaker of 2013? What do you hope to see in the new year? Is there someone that should have been included on this list? Sound off in the comments.

Nathaniel Gaynor is a multimedia journalist for Impact Sports.