This month, we asked our writers to revisit their most indelible memories of 2012.
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The perfect finish to the 2012 sports year is the pile of recent columns written by voters for the Baseball Hall of Fame. The ballots weren’t released until Nov. 28, 2012 and the results of the election will not be announced until Jan. 9, 2013, but the keepers of the flame, the grand protectors of the innocent, the Dudley Do-Rights of the Baseball Writers Association of America have already spoken: Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa will not be getting into Cooperstown.
Not a chance.
“I am in possession of the toxic ballot,” Bob Ryan wrote in the Boston Globe. “… There can’t be more than a handful of people voting for the Toxic Trio (Bonds, Clemens, Sosa) who aren’t doing so without holding his or her nose. I, for one, can’t do it. Some day, maybe. Or maybe not.”
“This should be an easy call for the writers who vote for the Hall of Fame,” columnist Christine Brennan of USA Today wrote. “No one should vote for these people.”
And so on.
The Associated Press polled 112 voters, a fifth of the electorate, and found that less than 50 percent would vote for any of the three players -- Bonds, Clemens, or Sosa. A 75 percent vote is needed for election.
I share these sentiments. These are steroid guys, after all, drug-aided cheaters who shouldn’t be rewarded for their malfeasance -- but there still is a science fiction quality to all of this, don’t you think? I keep waiting for someone to say “April Fools.” Or “gotcha.” Or something.
Barry Bonds is the greatest home run hitter in baseball history with 762 dingers in his career and 73 in a single season (2001). Clemens is one of the greatest pitchers of all time with his 354 wins and his 3.12 earned run average and his record seven Cy Young awards (seven!). Sammy Sosa’s more modest career contained three seasons where he hit more than 60 home runs, the long-established Babe Ruth benchmark for greatness. (More than 60 home runs!)
None of these guys is going into the Hall of Fame?
There is a disconnect here. The curtain has been pulled back, I guess. The magician’s contrived apparatus had been exposed. This was what we were watching? This was what brought us to our feet with cheers? This?
I feel the way I felt when Lance Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France victories (seven!) in August for doping. I understand, the guy was sludge, lied and cheated and browbeat a lot of people, but it’s really weird if you followed all of those races, watched him go up and down the Alps, then peddle across France and do the same thing in the Pyrenees and then rattle through a perilous time trial and finish up with ride down the Champs Elysees drinking champagne.
It didn’t count?
None of it?
I feel the way I felt when the final adjustments were made in the accounting for Joe Paterno’s career at Penn State in July. I understand the reasons -- certainly I do and I agree 100 percent with all the sanctions -- but that understanding does not stop to the unreality of what happened. This was the most successful coach in all of college football history. (All time!) The guy had 409 wins in 46 seasons in State College. He was JoePa. He was a statue. He was a legend. Then the sex abuse cover-up for former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky became public and JoePa died in disgrace and, whoosh, an administrative decision was made to forfeit 111 of those wins, everything since 1998 when the cover-up began.
Just like that.
All of those wins never happened.
If you wrote a novel or screenplay about all of these changes -- the greatest home run hitter, greatest pitcher, greatest bicycle rider and greatest college football coach all stripped of their accomplishments in a single year -- you would have a tough time finding buyers. The premise would seem preposterous. The pod people come in and replace the real people! When Barry or Roger or Sammy closed their eyes, bang, they were replaced by a pod person! Nothing that they ever did in the past counts any more! Wow.
These changes make you reconsider all things that happen in plain view. What is real? What is going to last? What is hollow somehow in the middle, won’t count? Thirty-seven players are on that Hall of Fame ballot. Mike Piazza, maybe the best-hitting catcher in baseball history, and Mark McGwire, the man who broke Roger Maris’s record and Jeff Bagwell, who hit 449 home runs in a 15-year career, are part of the list. None of them are expected to collect enough votes due to drug allegations.
The National Hockey League season has been cancelled until further notice. Ohio State football went unbeaten but is not eligible to play in a bowl game. Sean Payton, the coach of the New Orleans Saints, a team that won the Super Bowl in 2010, hasn’t coached a game this year due to a suspension. For something or other. Then there’s Bobby Petrino, who was supposed to do all of that good stuff at the University of Arkansas. And Melky Cabrera, MVP in the All-Star Game, missed the World Series. And Nadzeya Ostapchuk, who won a gold medal for Belarus in London in the shot put, but came up dirty in the drug test. And …
What’s the deal?
What’s the story?
The most memorable moments of 2012 mostly were the ones that were erased.