In a world where negativity usually dominates the headlines, we can all agree that there are some stories that have left us with a positive outlook on the future of sport. These are the stories that warmed our hearts and restored our faith in the unscripted drama of our favorite pastimes.
Yet of course there are the stories that revealed the brutal and often ugly nature of the games and their athletes. These are the stories that can stay in 2013 and hopefully never come back.
But let's start with The Good:
1. Jason Collins. Last May, Collins became the first openly gay athlete in a major American team sport. The sporting world also saw notable athletes Brittney Griner and Robbie Rogers take the same courageous step. It's pretty safe to say that Collins isn't -- well, wasn't, considering he has thus far failed to find a team well into this NBA season -- the only current LGBT athlete in either the NBA, NFL, MLB or NHL, but his resolve to #BeTrue to himself will resonate for many years and for many athletes to come.
2. Guan Tianlang. The 14 year-old from Guangzhou, China became the youngest golfer to ever make the cut at The Masters. Accomplishing this impressive feat at not only his sports most prestigious event but doing so on a course that didn't always accept the "nontraditional" is truly inspiring to the youth of the world. What might have been even more revealing of this fresh-faced athlete was the way he handled a controversial one-stroke penalty that was -- unfairly -- shelled down on him, with pure grace and composure.
3. Florida Gulf Coast University. Entering the NCAA Tournament as a 15 seed that barely scraped out of its conference tournament, FGCU was on no one's radar during the college basketball season. The Eagles broke out on the March Madness scene taking out the second seeded Georgetown Hoyas before disposing of the number seven seed San Diego State to charge into the round of 16. Here's to another exciting Dance this coming Spring!
4. Diana Nyad. At the age of 64, Nyad became the first confirmed person to swim from Cuba to Florida without the aid of a shark cage. After her first failed attempt some 35 years prior to complete the 110-mile journey, she taught the world a valuable lesson in 2013 when she proclaimed, "you are never too old to chase your dreams." An athlete in every sense of the word, Nyad is inspiration to us all.
5. Selfless Athletes. Face it. We're all a sucker for a good athlete/fan story. The ones that immediately come to mind is Husker fan and six year-old cancer patient Jack Hoffman scoring a 69-yard touchdown in the Nebraska Spring football game and Reds bat boy Teddy Kremer, who has Downs Syndrome, celebrating a home run with Cincinatti's Todd Frazier who promised Kremer that he would take one yard for him. There were much too many to mention right here and that's the best part.
1. Aaron Hernandez. One of the NFL's most-feared tight ends, Hernandez was charged with the murder of Odin Lloyd last June. The now-former New England Patriot has a checkered history that includes many run-ins with the law as well as the premature death of his father, which had a huge effect on the football player's development into manhood. It appears that several red flags were overlooked as Hernandez ascended to the pros, all in the name of victories on the field.
2. Lance Armstrong. Armstrong finally -- finally -- admitted to doping while winning all of those Tour de France yellow jerseys. Unfortunately, this type of story is not new to the sporting world, yet Armstrong's persistent denial for several years while promoting his Livestrong Foundation makes for a more disappointing ending.
3. Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin. Martin accused his former Miami Dolphin teammate of bullying which included racial and physically-threatening remarks made to the tackle and his family. Even more serious are allegations that the team encouraged Incognito to "toughen up" Martin, the Stanford grad. In a world whose youth are being more and more emboldened to stand up for the teased and mistreated, this story illustrates how it's the adults that still need to learn.
4. Alex Rodriguez. Biogenesis, the A-Rod/Selig feud, and the Yankee himself, yeah, we're tired of it.
5. Super Bowl Power Outage. This one is clearly not as heavy as the previous four, but I figure we needed to throw in one of the strangest things to happen, ever, in sports. How does one of the world's most renowned venues suffer a power outage in one of the world's most-watched sporting events? We may never know the "true" reason for the sudden darkness on that fateful -- for the 49ers -- night in New Orleans, but many, including the Ravens, will always have their own theories.
Here's to a blessed and prosperous 2014 to you all!