by John Healey
So far this academic year, there have been some especially noteworthy events that will make us look back on the fall of 2012 and remember it with perhaps more clarity than we will with other semesters in our Villanova careers.
There was Hurricane Sandy, a storm whose devastating consequences tragically affected many members of the Villanova community.
There was a presidential election that was widely held to be one of the most heated political showdowns in United States history.
And, there was a Rebecca Black-esque YouTube video named “It’s Thanksgiving” that went viral just in time to spoil your Turkey Day. (I trust you’ll agree that this song is infinitely worse than “Friday.”)
Curiously, the occurrence of such unique events has extended to the sports world, too, where we have witnessed some truly astonishing and surprising spectacles throughout the first semester.
For starters, Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers became the first player since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967—as well as just the 15th in MLB history—to win the vaunted Triple Crown.
Cabrera led the American League in batting average (.325), home runs (44) and RBIs (139) while leading his team to its second AL pennant in seven years.
What’s scary is that the 10-year veteran captured baseball’s most coveted individual achievement during what may have been his worst offensive performance in the last three years.
That’s right. Grantland columnist Jonah Keri points out that Cabrera’s batting average, on-base percentage, doubles and walks drawn were all down from 2010 and 2011, and that he grounded into more double plays (28) than any other season in his career.
Obviously, though, we should not let this detract from such a stellar year. Cabrera gave baseball fans something they had not seen for almost half a century, and that’s pretty special.
In the NFL, who could forget the replacement referee debacle?
For three weeks, we painfully watched replacement officials commit mistake after awkward mistake. There were missed calls, horrendous delays, botched reviews and a general lack of control over games—all due to an impasse between NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the normal refs over contract negotiations.
At first it was amusing, then it became frustrating and then it grew into an outrage as big as the biceps of sorely-missed referee Ed Hochuli.
This remained unresolved until the now infamous ending to Monday Night Football in Week 3, when the referes granted a game-winning touchdown to the Seattle Seahawks over the Green Bay Packers after missing a blatant offensive pass interference call and then inexplicably awarding possession of the ball to Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate.
The “Fail Mary” undoubtedly ranks as one of the biggest embarrassments in NFL history, but, fortunately (sorry, Packer fans), it prompted a swift end to the lockout.
Although this was not the first work stoppage for NFL referees, judging by its disastrous results, I think it’s safe to say it will be the last one for a very long time.
Back to baseball for a moment.
The Baltimore Orioles made the playoffs this year—yeah, that really happened.
This statement alone should make any sports fan born within the last 30 years do a complete double take.
That’s because since the Orioles won the 1983 World Series, their only two playoff appearances before this year came in 1996 and 1997.
Let’s put this into some perspective.
Back in 1997, Jay Wright was coaching at Hofstra, Hanson’s “MMMBop” reached No. 1 on the Billboard Top 100 and Space Jam was just beginning to colonize our childhood brains.
Sputtering for so long, the Orioles finally believe they can fly—something this franchise hasn’t been able to say for 15 years.
Speaking of teams that shook off years of disappointment and returned to their winning ways, Notre Dame finished the season with an undefeated 12-0 record and is headed to Miami to compete in the BCS National Championship game.
Led by senior linebacker Manti Te’O and third year Head Coach Brian Kelly, the Fightin’ Irish certainly have not looked this good since their dominant stretch between the 1987-92 seasons, when they racked up a 64-9 record and won their last national championship.
Sure, the Golden Domers have compiled winning seasons since then, but simply posting above-.500 records does not cut it for Notre Dame and the rich tradition of college football excellence that it boasts.
Notre Dame has not won a significant bowl game since the early days of the Lou Holtz era, and coupled with many less-than-impressive seasons, this has caused widespread sentiment that it no longer deserves to be touted as one of college football’s elite programs (see Rick Reilly’s Aug. 16 column entitled “Demoting Notre Dame”).
However, this 2012 Notre Dame squad has done everything possible to silence its critics, and, come January—no matter what happens in the BCS title game—we will have seen the Fightin’ Irish complete their best season in 20 years.
And finally, at long last we saw tennis superstar Andy Murray win his first grand slam title at the U.S. Open.
You have to feel good for Murray, who became the first Brit to win a major final since 1936 and ended his streak of 27 consecutive grand slam tournaments without a title.
Murray has had the misfortune of playing in an era dominated by three of tennis’s all-time greats, and after countless agonizing defeats at their hands (none more so than this summer’s Wimbledon finals loss against Roger Federer), he finally earned some championship hardware of his own.
The embattled Scotsman’s breakthrough was a breath of fresh air for tennis fans, too, as Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic had won an unbelievable 29 of the previous 30 grand slam finals.
All this and more seem to beg the question: will the rest of the school year yield such special and unforeseen athletic results?
Will Floyd Mayweather finally agree to step inside the ring with Manny Pacquiao and give the world a fight for the ages?
Will Andrew Luck, inspired by the courage of Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano’s battle against leukemia, become the first rookie quarterback to lead his team to a Super Bowl victory?
Will Mouphtaou Yarou throw down a thunderous, Shaquille O’Neal-style, backboard-shattering dunk on a February night in the Pavilion that all but incites a riot in the student section?
These things we cannot know for sure, but if there’s one thing we’ve learned in the last three months, it’s that we can never count them out.