Mike Strange: 10 storylines I didn't see coming in 2012

Mike Strange
In this photo taken Sunday, April 1, 2012 and provided by the Arkansas State Police, the wreckage of Arkansas NCAA football coach Bobby Petrino's motorcycle rest off the shoulder of a highway near Crosses, Ark. The accident on Sunday injured Petrino and it was later disclosed that he was riding with a female employee. He has been put on leave after admitting he failed to disclose Jessica Dorrell's presence on the ride, and that the two had an inappropriate relationship. (AP Photo/Arkansas State Police)

In this photo taken Sunday, April 1, 2012 and provided by the Arkansas State Police, the wreckage of Arkansas NCAA football coach Bobby Petrino's motorcycle rest off the shoulder of a highway near Crosses, Ark. The accident on Sunday injured Petrino and it was later disclosed that he was riding with a female employee. He has been put on leave after admitting he failed to disclose Jessica Dorrell's presence on the ride, and that the two had an inappropriate relationship. (AP Photo/Arkansas State Police)

As 2012 draws to a close, here are 10 items from the sports calendar that I did not predict on New Year's Day.

Going more or less in chronological order:

Alabama Bashes LSU: It wasn't shocking that Alabama won the rematch with LSU in the BCS national title game on Jan. 10. After all, the Tigers squeaked out the regular-season showdown 9-6 in overtime.

But, oh my. What Nick Saban's defense did to undefeated LSU in a 21-0 beatdown was jaw-dropping. The Tigers didn't cross the 50 until midway through the fourth quarter and finished with five first downs.

Nittany Nightmare: The Jerry Sandusky pedophilia story actually broke late in 2011. But the revelations of Penn State's institutional failure spilled forth well into 2012. The trauma continued, from the death of deposed Joe Paterno and removal of his statue to the hammering NCAA sanctions.

But worst of all were the disgusting details of Sandusky's trial that ended with a guilty verdict on 45 counts of sexual abuse.

Uneasy Rider: The most infamous motorcycle wreck in college football history occurred outside Fayetteville, Ark., in April, Coach Bobby Petrino would have emerged intact with just a few scrapes were it not for his blonde ex-volleyball-playing passenger, Instead, his career was torched and so was a very promising Razorback 2012 season.

Arkansas finished 4-8 under an interim coach, Petrino was fired and then shunned by several SEC schools in the recent coaching carousel. He starts over in 2013 at Western Kentucky.

Lance Crashes: As the allegations mounted over time, I reluctantly came to accept that no matter how much he protested, Lance Armstrong had probably used illegal performance-boosting assistance to dominate the Tour de France.

But I did not anticipate such crushing evidence that would send Armstrong so deep into the shadows, distanced even from his cancer-fighting Livestrong foundation.

Knuckle Down: Time for a feel-good story and that's what former Tennessee star R.A. Dickey delivered in a New York Mets uniform.

In the twilight of an unremarkable pro baseball career, Dickey, at age 37, mesmerized batters from April until September and became the first knuckle ball pitcher to win the Cy Young Award.

More Realignment: I really, really hoped conference expansion was over. Alas, not even close.

Maryland and Rutgers are headed to the Big Ten, Louisville to the ACC and there's no telling how the Big East will sort out.

If Manchester United joins the SEC in 2013 I won't bat an eye.

He's Gonna Go All The Way: Tennessee's 2012 football season was surprising on so many levels. For me, the abiding image will be some guy sprinting nearly the length of the field with orange jerseys in futile pursuit.

The Vols surrendered 15 touchdowns of 40-plus yards. Of those, 11 were 50-plus and eight 70-plus.

Johnny Heisman: When's the last time a guy nobody ever heard of in August wins the Heisman Trophy?

Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel — aka Johnny Football — did the unthinkable for a freshman by becoming Johnny Heisman.

Peyton Hits Reboot: Peyton Manning's extraordinary career could have been finished as a Colt after sitting out 2011 due to neck surgery. Many thought he should start writing his Hall of Fame acceptance speech rather than risk a comeback.

But no. He flirted with the Titans, signed with Denver and is a candidate for both comeback player of the year and MVP. In short, Manning continues to amaze.

Back To The 30s: Even without Jeronne Maymon to stir the drink, I didn't foresee the depth of Tennessee's basketball Vols struggling to score against good teams.

Topping out at 36 at Georgetown and then 38 at Virginia in a six-day span was sobering. Better in December than March.

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/strangemike44 and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/strange.

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Comments » 15

VolinCalif writes:

Merry Christmas Mike and to all of Tenn and their fans. In fact a very Merry Christmas to all of you.

SummittsCourt writes:

Another pointless article that couldn't help but take a few shots and UT.

emailnodata (Inactive) writes:

Ok, I did see Bama beating LSU badly. LSU was very lucky to get the first win, and as UT fans (sadly) remember from 2001, it's very, very tough to beat a talented team twice.

I did NOT see UT's defense just completely collapsing.

Any D, and any small good fortune, and football team beats
-UGA
-USC
-MSU
-Mizzou
-UF
Winning those, I don't think they lose to Vandy.

That, folks is an 11-1 record. Even splitting, say, UGA and UF, it's a 10-win season.

In that regard, Dooley has a strong case for the woulda-coulda-shoulda blues.

gillblog writes:

Sorry to divert from the subject piece, but I just watched an ESPN re-run of the 1997 SEC Football Championship game- UT v. Auburn and I had forgotten and I am AMAZED in memory to see once again both how poorly the Vols played (chalk that one up to Fulmer coaching even though the Vols won with Manning prevailing) and how incredibly, blatantly, personally biased Keith Jackson was against Peyton winning the Heisman trophy. It is stunning, absolutely stunning, to listen to Jackson self-consciously struggle to come up with objective reasons why he voted against Peyton in the face of all the overwhelming body of work he had produced in his FOUR YEARS at UT. Jackson could NOT justify what he did on any substantive grounds despite being confronted on national TV by the likes of Lynn Swan and Brian Greise (who, unlike Jackson, were intelligent ex-football players) both of whom directly challenged Jacksaon to make a case for an alternative to Manning. That slob Jackson had NOTHING to say. Nothing. And, he categorically rejected any possibility of debate on the matter with a self-betraying, cowardly; "I refuse to discuss it".

Vol fans, if we have forgotten or if we ever will forget why an excellent but unexceptional defensive back gained a Heisman trophy rather than Peyton Manning, here, above everything else, is the reason;

Keith ("IadmitIdontknowmuchaboutfootballbutIsureamengagininglyfolksywhenIcallTVgamesandbythewayIhavehadenoughdrinkswiththeHeismancommitteetoearnvotingstatus")
Jackson is IT.

What a travesty! What a dolt of a sportscaster ! What a transparent glob of prejudice !

I can't talk about this anymore.I need a beer.... @#$@)&u%@%&)(!

underthehill writes:

in response to SummittsCourt:

Another pointless article that couldn't help but take a few shots and UT.

Another free loader looking for attention..

10seVol85_Part_Deux writes:

" When's the last time a guy nobody ever heard of in August wins the Heisman Trophy?"

That would be 1997, I believe.

Snapshot writes:

in response to gillblog:

Sorry to divert from the subject piece, but I just watched an ESPN re-run of the 1997 SEC Football Championship game- UT v. Auburn and I had forgotten and I am AMAZED in memory to see once again both how poorly the Vols played (chalk that one up to Fulmer coaching even though the Vols won with Manning prevailing) and how incredibly, blatantly, personally biased Keith Jackson was against Peyton winning the Heisman trophy. It is stunning, absolutely stunning, to listen to Jackson self-consciously struggle to come up with objective reasons why he voted against Peyton in the face of all the overwhelming body of work he had produced in his FOUR YEARS at UT. Jackson could NOT justify what he did on any substantive grounds despite being confronted on national TV by the likes of Lynn Swan and Brian Greise (who, unlike Jackson, were intelligent ex-football players) both of whom directly challenged Jacksaon to make a case for an alternative to Manning. That slob Jackson had NOTHING to say. Nothing. And, he categorically rejected any possibility of debate on the matter with a self-betraying, cowardly; "I refuse to discuss it".

Vol fans, if we have forgotten or if we ever will forget why an excellent but unexceptional defensive back gained a Heisman trophy rather than Peyton Manning, here, above everything else, is the reason;

Keith ("IadmitIdontknowmuchaboutfootballbutIsureamengagininglyfolksywhenIcallTVgamesandbythewayIhavehadenoughdrinkswiththeHeismancommitteetoearnvotingstatus")
Jackson is IT.

What a travesty! What a dolt of a sportscaster ! What a transparent glob of prejudice !

I can't talk about this anymore.I need a beer.... @#$@)&u%@%&)(!

Here you go again, same rant you have already posted twice. You think people are going to read your silly rant every time you post it?

FanNotSheep writes:

• OK, so Lance Armstrong cheated, but didn't everybody he was racing against do it too? When all the competitors are taking the same substances why is that an unfair advantage? (And please don't try telling me all cyclists don't cheat -- I will never believe that).

• How can a sportswriter be so naive to think conference realignment was over? As long as the money and the chance to get in the big-money bowls and play for the national title depend on which conference you are in, schools are going to keep moving.

• Betting against Peyton Manning is stupid. The only surprise to me is the Colts making the playoffs this season. I thought they'd need at least one more year. They were Luck-y to get a QB who has some of Peyton's qualities.

• I sure hope UT basketball is done with the Kevin O'Neill flashback. That era was hard enough to stomach the first time.

BruisedOrange writes:

in response to SummittsCourt:

Another pointless article that couldn't help but take a few shots and UT.

"Year in Review" articles between Christmas Eve and New Year's Day have been a staple of print journalism since Guttenburg. TV is worse, since they can assign the task of pulling/editing video to college interns and newbies.

I say give the sports guys a break on it.

They've been covering football AND basketball for two months, with just a bit of family time for Christmas, then off again to cover bowl games, NFL playoffs leading up to Super Bowl, holiday tournament college basketball and then the conference schedule begins.

To say nothing of all the hockey KNS covers.

MERRY CHRISTMAS KNS staff!

ajwlfw#574737 writes:

in response to gillblog:

Sorry to divert from the subject piece, but I just watched an ESPN re-run of the 1997 SEC Football Championship game- UT v. Auburn and I had forgotten and I am AMAZED in memory to see once again both how poorly the Vols played (chalk that one up to Fulmer coaching even though the Vols won with Manning prevailing) and how incredibly, blatantly, personally biased Keith Jackson was against Peyton winning the Heisman trophy. It is stunning, absolutely stunning, to listen to Jackson self-consciously struggle to come up with objective reasons why he voted against Peyton in the face of all the overwhelming body of work he had produced in his FOUR YEARS at UT. Jackson could NOT justify what he did on any substantive grounds despite being confronted on national TV by the likes of Lynn Swan and Brian Greise (who, unlike Jackson, were intelligent ex-football players) both of whom directly challenged Jacksaon to make a case for an alternative to Manning. That slob Jackson had NOTHING to say. Nothing. And, he categorically rejected any possibility of debate on the matter with a self-betraying, cowardly; "I refuse to discuss it".

Vol fans, if we have forgotten or if we ever will forget why an excellent but unexceptional defensive back gained a Heisman trophy rather than Peyton Manning, here, above everything else, is the reason;

Keith ("IadmitIdontknowmuchaboutfootballbutIsureamengagininglyfolksywhenIcallTVgamesandbythewayIhavehadenoughdrinkswiththeHeismancommitteetoearnvotingstatus")
Jackson is IT.

What a travesty! What a dolt of a sportscaster ! What a transparent glob of prejudice !

I can't talk about this anymore.I need a beer.... @#$@)&u%@%&)(!

The first inkling I had that Peyton Manning might not win the Heisman in 97 was when Beano Cook (the so-called pope of college football) said in an interview on ESPN that he was going to vote for Woodson. I don't recall his reasoning, but I thought right then that Peyton wouldn't win it."If Beano said it then case closed!" I also recall that somehow the case was being made that year that the Heisman should be given on the basis of that season's work and not the entire career. But then the next year the case was the opposite (the whole career, not just the 98 season) for who ever won it. I can't remember who that was, because after 1997 I haven't paid any attention to the Heisman. If I recall correctly, ESPN was a major player in that mess back then.

jjk writes:

in response to emailnodata:

Ok, I did see Bama beating LSU badly. LSU was very lucky to get the first win, and as UT fans (sadly) remember from 2001, it's very, very tough to beat a talented team twice.

I did NOT see UT's defense just completely collapsing.

Any D, and any small good fortune, and football team beats
-UGA
-USC
-MSU
-Mizzou
-UF
Winning those, I don't think they lose to Vandy.

That, folks is an 11-1 record. Even splitting, say, UGA and UF, it's a 10-win season.

In that regard, Dooley has a strong case for the woulda-coulda-shoulda blues.

Agreed. Dooley signed his own death warrant by hiring Sal Sunseri to run the 3-4 instead of just promoting Lance Thompson to defensive coordinator and keeping things as is. I guarantee Dooley wins at least three, maybe four more games if the defense could stop someone, and he would still have a job.

10seVol85_Part_Deux writes:

in response to ajwlfw#574737:

The first inkling I had that Peyton Manning might not win the Heisman in 97 was when Beano Cook (the so-called pope of college football) said in an interview on ESPN that he was going to vote for Woodson. I don't recall his reasoning, but I thought right then that Peyton wouldn't win it."If Beano said it then case closed!" I also recall that somehow the case was being made that year that the Heisman should be given on the basis of that season's work and not the entire career. But then the next year the case was the opposite (the whole career, not just the 98 season) for who ever won it. I can't remember who that was, because after 1997 I haven't paid any attention to the Heisman. If I recall correctly, ESPN was a major player in that mess back then.

For at least the first month of the season, the Heisman was a one-horse race. Peyton started the season with it in the bag, and eventually the media started to find it boring that there was no competition. They had to create the competition, and they chose Woodson. After all, a purely defensive player would make it more interesting, since none had ever won it before. Just like this year. Manziel won it just as much because he was a freshman as because of his talent. They love being able to vote for somebody who makes history. Now that they've covered the freshman and sophomore thing, they're already preparing to give it to Johnny Football a couple more times. Nobody's ever won it three times, so I'd put my money on him for the next two years.

murrayvol writes:

in response to 10seVol85_Part_Deux:

" When's the last time a guy nobody ever heard of in August wins the Heisman Trophy?"

That would be 1997, I believe.

That would be correct.

emailnodata (Inactive) writes:

in response to jjk:

Agreed. Dooley signed his own death warrant by hiring Sal Sunseri to run the 3-4 instead of just promoting Lance Thompson to defensive coordinator and keeping things as is. I guarantee Dooley wins at least three, maybe four more games if the defense could stop someone, and he would still have a job.

Just so many tough losses and bizarre games in Dooley's tenure...a good man who was snakebit.

One of his mistakes with Sunseri is the same as Phil made with Clawson: he did not educate the fans that "hey, this new system, we don't have the personnel for it yet". (as fans, of course, we'd ask "why put in a system you don't have the talent to run??") Both Phil and Dooley brought in guys to change the world rather than play with what they had....

I will always wonder if Phil, Clawson, Chief, and all had stayed, and Taj Boyd had indeed played at UT....would Phil have turned the corner?

Hard to say.

BruisedOrange writes:

in response to 10seVol85_Part_Deux:

For at least the first month of the season, the Heisman was a one-horse race. Peyton started the season with it in the bag, and eventually the media started to find it boring that there was no competition. They had to create the competition, and they chose Woodson. After all, a purely defensive player would make it more interesting, since none had ever won it before. Just like this year. Manziel won it just as much because he was a freshman as because of his talent. They love being able to vote for somebody who makes history. Now that they've covered the freshman and sophomore thing, they're already preparing to give it to Johnny Football a couple more times. Nobody's ever won it three times, so I'd put my money on him for the next two years.

That's the most accurate recounting of that season I've read here.

I think you nailed it with "eventually the media started to find it boring."

There was a time when higher education produced people with a heightened sense of responsibility. Today we're producing narcissists. All areas of journalism and news/sports reporting have suffered from its practitioners' willingness to compromise professionalism to make their job more "interesting, creative, meaningful, or fun."

They are oblivious to why the Chinese consider "May you live in interesting times" to be a curse.

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