You know how, in the series 24, the way a season unfolds? How just when you think there has been some sort of resolution to the bad guys being bottled up, right then and there a new (often worse) layer is introduced, and ultimately in like Hour 22 Jack Bauer winds up face to face with some nemesis who is the axis of all evil in the universe?
Well that was 2011 in sports. Jim Tressel, Will Lyles, Nevin Shapiro -- they came and went, and it felt like they were under control or even put to bed at some point during the year.
Then came the nuclear bomb -- Jerry Sandusky.
The worst story of the year was the worst story in my lifetime, and tragically, just like a season of 24, where the end of the season foreshadows future evil, the door closes on 2011 with far more unanswered questions and many sordid twists and turns to go.
In short, Sandusky may wind up being the story of 2012 as well.
Let's take a trip back through the stories that made up one of the most unsavory calendar years in sports history....
January 5, 2011 -- Wade Phillips's Job Interview: Snickers, Crayons and Battlefighting This fictional script of the Wade Phillips job interview with the Texans paints Wade as a lovable, affable, happy-go-lucky fat man. All of those things are true, but I probably should have painted his coaching acumen in a more favorable light. That's on me.
January 19, 2011 -- The Longhorn Network -- The $300 Million Mystery Never has a virtually invisible entity been the source for so much ill will and shortsighted decision making. This piece outlines the biggest issues that the birth of the LHN raised, and as it turned out there was good reason to be worried about things like high school sports being shown on the network.
February 8, 2011 -- From Bad to Worse: Dallas Gives Michael Vick a Key to the City This story broke right after Dallas had just finished putting on the worst Super Bowl in the history of the event, some of that not their fault (ice storms), and much of it somebody's fault (sheets of ice landing on stadium workers, seats improperly installed or not installed at all, Christina Aguilera butchering anthem lyrics). I would say giving the key to the city to a convicted felon who sadistically killed dozens of innocent animals was not the way to make everyone forget Super Bowl week.
March 8, 2011 -- Kareem Jackson, Cockfighting and Perception After his rookie year, Kareem Jackson's best bet would have been to disappear from everyone's radar until August, come back to camp, and show a renewed maturity and sense of purpose. So naturally, the first we heard of him in the off season was when he tweeted pictures from a Dominican Republic cockfight in March. March 15, 2011 -- My Advice for NFL Players The NFL lockout was just beginning to show up on the "NFL fan radar" in March as stories of rookies boycotting the draft were beginning to pop up. Here was some unsolicited advice I gave to the NFL players, which I'm sure they all called an emergency meeting to review and figure out how to implement.
March 23, 2011 -- The Rebecca Black Video (Bad Lip Reading, "Gang Fight" Edition) Not a sports story at all, but a reminder of (a) how viral and Darwinian an entertainment world we live in and (b) if you grease the skids to put your kid on the internet for everyone to see, then expect ridicule. We LOVE to ridicule people in 2011.
March 28, 2011 -- Final Four -- R.I.P. College Basketball Regular Season A Final Four that included Butler, Virginia Commonwealth, and no number one seeds was appropriate for the sports year that Houston had.
">April 19, 2011 -- Cam Newton Flunks Camp Gruden (w/ VIDEO) Proof that I am not afraid to admit and display when I was wrong. I spent most of the spring and summer poking fun at Cam Newton's inability to recall any element of a playbook at Auburn (mostly because I like to believe he was drawing up plays in the dirt). I could not have been more off on Cam Newton. He's the next big thing.
April 19, 2011 -- Rick Adelman and the Rockets Agree to Disagree The awkward marriage of Rick Adelman and Daryl Morey finally came to an end when Adelman decided he no longer wanted to sleep on the couch for the sake of the kids and decided that life was better in Minnesota.
April 20, 2011 -- Finally...the 2011 Jim Rome Smack-Off Recap This has been one of my more popular features in my two years writing for Hair Balls. So here you go -- three thousand words worth of grinding, ranting, frosted tips and exotic sleds.
April 28, 2011 -- NFL Draft Live Blog Chronological recap of a night that wound up being a huge brick in the Texans defensive foundation that they've built with Wade Phillips.
May 3, 2011 -- Lingerie-Clad Man High On "Bath Salts" Kills Pygmy Goat (w/ Fantastic Mugshot) Another non-sports story that registered well with the readers. Lingerie, rednecks, bath salts, goat rape...really, what's not to like?
May 20, 2011 -- Randy "Macho Man" Savage (1952-2011) -- A Video Anthology If you're looking to get lost in some good wrestling video for a few minutes (and really, during a holiday week, who isn't?), check out this video anthology of one of the most influential performers of the last 30 years, Randy Savage.
May 27, 2011 -- Kevin McHale Is The Rockets' New Head Coach The Rockets' new coach would end up being a Hall of Fame player, a crappy general manager and an enigma of a head coach in Kevin McHale. The early scorecard on the hire is that it was a huge win for the media (McHale is quite quotable) and a non-factor for the Rockets until they get better players.
May 30, 2011 -- Jim Tressel's Resignation -- A Press Conference Timeline (with VIDEO) Months of Ohio State continually upping the ante on Jim Tressel's punishment didn't matter in the end as the school chose to finally terminate the legendary coach on Memorial Day. A few months later, after Jerry Sandusky violently recalibrated the violation scale, we would all feel stupid for being so worked up over Tressel's transgressions.
June 8, 2011 -- NBA Finals: LeBron James Hits Rock Bottom The payoff for everyone who vilified LeBron last summer took a year to arrive, but it did arrive in grand fashion as LeBron disappeared in the fourth quarter of seemingly every game in the NBA Finals, which meant we all had to watch Mark Cuban celebrate. And in a weird way that all made us hate LeBron that much more. June 23, 2011 -- NBA Draft Live Blog The annual NBA Draft live blog, which is as much about haircuts and suits as it is, you know, BASKETBALL.
July 15, 2011 -- Roger Clemens Goes All Tony Soprano and Dodges the Feds In a saga that feels like it's gone on forever, Roger Clemens managed to escape jail time when the federal government decided to hire Lionel Hutz to prosecute the case. Or something like that. I've kind of lost interest at this point, but I think where this stands now is Clemens is living in his mansion in Piney Point and denies using steroids. Basically, it's exactly where it was back in 2008.
July 26, 2011 -- Six Questions I Would Ask Chip Kelly About Will Lyles In the next chapter of "scandals that Jerry Sandusky would render as laughable," the integrity of Chip Kelly's relationship with a Houston area "high school scout" was called into question when the written scouting report that Lyles provided to Kelly as proof that the $25,000 was for some sort of service and not for delivering players to Eugene included, among others, a player who was no longer alive.
August 17, 2011 -- Andre Johnson Doesn't Deny Knowing the Rogue Miami Booster More college football scandal...blah blah blah....
August 26, 2011 -- The Longhorn Network Launches to Complete Silence Strangely enough, very few cable outlets have a desire to carry a network whose programming includes several hours of sports that only the players' parents would ever watch. Unless those players have very rich parents to spend hundreds of millions of dollars with sponsors, it's going to be tough for ESPN to recoup their $300 million investment in the Longhorn Network.
October 3, 2011 -- Houston Texans Game 4: 4 Winners, 4 Losers This was my game recap after the Texans' win over the Steelers. I chose this post to represent the "4 Winners, 4 Losers" pieces from the year for a couple reasons:
1. This is the game where Andre Johnson went down with a hamstring injury, a recurring theme with the team and with Johnson, who would injure the other hamstring in early December.
2. This 17-10 win was the first time that the Texans have ever felt like a real NFL football team. The 17-10 win, a defensive slugfest that was so out of character for this group of players, would embody its character for the balance of the season.
October 14, 2011 -- NBA Players Discuss Starting a New League (Go Ahead and Laugh, It's Okay) Oh yeah, there was an NBA lockout, which, by and large, nobody noticed unless the players did or said something stupid...like discussing the launch of their own league.
October 28, 2011 -- 6 Videos to Mentally Prepare You for Game 7 of the World Series How important was baseball in Houston this year? Well, notice the lack of Astros stories in this collection? (Well...do you?) I'm throwing Game 7 of a fantastic World Series in here as almost a token gesture.
STORY OF THE YEAR: THE PENN STATE SCANDAL November 9, 2011 -- Penn State: Joe Paterno Will Retire at Season's End -- Not Good Enough November 10, 2011 -- Boom. Penn State Fires Joe Paterno (w/ a VIDEO chronology) & CNN Kicks ESPN's Butt November 11, 2011 -- Three More Penn State Stories to Cap Off the Worst Week Ever
November 17, 2011 -- The Astros Are Heading to the Promised Land -- The American League! I'm pretty sure I could have called some of my readers' and listeners' wives and girlfriends "whores" and they'd have been less insulted than my suggestion that the Astros move to the American League is a good thing.
November 24, 2011 -- Matt Schaub Is Done, So Gary Kubiak Can Show His "One Thing" This is about the time when any of us who said "as long as Schaub stays healthy" felt pretty terrible.
December 9, 2011 -- Pau Gasol Thoughts, My Texans Prediction and Other Weekend Best Bets Imagine working on a science project for three years, and when it's finally done, you bring it to school and your teacher knocks it out of your hands and it shatters into a million pieces on the floor. That's kind of what David Stern did to Daryl Morey.
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December 16, 2011 -- Chicago Bears WR Sam Hurd Has a Ring...a Drug Ring! My favorite story of the year that has been totally underplayed in the media because (a) ESPN controls too much stuff and they have a business relationship with the NFL and (b) Sam Hurd is a nobody in NFL circles. However, apparently, he was pretty big in the coke and marijuana dealing circles.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. weekdays, and watch the simulcast on Comcast 129 from 6 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.