Happy New Year! Kosher Claus has returned to his secret lair until next Christmas/Chanukah season, the decorations are coming down, but there are plenty of inspirational memories from the year of sports in 2011.
The New Year affords the opportunity to review our mistakes and triumphs and resolve to be better people in the days to come. Sports has always had the power to trigger positive imitative values and model outstanding behavioral qualities — and this year had its shining examples. It provided reasons for optimism and hope.
Matt Barkley, quarterback of the USC Trojans, made a traditional values decision to return to play his senior season. He confounded cynics by putting his team, university and legacy above the lure of instantaneous financial security. He made a powerful statement displaying his character and understanding of the uniqueness of another year on campus. I believe he will be the first pick in the 2013 draft.
Tim Tebow, quarterback of the Denver Broncos, provided inspirational thrills with his capacity to elevate his play against all odds at the end of NFL games. Even if he has returned to Earth recently he was a profound inspiration to all of us who are underestimated against challenges. His faith and hope lit the darkness.
The Corona del Mar High football team won its division in fine style. The Sea Kings demonstrated how a school of diminutive enrollment could beat the odds by great coaching and teamwork.
Alex Morgan and Hope Solo led the U.S. women's soccer team to the World Cup finals and almost beat the world at its favorite sport. It was a boost to our national pride. It is wonderful to see female athletes succeed and inspire young girls to play more sports.
Newport Harbor High pioneered progressive techniques in concussion awareness. Community support and administrative commitment decided to mandate baseline testing for all football players. The specter of concussion is a special risk for adolescents which has been covered by a blanket of denial for too long. The NFL continued to try and foster awareness and prevention among its players.
The Ocean View Little League team from Huntington Beach won the Little League World Series. The pure joy on their faces reminded us all of why we love sports.
Arte Moreno, owner of the Angels acted decisively to enhance his roster. He facilitated the return of pitcher C.J. Wilson to Orange County, as he was born in Newport Beach and played baseball at Fountain Valley and Santa Ana College. Wilson will greatly enhance the Angel pitching rotation. The signing by the Angels of arguably the best single player in baseball, first baseman Albert Pujols, shows why Moreno is an owner who cares about providing his fans with excellence on the field
The Los Angeles Dodgers did little to upgrade their team, but they did sign MVP candidate, outfielder Matt Kemp to a long-term contract. And, pitcher Clayton Kershaw won the Cy Young Award as the National League's best. And miracle of miracles, owner Frank McCourt finally faced reality and made a decision to sell the franchise. With new ownership, the long nightmare for Dodger fans may draw to a close.
The return of the NFL to Southern California appears more likely as the AEG plan moves forward. The willingness of Farmers to pay a fortune for naming rights to Farmer's Field in downtown Los Angeles helps make the deal a reality. I still appreciate the effort of the Roski group. We may get two new franchises.
After years as the Bermuda Triangle of the NBA — the place great players go to disappear — the Los Angeles Clippers amazed the league and their fans by completing a successful trade for the best point guard in basketball, Chris Paul. Their roster includes young superstar forward Blake Griffin, veteran star guard Chauncey Billups and an exciting young center DeAndre Jordan. Dare I write that the Clippers have an excellent chance to make the playoffs? They do.
Sports institutions finally were forced to confront the fact that they should not be safe havens for predators.
And, your correspondent learned a lesson in being a better financial steward and not to trust the advice of counsel when it comes to attending hearings.
Looking forward to another year of stimulating discussions on issues from the world of sports.
LEIGH STEINBERG is a renowned sports agent, author, advocate, speaker and humanitarian. His column appears weekly. Follow Leigh on Twitter @steinbergsports or blog.steinbergsports.com.