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Commentary: No 'nice' list from 2012

Making a list, checking it twice.

Oh, forget it. Hard to make much of a "nice list" out of the key figures from the sports year that was 2012. "Naughty list" doesn't begin to cover it. Despicable, maybe.

It was more than just the typical greed of the robber-barons who run big-time sports. Yes, colleges continue to jump from conference to conference in a money grab that would embarrass Donald Trump. And the NFL, with its billions in revenue, foisted replacement officials on its fans in a shortsighted attempt to save a few bucks. And the NHL powers seem intent on killing off not only a season but a sport.

All of the above is bad enough. If only that was as bad as it got in 2012, a year defined less by those who killed it in their sport (Michael Phelps, LeBron James, Adrian Peterson) than by sports figures who killed others (Jovan Belcher and Josh Trent).

The Associated Press list of the top sports stories of the year reads like a police report, a depressing grouping of behavior that runs from unscrupulous and unethical to immoral and illegal that had fans shaking their heads, if not weeping.

The Penn State sex abuse scandal was voted No. 1. The disgusting story of former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky's reprehensible behavior and its falloutbroke in November, 2011, and raged through 2012. Disgraced head coach Joe Paterno died in January, preceding a third-party report that blasted the program and school for inaction and cover-up. That report was the basis for unprecedented NCAA sanctions. Sandusky was convicted in June of assaulting 10 boys.

Lance Armstrong's fall was voted No. 2. The iconic cyclist, a hero as much for his contributions to the fight against cancer as for his seven Tour de France titles, was exposed as a liar and a cheat, first in a book by ex-teammate Tyler Hamilton and then in a report by the U.S. Anti-Doping agency detailing his use of performing-enhancing drugs. Armstrong was stripped of his wins and dropped by his sponsors.

Next was the NFL's bounty scandal which stretched on for most of the year. The league found that the Saints had a program that rewarded those who tried to hurt opponents and handed down numerous suspensions. None of the player suspensions held on appeal, however.

The fourth-biggest story involved the tragic effects of concussions on ex-football players, illustrated by the deaths of all-time greats Alex Karras (dementia) and Junior Seau (suicide).

Undoubtedly, 2012 will be remembered more for those sad stories than the been-there-done-that triumph of the Giants over the Patriots, a barely-watched San Francisco World Series win, James' redemptive championship with the Miami Heat, or even the Olympics.

Usually, sports provides refuge. An escape from reality. Not this year.

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