Tudor: A year in sports worth remembering

ctudor@newsobserver.comDecember 30, 2012 

The most special 2012 sports moment for me occurred on June 17, when Webb Simpson won the U.S. Open golf title in San Francisco.

My first thought when Simpson won was how it might rate in comparison to Josh Hamilton, another Raleigh native who had slugged four home runs for the Texas Rangers just weeks earlier.

There’s no absolute answer to that question.  And really, it doesn’t matter that much. Both men accomplished feats that rate among the ultimate sports rarities.

In North Carolina, 2012 was among the most eventful sports years ever even though there wasn’t a state-based team in the NCAA Final Four or at the College World Series or in the ACC football title game at Charlotte.

But there was the spring day -- May 19 -- when 40-year-old Erika Braun of Raleigh qualified for the U.S. Olympic swim trials in an event (50 freestyle) dominated by folks half her age.

Less than two weeks earlier, N.C. State’s graduation ceremonies speaker was Philip Rivers, a former Wolfpack quarterback.   

But there were other memories -- some sad and sobering but some elating and uplifting.

For instance:

•Jan. 8: Mark Gottfried’s first conference game as N.C. State’s basketball coach was marked by the most impressive performance of C.J. Leslie’s career.

“Calvin was terrific, just terrific,” Gottfried said at the end of a 79-74 win over Maryland in the RBC Center.

The sophomore forward had 20 points and 11 rebounds, giving State a 12-4 overall record en route to what would be a regional semifinal performance in the NCAA Tournament.

State had lost its nine previous games in the series against the Terps, who were playing their first ACC game under Mark Turgeon.


•Feb. 8: In the long run, Austin Rivers’ college basketball career will amount to a footnote in ACC lore, but the final shot of Duke’s 85-84 win at North Carolina will be discussed as long as folks watch ESPN classics and Utube.

His stunning 3-pointer gave the Blue Devils an 85-84 win and ended a 31-game home-court win streak for the Tar Heels.

In the Smith Center stands, Rivers’ father and Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers staged a celebration worthy of NBA title proportions.


•March 16:  Just before Duke’s basketball team had its season ended by Lehigh in Greensboro, television helicopters were hovering over Wade Stadium back in Durham.

The ado had nothing to do with Blue Devil football, but a secret workout by NFL quarterback Peyton Manning exploded into big national news.

In conjunction with Duke football coach David Cutcliffe and Indianapolis Colts officials, Manning went through a brief passing session and was impressive enough to change the course of the 2012 season for Denver.


•March 18: Back in Greensboro, UNC’s basketball team beat Creighton, 87-73, but lost its chance to win the NCAA title when point-guard Kendall Marshall suffered a severe right-wrist injury.

By the time Roy Williams reached the post-game news conference, it was obvious that the mood in his team’s locker room was anything except celebratory.

"When you go to the Sweet 16, it's supposed to be a lot more fun than this," Williams said.


•April 26: In the third round of the NFL Draft, the Seattle Seahawks took a chance on 5-foot-11 quarterback Russell Wilson.

Traditionalists laughed. None of them likely saw Wilson play for N.C. State or Wisconsin.


•June 22: The Carolina Hurricanes announced a trade with Pittsburgh that would bring Jordan Staal to Raleigh in exchange for Brandon Sutter, Brian Dumoulin and a draft pick.

Hurricane fans were pumped. Little did anyone know that there would be no NHL play during the remainder of 2012.


•Aug 27: Art Heyman’s death at age 67 stunned ACC basketball fans while prompting a wave of appreciation for one of the league’s most controversial players ever.


•Sept. 12: Notre Dame announced that it would join the ACC in all sports except that matters most to Irish fans _ football.


•Sept. 19: A day after Holden Thorp announced his pending resignation as UNC chancellor, Roy Williams underwent surgery for a kidney tumor. There would be another on Oct. 3. Fortunately, both were benign.


•Oct. 12: Bill Friday died. Was he the last hope for college sports sanity?


•Nov. 3: A 37-6 loss to Virginia in Carter-Finley turned out to be a flashpoint in the eventual dismissal of Tom O’Brien as N.C. State’s football coach. About a month later, Dave Doeren of Northern Illinois was introduced as O’Brien’s successor.


•Nov. 15: The preseason Associated Press basketball had N.C. State No. 6, Duke 8th ad UNC 11th.


•Nov. 19: ACC charter member Maryland announced its plans to relocate to the Big Ten.


•Nov. 27: Less than a month before athletic director Terry Holland announced his plans to retire, ECU was voted into the Big East for football competition.


•Dec. 5: A nice guy finished first when Duke’s David Cutcliffe was selected ACC football coach of the year.

Tudor: 919-829-8946

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