Wiedmer: Mocs' Fox, Chiefs' Belcher head lists of best, ugliest sports stories of 2012

Wiedmer: Mocs' Fox, Chiefs' Belcher head lists of best, ugliest sports stories of 2012

December 30th, 2012 by Mark Wiedmer in Sportscolumns

With a nod of the egg nog cup to Tennessee Ernie Ford, as the years go by you don't just become another day older and deeper in debt. The days move by faster, so fast that it's hard to believe 2012 is all but done, soon to be replaced by what we hope will be a lucky 2013.

But with the calendar about to flip, here's a quick look back at one aging sports writer's top five for the best and worst sports stories of the outgoing year.

First, the worst:

5) The Jerry Sandusky Saga. OK, it's the worst, but it was also the biggest and worst of 2011, so it got moved back for that reason alone.

4) University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men's baskeball. It's not just the losing seasons. It's that nobody cares. Maybe the athletic department is right to announce attendance as seats sold, but there haven't been more than 1,000 people in the Roundhouse except for once this year, against Davidson. Mocs coach John Shulman has a team that may make fans proud by season's end, but if nobody cares enough to buy a ticket, can it save him?

3) Lance Armstrong. Turns out he is who we feared he was -- a steroid cheater. But could he also be who we hoped he was -- perhaps the single most successful fundraiser for cancer in history? Real life is complicated, isn't it?

2) UT football. In terms of its emotional impact on the Tennessee Valley, this is No. 1. The Volunteers lost their first seven SEC games -- or all of them coached by now former coach Derek Dooley -- forgot that defense was a third of the game for arguably the first time in Big Orange history and were beaten worse by Vanderbilt than they'd been in 50 years.

But that's still a game, which leads us to the worst story, which was far more hurtful and horrifying in real life ...

1) The Jovan Belcher murder/suicide. When the Kansas City Chief chose to murder his girlfriend, who was also the mother of his infant child, before killing himself in front of his coach and general manager, he kind of locked up the worst sports story of the year.

Now for the best:

5) More national championships for SEC beasts Alabama (football) and Kentucky (basketball). Historically the conference kingpins in both sports, the Crimson Tide and Wildcats made it even better by both claiming their crowns inside the Superdome, long an SEC haven.

4) The USA women's gymnastics team earning Olympics team gold. The Fierce Five of Gabby Douglas, McKayla Maroney, Ally Raisman, Kyla Ross and Jordan Wieber didn't just return American gymnastics to a lofty perch; Raisman's Jewish music of choice to her floor exercise brought needed attention to the 1972 Munich Massacre, which the International Olympic Committee seemed intent on never recognizing on its 40th anniversary.

3) Peyton Manning's return to NFL supremacy after many (blush, blush) believed he should retire rather than risk permanent injury to his neck. He's putting together an MVP-type season with his new team, the Denver Broncos.

Whatever the Tennessee Titans offered him, they should have doubled it.

2) The UTC women beat UT's Lady Vols in Holly Warlick's first official game replacing UT legend Pat Summitt. Later Lady Mocs victories have proved this was no fluke, but that Nov. 9 night inside McKenzie Arena will be replayed by Moc Maniacs for decades to come.

1) UTC golfer Steven Fox winning the U.S. Amateur, quite possibly the most prestigious sports triumph by a Chattanooga athlete (even though he hails from Hendersonville, Tenn.) in the city's history. A truly remarkable achievement.