It couldn’t have been easier to pick the most memorable Texas sports story of the year. In fact, Texas A&M could win the national championship next season, and there’d still be something sui generis about this one.
From the Aggies and a 700-yard high school passer to a few honorable (and dishonorable) mentions, the five most memorable sports stories of 2012:
1. Kevin Sumlin, the Aggies, and Johnny Football
What, you thought this spot would maybe go to Mack Brown and David Ash?
To be honest, when we headined a post “Aggies Up, Longhorns Down” on October 9–before UT had lost to Oklahoma and just after A&M entered the Top 25–that was just to be provocative. And while everybody knew that if the Horns and Aggies didn’t get back on each other’s schedule the Cotton Bowl would loom, it was assumed by most outside of College Station (and even some inside of it) that only UT would be good enough to make that bowl for several years. A&M’s move to the Southeastern Conference, after all, was a “100-year decision.”
So which part was more surprising? That Kevin Sumlin made his Aggies instantly better than last year’s 7-6 team? Or that the team went through a few growing pains as first-year members of the SEC, but those pains proved to be the difference between a 10-2 team and a national championship contender, not mediocrity and excellence?
Neither. As everyone already knows, the most amazing part is still the way some kid from Kerrville, whose biggest claim-to-fame prior to training camp was a boys-will-be-boys arrest, won the three-man quarterback race, and then became a breathtaking, record-breaking, probably still-Clearasiled gridiron superhero. Johnny Manziel. Johnny Football. Johnny Heisman.
Sports are about myth and narrative as much as they are about winning, so in total, whether they win the Cotton Bowl or not, this Aggies’ campaign sits just behind UT’s 2005 BCS championship as the most memorable Texas college football season of the past three decades (sorry, TCU).
2. Baylor women’s basketball
If Kim Mulkey’s squad could get into a time machine and undo their March 2011 NCAA regional loss to Texas A&M, would they do it? Probably not. That disappointment fueled the Bears’ unstoppable 40-0 2012 championship run, ending with a suspense-free triumph over Notre Dame that sealed Brittney Griner’s status as the best female college athlete in America, and made Mulkey one of only five coaches to nab two titles.
The streak ended at 42 in mid-November (at the hands of Stanford), but that just means more motivation for this coming March.
3. University of Texas Olympians.
UT students led the way in an Olympics that had Texans (and Texas college students and alumni) all over your television this summer, with especially memorable performances by track-and-field athletes Leo Manzano and Sanya Richards-Ross, and volleyball star Destinee Hooker. The Longhorns’ ongoing excellence in this department inspired this ESPN graphic, which, while the essence of statistical cherry-picking, still gets the point across:
4. Mike Richardson
That the Marble Falls junior quarterback threw for 724 yards in a 62-55 win over Boerne Champion on September 20 is pretty incredible. According to Danny Davis of the Austin American-Statesman, that’s the most yards in Texas history (breaking the record of 683 set in 2011), and the second most-ever in the country.
But perhaps even more incredibly, Marble Falls is coached by former Southlake Carroll and North Texas boss Todd Dodge–and, as Ken Rodriguez of Sports Illustrated reported, Richardson grew up hoping he would get the chance to play for Dodge, and worshipping Dodge’s son, former Dragons QB Riley Dodge.
(Photo of Richardson, left, via Larry and LaFon Anderson).
5. Josh Hamilton
We’ve seen easier divorces in the Ewing family. A tragedy in tweets:
And my column on Josh Hamilton and why TXRangers need to stop being responsible for his sobriety, so he can be. foxsportssouthwest.com/02/03/12/Range…
— Jennifer Floyd Engel (@engeljen) February 5, 2012
— Texas Monthly (@TexasMonthly) May 9, 2012
Josh Hamilton talking about his caffeine/eye issue: “Guys, it’s me — it’s Josh. It’s going to be something weird.” es.pn/TrOFs7
— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) September 24, 2012
Rangers “club official” tells Randy Galloway, re: keeping Hamilton, “not even if he wants to play here for free” bit.ly/T7aVkw
— Texas Monthly (@TexasMonthly) October 6, 2012
Josh Hamilton’s wife on #Rangers:”They let us date other teams.” Josh: “She said, ‘You should have put a ring on it.”
— Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) December 15, 2012
Probably should be the number two story. But we have said enough already.
It’d be cool if the 8-6 Cowboys followed in the foosteps of last year’s Super Bowl champion New York Giants and made something special out of what has often felt like a real so-so season (albeit, one that can still end with them 10-6). In which case they’ll be on the 2013 list.
But unfortunately for the football team, Arlington was still better known in 2012 for Jerry’s pizza commercial, the Victoria’s Secret shop, “I want me some glory hole,” and the Josh Brent/Jerry Brown Jr. tragedy.
At least wide receiver Dez Bryant is now better known for his great play than his conditionally-dismissed domestic violence charge.
For similar, and yet, completely different, reasons, we’ll just leave them off this list in the hopes that they’re the 2013 number one story. Will be much harder for New England to win the rematch, right?
We can’t root for a member of the Redskins. But Baylor’s Heisman winner has delivered on his promise as an NFL rookie sensation, so much so that he’s got the league’s best-selling jersey.
The expected comeback story for the former UTEP, Texas A&M and Kentucky basketball coach was cut short after just one season when the Graford native parted ways with Texas Tech amidst both health concerns and allegations he mistreated players.