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Volume 24 No. 156
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Goodbye Says It All: Notable Stories Where We Waved Farewell This Year

Several storylines came and went in '12, whether it was a team's attempt at high spending, the use of replacements or the folding of another women's pro soccer league. Below are some of the notable storylines that came to a close this past year.

FISH OUT OF WATER: The Marlins entered Spring Training as everybody’s glamour team, with a nine-figure payroll and a new $515M ballpark. Nine months later, the roster was in tatters after the team traded away basically anyone making a worthwhile salary. Owner Jeffrey Loria immediately went on the defensive, saying a shake-up was needed after a last-place finish. But many cannot get past the fact the team now has just $19M in financial commitments next year.

THE REPLACEMENTS: One of the lasting images of the year was that of two replacement referees issuing conflicting calls on the final play of the Week 3 Packers-Seahawks “MNF” game. The resulting firestorm toward the “Inaccurate Reception” was a catalyst for the NFL reaching a new CBA with the referee’s union. The exiting of the replacement refs, who came from such corners as high school games and the Lingerie League, resulted in something totally unexpected: standing ovations for the regular refs.

Beckham left the league on a high note, winning
back-to-back MLS Cup titles

A HOLLYWOOD EXIT: David Beckham left MLS on a high note, winning the league championship for the second straight year. The end of his highly-publicized, six-year stay in L.A. may have lacked the media buzz that followed his arrival in ’07, but Beckham’s impact on the league is undeniable. He helped give MLS credibility in global soccer circles and opened the league’s doors to other international icons like Thierry Henry and Robbie Keane. ESPN’s Alexi Lalas put it succinctly, saying Beckham “did not make MLS, but he has certainly made it better.”

ANOTHER HEARTBREAK: Horse racing’s seemingly unending quest to find the next Triple Crown winner continued after I’ll Have Another was scratched from the Belmont Stakes due to tendinitis. The horse carried the burden of an entire industry on his back, but trainer Doug O’Neill decided the cautious route was in the best interest of the animal. A crowd in excess of 85,000 showed up for the race, but the absence of the star attraction left a cloud over the event.

INLAND ISLAND: The Islanders in October announced they were leaving Long Island and moving the franchise to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center beginning in ’15. The move came after Isles Owner Charles Wang finally gave up on his years-long attempt to get a new arena built to replace Nassau Coliseum. The franchise will keep its name and logo, but it will be strange to see the team that once featured Bossy, Potvin and Trottier not playing on the island.

THIS BIRD YOU CANNOT CHANGE: Larry Bird has always operated to his own time clock, so it should not have been that much of a surprise that he would resign as Pacers President of Basketball Operations immediately after being named NBA Exec of the Year. Bird denied the decision to leave had anything to do with friction between him and team Owner Herb Simon, which some were speculating. The Indy Star’s Bob Kravitz gave Bird credit for reversing the perception of the franchise following its involvement in the ’04 Malice at the Palace.

MISSING THE NET: The WPS in May became the second women’s soccer league in America to fold since the turn of the century. The league initially planned to suspend operations this year and return in ’13. However, the financial strain caused by continued legal actions by former magicJack Owner Dan Borislow after the league revoked his franchise rights proved to be too much. The league also was beset by a dearth of lucrative sponsorships and lackluster attendance.

HILL TOPPER: David Hill left his role as Fox Sports Media Group Chair this summer for another position in the News Corp. family. One of the most influential figures in sports media history, Hill launched Fox Sports in ’93 and shook up the media landscape by landing the rights to NFC games later that year. Peter Rice, who took over for Hill, has a big legacy to live up to.