This past year had everything you could hope for in the world of sports: epic collapses, first-time champions, redemption, heartbreak and even the Summer Olympics. But what about the stories we didn't get? What were we robbed of seeing? What might have been?
In this very special retrospective, we dare to dream. Join us on a journey through the very best sports stories of 2012 that didn't actually happen. Hey: there's always next year.
Jan. 25, 2012: Blood-soaked Lee Corso arrested at state fair
BATON ROUGE, La. -- Louisianans hoping to catch a glimpse of the state's largest pumpkin or the region's smallest two-headed goat were shocked on Wednesday, as a naked, disoriented and gore-streaked Lee Corso wandered the grounds. The College GameDay host kept asking, "Did I miss it? Am I in time for the Fiesta Bowl?" The police were promptly summoned as fairgoers kept their distance.
Corso would occasionally stop and stare into the middle distance for an extended period of time before he resumed his wandering again, reported eyewitnesses.
"It was the damnedest thing," Bubba Proudtongs of Lafayette said. "I didn't recognize him at first because he wasn't screaming or putting on a giant mascot head."
Glinette LeBeau of New Orleans was similarly startled.
"All [of a] sudden, I seen this man walkin' by," she recalled. "At first I thought it was just a part of some show, but then I did a double-take and glory be, I said to myself, 'Why, that's naked Lee Corso! How'd he get so bloody? What's he been up to?'"
The police arrived and took Corso into custody. The Baton Rouge Police Department declined to comment on the nature of the charges beyond indecent exposure. Producers of College GameDay issued a short statement that read simply, "That's our Lee!"
In an unrelated story, 14 chickens were reported missing from the poultry exhibition.
June 8, 2012: I'll Have Another gains capacity for speech, opts out of Belmont Stakes
ELMONT, N.Y. -- America's favorite horse shocked the world on Saturday, as he called a press conference to announce his retirement. The announcement was historic, as it came straight from the horse's mouth.
It was a talking horse.
"I'm sure you've all noticed that I can talk now," began I'll Have Another as reporters alternately gasped, snapped pictures, or simply fainted straight away. "I'm still new to this whole 'able-to-speak' thing, so you'll have to forgive me if my voice is a little ... hoarse?"
The stallion glanced around the room eagerly, wearing what one must assume is an anticipatory grin for a horse. Although only some polite chuckling was heard, his enthusiasm was understandable; he'd just become the first equine to tell a joke.
The Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner gulped water out of a bucket before continuing.
"It is with only a modicum of sadness that I am announcing my withdrawal from the Belmont Stakes on Sunday. I understand that this whole 'Triple Crown' business is a pretty big deal, but I've gotta tell you: for horses it isn't much of anything. Sure, we like to run well enough, but like ... to another field. Where maybe there's some oats or a salt lick or something.
"Ever since this morning, when I suddenly gained enlightenment and the ability to form words with my horse-larynx, I realized that the right thing to do was to scratch myself from the race. Oh, and also prove animals have free will. There's that too, I guess.
"So, uh ... I'm going to lawyer up and make sure I get my cut of the winnings from the previous two races. I would give a share to that little dude that rides on top of me and jabs at me with his feet but he's already gotten paid, so he's probably doing okay. I'm hoping to live out the rest of my life on a farm somewhere. Probably doing it with lady horses. I can probably make some coin doing that, I figure."
The horse consulted his notes before continuing.
"I guess that about does it. Oh, one more thing. Please call me Bert. 'I'll Have Another' is my slave name."
Aug. 12, 2012: Usain Bolt wins unprecedented 302 gold medals
LONDON -- As athletes prepare for the Closing Ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games in London, many are still in disbelief regarding Usain Bolt's tremendous feat: entering and winning every Olympic event. Although the Jamaican runner had previously been content being the world's fastest man, he set out to prove a point at the XXX Olympiad.
"I just wanted to prove that I am the fastest," Bolt said. "Also the strongest, the best with a sword, the most skilled at riding a horse -- just the best athlete, in general."
He certainly made his mark right from the outset, picking up gold medals in archery, diving, judo, swimming, cycling, shooting and weightlifting, all in the first weekend. Every other gold would soon follow.
"Yeah, I thought it was pretty crazy," American runner Lolo Jones said. "I mean, cutting and gaining all that weight for the different divisions? That alone ... I guess only Usain Bolt could do that. I'm still just sort of in shock that he was the only member of the Jamaican soccer team."
American Michael Phelps looked a bit dazed when asked for comment.
"Yeah, I mean ... I guess it's sort of never been done before, right?"
The lanky swimmer looked off into the distance for nearly two minutes before offering, "I was kind of hoping to pick up at least one medal, but ... uh ... yeah, that guy's a good swimmer. Who knew, huh? Who knew."
Bolt was accused of showboating during the sailing events, as he finished two of the races pointing his boat backwards, waving at the other participants.
There are rumblings that the International Olympic Committee is facing pressure from advertisers that are considering renaming the Summer Games "The Nike Pepsi Usain Bolt Extreme Challenge." The IOC is alternatively just considering banning Bolt from the Games altogether.
August 15: ESPN concludes it is not now, nor will it ever be, Tebow Time
BRISTOL, Conn. -- Internal memos from ESPN Headquarters that originally leaked to Deadspin on Friday revealed that the "Sports Leader" has decided to place a moratorium on coverage of polarizing quarterback Tim Tebow.
"The people have spoken," said a SportsCenter producer who wished to remain anonymous. "And we at ESPN recognize: enough is enough."
As the New York Jets gear up for their second preseason game against the New York Giants, ESPN headquarters has called home their cadre of embedded Tebow reporters, who colloquially refer to themselves as "The God Squad." One of the camera operators from this troupe (also requesting anonymity) responded to the news.
"Thank goodness it's over. Honestly, I'm not sure why we caused all that fuss in the first place. Trying to get 24-hour coverage of a backup quarterback? It's -- frankly, it's insane."
The network has announced that First Take anchor Skip Bayless is expected to take a leave of absence and will return following the Super Bowl. Rumors that Bayless has to be forcibly removed from set following the dissemination of the company memos could not be confirmed at this time.
Aug. 29, 2012: Alabama loses to NFL team
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. --Tens of thousands of faithful Alabama Crimson Tide fans sat in stunned silence on Wednesday evening, as the final moments wound down in a cross-promotional NFL/NCAA exhibition game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Head coach Nick Saban wore a scowl, as his team sullenly walked off the field following the 76-0 drubbing.
Saban, who had been widely criticized by the media for pushing to get this exhibition game, declined to talk to the press afterward. This is a far cry from a month prior, when Saban famously responded to accusations that this spectacle would distract his team from their 2012 season opener by snapping, "It's only Michigan!"
The defending national champions have long been praised for their ability to field "pro-quality" teams, but the mauling at the hands of the Jaguars may come as a bitter wake-up call.
Alabama is not expected to take a hit in the BCS standings as a result of the game.
Sept. 23, 2012: Mike Trout ascends
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Los Angeles Angels rookie outfielder Mike Trout thrilled the home crowd on Sunday, as he ascended in the final game of a three-game set against the visiting Chicago White Sox. Halos fans knew they were in for something special when Trout led off the home half of the first inning with a home run, but they probably didn't expect to be first-hand witnesses to a man transcending the boundaries of human ability and reaching a higher plane of existence.
"He had a pretty good game," manager Mike Scioscia said.
Trout followed up the home run with a spectacular catch in the top of the second inning when he leaped 40 feet into the air to catch a high Adam Dunn fly ball, briefly levitating at the apex of his jump before slowly descending back to the outfield grass.
In the top of the third, Trout hit a come-backer to the mound that he was able to turn into an inside-the-park home run by running the full circuit of the bases in 1.8 seconds. Trout, his eyes glowing an intense white too bright to look at directly, waited patiently while the umpires and both managers reviewed the tape on super slow-motion, almost certainly drawing the ire of commissioner Bud Selig with this break from tradition. But the home run stood, and the crowd roared in approval as Trout sprouted wings and produced a flaming sword.
"I guess I'm immortal now," Trout after the game.
He addressed the press from astride a majestic armored pegasus and finished the game 8-for-8 with eight home runs, 14 runs batted in, 27 put-outs, six miracles and two ogres slain.
"But I'm still just trying to take it one game at a time; give it 100 percent. We're a team out there."
He thanked the press, who listened on bended knee with heads bowed, before flying up to heaven to take his seat at the right hand of God.
The Angels are expected to start Vernon Wells in Trout's place for the rest of the year.
Oct. 11, 2012: NHL season opens without incident
PHILADELPHIA -- Just like clockwork: another year, another NHL Opening Day. The 2012-13 NHL regular season kicked off today as the Philadelphia Flyers hosted the 2011 Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins. The game was conducted in a competitive, yet cordial fashion to cap off what outside was a beautiful day in Philadelphia. The Flyers took the game 2-1 thanks to a third-period goal by Claude Giroux.
Heading into the offseason following the first-ever Stanley Cup for the Los Angeles Kings, there were fears of a potential lockout as the NHL and the Players' Association needed to hammer out a new collective bargaining agreement. Luckily, the two sides reached an accord in their very first meeting and there was never a threat of stoppage.
Hockey fans the world over can now look forward to a long, thrilling 2012-13 NHL season, full of games every single night for months on end. Is there anything so fine as a full hockey season? According to this writer, no.
Dec. 16, 2012: Replacement referees inadvertently ruin everything
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- For months, the cries of players and NFL fans have fallen on deaf ears. After the actions taken by the replacement referees during Sunday's game between the New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers, however, commissioner Roger Goodell's hand may finally be forced.
The game appeared to be out of control from the get-go, when the entire crew of officials drove an Oldmobile Cutlass onto the sidelines before piling out onto the field amid a thick haze of marijuana smoke. A visibly inebriated referee slurred through the opening coin toss, failed to pick the coin up off the ground after a dozen attempts before yelling "F--- IT" over the stadium PA and wandering away as the team captains shrugged at one another.
Throughout the first half, the referees refused to call penalties or even whistle plays dead, instead milling about in a huddle, laughing, passing around a flask and pointing at various women in the stadium. The players tried to muddle through as best they could, but things got well out of hand in the second half.
After a referee was inadvertently struck by a football, he grabbed it and ran off into a tunnel. The referee emerged two minutes later sans pants and sporting a bloody nose. The rest of the referees started yelling "UNDER REVIEW, UNDER REVIEW" and ran off to the replay screen, staying there for over 20 minutes. When Patriots coach Bill Belichick came over to ask what was under review and what was taking so long, he was greeted with whistles and flags. One of the referees got on all fours behind Belichick, while another shoved him over.
The replacement referees then took to the PA, first declaring the game was a "mistrial" before throwing Molotov cocktails and announcing that both teams had been "disqualified," both from "the game and the postseason." Fans attempted to storm the field while security tried in vain to restore order and stadium employees with fire extinguishers were summoned to put out small fires that were already sputtering out in the New England rain.
After the brouhaha, chief official Drew "Stubbz" McGillicutty snapped, "What're they gonna do, fire me?" He then took a belt of schnapps and began performing a "Ric Flair strut," yelling repeatedly, "FIRE ME! I'M ALREADY FIRED!" The press slowly filed out of the room as McGillicutty began performing "elbow drops" on his jacket.
When reached for comment, the Office of the Commissioner voiced support for the "tough decisions [the referees] had to make."
Dec. 20, 2012: Lane Kiffin just becomes full-on Batman villain
LOS ANGELES -- After spending years bending the rules of college football, USC Trojans head coach Lane Kiffin announced yesterday that he will be retiring in order to become, in his words, "The world's greatest supervilain."
Kiffin appeared live via satellite on the NBC Nightly News wearing a maroon zoot suit and domino mask (even though there's little reason for him to attempt to hid his identity at this point), claiming he had installed a giant Whoopie Cushion in the Hoover Dam and would blow the whole thing "to smithereens" unless the President "agreed to give up Batman." Sadly, no one took Kiffin -- or The Kiff of Death, as he now wishes to be called -- seriously, so he went ahead and actually blew up the Hoover Dam. Most Americans were pretty surprised.
The Kiff of Death promises to destroy a national landmark every day until Batman shows himself. Since we're all pretty sure Batman doesn't exist, this is probably not a good thing.
Dec. 25, 2012: Mike Brown treated with dignity, respect
LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Lakers and their fans are having a very merry Christmas. The new-look Lakers are once again in first place and are firing on all cylinders. The hottest team in basketball has come a long way since opening their 2012-13 season with a slew of disastrous game. But they stayed the course and eventually gelled -- and then some. They owe it all to the steady guidance of head coach Mike Brown.
"[Brown] is like our constant, you know? He's like the lighthouse, always leading us home safe and sound," center Dwight Howard said. "We had a rough patch to start, but all we had to do was work through it and look at us now."
Brown himself is grateful to the organization.
"[Lakers ownership] showed a lot of confidence in me the whole way," said Brown, his eyes welling with tears of pride. He took a moment to compose himself. "They had my back the entire time and they said to me, 'You're our guy. We want you here. We know you'll get through this.' They told me not to pay attention to the negative press and handled everything 100 percent professionally. They treated me like an adult who coaches basketball for a living and didn't throw me out on my [ear] at the first little sign of trouble. That counts for a lot, in my book."
One gets the feeling that Brown will be at the helm of the Lakers for many years to come. With each win following the turnaround, he becomes more beloved in Southern California. Could he one day supplant the great Phil Jackson in the hearts of Lakers fans? Only time will tell.