Many times when athletes speak about issues outside sports, there are a number of sports fans who display their displeasure about sports being no place for political or social issues. Yet it is important for such fans to remember that although sports serve as an entertaining escape from some of life’s more important issues, sports is a part of society and it is not separate from society. The year 2012 showed how much sports plays a much bigger role than entertaining people through notable triumphs during the 2012 Summer Olympic Games and many tragedies that placed thoughts and considerations with families of sports figures.
With 2012 being a United States Presidential Election Year, there were a number of athletes who expressed their support for a specific candidate. The re-election of President Barack Obama would cause various tweets of reaction from professional athletes. The biggest sporting event of the year was the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, which took place in London, England. Although the Olympics have long been disputed as apolitical, it is hard to argue the gathering of the world’s greatest athletes in Olympic competition of being devoid of politics. Although unfortunate uses of Twitter by Olympic athletes got some attention early during the Olympics, this year’s Summer Olympics were marked by historic performances by American athletes like gymnast Gabby Douglas, swimmer Missy Franklin, and swimmer Michael Phelps. The host country, England, even got something to cheer for as tennis player Andy Murray and heptathlete Jessica Ennis won gold medals during highly emotional events in which the partisan crowd cheered with great satisfaction.
The deaths in 2012 of boxing luminaries included legendary trainer Angelo Dundee, boxing historian Bert Sugar, and Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward, who played a vital role in the development of young boxers for decades in the city of Detroit. The National Football League lost one of their most important owners ever when former Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens owner Art Modell passed away in September while NFL fans lost a great innovator when NFL Films president Steve Sabol died in September following a long bout with brain cancer. Unfortunately, the January passing of longtime Penn State football head coach Joe Paterno allowed people to discuss his complicated legacy in wake of the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal.
The June conviction of Jerry Sandusky led to him being found guilty of 45 of the 48 counts against him and he received a 60-year prison sentence. While the victims of Sandusky will try to attempt to find peace in their lives after his despicable actions, there is much to be learned from the entire ordeal. The NCAA punished the Penn State football program for their handling of the Sandusky situation and while many people argued whether the football program deserved to be shut down for a period of time as result, the 2012 Penn State football players showed strong resolve during their football season that ended with a surprising eight win season.
The resolve of athletes was greatly tested toward the end of 2012 as among the numerous people affected by Hurricane Sandy included sports teams and athletes located on the East Coast. More importantly, sports leagues used their platform to help those whose lives were changed by the difficult natural disaster. The National Football League has recently put more of an emphasis on player safety as more research is done on the effects of the violent collisions within the game of football. As the 2012 NFL season concluded, two very sad events that led to the deaths of two NFL players, a mother, and that left an infant orphaned happened on consecutive weeks after the Jovan Belcher and Josh Brent incidents. The loss of life always puts sports into prospective and the United States was shocked by the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in December when 28 people were killed, including 20 children. The situation led to outward discussions about gun control and mental health as the NFL showed their support for the victims of Sandy Hook during NFL games. The year 2012 showed that sports are part of American society, not apart from it, as the triumphs and tragedies during the year engendered important discussion across the nation.