The Most Absurd Sports Stories of 2013

In a strange year for sports stories, nobody else really came close to Manti T'eo's tale of catfished grief. (Wilfredo Lee/AP)
December 25, 2013, 10:37 AM

Well that was…an interesting year, to say the least.

There were memorable moments, well-deserved triumphs and too many tragedies in sports in 2013—and they’re all covered in any number of year-end lists. But there was also a heaping pile of stories that nobody ever saw coming.

If you’d told us at this time last year that we’d end up covering this kind of stuff, we’d have wondered what was in your eggnog. And twelve months later, we’d have been forced to apologize.

Here are Sportsnet’s 10 Most Absurd Sports Stories of 2013.

10. Violence stemming from sporting events is deplorable—on that there can be no debate. It’s just a game, people. But usually that violence is between fans of rival teams. After Alabama’s shocking loss to Auburn in the Iron Bowl, however, one Alabama fan shot another because, apparently, she wasn’t sufficiently upset by the epic loss. Another good lesson about the need to keep these things in perspective in the new year.

9. It’s the same old story: Artist misbehaves at league event—say, the Super Bowl. League sues to reclaim some money. All normal, right? OK, well at least not that strange. Until the artist sues right back, claiming that the cheerleaders involved in the halftime performance were even more offensive than the raised middle finger she was in trouble over. Take that, NFL.
“They’re wearing cheerleader outfits, hips thrusting in the air, legs wide open…in a very sexually provocative position,” complained MIA, when she announced her suit.

8. Announcers say some dumb stuff on occasion—they have hours of airtime to fill and when a game turns into a blowout, after all, so they’ve got to get creative. But when Brent Musberger’s creepy fixation on AJ McCarron’s girlfriend went viral, it became a different animal entirely—and helped propel young Katherine Webb to even greater fame.

7. Blackout! Hey, it happens sometimes, even in giant stadiums. But the lights don’t usually go out when the entire world is watching, as was the case at the Super Bowl. All was well in the end, but at the time it sure was strange.

6. This one’s a two-way tie. Coaches, we know, are supposed to do anything to win—and a couple of them made it abundantly clear that they take that charge very seriously.

First, rookie Nets coach Jason Kidd pulled perhaps the most blatant attempt at delay of game this side of soccer players going down in heaps with a slim lead in the waning minutes.

But Steelers coach Mike Tomlin—who is not a rookie, and thus should know better—one-upped Kidd with a sideline step to save a touchdown that would inspire a thousand photoshops and result in a hefty fine:

We’d call that a pretty blatant attempt to cheat. Tomlin would call it a blunder. Again and again and again.

5. It was UFC 167. Main event just concluded. We were waiting for the word that Johny Hendricks had beaten Georges St-Pierre to secure the UFC’s Welterweight title. Then, suddenly, we were wondering how the hell judges had given the fight to the clearly battered and beaten GSP, while Hendricks, with not a scratch on him, nearly lost his mind at the verdict. Then we were waiting to hear GSP discuss the fight and why he was still the champion and th—WAIT A SECOND DID HE JUST QUIT THE UFC RIGHT NOW? Later, Dana White would attempt to walk back GSP’s decision for him, only to have the champ eventually announce his departure more officially weeks later. The hour that followed the final bell on that fight was without a doubt the most surreal hour in recent mixed martial arts history.

4. You could have accurately predicted many things about the Toronto Raptors this year: That they would find a new GM; that they would not be a very good basketball team; that they would be looking to shed payroll and get worse as fast as possible. But you probably wouldn’t have predicted they’d sign one of the hottest rappers in the business as their global ambassador. But hey, YOLO, right? When Drake joined the team it was partly a joke, sure, but also a real attempt to give the team some credibility with free agents and fans. And you know what? It might even work. Regardless, at least Drake knows where the current iteration of the Raptors is coming from…and that’s something.

3. “I sell ice in the winter, I sell fire in Hell. I am a hustler baby, I sell water to a well,” rapped Jay-Z once upon a time, adding that he could also sell an absurdly priced second-baseman to a Mariners team who had enough money to pay only for that second-baseman and not enough to pay any other players. The addition of the world’s most famous rapper (sorry, Kanye) to the sports representation market was perhaps the beginning of a sea change for the industry—but it was more than that. It was also a fantastic excuse for sportswriters to listen to explicit hip-hop bangers at their desks and call it work.

2. You knew Rob Ford would make this list, thanks to the many meetings—collisions?—between the mayor and football this year. When the local papers are assigning two reporters to football games at Toronto’s Rogers Centre—one to watch the game and the other to cover Mayor Rob Ford’s expected appearance—you know things have reached a critical mass. When the mayor’s most candid interview is making NFL picks on a Washington radio station, you know things have gone off the rails completely. The world’s most embattled politician clearly finds respite from his woes at the games, and—be it as an object of admiration or derision, your call—he created his own halftime show every time he made an appearance in the stands. Oh, and he allegedly pulled one of the all-time stadium no-nos, too:

1. Here we are—and really, there was never any doubt about the weirdest story of 2013. It unfolded during the first week of the year and nothing else really came close over the next 51. Manti T’eo. Notre Dame. National Championship. The Dead Girlfriend That Never Really Existed. This story nearly broke the internet. and gave a player who was already going to be an underdog at the NFL level a stigma that will follow him around his entire career. It put the term ‘Catfish’ into our popular lexicon. It was as weird as a sports story gets—and it’d be impossible to top the uncomfortable truths T’eo—now a San Diego Charger—spilled in a now-legendary interview with Katie Couric.

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