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Sports

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Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Lauren Marinko, left, and teammate Annalissa Kammeyer celebrate Concordia’s 2012 girls state basketball title.

There was some good to cherish from 2012

So now it’s time to adjust the rearview mirror, and heaven help us if Objects really are Closer Than They Appear. That’s 2012 back there, flipping us off. And I have to say the feeling is mutual.

Somewhere behind us, after all, receding blessedly to a speck, is Lance Armstrong, unmasked at last as the Michael Corleone of cycling. Jerry Sandusky’s there, too, and God bless the bars between him and all the children whose innocence he didn’t have time to steal. Standing there with him are his enablers, Graham Spanier and Tim Curley.

Look, there’s Gary Bettman, the big dope. And Bobby Petrino, dirty old man par excellence. And all the other villains in a year stuffed with villainy – and that’s not even bringing up Roger “The Hammer” Goodell, who exposed a lot of decent human beings (aka, the infamous Replacement Refs) to public ridicule just to save his owners a few lousy bucks.

It was not a very good year, to stand the song on its head. But you know what?

I’ll take it anyway.

I’ll take it for its redeeming moments, of which there were many. The best thing about sports, see, is that for all its outrages, it isn’t the outrages that stick. It’s those lovely instants of purity, when the bone truth of things stands revealed. It’s those flashes of something real in the midst of all the manufactured drama, all the posturing and farce.

And so when I look in my rearview, as 2012 gutters out, it won’t be Armstrong or Sandusky I see. No, indeed.

It’ll be a certain bunch of indomitable young women from Concordia, shedding their teenage cool to jump up and down like preschoolers as the clock goes to zeroes and they become state basketball champions.

It’ll be the pure fierce beauty of Indiana-Kentucky in the Sweet 16, the single best game of the NCAA tournament.

It’ll be Jamie Lovell down there at center ice, shaking both fists in joy as the final seconds expire in the final game of the CHL President’s Cup championships. Or Dario Franchitti in Victory Lane at Indy, rocking white shades to fill, at least momentarily, the awful void left by the death of Dan Wheldon, his white-shades-rocking friend.

I’ll treasure 2012 for that. I’ll treasure it for the lump the size of a Buick that Chuck Pagano’s locker-room speech left in your throat when he came back to visit his Indianapolis Colts in the middle of his fight against leukemia. And I’ll treasure it for a certain crisp October night up at East Noble, when the gun sounded on the Knights’ football season and Luke Amstutz, their stellar young coach, wore the stricken look of a man who had just had all his major organs removed.

The season was over, after all, and abruptly. Down 35-14 to Concord after three quarters of their sectional opener, the Knights staged a rally for the ages, tying it at 35-all. But with all of Kendallville howling, Concord stole the game and all the air from the place with a last-second field goal.

And here was Amstutz, bereft. Eventually he wandered out to midfield, where he knelt between the blue “E” and the blue “N,” and put his chin in his hand, and stared off toward the infinite.

I’ll takethat kind of caring as my bellwether for 2012. And I’ll cross my fingers that something as pure and as elemental and as sublime crosses my path again in 2013.

Here’s hoping.

Ben Smith has been covering sports in Fort Wayne since 1986. His columns appear four times a week. He can be reached by email at bensmith@jg.net; phone, 461-8736; or fax 461-8648.

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