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VOL. 36 | NO. 52 | Friday, December 28, 2012

State has great storylines in 2012

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There were certainly plenty great sports stories with a local connections in 2012.

And so it is, with our year-end edition, we attempt to pare those moments to the five biggest of the 2012 calendar year.

So before we ring in the New Year, let’s look at the top sports moments in Tennessee for the past year.

No. 5: R.A. Dickey and David Price win Cy Young Awards

As far as I know, no Cy Young Award winner in baseball history had ever called Middle Tennessee home, until November when Dickey of the New York Mets won the National League Cy Young Award and Price of the Tampa Bay Rays won the American League honor.

Price, the former Blackman High School and Vanderbilt star, is an up-and-comer, going 20-5 with a 2.56 ERA this season for Tampa Bay. His selection was no real surprise, though there were some who thought Detroit’s Justin Verlander might receive the honor.

Dickey, however, was a real surprise. As a 37-year-old journeyman knuckleballer, the former Montgomery Bell Academy and University of Tennessee standout had learned the knuckler just to keep his big-league career alive.

And in 2012, he put everything together, going 20-6 with a 2.73 earned run average, making him perhaps the most unlikely Cy Young winner ever and one of the feel good stories of baseball in 2012.

No. 4: Derek Dooley fired at Tennessee

Dooley got just three seasons at Tennessee to clean up what wasn’t necessarily a good situation he inherited on the fly from Lane Kiffin.

But given that the Vols were going in the wrong direction under his leadership, athletics director Dave Hart decided it was time to find someone else. That someone was Cincinnati coach Butch Jones, who while he was not the first choice of either Hart or UT fans, is making the rounds and trying to revive interest in the program.

No. 3: Vanderbilt football goes 8-4

Goodlettsville Little League team en route to the U.S. Little League championship.

-- Associated Press

Strange times indeed, with Vanderbilt and Tennessee seemingly swapping places in the football world.

Yes, Vandy has taken advantage of a relatively soft schedule down the stretch to win six in a row, but there is no denying that James Franklin has the Commodores believing in things that haven’t happened on West End in decades. If the Commodores can knock off North Carolina State on New Year’s Eve in the Music City Bowl, then VU will have won nine games for the first time in the modern football era.

No. 2: Pat Summitt retires

It’s not often that someone in a sport is as big as the sport itself. But in the case of Pat Summitt, the legendary Lady Vols basketball coach, it is true. Summitt was not only a pioneer in making women’s college basketball relevant, but her teams dominated the sport and forced the other programs like UConn and others to work to catch up or be left behind.

With Summitt battling the early onset of Alzheimer’s, the decision was made for her to become coach emeritus at UT, handing the reins of the program she built into an empire over to long-time assistant Holly Warlick.

The Lady Vols program is still rooted in greatness and may yet win titles in the future, but it won’t be the same without Summitt in charge.

No. 1: Goodlettsville Little League wins U.S. title.

There are rabid sports fans in the state of Tennessee, and there are moments when those fans are galvanized. UT’s NCAA championship in football came close in 1998, as did the Titans’ improbable run to the Super Bowl with the Music City Miracle.

But few events have captivated an entire area the way these kids from Goodlettsville did in not only reaching the Little League World Series, but winning the U.S. title in the process.

The championship game alone, where Goodlettsville blew a 10-run lead only to come back and win with a big inning of its own in extra innings, was enough drama for an entire tournament, much less one game.

Yes, they fell short by not winning the international title, but the way these kids caught everyone’s attention this summer made for one special ride and deserves the top spot on the list of top sports moments of 2012.

Terry McCormick covers the Titans for TitanInsider.com and is the AFC blogger for National Football Post.