Top Ten Sports Stories of 2011: Local & International

Jan 7, 2012 | 2012 Articles, Larry Ham, Reedley News, Sports

by Larry Ham

Larry Ham
For sports fans, 2011 was an amazing, ridiculous and frustrating year. Choosing the top ten sports stories of the year was something like choosing the ten best tasting Christmas cookies my wife (and editor) baked over the holidays – there were a lot to choose from! But here, in no particular order, are my top ten local and national sports stories of 2011.

Tim Tebow

I can’t decide what was more enjoyable about Tim Tebow’s emergence as an NFL Quarterback: watching him succeed and give the glory to God, or watching the so-called “experts” continue to minimize his achievements. What’s not to like about Tebow? He’s honest, he’s moral, his teammates love him, and he’s breathed new life into the Denver franchise. The hot air balloons that pass for analysts are really funny as they try to salvage their credibility. So many of them said Tebow would never be a winner in the NFL, and now that he is, they just can’t bring themselves to admit it.

Pat Hill

The firing of Pat Hill as football coach at Fresno State wasn’t especially surprising. When you consider the state of college sports, it’s not shocking that wins and attendance trump integrity and credibility. Pat Hill was the perfect coach for Fresno State. He stressed classroom attendance and graduation at a school with a history of abysmal rates in both areas. He understood the importance of making the Bulldogs “the” team in the Central Valley. He also was a tireless fund raiser, and there are some wonderful modern facilities at Fresno State that benefit every student that would not be there if it weren’t for Pat Hill. I hope Coach DeRuyter has much success, but Pat Hill will be missed.


As a lifelong Dodger fan, I never thought I’d see the day when the team would be bankrupt and unable to field a competitive team due to financial constraints. Frank McCourt single-handedly destroyed one of the marquee franchises in all of professional sports. Instead of investing in players and stadium facilities, he indulged his own bank account. The Dodgers will have a new owner soon and it can’t happen soon enough. Good riddance, Frank.

NBA Lockout

What could be more enjoyable than watching millionaire basketball players and billionaire team owners duke it out for the hard earned income of basketball fans? Anything up to and including swallowing a box of number 16 lock washers. I cannot understand how greed can so corrupt the morals of people, but these creeps really take the cake. In fact, they’re all so greedy they probably would take the cake right off the table at a three year old’s birthday party. But fans have short memories. They’ll be back rooting for Lebron and his talents and Kobe and Metta World Peace… or whatever he is.

Will Goldbeck returns to sports editor of Exponent

This was an easy choice. Will Goldbeck knows local sports like Elle MacPherson knows beautiful. But it’s not just Will’s knowledge that makes him special, it’s his dedication. He’s always there – he NEVER mails it in. I’ve called his cell number many times and it’s always interesting to see where he is and where he’s headed. It could be a JV girl’s volleyball match in Caruthers or a wrestling meet in Avenal. He’s always there. That’s why he was the perfect choice to take over the sports department at the Exponent. There’s no one like him, there never will be and that’s the bottom line. We’re lucky to have him.

Penn State

I feel like I need to take a shower just talking about this mess. If you asked a panel of college football coaches which coach would be least likely to get mixed up in a child molestation cover-up, Joe Paterno would be at the top of the list, yet there he was. He wasn’t involved in any actual molestations, but he surely knew the rumors about his assistant coach. The whole sordid mess ended one of the most distinguished coaching careers in NCAA history. If it’s found that the accusations are true, there are going to be some terrible and well deserved repercussions for Penn State.

Sal Gonzalez

I never had the pleasure of meeting Sal Gonzalez, but I surely knew of his dedication and love for youth sports in Reedley. When he died suddenly on October 29th, the shock and sadness was felt all over the Valley. Sal was the heart and soul of Reedley youth football, and the void he left will be very difficult to fill. If the city officials in Reedley have any sense, they’ll name some venue in Reedley after Sal Gonzalez. Our thoughts and prayers continue for his family.

Local Struggles

As the play by play announcer for Reedley College Football for the past seventeen seasons, and the P.A. announcer for Immanuel High School varsity basketball since 1999, I obviously have built up a great deal of affection for these local programs. The Tiger football team and the Eagle’s boys basketball team won a combined five games this past year. Ugh! It was a difficult year to be sure, but there was no lack of hustle and effort on either squad. Randy Whited of Reedley College and Todd Croissant of Immanuel guided their respective teams to the best of their abilities. Both teams should improve in the year 2012.

Buster Posey Injury

As I mentioned earlier, I am a lifelong Dodger fan so I usually wouldn’t give a hoot about the Giants, but it was so obvious to anyone paying attention that the Giants’ season went down the tubes when Posey was injured on May 25th. What was really nauseating was the way some baseball people tried to write off the collision with Scott Cousins as just another baseball play. Cousins’ play was dirty, he wasn’t even trying to get to home plate, and the result was a devastating ankle injury for Posey and a lost season for the defending world series champions.

Washington Union wins State Title

The Panthers won the State division three championship with a 21-16 win over Campolindo. An awesome ending for an awesome and well coached team. What made it even better was the fact that the Panthers were a “controversial” pick to even be in the game. The dummies who run the state CIF brackets always make it a point to snub the Central Valley in favor of bigger market schools in southern California. It’s been going on for years, and when Washington Union was named the southern California representative instead of Lompoc, naturally there was an outcry from the spoiled little children in Lompoc. Cry me a river. The Panthers were the best division three team in the State and they proved it where they’re supposed to prove it – on the field.

That’s my list – what’s yours?

Larry Ham is an ongoing contributor to our
Everything Education section, having covered many an area school game through the years.


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