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Column: An ugly year in sports - or was it?

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Column: An ugly year in sports - or was it?

Good riddance, 2012.

The year that almost was left us with a string of hideous story lines.

From the ongoing repulsiveness of the sexual abuse scandal at Penn State to Lance Armstrong being stripped of his Tour de France titles for injecting himself with everything but the kitchen sink.

There was the New Orleans Saints' cash-for-hits bounty scandal, and Commissioner Roger Goodell being slapped down by his predecessor for the way he handled the whole thing. And the sad, sad plights that emerge almost every day from ex-football players who took far too many blows to the head while playing America's most popular sport.

Those were the top four in The Associated Press' annual survey of the year's sport stories.

Thanks a lot, 2012.

Your legacy is pain and misery - if we allow it to be.

This year could be a turning point on so many vital fronts.

Maybe when we reflect back years from now, we'll remember 2012 as a time when we decided sexual abuse was no longer an embarrassing problem to be swept under the rug, that doping was a scourge we needed to address no matter who it took down, that football players must be taken care of physically and emotionally if our national sport is to survive.

If we could pick one figure who we hope will epitomize this year more than any other, it would be Cy Young Award-winning pitcher R.A. Dickey. A journeyman who became a star in his late 30s after taking up the knuckleball. A victim of childhood sexual abuse who summoned the courage to talk about his plight in a candid autobiography. Someone who triumphed in the end after all the pain.

``One of the hopes I have for the book is that people will be able to draw something from it that might be able to help them,'' Dickey said during spring training after it was published, ``whether it's to talk about it more, to not be afraid, to be open with what's happened, that there are people available that will love you no matter what.''

That would be a worthy legacy for 2012.

Of course, it's terrible what happened at Penn State, which was voted the top sports story for the second year in a row. But who knows how many kids will be saved in the years to come because the next time a child is raped in the shower by a dirty old man, the police will surely be called. Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly spoke hopefully of the guilty verdict against Jerry Sandusky persuading ``other victims of abuse to come forward.''

And that's a good thing.

Of course, it's shocking to learn of the lengths Armstrong was willing to go to away from his bike, all to make sure he climbed to the top step of the podium on the Champs-Elysees year after year. But who knows how many future cyclists will decide it's not worth the risk of getting caught or having to deal with the inner turmoil of knowing they are a cheat. ``Our mission is to protect clean athletes by preserving the integrity of competition not only for today's athletes but also the athletes of tomorrow,'' U.S. anti-doping chief Travis Tygart wrote in the voluminous case file against Armstrong.

And that's a good thing.

Of course, the Saints scandal exposed the dirty little secret in the NFL that apparently wasn't much of a secret to those who play the game, the idea that money changes hands when someone doles out a hit that leave the other guys crumpled on the turf. While former commissioner Paul Tagliabue overturned the punishments against four players, he doled out enough blame that one can only hope this is the last time we hear of anyone using the word ``bounty'' or intentionally trying to hurt someone.

And that's a good thing.

Of course, it's heartbreaking to see former greats of the gridiron, like the late Alex Karras, withering away in their golden years, unable to recognize friends and loved ones because the game they played turned their brains into mush. But everyone from the NFL to Pop Warner leagues finally seem to be addressing this wrenching issue, providing a glimmer of hope that future generations will be better protected. ``He is interested in making the game of football safer,'' Karras' actress-wife, Susan Clark, told the AP a few months before he died, ``and hoping that other families of retired players will have a healthier and happier retirement.''

And that's a good thing.

Oh, sure, there were some triumphant tales from these last 12 months.

The London Olympics were a sight to behold. Michael Phelps went out in splash of glory, Usain Bolt blazed down the track, Gabby Douglas and Missy Franklin stole our hearts.

LeBron James finally claimed a ring after a season that even his critics had to concede was one of the most dazzling in NBA history. The San Francisco Giants kept us up late at night, winning baseball playoff games in the most unfathomable of ways. Quarterback Peyton Manning made an inspiring comeback from career-threatening injuries, leading Denver to a division title.

All were events worth celebrating.

But they're unlikely to have the far-reaching impact of those that made us cringe.

Now, if we can do better, maybe 2012 won't be such a bad year after all.

---

Paul Newberry is a national writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at pnewberry(at)ap.org or www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963

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Injuries to Marshall and Perine will open the door for Kapri Bibbs to make the Redskins

Injuries to Marshall and Perine will open the door for Kapri Bibbs to make the Redskins

Following the Redskins' Week 2 preseason win over the Jets on Thursday, Jay Gruden said both Byron Marshall and Samaje Perine were "OK" after the two running backs each left the game with injuries. Marshall's was labeled a lower-leg issue, while Perine's injury was called a twisted ankle.

Timetables for their recoveries were then reported on Friday, and while the two members of the backfield escaped anything too severe, they will each be sidelined for decent chunks of time.

Perine will miss a week, according to Mike Garafolo. Marshall, meanwhile, is looking at a longer two-to-four week recovery, per Tom Pelissero. Those pieces of news hurt them in more ways than one.

Derrius Guice's torn ACL in Week 1 of the team's exhibition schedule meant that Marshall and Perine both had a big-time opportunity to step up and earn a spot on Washington's 53-man roster, spots that were harder to envision for them when Guice was healthy.

Overall, the two were slated to compete with Kapri Bibbs for what will likely be two spaces on the depth chart behind the absolutely safe Chris Thompson and Rob Kelley. Now, though, they'll be forced to sit until they're healed up, giving Bibbs more chances in practice and the two remaining August contests to earn Jay Gruden's trust.

Against New York, Bibbs struggled on the ground but led the offense with seven grabs, including a 29-yard gain off a screen play. That performance absolutely brought him closer in the race with Marshall, who scored vs. the Patriots a week earlier. Next, he'll need to prove he can run effectively between the tackles vs. the Broncos in Week 3, which will put some heat on Perine as well.

The 'Skins have 15 days left until they have to finalize their regular season roster. As things stand now amongst the running backs, Bibbs presently has a real shot at stealing a job from the two shelved RBs. But with the way this race has unfolded thus far, that can all change in a split second. 

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Familiarity for coach and GM should allow Capital City Go-Go to hit ground running

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Familiarity for coach and GM should allow Capital City Go-Go to hit ground running

Despite being a brand new franchise with a new roster and new facilities, the Capital City Go-Go will carry into their inaugural season a level of continuity. Both their general manager and head coach are familiar with what they are getting into and the people they will be working with.

GM Pops Mensah-Bonsu is no stranger to the D.C. community and the Wizards franchise. He made a name for himself starring at George Washington University, spent time with the Wizards as a player in their 2013 training camp and remained a frequent visitor to Wizards games as a scout for the Spurs in recent years.

"To be back in the community and the first general manager of the G-League team is special," Mensah-Bonsu said. "This is D.C.’s team. I want them to embrace us."

Head coach Jarell Christian played college ball in Virginia and goes back several years with Wizards coach Scott Brooks. Christian joined the Oklahoma City's G-League staff when Brooks was in his final year as head coach of the Thunder.

Christian began his coaching journey with an eye trained on how Brooks goes about his job.

"My introduction to pro basketball was under Coach Brooks and his philosophies. A lot of that stuff, I believe in wholeheartedly. That’s my foundation," Christian said. "I got a chance to know him through training camp and throughout that season. He and I developed a bond and a relationship that stood the test of time. To this day, we still talk often. It’s just another chance for me to reconnect with him and to continue to grow our relationship."

The Go-Go intend to make what they do as similar to the Wizards as possible. When guys like Devin Robinson, one of their two-way players, is called up he can step right in without a learning curve of the playbook or how they practice.

Having Christian in place will help that process in particular.

"There won’t be any issue or any slippage with guys going up and down to know what’s in store for them," Christian said. "A lot of the stuff that the Wizards will do, we will implement with the Go-Go. Just some offensive and defensive concepts. Some of the playcalls and the terminology will be the same."

"Whatever you see the Wizards doing, you will probably see the Capital City Go-Go doing, too," Mensah-Bonsu said.

The symmetry between the G-League and the NBA teams will also be helped by the fact they will share the same practice facility. Their proximity will come with many advantages from the Go-Go perspective.

"I think it’s going to help motivate these guys. We’re going to be practicing in the same place that the Wizards do and the Mystics do," Mensah-Bonsu said. "I think if these guys can see Dwight Howard and John Wall and Bradley Beal walking around every day, it will help motivate them to get to that next level."

"The exposure our players get with the Wizards [front office], the Wizards personnel, being able to watch them practice daily, watching their practice habits and what their routines may be, is really big," Christian said.

That element will also apply beyond the players. Christian, who is just 32 years old, will get to watch how an NBA coaching staff operates on a daily basis.

Christian has yet to take a tour of the new building in Ward 8, but he has seen blueprints. Among the amenities the Go-Go will enjoy that other G-League teams do not usually have is a dedicated dining area.

Many G-League teams do not go to that length.

"A lot of organizations do not provide food for their players on a daily basis, but we will. That’s the No. 1 thing in my opinion that’s gonna set us apart from our competitors," he said.

The Go-Go won't take the floor for their first game until November, but it seems like a good foundation is starting to take place.

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