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Showing 2012 the door

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 the tiniest of specks, is Lance Armstrong, unmasked not only as a breathtaking liar but the Michael Corleone of cycling. Jerry Sandusky's there, too, and God bless the gray bars and razor wire between him and all the children whose innocence he might have brutally stolen. 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 threw all those poor replacement refs under the bus just to save his owners a few lousy bucks.

'Twas not a very good year, as the song almost goes. But you know what?

I'll take it anyway.

I'll take is 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, of bone truth. It's those flash-instants of something real in the midst of all the manufactured drama, those eye-blinks of sweetness when the light goes on and all the shadows are routed.

And so when I look in my rearview, as 2012 gutters out, it won't be Armstrong or Sandusky I see. It won't be Bettman and his greed-infested mess of a league I focus on, or Petrino and his cradle robbing or even Roger The Hammer.

It'll be the Concordia girls, Emily Hockemeyer and Annalissa Kammeyer and all the rest, jumping up and down like preschoolers the moment the clock went to zeroes and they became state basketball champions.

It'll be the pure fury and unadulterated beauty of Indiana- Kentucky in the Sweet Sixteen, the single best game of the NCAA Tournament and one of the best exhibitions of basketball I've seen in awhile.

I'll close my eyes, when you roll out 2012, and see Jamie Lovell down there at center ice, lifting one leg and shaking both fists in pure joy as the final seconds expired in the final game of the CHL Presidents' Cup championships. I'll see Dario Franchitti in Victory Lane at Indy, rocking white shades to fill the awful crater left in his sport by the death of Dan Wheldon, his white-shades-rocking friend.

I'll see, speaking of Indy, a red-and-yellow Cooper Mini buzzing the wrong way down the main straightaway on a rain-swept July afternoon, and then this guy who looks like a high school English teacher, Chris Puskar of Charlotte, N.C., cradling a magnum of champagne in one arm and a big honkin' trophy in the other. His face still glistens with sweat, as he stands there. He swipes at it with an awkward forearm as he talks about what a blast the Cooper Mini is to, um, race, and how it absolutely destroys the competition in the corners.

I'll treasure 2012 for that. And for much, much else.

Ben Smith's blog.