Athletes have perhaps more star power than anyone in New England, something that’s truly a reflection of the region’s sports passion. But when it comes to the 2012 Athlete of the Year, the surplus of worthy choices makes handing out the hardware a difficult decision.
The Red Sox had the most difficult year of the area’s sports teams, sputtering to a 69-93 record and a last-place finish in the American League East. Still, one can’t help but be impressed by David Ortiz‘s continued success despite battling an injury that cut his season short.
Ortiz, who turned 37 in November, proved he still has plenty left in the tank, hitting .318, crushing 23 blasts and driving in 60 runs in just 90 games. The impressive production led the Red Sox to give the eight-time All-Star a two-year contract shortly after the season concluded. He’ll now be part of Boston’s attempt to regain AL East supremacy.
One team that certainly outperformed the Red Sox in 2012 was the Patriots. After coming up short to the Giants in Super Bowl XLVI, the Pats came back with a vengeance this season, once again establishing themselves as Super Bowl contenders. No two players personify the team’s talent more than quarterback Tom Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Gronkowski missed five games with a broken forearm this season, but he has firmly cemented himself as the NFL’s best tight end, and his return should give the Patriots a major boost as they head into the playoffs. He finished the 2012 regular season with 55 catches, 790 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns, including eight scores over the final five games he played.
Brady, meanwhile, has been very Brady-like, putting together another season worthy of MVP consideration. The Pats’ signal caller led the NFL’s most potent offense to an average of 34.8 points per game. Brady threw for 4,827 yards and 34 touchdowns while only tossing eight interceptions.
The Celtics couldn’t quite make it to the championship game of their respective sport, but they came as close as you could. The C’s pushed the champion Miami Heat to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals, even grabbing a lead before letting it slip through the cracks. At the forefront of Boston’s valiant effort was Rajon Rondo, who has quickly become the franchise’s cornerstone.
Rondo, who is still just 26, led the NBA in assists per game last season, and he’s quickly jumped out to the league lead this season. He also continues to be a menace on the defensive end, as you never know when he might come up with a theft.
Unfortunately, 2013 is going to start off without an NHL season. Hopefully, the league’s owners and players can come to a deal soon, but we shouldn’t let the lockout take away from what was an otherwise great 2012. Sure, Bruins fans would rather have results similar to 2011′s, when the B’s hoisted their first Stanley Cup since 1972. However, 2012 saw the emergence of a star in Tyler Seguin.
Seguin, who continues to make the Phil Kessel trade look like a steal for the Black and Gold, earned All-Star honors in just his second season. The 20-year-old finished with 29-38-67 totals, and while the Bruins came up short in the postseason, they should be equipped to make a serious run the next time we see NHL hockey. Seguin figures to be the building block of that effort.
Understandably, the area’s four major sports teams dominated the headlines in 2012. However, there were a couple of Olympians that turned heads as well.
Aly Raisman, a native of Needham, Mass., captained the U.S. women’s gymnastics team that won gold in London. Individually, Raisman won a gold medal on the floor and a bronze medal on the balance beam.
Kayla Harrison, a resident of Wakefield, Mass., also fared well at the Summer Games. The 22-year-old earned a gold medal, becoming the first American to win an Olympic gold medal in judo.
So which athlete gets your nod as New England’s best of 2012?