Top 10 national sports stories of the year

10.  Conference Realignment – Universities switched conferences faster than Kim Kardashian's wedding in 2011.  Nebraska moved into the Big 10, which now has 12 teams.  And dozens of others committed to new conferences.  By 2013, the Big East for football will feature Boise State, San Diego State & Houston.  Obviously, those three are several miles away from the East Coast.

9.  Tebow-mania - The Denver Broncos started the season 1-4 with Kyle Orton at quarterback.  With nothing to lose, head coach John Fox decided to start Tim TebowTebow led the team back into the playoff race with a series of come-from-behind wins, silencing critics. 

8.  Lockouts – The NBA & NFL locked their players out in 2011.  The NFL lasted more than four months, but only one preseason game was lost.  Things didn't work out as well for the NBA.  The five-month lockout shrunk the NBA season to 66 games for each team, starting Christmas Day.

7.  Jeter gets 3,000 th hit – In July, Yankees Shortstop Derek Jeter picked up his 3,000 th hit during a game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium.  It was a homerun in the 3 rd inning.  Jeter ended up with five hits in the game, including the game winner.

6.  Dan Wheldon dies in crash – IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon died in a 15-car crash at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway in October.  .  His car flew into the catch fence.  Emergency crews pulled his body out of the car, but he died at the hospital.  Because of the crash, the end of the race was canceled.  Wheldon was a fan favorite among racing fans.  He won the Indianapolis 500 earlier this year.

5.  Japan defeats U.S. in Women's World Cup – In the final seconds of the World Cup final between Japan & the United States, American forward Abby Wambach scored to tie the game.  The Americans eventually lost in penalty kicks.  The game got a huge TV rating, more than tripling the viewership for the British Open that day.

4.  Mavericks beat the Heat – When Lebron James joined the Miami Heat before the 2010-11 season, the team became an instant favorite to win the NBA Championship.  But Dirk Nowitski and the Dallas Mavericks changed that in the NBA finals.  Winning in Game 6, 105-95.  James was often criticized for his struggling performances in the 4th quarters. 

3.  Green Bay Packers win the Super Bowl – Green Bay didn't make the playoffs until the final day of the regular season.  But the Pack went on the road, beating Philadelphia, Atlanta & Chicago to make the Super Bowl.  In the Super Bowl, Aaron Rodgers defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25.  The Packers started the 2011 season on a roll, going an entire calendar year without losing a game.

2.  St. Louis Cardinals come back in great World Series Game 6 – The Texas Rangers were one strike away twice from a World Series title in game 6.  Each time, the Cardinals did what they had to do to come back.  In the bottom of the 11 th , it was David Freese hit a homerun to straight away centerfield.  The win forced a Game 7.  The Cardinals dominated on their way to their 2 nd World Series title in the Tony LaRussa era.  The Cards were the comeback kids.  They were 10 1/2 games out in the final month of the regular season, before winning the wild card.

1.  Scandal at Penn State – Child sex abuse charges against former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky brought down the Penn State football program.  The University fired long-time coach Joe Paterno & president Graham Spanier.  Students rioted on campus after Paterno's firing.  The school's athletic director Tim Curley and a vice-president Gary Schultz, were charged with perjury and failure to report child abuse.  With the trial yet to start, Sandusky's trial is expected to be a story in 2012.

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