They weren’t always the big stories, or the ones that drew clicks or comments, although we seem to have had more than our share of those. Some were quietly significant. But all were interesting or important enough to make the 2022 list of 10 Stories That Mattered.
The list, roughly in chronological order:
• Riley’s Rapid Rebuild begins: It did not take long for Lincoln Riley to put his stamp on USC’s football program, and the February signing day in 2022 was the initial clue. That first day’s haul included eight incoming freshmen and 13 transfers.
The latter included sophomore quarterback Caleb Williams, who would go on to win the Heisman Trophy, lead USC to 11 victories (with one more game to play) and the cusp of the College Football Playoff, and not incidentally have a name-image-likeness valuation of $3.2 million. You don’t think that has future recruits paying attention?
Caleb Williams, man.
NFL teams already looking forward to the 2024 NFL Draft. pic.twitter.com/GEHdBmq80H
— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) November 27, 2022
• The Rams, champs: February 13 was the moment of triumph, the day all of those L.A. Rams fans of long standing who had suffered through so many near-misses finally could celebrate a Lombardi Trophy – and a day when all of those bold moves by Les Snead, which were only appropriate for a team in this country’s most competitive sports market, came to fruition. (Unfortunately for those same Rams fans, the bill has come due this season.)
With their 10th loss, the Super Bowl LVI champion Rams are eliminated from playoff contention with 3 weeks to go in 2022.
That ties the 1999 Broncos for most losses and most weeks remaining in a season at time of elimination by any defending Super Bowl champion in NFL history.
— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) December 20, 2022
• A new day in college sports: The NIL market is still sorting itself out, and when we talked to UCLA soccer player Reilyn Turner in February, after she’d become the first college athlete to sign a contract with Nike, there still was uncertainty about how lucrative this could become. With the rise of booster collectives in just a few short months, it’s become even wilder than anyone expected. And a footnote: Turner scored the tying goal, with only seconds left in regulation, in UCLA’s amazing comeback to beat North Carolina for the NCAA championship in December.
A year ago, Reilyn Turner signed with Nike as its first NIL athlete.
Tonight, she scored a game-tying goal for UCLA with 16 seconds left in the National Championship.
The Bruins just won the title, 3-2.
— Front Office Sports (@FOS) December 6, 2022
• Quality starts, quality scribe: We made the observation in April that in baseball’s new reality, in which complete games are passé and a starting pitcher who can go six innings is ever so valuable, the “quality start” statistic (six innings, three earned runs or less) that was once scoffed at is now maybe the most accurate assessment of a starter’s worth. The guy who devised it, John Lowe – who is still a Long Beach area resident – received his flowers this month when he received the Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s Career Excellence award, and deservedly so.
Here’s a little trivia for you: What high school produced two recipients of the BBWAA’s Career Excellence Award? John Lowe and Ross Newhan both went to Wilson High School in Long Beach, Calif. I was way earlier than John but we both can still say, “Go Bruins”. And congrats John.
— Ross Newhan (@RossNewhan1) December 7, 2022
• Stepping aside: The “C” on a hockey player’s jersey represents a unique honor/responsibility, the captaincy being a larger role in that sport than in any other. Early in April, the Ducks lost theirs when Ryan Getzlaf announced his retirement. Then, at the end of the month, former Kings captain (and to the end a locker room leader) Dustin Brown announced he was hanging ’em up, and to honor him current captain Anze Kopitar gave up his “C” to Brown for the last regular-season game.
Blessing your timeline with Ryan Getzlaf’s final @NHL point. 🥲 pic.twitter.com/XZ2m1iER8h
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) April 25, 2022
The Vancouver Canucks would like to congratulate Dustin Brown on his 18 year NHL career and wish him well in his retirement. pic.twitter.com/vUqeQeXmMS
— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) April 29, 2022
• The Curse of Harry Sidhu: We made the observation first on Twitter, that the resignation of Anaheim mayor Sidhu and a concurrent FBI investigation of corruption in Anaheim city government, which included a probe of city negotiations with the Angels, coincided with the start of a horrendous losing streak that turned what could have been a magical season miserable (and got Manager Joe Maddon fired).
Joe Maddon is trending after Harper’s grand slam in Philly, and it’s not going well.
But has anybody considered the Angels’ tailspin might be caused by the Curse of Harry Sidhu?
— Jim_Alexander (@Jim_Alexander) June 5, 2022
But that wasn’t the half of it. The deal by which Arte Moreno would have bought Angel Stadium from the city was voided by the Anaheim City Council. By August, Moreno had announced that the team was for sale.
• College football’s seismic shock: It still resonates, six months after the fact. On the morning of June 30, Bay Area News Group colleague Jon Wilner broke the story that USC and UCLA would leave the Pac-12 for the Big Ten, a consequence of a series of disastrous decisions made by former Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott.
Big news from @wilnerhotline >
Pac-12 on the brink: USC and UCLA expected to seek membership in the Big Ten https://t.co/v2EnMUw0XL via @mercnews
— Cam Inman (@CamInman) June 30, 2022
It wasn’t fully official until this month, when the UC Regents finally got over their irritation at not being the first to know, and it won’t take effect until the fall of 2024, but it was the biggest story in college sports and the impact goes way beyond the two conferences involved.
• R.I.P., Vin: As I wrote on the evening that Vin Scully passed away, “Southern California lost its voice.” We also lost an old friend, someone who touched millions of Southern Californians he’d never met, and who was even more gracious to those who did meet him. And his was the soundtrack of our region, from the time he and the Dodgers arrived in 1958 to his final call in October 2016, and even beyond that when he would share recollections of a player or an event on Twitter.
One of 74 games for Beltré at the hot corner with at least one double and one home run — Mike Schmidt (70) is the only other third baseman in AL/NL history with 70 or more such games.
Vin Scully with the call. *chef’s kiss* https://t.co/zIRzhbP0Jc
— Austin J. Eich (@Eich_AJ) December 16, 2022
• Two GOATs, gone: It was a twin thunderbolt in the tennis world: The retirement announcements of Serena Williams, arguably the greatest women’s tennis player of all time, and Roger Federer, for whom you could make a credible case as the greatest men’s player of at least his era and maybe beyond, within weeks of each other. Their accomplishments, and their retirements, were a reminder that we have lived through a true golden era of the sport, and who will be the next to pick up the mantle?
(Then again, there are rumblings that Serena might be plotting a comeback. So stay tuned.)
said something about greatest athlete of all time, forget just football?? you meant HER ?#SerenaWilliams pic.twitter.com/TuEV3phkti https://t.co/vzNgOWJDCj
— maria 🎄 (@mariaxxairam) December 18, 2022
𝐆𝐎𝐀𝐓 𝐀𝐋𝐄𝐑𝐓 🐐🚨
Roger Federer stuns opposition with these top 10 shots from the Australian and French Open! pic.twitter.com/QwHeaAtbwb
— Eurosport (@eurosport) December 20, 2022
• The unexpected hero: If you were to post odds before the MLS Cup final in November on who might be the MVP, the guy who won it would be a million-to-one shot. But John McCarthy beat the odds in LAFC’s victory over Philadelphia, with what could only be a Hollywood ending: A little-used backup goalkeeper steps in after the starter is injured in overtime, playing against the team he used to play for, and saves the day for the home team when it goes to a penalty kick shootout. “For you to say that I would hold that thing, it still doesn’t make sense,” he acknowledged afterward.
John McCarthy, take a bow!!
The Philly kid came on after a Crepeau red card, and saves 3 in the penalty shootout!#LAFC are the #MLSCup winners!
— Brews & Belters Podcast (@brewsandbelters) November 5, 2022
Then again, it’s a reminder that dreams can come true.