Another year gone…another calendar to purchase…another month of writing the wrong year on our checks.  How did we get here?  And will we have to come up with 14 notables next January?

The baker’s dozen around the beltway–

1–Instead of the start of something special…the beginning of the end–January began with the sun shining all over Landover as a new era was beginning to bloom…one that would feature the indestructible Robert Griffin III fulfilling the vision of coach Mike Shanahan.  Fresh off a season-ending seven game winning streak, the NFC East champion Redskins hosted its first playoff game since the 1990’s.  RG3’s injury with the team up 14-0 in the first half turned a game and a regime around for the worse.  Things would never be so good again.

2–A Purple and Black world–How did the Ravens manage to beat the Broncos in Denver?  Nothing like a slipping safety to jumpstart an incredible run by an aging team that had staggered into the postseason.  After avenging their loss the year before in New England…and avoiding a power outage fallout at the Super Bowl, Baltimore’s New Colts/Cleveland’s Original Browns had their second world title in 13 seasons.  And even though they fell back to .500 this year…the owner/GM/coach system in the Charm City is working in a way others nearby should take note. 

3–Mere Madness–the NCAA Tournament provided multiple thrills, chills and spills.  The Maryland women running into a UConn buzzsaw in the Sweet Sixteen at “neutral” Bridgeport?  At least Alyssa Thomas has another year to post triple doubles in College Park.  Georgetown losing to FGCU?  Book it.  Gonzaga complaining about a lack of respect and then getting bounced in the round of 32?  Done.  A Syracuse team scoring 37 point at Verizon the first Saturday of March–only to wrap up its run to the Final Four in the same building three weeks later?  So did not see that happening.  Michigan bench player Spike Albrecht shooting the lights out and then tweeting Kate Upton?  Only in America.  Louisville winning the national title while the very state they play in remains in mourning for Big Blue’s loss to Robert Morris in the NIT?  Here’s to this March.

4–Flat Nats and O’s Woes prevent a BW Parkway Series–Strasburg and Harper adorning national magazine covers…looking to build off a 98-win season.  Oriole Magic fresh off its first playoff appearance since the late-90’s.  Nobody could stop the Nats on their way to a second straight NL East title– except themselves.  An error-filled April…followed by injuries that included running into walls…and market-correction seasons for players with big 2012’s relegated the team to pretender status until a September surge that came up short.  The apparent power vacuum in the AL East would not be filled by the O’s–but by a Boston squad pieced together by the most intriguing collection of beards possible.

5–Caps return to roots–after the lockout the Capitals took a while to find themselves under new coach Adam Oates, finally hitting their stride in April.  Alex Ovechkin returned to MVP form.  But cruising through the Southleast Division left the banner-hangers ill prepared for playoff hockey…and a blowout loss in game seven to the New York Rangers began another long summer.  At least now they’re back in the same division with the Rangers, Flyers, Penguins and Islanders…even though they’re now in a division called the “Metropolitan”.

6–Horse Senseless–The Triple Crown drought continues…almost to the surprise of no one.  Orb, Oxbow and Palace Malice won the Derby, Preakness and Belmont while a DC area sportscaster claims that with the new era of horses they should gap the races 4 weeks to a month apart:   The horse cannot be at peak performance and safely compete in all three races.  Why not move the Preakness to Memorial Day weekend and the Belmont to the Saturday before July 4th?  Tradition’s chains continue to marginalize a niche sport.

7–Wizards working their way into winning?–when Bradley Beal and John Wall were healthy last season, this was a decent team.  Even during Beal’s absence this fall, coach Randy Wittman’s club played well.  After a 2-7 start the team won 7 of 9 over 14 days…salvaging what could have been a crater of an early season.  And Otto Porter hasn’t even gotten up to speed.  Fifth place in the Eastern Conference and 14-14?  Who’s ready for April?

8–Sweet Serena…and the best era nobody’s paying attention to– Serena Williams dominated tennis again, taking 78 of 82 matches while winning the French and US Opens.  Giving her 17 Grand Slam titles.  Meanwhile, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray traded shots…and with Roger Federer officially in the sunset portion of his career, the mens’ game awaits a name with no Americans on the horizon.

9–Grand Slam in Golf achieved by Nottiger–Have you heard of him?  For the fifth consecutive year, Tiger Woods remains at 14 Majors.  A longer drought than anything Jack Nicklaus experienced during his run to 18.  He’s contended here and there, but so did Arnold Palmer in the late 60’s…as did Tom Watson two decades later when he was done winning.  Instead, first time winners Adam Scott, Justin Rose and Jason Dufner joined history while Phil Mickelson inched one step closer to a career Grand Slam nobody thought possible ten years ago.  Lefty’s not going to catch Tiger…but his second act is one Woods could wind up being envious of.

10–Super Bowl or Bust!  What could go wrong?–Were those the actual words in August?  Did we not learn anything from the Nats backslide?  Is the knee not an important joint?  The offseason focus was all about RG3hab…instead of where it should have been.  Defense and special teams were eyesores in the Shanahan era…and both fell flat on their faces this past fall.  And after an offseason of rehab, the franchise quarterback did not have a fantastic sophomore campaign.  A very long and steep fall ensued…

11–New sheriff in Natstown–the team goes from older player’s manager to a hard-charging intense skipper.  That’s usually the case when there’s a change at the top…and Matt Williams looks every bit as intense as when he was a player.  Perhaps he’s just what the young nucleus needs to get to the next level…if not, we’ll be here in another year or two breaking down what went wrong as always.  Isn’t hindsight great?

12–Bowling Baby!–Maryland after a 4-0 start scraped its way to the Terps’ first bowl since 2010…a nice effort for a team that had dealt with more than its share of injury issues over the last few years.  Virginia Tech looked like it was on its usual road to the ACC Championship game…until the Hokies lost 3 of 4 by a combined 13 points.  At least they were able to beat Virginia for a tenth straight year– as the Cavaliers lose nine straight to conclude the year.  Having covered 10-loss teams in college football more than once…it’s not a happy holiday season in Charlottesville.

13–Mike Shanahan gone–after blowing a 13 point second half lead to 1-7 Minnesota, the Redskins embarked on an eight game season ending swoon that turned ugly on multiple occasions (Kansas City in particular).  The benching of Robert Griffin III was a story unto itself.  And the swirling winds in and around Ashburn over the last month finally ended with the coach out after a 24-41 record.  A 3-13 mark that was the team’s worst in 19 years.  An eight game losing streak that was the team’s longest since 1961 (the year RFK opened as “DC Stadium”) and the team was still segregated.  Now owner Dan Snyder faces his sixth coaching hire in 13 years…as we look for the splash and wonder what will change.  Do we really have to do this all over again?