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SNYDER: 2012 a year to remember because of two rookies

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Where has the time gone?

January: It's hard to believe 12 months have passed since we heard reports about the Nationals interest in Prince Fielder. Passing on the portly first baseman might have been Washington's best move, although Detroit made out great. The Tigers signed Fielder in January, which also stands out for Joe Paterno's death, Alabama's second football title in three seasons and Flip Saunders' firing as Wizards coach.

February: "Linsanity" was one of the most incredible stories imaginable, a script that Disney would reject for flagrant hokiness. But Hollywood would be interested in another item from that month, when 19-year-old Bryce Harper expressed his desire to emulate Joe Namath off the field. Based on his production in winning Rookie of the Year, Harper can do whatever he likes on his own time.

March: Our tendency to create phonetic links between every scandal and a certain D.C. hotel continued. Too bad we couldn't pay somebody to make Bountygate go away; that saga made our heads hurt worse than a helmet-to-helmet shot. Much better was the thrilling sensation (personal brackets notwithstanding) of No. 15 seeds Norfolk State and Lehigh upsetting No. 2 seeds Missouri and Duke within a four-hour span. Those were super-shiny moments.

April: They came, they saw, they conquered and they left, almost in one fell swoop. After Kentucky won the NCAA men's basketball title, its starting lineup of four freshmen and one sophomore declared for the NBA in a group news conference. That's some serious cohesiveness. On ice, the Capitals' Joel Ward brought D.C. closer together with a Game 7 overtime goal to beat Boston. A slew of racist tweets followed, but we know ignorance thrives on Twitter.

May: The Redskins were roasted in many quarters, including here, for drafting another QB after RG3. Critics were wrong. It took Kirk Cousins just three snaps against Baltimore to validate the move, before adding an exclamation against Cleveland (329 yards passing!). Another rookie in May played at Nationals Park for the first time. Harper was batting .274 after his first full month in the majors, and .270 at season's end.

June: Roger Clemens convinced the only people who mattered -- members of the jury -- that he didn't perjure himself in denying he used steroids. His victory, along with Barry Bonds' last year, made the feds look as hapless as Little Leaguers against the should-be Hall-of-Famers. Oklahoma City was much more competitive against Miami but also suffered defeat. Two seasons after his talents made the trip, LeBron James brought an NBA title to South Beach.

July: At 19, Harper became the youngest position player in All-Star history. But the headlines belonged to San Francisco's Melky Cabrera, who hit a two-run homer and won the MVP award. A mental asterisk was applied the following month when he was suspended for 50 games after testing positive for testosterone. Penn State's sanctions for the Jerry Sandusky scandal included the vacating of 112 victories, knocking Paterno from atop the list for most Division I wins.

August: Arguably more improbable than Linsanity, Gabby Douglas soared to her sport's most prestigious title, the individual all-around Olympic gold medal. "I have never seen a gymnast climb from an average gymnast to the best in the world in five months," U.S. Olympic team coordinator Martha Karolyi told reporters. Asked if he imagined Douglas reaching this point when they began working together two years earlier, coach Liang Chow said, "No." Who knew?

September: Project Shutdown Stephen Strasburg ended, to the dismay of journalists who milked the story for months. But the Nats won the NL East and finished with the majors' best record, while RG3 began casting his spell with a magical debut against New Orleans. And replacement refs stunk up the NFL until an infamous Monday Night Football call ended their reign of error.

October: MLB's postseason returned to D.C. for the first time since 1933, and outfielder Jayson Werth delivered an unforgettable moment at Nats Park, a walk-off homer to cap a 13-pitch battle and win Game 4 of the NLDS. The Nats blew Game 5, but they whet fans' appetites for more autumns to come. Conversely, cheers for cyclist Lance Armstrong faded for good after an exhaustive report detailed his use of performance-enhancing drugs.

November: Coach Mike Shanahan's tenure reached its nadir after a home loss to Carolina, dropping the Redskins to 3-6 and, apparently, ending their playoff aspirations. But their next loss will be their first loss since then. In the NBA, Washington missed the memo about the season starting on time. After losing their first eight games last season, the Wizards opened this campaign with 12 consecutive losses. Another year, another lottery pick.

December: The Redskins host the Cowboys on Sunday in the regular-season finale, in prime time, with the NFC East championship at stake. Regardless of the outcome, that highlight is as big and unexpected as any in 2012.

But a playoff berth would give us a head start on next year's list.

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About the Author

Deron Snyder

Deron Snyder is an award-winning journalist and Washington Times sports columnist with more than 25 years of experience. He has worked at USA Today and his column was syndicated in Gannett’ 80-plus newspapers from 2000-2009, appearing in The Arizona Republic, The Indianapolis Star, The Detroit News and many others. Follow Deron on Twitter @Its_Ball_Good or email him at deronsnyder@gmail.com.

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