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The best — and worst — of sports in 2013

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting of the Science and Education Council in the Kremlin in Moscow, Friday, Dec. 20, 2013. Putin on Friday signed a decree pardoning Mikhail Khodorkovsky,  and he was released from prison immediately. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Mikhail Klimentyev, Presidential Press Service)

    Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting of the Science and Education Council in the Kremlin in Moscow, Friday, Dec. 20, 2013. Putin on Friday signed a decree pardoning Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and he was released from prison immediately. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Mikhail Klimentyev, Presidential Press Service)

  • Alabama coach Nick Saban reacts to questions about becoming a grandfather, during a news conference Tuesday, Dec, 17, 2013, at the Mal Moore Athletic Facility in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/AL.com, Vasha Hunt) MAGS OUT

    Alabama coach Nick Saban reacts to questions about becoming a grandfather, during a news conference Tuesday, Dec, 17, 2013, at the Mal Moore Athletic Facility in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/AL.com, Vasha Hunt) MAGS OUT

  • FILE - This is a Friday, Dec. 13, 2013 file photo of clouds are seen over the Estadio das Dunas in Natal, Brazil, Friday, Dec. 13, 2013. Four matches of the 2014 soccer World Cup will be played in the stadium.  Natal  on Brazil’s northeastern bulge made the city strategically important in World War II, because it was the closest jumping-off point in Latin America to Africa, 2,900 kilometers (1,800 miles) to the east across the Atlantic. (AP Photo/Ferdinand Ostrop, File)

    FILE - This is a Friday, Dec. 13, 2013 file photo of clouds are seen over the Estadio das Dunas in Natal, Brazil, Friday, Dec. 13, 2013. Four matches of the 2014 soccer World Cup will be played in the stadium. Natal on Brazil’s northeastern bulge made the city strategically important in World War II, because it was the closest jumping-off point in Latin America to Africa, 2,900 kilometers (1,800 miles) to the east across the Atlantic. (AP Photo/Ferdinand Ostrop, File)

  • FILE - This is a Friday, Dec. 13, 2013 file photo of clouds are seen over the Estadio das Dunas in Natal, Brazil, Friday, Dec. 13, 2013. Four matches of the 2014 soccer World Cup will be played in the stadium.  Natal  on Brazil’s northeastern bulge made the city strategically important in World War II, because it was the closest jumping-off point in Latin America to Africa, 2,900 kilometers (1,800 miles) to the east across the Atlantic. (AP Photo/Ferdinand Ostrop, File)

    FILE - This is a Friday, Dec. 13, 2013 file photo of clouds are seen over the Estadio das Dunas in Natal, Brazil, Friday, Dec. 13, 2013. Four matches of the 2014 soccer World Cup will be played in the stadium. Natal on Brazil’s northeastern bulge made the city strategically important in World War II, because it was the closest jumping-off point in Latin America to Africa, 2,900 kilometers (1,800 miles) to the east across the Atlantic. (AP Photo/Ferdinand Ostrop, File)

  • A cricket fan walks in front of a giant poster of former president Nelson Mandela during the first day of their cricket test match between South Africa and India at Wanderers stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

    A cricket fan walks in front of a giant poster of former president Nelson Mandela during the first day of their cricket test match between South Africa and India at Wanderers stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting of the Science and Education Council in the Kremlin in Moscow, Friday, Dec. 20, 2013. Putin on Friday signed a decree pardoning Mikhail Khodorkovsky,  and he was released from prison immediately. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Mikhail Klimentyev, Presidential Press Service)
  • Alabama coach Nick Saban reacts to questions about becoming a grandfather, during a news conference Tuesday, Dec, 17, 2013, at the Mal Moore Athletic Facility in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/AL.com, Vasha Hunt) MAGS OUT
  • FILE - This is a Friday, Dec. 13, 2013 file photo of clouds are seen over the Estadio das Dunas in Natal, Brazil, Friday, Dec. 13, 2013. Four matches of the 2014 soccer World Cup will be played in the stadium.  Natal  on Brazil’s northeastern bulge made the city strategically important in World War II, because it was the closest jumping-off point in Latin America to Africa, 2,900 kilometers (1,800 miles) to the east across the Atlantic. (AP Photo/Ferdinand Ostrop, File)
  • FILE - This is a Friday, Dec. 13, 2013 file photo of clouds are seen over the Estadio das Dunas in Natal, Brazil, Friday, Dec. 13, 2013. Four matches of the 2014 soccer World Cup will be played in the stadium.  Natal  on Brazil’s northeastern bulge made the city strategically important in World War II, because it was the closest jumping-off point in Latin America to Africa, 2,900 kilometers (1,800 miles) to the east across the Atlantic. (AP Photo/Ferdinand Ostrop, File)
  • A cricket fan walks in front of a giant poster of former president Nelson Mandela during the first day of their cricket test match between South Africa and India at Wanderers stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

The MTV Video Music Awards have lost all their hipness. The Emmys are a total snooze. The Oscars will surely overlook movies we’ve actually seen, like “Anchorman 2.”

Not to worry. We present the second annual Newbys, our attempt to cash in on awards season without actually renting a tux or buying trophies.

Unfortunately, a percussion instrument didn’t fit into the budget. So, imaginary drum roll please, for the best (and worst) in sports for 2013.

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COACH OF THE YEAR — While it’s difficult to overlook Mike Shanahan, who unselfishly benched star quarterback Robert Griffin III to ensure he’ll be healthy for whoever is coaching the team after Shanny is fired, the award goes to ... Utah prep coach Mike Labrum, who showed there is something more important than high school football. Like acting right. Labrum made all his players at Union High turn in their jerseys because of poor behavior. They could only earn them back by completing their schoolwork, doing a stint of community service, and helping out their parents with chores. The Cougars finished 4-6, but chances are these youngsters will be big winners in the game of life.

PHIL ROBERTSON TOLERANCE AWARD — The patriarch of the “Duck Dynasty” family got himself suspended from his TV job for his inane ramblings on homosexuality and how happy African-Americans were under Jim Crow. Too bad he didn’t live in the homeland of our winner ... Vladimir Putin. The Russian strongman pushed through a law that bans so-called gay “propaganda” less than a year out from hosting the world at the Sochi Winter Olympics. We hope every athlete marches into the stadium during the opening ceremony waving a rainbow flag.

BEST NON-COMEBACK COMEBACK — Michael Phelps hasn’t decided whether to end his retirement from swimming. Really, he hasn’t. As long as you don’t pay any attention to his regular workouts or his ad campaigns in the next Summer Olympics country, this is an easy choice. Give the award to ... Michael Phelps. See you in Rio, big guy!

COUNTRY OF THE YEAR — Speaking of Brazil, that brings us to our next winner. The folks in South America’s largest country got worked up over their government spending billions to host the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics instead of, say, providing adequate health care, education and jobs. They took to the streets to protest these misplaced priorities. Please let this movement spreads to other places, like Atlanta, which is tearing down not one but two perfectly good stadiums to build two even newer stadiums.

NICKNAME WE ENJOY FINDING WAYS NOT TO SAY — Nothing like sticking with a moniker that Merriam-Webster says “is very offensive and should be avoided.” The winner is ... the NFL team in Washington, which has yet to enter the 20th Century, much less the 21st. Maybe next century.

BEST CONSPIRACY THEORY — Psst, you know who turned off the lights at the Super Bowl? Yep, the award goes to ... the NFL, which turned a boring game into a thriller by flipping off the lights early in the second half, completely stifling Baltimore’s momentum and luring back millions of fans who flipped the channel after Beyonce’s halftime show. What proof do we have? We’ll get back to you on that one.

MOST CATHARTIC MOMENT — Nick Saban is generally reviled by everyone not wearing crimson. So, you can imagine the consternation when it looked as though Coach Evil Genius was headed for an unprecedented third straight national title. Until this ... Auburn returned a missed field goal 109 yards for the winning score with no time on the clock, sending the Tigers to the BCS championship instead of Alabama. A nation rejoiced. Of course, Saban bounced back with a fat new contract that makes him even richer that before. Oh well, we’ll always have the Iron Bowl.

TOP STORY THAT REALLY WASN’T — NBA center Jason Collins bravely announced he was gay. Unfortunately, it would’ve meant more if he had done it a decade earlier. The 35-year-old Collins didn’t catch on with a team this season, lessening the impact of his groundbreaking revelation.

BIGGEST WAKE-UP CALL — Without making any judgments on what will become of the bullying scandal in Miami, we can’t ignore ... Richie Incognito, who has surely shed light on the vile behavior in sports locker rooms, behavior that has long been accepted no matter how much it hurts. No more, please.

PERSONS OF THE YEAR — For showing us the healing powers of sports ... the citizens of Boston and Nelson Mandela. Boston stayed strong by turning to its Red Sox and Bruins in the aftermath of the marathon bombing. David Ortiz summed it up better than anyone when he said, “This is our ******* city!” Mandela’s death in early December reminded us of how he used the 1995 Rugby World Cup to soothe South Africa’s wounds from the evil that was apartheid.

Yes, these are just games. But they can touch people’s lives. We could all use more of that in 2014.

Paul Newberry is a national writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at pnewberry@ap.org or www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963

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