By Rich Dubroff
For years, fans in Baltimore and Washington had been waiting for a year like 2012.
Robert Griffin III came to Washington as arguably the most hyped athlete in area history. His arrival was full of promise, and after a 3-6 start, he has changed area and national perspectives on the Redskins.
Coach Mike Shanahan was widely perceived to have given up on the season after the sixth loss, but since then, the Redskins haven't lost. Shanahan's personnel decisions, widely regarded as a failure in his first two years, have brought Griffin, Alfred Morris and a capable backup, Kirk Cousins, this year.
Now, the Redskins are nearing an improbable NFC East division title, and that's quite a happy surprise.
They weren't the only area team to excite and delight their fans.
The Orioles started 2012 with little hope. Fourteen straight losing seasons and their biggest upgrade was a new executive in charge, Dan Duquette.
But, after a heady first month and designated hitter Chris Davis pitching the 16th and 17th innings for a win in Boston, it was obvious. Things were different there, too.
The Orioles, sparked by Adam Jones, who signed a long-term contract extension three weeks after Davis' pitching performance, made an unlikely run into the postseason, all the way to the fifth game of the American League Division Series.
Less than four hours apart, the Orioles and Nationals were eliminated in the playoffs. For the first time in the eight seasons they've shared the region, both not only had winning seasons, but both made it to the postseason.
The Nationals and Orioles both have confident managers. Davey Johnson says: 'World Series or bust,' for his final season and Buck Showalter, who cemented his reputation as a miracle worker, are each perfect for their teams and cities.
For months, Washington was captivated by the Stephen Strasburg innings limit. After a dull performance against the Marlins, he was finally shut down more than a month before the Nationals played their final game.
There was the plucky rookie Bryce Harper, whose teenage heroics earned him an All-Star bid and the quote of the year. "That's a clown question, bro,î"he snarled to a Toronto radio reporter who wanted to know if the Mormon would go out drinking in Canada.
The Nationals shockingly fell to the Cardinals in the fifth game of the NLDS. In what he vows to be his final season as manager, Johnson says his team will do much better.
For his five years as Ravens quarterback, Joe Flacco has led his team into the playoffs. He began 2012 by nearly reaching the Super Bowl for the first time, but due to Lee Evans' dropped pass and Billy Cundiff's short field goal miss, the Patriots went instead.
The Ravens end the year on their way to the postseason again despite prolonged absences from Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs and a three-game losing streak, including a loss to the Redskins and an abrupt change in offensive coordinators.
Orioles, Nationals, Ravens and Redskins all in the postseason in the same season? Few area sports fans thought that possible.
The news wasn't all bright. While the Capitals made the playoffs for the fifth straight season, they failed to advance past the second round for the fifth straight season.
After firing the popular Bruce Boudreau in late 2011, Dale Hunter, a popular former Capital replaced him, and decided not to return for the 2012-13 season.
While yet another popular former Capital, Adam Oates replaced Boudreau, he has yet to coach a game because the NHL locked out its players, threatening the entire 2012-13 season.
The Wizards began the year with an 0-8 start, and jettisoned coach Flip Saunders. Three of their most controversial players, Andray Blatche, JaVale McGee and Nick Young were sent away.
Their new coach Randy Wittman, ends the year with his best player, John Wall yet to have played this season and with fewer than a handful of victories.
It's gotten so bad for Wittman that he even admitted failing at being intentionally thrown out of a game.
DC United returned to the playoffs. The Mystics did not. They ended the year with a new coach, their 13th in 15 seasons.
Collegiately, there was lots of change. Maryland shockingly announced in November it was leaving the ACC for the Big Ten. The Terps changed quarterbacks regularly because four of them had season-ending injuries. Randy Edsall's second year ended with four wins, two more than the year before.
Mark Turgeon had a difficult act to follow after Gary Williams' retirement, but Turgeon's second team ends 2012 just outside the Top 25.
While Maryland will be in the Big Ten in 2014, Georgetown will be in a new conference. Along with six other schools, it's leaving the now unrecognizable Big East to start a new basketball-only league. The Hoyas conclude the year firmly in the rankings, combining some entertaining wins with some unwatchable ones.
Few would have forecast such a fascinating year for area sports fans. Here's to another in 2013.