The toasts were raised. The pork and sauerkraut have settled. A steady diet of college football games has been ingested.
From church services to nursing hangovers to carriage rides through Johnstown, New Year’s traditions are time-tested and universal.
Maybe the most common tradition is making resolutions. Count me among those who have stuck with a few well into February.
There’s all the basic resolutions – exercising more, losing weight or limiting yourself to one Coney Island Sundowner per week.
Sticking with the basics can be tough. Maybe that’s why most resolutions are forgotten within a few weeks.
Want to make a resolution to remember?
If the answer is yes, it’s time to dig a little deeper and draw inspiration from the local sports community. There’s plenty of inspiration to pick from.
n Resolve to make better decisions.
One bad decision can wreck a game, which can wreck a season. A season’s worth of bad decisions, something that Steelers coach Mike Tomlin experienced in 2012, can lead to an early offseason.
Pinpointing one reason why the Steelers finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs isn’t fair. From quarterback to the secondary, nearly every position group dealt with significant injuries. The offense struggled. The special teams stunk. The defense didn’t make a big play until Week 16.
Yet, for all those problems, the Steelers were in a majority of the games they lost until the final seconds, and Tomlin should spend part of his offseason re-evaluating decisions like attempting a 53-yard field goal into the wind at Heinz Field or the way he handled the rotating running back situation, paticularly against Cleveland.
n Resolve to overcome obstacles.
LaRod Stephens-Howling heard it before he played at Pitt. Andrew Hawkins heard it before he got on the field at Toledo.
Both Johnstown natives – Stephens-Howling a Greater Johnstown grad, Hawkins a Bishop McCort grad – were supposedly too small to play Division I college football. Forget about a pro career.
Yet, there was Stephens-Howling – listed at 5-foot-7, 185 pounds – and Hawkins (5-7, 180) not only on NFL rosters in 2012, but serving key roles for their respective teams.
Stephens-Howling, in his fourth year with the Arizona Cardinals, filled in at starting tailback for the Cardinals during one stretch and had two 100-yard rushing games. Hawkins has played two seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, and the franchise has made the playoffs in back-to-back years. A valuable possession receiver and special teams player, Hawkins has 51 catches for 533 yards and four touchdowns.
n Resolve to establish a legacy.
Bishop McCort baseball accomplished that when it won the PIAA Class A championship in June. In dominating the postseason bracket, the Crimson Crushers became the first area baseball team to win a state title. Given the rich tradition of baseball in these parts, that fact is a bit surprising.
Wrestling is another sport with a strong hold in the region, but no one from this fertile wrestling ground accomplished what North Star’s Nick Roberts and Richland’s John Rizzo did to cap the 2011-12 winter sports season.
Roberts and Rizzo each won their third consecutive PIAA individual championship, a rare feat for any region of Pennsylvania. These days, Roberts is wrestling at Ohio State while Rizzo turned down Division I wrestling programs to play football at Temple.
Bishop Carroll, Bishop McCort and Forest Hills all played for PIAA football championships in the past.
Richland, which had never won a Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference championship before the 2012 season, didn’t make it to Hershey but the Rams established their own legacy this fall with a postseason run that made outsiders take notice of a program that rarely contended in the past.
Richland won its first 14 games, usually in dominating and impressive fashion, before losing to Aliquippa in the semifinals.
The Rams should be back in 2013, and maybe they’ll provide us with more inspiration for 2014.
Mike Kovak is the sports editor of The Tribune-Democrat.