Bay Area teams triumphed so often in 2012 that it was tricky just to keep track of the celebrations. For the record: The Giants sprayed champagne, the A's threw pies, Stanford players chomped on roses, and at San Jose State, the Spartans high-fived fellow students in the hallways of a football-crazed campus.
Such success made it challenging to whittle the Bay Area's Biggest Sports Stories of the Year to a Top 10 list. But we managed:
1. Giants win World Series again
After making fans wait more than a half-century for a victory parade, these modern Giants seem intent on making up for lost time. Mirroring the wacky champs of 2010, this year's formula included Tim Lincecum as a middle reliever, Hunter Pence as a motivational speaker and Pablo Sandoval as Mr. October.
The straight man for the antics was Buster Posey, the stoic, slugging catcher who followed his MVP regular season with some of the biggest blasts of the playoffs. (Witness his grand slam that all but finished off Cincinnati in Game 5 of the National League Division Series.)
The Giants spent much of early October teetering on the brink of elimination. In fact, they trailed St. Louis 3-1 in the NLCS -- and never lost again.
They buzzed through the Detroit Tigers as clutch hitting by Marco Scutaro and Sandoval helped deliver only the fifth World Series sweep by an N.L. team over the past 90 years.
Sandoval was the World Series MVP. That's partly because of his three-homer onslaught in Game 1 and partly because they would have to fracture the trophy into too many pieces to give it to a pitching staff that combined for a 1.46 ERA.
2. Stanford goes to Rose Bowl
So much fretting went into how to replace Andrew Luck. As it turns out, the Cardinal really should have been looking for a good florist.
Because after securing the Pac-12 title with a fittingly resilient 27-24 victory over UCLA, players could finally hoist those red roses to the sky. Stanford earned its first trip to the Rose Bowl since the 1999 season behind an understated head coach and a redshirt freshman quarterback.
"You've got to be tough, you've got to be smart, and you've to finish what you start," coach David Shaw said on the victory podium after toppling UCLA.
Picking up where Luck and coach Jim Harbaugh left off -- which is saying something -- Shaw and passer Kevin Hogan led Stanford (No. 6 in the BCS) to an 11-2 finish and its New Year's Day showdown against Wisconsin.
Luck never got to the Rose Bowl. Neither did John Elway, for that matter. But Hogan fueled this trip by knocking off four consecutive AP top-25 opponents in his first four college starts.
"Boy," Shaw marveled, "when we need a play, he makes it."
3. A's win A.L. West
The A's spent only one day all season in first place. But it was the only day that mattered. They surged ahead of the Texas Rangers with a victory in Game 162 of the regular season.
Hard to believe? Try figuring out how they got there. With Oakland's goofiest cast of characters since the days of Charlie Finley's mule, the A's celebrated their 14 walkoff victories with whip-cream pies to the hero's face and commemorated other big moments by dancing "The Bernie." Along the way, outfielder Josh Reddick dressed up as Spider-Man and Australian-born closer Grant Balfour screamed obscenities into his glove.
One other thing: They could play. The A's became only the fifth team in major league history to win a division or pennant after trailing by 13 or more games (1914 Braves, 1951 Giants, 1978 Yankees and 1995 Mariners.)
4. 49ers continue to roll, change QBs
Jim Harbaugh continues to push the 49ers toward the look of their glory days -- right down to a quarterback controversy. And while it lacks the combustible star power of Joe Montana vs. Steve Young, 2012 has proved enough to light up the phone lines of sports-talk radio
Alex Smith vs. Colin Kaepernick began when the loyal, efficient -- and cautious -- veteran Smith sustained a concussion. That opened the door to the high-risk, high-reward Kaepernick, who provided just enough wow moments to keep the job for good.
Kaepernick's early highlights included a 50-yard touchdown run -- the longest ever by a 49ers QB -- and a four-touchdown night against Tom Brady and New England. His early lowlights included a botched option read that might have cost a victory against St. Louis and a stinker against Seattle on Sunday.
How will it finish? It will be tough to top the drama of how the 49ers' calendar year started: On Jan. 14, 2012, Smith engineered two late-game comebacks to beat New Orleans 36-32 in an NFC division-round playoff game.
Smith ran 28 yards for a touchdown with 2:11 left and threw a 14-yard scoring pass to Vernon Davis with nine seconds left.
"It shows (Smith) is becoming an elite quarterback," Patrick Willis said that day.
5. Tedford reign ends at Cal
Because his golden touch wore off, the Golden Bears said goodbye to coach Jeff Tedford.
Cal fired its all-time leader in victories despite owing him $6.9 million over the final three years of his contract. Two final defeats sealed his fate: a 59-17 home loss to Oregon and a 62-14 loss at Oregon State.
Such scores would have been unthinkable shortly after Tedford's arrival in 2001. He promptly engineered two 10-win seasons over his first five seasons and would go on to finish with a school-record 82 victories.
On the day he was fired, he released a statement saying: "All involved can feel a great sense of pride with their sacrifice, contributions and commitment that have made it possible to have the winningest tenure in Cal football history."
Louisiana Tech coach Sonny Dykes was tabbed as Tedford's successor Dec. 5.
6. San Jose State reaches a bowl game
During coach Mike MacIntyre's first season of 2010, the Spartans went 1-12. By the time he closed his office door behind him for the final time this month, SJSU was 10-2, ranked 24th in the BCS and en route to its first bowl game since 2006.
The legacy might best be measured with a walk around school.
"The way it is on campus right now, I never thought it would be like that," linebacker Vince Buhagiar told Bay Area News Group columnist Mark Purdy this month. "Guys will be walking down halls and getting high-fives. People you don't know will stop you and congratulate you on a game or the team's ranking."
MacIntyre scored one last victory -- a five-year, $10 million contract as the new coach at Colorado, a deal that more than quadrupled his SJSU salary.
Ron Caragher, who had a successful six-year run at the University of San Diego, will take over for MacIntyre.
7. Matt Cain's perfect game
Matt Cain pitched the 22nd perfect game in major league history on June 13 -- a performance that reached dizzying heights even within that exclusive club. The only other pitcher to strike out 14 in a perfect game? Some guy named Sandy Koufax in 1965.
Cain's gem, though, might best be remembered by what happened when Houston's Jordan Schafer made contact. That's when right fielder Gregor Blanco raced toward the right-center field warning track for a catch that ranks among the most spine-tingling in Giants history.
"I didn't think I was going to make it," Blanco said, "but I did."
It was the first perfect game for a Giants franchise that dates back 129 years.
8. Earthquakes rattle, roll
Earthquakes fans learned two keys lesson in 2012: Never give up. And never leave early.
The Bay Area's ultimate comeback club pulled off 13 game-tying or winning goals in the 82nd minute or later. They became known as the Goonies, a reference to the 1980 movie with the line "Goonies never say die!"
Much of the drama was supplied by Danville's Chris Wondolowski, who tied the Major League Soccer single-season record with 27 goals en route to his second Golden Boot award in three years and his first MVP trophy.
With Wondolowski leading the way, San Jose racked up a club-record 72 goals and went 19-6-9 to win the regular-season title. Alas, the magic ran out in an MLS Cup playoff defeat to the Los Angeles Galaxy.
But surrender? Never.
"We're going to be here and we're going to be together for a long time," veteran striker Alan Gordon said on the night the Quakes were eliminated. "This is not the end for us."
9. Stanford women reach Final Four
The reliable greatness of the Stanford women's basketball program should not be taken for granted. As Nneka Ogwumike said after leading the Cardinal to a fifth consecutive Final Four last March: "This never gets old."
Stanford's latest March Madness run ended when Baylor bounced it in the NCAA semifinals. But the Cardinal bounced right back and -- surprise! -- is back in the national title chase. Stanford sent that message last month by toppling then-No. 1 Baylor on Nov. 16, ending the Lady Bears' 42-game winning streak.
Last Friday, Stanford won at Tennessee for the first time since 1996. Is a sixth consecutive Final Four in the offing?
"We've got great leadership and great chemistry,' " Hall of Fame coach Tara VanDerveer said after beating Tennessee. "I'm hoping that we'll be playing better in March and April."
10. Warriors on the rise
The Warriors close the year with the look of something special. By mid-December, they finished off their first six-win trip in franchise history -- a journey that included an upset of reigning NBA champion Miami.
"I think it does wonders for our confidence," guard Jarrett Jack said.
Nine months before that trip, owner Joe Lacob was booed mercilessly during Chris Mullin's halftime ceremony. Fans were ticked about a multiplayer trade that sent Monta Ellis to Milwaukee for center Andrew Bogut.
Bogut (ankle injury) hasn't done much. But the rest of the Warriors are off to a flying start. They're playing so well, Lacob can shrug off those eardrum-rattling boos.
"I'm not in it to be loved. We're not in it to be loved," Lacob recently told Bay Area News Group columnist Tim Kawakami. "We're in it to achieve something, which is to turn this franchise around, make it a winner."