Unfortunately, sports often make us cry—for the wrong reasons.
We cry when our teams blow huge leads, our favorite players go down with season-ending injuries or the leading scorer ditches town for a new locale.
Sometimes, though, sports make us cry for other reasons too. No, in the grand scheme of things, sports don't really matter. Winning or losing isn't life or death, but moments like these remind us that sports can mean a hell of a lot.
Sports can bring communities together and unite them around one common cause, or they can remind us that it's important to give back to those around you. They can also give us something silly and insignificant to get lost in when everything else is too hard to think about.
That stuff is worth crying over. Here are some of the most emotional sports moments of 2013.
The Make-A-Wish Foundation does a lot of awesome things, but this was perhaps the most awesome of all.
Late this year, Miles, a five-year-old leukemia patient from the Bay Area, made a wish to be Batkid for a day—and the entire city of San Francisco came together to make it happen.
He got to rescue a damsel in distress from cable car tracks, he got to capture the Riddler mid-robbery, he got to rescue the San Francisco mascot from The Penguin and, at the end of it all, he got a key to the city.
Part of the day included a stop at Giants Stadium:
An entire city came together to make this kid's wish come true. An entire city. Props to you, San Francisco.
The moment Ray Lewis announced that he'd retire after the Ravens' final postseason game in 2013, there were some of us who wondered whether Baltimore really could win it all.
It didn't seem likely. Joe Flacco hadn't exactly proven to be the clutchest quarterback of them all and the Ravens—who had lost four of five games in December—backed their way into the playoffs.
But something magical happened, courtesy of one of the greatest—and most polarizing—linebackers of all time.
Maybe he got his team to rally around O.J. Brigance—talk about emotional, watch this. Maybe he convinced them that they really were good enough to beat the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots on the road when it mattered most, despite what their record said.
All I know is that when Lewis finally hoisted the Lombardi Trophy during his very last moments in uniform, it was a pretty cool thing to see—and that's coming from a Patriots fan.
It's every sports fan's kind of the fantasy: One day, your favorite player will show up at your door and thank you for your dedication.
That really did happen to Angie LeRoy.
LeRoy, a 78-year-old cancer survivor, adored Donald Driver throughout his entire career with the Green Bay Packers. When he announced his retirement, she decorated the front door of her house to honor his 14-year career with Green Bay. A few days later, he knocked on that door.
Accoding to Fox 11, LeRoy didn't have tickets to Driver's retirement ceremony, so he brought the retirement ceremony to her, stopping in to give her a hug and making her dream come true.
Whenever one of the greats decides to call it a career, you always want that person to be able to go out on the highest note possible. Unfortunately, it rarely happens that way.
James Blake would have loved to be able to end his career with a U.S. Open win, but it just wasn't in the cards. In his final appearance, he was up two sets on Ivo Karlovic, but ended up losing the fifth-set tiebreaker—on an ace for the final point, no less.
With that, his career was over.
There was some solace, though, when those who remained for the former world No. 4's final post-match address rose to give him a standing ovation. He wasn't the only one who was teary-eyed.
Normally, sports are a way for people to forget about the more important things, however briefly. That's likely what the family of Sergeant Dale Dick was going for when it attended Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final in Chicago last spring.
It wasn't expecting to see the sergeant himself—who had been deployed in Afghanistan for nine months—standing next to Jim Cornelison during the national anthem.
Dick had reached out to the Blackhawks in the hopes that they would help him arrange a very special surprise for his wife, daughter and a son he had yet to meet. The Blackhawks obliged, setting up his family with tickets—and sending Dale out on the ice for the anthem, where his family would be sure to see him for the first time since he had been deployed.
Watch his daughter run up to him and hug him without crying. It's not possible.
This October, Washington Post reader Michael Stein was having lunch at an outside table at a sandwich shop in D.C. Nearby, a homeless man wandered from table to table, asking anyone who would listen if they could "spare a sandwich," as Stein put it.
Someone could: Wizards rookie Otto Porter Jr.
The former Georgetown standout got out of his car, went into the sandwich shop and reemerged with his own food as well as a sandwich, bag of chips and drink for the homeless man. Porter then sat with the man and they ate their lunch together.
Porter wasn't looking for kudos from anyone. He didn't even tell anyone about his random act of kindness. Someone just happened to see it and write in to The Washington Post about it.
It's rare to see Mike Ditka get emotional—or at least heartfelt-type emotional.
We see him get enraged fairly often. We definitely see him get angry-emotional. But when his jersey was retired by his beloved Bears late this year, it was something else entirely.
Ditka brought two championships to Chicago—one as a player and one as a coach—and in December, the Bears recognized him for all that he gave to the franchise. Ditka, quite obviously, was touched, and as one of the greatest coaches of all time thanked the city he loves, it was hard not to be touched as well.
For a long time, Andy Murray was dogged as the guy who just couldn't win the big one.
He had almost worked himself into the same echelon as the Rafael Nadals, Novak Djokovics and Roger Federers. Almost, but not quite, because he couldn't win a Grand Slam.
It's safe to say Murray has officially defeated that label.
Winning Wimbledon was extra special for Murray because it ended a 77-year winless period for Brits at Wimbledon. Murray won it for himself, but he also won it for Britain, becoming the first singles player able to do so in nearly eight decades.
At Centre Court, as Murray addressed all of those who were so elated to see him do so, he broke down in tears: "I understand how much everyone wanted to see a British winner at Wimbledon so I hope you enjoyed it. I tried my best."
Things haven't been awesome in Calgary for the last couple of decades.
Since the Flames won the Cup in 1989, they've suffered long stretches of futility, the most recent of which has lasted since the end of the 2008-09 season. Since that campaign, they've been unable to get back to the playoffs at all.
Last year, when it became clear that they wouldn't be doing much damage in the lockout-shortened season, they made a tough decision: setting their captain and face of the franchise free.
This month, Jarome Iginla—now with Boston—returned to Calgary for the first time since the Flames traded him to Pittsburgh, and there was no shortage of fanfare.
Not only did the home team honor him with a lengthy pregame tribute, but after the game ended, Iginla's Bruins teammates forced him back through the tunnel and out onto the ice to receive one last standing ovation from the crowd that adored him for over 15 years.
There are some times when it doesn't really matter which team you like. As a fan, you have to love Matt Kemp for doing this.
Earlier this summer, at the conclusion of a Dodgers-Giants series in San Francisco, L.A. outfielder Matt Kemp jogged over to the third-base line to shake hands with a fan sitting in the front row. Kemp then proceeded to sign a cap, take off his jersey and give it to the fan sitting there. He also gave the fan his shoes.
According to NBC4, the fan was 19-year-old Joshua Jones, who has been battling brain cancer for three years. "I'm still kind of amazed by it," Jones told the TV station.
Ted Kremer had the opportunity to be a bat boy for the Cincinnati Reds last April. Normally, the honor is reserved for people ages 15-19, but Kremer is the exception because he has Down syndrome.
The experience ended up being even more amazing than Kremer or his family imagined it would be because, when Kremer asked Todd Frazier to hit a home run for him, Frazier actually followed through.
"He’s so funny, he said, 'C’mon, hit me a home run, I love you.' I said, 'I love you too, I’ll hit you one,'" Frazier told the Cincinatti Enquirer.
The team also managed to get 11 runs and 11 strikeouts to fulfill Kremer's other wish: free pizza.
There are comeback wins, and then there is what Oracle Team USA did this fall.
The team pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in sports history to win the America's Cup, rallying back from seven-point deficits—twice—to pull off a 9-8 victory.
It was Team USA's eighth consecutive victory, but it didn't come easy: The team had to win 11 races in order to keep the trophy in its possession after being docked two points for illegally modifying boats.
The win may not have been received with the same fanfare as the Boston Red Sox's comeback over the New York Yankees after being down 3-0 in 2004, but it was definitely on par in the grand scheme of sports.
Daniel Rodriguez's road to the gridiron wasn't an easy one, but he made it there.
The Clemson wide receiver has seen his fair share of heartache. According to FanSided, his father died of a heart attack four days before his high school graduation. He enlisted in the Army shortly thereafter because college wasn't really an option.
He was deployed to Baghdad, then to Afghanistan. Upon returning, he was awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star after fending off an attack that killed eight of his friends.
When he returned from war, Rodriguez enrolled in community college and eventually transferred to Clemson, where he caught Dabo Sweeney's eye and walked on to the football team. This year, in Week 13—which also happened to be Military Appreciation Day—he caught a two-yard touchdown reception.
Given how hard he worked to catch that ball, there wasn't a dry eye in the house watching him do it.
This September, Master Sergeant Joseph Martel returned from overseas a month earlier than expected, and he wanted nothing more than to surprise his son Justin.
Martel showed up at one of Justin's football games and donned the uniform of the opponent. Then, in between the third and fourth quarters, the referee brought players from both teams to midfield to have a quick huddle and talk about sportsmanship.
It was then that Martel took off his helmet and stood in front of his son, who stood speechless for several moments before enveloping his dad in a bear hug.
This summer, Lateef Brock finally got the call he'd been waiting for: It was then-Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan informing him that he'd been drafted by Washington and would be expected at minicamp the following week.
Brock, an eight-year-old suffering from chronic kidney disease, was more than happy to oblige. He showed up at camp, signed a one-day contract and became a Redskin.
Brock visited the locker room, tried on London Fletcher's helmet, hung out with Alfred Morris and—best of all—got to play catch with his favorite player, Robert Griffin III.
During that day's session, he got to run the last play of the day, taking a handoff from Rex Grossman and sprinting toward the end zone, where an elated Griffin waited to congratulate him.
During last year's spring football game, Jack Hoffman's dream came true: He scored a touchdown as a member of the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
The now-eight-year-old, who was battling a brain tumor, played in April's intrasquad game and was able to score the most exciting 69-yard touchdown the team saw this year.
His effort was definitely one of the most heartwarming moments of the year in the football landscape. The footage of his feat has earned more than 8 million hits on YouTube and was named Best Moment at this year's ESPYs.
Very best of all, the Associated Press (h/t SI.com) reports that Hoffman is now in remission.
The bombings at the 2013 Boston Marathon cast an undeniable pallor over the city of Boston and left many of its residents feeling hopeless and terrified.
David Ortiz was one of the many athletes who helped those people remember that sports—and their most colorful personalities—could and would help the city heal.
On April 20, just days after pressure-cooker bombs killed three and maimed hundreds of others at the Boston Marathon, Ortiz stood in the infield at Fenway Park and addressed the home crowd.
With an American flag billowing in back of him and law enforcement officials, first responders, race participants and volunteers standing by, Ortiz issued the declaration that came to be the rallying cry for Boston as it moved forward from the horrific attacks.
This year, the world of baseball bid farewell to one of the very best players—and very best people—the sport has ever known.
It's rare that a player who suits up for one of the most polarizing teams in the sport can also end his career as one of the most beloved players in the sport, but that's Mariano Rivera for you.
The Yankees closer, who played in pinstripes from 1995-2013, would end his career as a 13-time All-Star, a five-time World Series champion and MLB's career leader in saves.
But before New York—and the rest of the baseball world—could say goodbye to perhaps the most dominant reliever in history once and for all, it had to do something special. That's why the Yankees sent Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte to the mound to remove Rivera, so he could salute the Yankee Stadium crowd one last time.
No, in the grand scheme of things, sports don't mean very much. They're inconsequential. Still, a victory can make people feel really, really good.
The Red Sox, therefore, made it their mission to do anything they could to make the entire city of Boston feel good again in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings. So they went out and brought the World Series trophy back to Boston.
One of the most special moments of the championship celebration came during the Rolling Rally on November 2, when Jonny Gomes exited his duck boat to place the World Series trophy—draped with a Red Sox jersey reading "Boston Strong 617"—at the marathon finish line.
The crowd followed the gesture with a rendition of "God Bless America."
Boston is a vibrant city filled with vibrant people. But in the days following the Boston Marathon bombings, all of that seemingly disappeared. The city was stricken with grief, shocked by the horror of what had happened at the site of perhaps the most beloved sporting event the city hosts.
On April 17, two days after the bombing, the city held its first major sporting event following the tragedy. The Bruins took on the Buffalo Sabres at the TD Garden and the crowd was filled with people who were determined to stay strong, despite the circumstances.
Before the game, when anthem singer Rene Rancourt approached the mic to deliver "The Star-Spangled Banner," he stepped aside after just a few words and let the fans take over for him. What followed was simply one of the most unforgettable moments of the year.