While cheerleaders may not affect the outcome of a game, they've come to play an increasingly important role in the culture of sports.

With the year coming to a close, we look back on the highs (and lows) of cheerleaders in 2012.

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It may not have the Olympics, but 2013 is set to be another action-packed year. Here's a preview of all the games and events to get excited for in the upcoming calendar year.

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By Amy Reinink
The Active Times

Whether it's a sense of self-doubt that creeps up in the middle of a long run or an impulse to hit the snooze button rather than wake up for a workout on a cold winter morning, it's a rare athlete who never suffers from a lack of motivation.

Not even the pros are immune, says Stephen Walker, a Colorado sports psychologist who has worked with a host of elite athletes, including Olympic track star Kara Goucher.

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Slideshow: Best Marathons To Run In America

The good news: The same sports-psychology tips that help the pros can work for weekend warriors, too. Walker offers a few suggestions below.

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These videos may only be a few minutes, but we can guarantee that they took days and often weeks to film. Thanks to these talented athletes, we have a better idea of what is possible with a ball and a little bit of creativity.

And these videos aren't just for show. They can pay off big time... as in, a tryout with the New York Jets.

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NBA stars found an intriguing way to make spectacles of themselves and gave us the Sports Fashion Trend of 2012: Geek-chic glasses.

Or should we say, geek-chic eyewear, since lenses are strictly optional.

Apparently it's all about using thick-rimmed frames as an accessory.

It didn't hurt that the NBA Finals featured four of the more prominent proponents of this look: Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant of the Thunder, and Dwyane Wade and LeBron James of the Heat.

Here's a look at the stars getting Urkel with it:

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NBA

"Every NFL Team in playoff position liked Christmas a lot ...
But the Grinches, whose seasons had already ended, did not!"

OK, that may not be the exact line from Dr. Seuss' "How the Grinch Stole Christmas!", but it might as well be. At the end of every NFL season, there are a group of teams fighting for the final playoff spots and a group of teams mathematically eliminated from the postseason.

But don't think the eliminated teams have nothing to play for. For some teams, there is no better feeling than spoiling an opponent's season. Keeping a rival out of the postseason can taste even better than Christmas Eve eggnog.

Here is a list of this year's potential grinches, who can steal Christmas from the "Whos" trying to make the playoffs. These teams will not have postseason football in their stockings, but all eight have a chance to make sure their opponents' do not have it either.

Note: Four of these teams lost to the Jets during the regular season. No wonder they may be bitter.

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Andy Reid, NFL

The Miami Heat allowed our intrepid reporter Jon Finkel to see what it would be like to share the big stage with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade -- sort of. For one night, Finkel donned the costume of Burnice, the faithful, yet rarely-seen wife of Burnie, the Heat's primary mascot.

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There are no shortage of adorable animal videos.

So to help you out, we've compiled the funniest, cutest and most heartwarming clips from the past year. Whether you like ducks that think they're dogs, or dogs that think they're humans, this slideshow -- with links -- is for you.

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Dog

There are few occurrences in sports as unexpectedly joyful as foul balls. You never know when a ball could come careening into the stands, and that bit of uncertainty adds a certain level of excitement to the game.

Some of the time foul balls are out of the reach of fans, but when fans have a chance to grab the ball, good things can happen.

Here's a review of the best (and worst) foul ball catches of 2012:

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MLB

Want to start an argument? Just talk about who does and doesn't belong in the Hall of Fame.

Well, here are the athletes who were inducted into the halls for football, baseball, basketball and hockey in 2012. Were these selections deserving or dubious? We're sure there's no shortage of opinion.

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MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL