The most surprising news event of 2013 was the botched rollout of HealthCare.gov, the Web portal to Obamacare.
Yes, I'm sure the partisans who have long derided President Barack Obama for the lack of management experience in his resume will tell you they saw it coming all along. But truly even they had to have been more than a little stunned at the high-tech pratfall given the three-year, all-the-king's-horses-and-all-the-king's-men effort that went into launching Obama's landmark expansion of health care.
Other controversies and unintended or inevitable negative consequences of the O'care rollout have been more predictable. But whether they augur long-term failure for the legislation is still too early to tell.
In Illinois, the most surprising news event this year was the reversal in the fortunes of Gov. Pat Quinn. A year ago it looked certain that he would be facing at least one and possibly three Democratic primary challengers for re-election because of his inability to break the legislative gridlock in Springfield. His political obituary was all but set in type.
Yet one by one, the potential and announced challengers stepped aside. The General Assembly passed a pension overhaul package and voted to legalize gay marriage. Now Quinn is resting on these laurels and saving his money as four would-be Republican challengers prepare to savage one another in the upcoming primary campaign.
What else was surprising about 2013?
Well, at the close of last year I asked readers to offer their predictions in a multiple-choice survey, a survey that I also completed.
On nine questions, most readers and I got it wrong:
Who would win the special election to replace U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Chicago? I predicted state Sen. Toi Hutchinson, D-Olympia Fields. Readers predicted former Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson. But the winner was former state Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Matteson.
Readers and I agreed that former White House chief of staff Bill Daley, brother of former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, would challenge Quinn for the Democratic nomination. But Daley dropped out of the race Sept. 17, less than four months after he got in.
We also agreed that the General Assembly would finally OK the perennial proposal to allow casino gambling in Chicago. Didn't happen.
We predicted the U.S. Supreme Court would significantly curtail the use of race-based affirmative action at public colleges and universities. And though the court did exhibit skepticism about the practice in its 7-1 opinion released in June, the justices didn't overturn affirmative action generally but sent the case in question back to the appellate court to see if there were alternative ways to diversify the student body that don't include race.
Would the president's approval rating be at or above 50 percent at the end of 2013? Readers and I thought so, but, see above, we didn't foresee how badly the debut of Obamacare would go. His approval ratings are in the low 40s in the most recent polling.
In sports, we didn't think the mediocre Bulls would get past the first round of the NBA playoffs. Yet they did, beating the Brooklyn Nets in the first round and even winning one game in the second round against eventual champion the Miami Heat.
Would the strike-plagued National Hockey League have to cancel the entire 2012-13schedule? A majority of readers and I said yes. But the NHL and the players union reached agreement shortly after New Year's Day and play resumed Jan. 19.
We emphatically predicted that, in a nod to shame, Jenny McCarthy's advice column would disappear from the pages of the Sun-Times in 2013. We were emphatically wrong.
And given how little snow fell on Chicago in December 2012, we predicted the city would see less than 30 inches for the entire winter, down from the average over the previous decade of 41 inches. The final total was 30.1 inches.
Readers beat me on just one question, but it was a biggie. I guessed that state lawmakers would be too cautious in 2013 to vote to legalize gay marriage, that they'd wait to cast a potentially risky vote until after the 2014 Illinois primary. Seventy-two percent of readers disagreed, and I'm glad they were right.
I beat readers on four questions: The tossup on the sex of Kate Middleton's baby (he's a boy, by George). I also went against public opinion and correctly predicted that Peoria Republican U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock would not run for governor; that Chicago Public Schools would, as promised, close more than 30 schools (it was almost 50); and that then-WGN-AM 720 talk show host Jonathon Brandmeier's morning-drive show would not last the year (his last day was Aug. 23).
And readers and I got it right on 11 questions: