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Perspective

2013: Strange days ahead?

Forecasting the stories that will captivate Boston and beyond over the next 12 months.

john hersey

AS THE GREAT PHILOSOPHER-MYSTIC DONALD RUMSFELD once said, the world presents many “known unknowns” — “things that we now know we don’t know.” That’s certainly true of 2013, most of which, in the Chinese calendar, will be the Year of the Snake. But I think it’s looking more like the Year of the Alternate Universe.

Medical marijuana will be legal in once-Puritan Massachusetts come January 1. Someone not named Tom Menino might become mayor of Boston for the first time since Jurassic Park. People will flock to cheer a winning Mormon campaign on the big stage. Country music will be the hottest ticket in town.

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The new year will surely bring plenty of familiar stuff, too: Jockeying among up-and-coming pols. Teeth-gnashing over the latest Red Sox experiment. Sharks in Cape waters.

In politics, chances are we’ll get another US Senate race. Not that anyone, except for maybe Scott Brown, wants one. But it’ll happen if President Obama taps Senator John Kerry for a Cabinet post; as I write this, that looks likely.

Menino’s decision on whether to seek a sixth term in 2013 looms just as large. In past years, the operative question has been: Will he or won’t he run again? This time it’s more: Can he or can’t he?

Menino, who will turn 70 on Thursday, has fought a series of health challenges since the last election. A prolonged hospitalization this fall (which included a new diagnosis of type 2 diabetes) has been the most serious. A Menino retirement — even those words feel funny to type — would spark a mayoral contest like the city hasn’t seen in decades.

Later in the year, look for the 2014 governor’s race to kick off in earnest. If Brown isn’t back in the Senate, will he run? Will Charlie Baker make another go? Tim Murray? Steve Grossman? Then there’s that pesky federal probe into patronage at the state Probation Department, which could bring more criminal charges — not to mention embarrassment — on Beacon Hill.

As for sports, the Patriots started this season slowly — was it the Uggs? — but our modern NFL dynasty has since shown brilliance. Can the enduring Tom Brady-Bill Belichick no-huddle bromance produce another Super Bowl title? Ask me February 3.

The Celtics are a mercurial bunch, but I’m told the team can soar if it finds cohesion and consistency — and if Rajon Rondo channels his explosive (and at times errant) creativity. The Green lost the sweet-shooting Ray Allen to the loathsome Miami Heat but picked up some promising newcomers.

A bigger sports story will unfold at Fenway Park, where the Red Sox will take the field behind John Farrell, their third manager in three years. A former pitching coach for the Sox, Farrell and general manager Ben Cherington have begun rebuilding the team under fandom’s watchful eye. They already know: Boston’s a goat or hero town.

The day after the Sox’ home opener in April, the Tony-award-winning smash musical The Book of Mormon begins a nearly three-week run at the Opera House. Next summer, Nashville descends on Fenway and Gillette Stadium, as country stars Jason Aldean, Miranda Lambert, Taylor Swift, Kenny Chesney, and Eric Church point their buses north for mega-gigs.

We’ll also be watching as NBC’s The Office — which made us proud of locals Steve Carell, John Krasinski, Mindy Kaling, and B.J. Novak — wraps it up after nine seasons, and as Ben Affleck vies for Oscar honors for his riveting CIA thriller, Argo.

Other stories to watch in 2013 include the prospect of a major school-reassignment plan for

Boston students, James “Whitey” Bulger finally being tried for murder, thousands of potentially tainted drug cases cycling through state courts, a spate of downtown development, and the Massachusetts Gaming Commission’s winnowing of casino plans.

Expect to see state leaders, too, agree on a far-sighted fix to our rickety public transit system. Actually, wait. I might not bet on that one.

Scott Helman is a Globe Magazine staff writer. E-mail him at shelman@globe.com and follow him on Twitter @swhelman.

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