Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Statistical Quo

Before last week's Steelers-Giants NFL game, the analysts predictably debated, "Who's the better quarterback? Eli Manning or Ben Roethlisberger?" And equally predictably, the first method of comparison was, "How many championship rings do they have?"

The use of championships to measure an athlete's greatness doesn't make sense. We hear over and over that a player has plenty of talent, but can't be called great unless he's won a title. But by evaluating athletes based on their championship rings, many equally important aspects of athleticism are ignored. This is especially true of team sports, where these debates about relative greatness are the most subjective.

The greatest athlete in a team sport might never have a chance to play in a championship, because with every passing year, there's a greater degree of parity across team sports-the supply of quality athletes is expanding. Thanks to advances in training, kids are ready for professional leagues sooner, and careers are being stretched longer and longer as veterans can keep their bodies in top condition. This increased pool of talent means more competition across the board.

With this increased parity, the winner of a championship comes down to many factors that are outside the control of any individual: the referees, weather conditions, and coaching adjustments, to name a few. Granted, both teams are equally susceptible to these factors, but there's no denying that the best team doesn't necessarily win every single championship. Winning at the highest level, therefore, requires a healthy helping of good fortune, in addition to dedication and talent.

Furthermore, how can a team's success or lack of success be a reflection of one person? Comparing quarterbacks based on Super Bowl victories is far too simplistic a way to look at sports. A quarterback is only as great as his offensive line, receivers, running game, and coaching staff allow him to be. The same goes for any team sport. A championship is won or lost by the team as a whole, and the connection of team success to individual greatness is tenuous at best.

Sports aren't meant to be read about or written about-they're meant to be seen. Greatness, as a result, should be measured by how an athlete makes you feel when you watch him perform, not by what his stat sheet says. Statistics, even wins and losses, can also be misleading. And when an athlete only gets a few chances to play in a championship, those few games are far too small a sample size. Yet, an athlete's number of victories is often the be-all, end-all for determining his placement among the greatest of all time. An athlete's championship victories should be merely a piece of a much larger puzzle, not the absolute truth as is so often argued today.

Being an athlete is a results-driven job, but to lose sight of an athlete's artistry is to ignore what it is that captures the imagination in the first place. A child watching Michael Jordan, Ronaldo, or Barry Sanders play for the first time doesn't care about how many trophies they have. What matters, what resonates, is the amazing things that athletes can do, and the exhilaration of bearing witness to greatness.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

NFC Divisonal Preview

NFC Divisional Round Preview

Packers @ Falcons

The NFC matchups might not have the deep-rooted bitterness of the AFC games, but that doesn’t make them any less compelling. Falcons v. Packers will see the two best young quarterbacks in the league face off, in what is a preview of a rivalry we could be watching for years to come. Aaron Rodgers won his first ever playoff game in Philadelphia last week and Matt Ryan will try to emulate the feat in the Georgia Dome, where he is 18-2 in his career.

This is such a tough game to call because both of these teams are so good and so complete. There are two aspects of the game that really set the two apart. It’s a wash at quarterback and receiver, but the Falcons have the advantage in the running game with Michael Turner. Turner is so consistent, game to game and play to play. He may not get too many spectacular runs, but he will take whatever you give him and an extra yard or two as well. For Matt Ryan, having a running back that can be counted on to keep the offense on schedule is a huge advantage and it means that Atlanta’s offense can get in a rhythm and become really hard to stop.

Green Bay has an offense that is pretty hard to stop in its own right, but they haven’t had the balance that the Falcons have enjoyed. Playing in a dome means the running game is not as crucial as it could be, but it’s an old cliché, and a true one, that running the ball is so important in the playoffs. The Packers have struggled to get anything going on the ground after losing starter Ryan Grant in the first game of the season, but they have a new hope in the shape of rookie running back James Starks, who ran for 123 yards against the Eagles, averaging 5.3 yards-per-carry.

So the guy has one good game and all of a sudden he’s the answer? Well…yes, he very well could be. A closer look at James Starks’ recent history paints a picture of a guy that could have just needed the chance to perform. First, take a look at his body of work this season. Apart from last weekend, Starks only appeared in two games. In week 12, he ran for 73 yards, averaging 4.1 yards-per-carry in his debut against the Niners. A week later he had a bit of a dud, only gaining eight yards on six carries. He didn’t play again until last week. So he’s 2 for 3 so far, which isn’t too bad, especially when one of the two is in the playoffs. In college, Starks was a standout runner in the MAC, but missed his senior season with injury, something that hurt him in the draft, where he was taken in the sixth round. Speaking of the draft, go find the top performers from the combine. Starks is listed as a top performer, not the top performer but a top performer, among running backs in five of the seven drills. He wasn’t spectacular in any one, but very solid across the board, outperforming the more highly touted Ryan Matthews, for one. Now, I’m not one to place a ton of meaning on the combine, but when you couple those numbers with a pair of promising performances, you get a picture of a running back who could be something. The Packers don’t need a spectacular runner, just someone to hit the holes hard and take some of the pressure off of Aaron Rodgers…I think James Starks can be that guy.

The second factor that sets these teams apart is on defense. The Falcons have a solid but decidedly unspectacular unit, averaging in the middle of the pack in most categories. The Packers, on the other hand, have a truly elite unit. The Packers are really versatile on defense and can put pressure on the quarterback from so many different places. Unlike the running game, there’s no white knight on the horizon for the Falcons and they give up a decided edge, on paper, to the Packers.

Tough to call, but I’m going to go with the Packers to go into Atlanta and beat the Falcons. I just think they have something a little extra and are more capable of doing something unexpected and explosive, on both sides of the ball. I know that Matt Ryan has been great at home, but I’m not going to get carried away with his record at home. 18-2 is a very impressive number, but if you look at each game that was played…I mean, the Falcons are a good team, they expected to win a lot of those games at home. It’s still impressive, but it doesn’t make the Falcons invincible in Atlanta.

Seahawks @ Bears

I began my preview of the Seahawks first playoff game by asking whether I should even bother writing about the game. Such was the overwhelming feeling of futility that surrounding the Seahawks. We all know how that turned out and there can’t have been many people that went 4-0 with their playoff picks last weekend.

I should learn from that performance last week, that these guys are all professionals, that they are only men and on any given day anything can happen. What happened on that day is the Saints defence was completely exposed. The Lynch run stands out as a celebration of terrible tackling, but that wasn’t the only let down from the Saints. When you go back and watch the highlights, every Seahawks touchdown came from a glaring breakdown in the Saints secondary. Yes, the Seahawks were gutsy, yes, Hasselbeck was great and yes, the Saints were epically bad on defense.

The Seahawks are heading into a completely different situation this weekend. That Bears defense is truly elite and there won’t be any gimmes. Add to that the Soldier Field turf, which is much slower than the fake stuff and the Seahawks are going to have to win a hard-hitting game where every yard is tough one. I don’t think they can. There’s no reason to expect the Seahawks to improve on a defensive performance which saw them give up 36 points, but it would be a shock if they score 41 against the Bears in Chicago.

From the Bears side, this is a game that they have to win. They can’t have any excuses against a 7-9 team that is so much better at home than on the road. The Seahawks snuck up on a complacent Saints team, I would be shocked if the Bears come out flat in this one. On a personal level, Jay Cutler has not yet been accepted fully into the brotherhood of the elite quarterback. A nice playoff run would go some way to remedying that, a loss to the Seahawks? Unthinkable.

I know, I know. I didn’t want to write about the Seahawks last week and I barely wrote anything this week. I have no analysis or numbers to point to. I just don’t think the Seahawks are that good. I have no faith. I’m taking the Bears to break the slipper at home.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

AFC Divisional Preview

NFL Playoff Preview: AFC Divisional Round

Ravens @ Steelers

The AFC is blessed with dream divisional matchups and it doesn’t get much better than Steelers v. Ravens. The division rivals will meet for the third time this season, having split the regular season series. The Ravens have already won in Pittsburgh this year and they’ll have to repeat the trick. It’ll be a lot tougher this time around; Big Ben wasn’t around for the Week 4 meeting in Pittsburgh, serving the last game of his suspension for extra-curricular activities. Big Ben did return for a Week 13 matchup, which the Steelers won, Roethlisberger’s sixth win in a row over the Ravens.

When you look at these two teams, you have to start, as they do, with defense. The Ravens D was increasingly dominant as the game wore on against Kansas City, holding the Chiefs to just 25 (!) yards in the second half. Baltimore forced five turnovers and the offense took advantage, scoring 10 points directly off of turnovers and adding another three after the Chiefs were stopped on 4th down at midfield. As good as this Ravens defense has been over the years, there’s no question that they’ve slowed down a bit with age. The speed of that defense, especially the front-7 is a worry for the Ravens, both in containing running backs and getting to the quarterback. The Ravens inability to get sacks, they ranked in the bottom-6 in the league in that category, could be huge against the Steelers offense, whos biggest weakness is an inability to protect the quarterback. Jamal Charles averaged over 9 yards-per-carry in the Wildcard Round and looked too fast for the Ravens to handle…only the Chiefs know why he only ran nine times. Rashard Mendenhall has been kind of hot and cold this year, but he still finished with over 1200 yards and 13 TDs. Mendenhall definitely has the ability to make plays and is the kind of quick, elusive back that could trouble the Ravens. If they are forced to bring a safety into the box to stop the run, they open themselves up to Mike Wallace, one of the fastest receivers in the game, over the top.

On the other side of the ball, the Steelers had a first round bye, and their defense needed it. The Steelers limped into the playoffs with injuries to safety Troy Polamalu, linebacker Lamar Woodley with DE Aaron Smith. All of those guys are important to that defense, but having Polamalu, in particular, as healthy as possible is huge for the Steelers. Polamalu is the best safety in football and when he’s playing, his value to the Steelers cannot be overstated. For everyone out there who has any questions regarding Joe Flacco, this is the game for them to be answered, one way or the other. We’ve seen this year that to have success against the Steel Curtain, you have to be able to go through the air. Good luck running the ball against a 3-4 defense that boasts maybe the best linebacking corps in football. I think the Ravens success or failure will be on Joe Flacco’s shoulders and whether or not he can make plays with his arm.

Those of you who read my Wildcard preview, first of all I appreciate all 8 of you, second of all you know I’m not sold on this Ravens team. They beat the Chiefs soundly, but I don’t see a repeat in Pittsburgh. I just think that all of the Ravens weaknesses: not explosive on the outside on offense, can’t get to the quarterback, general old-and-slowness…they all play right into the Steelers hands. The Steelers offense has fast, young, playmakers in Mendenhall and Wallace; the Ravens aren’t fast on D. The Steelers struggle to avoid sacks, but the Ravens don’t get sacks. The Ravens don’t get big plays from their receivers; you have to go outside against the Steel Curtain. Don’t get me wrong, history and experience tells us that this game will be a war of attrition, probably settled by a single score, but I think the Steelers are the better team, have home field advantage, have the better matchup, have the better quarterback and will win this game on Saturday.

Jets @ Patriots

AFC Divisional Game #2…Bitter Divisional Rivalry #2…could it be any better? The Jets come into this game riding high after beating Peyton Manning and the Colts in Indianapolis. They’ve beaten 1b of the best quarterbacks of this generation, now they’ll have to deal with 1a.

The Jets looked pretty good against the Colts and it never really felt like they were going to lose the game. With that said, they still had to go out and win it and having Mark Sanchez lead a last minute drive to win the game is just what Jets fans will have wanted to see. For all they did well against the Colts, the Jets should be a little concerned with where they’re at right now. They had a lot of success on the ground against the Colts, Revis Island was in full effect, holding Reggie Wayne to 1 catch, Freeney and Mathis were nearly invisible and the Jets looked like the better team. What’s wrong with that? For all those good things to be true, playing against a Colts team that wasn’t really all that good this year, a Jets team that was really for real would not have needed a last second field-goal to win the game. That may sound nit-picky, but they’re not getting ready to play the rest, they’re getting ready to play the best in Bill Belichek, Tom Brady and the Patriots.

It’s funny. The Patriots feel like they’ve been around forever, while the Jets have really come to life in the last couple of seasons, but the Jets are really the veteran team in this game. Apart from the quarterbacks, the Jets have a lot more experience, which could help them in the playoff atmosphere. I think the Pats are better, but I could see a circumstance where the Jets come in warmed up after their Wildcard game and surprise the Patriots a little bit. To do that, the Jets have to keep Brady off the field, especially early. We know Brady’s not getting rattled, you can’t say the same for a lot of those guys on the Patriots sideline.

Once Brady is in rhythm, he’s almost impossible to stop and this Pats offense is one that is suited to do well against the Jets. The Jets have great corners in Revis and Cromartie, we’ve seen Revis take big-time receivers completely out of the game time after time. The thing about the Patriots is that their best receiver is whichever one is open. They can hit so many different guys in the passing game, from Deion Branch to Wes Welker, the young tight-ends and Danny Woodhead out of the backfield. They don’t have one guy that Revis can zone in on and really hurt them. If they do, it’s Wes Welker, but he’s not the kind of guy that Revis excels covering. Revis is best against the more traditional, big and fast guys, something the Pats don’t have.

I’d be really surprised if this game isn’t a lot closer than the previous meeting, but the Jets are up against it to win in New England. The Pats just look like a really complete team and I’m not sure Mark Sanchez is ready to win this game yet. Sanchez hasn’t been getting a lot of help lately either…Santonio Holmes has dropped a lot of balls recently and Dustin Keller spent more time crying for PI calls than catching passes against the Colts. Is the Jets running game and defense enough to beat the Pats? I don’t think so, I’ll take the Patriots at home in this one.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

NBA Ruminations

Ruminations on the NBA

1.a. Is it just me or is that Laker purple and gold starting to look a little outdated?

1.b. On a separate and completely unrelated note, how did I never notice how dope the Clippers logo is before?

1.c. I’m setting the over/under on when the Clippers are the more relevant LA team at 3 years. I’ll take the under. I can see it now. Jan. 1, 2012 will be an unprecedented news day. The moon will eclipse the sun, Las Vegas will freeze over and the Clippers will leapfrog the Lakers in the Western Conference standings with a home win over their city rivals at Staples.

2. What’s up with Lebron and his constant flip-flopping on the dunk contest? First there weren’t any dunkers worthy of his competition, then Blake Griffin comes around and LeBron wants no part. Now he’s talking about the ‘wear and tear on my body.’ From a dunk contest, give me a break. If you don’t want to do it, just say so. I think LeBron just likes the attention, having people fawning over him begging him to enter. As is so often the case, I have no problem at all with LeBron’s actions, just how he goes about them.

3. How do some of these trades happen? Stan: Ok, I’ll give you a declining, injury prone, underachieving 2-guard, a shut-down defender who's not a great defender and an above average backup centre for your best player not named Steve Nash and a guy who’s way more valuable to me than any other team in the league, including yours. Alvin: Hmm, there’s no way I’m seeing you in the playoffs, why not? Highway robbery.

NFL Playoff Preview - Wildcard Weekend


Jets @ Colts

These teams meet in the playoffs for the second straight season, but with a totally different dynamic. The perception of these two teams has really changed since last season. The Colts aren’t a Super Bowl favourite anymore and really struggled with injuries this season, losing Bob Sanders, Dallas Clark and Austin Collie. Injury problems are nothing new in Indianapolis, but a struggling Peyton Manning is not something Colts fans are used to. The Colts picked up their game late-on to hold on to their division crown, but this is still the most vulnerable Colts team we’ve seen in a while. The Jets are almost a perfect polar opposite of the Colts, but come into the playoffs with a similar feel. Last season the Jets were the supreme underdogs, backing into the playoffs thanks to the Colts quest for imperfection. This year could not have been more different. Big offseason acquisitions Braylon Edwards, Santonio Holmes and LaDanian Tomlinson had the New York hype machine operating at full capacity. Things haven’t really gone as planned for the Jets. Their defence is nowhere near as good as it was and Mark Sanchez has struggled to produce consistently at quarterback. Like the Colts, the Jets aren’t where they thought they’d be as a team this season. These teams are like a couple of old Alfa Romeos, they could perform beautifully and look fantastic…or they could burst into flames. I think this one comes down to has it going on the day, because neither team is a great matchup for the other. The Colts have shown recently that they can stop the run, but they have to really sell out to do it. On his day, Mark Sanchez can take advantage of that, but his days have been few and far between this season. On defence, the Jets look like they have the personnel to counter the Colts receivers, but they’ve struggled to get to the quarterback this season and their linebackers could struggle to contain the Colts running backs catching out of the backfield. This is really hard to call, but I think the Jets just edge this and take revenge for last year. They have more balance on both sides of the ball, but it’ll be up to Mark Sanchez to keep them on schedule and Peyton Manning off the field.

Ravens @ Chiefs

This one is really interesting and this is the only game where there is a possibility of a bit of an upset. There aren’t a lot of people giving the Chiefs much credit coming into the playoffs, while the Ravens have been a popular Super Bowl pick for much of the season. I don’t see that at all. The Ravens are not in the same class as the Patriots and even the Steelers, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they lost this. The Chiefs are an excellent home team, going 7-1 at Arrowhead this year. Their one loss came in Week 17 against the Raiders. The Chiefs were disappointing in that one, getting blown out by a Raiders team that will miss the playoffs with playoff seeding on the line. I’m not overly concerned with that loss though. Yes, the Chiefs had seeding on the line, but I think, psychologically, the Raiders had more motivation to win that game. The Chiefs were already in the playoffs and when you’ve never been there before, as is the case with most of the team, I’m not sure you’re overly concerned with seeding, you’re just happy to be in. Conversely, the Raiders needed the win to get to .500 and were playing a division rival. Week 17 will have felt way more important to the team that won’t be playing again this season. Taking a look at how these teams matchup, a lot of football analysts have talked about how, to play defence against the Chiefs, you need a shutdown corner to take away Dwayne Bowe so you can concentrate on stopping a great running game. I’m not sure the Ravens have that shutdown guy and, in general, that Ravens defence is not what it once was. In my opinion, the Ravens are one of the most overrated teams in the NFL and it starts with the perception of their defence. The Ravens D is loaded with superstar names, how many superstar players it has is a different matter. It’s still a very good unit, but are they great? I haven’t seen it. On offence, the Ravens have a lot of talent but they aren’t very explosive, which plays right into the Chiefs hands. The Chiefs want to control the clock and pace of the game. If you can put points up you can disrupt their rhythm and they aren’t the same team. I’m not sure the Ravens can do that unless Ray Rice makes some big plays. I think the Ravens are the better team overall, but Chiefs have a great chance to make some noise at home and I’m picking them to upset the Ravens in a nail biter.


Packers @ Eagles

This is probably the most mouth-watering prospect on Wildcard weekend. The Packers beat the Eagles in the season opener, but so much has changed for both teams since then. The Packer have lost all kinds of key players to injury, but seem to be peaking at just the right time, coming into the playoffs on the back of two big wins in must win games against dangerous teams in the Giants and Bears. Their defence has played really well this year and I think that match-up, the Packers D vs. Michael Vick and the Eagles, is the one that will decide this game. Aaron Rodgers is one of the best quarterbacks in the league right now, perhaps behind only Brady and Manning and arguably only Brady. He will make plays against anyone, running game or no running game. Last season he made all the plays, but the Packers D couldn’t do anything to stop Kurt Warner and the Cardinals and the Packers ended up losing that year in overtime. Rodgers fumbled that ball, but it was the defence that lost the game, how they perform against the explosive Eagles defence will be the key to how this game turns out. They certainly have the personnel to have success against Vick. They have excellent pass rushers at every level of their defence, highlighted by Clay Matthews, and we’ve seen that the way to contain Vick is to put him under pressure. The Packers also have a lot of high-motor guys, which will help them keep Vick contained. The Eagles probably aren’t thrilled with the shape they are in coming into the playoffs. Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson have both been banged up recently, but they did have a week of rest with and they will need to be at their best to beat a Packers team that has all the momentum. The Eagles rely on big plays and I think the conditions will be a big factor in this one. Wind, rain or snow could really slow this team down, and they’re all about speed. We saw in the game against Chicago what happens when the Eagles offence gets slowed down. All of a sudden Vick can become a liability with turnovers and they’re not nearly as effective. Hopefully the weather cooperates, because if both these teams are on song, we’ll be in for a classic. It’s too close to call so I won’t even try. Normally I would just pick the team I like better, but as a neutral how can you not like both these teams?

Saints @ Seahawks

Should I even bother writing this one? I’m on a plane right now and I’m struggling to motivate myself to keep typing in a less than ideal position. Honestly though, I can’t see any way the Saints don’t win this one. The Seahawks have a great home crowd, but that can only count for so much and the gulf in class between these two teams is huge. The Saints have been pretty under the radar this year, what with the Young Bucs and the Falcons winning the division. Make no mistake; this Saints team is very much for real. They had a bit of a hangover at the beginning of the season, but they’ve rallied and are back to their best, as they proved by going into Atlanta and beating a Saints team that is great at home and was trying to lock up a first round bye. The defence isn’t forcing as many turnovers, but may actually be playing better than last year, Drew Brees is still a superstar quarterback with a bevy of weapons, Reggie Bush will only get healthier and Sean Payton is still calling the plays. Super Bowl winners traditionally struggle the next year, but I don’t get that sense of complacency from the Saints and they’ll be dangerous again this year. On the other hand, the Seahawks truly backed into the playoffs, despite ending the season with a playoff and division clinching win over the Rams in Seattle. I was really disappointed by that game, by the way. I knew I wasn’t going to be watching the two best teams, but I kinda thought we might see a bit of a barn burner. You know, thrills and spills. Instead it looked like what it was: a game between two 7-9 teams that has very little bearing on the big picture. The Seahawks will come to play, but I don’t know if that will stop them getting blown out.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

2010: Year in Review

When I sat down at my computer, the idea was to write two columns: the best things in 2010 and the worst. I thought I’d start with the good things, just to prove to myself that I’m not a cynical wet blanket. After staring at the wall for a couple of minutes, I couldn’t really think of anything from the previous year in sport that really stood out to me. It was a year of scandals and disappointments, sports icons fell down to earth at an alarming rate and the ‘best’ stories of the year were good in the worst kind of way, the way that a car accident in interesting. Maybe I am just too cynical, but take a look back with me and reminisce about the year that was.

The year began with conclusion of the 2010 NFL season. What problem could I possibly have with the beleaguered city of New Orleans winning its first Super Bowl, having a much needed day of happiness and celebration after the struggles of Katrina? No problem. But what stood out to me from those playoffs was not how good they were, but how much better they should have been. As I wrote at the time, the NFL had to change the overtime rules because football is just not a sudden death kind of sport, especially if you allow field goals. Playing that way changes the whole dynamic of the sport and makes for anti-climactic endings to great games. In this case it was in the NFC Championship game between the Saints and Vikings that ended with a whimper. A true classic saw two great teams go back and forth for four quarters. At the end of regulation, Bret Favre, enjoying what wasn’t even really a renaissance season, since it was his best ever, threw an interception to cost the Vikings a field goal attempt to win it. As we moved into overtime, we should have been treated to more of the same: two great offences, two great defences, two great quarterbacks slugging it out for the chance to go the Super Bowl. What did we get? The Saints win a coin toss, get a good kick return, make two first downs, get a pass interference call, then kick a field goal. I’m sure fans in New Orleans were going crazy, I’m sure fans in Minnesota were heartbroken, fans everywhere else couldn’t help but feel pretty letdown by a limp ending to a great game. You don’t want to see the Saints try and score a touchdown, see if Bret Favre can redeem himself? Of course you do, but that’s not what you get. Thankfully the rules have been changed and I really like how they’ve structured the format. The new rules will keep teams playing real football until the end which will give these great games the endings they deserve.

From the Super Bowl we moved on to the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. The Olympics are good right? Peoples from different cultures coming together, beautiful moments of life-long dreams coming true, it’s all good stuff. But then a Georgian luger dies before the games had even started. Not only a tragedy in its own right, the accident also turned every event on the altered track into a joke since the course was too short to mean anything. The games themselves moved on and we as sports fans, and Canadians or Americans or whatever had all those good moments we were expecting, but does any of that make up for some poor guy dying at the Olympics?

Winter turned to spring and then summer and before we knew it, the FIFA World Cup was upon us. I’m a football fan first and foremost, so the World Cup really is heaven for me…a full month of great entertainment almost every day, and a reasonable excuse for drinking by before noon regularly and showing up late for just about anything. “Sorry I’m late boss, I was just watching the Brazil game.” No problem at all? Excellent. So it’s summer and I’m watching the World Cup with a big smile on my face, but then the group games are a little disappointing, not really a good one out of all of them. That’s fine, I think to myself, it’ll heat up in the elimination rounds. But then…it doesn’t. Brazil v. Netherlands was quite good, not great, but good. Ghana v. Uruguay was incredibly exciting, but I was still waiting for that really quality World Cup experience of watching two sides that are a really good match for each other playing quality football. It never came. The final was one of the worst I have ever seen. The Netherlands looked like they didn’t belong on the same field as the Spanish. The tactics were an embarrassment to Dutch football…Total Football? More like Mixed Martial Arts.

While I’m on football, let’s not forget the 2010 African Cup of Nations, memorable for the machine gun attack that the Togolese team was subjected to. The Togolese withdrew from the tournament, completely reasonable…and were banned from the next two for it! Really? Yes, really.

Was absolutely everything bad? No. Some sports carried on their way, but nothing happened that stood out at all. The Lakers predictably won the NBA title, Chelsea, Barca and Inter Milan predictably won their respective leagues. Yawn.

Even when the competitions themselves aren’t that great there are always great individual performances to savour. Let me think…what individual performances stood out in 2010? I’m not going to expand on any of these because, quite frankly, I’m sick of talking and reading about them. Ben Roethlisberger sexually assaulted a college girl in a dirty bar, Michael Vick played good, after being in jail for torturing and killing dogs, Bret Favre proved he is completely selfish and over-dramatic, obliterating what shreds of good will he had left with NFL fans, then we found out he sent pictures of his penis to some girl while he was with the Jets, while his wife fought cancer, Tiger Woods turned out to not be the straightest arrow ever, but a sex-addict adulterer, whose numerous spotlight-hungry bimbo girlfriends we then had to put up with for far too long, Bret Favre’s consecutive starts streak ended, resulting in the ESPN football analysts engaging in one of the most nauseating displays of jock-riding ever seen on TV, Gilbert Arenas threatened his teammate with a gun, every baseball player took steroids, Lance Armstrong might have actually taken steroids. I almost forgot, Lebron James’ Decision 2010.

There’s a theme somewhere to found in this article, and I promise you it is not contrived at all. I’m not remembering things in a negative light to make for a consistent argument. This is absolutely how I feel about everything mentioned here. Here's hoping 2010 was better for you than it was for me. Here’s hoping 2011 is a new year.