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.

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