Five (or so) Big Deals
It’s that time of the year. Time for everyone to roll out a “Top Ten” list. Everything from beer to foods to vehicles get a rating. It gets nauseating, but does allow for everyone else to argue how the list is blatantly wrong. This year has been eventful. Personally; concussion in January, new baby in June, ridiculous work schedule September – December. Elsewhere, the World went crazy – ISIS was taking over Syria and Iran, Sony got hacked for a stupid looking movie (and had its business put out for everyone to see), and Cuba just became America’s new little cousin. This doesn’t even take into account what I feel were the biggest stories – the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa (which didn’t “matter” to Americans until it landed on the shores), and the deaths of unarmed men at the hands of police officers (plus all that followed them). Throw in allegation of Bill Cosby being a serial rapist, and Boko Haram, and you have a year that is full of craziness.
But enough of that! I for one, am tired of the negativity and the turmoil. I want to have a somewhat lighter “Top Five” list. No, I’m not going to talk about movies – I may have managed to see 5 this year (Captain America, X-Men, Spider-Man, Lego Movie, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Hunger Games and Interstellar…I just counted them on my fingers, I just made it over 5). And I’ve only driven 3 cars this year, and they’re all too old to be on anyone’s list (note: my father-in-law did let me drive his 2015 Corvette, but something that terrifies you should not find its way onto a yearly roundup list). And I get the same things whenever I go out to eat; grilled salmon (or on a salad), chicken breasts or brisket. Not much variation there to rank. However one facet of my life was pretty cool this year; sports and my fandom. So here are MY top 5 (or so) happenings in the world of sports that I thought were pretty cool (or horrible). In no particular order…
1. The Kansas City Royals go retro
I live in Kansas City. I’m a transplant from Oklahoma City, but always liked the Royals, mainly because when I was a young baseball fan I wanted to be Bo Jackson and George Brett. As the years passed and those players left, I still held a place in my heart for the Royals. Now this was mainly due to the fact that they were hapless. In the five years that I’ve lived in the Kansas City area, the Royals had lost 87, 97, 95, 91 and 90 games between the 2008 and 2012 seasons. There’s only 162 games in a season, so yea, that’s a record of futility. Then something crazy happened. The Royals, who at one point were leading the American League Central (and guaranteeing the team’s first playoff birth since 1985), were losing in the away side of the 8th inning of the American League Wild Card Game. The Oakland A’s, who were themselves Division leaders during the year, appeared to have KC’s number. But the team battled back and won the game with a walk-off single by a player that was struggling since the All-Star break. What happened next was a run to the World Series that no one saw coming. Though it ended in defeat at the hands of the San Francisco Giants, the run was something special for a city that waited nearly 3 decades for a glimmer of hope from their baseball team.
2. World Cup 2014
A video like this gets the blood pumping hard (if you’re a soccer fan like me)! There were amazing moments by Clint Dempsey scoring in 30 seconds, James Rodriguez, Tim Cahill, Messi – the tournament was full of amazing moments. There was so much buzz surrounding the host nation Brazil and they’re star Neymar, that I actually thought that it sucked when he left the tournament with disc issues in his back. However, it was great to see just how much everyone, everywhere else in the world gets wrapped up in soccer. I hope that one day the US can embrace soccer more, because it can be a fascinating game (and miss me with the “the score can be zero” argument). This World Cup showed that the game is ready to take the next step in America, as even more watch parties and bandwagon fans came out than was seen in 2010.
3. LeBron goes back to Cleveland
This is only a story because of my hatred of the Miami Heat. I tolerate the Cavaliers. But it was good to see LeBron follow his own lane, and change teams again. Some will say that it “tarnishes” his legacy, but if you have the power to control where you work, go for it.
4. Richard Sherman and the Legion of Boom
In February, a puny team from Colorado was decimated by another puny team from Washington. The Seattle Seahawks won their first Super Bowl by obliterating the Denver Broncos, 43-8. What proved to be more exciting (and inciting) was what happened on January 12, when the Seahawks edged out the San Francisco 49ers. At the close of that game, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman made an amazing defensive play, and deflected a pass that was intended for 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree in the back of the endzone. Crabtree was in perfect position to win the game for San Francisco, but Sherman’s amazing play thwarted those plans. After celebrating with his teammates (which he had every right to do), he headed towards Crabtree to extend a hand and to congratulate him on a great game (NOTE: Sherman was mic’d up for the game, so the exchange was captured live), and can be heard saying “helluva game.” The invitation to shake hands didn’t sit well with Crabtree (not surprisingly), and he reacted by shoving Crabtree in the face. This exchange set off the instant diva that is an NFL DB, and the immediate (foolishly) postgame interview with sideline reporter Erin Andrews came across as thuggery. What followed were weeks of all kinds of talk, ranging from those who called the Stanford graduate Richard Sherman a thug (code word) and deplorable, to those who praised his candor. The arguing back and forth on what athletes, particularly black athletes should act publicly.
This was an interesting year for athletes, from the talk surrounding Sherman and his loud mouth, to the reports about teammates thinking that Seahawks QB Russell Wilson not being “black enough,” and the reaction that followed. There was the activism displayed by college and professional athletes in regards to the news in NW Ohio, Ferguson and Staten Island. This was the year of athletes making news outside of the sports arena. Which leads to…
5. AD, Ray Rice and the Swirl of Attention Surrounding Them
In February, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was seen (on camera) dragging Janay Palmer, his then-fiancee’s limp body from an elevator. Initial reports were that the two of them had a drunk argument while at an Atlantic City casino, and the end result was the two of them exiting that elevator in the now inauspicious manner. Both were arrested on simple assault charges for the altercation that occurred. This external (of the elevator) footage resulted in the NFL suspending the RB for 2 games. Many thought that this suspension was light from the start, stating that the NFL suspends players longer for marijuana use or DUIs. Then the other shoe dropped, and footage from inside of the elevator made its way to TMZ. The footage is difficult to watch – in part due to the graininess of the video, but mostly in part to the image of seeing Janay Palmer’s head snap back as she is punched in the face by her now husband. The release of the video immediately set off rounds of questioning about if NFL Commissioner Roger Goddell had seen this video when he handed out a 2-game suspension, which seems absurd to think someone could see that and still not fire someone indefinitely. Many called for his job as well. However, in the recent weeks Rice has been cleared of his indefinite suspension and allowed to pursue employment in the NFL again. It is hard to say whether teams will be willing to take a chance and hire him, but he is now eligible to attempt a comeback.
The other big story of the NFL year was the suspension, reinstatement and then suspension of All-World Minnesota Viking RB Adrian Peterson. I’ve already touched on my opinion of his suspension earlier this fall. The running back was arrested In September on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child, stemming from an incident in which he whooped one of his sons with a switch. The whooping left the child with marks to his back, legs, hands and scrotum, and led the child’s mother to file a complaint. In the recent weeks, Peterson has appealed (and lost) his right to be reinstated into the NFL, as well as recoup portions of his contract. He has even hinted at retirement, stating that he doesn’t want to be a part of an organization like the NFL. Only time will tell if “AD” plays again, but as a father, I hope that we don’t get to a place in this country where an employer has the right to tell an employee when and how to discipline a child. There are boundaries that must not be crossed, but my employer has no right to control what I do in my home, regarding my family.
– The Spurs win the NBA Finals by actually passing the ball.
Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli and Tony Parker were fine, but the real star of the Finals was Kawhi Leonard. He put on a clinic and helped the Spurs to dethrone the Heat.
– Landon Donovan goes out on top of MLS.
Despite being left off of this year’s World Cup roster for what was to be his swansong, Landon Donovan got to feel the magic of being an MLS Cup champion in his last game as a professional.
– The Washington Football team
I’m an avid listener (Little) of the Tony Kornheiser show. More than anything, I love hearing his angst regarding his hometown football team, the Washington Football team. Notice that I didn’t say their nickname. The name is, and will always be controversial. So much talk has surrounded the name recently that the National Congress of American Indians released this powerful and poignant video that aired during the Super Bowl. I love everything about the video, which depicts some of the same everyday struggles that Indians face, as well as the beauty that is Native American culture. The name debate took a bit of a backseat once all of the discipline issues broke out, but I personally feel that the day is soon upon us when this name will be removed. I have hated that name since I was taught its meaning in middle school (that it is synonymous with “dead or scalped Indian”). Debate surrounds that meaning, but I’m going to go with what I absolutely know; the name is offensive and a slap in the face to not only Native Americans, but to every group that has been told to “shut up” and accept “tradition.”
These are just a few of my thoughts on the year in sports. What are some of your favorite sports memories from the year?
Comment, disagree…share your thoughts below.
Merry Christmas! And until next time…