It’s that time of year.
No, not the holiday season.
Well, OK, it is the holiday season, but it’s something else, too.
The end of the year.
And with the end of the year comes columns and columns of lame lists reflecting on the past year.
So here’s mine.
12 Mistresses flirting
Actually, at last count, the number is up to about 15 women who have claimed an affair with Tiger Woods. His astonishing fall from grace has supplanted Barry Bonds and baseball’s steroid rage as the story of the decade, and it’s become impossible to turn away. And the story is far from over — when will Tiger come back to golf? (Three weeks before the Masters.) What kind of player will he be when he returns? (Dominant — and angry.) When will Elin divorce him? (Finalized July 2010, the week before Tiger wins by 1,476 shots at St. Andrews.) Will we ever revere athletes to this degree again? (Yes, as evident in last week’s fawning Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year article on Derek Jeter.)
Tom Watson, at 59, was on the cusp of perhaps the greatest sporting achievement in history until his approach shot from the 18th fairway took an improbable high bounce over the green. He chipped and needed to make a putt for par to win the British Open by a stroke, but missed badly and faded in a playoff to Stewart Cink. It was sports’ most devastating near-miss in… well, maybe ever. (I still can’t talk about this out loud. I thought about not including this at all. It hurt just to write it. Let’s just move on.)
10 Boring races
NASCAR’s Chase for the Cup doesn’t seem like it will have much drama as long as Jimmie Johnson is around. Until Danica wrecks him…
9 Yankees spending
A-Rod, Jeter, Sabathia, Burnett, Rivera, Damon, Matsui, Posada, Teixeira — nine Yankees players made at least $13 million for last season. (Andy Pettitte just missed the cut at $10 million). They cruised to the World Series title, their first in eight years, and while baseball isn’t as much about the money as we’re led to believe — yes, it’s about the money, but not just the money — the Yankees’ ability to cash in (or should it be cash out?) during last season’s hot stove period helped push them to the top again.
8 Bobcats trades
In his continued effort to make the Charlotte Bobcats relevant, Larry Brown has overhauled the roster three times over with a wide array of trades. So far, relevance eludes all, aside from one particular local sports talk radio show. (Note: this number could be nine, it could be seven, it could be 10, it could be six. Like I said, relevance eludes them. So let’s just say eight. Nobody cares; it’s the Bobcats.)
7 Title belts
Manny Pacquiao may be on the verge of resurrecting boxing all by himself (with a little help from Floyd Mayweather Jr. in March 2010). In 2009, Pac-Man was busy, destroying Ricky Hatton before demolishing Miguel Cotto for his seventh title, a first in the sport.
Now if only he could move up from welterweight to heavyweight, boxing would be back.
6 Tourney blowouts
North Carolina came into the college basketball season as a heavy favorite to win the NCAA championship. The Tar Heels lived up to the billing, winning each tournament game by at least 12 points, setting an NCAA record for something other than time outs unused.
5 Cardinals picks
The end of the 2008 Carolina Panthers season only foreshadowed what was to come in 2009. When Jake Delhomme was picked off five times against Arizona in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs, a 12-4 team built on defense and the running game went meekly into the night. Now, without hope for a savior at QB for a long time to come, the Panthers may be headed for darker times. I’m sure Chris Weinke is available.
4 Wins in Cameron
I know, I know. Another Tar Heels’ reference, this one about the four straight wins the Class of Hansbrough enjoyed at Duke. And yes, I could’ve gone with Jimmie Johnson here.
Whatever. My school. My column.
3 Drug tests failed
Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz. Three titans of the game.
2 Feet a-dragging
Remember when it seemed every Super Bowl ended in a 55-10 drubbing? Not lately. A year after the Eil and Tyree Miracle, Ben Roethlisberger scrambled, then lofted a pass to the back corner of the end zone. Santonio Holmes made a fingertip grab and tippy-toed his cleats in bounds to cap a thrilling last-minute drive to lift the Pittsburgh Steelers past the Cardinals and ensure that the apocalypse would be held off for at least another year. (’Cause surely the end would be nigh if the Cards ever win the Super Bowl, right? It’s in Revelation somewhere, I think.)
And a new team for Milton Bradley
Chicago Cubs fans are, by nature, a hopeful bunch. So maybe now after the team has found somewhere other than 1060 West Addison for the clubhouse cancer of all clubhouse cancers to play ball, fans of the North Siders won’t be singing the wait-til-next-year blues at spring training. (Too bad their current optimism is just the egg nog — or Old Style — talking.)