Here are the entirely subjective and yet supremely entertaining Top 10 SportsSlant Stories of 2012, and additional bits of information to stimulate thought and provoke conversation:
ONE: Now I’m ready to talk Lance. Unless you’ve been living in North Korea, by now you know the International Cycling Union (UCI) has stripped Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles, also smacking him with a lifetime ban from the sport of cycling (obviously, merely symbolic). He’s barred from competing in triathlons, as well.
I said it after the two Tour de France winners (Floyd Landis and Alberto Contador) following Armstrong were caught doping, “If it seems super human, it is super human.”
Unless you’ve been reeling in the anger of being duped, it’s nothing but entertaining to look back at the ways Lance lied. Check out this Nike ad, where Armstrong states it’s his body, he can do whatever he wants with it. (The article, by Jason Cohen, is worth a read as well.)
Or perhaps you can find humor in this feline’s advice for Lance.
And if you want an opinion on one of what must be a massive list of entities that benefited from Lance’s profitability, and therefore turned a blind eye, see this piece on Nike.
Some folks respect Armstrong with the statement, “Of everyone who was doping, Lance was the strongest.” Indeed, he utilized each and every training angle meticulously to give him the competitive edge – doping included.
He didn’t do it alone. Someone had to say, “Lance, everyone’s doping, but we have the financial plan to enlist the best minds of the business and a web of insiders and lawyers and doctors and publicity geniuses to pull off something impossibly grand.”
Was it Armstrong’s former team director, Johan Bruyneel, who had a list of connections and perhaps played a role in developing an elaborate system of test avoidance? Who was this partner in crime, who told Lance, “You survived cancer. People will give you the benefit of a doubt as a freak of nature, a hard worker, an underdog. Let’s do this.”
A self-declared “mastermind,” Bruyneel shared all sorts of wisdom in his book, You Might as Well Win: On the Road to Success with the Mastermind Behind Eight Tour de France Victories. Here’s the quote that preceeds chapter 16, on page 178:
I was still willing to risk losing to win. Something inside me would never settle for being in the middle.
Perhaps the book should be re-titled, You Might As Well Cheat. (He ought to at least add a chapter.) Seven of those victories were Lance’s; the eighth belonging to Contador.
I suppose we could just ask the man. The bottom of Bruyneel’s home page states, “Johan would love to help answer any questions you may have. Send him an email and he’ll get back to you shortly.” Let me know what he says.
And tune in to Oprah’s Next Chapter January 17 on OWN, when her interview with Armstrong airs. We already know he’s confessed, and many people are debating the pluses and minuses of his actions.
We do know this: Lance hasn’t been naïve or careless about anything he’s done since adolescence, when he once ate a donut and soda as his pre-race meal. Not a speck of doubt – the consequences of a confession have been precisely calculated.
Mainstream media is having fun with Armstrong. On the TV show The New Normal, bedroom curtains with bicycles for a little boy’s bedroom were declined because, you know – the Lance thing.
On Happy Endings, a character’s quote about a new dress label was, it could be “The hottest fashion item since Bicycle Joe Steroid little yellow bracelets.”
TWO: For those of you ready to knock out your own teeth over the 2012 National Hockey League lockout, there’s hope – sort of. The dispute is settled and a short season is on the horizon.
With this being the second lockout in a decade and global warming wreaking havoc on outdoor hockey ponds, the NHL might be one lockout short of oblivion. The popularity of the sport rests on mighty thin ice in the US as it is. Insulted fans have pledged to boycott the first several games of this short season. And if folks can’t play for free on outdoor ponds after school and work, they’re a lot less likely to develop athletic passions.
Nevertheless, it’s been entertaining to see how players and coaches filled their downtime. Penguins Captain Sydney Crosby showed up at a rec league ball hockey game and played goaltender. Former Rangers goaltender Mike Richter kept things going with a group of kids who played outdoor hockey in Manhattan in December with his Citi Mike Richter Hockey ProCamp. Here’s what a few coaches did.
THREE: The Giants, with closer Sergio Romo, swept the Tigers in the World Series in baseball. I like the Giants, but feel for the Tigers. It’s been so much longer since they’ve won – since 1984 – with only a season between titles for the Giants.
TV coverage of this past Summer Paralympics was respectable, giving viewers the chance to be grateful for what they take for granted, while pondering what it might be like to compete in swimming without sight, as did Lt. Brad Snyder, or like Summer Mortimer, who suffered a horrifying trampoline accident and broke all the bones in her feet.
FIVE: NFL replacement ref fiasco. The replacement refs hired to officiate the highest level of football in the country included high school- and college-level officials. Their term went on longer than folks expected, but there’s no rush to solve a labor dispute while fans continue to buy game tickets. After all, this is not the NHL.
The highest level of hockey I’ve officiated is Bantam, essentially the level below high school, and I assure you if someone asked me to work a college game, it’d be dangerous for all involved. Lower-level refs simply aren’t accustomed to the speed of such high-level games.
Replacement ref Lance Easley, a bank vice-president who made the infamous call between Seattle and Green Bay (touchdown Seattle), refs junior college games on weekends. On the Today Show he said he still stands by his call. He says he’s been a ref for “many, many years” and did receive some training by the NFL, and that the replacement refs did the best they could given the circumstances.
SIX: One of the most talented coaches of all time (since the Big Bang), Pat Summitt, retired after 38 years with the University of Tennessee women’s basketball program, diagnosed with early-onset dementia.
SEVEN: Bradley Wiggins became the first British winner of the Tour de France (soon after, winning gold in the Olympic Time Trial), while sprinter Peter Sagan deserves honorable mention as arguably the most entertaining cyclist in the Tour.
EIGHT: Michael Phelps made headlines – not just for winning his 22 total Olympic medals (we expected that), but for his golf putt. Whoda thunk Phelps, of all people, would hold the record for longest putt ever? Seriously, how many records should one person Bogart?
NINE: Augusta National has invited female members to its Golf Club for the first time. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and financier Darla Moore will be the first to represent.
TEN: If you’ve been wondering, “Now, why don’t she write?” a key SportsSlant staff member (yours truly) blew out her knee mountain biking in August, resulting in complete ACL reconstructive surgery using her patellar tendon, plus some meniscus and arthritic bone cleanup.
Arthritic bone isn’t just for old people, folks. If you play hard, you tear the body down. Play nice.
BONUS (‘Cause that’s how I roll): Bubba Watson won the Master’s the same week I saw his interview on Feherty, proving the potent phenomenon of “Feherty karma” (like Jungle karma) mixed with SportsSlant karma.
DOUBLE BONUS (Now it just feels cheap): On to someone with mad, mad skillz. This man obviously has the most core strength of 2012, in addition to impossible balance. Notice how he feather-kisses the landings – so light on his tires. I’m guessing that’s what makes them stick.
Here are the equally entertaining outtakes.
TIMBITS: Happy Birthday to us! As of the past October, SportsSlant is five years old. Please send gifts: Hendricks Gin, French macaroons, and Calvin Klein underwear (sm).