Let’s get a jump on awards season.
No need to fret over who you’re wearing. We don’t have the budget for a drum to roll, much less a red carpet to walk down.
But that’s not going to stop us from honoring the best — and, of course, worst — in sports for 2015.
Bring on the Newbys!
INSTAGRAM OF THE YEAR: Let’s start with someone who waited until the last possible moment to enter awards consideration. Clearly looking to remind people he still exists, former NBA All-Star and handgun aficionado Gilbert Arenas decided to give his thoughts on ways to make women’s hoops more popular. Rules changes? More marketing? Nah. Arenas took to Instagram this week with a bold suggestion — the players should wear skimpier uniforms. Now we know why he’s called Agent Zero. That’s his IQ.
PARDON OUR SLEEZE: In any other year, the New England Patriots would be a lock for the best performance by a villain. But we’ve got to go with those scoundrels at FIFA, who turned the game into their own personal bank account. Farewell, Sepp Blatter, the longtime chief of the governing body and apparent inspiration for Arenas. Yep, it was Blatter who once suggested that female soccer players wear tighter shorts. Turns out, that might the least of his offenses.
LETDOWN OF THE YEAR: Serena Williams was all set to put an emphatic capper on her remarkable career. After winning the first three majors of the year, she reached the semifinals of the U.S. Open on the cusp of the first tennis Grand Slam in nearly three decades. The only two players standing in her way were a pair of unheralded Italians. But Williams was stunned in the semifinals by 43rd-ranked Roberta Vinci, which left us all feeling a bit like Drake when that hotline don’t bling anymore.
THANKS FOR STOPPING BY: American Pharoah became the first Triple Crown horse in 37 years. Ronda Rousey finally got beat. Kudos to both. Now, there’s no reason to pay attention to horse racing or mixed-martial arts for the foreseeable future, freeing up more time for sports we actually care about.
ALL IN THE NAME: To give these awards an international flavor, we recognize the Japanese national rugby team and Bournemouth from the English Premier League for technical achievement in the field of nicknames. The “Brave Blossoms” bloomed at the Rugby World Cup, beating the mighty Springboks from South Africa in what was hailed as the greatest upset in the sport’s history. Then Bournemouth, a team playing in the fourth division as recently as 2010, beat powerhouses Chelsea and Manchester United in back-to-back games. Hail to “The Cherries!” Now, if we could just get rid of that offensive moniker attached to Washington’s NFL team.
ROSES SMELL LIKE POO-POO-OO: You’ve got to hand it to Pete Rose. After getting tossed out of baseball and blowing his shot at the Hall of Fame by betting on games in the 1980s, he tries to get reinstated while still wagering on the national pastime. But, of course, only after he tried to cover it up. We’ve always thought Rose deserves to be reinstated, or at least be given his rightful place in Cooperstown. On second thought …
IT’S JUST MY FANTASY: Speaking of gambling, if you only watched a few minutes of television this year, chances are you still saw a commercial for FanDuel or DraftKings. Probably both. While we think sports gambling should be legalized, we can’t help but pull for prosecutors trying to pull the plug on these daily fantasy sports giants, which laughingly try to claim they’re really games of skill. We don’t have an award for either of them. We just want them to go away.
PASS THE ROCKING CHAIR: Better late than never, Kobe Bryant finally called it a career. Or at least he will at the end of the season. We can only hope Tiger Woods follows Kobe’s lead. There’s nothing sadder than a once-brilliant athlete sinking into mediocrity. It’s time for Woods to make it official.
TEAM OF THE YEAR: This is the easiest pick since “The Godfather.” The Golden State Warriors were a joy to behold on their way to their first NBA championship in 40 years, a team in every sense of the word. Led by Stephen Curry, who very well could be the best pure shooter in NBA history, the Warriors became the rock stars of sports, drawing celebrity-filled crowds whenever they take the court. Their 24-game winning streak to start this season made sure no other team could even be nominated.
PERSON OF THE YEAR: Sports can be a sleazy affair. Then, along come athletes such as Lauren Hill to restore our faith. She inspired a nation with her battle against brain cancer, fulfilling a dream to play college basketball. When she passed away in April at age 19, just about everyone shed a tear. But the hope she spread will endure forever. As LeBron James wrote, “Until we officially meet again, take care and continue to be that LEADER we all love!”
We can’t think of a better way to close our awards season.
Paul Newberry is a national writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at pnewberryap.org or at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/paul-newberry .