What a year in sports 2014
To those of us who love sports, undoubtedly 2014 provided more memorable sports stories than any other year in recent memory. Do you doubt that? Which other year in the last, say two decades, provided such intrigue and drama? Who can forget the positive dope tests for some of Jamaica's biggest track stars, Asafa Powell, Sherone Simpson and Veronica Campbell-Brown?
While VCB eventually fought hard to get her name cleared, the other two had to serve suspensions, providing grist for the mill for those who have long looked at Jamaica's track programme with unbridled suspicion. Will more high-profile Jamaicans be found guilty of banned substances this year? Time alone will tell.
In which other year in our history has a touring West Indies team walked off a tour because of complaints about money? The repercussions of that ill-advised, aborted tour will be felt for a while. Already we have seen a change of captain for the one-day team and several senior people given the boot, even if it's temporary. We still don't know what consequences all this will have on future West Indies-India tours. India have threatened legal action to recover more than US$40 million, although one suspects that somehow India will rethink this as tempers ease and time elapses. The World Cup of cricket is only a few weeks away. We wait to see what squad the West Indies selectors will choose for that.
Last year also saw one of the world's most loved athletes, Oscar Pistorius, sentenced to five years in prison for killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. He could have, maybe should have, been sent away for murder, but escaped with the lesser charge of culpable homicide, the South African equivalent to the English term manslaughter. The prosecutors may still appeal, and Pistorius may still have to do some more time.
This was also the year of the football World Cup. The best overall team won. No team had so much quality man for man in every area of the park. If Germany's victory was not surprising, their 7-1 thrashing of Brazil was. That scoreline could well be the most surprising in the long history of the World Cup and is indeed one of the most astonishing sports results of all time. Upsets have happened before and will continue to happen, but for a Brazil team, playing at home, to get seven, albeit without Neymar, their best player, must rank as one of the most shocking scorelines in any sport ever.
Manning Cup drama
Local football also saw its fair share of drama, and, indeed, mystery. For teams to get 16 and 12 nil at the business end of the Manning Cup smacks of foul play, except that it can't be proven. The Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association did huff and puff, but we all knew that they wouldn't be able to blow anybody down. It left a sour taste in everyone's mouth and confirmed what we already knew, that schoolboy football is no joke to some of our top teams.
Last year was also the year when the best basketballer in the world chose to go back home to Cleveland. After four straight finals with the Miami Heat and two titles, Lebron James had decided that he owed it to his hometown to give something back. Is this something that he will live to regret? At one stage, it was uncertain where he would go, and he was dubbed the biggest free agent ever. The Cleveland team isn't a bad one, but are not seen as genuine title contenders by too many of the top analysts around. The Americans are very big on using titles to determine where an NBA player should stand among the pantheon of greats. James knows that the legacy which he feel he is entitled to will be affected by only two rings. Maybe in his heart of hearts he may be regretting what many feel was an impulsive move.
There was bigger news in the NBA last year though, than the Lebron James almost prodigal-son-like return to home. LA Clippers boss Donald Sterling was banned for life for private comments he made to his girlfriend about not wanting to see her with blacks. The things he said were reprehensible, but a life ban was overdoing it in my view. The man can't even attend practice for God's sake! That's stretching it, but the move to "do something" against racism has taken on wings and Sterling was made to suffer more for the mood of the times than for what he did.
So yeah, 2014 had its fair share of shocking sports stories on and off the field. Let's hope 2015 will be even half the fun!
n Orville Higgins is a sportscaster and talk-show host at KLAS ESPN Sport FM. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.