Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Squiddies 2010

My blog turns one year old today. As such, it's awards show time. And the Squiddy goes to...

Biggest Surprise: Curling

When the Winter Olympics began in February, I was not expecting to become a devoted curling fan by the end but it happened. I like curling for many reasons:

1. It is no end of quirky, as a sport with ice, 40-pound rocks and brooms could only be.
2. Basic sportsmanship is the rule rather than the exception. I particularly approve of the expectation that a team will concede once a win is out of reach. Nothing in sports is more boring than a blowout.
3. The relaxed pace. It's easy enough to imagine all of the curlers standing around the ice with beers in hand.

Anyway, I fell in love and will do my best to follow the sport in non-Olympic years, despite the lack of coverage on American television.

Honorable Mention: Fantasy Football, Butler Basketball, Francesca Schiavone

Biggest Disappointment: Washington Capitals

No contest here. They made quite a convincing impression of the best team in hockey for most of the season but finished with zero Olympic medals and a first-round playoff loss. With so much young talent, I certainly hope they're taking a long, hard look in the mirror this summer to figure out how to turn this team into a champion.

Honorable Mention: The Yankees Win the World Series...Again

Best Game: NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Final

It is not mere coincidence that Duke has played in so many of the great basketball games of the past 25 years. Whether you love them or hate them, there's no denying that the Blue Devils play the game as it was meant to be played. Win or lose, Coach K's teams always play tough, disciplined basketball.

To me, the definition of a great game is one in which both sides play hard and it's a shame that somebody has to lose. Butler's improbable run to the national finals was enough to cement their place in sports legend. But the Bulldogs came ready to play and gave as good as they got against mighty Duke. Let us not forget that Hayward's desperation heave at the end nearly went in. If it had, this would have to be called the best game ever. Period.

Honorable Mention: Olympic Men's Ice Hockey Gold Medal Game

Best Story:
Francesca Schiavone Wins the French Open

But alas, Hayward's shot did not go in. For two weeks in Paris, Italian veteran Francesca Schiavone made all of the shots when it mattered. I started following Schiavone at the U.S. Open. I really enjoyed watching her play. She is not a physically dominating player in any way but she plays with a competitive fire which is downright inspiring. No one could have expected her to walk away with the singles title at Roland Garros but she did it. Her team's t-shirts said it all: "Nothing Is Impossible."

Honorable Mention: Butler Basketball, Chicago Blackhawks

Best Read: A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

One of the best unexpected consequences of blogging is that it has gotten me back into pleasure reading. I've read a lot of good sports-related books this year but I would consider A Walk in the Woods the best of them simply because I expect it's the most enjoyable without an initial interest in the subject matter, in this case hiking the Appalachian Trail.

Honorable Mention: Open: An Autobiography by Andre Agassi

Athlete of the Year:
Vernon Davis

Vernon Davis is, of course, the San Francisco 49ers' Pro Bowl tight end. He was also the MVP of my fantasy football team last year. That really would have been enough to earn my praise but he turned out to be so much more. First I found out he was an art major in college which led me to his excellent website. The website led me to seek out other well-regarded athlete sites (I still say Vernon's is the best). Then, before the Olympics, he was named honorary captain of the U.S. men's curling team. Later in the year, he picked up a tennis racket and played doubles with Serena Williams at a charity event.

In short, he turned out to be a far more interesting person than I would have expected an NFL tight end to be. He was a great story to follow over the course of the year, very much in the spirit of my overall vision for the blog.

Honorable Mention: Francesca Schiavone, Josh Hamilton, Gordon Hayward

Post with Most Unexpected Consequences: South Africa 2010: The Orange Crush

The fact that watching the World Cup got me thinking about my own youth soccer experiences is not so surprising, nor is the fact that such thoughts inspired me to try to get in touch with the members of my first team. But the success I had in finding them and the enthusiastic responses I have gotten from my teammates and their parents have been nothing short of astonishing. Bear in mind, I have not seen some of these folks since the fourth grade. That was 28 years ago! Stay tuned. This story may yet be going places.

Honarable Mention: All Part of My Fantasy: Best 11th Round Pick Ever

Best Family Adventure: The Long Trail Project

My Wife has primary blogging rights on this subject (Wikes! Hikes on the Long Trail) but I figure I can claim a tangential connection. What we're doing is wonderful for many reasons:

1. We're all doing it together.
2. We live in an outdoor adventurer's paradise and we're lazy bums if we don't get out on a regular basis to enjoy it.
3. It suits my larger purposes of getting more exercise.

Honorable Mention: Our Girl's Swimming Adventures, Tree Farm Vacation

Best Unexpected Benefit of Blogging: An Enriched Friendship

At the beginning of this past school year, I'd like to think that Mock and I were already on our way to building a solid friendship. But blogging has definitely played a role in helping us get to know each other better. For that, I am very grateful. If you haven't checked out his blog, you should: Stay on target...

Honorable Mention: Reconnecting with the Orange Crush, Renewed Interest in Pleasure Reading

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