Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Who Needs a Big 2012?

When Kobash asked me to join this little party almost one year ago, my sports-illiterate acquaintances shrugged it off as just another website that wouldn't find a spot in their daily browsing routine. I couldn't really blame them; why read sports posts from someone who is not connected to the biz in any form?

Well, fear no longer, you wretched human being. This post is for you.

In my mind, there are 6 individuals in sports that need a giant 2012. And if you've come to this site on the promise that you'll read something that isn't sports-related, I've compared them to 6 other celebrity types who also need 2012 to justify their place on Twitter trends.

6. Dwight Schrute and Mike Matheny

"You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone. "

When Steve Carell left The Office, everybody knew that the show wouldn't be the same. But for every laugh borne from the awkward charisma of Michael Scott, there was plenty of jokes to go around, emanating from the pranks of Jim Halpert, the kiss-ass-ness of Andy Bernard, and the unhealthy ambition of Dwight Schrute. So NBC forged on, depending on an audience base that they hoped would be painstakingly loyal to Dunder Mifflin. But, as literally anyone can attest, the show sucks. Plain and simple. If this current season was the show's debut season, then it would have been cancelled within weeks. Halpert is too busy banking on viewers reacting to his stale antics with Pavlovian responses. The Nard Dog doesn't fit as office manager; his nervousness is maddeningly inconsistent. And James Spader is a worthless character; did writers think that just slowing down the pace of his lines would make this guy any different? The only thing worse than an actor playing himself would be watching Mike D'Antoni trying to teach defense. Dwight Schrute must put this show on his shoulders and carry it to the finish line. Out of all the characters in Scranton, he is the only one who can impose his will onto a scene, regardless of who else is involved. Stop being friendly with the rest of the group and be the dastardly pseudo-villain that this show needs.

You may not know Mike Matheny. Frankly, I've been too caught up in the NBA season that I actually had to ask Google who the new St. Louis Cardinals' manager was. What I do remember about the baseball offseason is that Albert Pujols left for greener pastures and that Tony LaRussa left the game on top, as one of the best to ever fill out a lineup card. Just like you can't replace a Michael Scott, you can't replace either Pujols or LaRussa. Matheny must put his own stamp on the Cardinals and maintain the team's relevance as one of the premier franchises in baseball. Every mistake will lead to LaRussa comparisons; every strikeout will make fans long for the sweet stroke of The Machine.

5. Kim Kardashian and LeBron James

"Take me back to the old me."

Before Kris Humphries, Kim Kardashian was just another attractive piece that became famous for being famous. Even though she has no discernible talent whatsoever (seriously, Ray J did all the work, right?), she wasn't really on anybody's list of people to smother in cold blood. Enter the $18 million payday she got for her made-for-TV wedding and the subsequent divorce for the ever-popular "irreconcilable differences," and everyone wants a piece of Kim K. She made the mistake of thinking that she was larger than life, as many of us are prone to do. If someone's dumb enough to pay you 18 for a life event that you would have done for free had you not become a celebrity, then all the power to you. But if you hit the road after 72 days, then we are free to think that it was all just a publicity stunt. And goodness, Humphries is hearing boos across the country just for being involved with your fake-itude. If you want people to feel sorry for you, then you have to at least appear as if you're sorry. Kim hardly needs another 18 milly on top of the dinero she's raking in from her television shows (yup...plural). So if she gave it all back to the network, it would have been dumb, but it would have proved satisfactory for the public. There might be no way for her to save herself now, because paying back the money now will be too late. An off-the-radar 2012, however, will make our attention-craved society forget about this little mess. The only problem is that she would rather die than be off the radar.

Before The Decision, LeBron James was just another athlete in pursuit of a championship. Even though he never expounded on his talents with a formidable post-up game or a reliable three-point shot, everybody glowed at the mention of his name. All it took was one sentence: "I'm going to take my talents to South Beach." Now, basketball fans worldwide, except for me, wants LeBron to come up short every single year. Like Kim, LeBron made the mistake of thinking his brand was bigger than Cleveland. Think about it. By televising The Decision, there would be at least a couple of cities that would feel disappointed (at the very least) by whatever LeBron said. And to make matters worse, if he were to pick any other team than Cleveland, only an idiot would predict that Cleveland wouldn't suffer a slow death on national television. But that idiot was LeBron. And now, people who still live on the same streets on which he grew up will never forgive him. LeBron started 2011 off great, and stumbled at the finish line. His critics laughed and celebrated his demise, and they will continue to do so. Let's face it: LeBron doesn't just need a great 2012; he'll need not one good year, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven. Because every step of the way there will be someone waiting to laugh at him again. His only consolation is to win multiple championships, so that the basketball fans in those of us who reside outside of Ohio will appreciate talent and forget stupidity.

4. Adele and Stephen Strasburg

"I closed my eyes for one second, and bam, it was gone."

For all of her physical misfortunes, Adele has some serious pipes. First time I caught her was when somebody showed me a Youtube clip of her VMA performance. She killed it. Then I heard parts of the rest of her album, and I was even more impressed. And the numbers back her up. "Someone Like You" has sold almost 6 million digital copies in the US in 2011, the most ever in a single year. It was the first "strictly voice-and-piano" song to top the Billboard Hot 100. The DVD of her tour debuted at #1 with the highest sales of any music DVD in the past four years. Adele will attend the Grammys next month with 6 nominations, including Album of the Year and Song of the Year. However, this past October, she cancelled two tours due to a vocal cord hemorrhage. During her ongoing recovery, she stated that she will be taking a break before releasing her third album. Sorry Adele, but today we live in a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world. Momentum must be grabbed with two hands, and in your case, a healthy throat. Don't take that break when the music industry is begging you for more.

Stephen Strasburg was selected by the Washington Nationals with the #1 overall pick in the 2009 Draft. Just 77 seconds before the deadline, he signed a record $15.1 million contract. Strasburg then sprinted right through the minor leagues to make his first start with the big team on June 8, 2010. Sports Illustrated called it "the most hyped pitching debut the game has ever seen." To say that Stras didn't disappoint would be an understatement of epic proportions. He went 7 strong, giving up only 2 earned runs, and recorded a franchise-record 14 strikeouts without issuing a single walk. He struck out the last SEVEN batters he faced, also a team record. Oh, and he topped out at 100 mph. No. Big. Deal. Unfortunately, later that year, Strasburg suffered a torn ulnar collateral ligament, requiring the dreaded Tommy John surgery. He missed all of the 2011 season, and is slated to be the Nationals' #1 starter for 2012. Some pitchers need a full two years to recover from the surgery, so Washington has no reason to be fully confident just yet. Strasburg will need to show at least some promise this year. Without it, and I hate to say this, but Mark Prior, anyone?

3. Ryan Gosling and Cam Newton

"So what's next, Junior?"

If anyone had a 2011 to remember, it was Ryan Gosling. Before this past year, he was the dude who made girls swoon in "The Notebook." (Full disclosure #1: this movie might have actually been decent if every single female in America didn't overhype it to bits.) After 2011, he's the dude who makes girls wet, and to top it off, he gets our respect too for 3 dude-approved performances on the big screen. First, there was "Crazy Stupid Love," his first attempt at comedy, and he nailed it. Second, in what was one of the best movies of the year, he turned in an impressive performance in "Drive," as a Hollywood stunt performer moonlighting as a getaway driver (seriously, how awesome is that?). And finally, he succeeded as an ambitious press secretary in the George Clooney-directed "The Ides of March." (Full disclosure #2: I have not seen any of these movies, but let's all admit that Wikipedia is 100% true at this point.) Gosling, like the last pair, must capitalize on 2011 with an even bigger 2012, only he won't have an injury excuse. With the media prepared to blitz on his next couple of projects, a couple of duds will put him further back in line for the "best actor of our generation" championship belt, at a time when he's moved up several spots.

Cam Newton won a national title at Auburn and after declaring for the NFL Draft, he was selected first overall by the Carolina Panthers. As pundits questioned his work ethic and his morals, Cam breezed through his rookie year. And by "breezed" I mean he kicked the living daylights out of it. He threw for over 4,000 yards, rushed for over 700 more, and had 35 total touchdowns. What's more, he resurrected the career of Steve Smith to such a point that when a football fan says Steve Smith, nobody thinks of that other Steve Smith anymore. Philadelphia Steve Smith might as well be dead, because we pronounce him relevant no longer. What faces Cam in 2012 is more attention from opposing defenses and more criticism if he doesn't produce the Ws to go along with those gaudy numbers. Lose a ton of games as a rookie quarterback, no sweat. Lose more games in Year 2, and we can start to worry.

2. Barack Obama and Peyton Manning

"Never rest on your laurels."

From inauguration day to now, the numbers: 2 million more unemployed Americans, 85% per-gallon of gas hike, 39% increase in federal debt, 13 million more requests for food stamps, 11% decrease in home values, and 6.4 million more Americans in poverty. No spin, just facts. With the Republicans finally realizing that the most electable candidate should be the dude to go one-on-one with the great one, more undecided lefties could switch teams for 2012. But it won't be so easy, as we all know. It was Obama who directed SEAL Team 6 to take out the man responsible for the worst disaster on American soil, infusing patriotism everywhere across the country. And the final jobs numbers of 2011, coupled with the ever-so-slight uptick in the markets recently have showed hope for our once-dead economy and promise for Obama's 2012 chances. Let's not forget that Obama is a campaign-running king, as he left a maybe-she-would-have-been-a-lot-better Hillary Clinton in the proverbial dust. But it was the President himself who uttered the above quote in his 2008 speech. He knows that he needs a huge 2012, otherwise the White House will be red once again.

Peyton Manning's place in NFL history remains untouched, despite his career-threatening neck injury prior to the start of this season. There are so many accomplishments and awards that I'll need to put it in bullet format:
-Four MVP awards
-One Super Bowl
-Most seasons with 4,000 passing yards (11)
-Most games with 300 passing yards (63)
-Largest career touchdown to interception differential (+201)
-Highest career passing touchdowns per game (1.91)
-Highest career passing yards per game (263.6)
-Most games with a completion percentage of 70% (66)
-Most seasons with 12+ wins (8)
-First QB to defeat all 31 other NFL teams
-Most consecutive Pro Bowl selections for a QB (9)
-Leader of a franchise that produced 4 consecutive cash-wins for BockerKnocker in the greatest fantasy football league ever created
There are much, much more awards and milestones that the man has reached, but that should do the trick. Alas, there's still that neck injury. The recovery has been moving along, but not even the Colts know whether he'll be at full strength for Week 1 of the 2012 NFL season. If he is forced to retire, then hey, job well done Peyton. But if you haven't heard, there's another Manning who's moving up the boards. A Peyton-like 2012 season will entrench the older brother as the best quarterback who ever lived, and maybe more importantly, the best quarterback in the Manning family.

1. CT Tamburello and Carmelo Anthony

"Needs to learn to play well with others."

Exactly what you would picture a
Challenge competitor to look like, right?
If you didn't think that I would end this list with a biased selection, then you're probably new to Mambino. CT is the most fierce and feared Challenge competitor of all-time. He combines brute strength with a heavy overdose of crazy that makes his opponents run from him, literally. The only problem is that The Challenge is as much about mental strategy as it is about physical fitness and abject insanity. In every season, there is a grip of players who form an alliance specifically with the purpose to gang up on CT, thus giving each of them a better chance to win the final. And while it is admirable that CT embraces the task of defeating said alliances all by himself, it hasn't proved to be successful. In the upcoming "Exes" season, due to start next week, CT must play nice; it is his best shot of getting back to the top.

Carmelo Anthony is not just a good basketball player, he is one of the most talented athletes in sports today. Save for maybe Kevin Durant, Melo is the only superstar with seemingly infinite range; unlike Durant, however, Melo has a deadly post-up game and has a beautiful touch around the basket. He just hasn't been able to put it all together. In Denver, Anthony's best season occurred when the Nuggets acquired Chauncey Billups to lead the team. Since then, Billups has declined and Anthony himself was traded to YOUR New York Knickerbockers. Questions continue to mount whether he can co-exist with Amar'e Stoudemire; for their careers, both superstars have required the ball in their hands in order to be effective. During the Knicks' wins this season, Anthony has demonstrated the ability and the willingness to be the playmaker, playing point-forward in Mike D'Antoni's offense. In the Knicks' losses, the team gets behind by so much that Anthony is forced to score at will, leaving the rest of the team, and most importantly, Stoudemire, to be spectators. More of the former, less of the latter, and this team will advance in the playoffs. A big 2012 for Melo doesn't necessarily mean the numbers have to be better, but it does require him to be more patient and more cooperative with his teammates.

Enjoy your 2012, but you won't need it as much as they do.


  1. I'm still enjoying this season of The Office. The last three episodes were as good as or better than most of the episodes from last season or season six. Andy is still not my favorite as RM, but the scripts are finally starting to feel right for this character. As far as Robert California (James Spader) he is beginning to grow on me; in fact, I really am enjoying him in the show. He's not funny like Carell was, nor is he written to be such, but he is very interesting to watch. Spader has great line delivery and his facial expressions are terrific. Plus I don't get your comment about him playing himself...having seen Spader on several interviews and read what co-stars say about him he is nothing like this character. It sounds like you are a Carell fan that is just unable to move on.

  2. who ISN'T a Carell fan that is unable to move on?

    Even if you enjoy this season, you can't possibly say it stacks up to any of the past ones, in particular seasons 1-3. Those first 3 years can match up with any other 3 seasons of any other comedy show.

  3. True, seasons 2 and 3 are the best the show has been...terrific! But, even with Steve seasons 5 - 7 were in a progressive decline. Except for two episodes this season (Lotto and Gettysburg) the other 9 have been, at least for me, every bit as good and some even better than the last two seasons. It is still evolving, but I am enjoying the new Office.

  4. BockerKnocker, if Steve had been the reason I watched the show I know I would be struggling to move on as well. I liked him in the show most of the time, but I enjoyed the show as a whole and came to enjoy all of the characters. That is perhaps why I am still enjoying the show in spite of the changes.

  5. The show still has its moments, but to me they are very few and far between. Jim and Pam have become one person; Andy's better suited for a smaller role, and they lost a lot of good, smaller characters (Roy, Bob Vance, Holly, Karen).

  6. Agree about Jim and Pam...the last few episodes Jim has been more enjoyable because Pam has not been on the show. Andy has been better the last few episodes as well, but that is because the episodes were not all about him. Paul Lieberstein hinted that Andy's anger issues might pop up again and it would be to his benefit professionally; that could add to Andy as manager. True, these were some good characters whose stories ended...this has been the case throughout the series.