Yes, we’re in a bit of a bind, though nothing like the good folks at the Academy Awards.
You see, we never even got to the point where Kevin Hart accepted the honor, then had to withdraw because people capable of working the screengrab function pointed out that he’s posted some terrible things about gay people.
I guess the lack of an actual ceremony — not to mention those all-important goody bags they hand out backstage — has stifled our search just a bit.
Always one of the most competitive categories in sports, this year the choice is clear. While it’s hard to deny the spineless wonders at the World Anti-Doping Agency, who went against the advice of pretty much everyone except Vladimir Putin when they in effect forgave Russia for its massive doping operation, we’ve got to go with those who looked the other way for years when faced with very clear evidence of Larry Nassar’s serial sexual abuse. Really, folks, this should be an easy one. If you know of a doctor, coach or anyone who is abusing another human being, report it. Nassar will spend the rest of his miserable life behind bars. Those who allowed him to get away with his crimes for so long are equally culpable.
URBAN LIAR 101
While we’re on the subject of lacking backbone, let’s not forget Urban Meyer. The Rose Bowl will go down as his last game, but we’d prefer to focus on some other achievements that came to light during his final season as Ohio State coach. Like spending the better part of the past decade hiding, denying, ignoring and justifying the horrific behavior of assistant coach Zach Smith. Meyer served a three-game suspension, returned to lead the Buckeyes to another Big Ten title, and then announced his retirement. Of course, disgraced coaches never just fade away. Meyer says he’ll be back on campus next year to teach a course on character and leadership. You can’t make this stuff up, folks.
WORST FAREWELL TOUR
Danica Patrick, who had far more success on Madison Avenue than she did on the race track, closed her career in appropriate style. The much-ballyhooed “Danica Double” turned into the Danica Dud when Patrick crashed out of both the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500. She finished 35th out of 40 drivers in her final stock-car race, followed by 30th out of 33 in her Indy-car capper. While Patrick was undoubtedly a highly influential figure, it feels as if her career was largely an opportunity wasted.
Talk about a longshot. The Vegas Golden Knights brought the NHL to the glittery land of all-you-can-eat buffets, watered-down drinks and washed-up stars. But instead of going through the growing pains that are a rite of passage for most expansion franchises, the Golden Knights won their division and made it all the way to the Stanley Cup final. Alas, that’s where the fairytale ended with a loss to the Washington Capitals. Too bad. If nothing else, it would’ve been fun to needle Toronto fans that an expansion team we presume was coached by Wayne Newton held the title champions of hockey, while the Maple Leafs haven’t won the cup in over a half-century.
SPECIAL RECOGNITION FOR REDUNDANCY
The College Football Playoff is certainly a welcome upgrade over previous methods for selecting a national champion, but it’s also clear that changes are needed. The same teams keep showing up in the four-team field, including Alabama all five years, Clemson four times and Oklahoma on three occasions. Notre Dame is the only newcomer this season. An eight-team playoff would be an easy fix, giving automatic berths to each of the Power Five conference champions, another automatic berth to the top team from the Group of Five, and two wild-card spots to round out the field. Of course, that makes so much sense we can expect the powers-that-be to resist with all their might. Oh well, maybe next century.
MOST UNLIKELY TITLE
The city of Atlanta was once dubbed “Losersville,” with good reason. Until this year, the 1995 World Series-winning Braves were the A-T-L’s only big-time champions (though those who remember soccer’s Atlanta Chiefs, all 14 of them, would beg to differ). Atlanta United broke the 23-year drought by winning the Major League Soccer championship in just its second season. While certainly out of character for the city United calls home, the title was a fitting reward for a franchise that has stunningly become one of the best-supported teams in the world. Atlanta broke its own league record by averaging more than 53,000 fans per game during the regular season. Every playoff game drew more than 70,000.
MOST AMERICAN-LIKE PERFORMANCE AT THE RYDER CUP
Returning to form after winning golf’s premier team competition in 2016, the star-studded U.S. team was blown out by the Europeans at Le Golf National outside Paris. One week removed from his first victory in more than five years, Tiger Woods went 0-4 in the Ryder Cup. Phil Mickelson lost both his matches as well. Europe romped to a 17½-10½ victory — its ninth triumph in the last 12 tries of the one-sided rivalry.
JUAN ANTONIO SAMARANCH BOONDOGGLE CUP
This award will now be handed out every other year. In other words, during every Olympic year, when the city that just hosted the games realizes what a financial mess it left behind. After this year’s Winter Games, Pyeongchang was saddled with empty venues, feuding over who pays for upkeep and a glistening ski course that’s now an abandoned dirt runway. To the surprise of no one, there wasn’t much use for a speedskating arena, or a hockey center, or a bobsled track, or a ski-jump stadium once the 2½-week party was over. Now, it looks as if many of those venues might have to be razed because it’s too costly to keep them open. Kudos to the South Koreans, who faithfully followed the wasteful tradition established by Montreal and Athens and Sochi and Rio de Janeiro.
We look forward to handing out the next prize to Tokyo in 2020.
Paul Newberry is a sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at email@example.com or at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/paul%20newberry