2014

It is that time of year again. The time that brings presents, food, and articles titled “The Year That Was…” This is one of those articles (sans title). It is time to acknowledge the awesome things for the year 2014 that just so happened to be my favourite (or least favourite)*

Best Female Anything

Jennifer Lawrence. I know, I know. You’ve already read so much about her, and really if any year was her year, wouldn’t it be 2013? Of course it was. But I have news for you, she has just gone back to back after a brilliant 2014 too. Sure she was only nominated for an Oscar this year, and only won a Best Supporting Actress Golden Globe.** But she also became the highest grossing female action hero of all time. She also broke the internet for real (as opposed to the forced and unsuccessful rubbish of that Kardashian shoot) when the fappening happened. She looked better in her selfies than some other (previously mentioned) celebrities did in their highly stylized advertorials/photo shoots, which caused people the world over to lose their minds. But the way she responded to that is what really gets her this award. She has long been a fantastic role model and these leaked photos do not change that at all. Can you imagine any other person being able to pull that off? I can’t. Here’s to J-Law going for a three-peat and having a fantastic 2015 too.

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Honourable Mentions: I am just using this as an apology to Victoria Azarenka. Clearly the pressure of being the 2013 winner of this column’s Best Female Tennis Performance was too much for her to bear! She had her worst year since 2010! Hope to see you on the comeback trail in 2015!

Worst Job Security

It has been a while since coaching in the NRL was considered a safe job, but it seems to be getting even worse for anyone crazy enough to back themselves at this level. Of the 16 coaches that walked into off season training with their clubs a the end of last year, only 9 of them will still be at the helm for Round 1 in 2015. Only 6 of those coaches were in their job at the start of 2013. In fact Craig Bellamy at Melbourne is the only person to have coached his team since at least 2011. Where it has gotten even worse is that once upon a time, for a coach to be fired, a team would want to have another coach lined up to take the job. A coach with strong credentials, a proven track record if possible, maybe even a ‘name’ that could be sold to the fans. Now it doesn’t even seem to be a consideration. The Assistant coach is given the job on an interim basis and the club just shrugs and says “We’ll see what this bloke can do”. In many cases that same interim coach can fail to generate any real results and be handed a multi-year contract!*** There are so many NRL clubs that just do not look to be a chance of winning a title in the next 3 years. Too many clubs have no plan. So when that no-plan brings them no success, the axe keeps falling on the coach.

Honourable Mention: Leeds United Manager. Talk about clubs with no plan. Neil Redfearn is their 5th manager of 2014. FIFTH! Additionally, he is their 9th manager since 2012. Ridiculous.

Best New TV Show

I, like many others, was extremely skeptical when I read that they were making a Fargo TV series. I, like many others, thought that it was a mistake to try and re-create anything about the quirky Coen Brothers film. I, like many others, thought that even if the script was good and it was well made, calling it Fargo put too much pressure on the show. I am happy to report that I, like many others, was completely wrong. Noah Hawley’s rendition of 2006 Minnesota shares a similar tone, a sociopathic murderer and mountains of snow with the original Fargo, and that is where the comparisons should end. Where Nic Pizzolatto’s True Detective turned out to be all style and show with no substance, Hawley didn’t have to fool us into thinking the Emporer was wearing new clothes. The direction of the series was superb. The characters that inhabited this world were both eccentric and startlingly grounded. The story itself was compelling, realistic (given the premise) and was actually able to tie up loose ends. For all of the plaudits that McConaughey got for his performance on TD, the acting in Fargo was second to nothing on the small screen this year. Billy Bob Thornton came back from the acting dead in a performance that felt so natural, I would almost guess that the role was written for him. Martin Freeman has come a long way since The Office and even the smaller acting roles (Bob Odenkirk, Adam Goldberg, the always fantastic Stephen Root) were top notch. But the biggest plaudits should be reserved for the powerhouse performance delivered by Allison Tolman. It was the breakout TV performance of the year, and it wasn’t even close. Time will tell if this was just the perfect role or not but I will be WILDLY disappointed not to see her career deservedly flourish from here.

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Honourable Mentions: Cosmos – A Spacetime Odyssey may not have technically been a “new” TV show being that it was a remake of an old series, but it was outstanding television. Visually stunning, compelling, and educational and the world could do with more of it. Also, Silicon Valley and Broad City were both powerhouse new comedies for this year in completely different ways, and I loved both of them. It is so rare for comedies to hit their stride right from the beginning, but both of these managed to and anything that gets Kumail Nanjiani and Hannibal Buress on TV will always make me happy.

Best Rivalry

Aussie Basketball Potential v Boomer Reality wins this one. Ever since Shane Heal stood up to Charles Barkley in a 1996 friendly, Australia has fancied itself on the world stage of basketball. There have been many lean years since that 96 team played off for a Bronze medal in Atlanta, but as the years go by and more and more players begin to get meaningful minutes in the NBA and College basketball systems, the hopes of the nation rise again. We’ve never had a full starting line-up of NBA players but as the last NBA season wound down, we were as close as we had ever been with a starting line-up that could boast 4 NBA players. Of course as we moved closer to the Basketball World Cup, the same thing happened that always happens. Our star Centre and defensive lynchpin, Andrew Bogut pulled out. Then our star scorer and freshly crowned NBA champion, Patty Mills pulled out. Then we tanked a game to avoid playing the US until the Semi Finals, and lost to Turkey anyway. Boomer Reality beats down The Potential and continues its winning streak. But as ever, there is hope for the future. The 2016 Olympics hold an opportunity for the greatest ever assembled Boomers team to really have a run at a medal. A starting five of Bogut, Aron Baynes, Joe Ingles, Mills and Matthew Delavadova has solid NBA experience. Fellow NBA player Dante Exum will have developed into the type of player that could lead a second unit off the bench. A bench which could contain Chicago Bulls PF Cameron Bairstow, Zaragosa guard Chris Goulding as well as two of the top NBA Prospects over the next couple of years in Ben Simmons and Thon Maker (who are currently only 18 and 17 respectively) if they are even good enough to make the squad (something that wouldn’t even be up for question just a few years ago). It is the Boomers’ time. At least until reality kicks in anyway.

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Honourable Mention: You can take your pick between;

Wanderers vs attractive football – The run to win the Asian Champions League made Greece in 2004 look like Spain in 2010.

Wanderers players vs owners – for it to all come to a head right before the World Club Challenge was embarrassing for all.

Wanderers vs Al Spitty – Rivalries, both at home and continentally, are what makes football clubs. The Wanderers are now on their way to moving from a franchise to a club. Good for them.

Best Music that I actually paid for this year

This comes with the usual disclaimer that I almost never get to hear music the year that it comes out, and that my musical taste is far from ordinary etc etc. But for 2014 nothing really blew me away.

This has been the hardest section for me to write. I didn’t have high hopes for Opeth’s Pale Communion or Cynic’s Kindly Bent To Free Us, but both of them turned out far more interesting and fun than I expected, though still not as good as previous releases. I was heavily anticipating the new Bloodbath album, but the vocals from newcomer Nick Holmes have left the album falling a bit flat. I enjoyed Citadel by Ne Obliviscaris, but have not actually purchased it, so it is ineligible for this award. So when I look through my purchases for this year, the album that stands out the most for this year is not a musical album, but a comedy album. Hannibal Buress released his Live From Chicago album before he recently got some odd fame through his Bill Cosby rape jokes instigating some proper investigation into the decades of allegations against one of America’s most beloved comedians.  There is nothing particularly controversial on the album, but it is an interesting and hilarious look at Hannibal’s world. From gods real problems and unrequited love to just how weird it is to be a comedian, Hannibal’s unique delivery thankfully doesn’t wear thin and keeps the laughs coming for a solid hour. I really hope that this Cosby stuff doesn’t end up hurting the man that is probably our next great stand-up comedian^

Honourable Mentions: See above

Feel Good Story

The 2014 Football World Cup set records for goals scored and the whole group stage of the tournament was absolutely riveting. Spain getting demolished in their opening match and never recovering? Fantastic. Italy and England BOTH not getting out of the same group? Magnificent. Cristiano Ronaldo sulking his way to another early exit? Outstanding. Costa Rica being a Penalty save away from making the final four? Superb. Germany absolutely humiliating the host nation in the semifinal after Brazil had so many calls go their way earlier in the tournament? Delicious. But those few minutes that the Socceroos led the white hot Netherlands in a World Cup match? Absolutely glorious. We may not have got a point in the tournament, but we’ll always have that Timmy Cahill goal and that feeling inside of us that we were better than Pim Verbeek or Holger Osiek allowed us to be. That felt good.

Honourable Mention: The recent Martin Place tragedy seems to have brought out the best in more people than a misanthrope such as myself expected. The #illridewithyou campaign was good, but what was great is that it appears as though it wasn’t really needed!

WORST THING OF THE YEAR

The NFL is a multi-billion dollar enterprise that is run by very successful and intelligent businessmen (basically the 32 owners). So, how they could allow Roger Goodall, as commissioner of the league, to just be SO FAR off on the issues that have come through his office this year is really beyond me. The issue of domestic violence in the NFL may not be any higher than it is in society, but the handling of the Ray Rice situation (among others) was simply baffling. The brutal video that came out and FORCED the NFL to change the punishment was an embarrassment to the league. It is difficult to tell what is worse – that they almost certainly knew about the video and hoped it would go away, or that they didn’t take the issue seriously enough to track down that video.

BEST THING OF THE YEAR

In one of the great turn-arounds of the 21st century, the NRL Grand Final went from last year’s worst thing of the year to this year’s best. Is this wildly biased because I have waited my entire life for South Sydney to win the competition? Sure. Is this a list of MY favourite things of 2014? Definitely. The Bunnies are the most successful team in the history of the competition. So successful in fact that they have kept that mantle in spite of going 43 years between Grand Final wins. But besides all of that, the NRL Grand Final was a winner this year because for the first time in a few years, a likeable team won the competition. Credit should also go to the Bulldogs fans who, in spite of their poor reputation, were exemplary on the night and a credit to their club. I sat right behind them and didn’t hear or see a single negative thing from them all night. Gracious in defeat and friendly all day.  Penrith weren’t able to knock over the Bulldogs to give us our first Grand Final since 2005 where BOTH teams were likeable, but the Rabbitohs ensured the right result was had, and the streets of Redfern became the party of the year.

NRL GRAND FINAL RABBITOHS BULLDOGS

Let me know what your favourite things of 2014 were. What did I miss?

*As with last year that is deliberately broad

**Sounds like a pretty bad year so far! *rolleyes emoji*

***Which, as you may have guessed, does not provide the job security that it implies

^As we entered this new Millenium, Chris Rock was the reigning Heavyweight Champion of the World in Stand-Up comedy. I simply will not enter into any debate that he wasn’t. To be the Heavyweight Champion of the World in stand up, you have to be both the biggest and the best. Being good isn’t good enough. You also have to be big. But being big isn’t big enough. You also have to be good. Examples here are numerous. People like Dave Attell, Colin Quinn, Patrice O’Neal or Jim Norton are some of the funniest people to ever have lived, but without that next level of success in terms of being big, they can’t be the Heavyweight Title holders. But by the same token, Jeff Dunham may sell as many tickets as anyone on the planet, but when the comedy is lazy, safe, lowest-common-denominator stuff, then that also doesn’t get you the belt. With that in mind, by my reckoning, since 2000 the belt has gone at various times and for various amounts of time to the following people – Dave Chappelle, Dane Cook, Patton Oswalt, Zach Galifianakis, Russell Peters, Kevin Hart, Louis CK and Bill Burr. I think Hannibal has the talent to reach this level in the next few years.

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The Year That Was 2013

Leaving apart the fact that something could happen in the next couple of days (like the Darts World Title) that could have won one of these awards, I’m prepared to give out my first ever Annual Awards for my favourite things* of 2013.

Best Female Tennis Performance

While the Men’s Tennis scene has become more boring than watching tennis over the last few years, Women’s tennis has been a bit more of a mixed bag where rallies still take place and the winner of a major tournament isn’t decided prior to the tournament even beginning. In the last 8 years only 5 men have won the 32 Grand Slam tournaments played, while the women have had 8 different winners in just the last 3 years (12 tournaments). In January, Victoria Azarenka** became the first person not named Williams to defend the Australian Open crown since Jennifer Capriati early in the millennium. Overcame a toe injury and fought off the tag of being a One Slam Wonder, the world’s most famous Belarusian solidified herself as my favourite female Tennis player since Martina Hingis.

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Honourable Mention: Sam Stosur for not making it past the 3rd round in any major. Really sticking it to all those people who thought you were more than a one hit wonder…

Best Nickname – Team or Duo

The 2013 NBA Playoffs were expected to be a straightforward affair with the teams from the Western Conference making up the numbers til either the Spurs or Thunder played Miami for the title, and on the surface that is what happened. But when you get into the nitty gritty, a little team that weren’t expected to do much had a breakout star who lifted his team to a new level that has seen them touted as serious contenders for the 2014 title. The major reason for this is the emergence of possibly the greatest shooting backcourt in the history of the gameThe Splash Brothers. Named after the infinitely better Bash Brothers – Portman and Reed of Team USA Hockey at the 1994 Junior Goodwill Games – Klay Thompson and Steph Curry set the NBA world alight with a universe of 3 pointers that destroyed the heavily favoured Nuggets and pushed the almost World Champion Spurs like no other team in the West could even come close to.

Honourable Mention: Zach Lowe’s admirable attempt to get people to call the New Orleans Pelican’s the Pellies. Stick with it Zach. The people will come around eventually.

Best New TV Show

This one isn’t even close. Orange Is The New Black is easily the best new show of this year for mine. One of the VERY few shows of the last 10 years to have three dimensional female characters that are actually interesting and don’t revolve their entire lives around what men think of them, what they can do to get a man, or what they should do with their lives now that their man has left them alone, and therefore an empty shell of a human. In short, it passes the Bechdel Test. Most shows don’t. Of course men are involved in their lives because they are humans after all, and this isn’t a feminist rant, but the show has developed female characters that aren’t simply there as window dressing, and they actually have something to say occasionally. It’s well made, well written, compelling television that doesn’t come along often enough in circumstances where men are the main protagonists and it’s refreshing to see women getting a go for a change.

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Honourable Mention: The Jeselnik Offensive. It’s Offensive, it’s Jeselnikian, and it is most definitely The.

Best Rivalry

The ongoing hatred between Sydney FC coach Frank Farina and the majority of Sydney’s fans has been a fascinating rivalry to watch. Portions of the fan base didn’t want him signed at all when he got the job in late 2012, but many could see the sense in a short term appointment. When his contract was extended in spite of Farina failing to meet the frankly low ‘minimum requirements’ of his stated job description (make the 2013 finals) many more fans were put further offside. After starting off with ‘results first’ football, Farina promised to bring style and goals to Allianz Stadium. After a full pre-season to get the improvements in place, Sydney lost 3 of their first 4 games scoring only 2 goals in the process and never looking in control of any games, as well as being comfortably taken care of in all pre-season fixtures against A-League opposition. This is where he seemed to lose most of the fans and the twitter hashtag #FarinaOut gained some momentum. Farina responded to this by lashing out at the fans and the relationship has been lost since then. Sydneys results have improved (a little) but the style of play promised*** has not eventuated and even the matches that Sydney have won have not been entirely convincing, against some of the worst teams in the league. After the battering the Sky Blues took on Boxing Day, at the hands of a team playing the style of football Farina promised, it appears that this rivalry may not last to the end of 2014 to defend its crown with Franks job looking less and less secure.

Honourable Mentions: First, Wanderers really want Sydney to have the biggest rivalry with them, but they’ve no chance with the way Sydney can turn on itself. Second, Ronda Rousey v Miesha Tate. These two hate each other and are going to try to beat the shit out of each other on 29/12 (Sydney time anyway). I can’t wait.

Best Album That I Bought

I don’t listen to A LOT of new music. I purchase even less of it. Most of the music I listen to is a long way from popular, I probably buy as many albums at gigs off local bands as I do on iTunes and I often find a band a get into their back catalogue, and may discover my favourite album from 2013 when I hear it in 2017. So this is most definitely not a definitive selection by any means as there are only so many albums that I bought that actually came out this year. Having said all of that, at the moment my favourite album of 2013 is The Dillinger Escape Plan – One Of Us Is The Killer. It continues on the bands slow trajectory of mixing their tech-math-core-whatever-you -want-to-call-it with pop rock sensibilities that accentuate the insanity of their heavy side. A well rounded album that I could listen to for days. Watch this video.

Honourable Mentions: First is …Like Clockwork by Queens Of The Stone Age. I didn’t like it at first, but it has grown on me and My God Is The Sun is great track. Second is the debut full length album by Iron Reagan called Worse Than Dead. Not a song over 2 minutes and all 19 tracks beat the shit out of you.

Dishonourable Mentions: Jay Z’s album as a whole wasn’t bad, but it needs to mentioned that F*ckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt is literally^ the worst song I’ve ever heard in my life.

Best Feel-Good Story

Surprisingly, given the horror year (or decade really) that Rugby League has had off the field, my favourite story of the year was seeing the USA Tomahawks defy all odds by getting out of their group at the Rugby League World Cup and take on the heavyweights of Rugby League in the Quarter Finals. The inevitable mauling that the Kangaroos gave them notwithstanding, the Tomahawks had a great tournament beating both The Cook Islands, as well as the traditionally strong Wales. Making the achievements even more spectacular is the fact that coach Terry Matterson only took over the team a month prior to the World Cup after Brian Smith quit as coach amid controversy over his methods and selections. Smith himself had only taken over from Matthew Elliott at the start of the year once Elliott stepped down after guiding the team through qualifications. Such a lack of continuity would derail a fully professional teams campaign let alone a squad made up at least partially of amateurs^^ and their achievement was the only interesting part of a mostly redundant World Cup. The tournament result, coupled with the pre-tournament win against number 4 ranked France has seen the USA move into the top 10 rankings ahead of the likes of Scotland, Italy and Tonga.

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Honourable Mention: The budding bromance between Ricky Stuart and Josh Papalii. After Papalii changed his mind on signing with Parramatta and stayed in the nations capital, Stuart was so desperate to coach him that he left the Eels behind to take the job at the Raiders.

WORST THING OF THE YEAR

The NRL continued their tradition of having hateable teams in the Grand Final. The leagues most hated teams in some order are Manly, Roosters, Bulldogs, Melbourne, and Brisbane. 11 of the last 12 Grand Finals have been contested between one or in some cases 2 of these teams, and they’ve won 8 of the last 10 competitions. 2005 was the last time there were two likeable teams in the Grand Final and as a Rugby League fan, I’m kind of getting sick of it. Not really anyone’s fault in particular, but it needs to stop soon or Grand Final Day will lose ALL of its fun. It’s already lost most of it.

BEST THING OF THE YEAR

The ending of what will surely go down as one of history’s greatest television programs^^^ has already been given plenty of accolades and is sure to get plenty more, but in my humble little opinion, while the final season had its flaws, the sum of the work this show put into making greatness culminated in as satisfying a way as any show has ever done. That’s right Dexter has always nailed the monster of the week and the season long arc in perfect balance and trololololol, lolol lolol. Of course I’m actually talking about Breaking Bad and the wonderful performance of Bryan Cranston in his career defining role as Walter White. We’ve been blessed in the last decade or so with the TV revolution and it may be a while until we see a show of this consistent quality hit our screens again. Soak it up while you can people.

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And that’s it. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading the blog this year and that you will continue to do so into the future.

Please come back for more at regular intervals, and let me know your thoughts below!

 

 

 

*That is deliberately broad because I’m going to try and cover as much as possible here.

**I have no idea what it is about her, but she has something that I like.

***To be fair, every manager in the world says that they are going to make the team play an attractive brand of football.

^Yes, I do mean literally. Not the way that people over use that word these days.

^^They had 5 players from their domestic league in the squad, which considering the quality is actually quite good if you ask me.

^^^I have it third all time.