January 1, 2013

The 2012 RTP awards

by Dan Bilicki In: Baseball, Basketball, Football, Ice Hockey, Olympics, Soccer

It’s the end of a year, so that can mean only one win: It’s time to give out some awards! I would call it the “first annual” so-and-so awards but I’m not actually sure if this is either the first time I’ve handed out awards or if it will be an annual event. But anyways, on to the show.

UNLIKELY CHAMPION OF THE YEAR: With much props to the Los Angeles Kings – who won the Stanley Cup as an eighth seed – ice hockey is exactly the type of sport where the regular season doesn’t matter and you can ride a hot goalie all the way to the Cup. No, the most unlikely of champions was actually the champion of the Champions League: Chelsea. This is a team that finished sixth domestically and wouldn’t have even qualified for this season’s tourney without winning it all. They fired their coach mid-season, went through injuries and plenty of squad rotation, yet still were able to best Barcelona in the semifinal with only 10 men. Then, in Munich, were able to fend off a fierce Bayern Munich squad by taking them to penalties after a late header by Didier Drogba. Nobody could have predicted that back in January with Andre Villas-Boas captaining that sinking ship.

Winner: Chelsea FC.

MOMENT OF THE YEAR: There’s something special about winning a title. There’s something special about winning one for the first time in 46 years. There’s something special about narrowly edging your cross-town rivals to do it. And there’s something special about doing it on a goal in injury time while your rivals were watching on TV and waiting to celebrate. That’s why Manchester City’s furious comeback against QPR on the final day of the Premier League season and Sergio Aguero’s winning goal are the undoubted moment of the year.

Winner: Sergio Aguero’s EPL-winning goal.

BIGGEST FALL FROM GRACE: Remember around the beginning of2012 when there was legit talk about Manny Pacquiao finally manning up and fighting Floyd Mayweather? Now thought is why should Mayweather even take that fight? Pacquiao lost both of his fights this – albeit the decision loss to Timothy Bradley was controversial – and is now looking to set up another fight with the man that knocked him out for the first time since 1999, Juan Marquez. Even if we saw Mayweather-Pacquiao, Money would be such a big favourite that the PPV draw wouldn’t even come close to approaching the lofty estimates had this fight happened just 12 months ago.

Winner: Manny Pacquiao, boxing.

STORY OF THE YEAR: The year after watching the NFL’s owners and PA squabble over how to divide up their billions of dollars and also watching the NBA sacrifice half of a season to work out what seems like nothing, the NHL felt the need to tear up its CBA that was signed a mere seven years ago. We’ve now witnessed 51% of the 2012-13 campaign scrapped and it seems like we’ve been for months. It’s a good thing that the NHL didn’t learn their lesson from other leagues and now we’re frighteningly close to seeing a second season cancelled in less than a decade. Way to grow the game guys.

Winner: The NHL lockout.

CANADIAN MALE ATHLETE: There’s little no doubt in this one. Ice hockey is on hiatus, no Canadian baseball player had a strong enough season for consideration, Georges St. Pierre only had one fight thanks to his recovery from knee surgery and props to Ryder Hesjedal for winning Giro d’Italia, but on this blog it’s Tour de France or bust. That leaves Milos Raonic, by far the best Canadian tennis player of his generation. Raonic continued his rise up the ATP world rankings and has a chance to get even higher with experience.

WINNER: Milos Raonic, tennis.

CANADIAN FEMALE ATHLETE: This one is another without-a-doubter. Christine Sinclair has been the top Canadian women’s soccer player for years now and is finally getting some deserved recognition in this category. She led the women’s Olympic team to a bronze medal – and was screwed out of a chance for gold. The only true competitor is Karen Cockburn, Canada’s lone gold medallist at the London Games. But one trampoline competition isn’t enough to best Sinclair.

WINNER: Christine Sinclair, soccer.

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: While you may think it hard to compare different players from different sports in this category, it really isn’t too difficult when you look at the raw numbers across the tops of most sports. There are really three guys that stand out.

Miguel Cabrera accomplished a feat that no baseball player had for 45 years. By leading the AL in batting average, home runs and RBIs, he captured the Triple Crown and was awarded the AL MVP. Many can argue that Mike Trout had a better season, but that takes into account his defence, something we don’t care about in this category.

Next up is Adrian Peterson, who amazingly came back from a torn ACL after eight months – which is nearly unheard of – to rush for 2097 yards and challenge Eric Dickerson’s single-season record. Even more amazing, without any semblance of a passing game, opposing teams loaded up the box to stop him. That strategy didn’t work and AP even nearly propelled the Vikings to an unlikely playoff berth.

But the real man of this category has to be Lionel Messi. In a sport where scoring can be so rare, Messi was simply stunning, finding the net a record 91 times for club-side Barcelona and Argentina. That bested Gerd Muller’s 1972 in which he had 85 goals. Many will squabble that Messi played 69 games in 2012 to reach 91 while Muller notched his mark in 60 appearances, but you can’t deny that scoring more than a goal per game in any soccer era is pretty amazing.

WINNER: Lionel Messi, forward, Barcelona.

ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: This one comes down to two people really. Both are at the tops of their sports and each accomplished some pretty big highs this year. They are LeBron James and Lionel Messi.

As we stated in the offensive player of the year category, it can’t be denied how amazing of a year Messi had. But Messi didn’t win his league and didn’t even make the Champions League final.

James, on the other hand, won everything that he could. He was the NBA MVP, won the championship and won gold at the Olympics. But really, the most remarkable thing was that he finally took the leap and showed the world just how unstoppable he can be and did it with all the chips on the table. The one knock I have on James is that he was playing on that kooky post-lockout schedule. Because of his raw athleticism, he was able to play at a high level every night while the rest of the league couldn’t keep up.

WINNER: LeBron James, basketball, Miami Heat.

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