On Tuesday, I revealed the first half of the 11 Biggest Sports Storylines Heading Into 2011.
Here are the top five, starting with…
5. Tiger Woods’ Rehab: At the sake of ostracizing all of my female readers, I’ve got a confession to make: I’m just about ready to forgive Tiger Woods.
For one, as crappy of a husband and father as he was, Tiger didn’t break any laws. Obviously, what he did was terrible, don’t get me wrong. But at the same time, it wasn’t worse than what Michael Vick’s crime, or what Ben Roethlisberger was accused of doing in that college bar in Georgia. Then again, I suppose if you’re being compared to Roethlisberger and Vick in any regard (other than as an NFL quarterback), that probably isn’t a good thing to begin with.
Beyond that, there's the whole remorse angle. Because while Roethlisberger continues to tell us he feels terrible about what he did, and Vick openly discusses owning a dog, I actually feel like Tiger is sincere when he says he’s sorry for what happened. Just seeing Tiger’s mannerisms, reading his body language and hearing him speak, it’s obvious that the guy is a mess emotionally. Go ahead and watch him. The club throwing, caddy berating Tiger of the past decade is gone. Therapy might not have helped his golf game, but it has definitely changed him as a man.
And really, you know what the turning point was for me with Tiger? When he hopped on Twitter a few weeks ago and answered a handful of questions from his fans. That small gesture might not seem like much to you, but believe me, the Tiger Woods of 18 months ago would’ve never even considered doing something like that. Maybe it meant nothing, I don’t know. But to me, it was his weird way of starting on the road toward forgiveness with the fans.
Regardless, I’m trying to keep this concise, but at some point I’ll probably write a separate column expanding my thoughts on the subject.
Just know that when Tiger says he’s a better man than he was a year ago, I for one believe it.
4. Evolving Sports TV: Speaking of columns that I almost wrote, but didn’t and wish I had, and still might going forward… I’ve been chewing on the evolution of sports television a lot lately.
I first noticed it over the summer, when ESPNU ran “Training Days,” with the Alabama football team. The show took us into the Tide’s practices, locker room, film room, cafeteria, you name it. And to say I was captivated would be an understatement. My house could’ve literally been burning to the ground and I probably wouldn’t have noticed until the show went to commercial. Training Days might not have been the first show of its kind, but was the most well done. And as I was watching it, I remember thinking to myself, “Hmm, I hope they do more shows like these.”
So what’s happened since then?
Well, for starters, ESPNU did another excellent All-Access series, this one with Duke basketball. Over the course of four episodes, ESPNU took us way deeper inside the Duke program than I expected them to, in the process showing a handful of things, including that 1. Nolan Smith has absolutely no personality at all and 2. That Coach K is absolutely insufferable under all circumstances. And you know what? If that show were on again right now, I’d watch it.
Since then ESPN has done “The Association,” following the Boston Celtics and HBO has added “24/7 Penguins-Capitals,” to their arsenal, proving that Training Days wasn’t a blip on the radar, but instead an emerging trend.
Also, I think that these shows kind of speak to where we are as sports fans right now. With Twitter, Facebook, blogs and a million other platforms, we have more information than we’ve ever had… yet still want more. It isn’t enough to watch our favorite teams every Saturday and Sunday. We need to be in the locker room with them, in contract negotiations with the star player, at team meals, traveling on the road. Go ahead and find the clips of Training Days or Duke All-Access and tell me that you wouldn’t kill for a similar special on your team.
My only hope is that these sports networks and websites listen to their viewers and continue to give us more of this stuff. I can hardly wait for the MLB Network mini-series, “Spring Fever: Life On The Road with the Kansas City Royals,” set to premiere this March.
Ok, so maybe I just made that up. But if that show were on, admit it, you’d probably watch.
3. The Conclusion Of An Interesting NFL Season: Now obviously anyone who reads this site knows that as crazy as it sounds, I’ve only got a passing interest in the NFL. Giants, Vikings, Redskins, whatever. Just let me know if Rex Ryan says anything interesting, if Brett Favre sends any inappropriate texts or if Andy Reid tries to eat D’Sean Jackson. Otherwise I’ll just catch all the other highlights on the 11pm Sportscenter, thank you very much.
Yet even me, Aaron Torres, casual NFL fan has to admit that there are some interesting storylines heading down the home-stretch of the season. Will we get a Michael Vick return to Atlanta for the NFC Championship Game (Something my buddy Matt sniffed out like five weeks ago)? What about an Eagles-Steelers Super Bowl that might literally lead to the entire state of Pennsylvania imploding? Will Tom Brady and his hair make a triumphant return to the big game? Like I said, lots of good stuff going on here.
Beyond that, even the teams that probably aren’t going to win the Super Bowl are at least interesting, something we couldn’t always say in years past. To me, the Jets are what Hannah Montana is to teenage boys: Just put them on the TV and I’m watching. Same with the Colts and Saints. Just as long as Peyton Manning and Drew Brees are playing quarterback, I'm there.
Hell, even the Chiefs…well…ok maybe I don’t have much on them. But hey, that Charlie Weis sure looks good in red, huh?
2. Speaking of Entertaining, It’s The NBA: Just like with football, I’ll always prefer college basketball to the pro game. With that said, even I’ve got to admit that the NBA has taken a fun turn this year.
And as much as it pains me to say it, you know who we need to give credit to for it all? That dips**t LeBron James. To LeBron’s credit, when he “Took His Talents To South Beach,” it was just the kick in the butt the rest of the league needed to step up their game’s as well.
Since LeBron landed in Miami, I can’t help but notice that every single big-time team has made some kind of move to better themselves, to at least try to keep up with the Heat. The Celtics added 12 fouls and roughly 900 lbs. of O’Neal when they signed Shaq and Jermaine in the offseason. The Lakers added minor pieces like Matt Barnes. The Mavericks subtly upgraded Tyson Chandler over Erick Dampier. And Orlando literally blew up their roster a few weeks ago in a move that reeked of keeping up with the Jones… Or in this case the Heat. Before that trade Orlando was getting left in everyone else’s dust. Now they may be the most terrifying team in the NBA.
And while I’m not comfortable making NFL predictions, I will go out on a limb in the NBA. With the calendar turning toward 2011, I’m going to say that we won’t get the NBA Finals that everyone wants. I’ll take the Celtics over the Heat in the East, and San Antonio over Los Angeles in the West, with Boston winning the title.
And oh, by the way, feel free to throw that last paragraph in my face come mid-June when the Lakers beat the Heat in seven games. My feelings won’t be hurt.
1. Oregon-Auburn: You all know college football is my favorite sport (just narrowly edging men’s college basketball and women’s mud wrestling), so honestly, you had to know that Oregon-Auburn would make this list, right?
And while I’m not going to give you a preview here (I’ll do that the day of the game on January 10), just know that this game is bigger than Cam Newton and LaMichael James. Those two were keys to getting their teams to the title game. But not the only ones. Darron Thomas, Jeff Maehl, Cliff Harris, Gus Malzahn, Nick Fairley and two dozen other guys were just as important as setting up this matchup as Newton and James were.
Again, the preview will be up January 10 (and a New Year’s Day preview will be up for all the other games on Friday), but just know this game is what I’ll be looking forward to most in 2011.
Happy New Year and see you then!
Also, for his continued take on all things sports, as well as updates on his articles, podcasts and giveaways, be sure to follow Aaron on Twitter @Aaron_Torres, Facebook.com/AaronTorresSports and by downloading the Aaron Torres Sports App for FREE for your iPhone or Android phones!)