2016 Sport Addiction Year in Review

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It was a rough one for so many as 2016 was not a year that many people will want to remember as bad news seemed to be around every corner.

The world was in a different place this year and it wasn’t great for most people as everyone had something to worry about.

But that is where the beauty of sports really shines through as they can provide that break that everyone needs once in a while.

There are the people who will consistently claim that sports are nothing but a bad distraction from the real world.

They believe that the money paid to players is way too much and that there are much more important things in the world to focus on rather than sports.

None of that is necessarily wrong because in the grand scheme of things sports are not that big of a deal.

But in a year like 2016 where it seemed like everything was going wrong and more depressing news continued to roll in, sports served the purpose it was always meant to serve.

When organised sports first came around it was simply a distraction and something fun for workers to play.

Then it became something fun for people to watch and as it grew the money and the focus continued to grow.

There is no doubt that the money made is getting more and more every year and that is not the best thing while the money that some cities pay to keep their teams in town is equally crazy.

The sports world is not without its issues and its depressing news which there were some of this year.

That is the nature of something that has become so big and so ingrained in society as there are bound to be the bad stories or fallen heroes.

This year there were some stories that made people angry and others that made people sad as heroes were lost and others were exposed.

Some stories left fans scratching their heads and others had everyone reminiscing about other times.

Some stories got people talking about issues that were far bigger than any one game or one player bringing the real world into the sports world.

It was the nature of the year in sports as not everything was great all of the time but not everything was terrible all of the time either.

There were stories of massive accomplishments and stories about athletes doing things that nobody thought they could do.year-in-review-sidebar.fw

There was inspiration and the greatest of goodbyes along with accomplishments in the shadow of massive issues.

That was 2016 and for sports fans, it was another year with so much to talk about and debate.

Great players and great performances dominated the headlines while massive events filled the airwaves for the majority of the year.

It was a busy year for the sports world but above all, it once again provided that place where things are a little more black and white.

Teams either win or lose and players either come through or fall short making everything simple.

When the world around is so complicated there is nothing like a little bit of simplicity in anyone’s life.

That is what makes all of us love sports so much and although 2016 wasn’t without its controversy it was that escape for so many.

So we look back at the sometimes controversial and sometimes inspiring stories that everyone was talking about throughout the year.

As we look back we also look forward to 2017 that everyone hopes will be a little bit better outside of the sports world.

Although everyone will be looking to outside of the sports world it will always be there when we need a simple inspirational story or need something or someone to cheer for.

It may not be as busy in 2017 but there is sure to be plenty to talk about again as there is only one guarantee in sports and that is that anything can happen.

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MMA remains a sport on the outskirts of the mainstream as they are just sitting south of the top leagues in the world. Still, they are getting much more attention than ever before as the UFC continues to build their brand. They are gaining more attention every year and although they may never enter the mainstream they can still get time on the major networks. A large part of that time on the major sports networks comes thanks to the superstars that have risen through the promotion. Unfortunately for the UFC one of those stars was invisible all 2016 as Ronda Rousey did not fight the entire year after losing her first fight at the end of 2015. Without their biggest star, there was a void and the void was filled quickly by the next biggest star who only got bigger. Conor McGregor had been making noise throughout 2015 as he continued to talk and continued to work his way through the featherweight division. 2016 was his year though as he took the featherweight title at the end of 2015 and set his sights on bigger things in 2016. His whole year was the pursuit of the lightweight title and there was plenty of twists and turns towards that goal. First was the cancelled fight with Rafael dos Anjos that led to his first loss against Nate Diaz. He came back from the loss to beat Diaz in one of the most anticipated rematches ever and then moved on to beat Eddie Alvarez to become the only dual champion in UFC history. All the while he continued to get noticed by everyone, making the cover of Sports Illustrated and leading the biggest cards in the UFC including UFC 205 in New York where his stardom only got bigger. The UFC quickly became too small for him as he broke records all year and became a household name even outside of the UFC fandom. This was certainly the year of “The Notorious” in MMA as he helped the UFC to become more recognisable everywhere. McGregor took over this year as he was the biggest fighter in the world making people notice the UFC a little bit more.

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The Rio Olympics were obviously a massive part of the year in sports for 2016 and there were plenty of stories surrounding the games in Brazil. One of the biggest that came from the game was not the most positive and was one that tended to lean into the stereotype of athletes and American athletes specifically. After the swimming portion of the games was finished American swimmer Ryan Lochte decided to enjoy a night out. Unfortunately, his night out turned dangerous as he and the teammates he was with were robbed at gunpoint. It was a massive breaking story immediately and that was largely because it was something that everyone was concerned about going into the games. In a country with a reputation for lawlessness, some fans wondered if their athletes would be targeted in robberies or kidnapping. Lochte’s story was the worst fear of many and the organisers of the games were just as concerned about their inability to protect their athletes. They launched an investigation to figure out what had happened and after a short investigation, the story began to fall apart. Lochte and his teammates were never robbed but instead were drunk and wondering around the city. They stumbled into a gas station washroom where they reportedly caused damage and when they refused to pay for the damages a security guard drew a gun and held them until they paid. It certainly wasn’t the ideal way to handle it from the security guard but the situation went way too far when it could have been solved by Lochte or his teammates paying for the damage they caused. The lie is what did them in though as many would have questioned the actions of the security guard had Lochte not insisted that he had been held up at gunpoint. Instead, he lied to everyone and any credibility that he had as he went from a star on the US team to an outcast and an embarrassment from the American team. It was a low point for the games but more the American involvement in the games as they had to repair their image after the actions of one athlete.

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It was a rough year all around in 2016 and although there were some great things there were also some less than great things. That included the sports world following the pattern of the rest of the year and the rest of the world in losing a number of heroes. Unlike every other year when the losses are hard to take for the fans of that player or a team they played for these losses were that of the biggest legends in the sports world. Three sports lost founding fathers this year in a more depressing part of the year in sports. There was Arnold Palmer who passed away in September leaving the golf world without one of the greatest to ever play the game. He was one of the greats but his ability to bring the game to the masses was more than anyone ever. He is largely credited with being one of the few players to make the PGA Tour a major sport in the North American landscape. In the world of hockey Gordie Howe was one of the builders of the NHL and this year he also lost his long battle after a stroke in 2015. Howe was one of the toughest players in the history of the league and one of the most well-rounded players. Getting a goal, assist and a fight in a game was considered the Gordie Howe hat trick while Wayne Gretzky called him the greatest player ever. He will always be known as one of the foundations of the league and if there was a mount Rushmore of hockey he would be right there. One of the biggest losses was the one felt by almost everyone who has been sports fans for any amount of time. Muhammed Ali passed away this year and the sports world was rocked as one of the biggest personalities in all sports was lost. Not only was he a massive personality but he also fought for what he believed in every step of the way inspiring countless people to start their own careers or do something that they believe in. It was a sad year with all three of these legends passing on but what it did do was make sure that everyone recognises their contribution to the sports world.

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As the UFC continues to grow and gets noticed by more people in the sports wild they come under more pressure to follow the rules that every other league follows. This year the pressure only continued to build from past years and the call to pay the fighters fairly became a major story. It only grew to a boiling point when the UFC was sold for $4 billion to WME-IMG and all of a sudden everyone knew just what the UFC was worth. With that sale, fighters started to look at their small paychecks and their inability to live on fighting alone and more of them started to speak up. Whereas the small minority gain enough to live a great life there are many more earning a few thousand dollars every fight and if they only fight three times a year that is far less than they need to live. So with the UFC clearly having a good amount of money the fighters started to wonder how they could get in of the profits. So the race began to start a fighter’s union that could represent all fighters and try to earn fair pay for their sacrifices. The Fighter’s Union was established by a number of lawyers but never really gained traction. Then came the Fighter’s Association who announced their arrival with a number of former and current UFC fighters alongside the former Bellator owner. It has all been a good idea as someone does need to fight for the rights of these fighter’s because they have no power. The problem has been that the union and the association are fighting amongst each other while the former Bellator owner continues to attack the UFC. Nobody seems to be doing themselves any favours and nobody is taking them seriously as the UFC is simply continuing on. Not every fighter is on board either and that is the biggest issue as it Is going to take a number of fighter’s likely striking and forcing the cancellation of a UFC card to change anything. It was a start and 2016 might become known as the year that the union began even despite the multiple problems they face heading into 2017.

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It was the scandal that wouldn’t go away as it has been about three years since the New England Patriots were accused of deflating their balls during a playoff game against Indianapolis. At first, it was all about how much that actually did to help them and whether or not the NFL had the right to hand out their punishment. Last year it was about the fight by Tom Brady against the league as he fought his suspension and won. This summer though the story was back in the limelight as the NFL went back to court in order to overturn the recent decision and re-establish Brady’s suspension. It was yet another big issue for the NFL as they continued to fight against the public perception of Roger Goodell and the league. Fighting Brady did not seem to be the best decision though as it only allowed the fans to hate on Goodell even more. The entire fight was about trying to get their decision justified and trying not to make it seem like anyone could get away with any type of cheating. Whether Brady did know is still a massive debate but the fact is that the league really had no evidence to show that he was involved. He was more or less a fall guy as the league would like to claim that there is no way he didn’t know that the balls were under-inflated. It was also the second time that the league had caught the Patriots bending the rules to their favour. The league wanted to make an example of their crown jewel franchise and suspending one of the best players was a good way to do that. So when they were told that the suspension wasn’t warranted they lost some of their power as the player beat them. This summer they fought again though and this time the league came out on top as Brady’s suspension as instated and the best quarterback in the league was forced to sit out the first four games of the 2016 season. It didn’t make any fans of the league though as their continued battle against the players and the fans only got worse in 2016.

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Announcers are not usually part of the big news stories every year as they are often better heard and not seen. They aren’t the stars of the show and they never really should be as the players and the games are the stars. Announcers are there to enhance the experience of watching the game rather than to take the focus away from the game. Every now and then someone does come out and becomes the stars and usually, they receive a lot of backlash for that. Then there are the announcers that do their job so well they simply become stars regardless of what they want. These are the rare announcing heroes that people will watch games just to hear because they do things so well. Vin Scully was that hero to so many in the baseball world as he was always one of the best ever. When he started TV was a thing of the future that not everyone thought was going to catch on. Still, he was the voice that everyone listened to if they wanted to hear a Brooklyn Dodgers game. People grew up with Scully talking to them on the radio and he became a household name. He followed the Dodgers to Los Angeles and became the TV commentator all the while keeping his conversational tone throughout the broadcasts. His legend only grew more while on TV and as the market grew he was broadcast into more homes. It wasn’t long before everyone got to hear Scully welcome everyone into the broadcast as if he was welcoming everyone into his own home. That style and his years of great stories from the game made him one of the best announcers in any sport. 2016 marked his last year in the booth though as baseball fans only got to see the greatness that was Scully for one more season. Throughout the year nothing changed and that was the best part as everyone still got to hear him and he went out like he came in, humble as ever about his spot in the world of baseball. He will be part of that history though as one of the best announcers ever with everyone coming after him sure to take notes on how he did it.

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For many cities, teams are the lifeblood of the area as they are the pride and joy of everyone who lives in the area. They are an excuse for everyone to get together in one place and celebrate as one group. They bring cities together and when their teams do well the city always seems a little bit brighter. Teams can be the crown jewel of a city and they can truly have an impact as people travel to cities specifically for the sports. There are some great sports cities with great teams but not every city is lucky enough to have an extended period of success as most teams can’t keep that up. That makes cities rise and fall as great sports cities but for some, there is a lot more falling than rising. Cleveland was always one of those cities as they were the butt of jokes for years with a failing football team, baseball team, and basketball team. Aside from random periods of success there was never a time where Cleveland seemed to be a great place to be a sports fan. That began to change this year though as the Cleveland sports scene turned into one of the hottest in North America. It all started with the Cleveland Monsters of the AHL who won the first major title in Cleveland since the Browns won in 1964. The Calder Trophy win was a sign of what was to come as only a few months after local fighter, Stipe Miocic took the heavyweight championship in the UFC. Once again Cleveland was on the sports map but it didn’t truly hit until the Cleveland Cavaliers took home the NBA title for the first professional championship since that 1964 NFL title. It was made even better by the fact that the team was led by local boy LeBron James. After that title, the MLB saw Cleveland in the World Series for the first time since 1997 and they had a chance for the first time since 1948. They ended up losing the series but Cleveland was back on the map. They had seen more success this year than the decades beforehand and they hope to continue that pattern in 2017.

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It isn’t often that the sports world intersects with the real world and the big issues affecting everyone are talked about in sports programming on a weekly basis. There are those moments though as sports is an easily accessible spot for some to express their opinion to a lot of people. Of course, not everyone will always agree with the opinion or even want to hear an opinion about anything when their watching sports. Still, it is a platform and athletes have opinions whether people like it or not. For Colin Kaepernick the opinion was strong and it came out in a new way this season. During the NFL preseason, Kaepernick decided that he would begin kneeling while the national anthem was played. The idea was a protest about the treatment of African-Americans in the USA after a year full of police shooting and the rise of Black Lives Matter. Kaepernick had just recently been exposed to the issues of racism, apparently due to a recent relationship with a socially active woman. His newfound activism came out on the sidelines of the NFL as he took a knee for the anthem and has continued it throughout the season claiming that he would not stop until the things changed. His activism didn’t sit well with a lot of NFL fans though as the backlash was extreme. Many claimed that he was disrespecting the armed forces by kneeling as they burnt his jerseys. Others claimed that he wouldn’t know what it was like to see this discrimination as a man raised by a well-off white family and that meant his protest didn’t mean as much. Still, others claimed that it would have meant more had he been a starter and a star player. There was plenty of talk about him and all of the things wrong with his protest but that didn’t stop his actions from inspiring others. More players decided to take a knee or lock arms in solidarity with Kaepernick’s protest. He had started a conversation in the NFL and whether his protest makes any type of significant change remains to be seen but the legacy of this year for the San Francisco QB will be that his action started a conversation about race in the biggest league in North America.

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Cleveland had a resurgent year but part of their resurgence fell short thanks to a much better sports city in Chicago. The fans in the Windy City have not been lacking for great teams as the Chicago Blackhawks have carried the torch in recent years. They were always a city that has had one team step up when the other teams are suffering a bit. The only team that couldn’t seem to do that was the Cubs who were the loveable losers in the sports world. They had not been able to find a championship in over 100 years having the league’s longest losing streak and the sports world’s longest losing streak. No matter what happened in the Chicago scene the Cubs were always the team that could never win. They gained the moniker of the loveable losers because they slowly became a second team of fans all over the MLB. If their own teams couldn’t win a World Series and the Cubs were fighting for a chance everyone seemed to become Cubs fans. Yet for decades they hadn’t even made a World Series with strange things happening to keep them out. The Curse of the Billy Goat became known outside of baseball after the bounces always seemed to go the other way and especially after the Bartman incident. The Cubs tried everything to get back and there were multiple teams that could have done it although they never got there. The last few years they were starting the rebuild again but this time it seemed different as the young stars were making an impact and the team was getting better but not overnight. In 2015 they came within a series of the ultimate goal but all it did was set up a great 2016 where the expectations rose. They met those expectations as they were the best team all year and they headed into the postseason looking like a World Series team. That was the case as the Cubs took home the 2016 World Series breaking the longest drought in the history of North American professional sports and sending Chicago into the biggest celebration they had ever seen as everyone celebrated the Cubs this year.

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In any even year, it seems like an easy choice for the top sports story as every even year marks an Olympics year. It is the year where the entire sports world turns to a city somewhere in the world to see the best athletes take their shot at gold. The Rio Olympics may have taken that focus up a level in 2016 though as there were far more people talking about it than usual. That was due to the fact that the Olympics were headed to South America for the first time and everyone wanted to know how they could do. After all, Brazil was undergoing some massive changes just before the Olympics that put the games in some serious question. The government had been exposed as being corrupt and taking money from the people while the Zika virus swept across the region and the recession lagged on. It made many people concerned about the safety of athletes and the health of athletes that were travelling. There were even some concerned about if the Rio organisers could complete all of the venues and do everything they promised. Eventually, though the Olympics continued on as they do every two years and the Rio games were far less precarious than most people thought. There were no major incidents, aside from the Lochte issue that turned out to be a lie, as athletes remained healthy and safe the entire time. There was plenty of great moments that overshadowed any issues that did come though as Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps left their careers behind by doing what they do best and winning. There were countless inspirational moments and some heartbreak just like every Olympic Games has. In the end, the biggest story from the Olympics could be that nothing went wrong. They certainly struggled with finances and maybe never should have hosted for the betterment of their own country but after all of the concern over the many issues they were dealing with the games went off like any other games avoiding the disaster that everyone was waiting for in the lead-up.

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