COLUMN: The As I See It awards for 2022
It feels like it’s been a very quick year in the world of sports, so let’s get right to the (subjective) best and worst stories of the year.
Cheater of the year – If you’ve never watched pro bass fishing on TV I would highly suggest you check it out. In some parts of the states it gets more viewers than NHL hockey. The world of pro fishing was rocked to its core when a champion fisher was caught red-handed with weighted lead balls in his fish, thus making them artificially heavier. The YouTube video of the fisher denying he had stuffed weights in his fish followed immediately by an official cutting open the belly of the fish and pulling out some lead weights, is reality TV at its finest.
Dumbest athlete of the year – In many categories there are lots of athletes and events to pick from, but not in this category. Serbian tennis superstar Novak Djokovic passed up a chance at sporting immortality because of his ignorant and ill-informed views on vaccines. He could have won more major tournaments than any player in the history of tennis, but instead did not participate in the Australian Open because of his medically unfounded fears of a safe and effective vaccine that has been taken by literally billions of people on earth. Putting conspiracy theories ahead of sporting history makes Djokovic the frontrunner for the dumbest athlete of the century, not just 2022.
Most disturbing trend – Sportswashing is a term used to describe the use of sport as a way to cover up something bad and make it look good. With Qatar using the World Cup of Soccer to distract people from the human rights violations in that country and increase its standing in the world and a renegade golf tour operating on Saudi blood money in an effort to sportwash its horrific human rights record, the word ‘sportswashing’ is now sadly part of our vernacular.
Biggest disappointment – The prospect of finally seeing Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid and the Colorado Avalanche’s Nathan MacKinnon wearing the maple leaf at an Olympics was obliterated when the NHL, once again showing its shortsightedness, didn’t let NHLers play in Beijing. It was a huge disappointment and exposed the lie that the NHL wants to promote the game around the world. You can’t say you want to raise hockey’s global profile and then not participate in the best hockey tournament on the planet.
Most perplexing trend – How the NHL can allow Alex Ovechkin to pursue some of hockey’s most hallowed milestones while he refuses to criticize Putin’s illegal and immoral war in Ukraine when most other sports ban Russian athletes from competing, is a disconcerting blight on the NHL. He just passed Gordie Howe on the all-time scoring list and now is pursuing Wayne Gretzky’s record. It’s one thing for a heartless buffoon like former president Trump to call Putin a “genius” for invading Ukraine, but it’s an utter travesty that the NHL celebrates Ovechkin while he refuses to disown Putin or criticize the war.
Best local story – Saving the best for last, no summary of the sports year would complete without highlighting the SRSS Sabres once again asserting themselves as a volleyball powerhouse in Manitoba. With the girls’ varsity team qualifying for the provincial AAAA championships and the boys winning the provincial crown in a thrilling and epic five-set nail biter, the vaunted Sabres’ volleyball legacy lives on.
Happy New Year!