So, before we run out the clock on 2019, let's press forward with our seventh annual review of the best, worst and wackiest in sports from the past year: RAZZIE FOR OFFICIALS GONE WILD It's always easy to complain about anyone wearing stripes.
This year, that was especially true. There was the official who turned into Helen Keller when Los Angeles cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman committed a blatant interference penalty that was more like an assault in the NFC championship game.
And the Final Four refs who could've called a foul on Auburn or a decisive double-dribble on Virginia's Ty Jerome but curiously went with Option C — none of the above. Then, while everyone was debating the non-call, they whistled Auburn for a questionable foul on a three-point attempt that handed the Cavaliers the victory.
Oh yeah, let's not forget the Kentucky Derby. Maximum Security led every gallop of the way in the Run for the Roses, only to be disqualified afterward for alleged interference. The first DQ of a winning horse in the derby's 145-year history elevated 65-1 long-shot Country House to the winner's circle.
Robey-Coleman spoke for us all when he sheepishly said, “I got away with one.” BEST SWITCHEROO OF 2019 As the blacklisting of Colin Kaepernick approached three years, the NFL suddenly offered the pariah quarterback a chance to work out for every team.
As long as he agreed to the proposal within two hours. And showed up in Atlanta on a Saturday, when none of the league's real movers and shakers would be there. And worked out in private. And signed a waiver that essentially gave away all of his rights.
Kaepernick got the last laugh, calling off the charade with minutes to spare and exposing the NFL's hypocrisy for everyone to see. He staged an open workout at a high school 60 miles away, showed he's still got plenty of skills and challenged the league to give him a legitimate chance.
He's still waiting by the phone. SHOTS OF THE YEAR We can't pick a clear-cut winner in this category, so we'll hand out three awards. Come on up, Kawhi Leonard. You get one for the first Game 7, series-winning buzzer-beater in NBA history, a rainbow from the corner that bounced off the rim four times before dropping through and sparked Toronto to its first title.
Take a bow, Damian Lillard. We'll never forget the Portland star's series-winning 3-pointer from just inside the half-court logo against Oklahoma City. And, finally, give a big hand to Dearica Hamby. With her team trailing by two in the closing seconds of a WNBA playoff elimination game, the Las Vegas player made a steal, misread the clock (there was still about 7 seconds left) and threw up an ill-advised, running 3-pointer from 38 feet than somehow banked in.
THE BIGGEST NON-LOSER Andy Ruiz Jr. turned up for a heavyweight title shot with a body better suited to a bowling alley, and still managed to knock out unbeaten Anthony Joshua for one of the biggest upsets in boxing history.
Ruiz stepped up his "Big Lebowski” training regimen for the rematch, with workouts that consisted mostly of light jogging through the Golden Corral buffet line. Alas, even bigger (283 pounds) wasn't better. J oshua reclaimed his title with a unanimous decision over the pudgy, now-ex champion.
PLAYOFF NON-PARTICIPATION AWARD Turns out, you can spell C-O-L-L-E-G-E F-O-O-T-B-A-L-L P-L-A-Y-O-F-F without C-R-I-M-S-O-N T-I-D-E. For the first time since the playoff was launched in 2014, Nick Saban's Alabama team failed to make the four-team field, doomed by close losses to LSU and Auburn.
Thankfully, we were spared from all those nauseating renditions of “Sweet Home Alabama" that usually blared during the semifinals and championship game. FASHION BREAK We'll pause for a few minutes to check out what some of the folks in our glamorous crowd are wearing.
Hey, everyone, it's Zion Williamson! In a daring fashion move, he's gone with the latest from Nike's “ Exploding Shoe Collection." Guaranteed to send you tumbling down the red carpet, while also ensuring a $75 million contract from an embarrassed sneaker company looking to buy your forgiveness.
THROWBACK TROPHY Tom Coughlin was fired by the Jacksonville Jaguars after his Downton Abbey-era disciplinary methods were rightly called out by the NFL Players Association. Now, Coughlin is free to return to his dream job coaching the Decatur Staleys, whose clocks are still set to the 1920s and where sunglasses aren't really a thing yet.
ATLANTA CUP FOR BIGGEST PLAYOFF FLOP This award, named in honor of the city that has witnessed a plethora of postseason fiascoes across a wide range of sports, goes to ... the Atlanta Braves. Keeping the prize in its rightful home, the Braves tied a major league record with their 10th consecutive playoff round defeat — and they did it with style.
In the final game of the NL Division Series against the Cardinals, Atlanta gave up a record 10 runs in the top of the very first inning, meaning the season was essentially over while many fans were still stuck in the city's notorious traffic.
MOST INFLUENTIAL ON SOCIAL MEDIA Kudos to O.J. Simpson, whose sage Twitter video posts about his fantasy football team (not to mention advice for Antonio Brown) were a must read — especially if you scrawled down to the replies, reminding us in all sorts of snide ways that the Juice was accused of killing two people and served nine years in prison for armed robbery and kidnapping.
But this award goes to Magic Johnson. No one showed more dedication to the craft than the guy who resigned as president of basketball operations for the Los Angeles Lakers so he could tweet to his hearts content, without worrying about those pesky NBA tampering rules.
Now, we get such gems as Magic listing 17 players when he tweeted out his Top 16 MVP candidates. Why a Top 16? Why 17 names? We have no idea, but genius is rarely understood in real time. SPECIAL LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT NEWBY FOR FILM EXCELLENCE
For our final award, we recognize the cinematic skills of Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots, who tried to produce their own version of “The Irishman” when they sent an alleged documentary crew to shoot footage of the Cincinnati sideline the week before they played the Bengals.
Mindful that the Patriots already produced the biggest NFL blockbuster of the previous decade —and we're not even going to mention their immense scientific contributions in the field of air pressure — the selection committee was extremely impressed with New England's commitment to produce another masterpiece in the face of obstacles such as rules and ethics.
Too bad the film was confiscated before we could see the end result. At least we'll always have “Spygate.”
Paul Newberry is a sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at pnewberry(at)ap.org or at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 His work can be found at https://apnews.com
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