As the cold, watery light of New Year’s Day dawns and the hangovers begin to fade, I experience the underwhelming feeling which grasps every sports fan when entering an odd numbered year. Sure there might be a Rugby World Cup, or a World Athletics Championship, but realistically, no World Cup, no European championships, and no Olympics. Those are certain.
Then again, we have been terribly spoilt in 2012. Realistically, as a Brit, it has probably been the most exciting sporting year I have ever experienced, or will ever; as it probably is for all of us. Even those who remember England winning a home World Cup will struggle not to gaze into the middle distance every time someone mentions Super Saturday, or dressage. I have read at least 12 articles listing the great triumphs of this year in British sport (many of them conveniently forget about England’s dismal defeat on penalties by Italy at Euro 2012), so I won’t list them again. Instead, I’m here to give all those 2013 haters some things to look forward to. Here are my top 5 events to watch this year in sport.
Most of us will watch it anyway, but this year has a level of intriegue higher than usual. The disillusion with international rugby of a few years ago, when the game descending entirely into scrums, kicking, and penalties, appears to have faded. Even in Scotland, running rugby and (gasp) try-scoring, is back in fashion. None of the 6 nations look entirely settled, some are even in disarray, and it could be a year for one team to breakout and seize the competition by its neck.
The Premier League finale
Nothing will match “Aguerooooooo” for excitement when it comes to the end of a season, possibly ever. However, this year’s league certainly promises to finish a close one. Although United are clear at the moment, the frailty in there squad is clear as they continue to rely on Michael Carrick and Paul Scholes. Without those two they are unable to control games, and the multi-talented Man City squad, along with a Chelsea team gathering momentum and Demba Ba (so it would seem), as well as Spurs’ ominous form, and Arsenal’s recovery, don’t be surprised to see it all bunch up for a big sprint finish come May. Oh, and Harry Redknapp reckons QPR will conduct the greatest comeback since Lazarus.
Lions Tour of Australia
Yes, more rugby (odd numbered years, they love them those egg-chasers). However, the Lions tours are unique to rugby really, and as someone interested in sports psychology, are truly fascinating. Take players from 4 (although usually 3 plus a token Scot) different countries, most of whom have never played with each other, throw them onto a plane, and then send them to a foreign country to play a series of, apparently, pointless Test matches. If we did that with football, 75% of the squad would pull out due to “injury” and the rest would spend the trip boozing, playing crazy golf, and sleeping with each other’s partners. It works with rugby though, and has provided us with some of the most thrilling encounters of recent years. Get up early or stay up late, but when the end of June swings around, prepare for fun, fights, and lionhearted rugby.
My heart rate actually increased when I wrote that word. Ashes. Sorry, I know that cricket to most of you (I expect a lot of Scottish and American readers…) is a good way to ruin a warm summer’s afternoon, but this is different. Anyone who watched any of the last couple of series (i.e. the ones we won) will understand the rivalry, and the excitement an Ashes series brings. England, fresh from their first series victory in India for 30 years, will host Australia for 5 Test matches, with new skipper Alastair Cook looking to follow in the footsteps of England’s most successful Ashes player in the modern era, now retired Andrew Strauss, and drub the convicts one more time. (You can’t say that. I think it might be racist. Ed.)
Mark October 27 in your diaries as the date for the NFL’s latest trip to Wembley. The San Francisco 49ers return to London once again and the Jacksonville Jaguars begin an association with London which they hope to make a long-term one. Unfortunately, the Jags are terrible, and the 49ers are pretty good. There is a reason they are here though; Newcastle United wouldn’t volunteer for one of their home games to be played in New York, but Wigan might. The Jags see it as a business opportunity for a franchise ailing on and off the pitch. Fortunately, they will have a chance to improve their side with an early pick in the 2013 draft, but even so, don’t expect a classic. Watching San Francisco might be fun though. And the tail-gating is pretty epic in Wembley’s super-size car parks.
Of course, there’s a whole lot more: Wiggo defending his Tour de France title, England attempting to foul what is quite possibly the easiest qualifying group for the World Cup I have ever seen, the World Athletics Championships in Moscow, and Lewis Hamilton’s first season away from McLaren in the Formula 1 championship.
Okay, so it’s no 2012. But it’ll still be exciting. I promise.
What are you looking forward to most this year, or what do you want to see happen? Tweet us @sport_thesaint and use the hashtag #my2013.