It’s hard to explain what makes sport so enthralling. It’s most likely the drama – those tall tales of gladiatorial clashes, plucky underdogs, mercurial talents and fallen greats that go down in popular folklore. Mankind’s achievements are great and many, but individual human endeavour always seems best encapsulated by sporting greatness. Like any year before it, 2010 was another fascinating year with its own unique events and qualities that made it a great, and often not-so-great year in sport.
Commencing, naturally, with our national sport football, Chelsea ended the 2009-2010 season hoisting both the FA Cup and Premier League trophy above their inflated heads. In a strange twist they ended the year in a slump, no longer the front runners but in the mix with a handful of teams all in with a shot at English football’s biggest prize, perhaps setting up the most competitive season of football ahead in some time.
In international football, the summer’s World Cup in South Africa was arguably the most boring in recent memory that somehow managed to offend multiple sensory functions. If the sight of Greece and Nigeria trying to long-ball each other into submission wasn’t seared uncomfortably onto your retinas, the ominous drone of the vuvuzelas was a convenient aural assault that was irritating enough to wake you from your slumber so that you may turn over to more interesting television like Homes Under the Hammer. Do I need mention England’s performance? Thought not.
More recently, England’s own bid to host the World Cup boasted too many parallels with the national team’s performance, chiefly, being dumped out unceremoniously despite high expectations. The bid team assembled the most famous English faces possible, short of a bespectacled Daniel Radcliffe, to try and seal the deal, but ultimately the charms of Becks, Wills and Cameron couldn’t beat Russia’s financial promise.
Tennis in 2010 was played out by the old familiar aristocracy with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer sharing the Grand Slam titles out between them, albeit with Nadal being the slightly greedier of the two. Familiar British shortcomings also capped off an entirely predictable tennis season with Andy Murray failing to make any headway in disrupting Nadal and Federer’s top-two cartel, although he did well to reach the final of the Australian Open back in January.
Refreshingly unpredictable however was 2010’s Formula One season, which was eventually won out somewhat controversially by the capricious German Sebastian Vettel despite him having never led the championship at any point before the final race. His Red Bull team mate Mark Webber was left ruing an opportunity missed, his first and probably only chance of winning the Driver’s Championship after 8 years in the business.
It was all change at the golfing summit in a year which saw Tiger Woods take the most dramatic tumble from grace. At the tail end of 2009, allegations surfaced of Wood’s numerous extramarital affairs, leading to the termination of his most profitable sponsorship deals, his 6 year marriage, and eventually his 5 year stint as world number one. Despite all of the awful-but-funny golf/sex puns (mainly involving holes) and internet games that followed, the most disturbing culmination of the events was actually cooked up by Wood’s own sponsor, Nike, with a bizarre advert where we delved deep into the eyes of the Tiger as his deceased father Earl questioned why he did it. Woods failed to win a single tournament in 2010, including the Ryder Cup in which the European team, spearheaded by a number of British golfers, triumphed. Continuing the successful golfing year for Britain, Englishman Lee Westwood took up the mantle of the world’s number one golfer, capping off a remarkable career turnaround which at its lowest point saw him languishing at 266th in the world rankings in 2003. Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell also became the first Briton to win a major since 1999 when taking the US Open crown.
Both Westwood and McDowell were nominees come December at the BBC’s annual Sports Personality of the Year awards, or the SPOTYs as no one calls them, although this acronym would have been apt had pubescent diver Tom Daley picked up the gong. In the end the title went quite justly to jockey Tony McCoy after a landmark year where he finally added the Grand National to his impressive list of accolades on the 15th attempt. Runner-up was world champion darts player Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor whilst European heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis came in third. The phenomenal athletic talents in the running for the prize of Ennis, Mark Cavendish and David Haye could only have been disappointed to be beaten by a darts player. If you can drink beer whilst playing it, it’s not a sport, or so the argument goes.
But not for the first time in 2010, David Beckham was the real centre of attention. You’d have to be the most cold-hearted of cynics not to have been moved by the 35-year-old’s acceptance of a Lifetime Achievement award, despite the irony of 73-year-old, World Cup-winning, true legend Bobby Charlton presenting it to him. Given a standing ovation for the best part of two minutes, the former England captain was teary-eyed from the sight of his peers clapping, his children smiling, and even his wife doing her best passable attempt at crying. Decreed a national hero despite never winning anything with his country, it seemed a wholly appropriate and so very English way to end the year. After all, it’s the taking part that counts.
Some great stories are sure to have been missed out, so tell us, what are your favourite sporting moments of 2010?