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10 Storylines for 2010: Part I

As we get ready to close out another year, expect to get bomarded with top 10 lists from 2009. It always happens around this time of year..

The Top 10 Sporting Events of 2009. The Top 10 John Mayer Hook-Up’s of 2009. The Top 10 Lindsay Lohan Rehab Visits.

But much like Mark McGwire at baseball’s Congressional hearings, I Aaron Torres am not here to talk about the past. Especially when there’s so much to look forward to in the future.

So join me, as I look at Part I of my Top 10 Sports Storylines of 2010.

And remember, be sure to visit AaronTorres-Sports.com again on Wednesday, where I will unveil Part II of this list.

Enjoy, and Happy Holidays!

 

10. My Continued Understanding of the UFC:

Alright I’ve got to come clean on something, and I know I’m going to sound like an old guy complaining about the internet in saying it. But here goes: I just don’t get mixed martial arts. I don’t.

Sure I understand the basic concepts and strategies of MMA. But I just don’t find the sport itself all that entertaining. I’m not particularly intrigued by any of the fighters (well other than that Tito Ortiz is married to Jenna Jameson, which definitely has my attention), and it seems to me like every “big,” fight literally ends a minute after it starts. Again, I just don’t get it.

But I will say this, whether I like it or not, the MMA is here to stay. I can promise you that.

Take this summer for example. I’m in British Columbia, wandering the streets and looking for something to do on a Saturday night. As the night goes on, me and a buddy make our way over to a PACKED sports bar, minutes before the Frank Mir-Brock Lesnar UFC 100 fight.

Let me tell you, the place was a zoo. I’ve never seen anything like it. Couples on dates. Groups of guys with a pile of empty pitchers in the middle of their table. Beautiful women everywhere. All there, all crowded into every inch of the bar, to watch a fight, that I, the biggest (and apparently most naïve) sports fan I know, had little to no interest in.

The second the fight got underway, the place got even more tense. Each punch got cheers and jeers from the crowd, like a bunch of overzealous soccer moms going crazy watching their six-year-olds. And when Lesnar laid waste to Mir and finished him in the second round, the place went nuts, everybody hugging, like a golfer and caddy who’d just won the U.S. Open. Only multiplied by 100.

After the fight, as Joe Rogan began interviewing Lesnar, the place again went stone quiet, with everybody hanging on Lesnar’s words. And seconds later, it erupted into total chaos when the burly fighter said, “I think I’m going to go home and get on top of my wife.” It was funny, it was surreal and it was one of my favorite moments of 2009.

And while I still haven’t totally wrapped my head around the sport, I am nothing if not progressive, and because of it, I expect 2010 to a huge year for AT and the UFC.

For starters, I think I need a genuine rooting interest, beyond seeing Jameson at Ortiz fights (Seriously if anyone has any suggestions on guys that I should be following, please let me know.). And I need to start pay-per-viewing at least some of the events, to dip my toes in the UFC pool.

Which is exactly what I was planning on doing for the Lesnar-Shane Carwin fight a few weeks ago, until it got cancelled because of Lesnar’s illness.

And while it might have been a little disappointing that the fight got called off, it is a step in the right direction that I was even excited for it to begin with. Something that would have been a totally foreign concept just a couple of months ago.

9. The Tiger Woods Media Reparation of 2010:

It’s hard to believe, but just three weeks ago I wrote a column about Tiger Woods and his indiscretions, and just 20 days later it’s already outdated. Have we ever turned on a public figure this quickly, and with this much anger? Ever?

In that column (and remember, we only knew about one girl at the time), my original hypothesis was that Tiger would disappear for a few months (which came true), Elin would stand by him, and eventually he would go back to just being Tiger Woods…Woops. Of course, when I originally wrote the piece, I had no idea that just days later Woods would turn into a modern day Caligula, and women would start coming forward by the busload to share their exploits with Tiger. Cocktail waitresses, porn stars and escorts oh my! All looking to get on the Tiger Woods money train.

But it’s ok, because to quote the great Herm Edwards: We Can Build On This!

Personally, I don’t think Tiger’s career is irreparably damaged, but just temporarily harmed.

Sure there are some people that will never forgive Tiger, but let’s be honest, women aged 25-60 weren’t buying his golf clubs and polo’s anyways. But young and middle-aged men were. And as someone who is part of that group, I’ve got to admit that overall, guys in their 20’s and 30’s are pretty forgiving.

And if Tiger Woods is serious about fixing his image with that group, there’s only one thing he’s got to do, and its the exact thing he’s been avoiding his entire career. Tiger Woods needs to embrace the media. Because whether we want to admit it or not, the media still shapes the way we perceive the world. It just does.

Woods needs to grant every interview, and answer every question, whether it’s the truth or not. He needs to tell us how remorseful and sorry he is, even if he’s still spending his Friday nights at IHOP trying to pick up waitresses.And as 2010, turns into 2011 and then 2012, and everything that we read and hear is about how sorry Tiger Woods is, eventually we’ll believe it. We can’t help ourselves.

Look at Kobe Bryant. Six years ago he was an accused rapist and an admitted adulterer. He lost some of his sponsors, and nearly lost his wife. Then he won an MVP, Gold Medal and NBA Championship, was on the cover of every magazine, and on Sportscenter more often than Stuart Scott. All of a sudden, nobody remembers Eagle, Colorado or adultery. It’s really that easy.

Which is why if I was advising Tiger Woods, my advice would be to just get out there.

Go and grant every interview to every media company that wants to talk. ESPN, USA Today, Men’s Health, Field and Stream, Teen Cosmo, Glamour, AaronTorres-Sports.com, who cares. Go on Oprah and Ellen and Emeril and Letterman and Leno, and when you’re done stop by Mad Money with Jim Kramer. Talk to Dr. Phil, Dr. Drew and Dr. Ruth.

Tell each and every one how sorry you are, and how remorseful you feel, and how you never wanted to hurt Elin. Once we hear it enough times, we’ll believe it, even if we don’t want to.

We’re actually a very forgiving society. In Tiger Woods’s case, he just needs to prove himself forgivable first.

8. Speaking of Tiger Woods, What’s The Future of Pro Golf?:

As much as I wish that Tiger would listen to me, I know he won’t. He’s going to stay away for a few months, and maybe even miss a major or two.

Which brings me to my boldest prediction of 2010: Until Tiger comes back, we’re going to stop caring about golf. I promise. As a matter of fact, I wish there was some tangible way for me to bet on this.

Honestly, does anybody remember what golf was like before Tiger? Anybody? Me neither, and here’s the reason why: Because nobody watched! No…bod…y!!! Nobody!

Sure the Masters was fun and the Ryder Cup was cute, and maybe we tuned in for a hole or two when the baseball game was done, or while we were waiting to go out to a family barbeque. But was anyone on the edge of their seat, holding their pee until the next commercial break? Of course not.

We weren’t rearranging our Sunday’s to root for Tom Lehman and Mark O’Meara then, and we won’t be rearranging our Sunday’s to watch Lee Westwood and Jim Furyk now. I’m not even sure we care about the biggest stars like Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson, I’m really not. They’re not brash, they’re not overly interesting. And most of all, they’re not Tiger.

Which is why golf is going to take a huge hit in 2010. Again, maybe you’ll watch a hole or two of the Masters. I’m sure we all will. But at the same time, you won’t be setting aside that second Sunday in April if Tiger is at some marriage counselor in Sweden, and not on the back nine at Augusta. You just won’t.

Viewership is going to be down, and so is attendance. Again, this is just my opinion, but it will soon be fact.

And you know the only thing that will change it back? The return of Tiger.

7. The World Cup:

I can proudly say that I’ve never watched an MLS game. And I have no idea what the Confederations Cup is.

But when it comes to the World Cup, you better believe I’m one of those annoying guys that gets super-patriotic every four years, and makes excuses to stay home and watch way too much soccer, even if it is only Cameroon playing Uruguay, and I can’t even pronounce any of the player’s names.

Basically, I like the best players, on the biggest stage, and nothing is better than the World Cup. Well except for this week’s Clay Aiken Christmas Special. But that’s it.

Quick side story: To get there, let’s go back to a simpler, more carefree time in all our lives. That’s right folks, let’s go all the way back to the summer of 2006.

I was in New York City for the weekend, and Italy and France were playing in the World Cup Final. One of my buddies, clearly the smartest among us, had the bright idea, “Hey lets go watch the Italy-France match in…Little Italy!” Even though it may have taken four of our brains to put that thought together, I promise you it was one of the transcendent sports experiences of my lifetime.

When we got to Little Italy, we found our way into a steaming hot bar, sweat drenching our t-shirts, the four of us barely able to move the place was so crowded. We were joined by 500 of our newest friends, who coincidentally all happened to be named Vinny, Angie or Giuseppe. Weird, I know.

Once the match started though, the excitement filled in the bar. The floor shook when the Italians scored, and you could feel the air go out of the building when the French did the same. We held onto each other as the game went to penalty kicks.

But when Italy did finally end the game with a victory, the whole city turned into a madhouse. We rushed out of the bar and into the streets, as strangers hugged and embraced and fireworks went off in the background. One bakery even handed out free cannoli’s to everyone who walked by. Ok, I made that part up.

In all seriousness though, it was one of the funnest days of my life, and I’m not even Italian. It’s literally a memory I’ll never forget until the day I die.

I can only hope the 2010 World Cup is half as exciting.

6. The Summer of 2010:

Not since the “The Summer of George,” has a June, July and August been this anticipated.

And while we’ve been hearing about the summer of 2010 for awhile now, the hype is absolutely justified. The NBA could be completely different than we know it, and here’s why.

When we go to NBA games, or watch on TV, we do it for the star power. Recently, I was offered a choice of going to one of three New Jersey Nets games, to see them play either the Knicks, Bobcats or Thunder.

I chose the Thunder, and I chose them because of Kevin Durant. Again, it’s the star power thing I was talking about with Tiger Woods. I’ll pay a few bucks to see Durant. I won’t to see Raja Bell and the Bobcats, or whoever the Knicks are trotting out there. Just like I wouldn’t pay to see Lee Westwood or Davis Love III on a golf course.

Which is why the 2010 offseason is so important. This isn’t Rashard Lewis or Hedo Turkoglu hitting the open market. It isn’t Kwame Brown or Samuel Dalembert signing for more money than the GDP of some South Pacific nations.

It’s LeBron James and Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh and Dirk Nowitzki. Not to mention Amare Stoudemire, Joe Johnson and Ray Allen. Its star power, it’s difference makers, and it’s going to completely change the league as we know it.

And the storylines make it even better: Are they all going to re-locate? Just some? Will the Knicks become a super power? What about the Nets? Do they all want to play together? Do a few want to go play with Kobe and the Lakers?

And while I can’t sit here and pretend to claim I know who’s going to go where, and for what money, I can promise you, this: It’s going to be a fun ride. And the NBA may never be the same because of it.

(Like the article? Hate it? Let Aaron know by commenting below, or e-mailing him at ATorres00@gmail.com. Also, be sure to check back tomorrow for Part II of 10 Storylines for 2010)

About Aaron Torres

Aaron Torres works for Fox Sports, and was previously a best-selling author of the book 'The Unlikeliest Champion.' He currently uses Aaron Torres Sports to occasionally weigh-in on the biggest stories from around sports. He has previously done work for such outlets as Sports Illustrated, SB Nation and Slam Magazine.

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