Graphic by Brian Kraker
Because 2016 wasn’t enough, 2017 has gone out of its way to escape its predecessor’s shadow and destroy the boundaries for how gratifyingly repugnant a single calendar year can be. Each day was a test of psychological fortitude on the parts of literally billions of people around this flat earth of ours, which somehow has yet to file for emancipation from us. For every second chance, we deliver a second disappointment, and a third, and a fourth, and–
Has the constant stream of threats, misguided anger, choose-your-own-isms and quasi-political figures you’re supposed to remember yet immediately forget driven you directly to the doctor’s office? Better there than to stay and wait for the robots to replace you, anyway.
We all have a thousand brilliant lies for the question, “How are you?” The better question, as we turn the corner with a glaring snarl, ’17 going on ’18, may very well be: Are you having fun yet?
Photo courtesy of Reuters
Quick, off the top of your head: who was the last player not named Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi to win the Ballon d’Or? It has literally been a decade, for starters. It’s a period of shared dominance so lengthy that the award itself has changed structure and name twice within that time, and yes, it is a truly enviable time to be watching soccer with these two creating magic week after week.
No matter if you didn’t come up with the answer quickly; the dichotomy of these two stars, whose orbits encapsulate seemingly the entire history of the game they have perfected in wholly contrasting styles, is so clear and sustained that you’d be forgiven for thinking the game hardly existed before them. But once upon a time, a Brazilian with flowing locks and a million-real smile was the best player in the world, sporting a combination of skill and native moxie that catapulted him to superstardom. This morning, Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite, better known as Kaka and as the answer to that question until further notice, announced his retirement from soccer.
Oli Scarff/Getty Images
Some things have a way of shocking you when they have no business doing so. A tyrannical figure of popular culture, bowing at the altar of truths unspoken for years, decades even, on his (always “his”) way out to pasture; an airline bumping your flight up two minutes, giving you reason to engage in cognitive dissonance between “What difference does that make?” and “Time in travel is everything”; a disgraced senator riding near-hilariously antiquated fantasies to a too-slim loss of his seat and, as far as everyone is concerned, his relevance.
While the mountains that moved to make some recent changes refused to rattle in the English Premier League to the extent that they once did for the likes of Claudio Ranieri and company, the stars keep dressing themselves up and shivering just enough for a once-beleaguered and tormented club. With its 4-0 win over Swansea City on Wednesday, Manchester City established a new record for consecutive league wins. At the center of this triumphant firestorm is one Pep Guardiola, the ex-“Next-Greatest Manager Ever” and a man of footy demons both external and internal.
Fable of the Bear and the Bees, Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger
The last time we took a close look at Andre Drummond – collectively, you and I, because we’re in this incomparable, unprecedented mess together, as we’re reminded the instant we awake every single day – he was dominating in the archaic sense for the Detroit Pistons as a 22-year-old center, posting grotesque point and rebound totals, particularly on the offensive glass, while not paying much mind to the trends that had already begun shaping the NBA as it is today.
After his historically-hot start, Drummond cooled off, finishing that season averaging 13.8 points and 13.5 rebounds while shooting 38.9% from the free throw line. The Pistons stumbled to a 32-50 record, but at least Drummond was consistent. While big men such as Kevin Love, Chris Bosh and Anthony Davis inched farther from the paint on offense, and Draymond Green was busy redefining the very idea of what a center could be with Golden State, Drummond remained the platonic ideal of centers in bygone eras, towering boulders built to destroy purely by force.