Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Best Of 2012

Best of 2012: 30 Great Shows, 15 Crappy Ones
(By Tim Goodman, The Hollywood Reporter, 27 December 2012)

There are too many great television series to hold them to a list of 10 just because of some outdated meme. In fact, it took a little discipline to keep my Best of 2012 television series to 15 dramas and 15 comedies. In addition, there's so much woeful crap on the small screen that it took herculean restraint to keep my "worst" list to 15. Hell, even doing that I had to cut out unscripted shows. Otherwise I'd still be writing. And yet, I guess all of this is still good news for the state of television, which continues to thrive impressively. Here then, my lists (with no galleries to click through).

Top 15 Dramas:

1. Breaking Bad (AMC): What stands out about this series and its legacy is that it almost never has stumbled. Breaking Bad is by far the most consistently great drama, episode-to-episode, season-to-season, of any show on television. Nothing in the final eight episodes could ever change that.

2. Mad Men (AMC): Season 5 was more creatively erratic than other stellar Mad Men seasons, but at the same time it was inherently more ambitious, elliptical and challenging than the others. It’s hard to depict 1965 without falling into rote imagery and concerns, and this series avoided those pitfalls deftly.

3. Game of Thrones (HBO): It’s very rare that you can call a series “epic” anymore, but it fits here. So would "dense," "smart," "addictive" and "wholly original." And the best of Game of Thrones could be ahead of it, which is inspiring and impressive.

4. The Walking Dead (AMC): Season 3 firmly elevated this series to the upper tier of television. It’s massively popular, acclaimed and is hitting its creative stride. A series you do not miss.

5. Justified (FX): Talk about a series lacking respect. Timothy Olyphant is fantastic as Raylan Givens, and the fact he hasn’t been got attention in the acting categories is all kinds of wrong. Although the series does have some difficulty spreading the wealth among its other characters, it completely nails the season-long guest appearances. It’s smart, different and entertaining.

6. Boardwalk Empire (HBO): While I wish Boardwalk Empire would be as addictive and compelling as, say, The Walking Dead, you can’t ignore the studied brilliance. There’s a classicism to the look and feel of it, and the dense storytelling that seems to move slow at the beginning of the season often pays off remarkably well at the end.

7. Sons of Anarchy (FX): Moving forward to bring out the Hamlet elements inherent in the premise was essential. A heightened drama like this can go sideways pretty quick, but SOA course-corrected any worries right from the start and stayed hyper-focused to the split of the infrastructure -- and that was bloody good.

8. Sherlock (PBS): Great acting, taut writing, suspense, humor, intrigue -- this modern adaptation of Sherlock Holmes is pitch perfect. They just need to make more.

9. Dexter (Showtime): Holy comeback, Batman. I had seriously left this show for dead. Season 6 was an embarrassment -- too far past its sell-by date. But tightening the noose on Dex was absolutely what was needed, and this season proved they should have started earlier. It also proved that really good series sometimes get a second chance.

10. Treme (HBO): Here’s what we’ve all learned about Treme through the seasons: It’s not so big on plot, nor movement. It goes at its own, odd pace. But if you want to get to know people and music and place, this is your show. Watching Treme makes you feel like you’re soaking in New Orleans, and that brings a better understanding of the story structure.

11. The Hour (BBC America): This British series really soared in Season 1 and, because of that, reaps hard-earned dramatic benefits in Season 2. It's a costume drama about journalism, class structure, the changing times in England and the cost of celebrity. In fact, you can add three or four more strands to that. The writing is impeccable, and the acting always fantastic.

12. Magic City (Starz): Sure, it seemed like Starz was mixing Mad Men with The Sopranos as it told the tale of a hotel on the beach in 1959 Miami -- with mob ties, sex and swanky outfits -- but this series slowly earned its own achievements of character, place and story. Too bad so many people are unaware of it.

13. Boss (Starz): Hey look, it’s another ignored series on Starz. Yes, the formula from the network seems to be focused on sex and nudity to attract eyeballs to high-quality fare. Not exactly how you’d normally draw it up, but these are competitive times. Boss was not renewed by Starz after two strong, completely ignored seasons, but it was well-crafted, and Kelsey Grammer delivered a virtuoso performance that was unmatched.

14. Homeland (Showtime): The first season’s impeccable, start-to-finish unpredictability gave way, all-too-quickly, to style over substance in Season 2. Implausibility replaced surprise. Taut writing unraveled. Homeland can be maddeningly erratic, and the signs this season indicate that something is amiss -- though the show still is riveting -- and it’s unlikely to get fixed, thus a tumble down from previously lofty heights.

15. Shameless (Showtime): This down-and-out, low-rent series on Showtime often is difficult viewing. It’s raw and base and has one of the most unlikable characters at its core, but it does so much else so wonderfully well and with great originality that you can’t ignore it. The series pushes you down on the sidewalk and makes you pay attention.

Top 15 Comedies:

1. Girls (HBO): Only one other comedy -- see No. 2 -- was as real and honest and fearless as Girls. Lena Dunham expertly mined laughs from the often difficult and confusing postgrad lifestyle. In doing so, she nailed a subculture; but more important, she just managed to connect her characters to the craziness of making your way in the world.

2. Louie (FX): The DIY nature of Louie is well documented, but the beauty of this show is Louie C.K.’s ability to make the mundane elements of a life so funny or sad or revealing. Louie follows no map on how to make 30 minutes of television; it doesn’t shy away from seemingly unconventional, unconnected paths. It’s what makes the show so unique -- and brilliant.

3. Parks and Recreation (NBC): The perfect election-year comedy. But beyond that, Parks and Rec has been one of the elite comedies since its second season and has only fleshed out its hilarious dissection of small-town American and small-city politics via well-drawn characters.

4. 30 Rock (NBC): What’s left to say about this series other than it’s going into the comedy hall of fame, first ballot? Few shows ever matched its spot-on ability to do verbal, physical and visual comedy, sometimes all at the same time.

5.Raising Hope (Fox): Arguably the best show you’re not watching on the comedy scene. Criminally ignored not only by viewers but awards shows. Hilariously off-kilter and quirky but also warm. A wonderful show.

6. Archer (FX): Best animated series on television? Sure, why not? And as I count it, Top 10 in all comedies. The writing is a treasure, and the voice talent makes it all come together.

7. Veep (HBO): Julia Louis-Dreyfus as the female vice president stuck in a job she really didn’t want spoofs politics, the workplace and is a hurricane of hilarious cynicism. From Armando Iannucci, creator of Brit series The Thick of It, there’s still so much gold and potential to mine here.

8. New Girl (Fox): Dismissed as too precious by people who weren’t really following it, New Girl quickly hit its stride and manages quick-witted laughs from countless scenarios. If you skipped it, rethink the choice.

9. Community (NBC): Nobody knows what the Dan Harmon-less show will look or feel like, but with him at the helm it’s always been a ridiculous, ingenious and smart series that’s as meta about pop culture as any comedy ever.

10. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (FX): Want more big pronouncements? OK, here’s the most overlooked, underappreciated (by the Emmys, the Golden Globes, etc.) series of the past 20 years. It doesn’t need any outside love anymore -- the reputation for greatness is already in stone.

11. Modern Family (ABC): Reliably funny and always clever, Modern Family somehow has been derided for too many awards and accolades. Strange, considering they’re going to a show that utterly deserves them. Avoid the jealousy, enjoy the jokes.

12. Don’t Trust the B---- in Apt 23 (ABC): Another series meta about pop culture but also wonderfully committed to being devious, it’s an underappreciated gem with strong writing. Krysten Ritter is fantastic.

13. Wilfred (FX): It didn’t get as much coverage in Season 2 as it did coming out of the gate as your not-so-typical man-and-dog story, but Wilfred was just as funny, twisted and wrong as ever. Both Elijah Wood and Jason Gann are doing God’s work here.

14. House of Lies (Showtime): Funny, cynical, sexy, vulgar -- and a dramatic sensibility that reveals a surprising amount of heart? Sure, why not. Besides, Don Cheadle is a force of nature in the lead role.

15. Ben and Kate (Fox): Hey look, our only freshman series on this list. It went off the air after 10 episodes, suffering -- like most new shows -- from a lack of viewers. But it will return in January, and you should jump on it if you haven’t already. Nat Faxon and Lucy Punch provide most of the laughs while Dakota Johnson has the right chemistry to make this sister-brother comedy about family and friends really work.

The Top 15 Worst Shows:

1. Neighbors (ABC): The mere fact that Neighbors got on the air is bad enough. That it wasn’t abhorred by the masses is even worse. It managed numbers good enough for ABC to keep it on the air and keep the Gods of Culture weeping.

2. Guys With Kids (NBC): Jimmy Fallon pitched NBC execs a skit. They bought it -- then realized it essentially was a one-joke skit. Wah-wah-wah.

3. Emily Owens, M.D. (The CW): So bad even The CW canceled it. An embarrassment for all women.

4. Malibu County (ABC): Country folk move to Malibu. Hilarity was supposed to ensue. It did not. The good news is it looks, from the production, like ABC is only spending about $63 an episode on it.

5. Made in Jersey (CBS): Take cookie cutter, press into poorly conceived series, over-bake in oven. Cancel.

6. 2 Broke Girls (CBS): Vagina, vagina, racist joke, vagina, vagina, hipster, penis.

7. Partners (CBS): The people who created Will & Grace convince CBS that their own life is funny, too. It’s not.

8. Whitney (NBC): NBC decided it had too many smart cult shows, so it made this.

9. Scandal (ABC): There’s one word for this: ridonkulous.

10. Glee (Fox): Come on, you’re not still watching this, are you?

11. The Mob Doctor (Fox): See, she’s a doctor. For the mob. Except that assignment was canceled.

12. American Horror Story (Fox): Watch me drop this kitchen sink into your convolutedly insane nightmares. Boo!

13. 666 Park Avenue (ABC): Hell, at least AHS is scary. This was the least scary devil series in history.

14. Animal Practice (NBC): Never work with animals. You know that. And now you’ll have a chance to put the advice back into action, since the show was canceled.

15. Beauty and the Beast (The CW): Sure, it’s spectacularly stupid, but think of the angst the beast must have because he’s a tiny scratch on his hunky face. Where’s the love? Or the pity?

OK, 2013, top that. Let's do this!


The Top Concert Tours Of 2012
(By Sophie Schillaci & Kyleen James, The Hollywood Reporter, 19 December 2012)

1. Madonna
Madonna's MDNA tour sold out all 72 of its worldwide dates, raking in a whopping $228,406,085 in grosses. The tour also generated plenty of publicity for the controversy-friendly singer, from superimposing a swastika on the image of French right-wing politician Marine Le Pen, to supporting jailed Russian girl group Pussy Riot, to flashing her nipple at her Istanbul stop and mooning concert goers in Rome, the tour was nothing short of outrageous.

2. Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band
The Boss brought in $199,371,791 on his 72-date trek across the globe this year.

3. Roger Waters
With The Wall Returns, Roger Waters's tour raked in $186,466,703 in 2012.

4. Michael Jackson The Immortal World Tour by Cirque Du Soleil
The show, honoring the late Michael Jackson and backed by the Jackson family, saw an astounding 183 dates and brought in $147,310,505.

5. Coldplay
Coldplay hit North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand during a whirlwind 2012. All in all, the band brought in $147,188,828 with their ticket sales. But fans might be waiting a while for the next go-around, with lead singer Chris Martin hinting at a three-year hiatus during one of the band's recent shows.

6. Lady Gaga
Mother Monster kicked off her Born This Way Ball in April 2012 and will continue touring until March 2013. Lady Gaga sold out all 65 of her 2012 dates, earning $124,879,545.

7. Tim McGraw Kenny Chesney
Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney brought double the trouble to their Brothers of the Sun tour, kicking off in June for a 23-day trek. The venture raked in $96,458,890.

8. Van Halen
Despite canceling 30 dates and postponing several more due to illness, Van Halen still earned a spot on Billboard's annual list with $54,425,548 earned this year on tour.

9. Jay- Z, Kanye West
Among the most buzzed-about collaborations of the decade, Jay-Z and Kanye West brought their Watch the Throne on the road for a 31-date tour. And at the end of the day, Jay and Ye made $46,986,464.

10. Andre Rieu
Violinist Andre Rieu played nearly 100 shows this year, bringing in $46,785,717.

11. Dave Matthews Band
A staple of the touring music world, the Dave Matthews Band played 41 dates in 2012 and earned $41,433,182.

12. Barbra Streisand
Just 12 sold-out shows placed Barbra Streisand at No. 12 on Billboard's list. Her touring intake: $40,657,170.

13. Jason Aldean
Jason Aldean's Night Train debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's 200 album chart earlier this year. His tour proved to be among the hottest tickets in the nation this year, and his momentum is still rolling. His July 2013 show at Boston's Fenway Park sold out in just 7 minutes, prompting the country singer to add a second date. His 2012 tour earnings: $39,956,703.

14. Lady Antebellum
Lady A may have canceled several tour dates next year due to Hillary Scott's pregnancy, but the band did plenty of touring in 2012 to make up for that. The trio performed 88 shows and brought in $38,358,801.

15. Red Hot Chili Peppers
2012 was a big year for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. In April, the band was inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. They rallied for the re-election of President Obama with a free show in Cleveland, Ohio, to drum up volunteers for the campaign. And in October, Flea celebrated his 50th birthday with a fundraising bash. All the while, they continued to tour and raked in $33,911,873 along the way.

16. Brad Paisley
One of five country acts (six if you count Taylor Swift) to make the list, Brad Paisley's tour brought in $33,794,719 this year.

17. Nickelback
Earlier this year, Nickelback frontman Chad Kroeger asked punk rocker Avril Lavigne to be his wife with a massive sparkler. Luckily for him, the band earned $33,790,267 on the road this year.

18. The Trans-Siberian Orchestra (Not Pictured): earned $33,370,711.

19. Elton John
This pop icon still knows how to entertain an audience, drawing 240,381 eager concert-goers to his 38 shows this year. In total, John brought in $32,920,986.

20. Justin Bieber
He may still be waiting for that coveted Grammy award, but Justin Bieber sure knows how to sell out a stadium. The pop sensation filled 28 out of the 29 venues at which he performed this year, drawing in $32,920,986 and 402,710 audience members.

21. Rod Stewart
Audiences are still finding Rod Stewart sexy, pushing him to No. 21 on the list. For Stewart, 2012 marked a new deal with Universal, a Christmas album, the release of his autobiography and $30,158,491 in touring dollars.

22. Neil Diamond
While promoting The Very Best of Neil Diamond, the legendary singer performed 30 dates and earned $29,910,078.

23. Pearl Jam
Performing only 11 shows this year, none of which were sold out, Pearl Jam still secured a spot on Billboard's list with $27,363,430 in touring dollars.

24. Taylor Swift
Touring for more than a full year, Taylor Swift wrapped up her Speak Now Tour with 21 sold-out shows and $26,310,160 in revenue in 2012. She'll embark on her next tour, promoting her latest album Red, in early 2013.

25. Rascal Flatts
Country duo Rascal Flatts brought in $26,155,360 over the course of 45 tour dates.


What Were The Top 10 Most-Watched Shows This Season?
By Lisa de Moraes, 05/23/2012, The WashingtonPost
CBS can call itself the country’s most-watched network for the ninth time in the past 10 years.

The network won the 2011-12 television season, which ended Wednesday, by averaging nearly 12 million viewers each week. That’s about 3 million more viewers than closest competitor Fox, the largest margin of victory of any network in more than two decades.  America continued to be passionate about reality competition series this season, although there are signs of wear and tear in the relationship. Half the country’s 10 most-watched programs this season were reality competition shows, including two nights each of “American Idol” and “Dancing With the Stars,” and NBC’s “The Voice.”

But both “Idol” and “Dancing” took major hits. ABC’s “Dancing” fumbled about 4 million viewers compared with last season, and Fox’s “Idol” lost about 6 million.  “Idol’s” eight-season streak as the country’s most watched program came to an end; it came in No. 2, behind NBC’s Sunday football. Fox execs have said that they dropped the ball this season and that “Idol” changes are in store for next season.

Meanwhile, the season’s 10 most-watched shows include four scripted ones, all from CBS.  One of the comedies — the Thursday show “The Big Bang Theory” — was also one of the season’s most popular scripted series among 18- to 49-year-old viewers who are the currency of TV ad sales, trailing ABC’s No. 1-ranked “Modern Family” by just 82,000 viewers in the age bracket.  In that “money” group, the season’s Top 10 list also includes such scripted shows as CBS’s “Two and a Half Men” and new “2 Broke Girls.”

CBS, which is known as the network that attracts large numbers of older viewers, finished a close second with this younger age bracket for the season — much closer to front-runner Fox than it did last season. That said, football reigned supreme this season — among 18- to 49-year-olds as well as viewers of all ages — followed by two editions of “Idol” and NBC’s “The Voice.”

Here’s a look at the 2011-12 TV season’s Top 10 most-watched programs:

1. “NBC Sunday Night Football.” In ending “Idol’s” streak as the country’s most-watched program, Sunday football on NBC averaged 20.7 million people during the season; “Idol’s” performance night averaged 19.7 million.

2. “American Idol” performance show. After eight seasons in the top spot, Fox’s singing competition series got bumped down a notch, finishing its 11th edition in second place — about 1 million viewers shy of NBC’s Sunday football. Industry pundits point to the proliferation of singing competition shows this season, including “The Voice” and Fox’s own “The X Factor.”

3. “NCIS.” CBS’s long-running crime drama is the country’s most-watched scripted series for the third consecutive season, virtually matching last season’s audience with about 19.5 million viewers. There’s an age-old Hollywood truism — although usually only told to young starlets being talked into doing nude scenes — that there is no such thing as overexposure. And in its sixth season, when USA Network began to telecast an orgy of “NCIS” reruns across its schedule — the original’s audience on CBS actually grew by more than 3 million viewers, though it was the show’s sixth season on the air. The next season, CBS cloned the show, following it with yet another hour of “NCIS” — this one set in Los Angeles — and the original’s audience grew again, by nearly another million viewers.

4. “American Idol” results show. In its 11th edition, the results night of Fox’s singing competition series still attracted more than 18 million viewers each week, behind only its own performance night, CBS’s “NCIS” and NBC’s Sunday football. As with its Wednesday performance night, “Idol” took a ratings fall this season. Pundits place some blame on singing show fatigue, what with NBC adding “The Voice” and Fox adding “The X Factor” to the prime-time landscape this season.

5. “Dancing With the Stars” performance show. The 13th and 14th editions of ABC’s dance competition — airing in the fall of ’11 and spring of ’12 — collectively averaged more than 18 million viewers on its performace night broadcasts This was the first season “Dancing” encountered NBC’s singing competition series “The Voice” in its time slot.

6. “NCIS: Los Angeles.” CBS. In its third season, CBS’s “NCIS” spinoff was the country’s second most popular scripted series, behind only “NCIS,” and averaged about 16 million viewers.

7. “Dancing With the Stars” results show. Results night of ABC’s popular dance comepetition series was the country’s seventh most watched program, averaging 16 million viewers; this season it battled NBC’s singing competition “The Voice” on Tuesday nights.

8. “The Big Bang Theory.” America’s most popular scripted comedy series (airing on CBS Thursday nights) became the first scripted show to beat “Idol” in head-to-head competition. In its fifth season “Big Bang” is one of the country’s fastest-growing broadcast TV series, averaging 18 percent more viewers this season than last.

9. “The Voice.” NBC’s singing competition is the only “new” show in this season’s Top-10, though the show’s first edition debuted four weeks before the end of last season, running the bulk of its episodes over the summer. It was the country’s ninth most watched show, with an average of 15.8 million people tuning in weekly.

10. “Two and a Half Men.” Replacing star Charlie Sheen with Ashton Kutcher was a Hail Mary by CBS and production house Warner Bros., in the hopes they could keep the sitcom going for one last season (its ninth). Instead, the show enjoyed 16 percent more viewers this season than last — and a whopping 30 percent increase among 18- to 49-year -olds. Some of these season-to-season spikes are due to the 33 million people who watched the show’s return back in September to see Sheen’s character killed off, and Kutcher introduced.

Part of the ratings spike, however, is only the natural result of CBS having aired so many “Men” repeats last season while Sheen was in “rehab.”


USA TODAY Reviews The Best In Sports In 2012
(By David Leon Moore, USA TODAY, 28 December 2012)

This year featured historic performances, compelling figures and the most precocious group of athletes in recent memory. David Leon Moore of USA TODAY Sports picks the best of the best:

Top accomplishment of 2012?

Michael Phelps' Olympic swimming career was amazing. He won 22 medals, 18 gold, both are Olympic records.  Also amazing is Usain Bolt's track career. His double triple — winning the Olympic 100, 200 and 4x100 relay in 2008 and 2012 — is one of the most remarkable accomplishments in Olympic history.

Their booty came over a span of years, though, more impressive because of the repeat factor. In 2012 they basically accomplished what they had done in 2008.  Both are worthy winners of this category. But in just the calendar year 2012, nobody in sports did anything more impressive — and historic — than Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera, the last Triple Crown winner since the Boston Red Sox's Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.

Cabrera, a 29-year-old Venezuelan, led the American League with a .330 batting average, 44 home runs and 139 RBI.  In this steroid era, sluggers tended to lengthen swings and go for homers; batting averages suffered. Cabrera's ability to combine a high average with lots of power made it a year to remember for him and baseball.

Best team of 2012?

The Miami Heat were 46-20 in the shortened regular season, then won 16 of 23 playoff games in their march to the NBA title, the first for LeBron James, who had some memorable performances.

In Game 7 of the Eastern finals against the Boston Celtics, James, Dwyane Wade and, off the bench, Chris Bosh, came up big. James had 31 points and 12 rebounds. Wade had 23 points, six assists and six rebounds and Bosh had 19 points and eight rebounds. Miami's defense clamped down on the Celtics, the Heat winning 101-88.

Then they beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 4-1 in the Finals, when The Big Three, especially James, was again magnificent.  When they played like that, the Heat were the best team in the NBA, and the best team anywhere in 2012.  Perhaps the best argument to the Heat comes from Waco, Texas, where the Baylor Lady Bears, led by center Brittney Griner, forged perfection, going 40-0 to win the NCAA women's basketball championship, crushing Notre Dame by 19 in the final.

The men's NCAA champ was also impressive, Kentucky going 38-2 and, behind Anthony Davis' dominance in the middle, winning coach John Calipari's first national title.

Notre Dame football logged a perfect regular season but wasn't convincing enough to make the Irish the favorites against one-loss Alabama in next month's BCS title game.

The U.S. women's gymnastics team was almost perfect, knocking off the Russians and winning team gold for the first time since 1996. They were bouncy, and they were skilled, but none of them could guard LeBron.

Best athlete of 2012?

A truly loaded field:

There's Bolt, electrifying the Olympics again with his signature speed, style and showmanship. There's James, who reached a level few in the NBA have. There's Adrian Peterson, who made a run at Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record and left no doubt who is the NFL's best running back.

At the Olympics, Phelps said goodbye with 22 career medals while 17-year-old swimmer Missy Franklin said hello with five medals, four gold, and the promise of many more to come in 2016.

But the one who rose slightly above the others in 2012 was tennis star Serena Williams, who turned 31 in September and turned the major playing courts of the world into a showcase just for her.  Williams won her fifth Wimbledon, where she had a tournament-record 24 aces against second-seeded Victoria Azarenka. Williams won her fourth U.S. Open, where she was so dominant that at one point she won 23 consecutive games.

In-between, she headed back to the Wimbledon grounds for the Olympics, where she was also triumphant, winning her first Olympic singles title by demolishing Maria Sharapova 6-0, 6-1 in the final. She won 81% of her games in the Olympic tournament and did not lose a set.  She finished up winning her third WTA Championships, her seventh title of the year, and being voted WTA Player of the Year for the fourth time.

Most interesting of 2012?

Oscar Pistorius was interesting in both an inspirational and controversial way. South Africa's "Blade Runner," an elite-level quarter-miler despite being a double below-knee amputee, lifted spirits around the world with his mere presence at the Summer Games. Alas, there were some who thought his carbon fiber blades were actually an advantage.

By contrast, American hurdler Lolo Jones and U.S. soccer goalkeeper Hope Solo were almost as much sideshows as Olympic competitors. Both drew major internet attention.  Jones did for the controversy over her major marketing campaign and good looks vs. her modest results, and for tweeting about her virginity.  Solo did for her never-dull off-the-pitch life, including saying she went on the Today show drunk, tweeting critical remarks about Olympics soccer commentator Brandi Chastain and, after the Olympics, showing up in a police report when her boyfriend, former football player Jerramy Stevens, was arrested in November on investigation of assault after an altercation that left Solo injured. He was not charged, and he and Solo got married the next day.  That's a lot of interest, and doesn't even include the all-year soap opera/failing football career of Tim Tebow.

But if you want to lift "interesting" to the point of "compelling," you just couldn't beat Linsanity.  Undrafted point guard Jeremy Lin, the NBA's first American-born player of Chinese or Taiwanese descent, coming out of Harvard, was at the end of the injury-riddled New York Knicks' bench Feb. 3. Desperate for a live body, Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni played Lin the next night, and so began an 18-day-long Walter Mitty dream life that was as shocking as it was entertaining.

On Feb. 4, off the bench, Lin had career highs of 25 points and seven assists against Deron Williams in a win against the New Jersey Nets. The next game, his first start, Lin had 28 and eight assists and the Knicks won again. On Feb. 10, he had 38 points, seven assists against the Los Angeles Lakers, outdueling Kobe Bryant (34 points) and leading another win.

In an 11-game stretch, the previously anonymous Lin averaged 23.9 points and 9.2 assists, shot 50% and the Knicks went 9-2.  The Knicks then changed coaches to Mike Woodson and Linsanity waned. Lin was allowed to seek a deal that landed him with the Houston Rockets after the season.  His stardom is muted now, but for those who at this time of the year truly believe and cling to miracles in their hearts, Linsanity lives!

Brightest future for rookie?

It's hard to have a much brighter future than playing one season and having a lot of people believe you are the best in major league baseball.  But so it is with Mike Trout, the Los Angeles Angels' phenomenal outfielder, the AL Rookie of the Year and MVP runner-up to Cabrera.  Trout's production was off the charts. Leading off, Trout hit .326 with 30 homers, 83 RBI, 49 stolen bases and 129 runs scored. He is 21, and better so far than the other baseball phenom, the Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper, 20.

The NFL produced the best rookie quarterbacks since maybe the 1983 draft of John Elway, Dan Marino and Jim Kelly. At the top were Andrew Luck, 23, and Robert Griffin III, 22. Both seemed better than advertised, if that were possible.  The future should also be very kind to Texas A&M's irrepressible quarterback Johnny Manziel, 20, the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy.  But Trout is the big fish in this category.

Most disliked sports figure of 2012?

The NFL replacement refs were a mess in some games, most notably the botched touchdown call at the end that cost the Green Bay Packers a victory against the Seattle Seahawks.  But disliked? Actually, some people began to look forward to the next gaffe, in a Saturday Night Live parody kind of way. And besides, these guys were asked to do something beyond their experience level. They were set up to fail.

Parody them? Sure. But most disliked? No.  Now, the guy that set up the replacement ref system – commissioner Roger Goodell – now there's a candidate for most disliked. Goodell's fumbles included the refs fiasco as well as the awkward, controversial handling of penalties to the New Orleans Saints coaches and players over a bounty system investigation.

At least Goodell's sport played games. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman saw labor negotiations drag on and on and no hockey for the 2012-13 season was played through December.  Of course, commissioners are set up to be disliked, anyway. They often can't please fans or players or both. It's hard in their jobs not to make people mad.  Speaking of making people mad, Bobby Valentine certainly had an interesting year as the manager of the Red Sox. He might have been the most disliked man in the Sox clubhouse, but certainly not in the sports world at large.

No, the "winner" in this category is Lance Armstrong. We know, Armstrong has been a champion fundraiser for cancer research, and he is to be praised for that.  But on the road, where his sport was conducted and where he raced to false glory for many years, he was proven to be a liar and a cheat of epic proportions.  No topping that.




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