BEST OF 2010
1. Two marvellous hugs
We had seen serial tennis champions greet grand slam titles with the exhausted tradition of clambering into the audience to embrace loved ones.
We just had not seen a big old group hug so startling and fetching as when 29-year-old also-ran Francesca Schiavone unimaginably and charmingly won the French Open.
In a single ebullient moment, she seemed to hug half of Italy.
And while we seldom get a peek at any rapport between managers and footballers, a viral video granted a glimpse of the departing Inter Milan artist Jose Mourinho bounding out of his drive-away car for Real Madrid for a sobbing farewell hug with Marco Materazzi.
This suggested the Inter Milan spring contained even more depth than the unprecedented treble of the European title, league title and Italian cup title.
As with Schiavone, it showed that even all the precious hardware might just bow to the meaning of human collaboration.
2. One gigantic race
Imagine telling someone, oh, 40 years ago, that the conclusion of the globally chic Formula One season would transpire on some island close to the Abu Dhabi mainland.
Imagine telling someone 30 years ago that this race near a tiny village of hotels plus a Ferrari theme park would lure in the world's eyeballs because an unprecedented four drivers would remain in mathematical contention for the finale of 19 races.
Imagine telling someone, say, 20 years ago that in a pristine twilight the cars would stream around beneath an architectural marvel of a hotel and beside marina-moored yachts.
Imagine telling someone, yeah, 10 years ago that for a Sunday in November, this Yas Marina Circuit would know the distinctive feel of the huge sporting event, that sort of wonderfully myopic, mass shared experience known to foster good health as long as you forget for a moment the eardrums. Who on Earth would believe such a vision?
3. A fine frontier
To one gigantic race upon fresh soil - sand - add one becoming World Cup and one coming World Cup and you have an onrushing theme.
Surmounting the concerns and occasional derision of the uppity, South Africa held a World Cup that sang and danced and deepened the world's lexicon with the addition of the word "vuvuzela".
Even Americans watched. Under the heading of emerging places, South America looked toward its 2014 Brazilian World Cup by supplying half the quarter-finalists and five of the last 16.
And continuing in that vein, come December 2 in Zurich, ensuing and initial World Cups went to - sorry England and America -Russia for 2018 and - whoa! - Qatar for 2022.
This epitomised the shifting planet, shipped huge events to fresh pockets of humanity and, in the case of Fifa, revealed a strange little titbit about life.
Even a preposterously self-important and sadly murky organisation can stumble upon valuable acts.
4. A win for finer things
Elegance won. Resourcefulness won. Thoughtfulness won. OK, even beauty won.
When the last giant footballing nation to win a World Cup finally did win a World Cup, it came as more than Spain joining Brazil and Italy and Germany and Argentina and England and France and Uruguay among the all-time winners. It came as relief.
A Spanish team long on style but also on a quiet grit withstood the cynical bullying of Holland in the final in Johannesburg until Andres Iniesta's exhalation of a goal in the 116th minute flung mirth around Madrid and Barcelona and all Spain and all connoisseurs of fine art.
And, as an unexpected bonus, it delivered the coveted cup to a team with such fortitude in its Pique-Puyol-Ramos-et al brigade in defence that not only did Spain rise from a jolting opening loss to minnows Switzerland, but for the remaining six matches in South Africa allowed one goal in group play and, for four knockout matches, never did concede.
5. Maybe the fan does matter
Still, they love. Their Pakistan cricket team flounders but still, they love.
Three players get snared in a spot-fixing scandal as an entire national system reels and still, they love. They gripe capably but when they finish that, they love.
In the autumn of 2010, possibly the world's utmost fans gathered outside stadiums in Abu Dhabi and Dubai as they drew as near as they could - some having walked miles - even when they lacked the means for tickets for the series against South Africa.
As they stood outside the Zayed Cricket Stadium and Dubai Sports City on sand, arching necks for glimpses, it was easy to yearn to see them rewarded at some point (Pakistan drew the Test series 0-0 and lost the One-day series 3-2 and the Twenty20s 2-0).
Sometimes, the craziest daydreams do materialise eventually, a sunny outlook undeniable given the wretched history behind the stirring fact that the 2010 American football Super Bowl went to the New Orleans Saints.
WORST OF 2010
1. Is the whole world fixed?
With a loud Pakistan cricket spot-fixing case swirling out of London in late summer, and a louder World Cup bid-fixing case swirling also out of London in early autumn it seemed ... well, it seemed all the planet's underlying truth was swirling out of London and 2010 should have been the Year of the Undercover London Tabloid Reporter (ULTR).
Yet the case that should have caused the highest emotional duress had popped up way back in spring, when members of that resourceful subspecies the ULTR went to a hotel room in Kiev, Ukraine, and unearthed a thought almost peerlessly horrifying.
You know how for centuries, people have forecasted the end of time so often that by now they just sound kooky? Well, they might be right this time if indeed an innocent schlub trying to wring some joy and escape from sport cannot trust even snooker, after John Higgins was banned for six months for bringing the game into disrepute.
2. And the winner is...
Even in the steep sporting sludge in 2010, one bit of sludge improbably came off as sludgiest, no easy feat.
It came on July 25 when the Ferrari engineer at the German Grand Prix gave his now-famous little radioed order to Felipe Massa: "OK, so Fernando is faster than you. Can you confirm you understand that message?"
Thereupon did Spaniard Fernando Alonso "pass" his Brazilian teammate Massa for a one-two finish that upended legitimacy and cooked a big pot of mockery.
The farce lingered all the way to Abu Dhabi as amateur mathematicians grappled with the looming, phony seven extra table points Alonso acquired from Massa's ordered relent.
Something about the engineer's ensuing reassurance toward Massa - "Good lad. Just stick with it now. Sorry" - decorated this cheat-of-customers with fresh layers of la-de-da everydayness, conjuring the great American comedienne Lily Tomlin: "No matter how cynical you get, it is impossible to keep up."
3. That tired, tired chorus
How should we react anymore to depressing and depressingly common sequences such as this: Alberto Contador allegedly won the 2010 Tour de France in July, revealed in September that during the race he had tested positive for traces of clenbuterol, and blamed tainted meat. Well, we can always extol the edifying discussion of eating tainted meat.
We can remember that the apparent finish of a sporting event does not mean that event has concluded, its outcome forever in doubt pending testing revelations. (See Marion Jones, Sydney Olympics.)
And we can remember the quotation of the year, from the banned Austrian cyclist Bernhard Kohl in an article by Juliet Macur in the New York Times.
Third in the 2008 Tour de France, noting that only one of his 100 tests while doping came up positive, Kohl said at a US Anti-Doping Agency science conference: "It's impossible to win the Tour de France without doping."
4. A picture of confusion
For 13 seasons, it seemed we watched humanity finally triumph over its longtime self-made menace, golf, in the form of a serious Californian born in 1975 to a Thai woman and an African-American man.
For all the supposed slumps and tedious swing re-toolings during Tiger Woods's career, even in those years when he did not win a major tournament - note: they're really hard to win - he posted rarefied numbers against a brutal game. He pinned it down. He took us through the minefields called courses with talent that wowed and glistened.
He barrelled toward Jack Nicklaus's iconic record of 18 major titles, landing at 14 at age 32 when he won the US Open with a ravaged leg.
Then came the sensational self-made personal crisis and the dreadful PR-made apology, the strangeness of watching him battle the golf beast as run-of-the-mill, PGA-level good, and the startling thought that Nicklaus's mark has taken on a fresh coat of sturdiness.
5. The apex of Narcissism
Many think athletes have become too revered.
Many think it grating that US media outlets spent a summer month yammering about where the basketball Hercules LeBron James would sign his next gargantuan contract.
Many think it the apex of 21st-century athletic Narcissism that James held a weird prime-time television show for which he travelled from Ohio to Connecticut to sit with an interviewer, engage in mind-numbing small talk and then announce his next move.
Many think this show, starring a player who had not won an NBA title in Cleveland announcing he would move to Miami to join stars who could help him win but yet cheapen any title he does win, burrowed into some fresh terrain of television degradation. (A hard, hard feat.) All of that is rational. And you know what else? Many, many watched the ESPN network's highest-rated non-NFL show of the year.