As the year draws to a close, it is time for Will Batchelor to hand out the annual accolades in the sporting world.
The rude, bad and the grumpy
It is often said that professional sport is simply another branch of the entertainment industry.
So why do the end-of-year sports reviews continue to categorise achievement along such narrow, sports-centric terms as “Best Team”, “Best Individual” and “Best Coach”?
If sport is to be taken seriously as entertainment, it should hand out its trophies in line with the gold standard of the entertainments industry the Academy Awards.
So, ladies and gentlemen, please don your finest evening attire and stroll with me down the red carpet as we bid farewell to 2013 via the first (and, most likely, last) ever Sporting Oscars.
Best Actor in Leading Role
Winner Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge. His maintenance of a straight face while claiming in January that “In the Premier League there is no bigger club than Liverpool” was masterful. Bravo, sir, bravo!
Highly commended Fifa president Sepp Blatter, whose brilliant and uncanny impersonation of Cristiano Ronaldo in October was a pure triumph. (It was actually a terrible impersonation but if we all tell him it was great, perhaps he might quit football for a career on the stage.)
Best Actor in Supporting Role
Winner Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic. Every pantomime villain needs a foil, and Ivanovic’s steadfast performance back in April really gave Luis Suarez something to get his teeth into.
Highly commended The 40 million English tennis fans who revealed in July that they “had always liked Andy Murray”. The previous decade of antipathy had all been an extremely convincing act, obviously.
Winner Mark Webber’s face on the podium in Sepang in March, after his Red Bull teammate Sebastian Vettel ignored team orders and overtook him. It was not a motion picture, more of a frozen grimace. But, boy, was it entertaining.
Highly commended Cycling icon Sir Bradley Wiggins’s face whenever his Team Sky buddy Chris Froome is mentioned. (NB this was also nominated in the Best Inanimate Features category.)
Best Original Score
Winner Manchester United 0, Newcastle 1. OK, so it was not exactly original but the unlikely result in December was the first win at Old Trafford for any Geordie below age 40.
Highly commended Manchester United 1, Southampton 1; Manchester United 0, Everton 1; Manchester City 4, Manchester United 1; Liverpool 1, Manchester United 0; well, you get the idea.
Best Make-up Artist
Winner Darren Lehmann. It is hard to believe that half of the Australian cricket team were not speaking to each other as recently as August. Whatever coach Lehmann did to get them to kiss and make-up before the current Ashes series, it worked. We should send him to negotiate between North and South Korea next.
Highly commended Jose Mourinho, who finally found a reason – or several million of them – to make-up with Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich.
Best Costume Design
Winner Hull City chairman Assem Allam. This is a pre-emptive prize. Because we have not yet seen the tiger-print onesie (complete with tail and paw gloves) with which he plans to replace the first-team strip. But you would not bet against him having one tucked away.
Highly commended The England cricket team, whose rich history of disguising foreigners as Englishmen continued this year with the recruiting of Australian Sam Robson.
Best Foreign Language Film
Winner Sir Alex Ferguson’s farewell speech to Old Trafford in May. Subtitles, please.
Commended In The Name Of The Father, The Son And Their Donkey, a short parable by Napoli coach Rafael Benitez. (This was the long-awaited sequel to the Spaniard’s critically acclaimed work, The Priest Who Went Up A Hill And Came Down A Mountain of Sugar.)
Winner Roy Keane and Martin O’Neill, whose partnership at the helm of the Irish football team is like a classic buddy-cop movie. Sadly, nobody has yet had the nerve to tell Keane that the movie is Turner & Hooch.
Highly commended Ferguson and David Moyes. Another partnership based on a classic movie, this time about a tired, old slugger and his loyal companion, a flame-haired creature you would not want to cross. Right turn, Clyde!
Best Original Story
Winner Jose Mourinho, for his moving and tragic work of fiction No, Honestly, Chelsea Was My First Choice, I Never Really Gave The United Job Much Thought.
Highly commended Wayne Rooney, who once again thrilled audiences worldwide with another instalment to his long-running saga I’m Leaving Manchester United ... And This Time I Really Mean It. (The next chapter is expected as soon as the January transfer window opens.)