…My mother’s answer to what I should be doing during these wonderfully awkward days between Jesus’ Birthday and New Years Eve. When no one actually knows what day it is, and the ‘Christmas Truce of 1914’ still allows for a ceasefire on all work emails that seems almost to good to be true!
Taking heed of mama’s advice, on reflection, something that really stuck with me this year were the illustrated reminders of just how unpredictable war in sport is. The most current example being that of Leicester City F.C. Only promoted to the Premier League in 2014, the Foxes this time last year propped up the bottom of the table. A year later and over half-way through the present season, they now sit at the top of the table! And deservedly so, having outplayed and outscored nearly every team in the league so far this season.
As if to juxtaposition this, Chelsea, the reigning champions, inexplicably dangle above the relegation zone(?!). Having, even more unthinkably, just sacked their prized manager Jose Mourinho – only the world’s most successful football manager of the modern era. A mind-boggling scenario, that even the highest regarded football pundits struggle to explain with logic or convincingly.
2015 has served up some startling warnings over the ‘folly of prediction’ in sport. But upsets occur every year. Right? The result that brought the rugby world to a standstill in September, when Japan did the unthinkable against the Springboks. Unimaginable? Sure. But just another sporting upset where the underdogs simply ‘beat the odds’. I mean we’ve all lost an accumulator to a surprise result before.
Maybe. However, they say faith is “the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not yet seen”. And what’s been clear to see this year is that when sports-people subscribe to this belief system, even the most mythical hammer of thunder can be lifted, and the most stuck of swords in a stone can be retrieved. Just ask Tyson Fury or Conor McGregor.
The former I still hold responsible for my dry cleaning bill, after he sent Piccadilly sports bar into zoo-like theatrics the moment his hand was raised in victory on that fateful night in Dusseldorf. Never had the word underdog been used so precisely. To put it in perspective, his opponent Wladimir Klitschko was an unbeaten World Champion of 11 years, and had won more world title defences than Tyson had had professional fights as a boxer. Even Lennox didn’t see it coming…
Neither was the latter a result I’d envisaged. Among the selection of my own words I was subsequently forced to eat: “Ollie mate, much as I love the hype, McGregor needs to simmer down with all this trash talk, my stomach is starting to turn at just how cringe it’s gonna be when he gets knocked the funk out”.
Boy. was. I. wrong.
13 seconds. That was all it took for the Irishman to stun the world by knocking out unconscious an unbeaten and ‘unbeatable’ decade-long World Champion in Jose Aldo. Rewriting folklore and proving it’s possible to go from being an unknown wannabe, training on the dole collecting state hand-outs in 2013, to becoming a World Champion just two years later.
So what are my personal sporting predictions for the forthcoming year? It seems your guess could turn out to be as good as mine. All I know is, I have complete faith that I will achieve my not-so-secret goals for 2016. And at this point I’m pleased to report that the 13 consecutive weeks of gruel we collectively coin ‘winter training’ has been the most successful and comprehensive October to December groundwork I’ve ever strung together. Take a look and place your bets:
Here’s to mountains moving in 2016! Happy New Year!!!