The most important thing to know about the coming year in sports:
He gets another green jacket.
And you get rich taking the 20-1 odds Las Vegas bookmakers are laying on Tiger Woods to win the Masters. Things get interesting when you bump into Floyd “Money” Mayweather leaving the betting window.
Money: “How’s it going?”
You (fanning out $100 bills): “Great!”
Money: “Save some for October. I’m coming back ... against some guy named McGregor.”
Like the conversation above, or disgraced Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte trying to sneak into the world championships in Budapest with a fake mustache and new dye job, Mayweather vs. McGregor would be loads of fun. But it probably won’t happen in 2017. Frankly, it’s going to be a lousy year.
It will mark 50 years since the NFL’s biggest game was first played — even though this one is technically Super Bowl LI. But instead of something momentous like the old-guard Packers vs. the upstart Chiefs in that first one, or something sexy like Cowboys vs. Raiders in this latest one, we’ll get a snoozefest like Lions vs. Dolphins. It’s been that kind of season.
So expect even more commercials, replay reviews, timeouts, warmed-over analysis and breathless sideline reporting than usual. Lady Gaga’s barely-there halftime outfit will barely cause a ripple across the Twitterverse.
Who wins? Who cares? By the end, few beyond the players’ family and friends will be watching. And, continuing two more trends much noted during the NFL’s regular season, TV ratings will slip lower and commissioner Roger Goodell won’t have a clue why.
“Maybe our fans were watching replays of the presidential debates,” Goodell tells TMZ the day after. “No wonder they dented our ratings the first time around. Hand-to-hand combat, bad refs, lots of Hail Mary passes... and that town-hall touchdown dance Trump did? The kind of stuff people used to watch the NFL to see.”
Speaking of the president-elect, moments after slipping on his fifth green jacket and first since 2005, Woods credits Trump with helping him win the Masters.
Jim Nantz: “A little while ago, you told Peter Kostis behind the 18th that you got a tip during a round with the president in West Palm Beach last December.”
Nantz: “About putting? Your swing? The mental game? I have to ask ... what was the tip?”
Woods: “Get rid of the beard. He said it made me look like Danny Glover .”
A few more things that could turn up on the 2017 calendar:
January 9 — College Football National Championship — Orlando, Florida
After losing to Clemson 3-0, Alabama coach Nick Saban announces his retirement.
“I always said I’d leave when I couldn’t give this program 110 percent,” he begins. “Last night, I was dreaming about how to block those three, 300-pounders in the middle of Clemson’s ‘D’ line. All of a sudden, I dreamed I was in a meadow, alongside a lake somewhere. There were peonies and wild horses. ...”
Saban drops the mic, starts toward the exit, then makes a U-turn back to the podium. “One more thing: ‘Roll Tide!’”
May 7 — European Karate Senior Championships — Samsun, Turkey
Sixty-four-year-old Russian president Vladimir Putin is declared the surprise winner. The first congratulatory call comes from the White House. Appearing bare-chested at the press conference soon afterward, Putin compares it to the time he scored seven goals in a hockey game in Sochi against a team made up of his political and business cronies.
“It’s amazing what you can accomplish,” he says, “when people get out of your way.”
June 18 — NBA Finals, Game 7 — Cleveland
LeBron James wills the Cavaliers to another NBA title, again at the expense of Warriors. Immediately afterward, Golden State’s Kevin Durant says he’s instructed his agents to explore a trade to Cleveland.
“Not so fast,” King James tells reporters, reacting to the report. “He hasn’t suffered enough. Tell him to call back when they’re burning his jerseys on the streets.”
September 10 — Opening weekend of NFL season — various locations
Without warning, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick gets up and stands for the national anthem. NFL players on every sideline follow suit. Intrepid FOX sideline reporter Erin Andrews tracks him down shortly afterward.
Andrews: “After all this time and all that abuse. Why now?”
Kaepernick: “My knees are killing me.”
November 1 — World Series, Game 7 — Chicago
Pinch-hitter Kyle Schwarber homers one-handed in the bottom of the ninth while wearing a full body cast and eating a hot dog with the other hand.
Cubs win! Cubs win!
Again. Like you didn’t know that.
December 18 — The Ashes cricket series, 3rd Test — Perth, Australia
England sweeps the first three test matches in the best-of-five format to lock up a second straight series win, and its sixth in the last eight. In the middle of a locker room filled with drunken revelers, wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow holds up a the tiny terra cotta championship urn and calls for quiet.
Bairstow: “Chaps, I don’t know how to put this ... but there are ashes in here.”
Teammate: “Of course, Jonny. Legend has it they’re the remnants of a burnt cricket ball, perhaps, or a mournful woman’s veil.”
Bairstow: “Afraid not. No. 1, this is just a replica. No. 2, these are ashes like in an ashtray. Somebody put out a cigarette in this one.”
Yep. It’s going to be that kind of year.