By: Chris Dagonas
Let me begin by saying that I know going into this that I will definitely not get to see everything on this list happen. One would be great. Two would be incredible. All fifteen! Don’t tease me, fate. Don’t tease me.
I will also take a line here to say that yes, there are far more important things due to happen in the world in the next 365 days. But this is a sports-based article. So, unless a basketball game happens to break out, I’m even excluding my upcoming wedding from this list. (“By hitting this free throw, I, Christopher Dagonas, do solemnly swear…”) I am looking forward to it, and lots of other things. But this is about sports things.
Anyway, the Toronto, Canadian, and international sports scenes are all on the brink of some major happenings this year. Ranked in order of importance here are some things I’m excited about that will/may/probably won’t/definitely won’t happen in 2015.
15) An updated NFL suspension policy. Commissioner Roger Goodell, assuming he still has the job next year, will not want any repeats of the terrible publicity he and his league received at the start of this season. They have already jumped into action. New Orleans Saints linebacker Junior Galette was arrested on Monday for a domestic incident, and the mandatory minimum punishment for a conviction is a six-game suspension.
14) Soccer transfer fees get higher and stupider, with no end in sight. Manchester City is apparently chasing Swansea striker Wilfried Bony, England’s top goalscorer for the calendar year 2014, for 30 million pounds. Even more intriguing, their rivals Chelsea have made inquiries about the availability of LIONEL MESSI! A brief story: I was once the manager of Barcelona in FIFA 13. After every match, Real Madrid would offer me stupid amounts of cash for Messi. Finally, just to see what would happen, I sold him to the Galacticos for 150 million Euros. I used the money to buy Neymar, Mats Hummels, and Arturo Vidal, three of the best players in the world. Madrid beat me in the next El Clasico, 2-1, with both goals scored by, you already know. That being said, seeing Lionel Messi in a Chelsea jersey would be a bigger shock and would resonate infinitely more, globally, than LeBron’s move to South Beach.
13) I win a recreational basketball league. Hey, it could happen.
12) The Miami Dolphins, my NFL team of choice, chance upon a future hall-of-fame quarterback that no one else saw coming in June’s draft. Interesting note: Dan Marino was taken 27th overall by the Dolphins in 1983.
11) Toronto FC signs American striker Jozy Altidore, as some reports are suggesting, keeps American midfielder Michael Bradley, and fiiiiiinally makes it to the laughably easy-to-make MLS playoffs. Every team in the MLS, even teams that began their first season as recently as 2013, have made the playoffs except for our beloved Reds.
10) A Super Bowl Halftime performance by Katy Perry. Naw, just kidding, that’s terrible. Also terrible; the report that the NFL was asking for payments, in advance, by interested performers. As if the NFL didn’t make enough money on Super Bowl Sunday.
9) A world where referee decisions are scrutinized like never before. On Sunday, the NFL had to release a statement on the incomplete pass call on this Dez Bryant
catch non-catch. This could catch on, with referees being asked for post-game reports in the four major sports, particularly playoff games or games with major controversial calls. I know it’s not beautiful TV, but taking an extra five minutes to get a call right should be the priority of every league.
8) Somehow, Daniel Snyder is
forced convinced to finally change the name of the Washington football team to something less… repulsive. This is probably the longest shot of all.
7) The Cleveland Cavaliers crumble under the weight of high expectations, injuries, and J.R. Smith, while the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls are let down by oft-injured players. All told, the NBA Eastern Conference is wedged wide open for a certain local team. More on that later.
6) The Women’s World Cup in June. Toronto was not chosen as a venue, for some reason, but from Vancouver to Moncton – Moncton? – yes, Moncton, apparently, the best teams in the world will be competing for the biggest honour in women’s soccer. And, if the sting of the Olympic loss in 2012 still lingers, I expect Christine Sinclair and company to have a great tournament. There is a good chance of seeing Canada’s first international soccer victory since the men won the 1904 St. Louis Olympics.
5) Milos Raonic and/or Eugenie Bouchard capture a major tennis title for Canada. Never before has there been one Canadian, let alone two, so young and talented and on the brink of winning a major title. Bouchard is probably closer to winning than Raonic, as the women’s game is more competitively balanced than the men’s. But a huge serve like Milos’ can go a long way, especially on the grass of Wimbledon.
4) The Toronto Blue Jays, on the strength of Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, and Edwin Encarnacion, along with bounce-back seasons for RA Dickey and the pitching staff, make an unlikely postseason run, a la this year’s Kansas City Royals, and the city actually forgets about the start of the Maple Leafs’ season until November.
3) The Pan Am Games in August in Toronto. I’m already trying to organize a field trip to take my class to the aquatic centre. Since we seem destined to never get the Olympics in Toronto (I’ll leave aside discussions about whether we really want the Olympics in our city), the Pan Am Games could be the biggest sporting spectacle in Toronto for a while. And, if all goes well, maybe the IOC will take another look at Toronto for a future Olympic event.
2) I was going to use this spot to write about the Toronto Maple Leafs squeaking into the playoffs, heating up at just the right time, and playing their best hockey in April-May. Then they went and fired Randy Carlyle, promoted two coaches to do the job of one, and have officially entered tailspin mode. Fans are thinking about Mike Babcock, Phil Kessel is getting sarcastic and snippy with media, and neither of our goalies can stop a beach ball with any consistency right now. What am I looking forward to about this team? October.
1) The Toronto Raptors make a long playoff run, perhaps the longest in franchise history. DeMar DeRozan returns from injury this month, gets right back to his November form, Kyle Lowry makes it through 82 games playing like a runaway house on fire, and Jonas Valanciunas becomes a championship-level defensive anchor and rebounder. Plus, the NBA’s Eastern Conference has left an extra-wide lane for the Raptors to coast through with ease. Here’s hoping that everything bounces right for the Raptors, and we see the city of Toronto filling up Jurassic Park long into the mild warmth of May evenings.
There you have it. Fifteen wild, hopeful things to think about as we kick off a new year.