It’s the last week of the year, and everyone’s doing year-end wrapups. I can’t resist a good list any more than anyone else can. Lists are perfect for the end of the year because they have a certain finality, they feel relevant and they’re so much easier than writing an actual essay, with a beginning and an end and transitions and all that laborious unpleasantness.
Because this is a media/consumer column, I figured I’d take a look at the people who had an excellent 2012 (or made 2012 better for the rest of us), and later this week, those who had a poor 2012 (or just made 2012 worse for the rest of us).
So let’s dig in.
Joe Buck. My thoughts on Buck are clear , but even his detractors have to admit he’s had an excellent year. Building off his career-peak broadcast of Game 6 of the 2011 World Series, Buck reached a new level this year; he has become the signature voice of sports in this country but doesn’t seem so needy about it anymore. In 2014, Buck will do his fourth Super Bowl, and next October, he’ll call his 16th World Series. And the guy is 43 years old. Buck will always have people who dislike him, but there are a lot fewer of them this year than there were last year.
Mike Francesa. The clip of him falling asleep -- more specifically, of him snapping to -- is honestly one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. And remember: He gets “paid a fortune to sit here and do this.” (I’m so glad there’s not a camera on me when I’m writing these columns and occasionally nodding off.) I love that this episode will end up on Francesa’s tombstone. I sometimes find myself watching it on repeat for as long as half an hour.
Sara Ganim. Four years ago, she was graduating from college and interning for the AP. Last year, at the age of 24, she won a Pulitzer for her coverage of the Jerry Sandusky case and took a job as a correspondent for CNN. What did you do this year?
Fred Gaudelli. The former “Monday Night Football” producer, as memorably documented by John Koblin, has made NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” the most pleasant, compulsively watchable sports program on television. That show is still a little crowded sometimes, but it’s operating at the absolute peak of its power these days. I bet Gaudelli really wishes he could cut Costas’ halftime soliloquies, though.
Tommy Craggs. The would-be Grantland staff writer ascended to the top spot at Deadspin last December, taking over for A.J. Daulerio, who had taken the site from a cult hit to a massive newsbreaking enterprise in the wake of Favregate. Craggs, in just one year, has proven himself the best editor the site’s ever had, pushing original reporting, clearly defined beats and more of a political edge than any sports news organization in memory. Traffic is still up, Deadspin continues to rank among the Best American Sportswriting every year and it’s still breaking stories. Probably the only person who doesn’t like Craggs’ steweardship of Deadspin is Lynn Hoppes, the site’s designated ESPN punching bag, and sorta mascot, at this point. (Full disclosure: I was the founding editor of Deadspin and still write movie reviews for the site, which are probably the dumbest things they currently publish.)
John Hollinger. It’s nothing but bad for the average consumer that Hollinger left his post at the center of ESPN.com’s NBA coverage to become vice president of basketball operations for the Memphis Grizzlies -- Hollinger was an invaluable asset for ESPN, and now we don’t get to read nearly as much of him. This is similar to when Bill James fans were sad that the Red Sox owned so many of his ideas and columns for so long. But any time a team recognizes the brilliance of a writer and his concepts and brings them into the league itself, it raises all boats, and there are still plenty of smart analytical hoops writers (including Grantland’s Zach Lowe, who is raising the bar every week). There are only 30 NBA teams. Besides, we’ll always welcome Hollinger back if it doesn’t work out. I bet it does, though.
Bill Simmons. The columns are coming fewer and fewer these days, and his own style is more and more out of place on the site he founded. His are the only articles that still have that frat-haze over there. But the (mostly) self-made Simmons ascended to the NBA front-line TV team, and he’s doing outstanding work -- it’s clear he has put in the time to be a stronger TV presence -- making a once-unwatchable pregame show at least moderately interesting. And wait until he gets more comfortable: That he hasn’t said anything to outrage a player yet is a matter of chance, not design. Plus, Grantland is thriving in its second year, and finally cleaned up the “pop culture” aspect of its editorial mission, turn that section into a compelling read as well. Simmons has gotten everything he has always said he wanted. It’s difficult to deny anymore that he deserves it.
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Also on this list: Everybody at Sports On Earth. I love you guys. Anyway, the bad guys come later this week. Remember, this column is meant as a valve, a release, for when you’re yelling at your television during games, or, after reading a particular column, you’re pounding your fists into your computer. Obviously, I’ll need your help to do that. Anything you want me to write about, let me know, through email or Twitter. I am at your beck and call.