December 28, 2013

COMMENTARY: 2014 may be odd year

Lots to look forward to all ready

By Nancy Armour
Ap National Writer

Cold and snow for the Super Bowl, balmy temperatures and palm trees for the Winter Olympics. A college football champion that nobody can question and a golf major guaranteed to go two weeks. There’s also the never-ending mess with Alex Rodriguez, and a World Cup that may — or may not — come off as planned.

The New Year hasn’t even arrived yet, and 2014 is already shaping up to be one odd year.

While it’s impossible to predict everything that will happen in the coming months, especially when it comes to sports – raise your hand if you saw that World Series title for the Boston Red Sox coming, or that swift kick to Alabama’s hopes for a three-peat – one thing is for certain:

It’s going to be a year like few others.

SUPER BOWL, Feb. 2

Yes, teams play in the cold and snow all the time during the regular season, and some of the NFL’s most memorable games were played in wintry conditions. And yes, there’s a chance it could be in the 40s on game day. But the NFL is taking a big gamble by holding the Super Bowl, its marquee event, at an outdoor stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., in the dead of winter.

While some folks shelling out big bucks for Super Bowl tickets are fans of the two teams playing, most come for the experience — and that wasn’t meant to include frostbite. There will be plenty of mumbling and grumbling if the Big Apple is hit by a blizzard or cold snap Feb. 2, to say nothing of the potential embarrassment of empty seats. Bad weather wouldn’t be any picnic in the days before, either, wreaking havoc with the other events that make the Super Bowl the spectacle that it is and keeping fans hunkered down in their hotel rooms.

If they can get to their hotel rooms, that is.

WINTER OLYMPICS, Feb. 7-23

Weather has been a concern since the Winter Games were awarded to Sochi, a resort city on the Black Sea where the average high in February is nearly 50 degrees and rain is far more likely than snow. The temperatures should be lower in the mountains, where the outdoor events will be held, and organizers have guaranteed snow, even if it’s the stuff they’ve been squirreling away since last year, when un-Winter Olympic-like weather forced the cancellation of some test events.

Warm temperatures and slushy snow might wind up being the least of the worries for Russian president Vladimir Putin and Sochi organizers, however. Russia’s new anti-gay laws have sparked outrage from the rest of the world, as has Putin’s human-rights record. The International Olympic Committee has reminded athletes that protests or political gestures violate the Olympic charter, and Sochi organizers have said they will set up special “protest zones.” But the criticism isn’t likely to quiet once the games begin, not when the whole world is watching.

ALEX RODRIGUEZ

A decision on whether the New York Yankees’ third baseman will play this season is expected in January. Rodriguez was banned for 211 games last August for violating baseball’s drug agreement and labor contract, but he played out the season while the union appealed. The Yankees have made it clear they’ve had it with Rodriguez, which would make spring training all kinds of awesome if he reports in February.

Oh, A-Rod is also suing Major League Baseball and Commissioner Bud Selig. Not that that’s awkward or anything.

BOSTON MARATHON, April 21

(Continued on page 2)

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