Between Donald Trump and Orlando and Brexit, the world appears on the verge of hating itself to death.
But you gotta admit; it’s been a helluva year for sports.
- Peyton Manning retires after winning Super Bowl 50, and gives one of the all-time great farewell speeches. Made Ronald Reagan’s ‘The Gipper” speech look like as ass-slap.
- Liecester, a British town of 300,000, beats 5,000-to-1 odds to win the British Premiere League in soccer. To put that in perspective, the William Hill booking agency lost $3 million on Liecester, having put greater odds on finding Elvis Presley (2,000-to-1) or the Loch Ness Monster (500-to-1) alive. The bookie vows to never take bets with greater than 1,000-to-1 odds.
- LeBron James leads his Cleveland Cavaliers on an historic comeback from 3-1 down to win the NBA championship. The trophy marks Cleveland’s first sports championship in half a century. And the city needed it. I’ve been there; Cleveland is like Detroit without the glitter.
- Iceland defeats the U.K. in the European Soccer Championships, akin to the U.S. beating Russia in hockey during the 1980 Olympics. In shame, the coach of the British squad quits the same day. Suck it, xenophobes.
And now comes Marcus Willis, a 25-year-old tennis hack out of England. I say hack because, well, that’s what he’d say.
Before this year’s Wimbledon tournament, which began Monday, Willis was the 772nd-ranked tennis player in the world. He worked as the local pro at the Warwick Boat Club in England. He let his gut go a little. In 2015, he cleared $350 in earnings. For the entire year.
In fact, he was supposed to return to teach kids, aged 5-10, Monday afternoon at the boat club.
Instead, urged by his girlfriend to give Wimbledon one more go before hanging up the racket, he beat the 54th-ranked player in the world, Ricardo Berankis of Lithuania. He became the lowest-ranked player in more than 28 years to reach the second-round of a Grand Slam tournament. He’s guaranteed a paycheck of at least $50,000.
And on Wednesday, he’ll play his hero, Roger Federer, who has won seven Wimbledon championships.
When asked how he’ll fare against Federer, Willis dead-panned: “I’m not sure he can play on grass.” Then he continued: “I get to play on a stadium court. This is what I dreamed of when I was younger. I’m going to go out there and try to win the tennis match. I probably won’t. I might not.”
You never know. The chase of late has gone to the forceful and the fearful — except in the only place those should exist, a stadium. And how rich would it be to see blowhards have to back their words with a modicum of skill?
If only Trump’s hands could grip adult sporting goods.