With the turn of the calendar year, countless are busy setting forth 2016 initiatives – their vows to do better, correct the errors in their ways or strive for more in their lives.
But I have a hunch most of you aren’t interested in another rash of mundane personal resolutions reeking with cliché themes of fitness, diet, religion, family, relationships and careers.
And so, I’ll spare you.
Instead, I’m putting pen to paper to express what I hope to see play out over the sporting landscape over the next 12 months.
So here it goes, my ‘self-indulgent’ resolutions for each pillar of the sports world in 2016:
NBA – LeBron vs. Curry Finals Rematch
The two most dominant performers on the hardwood mono a mono one more time for all the marbles. Need I say more? The defending champion Golden State Warriors have been even more ruthless thus far this season led by one of the purest shooters the game has ever seen in N.C. product Stephen Curry. But I’m sure LeBron and the Cavaliers are salivating at a potential rematch, this time with a healthy Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving at their disposal. Looking forward to seeing the June fireworks fly!
College Hoops- Sweet Caroline!
What can I say? I’m a Tar Heel. And the ‘homer’ in me knows it’s been far too long since the Tar Heels have made a trip to the Final Four – a place UNC used to visit regularly. Oh what might have been sans the Kendall Marshall injury a few years back…but alas, it’s 2016. If Roy’s boys fully buy in defensively, a healthy Kennedy Meeks returns and Brice Johnson continues to channel his emotions in a positive manner, the Tar Heels, especially in a year with no dominant teams, could very well be cutting down the national title nets.
NFL- Panther Pride
It’s been an historic year for the Carolina Panthers. A 15-1 regular season record. The NFC’s No. 1 seed. Cam Newton likely MVP. Home field advantage throughout. Charlotte is going to be rocking this month as a city crawling with Panther pride eyes its second trip to the Super Bowl. Carolina is armed with a versatile offense led by the dynamic quarterbacking of Newton and the sturdy running abilities of Jonathan Stewart. But the real key to deciding its postseason fate will come down to the defense. Lethal at times, the unit has had its fair share of struggles down the stretch. If Luke Kuechly, Josh Norman and company can regain that swagger, the franchise’s first Vince Lombardi trophy is within reach. Keep pounding, baby!
College Football- ‘Clemsoning’ Buried for Good
Let’s be honest. This archaic term should have been put to bed years ago. Negative perception of the ACC along with Clemson’s unfortunate placement alongside perennial power FSU in the Atlantic division have allowed the skepticism to linger far too long. But finally, the undefeated Tigers can officiate the ‘Clemsoning’ funeral with a win over mighty Alabama in the national championship. The Tigers have the game’s most electrifying player in Deshaun Watson and although the ‘Bama defense is of NFL caliber, the Tigers are no slouch on that side of the ball either. Per usual, a game of this magnitude will likely come down to turnovers and explosive plays. Here’s hoping Clemson captures a few more and wins one for the good ol’ ACC!
Golf- Mickelson Masters Magic
Yes, the young guns have taken over the Tour these days. And that’s exciting. The game’s in good hands. Years of Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Jordan Day battles are ahead. But in 2016, I hope one of the old guys shows he’s still got the ‘right ‘ (yes, he’s a Lefty) stuff. Phil ‘The Thrill’ Mickelson showed us glimpses of his old self in a memorable performance at the President’s Cup last fall. Then, in typical Phil fashion, he shut it down for the rest of the year. But if anything, it’s evidence that when fully motivated and engaged, Mickelson can still mix it up with the best. And few places get his juices flowing than a stroll down Magnolia lane each April. He still packs plenty of punch off the tee. He’s still got the best imagination. So if the putting gods can just bless him one more time in Augusta, the Phil roars could again echo through the Georgia pines, ‘a la Jack Nicklaus in ’86. A fourth Mickelson green jacket would be the sweetest one of all.
Tennis- Royalty Re-Crowned At SW19
One of my favorite summer traditions is waking up to Wimbledon. The tradition, the crispness of the immaculate green grass, the quicker courts. It’s tennis’ highest prize and champions become royalty. And that’s why I can’t help but hope for one last Center Court coronation for two of the game’s all-time aging greats. Seven-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer and five-time champion Venus Williams are synonymous with Wimbledon for more than their triumphs. Their model sportsmanship, regal leadership and love for the sport commands the admiration of fans and fellow players alike. And these qualities are embraced by the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club more than anywhere else. So here’s hoping for a final moment in the sun for Roger and Venus on the game’s grandest stage this summer.
Olympics- U-S-A, U-S-A!
It’s an Olympic year, folks! The best athletes across the globe will descend on Rio for the Summer Games. True to the patriot that I am, I’ll be hoping for a dominant outing for the men and women donning the stars and stripes. Another victory lap in the pool for the evergreen Michael Phelps. A fourth gold medal for Kerri Walsh-Jennings on the beach (Misty May, you will be missed). A fifth gold for the Williams Sisters on the tennis court. Another shining moment for LeBron, Curry, and the rest of the ‘Dream Team’ Americans on the basketball hardwood. Gymnastics gold for the next Gabby Douglas out there. And of course, may the USA track stars run away from the rest of the competition. Here’s to shattering USA medal count records!
So there you have it. Bold resolutions, I know. But if even half of the list gets checked off in 2016, rest assured, I’ll be rockin’ around the Christmas tree singing a rousing rendition of ‘Jingle Bells’ with a fully-loaded egg nog in hand!
Follow Matt on Twitter @mattdoakes