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With the Academy Awards being handed out this week, I have decided to hand out a few honors of my own.
Best Manager/Coach: Jose Mourinho. The wily Portuguese mentor brought a steel-like tenacity to English Premier League club Chelsea. First he took the Blues to their first league championship in 50 years and now it looks like he will make them the first non-Manchester United team to win two titles in a row since Liverpool did it in 1983/84. In the Claudio Ranieri era they had the talent but weren't considered to be consistent enough or as mentally strong as Manchester United or Arsenal. Now they have both of those areas covered and are one of the strongest sides in Europe.
Biggest Improvement: Teenage tennis star Shahar Pe'er began last year ranked No. 183 in women's singles and by the end of the year was sitting inside the top 50 at 45. Within the first two months of 2006, Pe'er had played in and won her first WTA Tour final.
Biggest Bust: Bode Miller. The American skier promised much but went 0-for-5 at the Winter Olympics, delivering very little.
Biggest Annual Bust: Major League Baseball's Atlanta Braves have won 14 straight division titles, but yet only five National League pennants and a lone World Series title over that time period. Their annual October fade-out is now something of a tradition. On the other hand, the Florida Marlins have only been around for 13 years have already won two World Series.
Biggest Annual Bust Runner-Up: The NFL's Indianapolis Colts. The last three years have seen the Colts dominate the regular season only to implode in the playoffs. They rebounded from last year's disappointment to start the season 13-0, but lost three of their last four, which heralded another winter of discontent in the Hoosier State.
Biggest Did He/Didn't He?: Lance Armstrong, who has won the last seven Tours de France and has faced so many accusations of doping that no one is sure what the truth is except for Lance and his pharmacist. Leak after leak after allegation after innuendo haven't done anything to prove if he is guilty or not of anything.
Biggest Waste of a Golden Opportunity: With only two games to go in its World Cup qualifying campaign, Israel had done exceptionally well not having lost a single match and having to face the lowly Faeroe Islands. With numerous draws, goal-difference could be a problem but had they piled on the goals against the Faeroes, they might have been OK. A tame 2-0 victory over there was followed by an even more insipid and uninspired 2-1 victory at Ramat Gan. They won the battles but definitely lost the war. With another seven goals, Israel would have advanced instead of the Swiss.
Best Musical Chairs: Ton Caanen. The Dutchman was put in charge of Betar Jerusalem when Eli Ohana quit the team. Things seemed to turn around right away with Caanen at the helm but the club wasn't big enough for both him and new general manager Luis Fernandez. Conveniently for Caanen, though, there was a vacancy at Maccabi Tel Aviv after Nir Klinger had just resigned. At Betar Jerusalem, they are wondering if they got rid of the wrong guy while Maccabi Tel Aviv was wondering if they got the right guy.
Best Fall on his Sword: Florentino P rez. The former Real Madrid president jumped ship but how much assistance did he get from disgruntled fans and board members? The policy of buying everyone and anyone is spectacularly failing and the buck had to stop at Perez.
Best Victory: England lost the first Test of the Ashes cricket series but rebounded well, winning the next Test by two runs and was unlucky not to win the third Test. A courageous victory in the fourth Test set up the unlikeliest of wins after Australia had held the Ashes for the previous 16 years.
Best Average Year: Another ho-hum season for golf phenom Tiger Woods sees him net just two majors for the year. Wins in the Masters and British Open took his total number of major championships to 10, which trails only the 11 of Walter Hagen and 18 of Jack Nicklaus.
Best Impersonation of Officiating: The NFL. Most of the playoff games were marred by poor calls that affected the results.