* The last posting date for posting cards from the UK to destinations outside the EU by air-mail for delivery before the 25th is on Monday, and so far I have written ¾ of one card,
* The biggest ever edition of the Radio Times is out today,
* I have heard one (1) festive song on the radio so far, invoking the spirit of the new old-fashioned way,
* McDonalds have produced an absolutely fantastic-looking hot mincemeat-and-custard pie in the style of their hot apple pie and
* Tomorrow sees the annual BBC Sports Review of the Year, broadcast in a show renamed "Sports Personality of the Year 2007" after the titular award that forms the centrepiece of the show.
I wrote loads about last year's award and wasn't intending to do so about this year's, but Iain (the writer formerly known as daweaver) has done a great deal of the work for me already. In fact, he has already written up at least as good a summary of this year's voting as I did last year, rather saving me the bother of most of this article. (His skewering of СУП, the company to whom LiveJournal has been sold, is a must-read.)
It's non-trivial to tell how this year's voting will play out. Iain points out that all 31 voting panels named Joe Calzaghe and Lewis Hamilton among their ten and 29 out of the 31 named Ricky Hatton. (Last year, the closest-to-unanimous nomination was Monty Panesar on 33/37.) Calzaghe beat an overhyped American contender in a plainly money-motivated fight, which isn't that much of an achievement, and beat the clear consensus second best super-middleweight in the world, which is an excellent acheivement. Hamilton came second in his first season of Formula One motor racing and did so with considerable style. He conducted himself with the height of decorum outside his team, other than committing the (entirely reasonable) faux pas of moving to Switzerland, and behaved with sufficient single-mindedness within his team to show his personality. Ricky Hatton fought one and won one at the start of the year and is fighting tonight. Seldom does the timing issue of the award come into as sharp a focus as it does in Ricky Hatton's case; fought one, won one and fought two, won one shouldn't be enough to secure a nomination, but excluding a nomination for the fact that his second fight had not taken place before the nomination time seems churlish.
The rest also ran. Most people have offered token nominations for the best golfer at the moment and the best tennis player at the moment, neither of whom won either of their sports' four majors this year. Paula Radcliffe came fifth in nominations, recovering from childbirth to take second in the Great North Run and first in the New York Marathon. It is probably as unreasonable to expect marathon runners to perform three times in a year as it is world championship calibre boxers - and, when there are four or five global class marathons yearly, you always worry that the best runners might end up avoiding each other - but I think Radcliffe's decision not to defend her marathon world championship counts as a black mark, as does actually losing a race this year. Two rugby union players have made the final ten due to England reaching the World Cup final, but they were hardly outstanding to reach the final, no player from the team was especially outstanding and England came no better than third in the Six Naitons, so top ten places should be considered generous.
Christine Ohuruogu picks up the tenth top-ten spot due to her 400m world championship. Now while missing three drugs tests in a year probably shouldn't kill your athletics career stone dead, I have no issue whatsoever with it killing your Sports Personality chances. Outside the top ten, one joint winner of the flat race jockey's title comes eleventh and the other comes joint eighteenth. The football vote is predictably heavily split. Nicole Cooke, who I marginally favoured last year, is joint twelfth this year after defending her women's Tour-de-France-equivalent title, but a late knee injury stopped her from winning the season-long World Cup or the World Championships, so I think she can consider this a significantly less fine year than last year. Another female cyclist finished joint eighteenth after a highly impressive three gold medals in the track cycling world championships, making her this year's badly overlooked female cyclist, IndyCar and Indy 500 champ Dario Franchitti picked up only three votes (but he's prepared to trade UK popularity for a lucrative US career, so that's no hardship) and Andy Priaulx, winner of the world touring car championship for a third successive year picks up only two votes.
It seems that a sportsman of any gender is penalised for outstanding performance in:
* sports with multiple weight categories, where the pound-for-pound fudge is necessary;
* sports with mutliple distance categories, for while there's excellence in winning the 100m or the marathon, it seems odd that the 400m and the 1500m should be any more valuable than the 200m, the 800m or the 3000m;
* sports with multiple divisions where the hierarchy is not clear - do you prefer GP2, touring cars or the US series? How on earth does anyone know which of the motorcycling series is most prestigious, other than the one with the bikes with the biggest engines?
* individual sports with multiple majors and no world championship as such that is legitimately regarded as the ne plus ultra;
* sports with multiple disciplines, like swimming's four strokes (plus medleys) and weight-lifting's types of lifts;
* team sports, unless they lend themselves to one player on the team hogging all the glory.
No wonder snooker champ Steve Davis kept placing well. He kept winning the world championship and lots of other tournaments for good measure. (Compare with darts player Phil "The Power" Taylor, who will never win now he has marginally counterfeited his 13 world titles by losing in this year's final to someone that, through politics, he didn't routinely face while winning time after time.) At the end of the day all you can do is beat everyone you face and just try to make your branch of the sportosphere higher and higher profile. There is always a degree of "Buggins' turn" to the proceedings - and even if you, like Sir Roger Bannister in the year you break the four-minute mile, get passed over for the (first) Sports Personality of the Year award, you might always win the (first) Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year Award instead.
Who will win? If Ricky Hatton comes off the floor in round one to KO Floyd Mayweather in round two, he just might. If he outboxes Mayweather and suffers as great an indignity as Lennox Lewis in Lewis - Holyfield I, he just might. If not, more likely Lewis Hamilton than Joe Calzaghe. What does Joe Calzaghe need to do to win? Well, knocking out Bernard Hopkins on July 4th 2008, then beating Roy Jones Jr. in November and immediately retiring thereafter ought to do the trick.
Mental sports athlete of the year: dunno, needs more thought, but if Thomas (motris) Snyder isn't in your top ten then you haven't been paying attention.
Hatton vs. Mayweather tonight and I haven't got a clue how this is going to pan out. It may not be the classic we all hope; a Mayweather who is distracted enough to dance with the stars does not have his mind fully on the job and Ricky Hatton, no matter how clearly he has won the pre-fight, has been exhausted by all the media frenzy. Coverage starts on BBC Radio Five at 1am GMT, which hopefully has some of the undercard live before the fight at 4am, otherwise it'll be like Cup Final Grandstand without Cup Final It's A Knockout. My recommendation: lay (oppose) Hatton winning on points.