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December 30, 2016

It was a rough year, but here are a few reminders why 2016 wasn't all bad

It's been a pretty bad year when the best thing you can say about the last 360-plus days is that it's almost over.

The general consensus seems to be that 2016 was, for lack of a better word, a shit year, leaving many harboring some form of this sentiment towards it.

Things just didn't seem to go our way, at all. And every time you'd think you caught a break, something much worse was lurking around the corner waiting to pounce. It was essentially a year's worth of Murphy's Law with some brief respites of sunshine. 

Typically, all that rain would make you appreciate the sun even more, but when you know the clouds aren't far behind, it's hard to fully enjoy it. See, this guy gets it...

But whether 2016 left you feeling like as angry as the fan or as confused as Westbrook ...

... we're here to help. For all the bad that came out of 2016, a lot of good great things also happened, so many that we were somehow able to smile despite the world crashing down around us. 

In that spirit, some of the guys on the PhillyVoice sports staff put together a list of things from sports and pop culture that made us happy in-- or at least provided some distraction from -- an admittedly tough 2016.

It's not all-inclusive, but that's by design. We wanted to leave some stuff out there for you guys to share with us in the comments section. Let us know what, if anything, brought you some happiness this year. 

But first, here's what we we'll look back on fondly when we remember 2016.


Create a buzz-worthy TV show that’s unlike anything else on TV now (or before) with three months left in the year and then, in the closing month of 2016, release a stylish album that has a similar energy and begs for repeat plays within the days you first heard it. 

The award for Best Donald of 2016 goes to "Community" alum Donald Glover, a multi-talented dynamo who probably deserves to get a little sleep in 2017. FX’s "Atlanta" really is must-see TV, even if it isn’t for everyone. Go into it for the escapism you seek from your entertainment and it’s difficult not to be impressed. Is it absurd at times? Sure. Justin Bieber guest stars. Except it’s not Justin Bieber. That kind of stuff. Once you're finished with the 10 easily-digestible, 30-minute episodes from the first season of "Atlanta," slip Glover’s alter-ego, Childish Gambino, on for size. 

A comedian-cum-rapper, Glover/Gambino isn’t new to the music biz, but his latest effort, “Awaken, My Love!” is, like ‘Atlanta,’ an instant hit. It’s soulful. It’s addicting. It’s as if you’ve been dropped into Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Jackie Brown’ for 50 minutes and forced to just chill out and enjoy the surroundings. 

The Donald killed it in 2016.

-- Ryan Lawrence


To be in the building for Villanova’s national championship win over North Carolina was a privilege. Here were the two best teams in college basketball, going head-to-head after cruising through the tourney in impressive fashion. I was sitting behind the UNC student section after Marcus Paige’s miracle three tied the game right in front of us, and they were throwing seat cushions in the air:

Their hearts would be broken. Considering the stakes, Paige’s three was probably a Top-5 shot in the history of college hoops. And 4.7 seconds later, Kris Jenkins completely one-upped it.

That game was a reminder of how great sports can be.  -- Rich Hofmann 


Just as the 2016 presidential election was entering the home stretch, Westworld premiered on HBO and offered the perfect distraction from reality, what with its robot uprising — led by a duplicitous old white guy and constant twists that you probably should’ve seen coming all along.

Even if science fiction isn't your thing, the acting alone makes this show worth watching.

And that's just the pilot...

But perhaps the best part of "Westworld" -- aside from the hours I spent trying to solve a maze rather than reading about hacked email servers or leaked audio recordings -- was that I didn’t have to watch countless political attack ads after every scene.

-- Matt Mullin


On a related note, how much fun was it watching Carson Wentz this year? I mean, the team ultimately fell short of the playoffs and after their hot start, it's easy to see why some fans are disappointed by the end result. But, boy, did Carson make it interesting.

Oh, and he was the focus of way too many GIFs and photoshops I made in 2016 -- most of which had to do with Westworld or my other favorite show of the year, Netflix's "Stranger Things." Here are a few... 

OK, so that was more than a few, but you get the idea.

-- Mullin


After what was a crazy week in America, I don’t think Dave Chappelle made anything better. But for 90 minutes, he did make me laugh, putting on one of the best SNL episodes in a while.

-- Hofmann


Long under-appreciated, unlike the more water-cooler epic dramas it shares Emmy nods with, "The Americans" has still managed to have a strong and loyal following since it debuted four years ago. It honestly should be on the level of those others ("Game of Thrones," "Mad Men," "House of Cards") because it’s brilliant. The cat-and-mouse game between the two leads (Russians spies embedded into suburban D.C. in the 1980s) and the FBI (including their neighbor) is taut and tense. And at its best, that edge-of-your-seat drama is reminiscent of "Breaking Bad."

A lot of the credit should go to the aforementioned leads, Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth (Keri Russell). I’ve admittedly had a crush on Russell for some time. But she’s grown into a brilliant actress. Her scenes with Rhys (balancing a real/fake marriage with life-or-death spy work) are terrific. And then there are the ones with her daughter, Paige (Holly Taylor), like this one. Chilling stuff, but in a very good way.

-- Lawrence


This year may have been totally full of lemons, but every once in a while, we were able to squeeze some lemonade out of 2016. It was a random Saturday night in late April and my girlfriend was heading out with her friends. I could finally watch some sports. Except I didn't. 

Twitter alerted me to something called “Lemonade” that was airing on HBO. It was Beyonce's newest project, which was debuting as an hour-long visual album (basically one long music video comprised of a bunch of smaller music videos), some of which looked and felt unlike anything I've seen or heard from her in quite some time.

Like this reggae track that combined horns, strings and a violently beautiful woman smashing the hell out of a city block. It just works.

Or, perhaps my favorite song of the year, was this country track -- yes, from the same album that features reggae, hip-hop, R&B, and pretty much any other music genre you'd want -- that she performed at the CMA's alongside the Dixie Chicks.

Needless to say, no sports were watched that April night. 

It was one of the most interesting shared viewing experiences I’ve ever had on Twitter as people were trying to figure out if it was going to end with Beyonce leaving Jay-Z. Not only was it musically and visually stunning, but unlike 2016, it actually had a happy ending. 

-- Mullin


Before this year, I knew the basics when it came to the O.J. Simpson murder case. Now I know a little more than that.

First, there was the FX series The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story. John Travolta made weird faces, Sarah Paulson and Courtney B. Vance went mano a mano, and David Schwimmer said “Juice” quite a bit. It was a ridiculous 10 episodes, but really, it was a ridiculous trial in so many ways.

That show was followed up by “O.J.: Made in America,” which immediately rocketed to the top of the list as the best 30 for 30.

-- Hofmann


Hell or High WaterManchester by the SeaDeadpoolThe Nice Guys, and Everybody Wants Some!! were some of my favorites. Hopefully I get to catch “Rogue One” sometime over the next few days, too.  

-- Hofmann


When you decide to actually venture outside of Philadelphia at some point in your life, and that point takes you down south, where college football is king, you kind of forget the NFL exists. So when baseball season ends, my football watching habits occur on Saturdays and not Sundays. 

For the last three years, no one has entertained on Saturdays quite like Deshaun Watson. (Full disclosure: Watson and I share degrees from the same school and therefore I might be slightly biased). But, really. If you’re a quarterback that can control the passing game with precision on deep passes and the running game with improvisation coupled with speed and strength, you’re almost unstoppable. 

Watson, a junior who will be in the NFL this time next year, is 30-3 as a starter at Clemson. He began 2016 by throwing for more than 400 yards and four touchdowns against Alabama’s vaunted defense in the national championship game (when he was easily the best player on the field) in a five-point defeat. He’s positioned his team for a rematch next month. 

Regardless of what team you root for (unless it’s the team he’s playing against, I guess) watching Watson play football is pure delight. Oh, and he’s a good kid, too.  

-- Lawrence


Carson Wentz hit Darren Sproles down the right sideline on a broken play, and as we have seen time and again, the little guy took the ball to the house. This was the high point of the Eagles’ season.

Who knows if Wentz is truly a franchise quarterback? He does a lot of good things, but his accuracy and decision making fell off as the season moves along. That said, he’s just a rookie playing in front of a patchwork offensive line and a group of receivers that made you pine for the days of Na Brown and James Thrash. The personnel around him should get better, because there is nowhere to go but up.

At times, like on the throw to Sproles, Wentz made you think that the Eagles might have “their guy” at the most important position in sports. That’s enough for me.

-- Hofmann


We got the equivalent of an early dismissal last month when the Sixers game against the Kings was postponed due to unsafe court conditions. Not only was it something I’ve never seen before (and a somewhat hilarious site to behold), but we all got to finish our stories and go home earlier than usual.

Sometimes, it’s the little things. 

[NOTE (TO SELF): Remember this when you have to cover the makeup game in 2017.]

-- Mullin


I enjoy Joel Embiid, whether it’s watching him play, listening to him talk, or following him on social media.

-- Hofmann


Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin | Follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanlawrence21 |
Follow Rich on Twitter @rich_hofmann