No. 1 | Hall of a deal
Just when you thought Jerry Tarkanian was never going to get into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, he got in; just when you thought people around here were starting to forget all those Final Fours he’d been to, people around here erected a statue with his likeness; just when you thought he would never pick up a check — well, those in his inner circle say Tark still hasn’t picked up a check. But it was a hell of a year for the man, better late than never and all that, and if I ever see him in Slots-A-Fun, the hot dogs are on me.
No. 2 | NFR cash cow
Those who run the National Finals Rodeo have asked those who run Las Vegas to pony up like never before, so now those who run Las Vegas are thinking about letting Florida (Florida ?!?) have the NFR and starting their own dog and pony show, or at least their own horse and bull show. So however this turns out after bluffs are called, it’s still gonna smell like dog and pony around here, or at least horse and bull, and that smell is good for the local economy and for guys who drive taxis.
No. 3 | Anthony Bennett’s draft notice
Before his waistline and jump shot got bent out of shape and NBA fans started comparing him to LaRue Martin (drafted first overall, ahead of Julius Erving and Bob McAdoo, by the Portland Trail Blazers in 1972), UNLV freshman Anthony Bennett was drafted No. 1 by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2013. This is something Rebels coach Dave Rice might be able to sell to recruits, provided the Cavaliers someday put Bennett at power forward instead of small forward, and they show him where they keep the StairMaster and the diet sodas.
No. 4 | The Incredible Hauck
UNLV football coach Bobby Hauck started 2013 on the hot seat. He’s going to finish it at the Cotton Bowl, where the Rebels will play in a postseason game after going 7-5. As turnarounds go, this harkens to when Commissioner Gordon would call the Batmobile with news the Penguin and his fine feathered finks were pulling a bank job in downtown Gotham City, and Batman would tell Robin to hold tight before exclaiming “Bat-Turn!” Then he’d pull this lever and parachutes would come out. And the Batmobile would do a wicked 180-degree about-face, just as the Rebels did in football this year.
No. 5 | Money talks, Canelo walks
Floyd Mayweather signed a $200 million dollar contract to fight stiffs and some other guys on Showtime, and one of those stiffs/other guys was Canelo Alvarez, who also was undefeated, and who mostly was referred to only as “Canelo” throughout the prefight hype. The way music people refer to Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner as Sting, or old showbiz people refer to Maria Mercedes Pilar Martinez Molina Baeza as Charo. But now boxing people mostly refer to Canelo Alvarez by his nickname and his last name, or by Saul Alvarez, his birth name, or by “that guy I never should have bet on against Mayweather, even if I did get him at plus-270.”
No. 6 | Busch league
Last year when Kurt Busch and Kyle Busch combined for one victory in 71 starts on the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit, I predicted in this space that the Las Vegas lead foots — lead feet? — would be back with a vengeance. This year they combined for four victories (all by Kyle) in 72 starts. That might not be considered vengeance in the Southern states and Dover, Del. But both brothers made the stock-car racing playoffs. And Kurt made the playoffs driving for a one-car team, which is like finishing third at Talladega in a rusted-out Buick.
No. 7 | A.D. shuffle
A lot of people thought it unfortunate when Jim Livengood “stepped down” as UNLV athletic director; a lot of people thought it fortunate that Tina Kunzer-Murphy stepped up to replace him. Gray cloud, meet silver lining. And here you thought Graney and I were joking about every major sports story around here having a positive side and a negative side. Like battery cables. Only don’t cross them around outgoing UNLV president Neal Smatresk, or sparks will fly.
No. 8 | He’s No. 2
Kris Bryant hit 31 home runs for the University of San Diego while swinging one of those impotent composite bats now being used in college baseball, which was like hitting 31 home runs with a rolled-up Review-Journal. Then he won the Golden Spikes, which is the college baseball Heisman. Then he became the second player picked in the major league draft, and then he tore up all three minor leagues in which he played. So it’s probably only a matter of time until the Cubs trade the former Bonanza High slugger to the Cardinals for Ernie Broglio’s second cousin.
No. 9 | Hammer time
If Amanda Bingson had a hammer, she’d hammer in the morning, she’d hammer in the evening, all over this land. Actually, that’s just what the UNLV track and field star did, setting an American track and field record by throwing the hammer many, many meters, which is how they measure prodigious tosses of the hammer. And I haven’t been able to get that Peter, Paul &Mary song out of my head ever since. Or even the Trini Lopez version.
No. 10 | UFC turns 20
Most people celebrate their 20th anniversary with a nice dinner at Hugo’s Cellar, or someplace like that. The Ultimate Fighting Championship commemorated its second decade as a pay-per-view phenomenon by serving punch and kicks to the head and Ronda Rousey. Anderson Silva lost, Georges St. Pierre retired (for now) and Dana White got himself one of those green visors and lamp shades and continued counting other people’s money, like Mr. Drysdale from “The Beverly Hillbillies.”
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at email@example.com or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski.