The 2016 ntfof.com Awards
Hello 2017. Not the Face of the Franchise is back !
We had a little planned break. That morphed into an extended hiatus.
During this time there was no dramatic soul-searching or deep introspection. There was never any consideration of simply stopping the website. We didn’t burn out or threaten to fade away.
We just sat about, ate Pringles and watched Netflix.
The time away did allow for ideas to take shape. There may be change ahead. Details will be forthcoming at the relevant time.
But before we charge into the future let us take one last look over our collective shoulder. Not the Face of the Franchise is proud to present the first annual ntfof.com Awards for 2016.*
Yes, this incredibly clichéd concept will undoubtedly fall foul of the well-worn and well-founded accusations of gross subjectivity, horrific recency bias and downright non-sensibility.
But it might be a bit of fun.
It’s a departure from the format but will be in keeping with tone of the site.** It will, perhaps most importantly, be true to the mission statement of the site. Spoiler — Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady won’t be winning an award. Leo Messi won’t be holding a conical purple triangle mounted on a resplendent and weighty black chrome base. ***
This is the award ceremony to herald the unsung heroes of sport. You won’t be troubled by the pop of champagne corks or flash-bulbs. You won’t need a tux. You may even strongly disagree with the outcomes.
* Currently without a sponsor … corporations and/or global enterprises may form any orderly line for the 2017 honor
** Words with black and white pictures
*** It’s okay to admit it — you are imagining this. You can see the trophy. We are workshopping the award’s nickname …. early favorite is ‘The Purp'
Welcome to …
ntfof.com Awards for 2016
The Sport Specific Bracket
These awards are presented to the selected individual from a shortlist of four nominees within the sporting discipline.
Basketball Player of the Year
The nominees are :
Kevin Love (Cleveland Cavaliers),
Avery Bradley (Boston Celtics),
Andre Iguodala (Golden State Warriors),
Mike Conley (Memphis Grizzlies)
And the winner is …
Bradley’s Boston career is the definition of consistent development. He was selected with the 19th pick of the 2010 draft to a Celtics roster in serious pursuit of a Championship. His minutes were scarce. He sat on the end of the bench and watched. He waited.
Bradley, even as a rookie, was a ferocious defensive talent. Energetic and relentless. As he gained a starting role in Boston he added more to his game. He is an incredibly reliable three point shooter and has sought to add further dimension to his game each year. 2016 has seen Bradley take on the role of assured veteran on a team that lacks a true ‘star’ (despite Isaiah Thomas’ continued efforts to make a mockery of this narrative). His ability to decisively cut to the basket, stretch the court, gather rebounds and defend — like his life depended on it—doesn’t often lend itself to highlight reels.
He has done more than enough to be crowned NTFOF.com's Basketball Player of the Year.
Baseball Player of the Year
The nominees are :
Bartolo Colon (New York Mets),
Kole Calhoun (Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim),
Ben Zobrist (Chicago Cubs),
Mark Trumbo (Baltimore Orioles)
And the winner is …
2016 was an incredible year for baseball. The Cubs were the story. An incredible achievement by a beloved team starved of success for so long. But as standalone moments go there are few more special than Bartolo Colon’s home run in May 2016. The rotund pitcher — after being acquired by the Mets in the National League East (with no designated hitter rule)— found himself facing pitches for the first time in his career. Early results were not so much mixed as borderline humiliation.
But he hung in there. Kept swinging. And when the 42 year-old connected with the ball you could feel the ballpark willing the seemingly impossible. Colon cracked the ball into the stands. Two run homer. As he trundled round the bases there was no denying you were witnessing baseball magic. It was a truly beautiful moment in sport.
Is it right to award an accolade on the strength of a single at-bat ? In a calendar year full of the climactic and heroic ?
Football Player of the Year
The nominees are …
Cole Beasley (Dallas Cowboys),
Alex Mack (Atlanta Falcons),
Jordan Howard (Chicago Bears),
Steve Smith Snr (Baltimore Ravens)
And the winner is …
Steve Smith Snr
Steve Smith Snr had no business being on NFL playing fields in 2016. The fact that the 37 year-old receiver was able to drag his diminutive frame back onto the playing surface following significant injury in 2015 is perhaps testament enough to his competitive drive. But to be still producing his high level of performance is nothing short of incredible. Smith is a rarity in today’s game — a trash-talker that retains universal respect and is able to back up his ferocious vocality with performance.
Soccer Player of the Year
The nominees are …
James Milner (Liverpool),
Victor Moses (Chelsea),
Manolo Gabbiadini (Napoli),
N’Golo Kante (Chelsea)
And the winner is …
Milner made his debut for Leeds United as 16 year-old. He has played, with distinction, for Newcastle United, Aston Villa, Manchester City and now Liverpool. He has made over sixty appearances in an England shirt. He is amongst the most criminally undervalued by the English fans, media and those charged with selecting national squads (in a similar vein to Michael Carrick). He isn’t flashy. He’s a professional. The hugely popular Twitter parody account that takes his name pokes fun at his dull demeanor. It paints a prosaic picture of a committed sportsman devoid of any distractions. Its unclear how close the account mirrors reality.
There are two James Milner anecdotes that spring to mind when evaluating his career. The first is the fact he didn’t have an agent until recent years. He, as a young player, was happy to work with the Football Player’s Association elected official when negotiating contracts. He wasn’t looking to gauge more money from the paymasters — you get the impression he was living his dream playing the game he loved.
The second story is that of the former coach who opined that Milner was a guaranteed ‘7-out-of-10’ match day rating. It wasn’t that he couldn’t exceed that on any given week. Indeed, he could be relied upon to provide a handful of man-of-the-match performances each year. But James Milner simply doesn’t let his standard fall below respectable. He, in every sense, is a reliable pro.
2016 saw Milner add another impressive string to his bow when his coach Jurgen Klopp moved him to a left fullback position. Milner’s natural versatility has seen him deployed in various midfield roles but his conversion to a defender surprised many. In truth there should have been no shock. Milner, through the sheer hard work and dedication that has defined his career, has evolved into one of the leagues best fullbacks.
And now he can added NTFOF.com Award winner to his achievements.
These awards are not specific to any one sport. As such there are no nominees — just winners deemed exceptional in their field and the surrounding sporting world.
Retiree of the Year
2016 saw several commendable athletes retire. None were more worthy of this accolade than Tim Duncan.
The very inclusion of Tim Duncan in these awards may seem to be breaking a cardinal rule. He, for more than a decade, was the face of the San Antonio Spurs. How can he be now considered as a suitable subject for NTFOF.com ?
Because Tim Duncan was the epitome of reluctant superstar. There wasn’t much flashy about Duncan. His retirement was befitting of his exceptional career. No farewell tour. No gaudy proclamations or desperate pleas for attention. He simply shrugged and got off the stage.
Tim Duncan was a tremendous team-mate, fierce competitor and incredible role model. He will be missed beyond San Antonio — his departure can be felt all across the NBA.
College Athlete of the Year
Jason Cabinda (Penn State Nittany Lions)
College athletes come in many shapes and sizes. Backgrounds can vary. Sporting floors and ceilings can be wildly divergent. They can seem cut from many different cloths.
Linebacker Jason Cabinda is very much of the ‘Please let [insert your favorite NFL team] draft this guy’ variety. The upside on such an acquisition is two-fold. You want him in your uniform for the positives he would bring to your defense. His inclusion on the your team’s roster also minimizes the chance he will break your star offensive player in half.
He is intense. He is hard-hitting. The way his eyes bulge within the dark Penn State helmet is the stuff of nightmares.
Whispered comparisons to Mike Singletary are perhaps too big a burden. The fact they are muttered at all is telling.
Watch this space.
Misfit of the Year
It’s incredibly easy to find criticism of Jay Cutler. The internet and written press is awash with derision and detractors. There is no need to add to that.
Instead, let’s explore a little mental exercise. If we could transport Cutler from the exceptionally competitive NFC North (The Bears have made the play-offs once in nine seasons) and find him a new home on the Houston Texans — what would be the hypothetical result ? The Texans have been dogged with poor quarterback play in recent seasons. Cutler, even his most ardent critics would have to admit, has talent. He has the requisite arm-strength. The somewhat tired consensus seems to be he isn’t a suitable leader. He doesn’t inspire. The Texans team is undeniably led by J.J Watt and their promising young defense. Could Jay Cutler be just enough to bring the best out of DeAndre Hopkins and Lamar Miller ?
2016 was yet another year of injury, interceptions and the occasional moment of brilliance. The Chicago Bears are trying to regather and rebuild. They are looking to the future. The collective apathy and frustrating under-achievement that has become synonymous with Cutler feels more like an anchor.
For Jay Cutler the question is perhaps better distilled to : Can he exceed expectation in a situation where he is not the face of the franchise ?
2017 should provide the answer.
Most Admired but Undisputedly Unsuitable for ntfof.com Player of the Year
This guy exudes every trait NTFOF.com holds dear. His hard work ethic borders on maniacal. Westbrook doesn’t move through gears — he has one speed : flat-out. He is simply incredible.
He is a numbers machine. He, following Durant’s departure from OKC, is the driving force behind the team. It’s now his team. When you add the questionable fashion choices and intense media focus he demands Russell Westbrook should never feature on NTFOF.com.
But he’s that good …
He’s that fun to watch …
And if you can’t break the wholly subjective rules of your own website and create a weird category in your completely fictitious annual awards … then what’s the point ?