Making public predictions on sports is a mug’s game. Well, it is if you focus on results.
Call it right – as I did, once, in 2004 – and it seems ungracious to continually draw attention to your obvious genius.
Call it wrong and you tend to look like a fool.
With this in mind, let us put results to one side as we look ahead to the international sporting treats in store for 2014.
Instead we shall focus on the more important (and, conveniently for me, far more easily predictable) issue of how this sporting smorgasbord will make us feel.
Happy new year, one and all.
The BDO World Professional Darts Championships in Frimley Green, England (January 4 to 12).
This traditional shaft of light in the bleakness of January will prompt the same declaration from every sports fan with a soul.
“Look at those people having so much fun,” we shall marvel. “Next year we are going.”
Our wives will reply, “Great idea, can’t wait!” – showing a surprising enthusiasm for watching overweight men in ill-fitting polyester shirts.
The XXII Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia (February 7 to 23).
After weeks of negative stories about threatened boycotts, heavy-handed security forces and cynical political posturing, the sport will finally begin.
And, as if by magic, the watching world shall put aside its differences and join together in appreciating the true meaning of this historic event. Namely: waiting for someone to fall over.
The Melbourne Grand Prix, Australia (March 14 to 16).
As always, it will be the unmistakable noise that announces the start of a new chapter in the rich history of Formula One. That trademark din of screaming engines, roaring spectators, and a billion heads being simultaneously scratched as we try to grapple with the latest rule changes.
The Grand National in Liverpool, England (April 5).
And they are off! Ah, the thundering turf, a riot of coloured silk, muscular thighs rippling as a stampede of nature’s most magnificent beasts strain every sinew to reach their destination in prime position.
Truly, the sight of the crowd at Aintree heading for the hospitality tents is something to behold.
The final fixture of the English Premier League (May 11)
Remember when all we cared about was first place? Nowadays it is all about who came second, third and fourth.
Anything can happen over 90 minutes. But one thing is for sure: we will all be waiting to discover who Tottenham’s manager is when the final whistle blows.
The Fifa World Cup in Brazil (June 12 to July 13)
With the host nation widely expected to lift the trophy, this should be a far-more-relaxed tournament than usual.
Take my country, for example. In previous tournaments we English fans arrogantly assumed our “golden generation” was all but guaranteed to “bring football home”. This year, however, the players shall fly to Sao Paulo unburdened by expectation.
Which means we will DEFINITELY win it this time.
Tour de France (July 5 to 27)
This year’s tour commences in the rolling moors of Yorkshire, England, whose natives are notoriously hard to impress.
Mark my words, whatever time the fastest rider clocks in the Leeds-Harrogate stage, at least one local will claim that he once did it faster on his grandfather’s boneshaker.
And that was “after a 12-hour shift down t’pit, wi’ a live ferret tucked inside me trouser leg”.
The Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland (July 24 to August 3)
Remember how great the London Olympics were? Well, strap yourselves in for another roller-coaster ride, world, because we are doing it all over again*!
(* In the rain, without Usain Bolt, or most of the other decent athletes, or the parachuting Queen, or the novelty factor, or London. But, hey, come along anyway, if only to watch Australia stand a chance of winning a medal.)
The Ryder Cup in Gleneagles, Scotland (September 23 to 28)
Feel the rush as European golf fans enjoy a rare opportunity to behave more like football fans. After this, it is two more years of shushing and tutting.
The baseball World Series (Starts October 22)
Once again, the entire planet will hold its breath for this pan-global clash of Titans. Will this be the year for a non-American team to shine? (Answer: no.)
The ATP World Tour Finals in London, England (November 9 to 16)
The traditional finale to the tennis season will finally answer the question that has dogged British fans all year. Is Andy Murray still English or should we start calling him Scottish again?
The PDC World Darts Championship in London, England. (Date TBC)
Seeing this carnival of darts will remind us that we were supposed to be going to the BDO event in January. Your wife will say: “Oh, you forgot again? What a shame. Maybe next year, eh?”