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2014 shaping up as odd year

by NANCY ARMOUR AP National Writer on December 29, 2013 1:54 AM

Cold and snow for the Super Bowl, balmy temperatures and palm trees for the Winter Olympics. A college football champion that nobody can question and a golf major guaranteed to go two weeks. There’s also the never-ending mess with Alex Rodriguez, and a World Cup that may — or may not — come off as planned.

The New Year hasn’t even arrived yet, and 2014 is already shaping up to be one odd year.

While it’s impossible to predict everything that will happen in the coming months, especially when it comes to sports — raise your hand if you saw that World Series title for the Boston Red Sox coming, or that swift kick to Alabama’s hopes for a three-peat — one thing is for certain: It’s going to be a year like few others.

 

SUPER BOWL

Yes, teams play in the cold and snow all the time during the regular season, and some of the NFL’s most memorable games were played in wintry conditions. And yes, there’s a chance it could be in the 40s on game day. But the NFL is taking a big gamble by holding the Super Bowl, its marquee event, at an outdoor stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., in the dead of winter.

While some folks shelling out big bucks for Super Bowl tickets are fans of the two teams playing, most come for the experience — and that wasn’t meant to include frostbite. There will be plenty of mumbling and grumbling if the Big Apple is hit by a blizzard or cold snap before the game, to say nothing of the potential embarrassment of empty seats.

 

WINTER OLYMPICS

Weather has been a concern since the Winter Games were awarded to Sochi, a resort city on the Black Sea where the average high in February is nearly 50 degrees and rain is far more likely than snow. The temperatures should be lower in the mountains, where the outdoor events will be held, and organizers have guaranteed snow, even if it’s the stuff they’ve been squirreling away since last year, when un-Winter Olympic-like weather forced the cancellation of some test events.

Warm temperatures and slushy snow might wind up being the least of the worries for Russian president Vladimir Putin and Sochi organizers, however. Russia’s new anti-gay laws have sparked outrage from the rest of the world, as has Putin’s human-rights record.

 

WORLD CUP

Six of the 12 stadiums won’t be ready until January or February, though organizers insist that’s still more than enough time to hold test events. But despite spending billions to prepare for the World Cup (and the 2016 Olympics), questions remain about Brazil’s infrastructure, with many fearing the airports, roads and local transportation systems won’t be able to handle the crush of tourists. All that spending also has created resentment among Brazilian citizens, who disrupted last summer’s Confederations Cup with violent protests.

On the field, however, this could be one of the most entertaining tournaments yet. Led by budding star Neymar, host Brazil has its most intriguing team since its last title run in 2002.

 

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

No matter what else happens, there will be peace in the land come the end of the year in the form of the first college football playoff.

Unless, of course, five or six teams finish the year unbeaten.

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