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Dome Pondering - 2014 Year in Review

Ahhhh, here we are again, the biggest post of the year - The Dome Pondering Year in Review! DPYIR, you know, for short. Well, we're closing in on 2015, so let's now throw a hashtag on that baby - #DPYIR. Yeah, now we're talking!

Nonetheless, it's a celebration of another year of existence, another year of growth, and another year of well, trying to make sense of things as life looks on in repose. As always, I would like to thank all of you who frequent, read, and dare I say, enjoy, this (very) tiny slice of the internet called Dome Pondering, as well as those who interact via Twitter (@domepondering). Whether you've been a DP devotee for a long time, caught on this year, or simply reading this post for your first visit, your support and feedback always surprises me. Thank you very, very much. Molte Grazie!

Also, I would be remiss if I didn't thank the fine folks over at TNAsylum, a blog for TNA Wrestling fans with an international and wide-reaching fanbase. It's amazing to think it was over a year ago they invited me to be a part of their team and to contribute to the site with my own column - Pondering with Plumtree . Thank you. 

And now, let's begin the ninth edition - holy crap, the ninth! - edition of the signature post of the year with the traditional thirty-three Pondy Awards (Pondy Award History). Which stories/people/happenings will walk away with a Pondy for 2014? Let's find out!

The Pondy Awards

Crucial Moment of the Year: The Rise of ISIS Militant Group

It went from a blurb, to constant headlines, to page splashes, to just utter crazy videos of captives being beheaded to instill fear throughout the world. Unfortunately, this group, believed to be more dangerous and more organized than al-Qaeda, is growing by the day as they have seized cities throughout Syria and Iraq, including very important oil assets, which are believed to be making the group close to $3 Million each day. 

Honorable Mention - Ebola Virus Epidemic and Darren Wilson Indictment Verdict

World Affairs Issue of the Year: Gaza and Israel Conflict

In the Middle East that had its fair share of concerns and conflicts this year, it was the age-old issue between Israel and Palestinians flaring up over several weeks in July and thousands of lives being lost which caused mass protests across the globe.  

Honorable Mention - Ebola Virus Epidemic, ISIS Takeover of Syria and Iraq, Search for MH317 Aircraft, Boko Hiram Kidnapping of 200 girls

Inspirational Story of the Year: Lauren Hill Plays NCAA Game and Stuart Scott's ESPY Speech

Suffering from an incurable form of brain cancer, Hill, managed to live her dream as an NCAA collegiate basketball player by participating in a few games, including her first which was an emotional and inspirational night. Kudos to the NCAA as well for looking passed the rules and allowing Mount St. Joseph to move the game ahead of the allowed date so Hill can participate.

As for Stuart Scott, he has been battling cancer for a long time and refuses to give in. The ESPY awards shed some light on his battle with the disease, and his speech wowed and inspired us all to live life to the very fullest we can.

Random Story of the Year: Missing MH370 Flight

I don't think it can get any more random than a flight of over 300 passengers vanishing from the face of the earth. No trail. No leads. Nothing. It's almost like it was right out of a movie. As of today, there is yet to word on the location of the plane and the reason for it's disappearance. 

Honorable Mention - Mass Hacked/Leaked Photos of Celebrities

Most Controversial Story of the Year: Darren Wilson Non-Indictment/Mike Brown Killing (Ferguson)

This obviously takes the cake for controversy as the situation not only lead to major backlash throughout the country, but also developed into a full movement after other similar cases such as Eric Garner compounded and enraged emotions. I've touched on it several times (So Sad, So Damn Sad: Quick Thoughts on Mike Brown/Ferguson Situation) (So Sad, So Damn Sad II: More Thoughts on Mike Brown/Ferguson Situation) but there is just so much to cover due to it's in-depth and controversial stature. 

Honorable Mention - Affordable Health Care Contraception Coverage (Hobby Lobby Ruling)

Most Overrated Story of the Year: Draft Coverage of Michael Sam

This was ridiculous. Some are afraid to acknowledge it. The way ESPN, other news outlets, and most of all, Sam, used his sexual orientation for fame and coverage was appalling. The camera in his home for the moment he was drafted? Even more ridiculous. All of it because Sam was the NFL's first gay football player. All of it just to see Sam get cut not once, but twice this season. A very overrated story. I can't wait until using the "gay card" isn't accepted anymore. Afterall, it shouldn't matter, should it? Can we just move on? Just being honest. Just bloggin...

Honorable Mention - Kim Kardashian "Breaks the Internet" and Johnny Manzeil

Tune of the Year: Pharrell Williams - "Happy" 

Although watching children belt Frozen's "Let it Go" over and over on the Subway almost earned the song this Pondy for 2014, I had to give the nod to "Happy". After all, it's hard not feel, well, happy, whenever Pharrell's track bumped out of nearby speakers. The track not only was a hit single, but also spurred various videos on YouTube, some which went viral. 

Honorable Mention - Frozen's "Let it Go" by Indina Menzel, "Take Me to Church" by Hozier, and "This is Now" by Casting Crowns

Invention of the Year: Wireless Electricity

What?! Yes, you read that correctly. Dr. Katie Hall has figured this all out, even developing a test house where electricity was transferred via magnetic fields. The breakthrough isn't completely refined, but the idea of WiTricity is very much on it's way. 

Comeback of the Year: LeBron James Returns to Cleveland

Oh what difference a few years make! LeBron returned home to Cleveland to accomplish what he set out to do before he made "The Decision", to bring a championship home to Cleveland. For a few weeks this July, "returning home" was the craze, and announcing it via print form online was the in-thing to do. Regardless, it's hard to find a better "comeback" this year than the one Cleveland is experiencing right now. 

"Wishing Well" Award of the Year: Improved Option in Judicial System to try Police Officers

Obviously, this one stems from the controversy that gripped our nation this year with the Mike Brown and Eric Garner situations in which both police officers were not indicted. Regardless of your stance on the issue, the idea of the DA prosecuting police officers is a conflict of interest in the system, considering the relationship both parties have with one another on an every day basis. How about getting a third party to arbitrarily oversee these cases? 

"Just Go Away" Award of the Year: Kim Kardashian

As I've been told, this is a favorite Pondy Award of many who frequent the DP. This year's nod goes to non-other than the woman who is famous for nothing other than flaunting her body - even if she has to show some skin to grab the attention. Seriously, Kim, enough! You didn't "break the internet" as you thought you would. Please. Just go away.

By the way, Drake didn't win this year's Pondy, but sure was awfully close. Though you didn't win, you sir, can also just go away. 

Honorable Mention - Drake, Facebook Activist Who Do Nothing in Real Life, Polar-Vortex Winter Cold Front, and the Washington Redskins Team Name

"Largest Fortitude" of the Year: Brittany Maynard

If you thought the "Random Award of the Year" is going to be hard to break for years to come, how about the Pondy Award winners who will follow Brittany Maynard for largest fortitude? Having terminal cancer and having the guts to set a date to eventually pull the cord on yourself, AND follow through? That's guts. That's real. That's fortitude, my friends. God bless Brittany Maynard. 

"We'll Miss You" Award of the Year: Maya Angelou

Such a beautiful woman who left behind a wondrous collection of poems, stories, and various literature for us to enjoy, learn from, and be inspired from. She'll be missed. 

Honorable Mention - Jim Hellwig aka "The Ultimate Warrior", Tony Gywnn, and Robin Williams

"What Were You Thinking?" Award of the Year: Adrian Peterson

Seriously, dude, beating your son with "switches" and hitting them intentionally in their private areas with whips to teach them discipline? Dude! Really, what were you thinking? Just awful. Still stomach-turning to think about.

Honorable Mention - Alex Rodriguez, Ray Rice, and Donald Sterling

"What a Shame" Award of the Year: Boko Hiram Abducting 200 Nigerian Girls

Unfortunately, 2014 brought plenty of international heartaches, including this story of the terrorist group from Nigeria who killed over 2,000 people in Northern Nigeria while also abducting over 200 women and girls. The story was buried among headlines of missing planes, the wars in the Middle East, and of course, ISIS. Such a shame. Even worse, is the fact that the fate of many of the abducted is still unknown. 

Honorable Mention - Killing of Two NYPD Officers in Retaliation of Ferguson/EricGarner, NFL Handling of Ray Rice Domestic Abuse Situation, Paul George Freak Leg Injury, and the State of New Jersey granting judgment in favor of Caitlyn Ricci (lawsuit against parents forcing them to pay for college education). 

"Welcome to the Scene" Award of the Year: Legalization of Marijuana 

After the ice was broken in Colorado and Washington with legalized recreational use of marijuana, plenty of states is now revisiting their laws, especially when considering the lucrative choice it has been for the two states. The agenda is picking up steam and has become the hottest topic on the state level, replacing same-sex marriage. 

Honorable Mention - ALS Awareness and the Ice Bucket Challenge, and Iggy Azalea

"This Should Have Been Done Before" Award of the Year: Action/Accountability From Leagues on Player Issues with the Law

After Ray Rice and the complete disaster in how the NFL handled the situation (When You're King Like the NFL, You Rule and Are Pardoned) we saw many leagues take action on implementing bylaws governing the action ought to be taken against players who are involved in domestic abuse issues/crimes. Unfortunately, it took this long, and the embarrassment of the NFL to get here, but it's good to see the "as long as he is talented" exception now being phased out by teams in all leagues. Having a good character matters again, and that's just great for sports, and for our culture. 

"The Incredibles" Award of the Year: Madison Bumgarner World Series Game 7 Performance

This was awesome. Coming back on two days rest in Game Seven of the World Series to not just throw a couple of innings, but five shutout innings - yes, five! - is easily my incredible effort of the year. This was remarkable and still amazing to think about (MadBum Delivers The Greatest Championship Performance I've Ever Seen).

Honorable Mention - Ellen's Retweeted Academy Awards Picture, Taylor Swift's 1989 Album Sales, UCONN Wins Men's and Women's Basketball National Titles, Landon Donovan wins MLS Cup in final game, and Alia Atkinson is First Black Woman to win world swimming title

"We Need to Fix This" Award of the Year: Relationship Between Minorities/Society and Police

Ummm, yeah, a pretty obvious one considering the issues that were at odds this year. Really, this has been necessary for a long time, however, because of recent events, is now more aware within our society and on the front burner of our conscience. 

Honorable Mention - Immigration Reform

Biggest Letdown of the Year: Bill Cosby Rape/Sexual Assault Stories

Look, I have no idea what to believe. We don't even know what is fact from fiction. And we haven't even heard Cosby's defense as of yet. However, usually, where there is smoke, there is fire. And it really is a huge letdown to see Bill Cosby caught up in such a terrible, terrible thing.

Idiot of the Year: Man Who Sued ESPN For Making Fun of Him Sleeping During Televised Game

This guy is a clown. If you aren't aware of this story, you can catch up here. He filed a lawsuit for $10 Million. Hahahaha! Wow. Yup, you sir are a total idiot.

Dome Pondering Person of the Year: Brittany Maynard

It was touched on a bit above regarding this year's "Largest Fortitude" Award of the Year, but the story of Brittany Maynard is one that truly evokes emotion, spurs deep thought, and questions the way we value life, in a positive way.

Maynard, stricken with terminal cancer at the age of twenty-nine (which makes it all the more relative for yours truly), moved to Oregon, one of five states in our nation that authorizes "Death with Dignity" as law. She accepted the unfortunate fact that there was no treatment for her illness and decided to end her life on her terms, avoiding the pain and suffering. You can read her final penned statement regarding her decision here.

Maynard's decision wasn't and isn't an easy one. I personally don't consider it suicide and I can't speak, as some have done aggressively, on her relationship with the Lord. Regardless, her willingness to accept death head-on, a fear we all carry each day, is inspiring, courageous, and in many ways, thoughtful.

Fighter of the Year: Ronda Rousey

Rousey absolutely kicked ass this year. Not only has she become one of MMA's most significant and recognizable people, but her two fights this year were over and done within mere minutes of the first round. Rousey is simply, a beast.

Honorable Mention - Sergey Kovalev

Pay-Per-View Event of the Year: NJPW G1 Climax (Day 12)

For the second year in a row, the New Japan Pro Wrestling event takes this Pondy, this time with Day 12 of the event bringing it home. With traditional pay-per-view changing and really dying, 2014 was a rough year for all companies putting on events - pro wrestling, MMA, and boxing alike. No event really wowed, except for a handful.

Honorable Mention - WWE Wrestlemania 30, NJPW G1 Climax (Day 8), and TNA Slammiversary

Pro Wrestling Match of the Year: Adrian Neville vs. Sami Zayn vs. Tyler Breeze vs. Tyson Kidd - NXT Takeover 2

Imagine that? A development brand outshines all of the big leagues for this year's MOTY. Although, it's not too surprising as NXT has been a better product than the WWE main shows for most of the year.

Nonetheless, there were a handful of great matches that stood out for me this year, most of them multi-person contests, but none were as fun and as unpredictable than this bout between these four men. Just awesome stuff for a thirty-minute-plus match.

Honorable Mention - NJPW G1 Climax (Day 12) - Hirooki Goto vs. Katsyuyori Shibata, TNA IMPACT 10/8/14 - Full Metal Mayhem  - The Wolves vs. Team 3D vs. The Hardys, TNA Lockdown - Last Man Standing Match - James Storm vs. Gunner, WWE Elimination Chamber - The Wyatts vs. The Shield, and TNA IMPACT 7/31/14 - The Hardys vs. The Wolves.

Pro Wrestling Tag Team of the Year: The Young Bucks (NJPW and ROH)

This was an extremely tough one this year as tag team wrestling really was a great thing to witness around all companies in 2014. In the end, I had to give the nod to the fellas with the superkick party who pretty much stole the show wherever they were this year.

Honorable Mention - The Wolves (TNA), redDRagon (ROH), and The Usos (WWE)

Female Pro Wrestler of the Year: Gail Kim (TNA)

Who else would this be? Gail continues to be the class of not only the Knockouts division in TNA, but women's pro wrestling in the entire world. For now, no one is even on Kim's level. I'll go out on a limb and say it - best women's wrestler on the planet right now.

Honorable Mention - Paige (WWE), Charlotte (NXT), and Sexy Star (Lucha)

Male Pro Wrestler of the Year: Shinsuke Nakamura (NJPW)

A back-to-back win for this Pondy for the cult-like promotion over in Japan. This was a hard one for me this year as there were so many moving parts in the industry, no one truly made a clear case for the Pondy. After selecting a handful and looking at the body of work in 2014 from that handful, including Jeff Hardy who made it very tough, Nakamura gets the nod this year, and truly, he deserves it.

Honorable Mention - Jeff Hardy (TNA), AJ Styles (NJPW), Robert Roode (TNA), Katsyuyori Shibata (NJPW), Adam Cole (ROH), Dolph Ziggler (WWE), and  John Cena (WWE)

Sports Event of the Year: Little League World Series

Talk about a shocker, huh? Even with this being a World Cup year, this year's LLWS had so much drama, so many storylines, that it was unbelievably captivating from a sports perspective and from a mainstream outlook. And of course, it introduced us to Mo'Ne Davis, who I would vote for President tomorrow if I had the chance.

Honorable Mention - FIFA World Cup, Colts vs. Chiefs Wild Card Playoff Game, Stanley Cup Finals - New York Rangers vs. Los Angeles Kings, and World Series - Kansas City Royals vs. San Francisco Giants

The Derek Jeter Flip Play Award of the Year: Derek Jeter's Walkoff Hit in Final Home Game

The man with the namesake on the award had to win this, didn't he? Regardless, this moment was by far the best of the year, and when it came to Jeter, it was absolutely perfect. A vintage "Jeterian" hit to right field to win the game for the Yanks. Awesome, awesome moment.

Honorable Mention - Odell Beckham's One-Handed Catch vs. Cowboys, Yoenis Cespedes throw from left field vs. Oakland Athletics, Alec Martinez Stanley Cup Winning Goal, Luis Robles Double Save vs. Seattle Sounders, and Richard Sherman's Game-Winning Deflection in NFC Championship Game

Coach of the Year: Bruce Bochy

One of the most underrated managers in all of baseball, Bochy kept the Giants ship straight enough to get them into the Postseason, and then was able to lead a team who believed enough to win the whole thing for their third championship in five years. Bochy seemed to always make the correct moves this year, and all of his players seemingly loved playing for him.

Honorable Mention - Gregg Popovich, Kevin Ollie, and Geno Auriema

Team of the Year: San Antonio Spurs

One would think the tragic loss of Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals would forever haunt the Spurs, but as they always do, they stay consistent. The team rebounded, made it back to the NBA Finals, and absolutely dominated the Miami Heat to win another championship. Oh yeah, while all the "experts" continued to call them "old".

Honorable Mention - San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Kings, and the Jackie Robinson West Little League Baseball Team

Dome Pondering Athlete of the Year: Madison Bumgarner

MadBum is awesome, period. I could just write his stat line from the post-season and that would, and should, be enough to justify this Pondy. Add to that a tremendous regular season, the performance of a lifetime during the World Series - especially what he pulled off in Game 7 - and this one is obvious.

Tough going for Clayton Kershaw, who really had the leg up on this Pondy until October hit - which is his career Achilles heel right now.

Honorable Mention - Clayton Kershaw, Mike Trout, and Tim Duncan

The Final Countdown...

As I punch the keys to form these words, I honestly cannot believe that 2014 is over. I say that every year (don't we all?), but truly, this year I really (like, really!) mean it. 2014 whizzed by. All of it, like a blur. Hitting the final period on the 2013 Year in Review still feels fresh in my mind. 

Regardless, 2014 is on the way out, and it's been an interesting year for sure. Naturally, I've grown tremendously, I've developed as a human being, and outright, I've continued to look fear straight in the face and call it a liar. Well, most of the time. I'm still struggling with that, but last year's sentiments still ring true as I'm slowly becoming more of a leader in so many ways as well as tackling situations that I would have passed on years prior. It's still one of the greatest quotes I've ever come across, "Fear is a Lie". It so is, and I'm hoping to continue on that focus heading into 2015. 

However, what if I told you that you can be afraid of time? 

Time? Say what? 

Yes, time. 

As 2014 made its way through its existence, there was a growing part of me that became a bit apprehensive about turning thirty. The big 3-0. You know, the turn into that decade - the one you dreaded since your teens. Yup, the '20s, always sound so vibrant and full of youth. And here I am, on the brink of diving off of this twenty-something cliff never to return other than for memories. Compound this with being around college-aged beings every day as a professional, and it somehow causes you to examine time in a whole new way. 

The fear doesn't necessarily stem from the fact that I hate getting older and am afraid of losing the things which the '20s offered and freely gave. Unlike many, I embrace getting older. I actually look forward to it. I can't tell you how many times I look back on life and think, "wow, I was really stupid". 

“As you grow, you learn more. If you stayed as ignorant as you were at twenty-two, you'd always be twenty-two. Aging is not just decay, you know. It's growth. It's more than the negative that you're going to die, it's the positive that you understand you're going to die, and that you live a better life because of it.”
― Mitch Albom, Tuesdays with Morrie

Time is an interesting quality that can indeed be the greatest teacher. Really, time has an interesting way of showing us in life what truly matters. No year like 2014 in my existence thus far has taught me that. 

As always, there are my parents who have slowly taken a spot in Year in Review posts each year. I now find myself at the point of no longer relying on them, but being the pillar of post for them, especially my father, who continues to struggle with mental/memory ailments that affect his daily living. The cycle of life is an interesting one, and I am quickly learning the meaning of "once a man, twice a child". Time can do that to a person, and also prepare one to take on such a role. Again, such an interesting cycle... 

Then there is the everyday occurrence that is my profession - college athletics. This year I've grown plenty not only as a professional in my industry and in my role at the university I work at, but in my relationship to my staff, my interns, and plenty of student-workers. Some, whom I have become incredibly close with. They are now bursting with random questions not just on college and "work stuff" as they call it, but on many, various topics of the "real world". It's reached that certain level of comfort, and I've grown more and more in that role of "mentor". 

I still can't believe it to be honest. Mentor? Me? No way! 

It's now no longer random or awkward for me to be answering text messages late at night from them regarding advice on various issues such as reporting tenant issues to their landlords, resume creation, proper interview apparel, or to hear my opinion on world issues they soon will have to deal with. 

And of course, there is the time I found myself in the situation of random internet browsing of jackets and boots for my international mentee (through a university program for minority and international students) who is from Singapore, who has never experienced cold weather - ever. "I've never purchased a jacket or really anything other than t-shirts and shorts. I don't know what to look for" he once said to me as he attempted to warm up in my office on the first brisk day of Fall. I wasn't prepared for such a statement, but so it goes. Live. Learn. Move on. But that day was definitely an experience.  

Act wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.
- Colossians 4:5

While it may seem like it is in the past, I understand that I can indeed be every single age I've already been, and hopefully, can relate through that to others thus helping them. Time is funny like that, and I've come to see that. Weird in context, but yet, very true in this race we called life. 

“The truth is, part of me is every age. I’m a three-year-old, I’m a five-year-old, I’m a thirty-seven-year-old, I’m a fifty-year-old. I’ve been through all of them, and I know what it’s like. I delight in being a child when it’s appropriate to be a child. I delight in being a wise old man when it’s appropriate to be a wise old man. Think of all I can be! I am every age, up to my own.”
― Mitch Albom, Tuesdays with Morrie

At twenty-nine, I now understand the importance of every single question from my parents, my students, and yes even my wife, my family, and my friends whether it be in a text, or in conversation. Sometimes we take our experiences for granted. I know I do. Who wants to listen to me?! What have I done? 

There is a responsibility that comes with time, and I hope to not only maximize it but to share it with others, hopefully allowing others to do so with me. Causing us both to grow. After all, isn't that what is most important? It's just as important as the effort we put into maximizing the time ahead, as well as attempting to live in the moment. 

A great deal of that learning experience of time, and from time, was due to my travelings in 2014. I've never traveled as many miles as I have this year - literally. From my ventures over to Europe, all over Italy, through London, a work trip to Nashville, and the many summer road trips to east coast cities during the summer months, there was plenty of moving, a lot of living out of suitcases, and a lot of yes, learning. From cities like Rome, Florence, Venice, London, and Washington D.C., all places built on culture and history, it's hard not to pull growth, maturity, and time from the experience. Some of these cities I probably will never see again - thus forcing one to take it in. Slow down. Enjoy the moment. 

Whether I'm afraid to admit it or not, because at times I still like to cater to my inner child, which explains my growing PS4 addiction (FIFA 15 is absolutely tremendous and kills plenty of my time - working on that as well), there is now a bank of experience and know-how that I have gained through time and through experience, that can be used. That can be shared. 

I'm afraid of that. That scares me. Have I something to offer the world? Really?

That is where the fear comes from, more so than my age suddenly having a zero on the end of it, of somewhat abdicating "my youth", or of potentially failing to meet the new challenges in my thirties that will come with, of course, time - kids, a family, aging parents, moving even further away in age from students (only us professionals get older, the students remain the same cruel) and yes, getting older, physically. 

That's the truth. The cold truth. It's hard to explain and to put into words. But I'm afraid of time and the responsibility it bestows on those who want to own it. And I definitely do as life is too short not to. 

Make the best use of your time, because the days are evil.
- Ephesians 5:6

Thankfully, Marianne Willamson nailed this EXACT feeling for us poor saps in her beautiful poem:

"It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,
talented and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other
people won't feel insecure around you.
We were born to manifest the glory of
God that is within us.
It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people
permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others."

I'm looking forward to using my time - past, present, and future - effectively in 2015, and manifesting the glory of God in doing so. 

So, I also challenge you: call fear a liar, refuse to play small to the world, liberate others with all that you have, and be conscious and responsible of the time given to you. 

In 2015, how will you respond? 

Happy New Year! 

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