Tag Archives: year in review

Think you knew sports in 2016? So why is Putin pictured?

The Cubs won their first World Series in 108 years and LeBron James brought an NBA title to long suffering Cleveland. You know that, but how much do you really know about the year in sports? Here’s a quiz to find out:

Who was happiest that the Cubs broke their 108-year drought and won the World Series?

A. Steve Bartman, who can finally show his face in the windy city.

B. Co-workers of Cubs fans, who no longer have to listen to their long suffering tales of woe.

C. Owner Tom Ricketts, who celebrated by raising ticket prices by almost 20 percent.

How did the Russians get the idea to switch doping samples in the Sochi Olympics?

A. Got tired of seeing Norwegians win all the medals.

B. Figured hacking urine bottles was just as easy as hacking emails.

C. Vladimir Putin knew someone in doping control.

Why did Ryan Lochte appear on Dancing with the Stars.

A. Thought a win would get him the respectability his Olympic gold medals didn’t.

B. Heard the show was big in Rio.

C. Knew that dancing around the cameras was easier than dancing around the truth.

What did they do with the golf course built for the Olympics in Rio?

A. Now the home of the swankiest favela in the city.

B. New practice ground for the Brazilian polo team.

C. Home course for the annual Brazil/Ecuador matches.

Why was the NFL so eager to get a team back in Los Angeles?

A . Jack Nicholson needed something to do after finally giving up on the Lakers.

B. Thought the nation’s second largest metropolitan area deserved the NFL’s second worst team.

C. Roger Goodell thought it might help him break into acting.

Why did Peyton Manning retire?

A. Said Omaha so many times he decided to move there.

B. Decided future better served by singing annoying jingles in TV commercials.

C. Knew he would never again be able to throw for 141 yards in a Super Bowl.

Penn State and Michigan were left out of college football playoffs, causing much consternation among their fans. Why?

A. School administrators mistakenly thought graduation rates were the main criteria for deciding who plays.

B. The Magic 8 ball came up “No” when playoff committee members asked about including them.

C. Both schools wanted their students out partying New Year’s Eve instead of watching football games.

Why do Oakland fans secretly want the Raiders to move to Las Vegas?

A. Because the losses that happen there will stay there.

B. They won’t feel out of place walking around Vegas dressed in studded leather and masks.

C. Heard Siegfried and Roy could come up with some magic for the team.

What did Ronda Rousey do after her shocking knockout loss?

A. Threatened to beat up any reporter who asked her a question.

B. Became co-host of the Ellen Show.

What did Tiger Woods bring as an assistant captain to the winning U.S. Ryder Cup team?

A. Excellent cart driving skills.

B. Great tales to tell about the old days when he actually played in the event.

C. His Gulfstream jet to get out of town quickly.

What did Joey “Jaws” Chestnut do after regaining his title by eating 70 hot dogs and buns in the Fourth of July hot dog eating contest?

A. Took a victory lap around Coney Island in the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile.

B. Put some mustard on a hot dog.

C. Quickly excused himself.

Las Vegas got a new hockey team, the city’s first pro franchise. Why did they name it the Vegas Golden Knights instead of the Las Vegas Golden Knights?

A. Afraid city’s image of being full of drunken carousers would offend NHL fans.

B. Didn’t want Canadians to be confused and travel to Las Vegas, New Mexico, to watch their teams play.

C. Actually thought locals called it Vegas.

Why did Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey decide not to play in the Sun Bowl

A. Needed the extra time to bone up for the NFL’s Wonderlic test.

B. Thought team should have been picked for TaxSlayer Bowl instead.

C. Was upset that player’s gift bag didn’t include the souvenir game ball given out by the Dollar General Bowl.

Merriam-Webster word of the year: surreal

Was 2016 a dream or a nightmare? Try something in between: surreal, which is Merriam-Webster’s word of the year, unveiled Monday.

Meaning “marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream,” or “unbelievable, fantastic,” the word joins Oxford’s “post-truth” and Dictionary.com’s “xenophobia” as the year’s top choices.

“It just seems like one of those years,” said Peter Sokolowski, Merriam-Webster’s editor at large.

The company tracks year-over-year growth and spikes in lookups of words on its website to come up with the top choice. This time around, there were many periods of interest in “surreal” throughout the year, often in the aftermath of tragedy, Sokolowski said.

Major spikes came after the Brussels attack in March and again in July, after the Bastille Day massacre in Nice and the attempted coup in Turkey. All three received huge attention around the globe and had many in the media reaching for “surreal” to describe both the physical scenes and the “mental landscapes,” Sokolowski said.

The single biggest spike in lookups came in November, he said, specifically Nov. 9, the day Donald Trump went from candidate to president-elect.

There were also smaller spikes, including after the death of Prince in April at age 57 and after the June shootings at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

Irony mixed with the surreal for yet another bump after the March death of Garry Shandling. His first sitcom, “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show,” premiered on Showtime in 1986 and had him busting through the fourth wall, speaking directly to the audience and mimicking his real life as a standup comedian, but one who knew he was starring in a TV show.

“It was surreal and it’s connected to the actual original meaning of surreal, which is to say it comes from Surrealism, the artistic movement of the early 20th century,” Sokolowski said.

Which is to say that “surreal” didn’t exist as a word until around 1924, after a group of European poets, painters and filmmakers founded a movement they called Surrealism. They sought to access the truths of the unconscious mind by breaking down rational thought.

It wasn’t until 1937 that “surreal” began to exist on its own, said Sokolowski, who is a lexicographer.

Merriam-Webster first started tracking lookup trends in 1996, when the dictionary landed online. In 2001, after the 9/11 terror attacks, the Springfield, Massachusetts-based company noticed plenty of spikes in word lookups. The most enduring spike was for “surreal,” pointing to a broader meaning and greater usage, Sokolowski said.

“We noticed the same thing after the Newtown shootings, after the Boston Marathon bombings, after Robin Williams’ suicide,” he said. “Surreal has become this sort of word that people seek in moments of great shock and tragedy.”

Word folk like Sokolowski can’t pinpoint exactly why people look words up online, but they know it’s not only to check spellings or definitions. Right after 9/11, words that included “rubble” and “triage” spiked, he said. A couple days after that, more political words took over in relation to the tragedy, including “jingoism” and “terrorism.”

“But then we finally hit ‘surreal,’ so we had a concrete response, a political response and finally a philosophical response,” Sokolowski said. “That’s what connects all these tragic events.”

Other words that made Merriam-Webster’s Top 10 for 2016 due to significant spikes in lookups:

BIGLY: Yes, it’s a word but a rare and sometimes archaic form of “big,” dating to around 1400, Sokolowski said. It made its way into the collective mind thanks to Trump, who was fond of using “big league” as an adverb but making it sound like bigly.

DEPLORABLE: Thank you, Hillary Clinton and your basket full of, though it’s not technically a noun.

IRREGARDLESS: It’s considered a “nonstandard” word for regardless. It’s best avoided, Sokolowski said. Irregardless was used during the calling of the last game of the World Series and its use was pilloried on social media, he said.

ICON: This spike came after Prince’s April 21 death, along with surreal. “It was just a moment of public mourning, the likes of which really happen very seldom,” Sokolowski said.

ASSUMPSIT: At the Democratic National Convention, Elizabeth Warren was introduced by one her former law students at Harvard, Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III of Massachusetts. He described how on his first day she asked him for the definition of assumpsit and he didn’t know.

“She said, ‘Mr. Kennedy do you own a dictionary?’ so everybody looked it up,” Sokolowski laughed.

For the record: It’s a legal term with Latin roots for a type of implied promise or contract. Kennedy didn’t define it when he told the story.

FAUTE DE MIEUX: Literally, this French phrase means “lack of something better or more desirable.” Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg used it in a brief concurring opinion in June to support a ruling that struck down a Texas law that would have closed all but nine abortion clinics in the state.

IN OMNIA PARATUS: A Latin phrase for “ready for all things.” Curiosity surfaced when Netflix revived “Gilmore Girls” recently, including reference to this famous chant during an episode in the original series where Rory is talked into leaping off a high platform as part of the initiation for a secret society at Yale. It became a rallying cry for fans of the show.

REVENANT: Leonardo DiCaprio played one in a movie of the same name, sending people scurrying to the dictionary. It describes “one that returns after death or a long absence.” It can be traced to the 1820s and while it sounds biblical, it is not, Sokolowski said.

FECKLESS: It’s how Vice President-elect Mike Pence described President Obama’s foreign policy when he debated Democrat Tim Kaine. It means weak or worthless.

On the Web

Online: https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/word-of-the-year-2016

‘Black Mirror,’ ‘This Is Us,’ ‘Westworld’ among year’s best TV

In this era of so-called Peak TV, the tally of scripted series aired in 2016 is closing in on 500. No wonder it’s so hard to pick the best 2 percent of the crop. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t pleased to salute our 10 particular favorites.

Here’s our honor roll:

“The A Word” (Sundance).

Loving parents Alison and Paul tell themselves (and everyone else) that there’s nothing wrong with Joe, their 5-year-old son. But evidence mounts. And then the unavoidable truth: Joe is on the autism spectrum. This bittersweet six-episode drama (with a second season announced) deals with a child growing up in rural England whose striking differences from other kids ignite the question: What constitutes “normal” and what becomes of those who don’t meet that standard? A beautiful story, a terrific cast and a spectacular performance by young Max Vento, who plays Joe, makes “The A Word” a unique exploration of a family as loyal as it is in turmoil.

“Atlanta” (FX).

It takes a sure hand to craft a series that blends a pair of young musical strivers from a downtrodden urban neighborhood — while keeping the series touching, relatable and funny. In an age of TV comedy that takes refuge in either irony, absurdity, outrageousness or mawkishness, creator-star-writer Donald Glover has pulled off a minor miracle with this gritty little show that blazes its own path, strewn with setbacks yet powered by hope. A fresh take on the hip-hop world, “Atlanta” never strikes a false note.

“Billions” (Showtime).

Chuck Rhoades, the powerful and perverse U.S. Attorney, is in a cage match with hedge-fund titan Bobby Axelrod. The result is a delicious drama of two Alpha Males butting heads: Rhoades (played by Paul Giamatti) wants to prosecute Axelrod for financial fraud, while the smooth, ever-calculating Axelrod (Damian Lewis) dares him to try. Adding to the spice is a third corner of this triangle: Rhoades’ wife and Axe’s trusted adviser (played by Maggie Siff) who, in confronting her divided loyalties, is as tough as either man. The result is a wealth of intrigue.

“Black Mirror” (Netflix).

Six new episodes on the Netflix site have supplemented seven hours of this nervous-making anthology previously aired by British television. The brainchild of British writer-producer-mischief-maker Charlie Brooker, this series defies clear definition other than to say (a) it deals with technology’s sly cultural inroads, (b) it packs the mind-expanding punch of a latter-day “Twilight Zone,” and (c) it reflects a certain, um, Brooker-esque brand of mordant humor. Every hour is different from the others while each, in its own way, is likely to leave you startled and disturbed. It should come with a warning: “Not To Be Missed, But Proceed with Caution.”

“Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” (TBS).

With her show teeing up for a second season in early 2017, the time is past to celebrate “Full Frontal” as an issues-and-comedy series hosted by (go figure!) a woman. So let’s just celebrate Samantha Bee, who, now even more than during her dozen years as a “Daily Show” correspondent, stays true to her name: nimble and armed with a satirical sting for her deserving targets. She’s a bold champion of women’s interests, which are largely overlooked in political humor. But guys are welcome, too. They might learn something and have a laugh, along with getting stung now and then.

“Making a Murderer” (Netflix).

To be technical, this 10-part docuseries landed on the Netflix site in mid-December 2015. But early buzz spiked into a roar in the new year. Filmed over a decade, it tells the riveting, true-life story of Steven Avery, who is first seen in 2003 returning home to Wisconsin’s rural Manitowoc County after 18 years’ imprisonment for sexual assault. After his exoneration, Avery was a free man for just two years. He was then arrested for another crime — this time, a grisly rape and murder. So was his teenage nephew. Are they guilty or being railroaded? It’s an arresting thriller of mini-victories and major setbacks in a halting but dogged pursuit of justice.

“The Night Of” (HBO).

This dark and irresistible murder mystery stars John Turturro as near-bottom-feeding lawyer John Stone who stumbles on a righteous case: Naz, a Pakistani-American college student implicated as the killer of an alluring young woman who, after a chance encounter with him one Friday night, brought him to her bedroom. Never mind if Naz did the crime (viewers don’t find out until the end) — the legal system is stacked against him at every turn, and through the lengthy, often dismaying process, Stone fights on his behalf. Though a scripted drama, “The Night Of” is part of a new breed of law-and-order storytelling that also spawned “Making a Murderer” as well as “O.J.: Made in America.”

“O.J.: Made in America” (ESPN).

Arriving two decades after O.J. Simpson was acquitted of murder charges for the death of his ex-wife and her friend, this five-part documentary series covers those ghastly slayings and the so-called Trial of the Century in you-ain’t-seen-nothing-yet detail. But it goes even further, framing Simpson’s life and career against the racial turmoil and Civil Rights struggle from which he was largely insulated by the warm embrace of celebrity and the white mainstream. Packed with never-before-seen footage, unreported details and never-heard insights, it’s a project that might have been dismissed as a true-crime rehash. Instead, it’s not only illuminating but often jaw-dropping.

“This Is Us” (NBC).

It isn’t often that a scripted TV series can be credited with being “humanistic” ‘ at least, not a show you can sit through without grinding your teeth. And yet this gentle ensemble drama is pulling it off, and viewers are loving it. Here is that rare series that is neither aspirational nor derisive in how its characters are portrayed, but instead reflects its viewers at their most goodwilled and, well, humanistic. The intersecting sets of everyday characters are depicted by a cast including Mandy Moore, Milo Ventimiglia and Sterling K. Brown in a display of middle-class diversity that serves as a welcome rebuttal to this polarized age. Come to think of it, maybe “This Is Us” shows us what to aspire to, after all.

“Westworld” (HBO).

This odyssey is simultaneously set in an imagined sci-fi future and the reimagined Old West in the form of an epic theme park where lifelike robots indulge every appetite of paying guests. What measure of depravity does this unleash in the humans who treat themselves to this dude ranch gone wild? And what measure of upheaval is triggered when the robots rebel? The series’ visuals — both its western splendor and its futuristic labs _ are spellbinding and seemingly as boundless as its thematic sprawl. Its ensemble (which includes Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton and Jeffrey Wright) populates an anything-goes getaway with aplomb and shock value: Who — or what — are the heroes here?

Zillow poll: Taylor Swift welcome to the neighborhood, Donald Trump can move on

Americans would most like to be neighbors with the singer-songwriter and pop sensation Taylor Swift, according to the ninth annual Zillow Celebrity Neighbor Survey.

Republican presidential candidate and business mogul, Donald Trump, was named the least desirable neighbor of 2015.

The annual Zillow survey asks U.S. adults which celebrities they would most like to be their neighbor and with whom they wouldn’t want to share a fence.

Most Desirable Neighbors in 2016

Taylor Swift was the top choice for a celebrity neighbor, earning 12 percent of surveyed adults’ votes, up from her third place finish last year. The popstar was especially favorable among millennials, receiving 17 percent of their votes. 

Actress Jennifer Lawrence and comedian Amy Schumer rounded out the top three positions, earning 11 percent and 9 percent of votes, respectively. All three women were equally as popular among male and female voters.  

Thirty-four percent of surveyed adults said they would not want to live next to any of the celebrities listed in the poll.

Worst Neighbors for 2015

Republican candidate Donald Trump tops this year’s list for worst neighbor, moving up three positions from his fourth place finish in 2014. Trump earned 24 percent of total votes for worst neighbor, but was especially disliked by females (27 percent) and millennials (33 percent) polled. 

Kim Kardashian and Kayne West came in second with 22 percent of the votes, narrowly defeating last year’s worst neighbor, Justin Bieber, who ranked third this year (18 percent). Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, finished fourth with 11 percent of votes. 

“2015 was a landmark year for Taylor Swift, from her highly successful 1989 World Tour, to being named the youngest female ever on Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful Women list – it’s no surprise America picked the down-to-earth singer-songwriter as 2016’s most desirable neighbor,” says Jeremy Wacksman, Zillow chief marketing officer. “Donald Trump on the other hand, is frequently in the limelight for his polarizing comments and non-apologetic attitude which some may see as unattractive qualities in a neighbor.”

Times Square Poll: Shootings weighed on Americans in 2015

Mass shootings and attacks weighed heavily on the minds of Americans in 2015, according to a new poll that found most believe this year was worse for the world than last year.

A look at the key findings of The Associated Press-Times Square Alliance poll:

FOCUSED ON MASS SHOOTINGS

Americans say the most important events of 2015 were a string of mass shootings, including the attacks in San Bernardino, California, and Paris, plus Islamic State group atrocities.

Fifty-seven percent of those polled say this year was worse than the last year for the world as a whole, up from the 38 percent asked that question a year ago. Only 10 percent believe 2015 was a better year than 2014, while 32 percent think there wasn’t much difference.

Americans also are much less likely than they were a year ago to believe that the current year was better for the United States — only 17 percent compared with 30 percent a year ago. Thirty-seven percent think this year was worse for the country than last year, while 44 percent don’t think there was much difference.

On a personal level, fewer than a third (29 percent) believe 2015 was better for them than 2014, while 21 percent feel it was worse, compared with 15 percent in 2014.

Interviewed separately from the poll, Jason Pruitt, a 43-year-old corporate pilot from the Detroit area, said security concerns were a factor in deciding whether to take his wife and daughter along on a Christmas trip to New York.

“We were thinking about not coming this year, because of everything that’s going on,” Pruitt said. But they went ahead “because when you change your life, the terrorists win.”

THREE EVENTS SHARE THE TOP SPOT

Of those polled, 68 percent listed mass shootings in the U.S. as very or extremely important news events this year, including the one in San Bernardino that heightened fears of domestic terrorism, plus shootings in Charleston, South Carolina; Roseburg, Oregon; and Chattanooga, Tennessee. 

Close behind, at 64 percent, were the Paris attacks that ushered in 2015, targeting Charlie Hebdo and the Jewish market, then the Bataclan concert hall and other city sites in November. 

And third, at 63 percent, came the Islamic State group’s various far-flung atrocities.

Commenting on the completed poll was 32-year-old J.P. Fury, working in a food truck in Times Square.

“At this point, I’m numb to all of it,” he said. “This is nothing new. Every week there’s a new shooting somewhere in America, and there’s a new terrorist attack somewhere around the world.”

Mass shootings and attacks weighed heavily on the minds of Americans in 2015, according to a new poll that found most believe this year was worse for the world than last year.

Domestically, 44 percent of those polled rate as extremely or very important the deaths of blacks in encounters with police that sparked “Black Lives Matter” protests in Baltimore and Chicago. 

Another 44 percent rate the deal reached to curtail Iran’s nuclear program as important, and nearly as many (42 percent) Europe’s migrant crisis.

Only 40 percent said the presidential race was important to them, with the Paris climate change conference right behind (at 38 percent), followed by the Supreme Court’s legalization of gay marriage (36 percent) and the Cuban-U.S. thaw (30 percent).

RINGING IN THE NEW YEAR

Most Americans plan to celebrate New Year’s Eve either at home (48 percent) or at the home of a friend or family member (20 percent). Nine percent plan to be at a bar, restaurant or organized event, while just under a quarter (22 percent) don’t plan to celebrate at all.

A majority of Americans (56 percent) will watch the New Year’s Eve events in Times Square, and 95 percent of those will see it on TV.

Those findings were similar to those of the past two years.

THE YEAR IN POP CULTURE

No single pop culture event of 2015 stands out, with fewer than four in 10 Americans rating any as memorable. 

The eagerly awaited “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was memorable only to 37 percent of those polled, and forgettable to 34 percent.

Bill Cosby’s legal woes were memorable to 36 percent; forgettable to 33 percent.

Bruce Jenner becoming Caitlyn Jenner, with a highly orchestrated publicity campaign, was forgettable to 52 percent, and Taylor Swift’s world tour to 55 percent.

2015 market winners, losers: Tech soars, old guard stumbles

In a flat year overall for stocks, there was still plenty of excitement to be enjoyed — or endured — by 2015’s biggest winners and losers.

It was a year to make old guard companies shudder.

New media companies like Netflix, which rose 142 percent to notch the biggest gain in the S&P 500, became more valuable than established media companies like CBS. Amazon eviscerated traditional retailers like Macy’s and Walmart. And energy and materials companies were flattened by weak demand at a time of abundant supplies. The biggest loser was Chesapeake Energy, down almost 80 percent in 2015.

The Dow Jones industrial average, dominated by long-established companies in traditional industries, was down 1.2 percent for the year through Dec. 23. The Nasdaq composite, with its heavy concentration of technology companies, is up a respectable 6.5 percent.

Here are the stories behind some of the stock markets biggest winners and losers for 2015.

ANOTHER STAR TURN FOR NETFLIX

Netflix has enjoyed top billing before: it was the biggest gainer in the S&P 500 in 2010 and 2013, and it more than tripled in value both years.

But another big year in 2015 pushed the company’s value past established media rivals like CBS and made it about the same as Time Warner. The streaming entertainment service had 69 million subscribers at the end of the third quarter, and almost a quarter of those signed up in the last year. Netflix also continued to win fans for shows like “Orange is the New Black” and “Narcos.” The company says its service will be available in 200 countries by the end of the year.

AMAZONIAN PROPORTIONS

E-commerce giant Amazon celebrated its 20th anniversary with results that sent investors into a buying frenzy. Amazon was the second biggest gainer in the S&P 500 for the year, up 114 percent through Wednesday. The company is on track to report more than $100 billion in revenue in 2015 and it has started to turn in higher profits more frequently despite a loss in the first quarter.

Its stock surge pushed the company’s market value past that of longtime competitor Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart stock fell 29 percent in 2015, which made this Wal-Mart’s worst year since 1974, when it had fewer than 100 stores. Wal-Mart was the Dow’s biggest loser.

“This year seemed to mark an inflection point for Amazon,” wrote Christine Short, an analyst at Estimize, who said Amazon was “almost solely responsible for the downfall of big box giant Wal-Mart.”

Macy’s and Staples also were among the 20 biggest losers as fewer shoppers trekked to stores and bought more goods online instead.

Amazon is now in a battle with the other high-flying stock of 2015: Amazon and Netflix are rivals in creating original entertainment for subscribers. This year the two snagged almost 50 Primetime Emmy nominations between them. Netflix shows received far more nominations but Amazon’s shows won five Emmys to Netflix’s four.

WARCRAFT GETS A CANDY CRUSH

The third biggest gainer in the S&P 500 was Activision Blizzard, the video game maker behind “Call of Duty” and “World of Warcraft.” It rose 93 percent as it moved to expand into the sweeter side of games. In November the company agreed to buy King Entertainment, the maker of the smartphone hit “Candy Crush Saga,” to strengthen its mobile games business. It is also working on a “World of Warcraft” movie and a TV show adapted from its kid-focused “Skylanders” game.

The rest of the top ten winners in the index were a mix of companies representing several industries, including the video graphics chip maker NVIDIA, the payments processor Total System Services, the website domain name company VeriSign, and Spam maker Hormel Foods. First Solar also made the top 10, getting a major boost when Congress extended tax breaks for solar installations in December. 

THE BIGGEST LOSERS

Six of the 10 biggest losers in the S&P 500 were energy companies, led by Chesapeake Energy, Southwestern Energy and Consol Energy. All three are dependent on the price of natural gas and all fell between 75 percent and 80 percent this year.  Nine energy companies in the index lost at least half their value.

A big reason: Mother Nature. An extraordinarily warm fall and early winter in the U.S. is slashing demand for heating, and half the nation uses natural gas to heat their homes. Natural gas supplies were already high coming into the winter. That combined with low demand pushed natural gas prices to their lowest levels since 1999 in mid-December.

The rout in crude oil prices that began in mid-2014 deepened in 2015, pulling down the value of oil company shares and the performance of the overall stock market.

All this pain for energy companies is good for consumers, who are now enjoying low prices for gasoline and shrinking heating bills.

There were four non-energy losers in the S&P’s bottom 10.

• Mining company Freeport-McMoRan fell 68 percent, hurt by slowing economic growth in China that reduced demand for raw materials.

• Watchmaker Fossil Group lost nearly two-thirds of its value as fitness trackers grew more popular and the Apple Watch was launched.

• Chipmaker Micron Technology fell 59 percent as consumers continued to turn away from personal computers.

• Casino operator Wynn Resorts fell 54 percent because a corruption crackdown in China has dampened the enthusiasm of high-rolling gamblers in Macau, an important location for Wynn. 

Losses in 2015: Sports legends lost in 2015

The loss column is where to look in the standings. Those are the ones that can never be made up.

And losses, of a different kind, hit Philadelphia in 2015 with the deaths of two 76ers centers — backboard-busting Darryl Dawkins and Moses Malone, who gave basketball a math lesson with his playoff sweep prediction of “Fo’, Fo’, Fo'” that fell just short. Joining them was Dolph Schayes, the Syracuse Nationals center who briefly played for and coached Philadelphia in its Wilt Chamberlain days.

There were losses in baseball of Joaquin Andujar, Dean Chance, Darryl Hamilton, Tommy Hanson, Bill Monbouquette, Al Rosen. In hockey, the Islander coach Al Arbour and the great Canadiens winger Dickie Moore.

Losses of boxing champions Gene Fullmer and Bob Foster. And in football of Ken Stabler, quarterback of the renegade Raiders, and Garo Yepremian, whose slapstick field-goal attempt lives in Super Bowl lore.

Losses of those who cut a path for black players to follow: Minnie Minoso (baseball), Earl Lloyd (basketball), Pete Brown, Calvin Peete, Charlie Sifford (golf); and Mal Whitfield (track). And those while on the job: IndyCar driver Justin Wilson, struck by debris at Pocono and gone the next day at 37.

Other losses, lives that soared across the games:

ERNIE BANKS

Lots of players are in the Hall of Fame. How many bring a credo, a way of life, with them? “It’s a great day for baseball. Let’s play two.” Ernie Banks wouldn’t have it any other way.

Ernie Banks, with a whip-fast swing and sinewy wrists, played 19 seasons and hit 512 homers. He made 11 All-Star teams and was MVP in 1958 and 1959. He was a Gold Glove shortstop before switching to first base. And all this for the Chicago Cubs, who have long crafted the art of defeat.

But the stats don’t account for the statue of “Mr. Cub” outside Wrigley Field. Banks, who died at 83, spoke to the transcendent joys of sports. He never was ejected and never argued with umpires. Why stoop to such pettiness?

Banks also never made it to the postseason, but Hall of Famer Al Kaline reminds Cubs fans of this: “They can always say they got to see the great Ernie Banks.”

FRANK GIFFORD

His was the golden life.

The All-American USC running back with chiseled looks who became the face of the great New York Giant teams of the 1950s and ’60s and then rode another wave of celebrity in the “Monday Night Football” booth and as husband of TV host Kathie Lee Gifford.

Frank Gifford played in five NFL title games and was league MVP in 1956. Giants co-owner John Mara called him “the ultimate Giant.” In 1960, a pulverizing hit by the Eagles’ Chuck Bednarik (who also died this year, at 89) left Gifford with a head injury so severe he didn’t return until 1962.

For many, though, Gifford was the calming center of “Monday Night Football.” On one side of Gifford was Howard Cosell, all bombast and grandiloquence. On the other was Don Meredith, ladling out heaping servings of country corn. It was left to Gifford to return everyone to Planet Football.

Gifford died at 84 and his family said he showed signs of degenerative brain disease and hoped he “might be an inspiration for others suffering from this disease.”

DEAN SMITH

If college basketball had a Mount Rushmore, a place in the mountainside would be carved for Dean Smith.

He was the soul of basketball at North Carolina and he died at 83. He led the Tar Heels to 11 Final Fours, won national titles in 1982 and 1993. He created the Four Corners offense, earned an Olympic title in 1976 and coached some of the best. Michael Jordan said he loved Smith for always being there when he needed him.

Smith would surpass Adolph Rupp for the most coaching victories in men’s Division I, a mark now held by Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski. Smith was among the first to recruit blacks in the South and helped spur the civil rights movement.

Roy Williams, the current Tar Heels coach, called Smith the “perfect picture of what a college coach should have been.”

JERRY TARKANIAN

He was a sketch artist’s dream: the basset-hound eyes, the bald head, the forlorn look and, of course, the towel clamped between his teeth.

Jerry Tarkanian built a basketball power at UNLV, a dazzling piece of the Strip’s high wattage. His legal entanglements with the NCAA spanned his career at Long Beach State, UNLV and Fresno State. Tarkanian long felt the NCAA pounced on small schools and let the big boys off easy.

He drew respect from coaches and love from players. But the NCAA sang no songs for “Tark the Shark.” He won a $2.5 million settlement in a lawsuit, but the sting remained.

Tarkanian preached fierce defense and an amped-up offense that at UNLV featured Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon and Greg Anthony. The Rebels played in four Final Fours and won the 1990 title.

Tarkanian died at 84, three days after Dean Smith, and Vegas dimmed its lights for a headline act.

YOGI BERRA

After all the tributes – his decency, his dignity, his wit (intentional or otherwise) – it’s important to never lose sight of this: What a player he was.

Yogi Berra played 19 seasons and was the American League MVP in 1951, 1954 and 1955. He played on 10 World Series winners and made 18 straight All-Star teams. His leap into Don Larsen’s arms after the perfect game in the 1956 World Series is a moment frozen in baseball history.

Berra, No. 8, with that welcoming mug of a face, died at 90. He managed for the whirlwind that was George Steinbrenner, and Berra always had the right thing to say. He was the country’s everyman philosopher, a pinch hitter for Mark Twain and Will Rogers: “You can observe a lot by watching”; “When you come to a fork in the road, take it”; “I really didn’t say everything I said.”

Said Hall of Famer Cal Ripken: “When Yogi spoke, everyone was quiet and hung on every word. He owned the room.”

Education, transportation highlight 2015 in Congress

In a chaotic year, when Republicans in the House unseated a speaker, Congress produced a significant amount of bipartisan legislation that affects every American.

It enacted laws recasting federal education policy, restricting government access to bulk phone records, renewing highway and transit programs and even resolving a longstanding problem of how Medicare reimburses doctors. Before leaving town for the year, it sent President Barack Obama bipartisan legislation Friday financing government agencies in 2016 and cutting taxes, mostly by extending dozens of expiring levies.

Highlights of an eventful year in Congress:

BUDGET DEAL

A $1.1 trillion spending bill approved Friday funds the government for the 2016 budget year running through Sept. 30 and extends $680 billion in tax cuts for businesses and individuals. The deal — a victory for new House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. — avoids a government shutdown, allows crude oil exports for the first time in 40 years and extends a huge variety of tax breaks, including those for college tuition and renewable energy such as solar and wind power.

EDUCATION

Obama signed a sweeping overhaul of the No Child Left Behind education law, the biggest education reform since 2002. The bipartisan law ushers in a new approach to accountability, teacher evaluations and the way the most poorly performing schools are pushed to improve. Students will still take federally required statewide reading and math exams, but the law encourages states to limit time spent on testing and diminishes the stakes for underperforming schools.

COLLEGE LOANS

Congress extended a federal loan program that provides low-interest money to the neediest college students.

HIGHWAYS AND TRANSIT

After years of stymied efforts, Congress approved a bipartisan bill to improve the nation’s aging and congested highways and transit systems. The new law assures states that federal help will be available for major projects, although it does not resolve how to pay for transportation programs in the long term.

TRADE

Congress approved a bill granting the president trade promotion authority. The law allows Congress to ratify or reject trade agreements negotiated by the executive branch, but not change or filibuster them. Obama has not submitted to Congress a recently competed trade agreement with 11 Pacific Rim nations.

SURVEILLANCE

Obama signed into law the USA Freedom Act, which extends three expiring surveillance provisions of the USA Patriot Act, passed after the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington. The law overhauls the previous law’s most controversial provision, which had been interpreted to allow bulk collection of U.S. phone records by the National Security Agency. The new law gives private companies more leeway to publicly report information about the number of national security surveillance demands they receive.

DEFENSE

Congress approved a sweeping defense-authorization bill that includes a troop pay raise and prohibits transfer of Guantanamo Bay detainees to the United States.

PHYSICIAN PAYMENTS

Under a bill shepherded by former House Speaker John Boehner and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, Congress finally approved a bipartisan measure that permanently recasts how Medicare reimburses doctors for treating over 50 million elderly people. The $214 billion measure prevented a 21-percent cut in physicians’ Medicare fees, preventing a flood of complaints from doctors and senior citizens that lawmakers dearly wanted to avoid.

EXPORT-IMPORT BANK

Congress revived the federal Export-Import Bank five months after lawmakers allowed it to expire.

IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL

GOP lawmakers were unable to block a deal involving the United States, Iran and five other world powers that would curb Iran’s nuclear activities in exchange for giving Iran access to billions in frozen assets and oil revenue.

PLANNED PARENTHOOD

Congress did not halt federal payments to Planned Parenthood, after secretly recorded videos of Planned Parenthood officials discussing tissue donations caused an uproar among congressional Republicans and abortion opponents.

HEALTH LAW

Lawmakers tweaked the edges of Obama’s 2010 health care law but did not overturn it despite repeated votes to repeal all or part of it.

ENVIRONMENTAL REGULATIONS

Congress did not block Obama administration regulations on clean air and water and was unable to stop Obama’s signature environmental accomplishment, a high-profile plan to curb greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants.

KEYSTONE XL PIPELINE

Despite many attempts, Congress again failed to win approval for the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada. Obama finally rejected the pipeline last month after seven years of indecision.

BENGHAZI

House Republicans continued a widely criticized investigation into the deadly 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, which killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador. An 11-hour hearing featuring Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton failed to produce revelations Republicans were seeking. Clinton was secretary of state when the attacks occurred.

IMMIGRATION

Neither chamber approved a comprehensive immigration overhaul.

‘Witcher 3,’ ‘Fallout 4’ lead top 10 games of 2015

Associated Press video game critics Lou Kesten and Derrik J. Lang’s favorite titles of the year featured monster hunters, treasure hunters, guardian spirits and murder suspects:

LOU KESTEN

1. “The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt”: This role-playing drama from Poland’s CD Projekt Red set a new standard for weirdness when it sent his hero in pursuit of a flying ghost fetus. For all its baroque touches, “Witcher 3” boils down to a domestic drama about a jaded warrior and his impetuous adopted daughter — and it’s quite moving.

2. “Fallout 4”: The latest epic from Bethesda Softworks crams in a bunch of genres — role-playing, first-person shooter, even a civilization-building — and veers from hilarious black comedy to heartbreaking tragedy. It’s most memorable for its haunting vision of humanity somehow surviving after nearly destroying itself.

3. “Super Mario Maker”: Nintendo gives its fans all the tools they need to build two-dimensional challenges starring Mario and his crew. Somewhere out there, kids are learning the ropes on their way to designing the games we’ll be talking about 20 years from now.

4. “Ori and the Blind Forest”: This melancholy yet action-packed adventure follows an orphaned spirit creature as it tries to restore life to a devastated woodland. It’s the year’s most beautiful game — and one of its most challenging.

5. “Her Story”: Viva Seifert plays a young wife with a missing husband in this time-hopping mystery that takes place entirely within a police interrogation room. I’m not sure it’s even a “game,” but creator Sam Barlow’s clever plotting and Seifert’s nimble performance combine to deliver a knockout tale.

6. “Rise of the Tomb Raider”: Chapter two of the franchise reboot finds young Lara Croft searching for the secret to immortality. It’s at its best when the Tomb Raider is, you know, raiding tombs, with clever environmental puzzles that work your brain cells harder than your reflexes.

7. “Pillars of Eternity”: A character cursed with mysterious visions tries to find out why babies are being born without souls in this indie role-playing game from Obsidian Entertainment. Fans of old-school classics like “Baldur’s Gate” and “Planescape: Torment” will feel right at home.

8. “Undertale”: This lo-fi project from Toby Fox turns game conventions upside-down. A human child is trapped underground — but instead of killing all the monsters he encounters, he can negotiate with most of them. It’s a thought-provoking approach, and one I hope more big game publishers will notice.

9. “Rock Band 4”: The ultimate party game returns, inviting you to jam anew with all those fake instruments that have been gathering dust over the last five years. The ability to download songs you purchased for earlier versions is a huge bonus. (“Guitar Hero Live,” which streams its tunes, is pretty good, too.)

10. “Until Dawn”: A bunch of teenagers plan a weekend at a secluded cabin. What could go wrong? This thriller initially looks like dozens of slasher movies, but it twists all the familiar tropes into something perversely original. Throw in a witty performance by TV’s breakout star of the year, Rami Malek of “Mr. Robot,” and you have a nasty little horror gem.

DERRIK J. LANG

1. “Fallout 4”:  Despite its unforgiving density, “Fallout 4” was the year’s most captivating title. I wanted to stop returning to Bethesda Softworks stylish version of a nuclear-ravaged Boston and the staggering array of choices it presented, but I couldn’t stay away from carving out my own destiny in this special role-playing saga.

2. “The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt”: From the bonus swag in the box to the gratis downloadable content, the third installment in CD Projekt Red’s sweeping role-playing series is as much of a love letter to fans of monster hunter Geralt of Rivia as it is to the fantasy genre as a whole. This majestic entry should be remembered for years to come.

3. “Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain”: After a stunning 28 years of crafting “Metal Gear” games, Hideo Kojima’s open-world coda brought the walls surrounding protagonist Snake down for the first time. In a year overstuffed with open-world titles, “Phantom Pain” was the most technically flawless of them all.

4. “Her Story”: Sam Barlow’s voyeuristic mystery is a rarity. The game features a provocative performance by actress Viva Seifert and gameplay that almost anyone can engage with because it involves simply searching for words on a screen. If more developers created games like “Her Story,” the medium would be taken more seriously.

5. “Rise of the Tomb Raider”: Lara Croft is on a roll. After a much-need reboot of the treasure hunting franchise, developer Crystal Dynamics keenly avoids a sophomore slump with a snowy, survival-focused second installment that meticulously builds on what made 2013’s “Tomb Raider” an adventure worthy of the iconic heroine.

6. “Ori and the Blind Forest”: This luminescent platformer did something that no “Super Mario Bros.” has ever accomplished. It made me tear up — and that’s not just because it’s so darn difficult. Moon Studios managed to artfully balance intricate riddle solving with an emotional tale about loss and discovery.

7. “Sunset”: While most games tell war stories from behind the barrel of a gun, “Sunset” dared to do so on the other side of a mop handle. Yes, it sounds boring to play as a housekeeper tasked with cleaning — and snooping around — er boss’ penthouse. Belgium developer Tale of Tales made it a strangely evocative interactive experience.

8. “Splatoon”: With an overreliance on a certain bouncy plumber, Nintendo has long been guilty of playing it safe. That totally changed this year with the introduction of the loveable paint-wielding squid kids. A splashy aesthetic and adrenaline-pumping action helped “Splatoon” successfully roll over all other multiplayer shooters.

9. “Batman: Arkham Knight”:  Rocksteady Studios’ apparent swan song  in their incredible “Arkham” series finally unleashed the Dark Knight across all of Gotham — complete with the Batmobile at his disposal — without sacrificing the cerebral storytelling or majestic fluidity of its well-oiled predecessors. Ben Affleck should take note.

10. “Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate”:  After last year’s buggy and boring edition set amid the French Revolution in Paris, Ubisoft’s stealth series rebounded in 2015 with a jolly jaunt to old England. A brilliant recreation of Victorian London — right down to the pubs — was a spectacular playground for quirky twin gangsters Jacob and Evie Frye.

Year in Review: The Bucks buck political gridlock

Democrats and Republicans in Madison seldom agree on anything, but one proposal in 2015 drew cheers and jeers from both sides of the aisle: a massive new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks and an adjacent “entertainment complex” filled with bars and a public courtyard where drinkers can congregate. The three billionaire Bucks owners from outside the state who drew up the proposal had more than an admirable charm offensive, which was filled with promises of unimaginable riches for one of the nation’s poorest cities. They had the assistance of the NBA, which threatened to move the team to another city unless the project won approval.

They also spent a ton of money lobbying — more in the Wisconsin Legislature than any other organization during the first half of the year, when the NBA team was pushing for the project’s approval. The state elections board, which oversees lobbying, reported the Bucks spent just over $482,000 on lobbying through June. 

The lobbying effort was richly rewarded. The Legislature, on bipartisan votes, ultimately approved spending $250 million in taxpayer money on the scheme. Gov. Scott Walker, who cut higher-education funding by the same amount, signed the measure into law.

The amount spent by the Bucks on lobbying doesn’t include efforts in July, which is when the bill passed both the Senate and Assembly. Those figures will be reported in January.

And it doesn’t include the cost of lobbying Milwaukee city and county officials, who also put their taxpayers on the hook  for millions of dollars.

Similar downtown arena complexes have proven to be boondoggles in other cities. In editorials, Wisconsin Gazette disapproved of the scope of the project as well as the terms. WiG hopes to be proven wrong. The complex is scheduled for completion by the start of the 2018–19 season.