Ten things for the 2010s

A lot can happen in a decade. I’m beginning to learn that on a personal level. I became an uncle. Bicycled a continent’s length. Moved 3,300 kilometres from home. I survived aerial assaults and stomach-punching waves and snow-covered Andean highways. Lost loved ones big and small. Wrote the first draft of a book.

What follows is merely a glimpse into some of those things from the past ten years: a collection of books, movies, podcasts, albums, and moments that stood out. It’s mostly sports and hip-hop, which — looking back at my last ten years — is a pretty accurate summation. May the next ten years and after be better for us all.

Ten favourite sports moments of the 2010s:

  1. The Toronto Raptors’ NBA Championship (2019): There were too many moments involved for this to not land at number one. The 12-1 start to the season. The four-bounce shot. Game 3 against Milwaukee. Finals Freddy. I was in Cusco when the Kawhi trade was announced in July 2018. I dapped and hugged a Montrealer who swore the Raptors would win the title. I didn’t believe him then. I still find it hard to believe.
  2. Team Canada’s Olympic Hockey Gold (Vancouver 2010): Salt Lake City 2002 was long-past by 2010. Canada’s men’s team had fallen short in Torino, losing to Russia in the quarterfinals. This couldn’t stand in Vancouver. There was a matter of pride to restore. It came on the grandest stage: at home, in overtime, against the Americans. It was one of those “where were you when” moments. (Also: the 2010 Olympics jerseys have my vote for Canada’s best.)
  3. The Bat Flip (2015): Baseball could use every bit of exuberance it gets. Too many old-fashioned types in the sport complaining about personality. So when the Blue Jays’ Jose Bautista hit a three-run blast and then tossed his bat like a dirty rag, it meant more than just the moment itself. It was cathartic release for a fanbase that hadn’t seen playoff success — not even a playoff appearance — in over twenty years.
  4. Toronto FC’s 2017 season: This was a team for which championship hopes seemed near-unimaginable just a few years ago. Eight straight losing seasons to begin the franchise’s history. The cruelest of MLS Cup losses in 2016, mere fingertips away from victory over the Seattle Sounders — at the hands of former Toronto ‘keeper Stefan Frei, no less. And then, there was 2017. A franchise record 20 wins; a league record 69 points. Canadian Cup champions. Supporters’ Shield winners. A 16-goal Giovinco season. A rematch with the Sounders. This time, Jozy Altidore — playing on an ankle held together with duct tape and chewing gum — made no mistake against Frei, giving TFC a 1-0 lead with a well-timed run in the 67th minute. Víctor Vázquez netted an insurance goal in stoppage time, but it didn’t matter; the Reds held Seattle scoreless. Toronto got its championship.
  5. Team Canada’s Olympic Hockey Gold (Sochi 2014): Sure, the men won too, but the women’s game was much better. Trailing 2-0 to the Americans in the third period, Canada looked about as rundown as a Sochi hotel room. Less than four minutes remained in the gold medal game. The U.S. controlled the tempo; defeat seemed imminent — at least, until Oakville native Brianne Jenner found an opening with three-and-a-half minutes remaining. When Marie-Philip Poulin tied the score in the last minute of play, I jumped from my couch and shouted “YEEESSSSS” loud enough to spook my dog. Poulin’s overtime goal to clinch gold had me moonwalking and fist-pumping in the living room.
  6. Federer v. Murray (Wimbledon 2012): This one is noteworthy for two reasons. Firstly, for the fact that it was Roger Federer at Wimbledon, which is to say it was Freddie Mercury at Live Aid, which is to say it was Moses at the Red Sea. He lifts his racket, and the whole world watches. It had been two years since Roger’s last Grand Slam title, a wait that seemed eternal after the run he’d had for most of the 2000s. (2011’s Australian Open loss marked the first time since July 2003 that he didn’t hold any of the four major titles.) And then there was Federer’s opponent: Andy Murray, the first British man to reach the Wimbledon Final since 1938, still chasing his first Grand Slam title. Murray had the West London crowd on his side; he even took the first set, 6-4. Which brings us to reason number two for this one’s place on the list: Murray’s post-defeat speech to the crowd (“I’m getting closer”) ranks among the sport’s very best.
  7. Andreescu v. Williams (U.S. Open 2019): I’ll take any excuse to make an event into a Canada-U.S. clash (see numbers 1-5). Call it inferiority complex, perhaps. But the storyline here? Perfection. No Canadian had ever won a Grand Slam singles title before. That it was Bianca Andreescu, just 19 years old and going up against the sport’s undisputed G.O.A.T., made it that much better. The Mississauga-raised Andreescu led 5-1 in the second set after taking the first 6-3. Serena stormed back to tie things at 5-5, surviving a match point and whipping the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd into hysterics. Bianca looked shaken; cameras caught her plugging her ears from the noise. She gritted out the next service game to take a 6-5 lead, then broke Serena once more before collapsing to the ground. Tennis and poetry in one. The game at its finest.
  8. The Golden State Warriors’ 73-win season (2015-16): Before Kevin Durant moved to San Francisco and ruined basketball for a couple years, the Warriors were the most fun you could ask for on a basketball court — improbable Steph Curry heaves and Klay Thompson splashes and Draymond Green’s penchant for nut-kicking all rolled into one slick, uh, package. There was history on the line: could the Warriors match — even surpass — the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls’ record of 72-10? (As it turned out, yes.) Would their record-breaking quest cost them in the Finals? (Again, yes.) Eighty-two games is a looong time to stay interested in regular season basketball. That the Warriors made each game appointment viewing is an accomplishment, indeed.
  9. Aaron Gordon v. Zach Lavine (2016 NBA All-Star Weekend): I am a Dunk Contest apologist. I’ll watch three straight All-Star Weekends with garbage bin performances and get right back in line for the fourth. I am also a Dunk Contest purist. There is nothing purer in this post-Vince, post-Jason Richardson world than the 2016 dunk-off between the Orlando Magic’s Aaron Gordon and Minnesota Timberwolves’ Zach Lavine. All the requisite categories were accounted for. Athletic dunkers? Check. Props in a non-gimmicky way? Check. A hint of controversy over who had the better performance by the end of the night? Check. (The answer is Gordon.) It was not just the best Dunk Contest of the decade; it may well have been the best in NBA All-Star Weekend history.
  10. Shapovalov v. Fognini (Rogers Cup 2018): I was in the crowd for this rain-delayed match. Then 19-year-old Denis Shapovalov was up a set over the higher-ranked Fabio Fognini, but the Italian had taken a 4-0 lead in the second set. Trouble? Never. Shapo rallied off four straight games to draw level in the second set, fist-pumping with every winner until the 14th-seeded Fognini visibly broke. He started jawing at Shapovalov from across the net, becoming the perfect heel for a pro-Shapo crowd. Any measure of audience decorum disappeared. “LET’S GO SHAPO” chants filled the stadium like encore calls at a Tragically Hip concert. The Canadian teen took the second set 7-5 and the match in straight sets. Fognini went home defeated. The crowd erupted in cheers.

Honourable mentions: Germany’s 2014 World Cup win, Canada’s women’s soccer run at the 2012 Olympics, Canada’s men’s CONCACAF Nations League win over the United States (2019), Linsanity (2011-12).

Ten favourite podcasts of the 2010s:

  1. Story Untold: Eighty episodes later, Story Untold has given me a front row seat to hear some of the most interesting people share their life stories. I sat in my favourite rapper’s kitchen and talked to him about becoming a first-time parent. Simon Whitfield came for beers in my basement suite. I’ve spoken to skydivers and rock climbers and Mennonite stand-up comedians and Antarctic bicycle trekkers. I’ve learned wisdom from treeplanters and neuroscientists and former child soldiers. Favourite episode: Charlie Engle on addiction and running across the Sahara Desert (September 21, 2017).
  2. The Basketball Jones/The Starters/No Dunks: It’s a bit ridiculous to listen to an hour-long podcast about basketball five days of the week, but here we are. A friend introduced me to Skeets, Tas, Trey, and Leigh around the 2011-12 NBA season, when they were hosting TBJ at The Score. Eight years later, and they’ve become a daily fixture. Favourite episode: Would You Rather (September 16, 2016).
  3. The Combat Jack Show: The best in hip-hop podcasting, bar none. Reggie Ossé established a rapport with his interview subjects in a way few hosts can do. It was intimate. It was funny. It was — like the man behind it all — far too short-lived. Favourite episode: The J. Cole Episode (January 27, 2015).
  4. The Come Up Show: I’m biased, but if anyone comes close to Reggie Ossé in the hip-hop sphere, it’s Chedo. You’d be hard-pressed to find a bigger champion of Canadian hip-hop in the last twelve years than him. Chedo took me under his wing as a campus radio volunteer in 2011. His interviews with hip-hop artists — from up-and-comers to industry giants — are among the very best. Favourite episode: Merna (August 2, 2017).
  5. The Young Gaffers: It was by chance that I met Adam Kostanuick, one of the co-hosts of The Young Gaffers, at a Pacific FC event in February. The club was announcing star defender Marcel de Jong’s arrival to Vancouver Island, but in those earliest moments at the Bard and Banker, the pub stage was empty. I tapped the shoulder of the purple-scarfed guy in front of me to ask what was going on. It turned out he hosted a podcast about the Canadian Premier League — and a good one, at that. Favourite episode: The Young Gaffers Holiday Special (December 17, 2019).
  6. The Tim Ferriss Show: One of my favourite thinkers. Tim has a knack for asking the right questions of his guests, and is also wise enough to give them space to talk without interruption. Favourite episode: Terry Crews (December 20, 2017).
  7. A Waste of Time with ItsTheReal: A bit like Nardwuar meets Saturday Night Live. Brothers Jeff and Eric Rosenthal invite guests into their Upper West Side apartment to talk hip-hop and comedy (and occasionally other things). Always well-researched. Always improvisational. Favourite episode: Ibrahim Hamad (February 6, 2018).
  8. Broken Record: Take the relentless curiosity of Malcolm Gladwell and merge it with the creative zen of music producer Rick Rubin. It’s a good combo. Favourite episode: Andre 3000 and Rick Rubin in Conversation (December 17, 2019).
  9. WTF with Marc Maron: You’ve gotta skip the first ten to fifteen minutes of every episode to get to the actual interview, but Marc is one of the best at getting his guests to open up, and it’s because of how vulnerable he is in conversation. Favourite episode: Anthony Bourdain (June 8, 2018).
  10. Sickboy: I flew thirteen hours from Los Angeles to Auckland and survived largely on Jeremie, Brian, and Taylor. Halifax humour with a dose of medical learning. Favourite episode: Malaria (April 4, 2016).

Ten favourite books of the 2010s:

  1. Blair Braverman – Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube (2016)
  2. Cheryl Strayed – Wild (2012)
  3. Michael Pollan – How to Change Your Mind (2018)
  4. Ed Piskor – Hip Hop Family Tree (2013-16)
  5. Hanif Abdurraqib – They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us (2017)
  6. Brandon Sanderson – The Stormlight Archive (2010-17)
  7. Ta-Nehisi Coates – Between the World and Me (2015)
  8. Francisco Cantú – The Line Becomes a River (2018)
  9. Deborah Campbell – A Disappearance in Damascus (2016)
  10. Leanne Betasamosake Simpson – Islands of Decolonial Love (2013)

Honourable mentions: Tommy Caldwell’s The Push, Claudia Rankine’s Citizen, Pauline Dakin’s Run, Hide, Repeat, Neil Strauss’ The Truth, Phil Jackson’s Eleven Rings, Mike Spencer Bown’s The World’s Most Travelled Man.

Ten favourite albums of the 2010s:

  1. Daniel Caesar – Freudian (2017)
  2. Anderson .Paak – Malibu (2016)
  3. Chance The Rapper – Coloring Book (2016)
  4. Chance The Rapper – Acid Rap (2013)
  5. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly (2015)
  6. Rapsody – The Idea of Beautiful (2012)
  7. J. Cole – Born Sinner (2013)
  8. Busta Rhymes & Q-Tip – The Abstract and the Dragon (2013)
  9. TiRon & Ayomari – A Sucker for Pumps (2011)
  10. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010)

Honourable mentions: Classified’s Handshakes and Middle Fingers (2011), Shad’s Flying Colours (2013), Frank Ocean’s channel ORANGE (2012), Logic’s Under Pressure (2014), Mumford & Sons’ Babel (2012), The Extremities’ The Mint Condition (2011).

Ten favourite movies of the 2010s:

  1. Moonlight (2016)
  2. Eighth Grade (2018)
  3. Inception (2010)
  4. Captain Fantastic (2016)
  5. Boyhood (2014)
  6. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
  7. Inside Out (2015)
  8. Isle of Dogs (2018)
  9. The LEGO Movie (2014)
  10. The Martian (2015)

Honourable mentions: Free Solo (2018), The Shape of Water (2017), Moana (2016), Keanu (2016), Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse (2018), Your Name (2017).

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