LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Lists are the lifeblood of the Internet. I can write 2,000 words of richly detailed prose, but what people really want in the end, it seems, is five takeaways from the last game.

There’s a fine line that those of us who got into this business to write have to walk. Our job now is to “create content” and to justify our continued web existence by producing clicks. But deep down, we also still feel our calling to write.

The two, sadly, don’t always intersect.

But lists are fun. They give an insight of their own. And they’re easy to read on your phone or tablet. You can get in and out. I get it. That’s why I publish so many of them.

This is a combination of the two. This is a list of my favorite stories of the year. Some of them are my favorite because, in my own estimate anyway, I felt like I came close to writing them well. Others are favorites because of their subjects, or because of the lessons they taught or the memories they evoke.

They don’t necessarily represent the biggest stories. But they are my favorites. Let’s walk back through them before the calendar turns.

1. American Pharoah. I spent a quarter of the year following American Pharoah around the East coast, then another few days at his farewell during the Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland. So there are, if you’ll indulge me, several stories I want to share.

The first was from Belmont Park, where he won the Triple Crown. I’ve written about the experience of writing this column, so I won’t recount it here. I can just say that this is one of those for which the experience of being there is as valuable to me as anything I managed to write. There were so many great pieces written about American Pharoah’s win, that I won’t hold this one out as anything special. But the opportunity to be there and write it remains a special one for me.

Others among my favorites on American Pharoah:

His special night at Churchill Downs, which I thought showed pretty well the kind of love affair this state has with champion race horses. I took care not to mention the name of any human in the piece, just to give the big horse the spotlight he deserved.

Advancing his big run in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. I was coming back from ACC Media Day in North Carolina and when I got to the credential area to get back to the barns at Keeneland, my pass had been picked up by someone else and was back in Louisville. Hence, I faced the task of writing an advance on American Pharoah’s final race without getting to talk to his trainer, owner, jockey, or any of the connections in the race really. In such situations, you just sit down, close your eyes, and write what comes to you. Sometimes those are the best columns anyway.

The story on American Pharoah’s final race. It’s hard not to find something worthwhile in that kind of theater, and Keeneland was an appropriate setting. I stole a famous opening line from Grantland Rice’s famous piece on the Four Horsemen of Notre Dame football. That was a risk. Maybe it worked, maybe it didn’t. But the day, and the story, held many more turns.

2. Dan McDonnell's response to a bitter loss. I wasn’t even there when Louisville lost to Cal Fullerton in the decisive game of its Super Regional. I didn’t see the disputed home run that everyone on the ground said was a foul ball. I only saw McDonnell on video, after a near-all nighter and a flight from Belmont Park in New York to an event in North Carolina.

But as soon as I saw McDonnell’s reaction to that crushing defeat, I knew I had to at least acknowledge it. This marks the second year in a row that one of my most-recommended columns (on Facebook) dealt with how a person handled a difficult loss.

That ought to remind us that disappointing losses present coaches and players with tremendous opportunities.

McDonnell knocked this difficult situation out of the park. And there was no foul pole in sight. 

3. Andrew Harrison, and a postgame lesson learned. I wasn’t going to write about this, because Harrison just got caught behind a hot microphone when he didn’t realize it, and I didn’t think the subject matter was something for me to speak out on, but enough people asked that finally I decided to add something to the discussion — but not necessarily my own thoughts.

When Harrison used a slur to refer to an opposing player, I turned to something I’ve shared with many people privately, a discussion between two African-American voices from very different walks of life — Maya Angelou and Dave Chappelle.

I added very little to the words, but just let their discourse take over. There wasn’t much writing to it. But I got a lot of nice comments from readers on it, and felt good that something positive could be added to the discussion, even from an unfortunate moment.

4. Kentucky outlasts Notre Dame. The best basketball game I saw all year was in Cleveland, when Kentucky edged Notre Dame in an NCAA Regional final to reach its second straight Final Four.

It was a fantastic game, and those are always tougher to write because you want your story to live up to the moment. I don’t know if mine did. I do know that one of the guys I respect more than anybody in the business, after I wrote this game story, Tweeted, “Eric Crawford’s game story, Kentucky-ND, is as good as it gets.”

Turn out the lights, folks. That’s enough for me. 

5. Non sports: The Pope commends Lincoln and Merton, two men with area ties, to the U.S. Congress. Judging from the numbers, I was mainly writing this story for myself. Because Abraham Lincoln is a personal hero. And Thomas Merton, too. Sometimes, though, you have to write one for yourself. I still think its message, and the message that Pope Francis was trying to relay to Congress, are worth repeating. Whether anyone reads or not.

Thanks everyone, for a great year, and for your faithful reading.

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