The best live sport you saw in 2009
A Ronseal of a headline, if ever there was one.
Since it's the season for (a) reminiscing, and (b) debate-friendly lists, let's shun the brandy snaps and fiddly clementines for a while and come up with our own personal favourites.
Just one simple rule of engagement before we begin: your selection has to be something you saw in the flesh, rather than on television. All clear?
Here's my three best, in reverse order. After that, as a counterpoint, the three worst. Even the thought of that awful, awful match at... but there's time for that later.
3. England v Australia, first Test, day five, Cardiff, July
The game was dead, buried. After months of anticipation, the Ashes had begun in spirit-crushing fashion - England smashed all over the Swalec Stadium, heading into the final day of the opening Test 219 runs behind, with two of their top three already back in the pavilion. Kevin Pietersen, Andrew Strauss and Matt Prior then got themselves out before lunch to leave England 70-5 with 70 overs left in the day.
I remember going for a melancholy stroll round the back of the main stand, almost unable to watch, and bumping into an old friend who had followed England home and away for years. For 10 minutes we consoled ourselves with gallows-humour talk of the most depressing England displays of all time - Adelaide 2006, Port-of-Spain in 1994, Zimbabwe 1996. At lunchtime, a tenor came on to the outfield to sing a pre-arranged version of Land of Hope and Glory. He was almost lynched.
It wasn't just that England managed to escape from there. It was that they kept convincing you they might just do it, only to then throw you back down by losing a vital wicket at a key time - Graeme Swann, to leave Australia 19 overs to take the two remaining scalps, and then the dogged Paul Collingwood, meaning James Anderson and Monty Panesar would have to somehow survive 69 deliveries.
"I can take the despair. It's the hope I can't stand." John Cleese's character from Clockwise was alive and chewing his nails off by the boundary.
It was all so very English - celebrating a fortunate draw as if it were a wonderful victory. But for drama, excitement and awful, awful tension, it took some beating.
2. Wales v Ireland, Six Nations, Cardiff, March
It wasn't just the magnitude of Ireland's achievement which made this occasion so special.
There was the atmosphere - rabid and rousing in equal measure, thousands of Irishmen pouring into a sunny Cardiff, a day of drinking and dancing in the streets - the scintillating, see-saw nature of the game - O'Driscoll's one-inch try and Tommy Bowe's burst, pegged back and back by Stephen Jones - and then the unscriptable, unbelievable denouement, O'Gara dropping for the Grand Slam, substitute Paddy Wallace shipping a penalty 48 metres out, Jones's kick (the last of the championship) falling a metre short.
I remember looking at my notes afterwards. Easy to read at the start, the handwriting gets worse and worse as the clock ticks down. By the time we get to the last minute, it's an almost illegible scrawl.
You can make out only two things on the last page - a huge DG IRE!!! and then an even bigger PEN - WAL SJ - MISSED!!!!, scribbled with a hand that was shaking so much it looks like it was written during an earthquake.
They were probably the most unnecessary notes I've ever written. Was there really any chance that anyone present was going to forget those final two minutes?
1. Men's 100m final, World Championships, Berlin, August
It could only be one man at the top of the pile.
Usain is without doubt the greatest thing I've ever seen in sport, in this year or any other - his times, his behaviour, the way he has almost singlehandedly saved a sport that was dying on its rear end.
Everything about this summer's Worlds felt special. The wise old heads reckoned the only championships that got close were Tokyo, but since I watched their Powell-Lewis duel on a small black-and-white television secreted in my bedroom, I'll place Berlin at the top of the pile.
Better than Beijing for atmosphere, for performances and for the sheer sense of fun that pervaded it all (take a bow, Berlino) Bolt's wondrous performances were the pieces de resistance.
The only dilemma was whether to choose the 100m or 200m, and since I think he'll take more off the 200m record in the next few years than he will off the 9.58secs, it has to be the former.
Although even as I'm typing those words I'm starting to change my mind.
And the worst:
3. Watford v Sheffield Wednesday, Football League, Vicarage Road, October
20 quid getting there, 25 to get in, 25 more drowning sorrows. Everything about the night was dreadful - the spineless capitulation, the 4-1 thrashing, the death-metal band that played in the pub afterwards and the train back to London that decided to travel at 5mph for the entire way and so extend a 25-minute journey to two hours. I didn't even need to go - the match was on Sky. One of the most depressing Friday nights of my life.
2. England v Argentina, Twickenham, autumn international, November
Purple shirts, enormous sponsor's logos covering half of Twickenham and rugby so dire the life-long love affair almost ended. Kick. Kick. Kick. One-yard rumble. Kick. Kick. Fumble. Kick. The only thing that flowed was the freezing rain through the gutters.
1. England v Australia, fourth Test day one, Headingley, July
England 72-6 at lunch, all out for 102 shortly afterwards. Australia 130-1 at tea with the match - and seemingly the Ashes - in the bag. I've never seen 25,000 Yorkshiremen cry, but it almost happened that day.