It was a year of mysteries. To list some of the more baffling ones:
A huge airliner simply vanished, and to this day nobody has any idea what happened to it, despite literally thousands of hours of intensive speculation on CNN.
Millions of Americans suddenly decided to make videos of themselves having ice water poured on their heads. Remember? There were rumors that this had something to do with charity, but for most of us, the connection was never clear. All we knew was that, for a while there, every time we turned on the TV, there was a local newscaster or Gwyneth Paltrow or Kermit the Frog or some random individual soaking wet and shivering. This mysterious phenomenon ended as suddenly as it started, but not before uncounted trillions of American brain cells died of frostbite.
An intruder jumped the White House fence and, inexplicably, managed to run into the White House through the unlocked front door. Most of us had assumed that anybody attempting this would instantly be converted to a bullet-ridden pile of smoking carbon by snipers, lasers, drones, ninjas, etc., but it turned out that, for some mysterious reason, the White House had effectively the same level of anti-penetration security as a Dunkin’ Donuts.
LeBron James deliberately moved to Cleveland.
There was even some good news in 2014, mostly in the form of things that did not happen. A number of GM cars — the final total could be as high as four — were not recalled. There were several whole days during which no statements had to be issued by the U.S. Department of Explaining What the Vice President Meant to Say. And for the fifth consecutive year, the Yankees failed to even play in the World Series.
But other than that, it was a miserable 12 months. In case you have forgotten why, let’s take one last look back, starting with …
… when the nation is invaded by the polar vortex, which blasts in from Canada, bringing with it heavy snows, record low temperatures and Justin Bieber, who penetrates as far south as Miami before being arrested for driving a Lamborghini drunk. Weather is also the big story in drought-stricken California, where the state legislature passes a tough new water-conservation law requiring all noncelebrity residents to go to the bathroom in Oregon.
In Colorado, the new year begins on a “high” note as the sale of recreational marijuana becomes legal. Despite dire predictions from critics that this will lead to increases in crime and addiction, state law-enforcement officials report that if you stare for a while at the flashing lights on top of their cars, you can see some amazing colors.
The U.S. Senate confirms Janet Yellen as chair of the Federal Reserve after she assures senators that she will let them know if anybody ever figures out what the Federal Reserve actually does.
In a major speech, President Obama, responding to allegations that the National Security Agency has been electronically snooping on foreign leaders, announces that all federal agencies will henceforth follow strict new guidelines on the sale and distribution of photos of Angela Merkel naked. In other foreign affairs, French President François Hollande is embroiled in a sex scandal involving his attractive girlfriend and an attractive actress despite the fact that he looks remarkably like George Costanza.
Elsewhere abroad, NBA legend and idiot Dennis Rodman makes a fourth visit to North Korea to hang out with his misunderstood pal Kim Jong Un, who defeats Rodman 168-0 in a friendly one-on-one game refereed by the North Korean army, then celebrates by firing a missile at Japan.
Speaking of soldiers, in …
… as the Northeast continues to be battered by heavy snows and subzero temperatures, the Massachusetts National Guard is called out to battle the polar vortex, eventually cornering it inside a Costco near Boston, where it barricades itself along with several dozen hostages who are forced to survive by eating caramel cheddar popcorn from containers the size of hot tubs.
In sports, the largest audience in American TV history tunes in to watch one of the most anticipated Super Bowls in years, pitting the Denver Broncos against the Seattle Seahawks in a historic matchup so boring that the entire second half is preempted by Bud Light commercials. In other football news, Michael Sam, a defensive end for the University of Missouri, makes history by becoming the first college football player to openly declare that he actually attended some classes.
But the big sports story takes place in Sochi, where Russia hosts the Winter Olympics. Despite fears of violence, the games go smoothly until late in the Opening Ceremony, when — in what observers view as a troubling omen — the Russian biathlon team wipes out the entire Ukrainian delegation.
General Motors recalls 800,000 Chevrolet Cobalts and Pontiac G5s after tests show they don’t always have enough wheels.
President Obama hosts a state dinner for French President François “Le Muffin de Stud” Hollande, who arrives at the White House driving a red scooter with two women riding on the back and three more chasing on foot.
In politics, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, responding to a radio interviewer’s questions about his alleged role in the 2013 “Bridgegate” lane-closure scandal, eats the interviewer. And in a historic policy shift, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announces that same-sex married couples will henceforth be subject to the same incomprehensible tax laws as everybody else.
Speaking of incomprehensible, in …
… the news is dominated by the baffling disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which has millions of viewers tuning in to CNN to follow its round-the-clock exclusive video coverage of random unidentified objects floating in the ocean that might be airplane pieces — although they never actually turn out to be airplane pieces, but they might have been — accompanied by countless hours of analysis by a wide array of experts who have no more actual knowledge of what happened to Flight 370 than the people selling jewelry on the Home Shopping Network.
Abroad, the big story involves the Crimea, which until now many of us thought was a disease, as in “Bob has a bad case of the Crimea,” but which turns out to be a part of Ukraine that Russia wants to annex. As tension mounts in the region, the United States and the European Union issue Stern Warnings to Russia, such as “You better not annex the Crimea!” And: “Don’t make us turn this car around!” Nevertheless Russia goes ahead and annexes it, forcing the United States and Europe to escalate from Stern Warnings to Harsh Sanctions, including the suspension of Vladimir Putin’s Netflix account.
In other international developments, Bill Clinton discreetly inquires about the legal requirements involved in running for president of France.
Hopes for an end to the brutal winter weather are dashed when the polar vortex, having disguised itself as a warm front, manages to slip past surrounding Massachusetts National Guard troops and escape moments before the Costco is leveled by artillery fire, destroying two-thirds of the state’s supply of jerky.
On a happier note, Colorado announces that it has already collected marijuana sales taxes totaling $2 million, which the state plans to spend on “a subwoofer the size of Delaware.”
General Motors recalls 1.5 million more cars to correct a steering issue that causes certain models to deliberately aim for elderly pedestrians.
In a development that surprises film critics, Academy Awards voters, apparently hoping to woo a younger audience, award the Oscar for Best Picture to “Sharknado.”
Speaking of surprises, in …
… Russia, ignoring both the Stern Warnings and the Harsh Sanctions, continues its military intervention in Ukraine, leaving the United States with no choice but to deploy the ultimate weapon: Vice President Biden, who is sent to Kiev to deliver a Strong Rebuke, followed by dinner.
On the domestic front, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, who oversaw the rollout of Obamacare, resigns from the Cabinet to take a position overseeing e-mail storage for the Internal Revenue Service.
In an aviation miracle, a 15-year-old boy sneaks into the landing-gear compartment of a Hawaiian Airlines Boeing 767 and somehow survives a five-hour flight from San Jose to Maui. Hours later major U.S. airlines jointly announce that they are offering “an exciting new seating option for budget-minder flyers who enjoy fresh air.”
In financial news, India edges ahead of Japan to become the world’s third-largest economy in purchasing power, behind Jay-Z and Beyoncé. General Motors, in what analysts view as a shrewd tactical move, announces that it is recalling 435,000 Fords. Tyson Foods recalls 75,000 pounds of frozen chicken nuggets following reports that some of them may contain chicken.
On a happier note, the polar vortex finally goes back to Canada after becoming involved in a street altercation with Alec Baldwin.
In sports, Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, whose racist comments have sparked widespread outrage, is given the NBA’s harshest possible punishment: season tickets to the Knicks.
Speaking of harsh punishments, in …
… the United States and Europe, which are really starting to lose patience with Russia’s actions in Ukraine, announce that they intend to “seriously consider” taking steps that could ultimately result in the cancellation of Vladimir Putin’s American Express card.
In domestic news, the Department of Veterans Affairs is engulfed in scandal following revelations that some VA hospitals are just now getting around to treating veterans of the War of 1812. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki tells a Senate committee that he is “mad as hell” about this, but he ends up resigning after he is out-angered by President Obama, who according to a top aide is “madder than hell.” Numerous Republicans declare that they, too, are extremely mad. Basically everybody in Washington is hopping mad about this scandal, leaving little doubt that it is only a matter of time before some strongly worded reports are generated.
Also resigning from the government is White House press spokesperson Jay Carney, who plans to pursue a career as a Magic 8 Ball specializing in “Reply hazy try again.”
In sports, the month’s biggest event is the National Football League draft, which draws 32 million viewers, who tune in to witness the high-voltage excitement of Roger Goodell walking to a microphone every 10 minutes to read a name, kind of like a slower version of bingo. The Kentucky Derby is won by a 2005 Chevrolet Malibu that escaped the steering recall.
And the sports excitement continues in …
… as the World Cup soccer tournament gets under way in Brazil, where, in a surprise first-round elimination, the highly regarded Spanish team is consumed by an anaconda. The Russian team is also eliminated in the first round, but is able to remain in the tournament — over the strongly worded objections of the American team — by annexing the Belgian team.
In Washington scandal news, the Internal Revenue Service, responding to a subpoena, tells congressional investigators that it cannot produce 28 months of Lois Lerner’s e-mails because the hard drive they were stored on failed, and the hard drive was thrown away, and the backup tapes were erased, and no printed copies were saved — contrary to the IRS’s own record-keeping policy, which was eaten by the IRS’s dog. “It was just one crazy thing after another,” states the IRS, “and it got us to thinking: All these years we’ve been subjecting taxpayers to everything short of rectal probes if they can’t produce EVERY SINGLE DOCUMENT WE WANT, and here we lose YEARS’ worth of official records! So from now on, if taxpayers tell us they lost something, or just plain forgot to make a tax payment, we’ll be like, ‘Hey, whatever! Stuff happens!’ Because who are we to judge?”
But all kidding aside, you can bet that before this thing is over there will be a strongly worded report.
As California’s brutal drought worsens, state law-enforcement agents, operating under emergency authority granted by the legislature, raid Cher’s home and confiscate an estimated $3 million worth of moisturizer.
Speaking of brutal, in …
… the Ukrainian crisis intensifies when a Malaysia Airlines plane is shot down over Ukraine by a missile apparently fired by separatists backed by Russia. This is the last straw for the United States and Europe, which retaliate swiftly with a stern statement warning that any Russians planning to dine in U.S. or European restaurants in the future can expect to receive “very slow service.”
In other July Russia-related news, the Russian space agency launches a six-ton satellite carrying, among other animals, five geckos — four female and one male — as part of an experiment to determine how weightlessness will affect their sex lives. Sex Geckos in Space! We are not making this item up.
In state news, Colorado calls up Mexico at 1:30 a.m. and attempts to place a takeout order for 65,000 beef chimichangas.
General Motors, in an efficiency move, announces that it will start recalling cars while they are still on the assembly line.
In sports, LeBron James decides to return to Cleveland, revealing his decision in a heartfelt and deeply personal first-person essay written by Lee Jenkins. Overjoyed Cavaliers fans rush to purchase LeBron James jerseys to replace the ones they burned when he left. The Tour de France is won by Derek Jeter as part of his seemingly endless farewell tour.
Speaking of seemingly endless, in …
… President Obama announces that the U.S. military, which finally, with much fanfare, managed to get out of Iraq after a long string of operations including Operation Desert Fox, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn, is commencing an operation in … Iraq. This new operation — against a group called “ISIL,” an abbreviation that stands for “ISIS” — is hampered when a technical glitch causes the Pentagon’s Operation Name Generator to spew out a string of unacceptable candidates, including Operation Staunch Bedspread, Operation Iron Tapeworm and Operation Thunderous Bidet. While technicians work to solve the problem, the military is forced to refer to the new operation as “Bob.”
In other endless-conflict news, a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas is broken three-thousandths of a second after it is signed, setting a new Middle East record that is celebrated by rocket fire far into the night.
In a potentially troubling development, Russia annexes Canada.
Domestically, the big story is in Ferguson, Mo., which is rocked by a wave of sometimes-violent protests following the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson. The shooting ignites a passionate national debate whose participants have basically as much solid information about what actually happened as they do about Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, responding to criticism of his handling of the Ray Rice case, announces a strict new policy under which the league will assume that an unconscious woman being dragged off an elevator “probably is not napping.”
In entertainment news, the big winner in television’s Primetime Emmy Awards, taking home five Emmys including Outstanding Drama Series, is, to nobody’s surprise, Derek Jeter.
Speaking of drama, in …
… the FBI announces that it is investigating the distribution of hundreds of naked-celebrity photos that were helpfully uploaded from the celebrities’ iPhones to the “cloud,” which also has all of your personal information despite the fact that you have NO idea what it is.
An outraged Miley Cyrus threatens to sue Apple when she discovers that none of the photos are of her. In government news, the troubled Secret Service once again comes under withering criticism when an intruder is able to jump the White House fence, enter the White House through the front door, overpower a Secret Service agent, run through the Central Hall, enter the East Room, deliver a nationwide radio address and appoint four federal judges before being overpowered. In a congressional hearing probing the incident, the Secret Service director promises to improve White House security, but suggests that in the meantime the first family should “consider adopting a larger dog.”
Abroad, Scottish voters, in a closely watched referendum, decide by a surprisingly large margin that they, too, hate bagpipe music.
In a sad development, the Russian space agency announces that when the satellite containing the five geckos in the weightless-sex experiment returned from orbit, the geckos were dead. On a more positive note, the agency notes that “they were all smiling.”
In the celebrity social event of the year, George Clooney marries Amal Alamuddin in what it is believed to be one of the most elaborate and expensive weddings ever held in a Chuck E. Cheese. Sources describe it as “like a fairy tale, until Anna Wintour threw up on Matt Damon in the ball pit.”
But the mood turns less festive in …
… when the Ebola virus takes center stage as a parade of medical authorities appear on cable news to assure the American public that there is absolutely no reason to panic about Ebola so we should just stay calm regarding Ebola because given what we know about Ebola there is probably no danger that you will get Ebola so just stop worrying about Ebola Ebola Ebola OMIGOD EBOLA! After a solid week of being reassured 24/7 about Ebola, the public has been soothed into a state of panic, which is not improved when the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does an interview for CNN from inside a bubble.
President Obama, responding decisively to the mounting crisis, appoints as his “Ebola Czar” Ron Klain, a lawyer who is never heard from again.
In military news, the Pentagon announces that it has finally come up with a name for the current U.S. actions in Iraq and Syria: Operation Inherent Resolve. Seriously, that is the actual name. They should have gone with Thunderous Bidet.
In politics, the big story is the looming midterm elections, which have President Obama crisscrossing the nation at a hectic pace in a last-ditch effort to find a Democratic candidate willing to appear in public with him. The president is finally able to schedule an event with 94-year-old R. Nordstrom Fleemer, who is running for his 17th term as road commissioner of Carwankle County, Tennessee. Fleemer appears pleased by the endorsement, although he refers to the president repeatedly as “Mr. Truman.”
In baseball, the Giants defeat the Royals to win the World Series, with the Series MVP award going to Derek Jeter.
Speaking of defeat, in …
… the Democrats get creamed in the midterm elections, which means the Republicans will control both chambers of Congress as well as the road commissionership of Carwankle County, which R. Nordstrom Fleemer, despite being unopposed, loses badly, although his wife elects not to tell him. With the federal government now facing total gridlock, Republican and Democratic leaders realize that the only way they can attack the many serious problems facing the nation is to stop their endless cheap-shot partisan bickering and work together in the spirit of … Wow, this is some STRONG stuff I am smoking here.
In other political news, the debate over U.S. immigration policy intensifies when President Obama, in a move that infuriates Republicans, signs an executive order giving Texas back to Mexico. In a close vote, the U.S. Senate defeats the Keystone pipeline, which would, at peak capacity, have delivered 830,000 barrels of oil per day from the Canadian tar sands to Leonardo DiCaprio’s yacht.
A monster early snowstorm paralyzes much of the nation, dumping more than four feet of snow on Buffalo, N.Y., which fortunately is uninhabited. As highways become impassable, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo declares a state of emergency moments before being carried off by a yeti.
In what some international observers see as a deliberate provocation, a Russian fighter jet shoots down the Goodyear Blimp. On the science front, a module from the space probe Rosetta, having traveled 310 million miles, lands on a comet and sends back clear images of what astronomers identify, based on the planets orbiting it, as Kim Kardashian’s butt.
In a much-anticipated decision, a St. Louis County grand jury elects not to indict Darren Wilson, setting in motion a vintage performance of the timeless Kabuki theater of American racial relations, with all parties — blacks, whites, conservatives, progressives, politicians, the media, police, protesters, racists, rioters and of course the Rev. Al Sharpton — playing their traditional roles and delivering their traditional lines, following a script that could have been written five years ago, or 10, so there is no risk that anybody will say, do or think anything remotely unexpected, or emerge in any way changed. (This doesn’t apply to YOU, of course. I’m talking about everybody else.)
As the month draws to a close, the healing begins, with the Thanksgiving holiday bringing Americans of all races and religions together to fight over discounted electronics.
Speaking of fighting, in …
… President Obama, moving to fill the Cabinet vacancy created by the resignation of Chuck Hagel, announces — in what is seen as a major shift in military policy — that his new Secretary of Defense will be Chuck Norris. The nomination is swiftly approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee after Norris, in lieu of making an opening statement at his confirmation hearing, reduces the witness table to kindling with his forehead.
In a shocking political bombshell, Rob Portman announces that he will not run for president in 2016, setting off a nationwide frenzy of Googling by people wondering who Rob Portman is. Fortunately, there are still plenty of politicians in both major parties thinking about getting into the race, thereby assuring that the voters will ultimately be able to choose their next president from a wide range of fresh, exciting options, be it Jeb Bush or Hillary Clinton.
Air travel in the Midwest is disrupted when four unscheduled Russian bombers land at O’Hare during rush hour and refuse to leave until they receive fuel and Egg McMuffins. Prince William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, arrive in New York for a whirlwind visit that begins with a four-hour ride from the airport to their hotel in a taxi with a driver complaining the entire time about Uber.
In sports, the top college football teams play in the traditional year-end bowl games, including the TaxSlayer Bowl, the Bitcoin Bowl, the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl, the Duck Commander Independence Bowl and the Thunderous Bidet Bowl. All but one of these are actual bowl games.
In another year-end tradition, millions of children stay up late on Christmas Eve, eagerly awaiting the arrival of Santa Claus, who unfortunately is delayed because five of his reindeer were recalled by GM.
As the year draws to a close, happy revelers jam New York’s Times Square to watch the traditional dropping of the illuminated ball, while in Denver a mellower throng gathers to ring in the new year with the lighting of the 200-Foot Doobie. And all across America, voices join in singing “Auld Lang Syne,” the beloved traditional song that makes no sense. Which makes it perfect for 2014.
Maybe 2015 will be better. We can hope, right? It might help if we stand downwind of Denver.
Anyway, Happy New Year.
Dave Barry is a Pulitzer Prize-winning humor columnist and author.