Every year when the Sports Personality of the Year shortlist is revealed, there is almost more discussion about who is missing than who has actually made it.
How do you boil down a year of British sporting history, from the slopes of Sochi to the Spanish plains, into just ten names?
Even the athletes who have been shortlisted are at it. Victorious 10,000m runner Jo Pavey tells Radio Times her vote would have gone to Claudia Fragapane, the 16-year-old gymnast sensation who won four Commonwealth gold medals in Glasgow this year.
But Fragapane isn’t on the list.
Team GB gymnast Max Whitlock reminds us how sprinter Adam Gemili mixed it with the best sprinters of Jamaica (OK, maybe not the best) at this year’s Commonwealth Games. Gemili is not here either.
Then there is Jonny Wilkinson, dedicated servant to England rugby, who finally retired from the sport earlier this year, but not before lifting the Heineken Cup with French side Toulon.
Wilkinson surely has to be favourite to be awarded Sports Personality’s Lifetime Achievement Award, but there’s certainly an argument that he should be included in this list too. Even Irishman Rory McIlroy name checks the English World Cup winner, saying, “Look at Jonny Wilkinson’s contribution to rugby.
“I stood as a kid in the pouring rain in Northern Ireland and practised until I almost fell over! And it’s the same for everyone else who’s performed this year, whether it’s Lewis driving karts like a maniac or Jonny being an obsessive kicker,” McIlory adds.
That’s the danger of a list like Sports Personality: sport inspires peculiar passions and allegiances, its own “obsessives”. Woe betide any end-of-year montage that fails to recognise everyone’s contribution to the sporting calendar.
Remember, for example, the millions who sat in hushed anticipation watching Mark Selby come back from 10-5 down against Ronnie O’Sullivan to win the snooker World Championships. Shouldn’t defusing Rocket Ronnie warrant inclusion in this year’s shortlist?
Then there’s Laura Trott, the vanguard of a rollicking women’s British Cycling team. Chris Froome and Mark Cavendish might have had an unfortunate Yorkshire homecoming during this year’s Tour De France, but Trott and her teammates are gearing up to dominate again in Rio 2016. Can the men keep pace?
Kelly Gallagher and Charlotte Evans have been recognised for their barnstorming performance at the Sochi Winter Paralympics, but it is cruel on Jade Etherington and her guide Caroline Powell. Together they won three silvers and a bronze in Sochi, making them Britain’s most successful female Paralympians.
Etherington, 23, has since retired from Paralympic competition, choosing instead to devote her energies to becoming a Geography teacher.
Gymnast Dan Keatings, swimmers Jazz Carlin and Ross Murdoch, snowboarder Jenny Jones – all have played their part in 2014.
England’s football World Cup was a nightmare. Liverpool are in a mire of their own making. Even with that baggage, 19-year-old Raheem Sterling has proved himself the audacious star of England and the Premier League. Footballers never fare well in Sports Personality shortlists – and even if they make it on the list club rivalries generally run too deep for a public vote – but Sterling has been punished because of club demise and national discontent.
There are two names, of course, that keep coming up, whoever you ask. One is a Hollywood blockbuster, a curly-haired kid from County Down who is now arguably Northern Ireland’s biggest-ever sporting star. The other is a gifted racer who looks just as cool in the desert of Abu Dhabi as he once did driving karts round the UK.
2014’s shortlist is brave and varied, a valiant stab at trying to celebrate the whole cross-section of British and Irish sporting talent in just ten names. But that doesn’t mean there still won’t be grumbles.