The Top 'Non-Troversies' Of 2008

He Kexin won the gold in the women's uneven bars on Aug. 18. i

Was She 14, Or Was She 16? Media speculation was high during the Beijing Olympic Games, where China's He Kexin won the gold in the women's uneven bars on Aug. 18. Reports claimed she was two years shy of gymnastics' minimum-age requirement. Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images
He Kexin won the gold in the women's uneven bars on Aug. 18.

Was She 14, Or Was She 16? Media speculation was high during the Beijing Olympic Games, where China's He Kexin won the gold in the women's uneven bars on Aug. 18. Reports claimed she was two years shy of gymnastics' minimum-age requirement.

Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images
A 'New Yorker' cover from July satirizes Barack and Michelle Obama. i

Offensive Or Clever? A New Yorker cover from July sparked heated debates, but not much else. Chris Hondros/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Chris Hondros/Getty Images
A 'New Yorker' cover from July satirizes Barack and Michelle Obama.

Offensive Or Clever? A New Yorker cover from July sparked heated debates, but not much else.

Chris Hondros/Getty Images
Barack Obama and Jeremiah Wright in 2005. i

The 'Wright' Stuff? The uproar over Jeremiah Wright ended up working out pretty well for Barack Obama, shown here with Wright in 2005. Trinity United Church of Christ/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Trinity United Church of Christ/AP
Barack Obama and Jeremiah Wright in 2005.

The 'Wright' Stuff? The uproar over Jeremiah Wright ended up working out pretty well for Barack Obama, shown here with Wright in 2005.

Trinity United Church of Christ/AP

Read More Ridley

Find more of John Ridley's thoughts at his blog, "Visible Man."

They seemed so important at the time, didn't they? The issues over which much ink was spilled, many talking heads blathered, and, in some cases, congressional committees were convened. But as we prepare to turn the calendar page, what seemed monumental then has all the significance of a Dennis Kucinich stump speech in retrospect.

So before they completely fade from memory, let's take a look back at some of the top "non-troversies" of 2008:

• Was that Chinese Olympic gymnast 14, or was she 16? And did anybody really think the same country that puts lead paint on our children's toys was going to come clean about this? America needed to let this gold medal loss go and just relive the Olympic magic with another Michael Phelps commercial.

• In chattering-class politics, The New Yorker ran a cover caricature of Barack and Michelle Obama as dangerous radicals — an attempt at satire that displayed the wit and charm of an Ivy League sorority pledge at an all-you-can-drink cosmopolitan bar. Some readers said the drawing was offensive; some said it was too clever for its own good. And 99 percent of America said: "What's The New Yorker?"

• In Hollywood, thousands of Starbucks employees ... I mean, actors, dithered over an on-again, off-again strike vote in hopes of bringing the country to its knees by depriving us of new episodes of The Mentalist. But on a positive note, the Actors Guild performed the David Copperfieldian, near-impossible trick of making the Writers Guild look savvy and reasonable.

• Oil speculators! It's their fault! They're the ones who ran up the price of oil to ... what, about $36 a barrel? Those lease deals on a new Hummer are starting to look real attractive right about now.

• Do you remember Hillary Clinton crying at a campaign stop? She was either showing real emotion, and therefore she was too soft to be president, or she was being manipulative, and therefore was too devious to be president. Either way, she quite literally could not win. But through Barack Obama's Wish Fulfillment Program, she still gets to be the one taking those 3 a.m. phone calls after all.

• In my opinion, the winner of the Brett Favre/Aaron Rodgers brouhaha in Green Bay? Chad Pennington in Miami.

And the No. 1 "non-troversy" of 2008?

How dare Jeremiah Wright say the bigoted, hurtful things in the privacy of a black church that men of God like Pat Robertson, John Hagee and the late Jerry Falwell said in public? Barack Obama denounces Wright, comes across as a "rational" black man, then delivers a historic speech on race in America and ends up in the White House. The whole thing worked out so well, I have a feeling that somewhere Wright and Obama are secretly sharing a cigar, swapping one of those "terrorist fist jabs" Fox News warned us about, and saying to each other, "We got 'em, baby. We got 'em."

Hard to believe that so much almost important stuff just about happened this year. If 2009 is anything like 2008, we can look forward to many hyperbolic moments hardly worth the cable news space they fill.

Happy New Year, everybody.

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