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Lee Benson: Thanks, 2016, for reminding us that odds are meant to be broken

Less than a week to go before 2016 ends, but maybe you shouldn’t bet on that happening.

What a year. The one nobody saw coming. The year of the long shot. The year the law of averages took a thrashing. The year you could have wagered a dollar with the bookies in England — where you can bet on anything — and come out with $4.5 million.

If anyone had walked into Ladbrokes a year ago and put down a single dollar on Leicester City’s soccer team winning the English Premier League, Great Britain’s voters electing to leave the European Union and Donald J. Trump winning the U.S. presidential election, they’d have been set for life.

Of course no one did that, because everyone knew it made no sense. Leicester City, a club with a trophy case the size of a toaster oven, was a 5,000-to-1 shot to win a championship it had never before won. The U.K. exiting the E.U. would mean doing something no nation had done, ever. And Trump? The most generous polling estimates gave him a 23 percent chance of beating Hillary Clinton; some had him at 1 percent.

Oh yeah, the Cubs also won the World Series in 2016, for the first time in 108 years, climbing out of a 3-games-to-1 hole to do it; while in Cleveland, the Cavs won the NBA title, giving the city a sports champion for the first time in 42 years.

All refreshing reminders in the age of analytics that goals and dreams still remain within our reach, despite the polls and the numbers that scream otherwise.

It really is a bad idea to ever say never.

In my business — column writing — I see evidence of that on practically a daily basis. The best part of my job is regularly meeting people who ignore the odds and do amazing things.

Here’s a month-by-month rundown from 2016 that is representative, but hardly comprehensive, of what I’m talking about:

January: Did a story on Mike Pratt, who had an idea for a better gym bag, ignored the people (read: pretty much everyone) who told him he should get a real job, and turned his tinkering into OGIO, a company that sells its specialty bags, including the world’s top-selling golf bag, around the planet.

February: Met Wallace and Ruth Gattrell. He’s 95, she’s 94. They’ve been married 70 years. To each other. And even happier now than the day they met.

March: Went to a banquet to see Tom Welch honored for what he did to bring the Olympics to Utah — 17 years after the federal government, and more than a few prominent Utahns, dishonored him for the same thing.

April: Profiled John Buck and Brandon Lyon, two kids who grew up playing baseball together in Taylorsville and wound up playing a combined 24 seasons in the big leagues, including one memorable summer as teammates on the New York Mets.

May: Got to meet Cathy King, originator, owner and spiritual leader of Canines With a Cause, an organization that pairs shelter dogs with soldiers with PTSD — and watches as they rescue each other.

July: Went to a banquet and watched NFL lineman Haloti Ngata write a $30,000 check to the Salt Lake School District to honor his late mother, Ufa, whose efforts to have him, and others like him, pass college entrance tests was the real catalyst that got Ngata to the NFL.

August: Met Caru Das, who is building a Hare Krishna temple in the heart of Salt Lake City that has been fully funded and well-received by the neighbors. Can’t imagine the response at Krishna Central when he told them he was going to pull that one off.

September: Interviewed Steve Urquhart, who practically single-handedly re-shaped the way the Legislature, and Utahns, think about how to treat people with same-gender attraction.

October: Did a story on Utah Symphony violinist Madeline Adkins, who became just the third female concertmaster — the second in command — of a major symphony orchestra anywhere in America.

November: Drove to American Fork and made the acquaintance of Brandon Sanderson, a 39-year-old writer who wrote a dozen books before he sold his first one, and now has more than 10 million books in print around the world, in over two-dozen languages.

December: Shook the hand of 95-year-old Ken Potts, one of five men still living (out of 1,511) who served on the USS Arizona when it was sunk 75 years ago in Pearl Harbor to ignite World War II.

If anyone had told any of these ordinary people the odds against them doing the extraordinary things they did before they did them they might very well have tossed in the towel then and there. Fortunately, no one told them, and they never asked.

In all my years of column writing, I’ve found that behind virtually every success story I hear there’s always an element of never-going-to-happen. At some point we’re all underdogs.

The headlines of 2016 reaffirmed that like no year ever.

And it remains as true as it ever was: anybody can grow up to be president.