The best thing about 2020 is that it’s almost over.
Can 2021 or ’22 possibly be worse? Not a chance. Or so the world hopes.
The COVID-19 pandemic killed hundreds of thousands of people around the world and, in a truly immaterial sidebar, dealt chaos and confusion to the world of sports.
Professional sports leagues stopped abruptly in mid-March, leaving league officials, team owners, players, fans and TV networks in the dark for a couple of months about what the future might hold.
Thousands of people were suddenly on the unemployment lines — people who sold hot dogs, took tickets and provided stadium security, among dozens of other tasks associated with a game of a professional team sport.
No longer will a pitcher’s injured elbow, a basketball player’s torn Achilles tendon or a hockey players broken nose be regarded as the worst thing that could possibly happen to a player.
Having his or her job suddenly taken away is worse.
The sport least affected by the COVID-19 outbreak was professional football, at least in the United States.
The National Football League’s (NFL) season wrapped up with the Super Bowl in early February, and the pandemic reared its ugly head in North America in March, so the NFL had a full six months to put in place a plan to run its 2020 season.
It’s been able to, with only a few pandemic-related hiccups.
Pro hockey (NHL) and pro basketball (NBA) resumed action, in bubble setups, to determine champions and, for the most part, it worked, even though fans could watch the action only on television or streaming services.
Baseball (MLB) manufactured a modified season and determined a champion. Will there be asterisks beside the titles won by the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning, the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers and MLB’s L.A. Dodgers? Probably, but the victories were legit.
Too bad for the Canadian Football League (CFL), however.
While NHL, MLB and NBA teams have owners with deep pockets, and able to absorb a season without fans, the same could not be said for the CFL, which abandoned the 2020 season entirely, while making plans for a full restart in June, 2021.
Professional golf was another sport that semi-survived the pandemic. It took three months off, rearranged its schedule, resumed in mid-June, did regular testing of its players, allowed no spectators, and TV networks reaped the benefits of regular sports programming.
Sports fans have been promised — no guarantees, though — of a near-normal 2021.
The NHL and NBA are both planning late-starting, shortened seasons, with regular players in mid-2021.
MLB is on track for a late-winter start. Post-vaccine, fans will be allowed to return, merchandise will be sold, raucous cheering will fill the stadiums and beer will be spilled.
And if we’re lucky, we can program our minds to forget that 2020 even happened.
• Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “The No. 19 who made the biggest impact in pro-football history was: a) Unitas; b) Alworth; c) COVID”
• Saints coach Sean Payton, after his team’s 31-3 win over hometown Denver Broncos, who played the NFL game without a legitimate quarterback, thanks to COVID-19: “I felt bad for the cardboard fans.”
• Comedy writer Alex Kaseberg: “Anthony Davis has re-signed with the Lakers for a five-year deal for $190 million. That works out to $190 million for each of his eyebrows.”
• Kaseberg again: “Fifty-four-year-old Mike Tyson and 51-year-old Roy Jones Jr. fought to a draw. They’re talking about a rematch in Las Vegas. It will billed as ‘The Geezers at Caesars’.”
• RJ Currie of sportsdeke.com: “Scientists say video evidence has proven fetuses can yawn hundreds of times in the womb. Thousands of times if Mom is a New York Jets fan.”
• Headline at fark.com, after the Russell Westbrook-to-Washington Wizards trade for John Wall: “Washington is finally giving Texas a Wall.”
• Dwight Perry again: “The Ravens-Steelers game, originally scheduled for Nov. 26, was moved to Nov. 29 and then Nov. 30 because of COVID-19 before finally getting played on Dec. 1. Broncos fans — forced to watch their team play on without a bona fide QB — are calling for an illegal shift.”
• Raiders coach Jon Gruden, to reporters, on what it was like watching film of his team’s 43-6 loss to the Falcons: “When you go to the dentist and have to have your teeth pulled out? It’s pretty much like that.”
• Ryan Brown of Birmingham’s WJOX Radio, via Twitter, after watching six consecutive quarters of Kentucky football: “Hoping if I’m ever convicted of a major crime this will count as time served.”
- Rapper Snoop Dogg, commentating on the pay-per-view telecast of the Tyson-Jones fight: “Like two of my uncles fighting at a barbecue!”
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by Bruce Penton