Tuesday, December 29, 2020

2020 - A Look in the Rear View Mirror at the Year In Sports

 We really have come very far this year, sports viewing wise at least.

After getting over the shock of discovering that every sports team on the face of the planet had ceased operations, matters turned around completely when we watched two guys, ranked in the top 1000, square off in a tennis match at some indoor bubble somewhere in Germany I think. 

I called out to my wife and son to come see A, or maybe it was B, miss an overhead, at least it looked like an overhead in the dim light that limited my ability to comprehend what was on the screen. One solitary camera recording every riveting moment. It felt like I was there as Alexandra Graham Bell made his first phone call. Which, by the way, only charged him at a rate of two cents per minute.

Soon, when we turned to ESPN, we were no longer limited to viewing highlights of Rod Laver attacking the net or Yogi Berra jumping into the waiting arms of Don Larsen. Or  focusing our attention on a sport we never watched, and quite possibly didn't know even existed, until that very instant.

No, 2020 was replete with explanations for why this game or that one was cancelled after two idiots walked into a bar (and, no, that is not the beginning of a very, very bad joke) or an entire team decided that six foot rules were enforced less than three seconds in the paint.

But I do not mean to dwell on the negatives. How exciting was it to see twelve relatives of the players, or team executives, screaming with delight from their seats in the stands? Even better was when I searched the cardboard cutouts to see if there was a face I recognized, like maybe Rudy Guiliani. That got my juices flowing. Maybe even more than the piped in crowd noise that roared its appreciation or despair with every occurrence. It fooled me for one.

Some sports stayed fixed in bubbles. That sounds uncomfortably close. Others wandered around. But no matter the obstacles, no matter that a team or two had to field a squad comprised mainly of "who the hell is that", no matter that one group was done with its games while the next was in quarantine hell and had not even met for the (masked) team photo, somehow they all managed to get to the finish line. Every commissioner having done a phenomenal job, all the players having collected their paychecks in full.

But strangest of all was watching Tiger Woods wandering aimlessly around a golf course in search of a crowd. No one there to ooh and aah, move a boulder for him or at least deflect an errant shot back onto the fairway. And then there was the emergence of young Charlie Woods. We watched, brushing away the tears, as father and son walked almost hand in hand down life's long par fours. But why did Charlie get to play from a forward tee? I mean he is 11 and already hits his drive 50 yards longer than I do.

Looking back with 2020 vision, we did not fare too badly, all things considered. I mean I filled up endless hours thinking the Knicks could not get any worse, the Giants were only twenty players or so from being legit contenders and my beloved Yankees would be unbeatable if ever Stanton and Judge could get their very big muscles off the disabled list at the same time.

This was, in countless ways, a horrible, no good, very bad year. And sports did in fact help us crawl to the finish. It served as a distraction, as a place where we could escape the terrible realities of the moment. A spot where, for the briefest instant, all that mattered was whether the receiver stayed in bounds, whether the shooter had stepped over the three point line, whether the pitch had touched the batter's sleeve on its way to the catcher's mitt.

We understand none of this is not very meaningful, in relation to what we have experienced as a nation, as a universe of nations, this year. But sports is part of our very DNA, both as participants and as fans. And we did miss it so deeply when it was briefly taken from us. So on to 2021, with the hope that with the turn of the page, life will return, if not to normal, then at least to a semblance of normal.

And, next year, if we are really lucky, Charlie Woods will win the Masters. From the front tees of course.


Anonymous said...

For me, the fake cheering crowds soundtrack on televised football games, when there are no people in the stands, are too much to take.--RE

Anonymous said...

Loved watching Charlie and Tiger play... Certainly a highlight of 2020