2020 Just may be the Greatest Year for Professional Sports
By John Burbridge
One of the weird-science theories associated with quantum physics claims that future events affect the past/present.
It’s hard to wrap your head around such a notion, especially within the non-sub-atomic macro realm most of us live in. But in fact future events do and will affect the past/present. Just look what they did to 1998.
If millennials can suffer a brief history lesson, 1998 was regarded by prominent magazines, networks and talking heads as the Greatest Sports Year of All Time — at least when encompassing the Western Hemisphere.
The Chicago Bulls, arguably the greatest sports dynasty of all time when taking in account its six NBA championships in eight years and global jurisdiction (in both hemispheres), held what would be referred to as their “Last Dance” that year.
The dance concluded just when the “Great Home Run Chase” between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa was launching into the stratosphere.
You could say the “Chase” was the clincher. It captivated a transcendent audience while rescuing baseball from itself after its near-suicide with the MLB strike of 1994-95 prompting the sport’s doldrum stretch that followed.
The term “magic” was often used when relating the atmosphere of that summer and early fall. But later it came to light that this magic was an illusion propped by chemistry. And like what happens whenever a rogue time traveler in some science fiction storyline carelessly or intentionally alters past events, 1998 morphed into not being such a special year in sports afterall.
So then, what was the Greatest Sports Year of All Time?
1969 when the New York Jets and then the New York Mets shocked the world with improbable world championships?
1947 when Jackie Robinson helped break MLB’s color barrier when the Brooklyn Dodgers penciled him at first base in the lineup for the first time?
1999 when the United States Women’s Soccer Team won the FIFA Women’s World Cup in a shoot-out against China? (The U.S. Women won the first “Women’s World Cup” in 1991 but the international women’s tournament didn’t have the “World Cup” tag back then)
You can make a case for each of the above and perhaps enlighten me with some years that I snubbed. But let me add an upstart contender for GSYAT.
Two Thousand Twenty.
Having recently complimented someone for her Christmas/Holiday sweater that depicted a dumpster fire with 2020 scripted across it, I know I may be stretching my logic to the reductio ad absurdum range by referencing anything great coming out of these past 12 months.
And if asked to provide substantials to support the notion of 2020 being the GSYAT, I might have to adopt the cloy legal approach by trying to convince the judge(s) the evidence is likely forthcoming … or in other words will come more clear in the future.
I should note that even in the future, there’s a disclaimer in labeling 2020 as a great year in sports — we’re talking exclusively about professional sports. Amateur sports, in particular middle school, high school and college, have been for the most part decimated as student-athletes have had final years of eligibility as well as formative seasons hampered if not completely squandered.
But with school sports being best considered extensions of the classroom, professional sports serve more in an inspirational capacity — especially the team sport professional leagues.
What Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, Major League Soccer (and other futbol leagues abroad) have done in adjusting to the pandemic while advancing their seasons all the way to crowned champions is truly inspiring.
Granted, the NFL is still more than a month away from a Super Bowl champ. But in a season where an NFL game was played at least once during every day of the week for the first time ever, not a single game has been cancelled (so far).
The NBA and NHL proved a “bubble setting” can work in such unprecedented times as few players in either league tested positive for COVID while mitigating spread — and these are leagues where social distancing is not encouraged when it comes to boxing out or body checking an opponent.
And the MLB may have inadvertently stumbled upon some concepts during its 60-game regular season that should get a second look if things ever go back to normal or a semblance thereof — seven-inning games for makeshift doubleheaders and the universal designated hitter.
As for no fans at most games … take if from a Cubs fan who had to endure the heartbreak of 2003, no patrons along the left-field line at Wrigley Field was something I learned to live with.
Sure, like in every year, there were some bad actors who violated league protocols. But the punishments and high-office censures have been consistently fair and swift.
For a brief span of several months, we experienced a world without sports. Some didn’t miss it in the same way some didn’t miss having to spend the holidays with the in-laws.
But when the games returned, pro sports perhaps were never more relevant as they exemplified the resiliency of the human spirit under duress.
The future remains uncertain as the news and updates continue to be mixed. Living and dealing with the present is probably the best mindset to embrace presently.
But someday the 2020 pro sports year may be celebrated as one of the greatest if not the greatest.
We just don’t know it yet.