2020 may end up being a legendary year for sports
Well, here it is: a new year is upon us, and whether January greets you with a storming, hangover-induced headache from too much revelry or a protein smoothie and the conviction to make this the healthiest year yet, we are all actually in the same boat.
If sports are your poison of choice, that thing that makes your life tick that little bit more cheerily, then chances are that you’ve looked forward to 2020 for a while. Because in sports, not all years are created equal, and we are about to embark upon a doozy.
Whatever frustrations 2019 may have brought to your team of choice (as optimistic souls, sports fans are forever susceptible to disappointment), take comfort in how the 2020 schedule thwacks with a burst of early-year action that you won’t want to retreat from.
Before you’ve even had chance to go through all those Christmas gifts and figure out if there are any you may actually use, the NFL playoffs hurry upon this weekend. The likes of the Tennessee Titans and the Philadelphia Eagles have fought their way into the divisional round and the New England Patriots slumped into it, surrendering their right to an opening week bye with last weekend’s collapse.
Following a regular season that was often downright puzzling and where the only certainty was that the Baltimore Ravens and Lamar Jackson were going to shine each week, the postseason’s primary purpose is to make some sense of it all. And while the old maxim that defense wins championships has stood the test of time, it will take once heck of a brick wall to stifle Jackson’s electric talents.
In mid-January, the college football campaign comes to its conclusion with a pair of undefeated teams seeking seasonal perfection. LSU was typically destructive in its Peach Bowl semifinal last weekend, but don’t sleep on defending champion Clemson, whose comeback against Ohio State indicated their soft schedule has helped rather than limited them.
Sporting drama sometimes comes in clusters and there is no real accounting for it, except for some kind of magnetic confluence. Even-numbered years are generally more tightly packed with high-profile events — especially this particular segment of the four-year cycle.
— Olympics (@Olympics) December 31, 2019
The last time there was a Summer Olympics, we of course saw the majestic magnificence of Simone Biles and Katie Ledecky, Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps issued golden farewells, plus so much more.
A swimming pool turned green, a Chinese diver proposed to his teammate, a Tongan martial artist carried his nation’s Opening Ceremony flag bare-chested and covered in baby oil, Ryan Lochte briefly duped the media with a bunch of boneheaded lies and all those fears of Zika proved unfounded.
Before the Games that year, we had LeBron James tipping the Cleveland Cavaliers into dreamland, spearheading a 3-1 comeback against the 73-9 Golden State Warriors to win the NBA Finals, helped by Kyrie Irving’s devastating dagger to close it out.
At the end of ‘16 we had another 3-1 reversal to end the Chicago Cubs’ 108 barren years of torment, a loaded roster that was just about mighty enough to quash all those curses.
There was also an epic European soccer championship, with Cristiano Ronaldo finally getting Portugal over the hump in a major competition despite injury resorting him to the role of sideline cheerleader for the final.
The Euros are back again this year and they’re like you’ve never seen them before, spread out over 12 host nations instead of crammed into one or two. Watch this space. If the multi-city, multi-country format proves to be a big success, don’t be surprised if it comes into consideration for future World Cups — or even multi-sport spectacles like the Olympics.
Talking of Olympic matters, you won’t want to miss Tokyo, a 17-day spectacular of fun that has the added benefit of being held in a country where the Olympics are truly adored. The Japanese public will be out in force … so much so that if you’re thinking of going, you’ll need a lot of luck or some high-powered connections to get a ticket.
Even the modern Olympics are now more than 120 years old, but are finding ways to reinvent themselves. This time around, surfing, skateboarding, sport climbing and karate will be added to the list of competitions, while softball makes a welcome return.
The #EURO2020 groups have been drawn! 😍
Which matches are you excited for? pic.twitter.com/CU7SvtNAXq
— UEFA EURO 2020 (@EURO2020) November 30, 2019
This part of the cycle also gives us a U.S.-hosted Ryder Cup, as Whistling Straits readies for September and a European team that has won nine of the last 12 editions heading across the Atlantic with intent.
In basketball, things could scarcely be hotter. After a decade where it seemed superteams were ever present, the NBA is now gifted with a collection of two-headed monsters all fighting for superiority.
Even before the playoffs roll around, the end of the regular season promises fascinating plots. When elimination time arrives, will it be one of the Los Angeles teams that holds sway? If the Lakers and Clippers meet in a seven-game series, we won’t be able to tear our eyes from it. The Houston Rockets will have something to say about that, while the Milwaukee Bucks lurk in the East with probably basketball’s best player, Giannis Antetokounmpo, standing tall.
Basketball stars have not been short of accolades of late; James won the AP’s male athlete of the decade award, Kawhi Leonard claimed the athlete of the year prize, and be assured whoever emerges from the next postseason bloodbath will have done much to burnish their legacy.
As for legacies, what will become of those whose contributions are already secure? Will Tom Brady still be a Patriot this time next year? Will he still be a football player? Could he even have added a seventh Super Bowl ring?
Can Tiger Woods recreate gold dust once more? Can the Los Angeles Dodgers finally turn regular season dominance into a World Series crown?
We probably think we know the answers to a lot of these questions and the most beautiful thing about a new year is the realization that we don’t. There will be all kinds of unexpected occurrences served up; stories and tales and plots we couldn’t even begin to imagine right now.
That’s what makes us love sports. This year, especially, there is a lot to love.
— PGA Championship (@PGAChampionship) December 30, 2019