If you are glad to be finished with 2020, raise your hand. What a year, huh? When real-life issues are more than enough to handle, many of us turn to the sports world for a little relief. That didn't work all that well in the year of our Lord twenty and twenty, but what we got was definitely better than nothing.
If it wasn't the Coronavirus pandemic cancelling March Madness, it was labor issues (plus COVID-19) keeping Major League Baseball silent ‘til July. Then there was much consternation over college and pro football, also thanks to COVID. Somewhere in the there, the NBA took a few months off, again because of the dreaded Coronavirus, before finally crowning a champion in October.
Once the games began, however, it was almost like the good old days of 2019 when sports could be played with thousands of roaring fans in attendance and without contact tracing, COVID injured lists, and dozens of cancelled games weekly.
The pandemic sports experience should have helped us all better appreciate the games and athletes who kept us entertained throughout the weirdest and scariest ordeal of a generation.
In fact, the experience of sports in 2020 led me to consider some changes in my own fan habits going into 2021 and beyond.
Here are my New Year's Sports Resolutions for 2021:
Watch more Group of Five football
Power Five football—that is the SEC, ACC, Big 12, Big 10, and Pac 12—has become boring. I'm no longer interested in watching the Alabama-Clemson coronation march on an annual basis. I want competitive football. The best place to find competitive football these days is at the lower levels.
It was a fantastic season for Group of Five programs—that is the Mountain West, American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, Mid-American Conference, and the SunBelt.
You cannot tell me it wasn't a blast watching teams Coastal Carolina, Cincinnati, Louisiana, San Jose State, and Tulsa on a weekly basis. Even the independents like Liberty, Army, and BYU were thrilling to watch.
No more railing against the designated hitter in baseball
OK, I am sold. MLB needs the universal DH.
For years, I have railed against American League baseball because of the DH. And I will admit, for years I have been wrong and ridiculous.
While I do miss small ball, the sacrifice bunt, stealing bases, and players hitting to the opposite field, there is no debating that the sport is far more entertaining when guys are hitting more dingers.
Watch more NASCAR
I hadn't watched NASCAR regularly in at least 10 years. But when it was our only option—NASCAR was the first major sport to return following the shutdown—my boys and I watched every race.
For weeks, it was our only chance to cheer for live competition. Many of the names have changed since the last time I watched, but the racing and the postseason format are far better than I remember from years ago.
It was a lot fun to see Chase Elliott—son of an old racing favorite Bill Elliott and fellow Braves fan—win the championship. Hopefully, the sport will regain some traction going forward because of the increased exposure from 2020.
Appreciate incredible athleticism more and be a fanatic less
My Atlanta Braves made it to the NLCS. I was ecstatic! But I became a sore loser when they blew a 3-1 series lead to the eventual World Series champion Dodgers. I fanboyed way too hard and didn't fully appreciate how incredibly the Dodgers played those final three games in the series.
Mookie Betts is the best athlete in the game. If you get half a chance to watch this guy play baseball, do it. Corey Seager, who I watched in the minors as a Chattanooga Lookout, played out of his mind.
I still dislike the Dodgers greatly as a Braves fan. But as a baseball fan, that was a special run by some special athletes.
Give up on Tennessee Football
It's over, folks. The '90s are not coming back anytime soon. The Tennessee Volunteers football program is on life support, and it appears head coach Jeremy Pruitt is just the man to ensure that its demise is as slow and painful as possible.
Some coaches are great caretakers. Some coaches are exceptional risktakers. Some coaches are nothing more than undertakers. Jeremy Pruitt is an undertaker. After a 3-7 season in which Tennessee played as badly as it ever has over the last decade-plus, any hope Vols fans may have had for Tennessee football to return to its former glory is gone for the foreseeable future.
Keeping Pruitt after this disastrous season signals that Tennessee no longer cares about getting back to what it once was. It's time to give up, Vols fans.