SALT LAKE CITY — It’s hard not to step outside and sniff normalcy again. At least traces of it. Go back just one full year ago, and our worlds were weirder than a trip through a Ripley’s Believe it or Not museum.
The sudden absence of the sports universe is no greater example of that.
On any other year, pick a box on the calendar, any box, and you’ll find something going on somewhere. Granted, that Wednesday after the MLB All-Star Game, or even Christmas Eve might be tough, but if you dig deep enough, you’re bound to find something.
Then again, as you may recall, last April was dead. And I mean, dead-dead.
Imagine being a TV sports personality (I’m not looking for your sympathies), but seriously, it was tough. Shoot, I remember putting virtual NASCAR highlights on the air, I was that desperate. And when South Korea’s professional baseball league fired back up again last summer, nobody was more excited about it than yours truly.
No doubt our best COVID silly season material came via a segment we coined as "Highlights from Home" When we asked viewers to step up to the plate and hundreds across Utah did (some literally).
You fought through a pandemic in your own unique way, showing the world that even a once-in-a-century health emergency can’t stop families and friends from having a good time.
But as much as I love a good poolside dunk, or K-9 frisbee catch, there was clearly something missing.
Baseball fans, for example, needed that weekend outing to the ballpark to keep sane. But with the Bees completely shut down for a full cycle, there was suddenly no opportunity to buy an overpriced hot dog anymore as we’ve all come to expect once the weather gets nice. No chance to hear, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” or even yell at an umpire.
For soccer fans, 2020 couldn’t have been a more forgettable year — on multiple fronts.
For nearly two decades, the beating drums at Rio Tinto Stadium have been one of the great draws here on the Wasatch Front, an experience that was stripped away from all of us before we even noticed the lightning bolt strike.
And then there’s those Jazz, a team some forecast to have had a shot at an NBA Finals bid last summer. Yeah, we ultimately did get to see a stale, fan-less, post-season run inside a lonely bubble, but celebrity cutouts and virtual cheering was more distracting than anything else. A first round collapse was only fitting to the entire 2020 narrative.
But leave it to a little time and medical ingenuity to turn things around again. Sure, sports has since been highly politicized these days, turning many people off; but at least we have the option to watch. And frankly, that’s all I’m asking for.
The Jazz have made me believe again. Rising to the top of the Western Conference and staying there for most of the season is not easy. I know, I know… it means nothing if they can’t do it in the playoffs. But we’ll get there when we get there.
But for the time being, put me in the middle of the drama. A drama I never did miss — until it was gone.