2021 was the year of our return to the stadiums, encouraging both known and new champions. The real world has intruded into the sport again, as COVID has made its way into the center of every team and league. But sport has also helped open doors and eyes in the real world, highlighting the challenges and necessities of mental health.
With the help of the Manning brothers, we looked at sports in different ways, and with the explosion of legalized sports betting, we also made a few dollars on sports. We’ve seen sports like the WNBA and Formula 1 grow exponentially and seen old household names like Phil Mickelson, Bill Belichick and the Atlanta Braves return to the limelight.
We sighed in disappointment as labor disputes returned to baseball, and we were enraged at the abuse scandals at organizations like the National Women’s Soccer League. We watched fans come back to stadiums and arenas, bringing energy to games… but also bringing a special brand of quarantine-induced silliness, each week bringing in a new phone video of fans facing off against one or more athletes. against others.
Like so much for the rest of 2021, sports were complex, exciting, frustrating and exhilarating. But even as the pandemic maintained its grip on the world, sport has returned to something close to normal. Even when the world has turned upside down, you can still count on Alabama and Tom Brady to win. It’s something, isn’t it?
10. The rise of Giannis
If the 1990s were the years Jordan ruled the NBA, the 2000s were Kobe’s and the 2010s were LeBron’s, then the 2020s are already shaping up to be Giannis’ decade. The Milwaukee jack-of-all-trades superstar has it all set in 2021, leading the Bucks to the NBA Championship while also establishing himself as the NBA’s social media superstar. Whether he’s dunking against the opposition, handing out shirts and shoes to young fans, or exhilarating over the discovery of milk-soaked Oreos, Antetokounmpo is the complete superstar package for the next one. decade.
9. An exodus from Messi
As big a star as Giannis is in the NBA, he, like most other American superstars, is just a tiny spot compared to soccer supernovas. Lionel Messi, one of the most famous human beings on the planet, rocked the interests of millions of fans when he left Barça to sign with Paris-St. Germain. The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner, one of the few billionaire athletes, will play in the red, white and blue PSG for at least two years, and PSG loyalists – as well as the team’s Qatari backers – hope Messi will deliver a Champions League trophy to Paris for the last time.
8. The WFT / Gruden scandal
The consequences have finally arrived in the ongoing workplace scandal involving the Washington football team … but, true to the whole story, the consequences landed on the head of someone who wasn’t even closely linked to the team. Raiders head coach Jon Gruden and brother of former WFT coach Jay Gruden got caught in a net sweeping more than 600,000 emails from Washington. Gruden’s racist and homophobic emails caused him to lose his 10-year contract in Las Vegas… and to this day he remains the sole victim of the league’s investigation into the WFT’s labor practices.
7. College football drama
In 2021, college football gave up the last of its claims to be a business beholden in any way to academics and sailed full speed into the waters of pure profit. Players were granted the right to use their own name, image and likeness; coaches, meanwhile, saw that profit and surged after incredible salaries. Oklahoma and Texas rocked the entire college football landscape by announcing a transfer plan to the SEC. Lincoln Riley and Brian Kelly rocked the coaching carousel from playoff-level jobs to other more lucrative and even more prestigious gigs. Oh, and Alabama finished year # 1. Some things never change.
6. Vax Requirements vs Star Athletes
Alpha-dog athletes don’t like being told what to do, whether it’s from coaches, front offices, fans, or a virus that has ravaged the entire planet. Even though the vaccine’s effectiveness held back the worst outcomes of the pandemic and restored a sense of normalcy to much of American life, many star athletes have resisted taking it. Citing a variety of reasons ranging from provocative to bogus to outright bogus, a small minority of athletes have dodged vaccine restrictions imposed by their leagues. Some were deceitful (Aaron Rodgers), some escaped their obligations (Antonio Brown) and some just took their sneakers and went home (Kyrie Irving). And everyone had nice, reasonable, measured conversations about it, of course.
5. Shohei Otani turns baseball upside down
Remember when baseball was fun? Over the past two decades, America’s national pastime has evolved into a cycle of exclusions and analyzes. In this grim quagmire, Shohei Otani, a man with a rocket arm and a redwood bat, wreaked havoc on both the mound and the plate like no one since Babe Ruth. Naturally, this being baseball, Ohtani was stuck on the hapless Angels, who even stink despite having the other best baseball player in Mike Trout. But if ever there was a need for an entire chain following a single player, it’s Ohtani.
4. Deshaun Watson’s Allegations Shake Up the NFL
One of the most talented and promising young quarterbacks in the NFL, Deshaun Watson entered the 2021 season unhappy with the direction of his team, the Houston Texans, and demanded a trade. But before the Texans could stage a swap, allegations of sexual abuse – 22 in all – irrevocably changed the course of Watson’s career. Watson has denied the accusations of several massage therapists who claimed to have harassed them, but the Texans chose to put Watson on the ice rather than play him. Cases won’t move forward until 2022, but Watson’s absence from the field has affected several teams, while accusers have failed to make their voices heard in court.
3. Simone Biles withdraws from Olympic events
As the COVID-delayed Tokyo Olympics approached, gymnast Simone Biles was set to star in the United States. Best gymnast on the world’s best gymnastics team, Biles looked gold-ready and acclaimed. But in the middle of her first event, Biles suddenly and unexpectedly withdrew, citing mental health issues. Her decision, which came literally with the eyes of the world on her, helped spark a national discussion about the value of mental and physical health.
2. The wreck of Tiger Woods
The news hit screens on the morning of February 23, with some initial details: Tiger Woods involved in traffic accident. He was on his way to a local golf course, filming a golf reality TV show, and his car pulled off the road, nearing double the speed limit on a notoriously twisty residential street. Officers at the scene said Woods’ survival was initially a question mark and his legs were so mutilated that amputation was apparently a possibility. Woods began a months-long rehab program out of the public eye and made a miraculous return to the golf course earlier this month alongside his son Charlie at a family tournament. Woods has said he will never play golf full time again, but his willpower remains unmatched.
1. Tom Brady’s Super Bowl victory
If football is a team game, how do you explain Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl victory? The Buccaneers hadn’t won more than 10 games in a season since 2005, hadn’t even made the playoffs since 2007, then they add Tom Brady and, boom, the Super Bowl champions. They were unlucky in this victory either; Brady took them through Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes. In Super Bowl LV, Brady’s Bucs scored 31 points over favored Kansas City while keeping Mahomes completely out of the end zone. Why is this the # 1 sports story of the year? Because somehow the older guys have managed to raise the bar even higher. There are stars, there are legends, and then there’s Tom Brady, here setting benchmarks no one will ever surpass.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him at [email protected]