2020 was a strange year in sports.
How’s that for an understatement? For a seven-word sentence that can’t begin to tell the story?
In truth, it was a year that transcends a dictionary definition. It was the year sports stopped, then restarted, but were never quite the same — waylaid by the systematically crippling coronavirus. It was the year of bubbles, and wubbles, of masks and lonely mascots surrounded by empty seats. It was the year of cardboard cutouts and artificial crowd noise. It was the year when silent snap counts were no longer necessary.
It was the year of social justice statements — in the streets, on uniforms, and everywhere in between.
It was a year with an unfamiliar sports calendar — when The Masters was in November, the Indianapolis 500 was in August and the NCAA tournament and Wimbledon were nowhere to be found.
In baseball, it was the year of the 60-game sprint. It was also a year when Kyle Lewis climbed fences — sometimes, while inhaling medically inadvisable servings of smoke. The 25-year-old Mariners center fielder hit .262 with 11 homers, 28 RBI and five stolen bases — en route to being named American League Rookie of the Year.
It was the year Russell Wilson was finally, emphatically allowed to cook — at least, for a little while. The Seahawks quarterback averaged 300.4 passing yards, with 19 touchdowns and three interceptions, in his first five games … but just 256 passing yards with 18 TDs and 10 picks in the next nine.
It was the year DK Metcalf iconically corralled Cardinals safety Budda Baker, and Jamal Adams and Carlos Dunlap provided lifeboats for a sinking Seahawks D.
It was the year Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird took the WNBA by Storm (again), and added a fourth WNBA championship to Seattle’s collection. (And several months later, the Sounders could not do the same.)
It was the year Zion Tupuola-Fetui — “ZTF” — became a household name (and set of initials) for Husky football fans. The 280-pound pass rusher with the bleached blond hair compiled seven sacks and three forced fumbles in just four games, leading the entire country with 1.75 sacks per game.
Unfortunately, it was also the year of college football cancellations — of conference-only seasons and rushed replacement games. For the first time since 1944, it was a year without an Apple Cup. When UW hosted Utah instead on Nov. 28, a pair of Coug flags flew defiantly from a boat in Husky Harbor.
Games can be canceled, but the rivalry remains.
It was a year when Washington won the Pac-12 North, Oregon won the Pac-12 and it didn’t feel like anyone won anything at all.
It was the year NHL Seattle officially became the Kraken, for better or worse.
Without traditional sports on television for long stretches of time, it was unexpectedly the year of “Jelle’s Marble Runs” — a marble racing outfit whose YouTube views increased by 339% over three days in March, according to Front Office Sports. In a fit of marble madness, the YouTube channel has gained nearly 650,000 subscribers in the last nine months — sitting currently at 1.29 million subscribers, 667,000 more than the MLS.
It was the year of the spring sports substitute, of documentaries like “The Last Dance” that provided weekly drops of water in a bone-dry desert. And, if you were willing to watch at 2:30 a.m., it was the year of the Korean Baseball Organization on ESPN.
It was the year of so many indelible images, of Andy Reid’s foggy face shield and the four confused fingers of 43-year-old quarterback Tom Brady — who, by the way, is now a Buccaneer. It was the year Dodgers reliever Joe Kelly mocked the Houston Astros, and quickly became a meme (and a mural!). It was the year of Zoom news conferences and drive-in watch parties and silent sports bars and empty parking lots.
In many ways, it was a year to forget — and a year to persevere.
But the best thing about 2020? That’s easy:
Hopefully, the next chapter won’t be quite so challenging — and we’ll all see each other in stadiums soon.