A Game of Two Halves
Let’s not fuck about here, COVID happened. What started out as a year with huge potential turned out to be an absolute catastrophe for everything. It started out promising, Liverpool were set for a huge victory in the Premier League, Sam Cane was named the All Blacks Captain, Golden State were finally losing some basketball and the Olympics were primed and ready for Japan. The introduction of the Coronavirus in most countries around the world saw the collapse of everyone’s favourite sport in a domino effect of disappointment. That being said, the return of sports, and the fashion in which it returned, has been one of the few positive takeaways of 2020. Sports are back and better than ever kids.
THE FIRST HALF
March brought with it the news that the footy season was binned. We didn’t get anything close to Super Rugby back until the Aotearoa competition started up, and even then it was just Warren Gatland fucking the Chiefs harder than a pandemic ever could.
April rolls around, we get a couple of NBA games cancelled here and there, no biggy, we’ll catch the next one. We didn’t get that back until August.
Then the Premier League gets put on hold in the middle of a historic Liverpool cleanout of the league. The Olympics got scrapped for 2020 around the same time, everything else followed suit pretty soon after.
Oh, and Kobe Bryant died, that’s a big one.
Sports getting cancelled left some serious doubts in the Nexus office.
The Beginning of the End
Being in charge of sports for the magazine, I was aware that there was a serious lack of fuel to add the fire of the weekly sports segment in early March, just before the University’s closure. I knew we were getting desperate when we started making bets on the Turkish Football League and trying to include it within the weeks content. We reached rock bottom when we began brainstorming some wounding ideas to cover in an article, “Just how many models did Tiger Woods cheat with?”, “What kind of piece was Bill Clinton packing?”, “Can we hold a fishing show on the campus lake?”. Needless to say, I think we’re all relieved we never had to produce that content.
Getting Our Fix
Like a patient recently taken off their opioid painkillers, we turned to the cheaper stuff, the dirtier stuff, the stuff to hit that spot that just wasn’t getting hit. Documentaries, replays, Throwback-Thursdays were all we could muster. This faux-sport reached its climax with “The Last Dance”. Despite getting most of his 2020 Netflix-thunder stolen by a psycho cat lady and her exotic nemesis, Michael Jordan’s Last Dance seemed to be a glimmer of hope in the sportless world. We learned of the evil genius that was Micahel Jordan, his trials and tribulations, his gambling habit and how he always “took it personal”. Our feeble Gen Z brains even started to weigh in with “wow I guess he is better than LeBron”.
THE SECOND HALF
The sports we all know and love came back to us as New Zealand got rid of the virus and America couldn’t be fucked trying anymore. It was finally the end of beginning.
The End of the Beginning
Super rugby Aotearoa was fucking amazing for anyone outside of the greater Waikato area. 2020 kept to its familiar theme of treating people like shit by destroying any shred of mana that remained in the Chiefs and letting the Crusaders in with another title. Although it stuck to the familiar “Crusaders-beating-everyone” story I think we can all agree that cutting the bullshit and just seeing the five best teams in the competition play each other week in, week out was an exciting change of pace. Compare that to watching the Reds get blown out by a Beauden-less Blues squad every other week like we would in the normal competition and there’s no comparison. The Provincial Cup is also back and, unlike the Chiefs, Waikato are actually looking pretty solid, having only lost one game to a top-of-the-table Tasman side. Not having the All Blacks whisked away to camp has seen the beginning of the season play host to some genuinely decent games.
America Gives Up
The United States basically just gave up on the fight against the virus and bought back some of the sports we love. 200,000 people dead? Oh well, fuck it, heres the basketball. You’re welcome planet Earth.
At the time of writing, the NBA is back and better than ever. This year is the first interesting playoffs since about 2008. With the Warriors old and injured and LeBron old and uninjured, this is turning out to be one of the best, most unpredictable seasons in recent memory and we probably have COVID (and Kevin Durant) to thank for that. The Lakers are back in the finals, this year being LeBron’s tenth shot at it and with his third team. The Heat and Celtics battled it out and both teams are changing the narrative on what an NBA basketball team should look like. Both teams are incredibly deep with young, versatile players. Their success is a product of teamwork and great leadership. Picking a team to win that series is something even an expert punter would have struggled to do.
The same can be said with the finals match up which is now, thankfully, set in stone. The top-heavy Lakers will be playing the aforementioned young and deep Miami roster. No one can pick a winner and if that doesn’t excite you, you haven’t had to suffer much this year. That being said, some icing on the cake that would have made 2020 a tolerable year for sports would have been a classic Lakers – Celtics NBA finals.
NBA coming back was one thing sure, but the NFL coming back is the biggest “fuck you” to the virus that America could have thought of. There was literally no way that that country was letting a virus take its winter of drinking, breaking shit and watching 22 people give each other CTE for a couple of hours a week. The seasons off to a different start. Sure, it’s weird seeing Americans out drinking, partying and generally being stupid in the world of COVID, but it’s even weirder seeing Tom Brady in a Buccanners uniform.
Football and Other Combat Sports
Football is back and we’ve learned that no crowds are needed to keep the passion alive for the world’s most popular game. The English Premier League is attracting record amounts of TV viewership and Liverpool is back in it’s familiar spot near the top of the table.
The UFC (the only sport to recognise just how fucked America was) got out of Dodge while the getting was still good, setting up shop on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi. At UFC 253 last weekend we all got to experience the clinical way in which Israel Adesanya beats the shit out of people.
As a whole, the sports of 2020 was a mixed bag of events. It had its peaks and pits, more so than any other year. Sure, it got scrapped for half the year and we had our doubts about it’s return but now that it’s back, we’ve finally got a glimpse into the hopefully not too distant future where Corona is a beer and not a reason to lock grandma away. The sports that are back now are some of the most entertaining events in years. Fuck you 2020, but not your sports.