Sports moments that capture the spirit of 2020

Grady Nance | Staff Writer

As this 10-car pileup of a year mercifully cedes to what will hopefully be a brighter future, I find a strange catharsis in reveling in the misery that the last 12 months brought upon us all. With sports being my only true supplier of emotion these days, I’d like to stretch an analogy or two and reminisce about 2020 in the language of sports blunders that simply should never happen. Their mere existence defies logic and convention. By all measures they should’ve been phased out of the game in the trial phase, but they sneak through like a meddlesome bug in the system. They’re a surprise toenail in your spaghetti, the rotten clam hiding in the back of your trunk for weeks and stinking up your (my) Honda Civic. Like 2020, they are unpleasant not only because of the misfortune they bring but also for the agonizing knowledge that they should never have happened in the first place.  

False start, everyone but the center 

While this one does have a fair explanation, I much prefer the idea that each offensive lineman happened to mess up on the exact same play in a sudden wave of ineptitude that leaves the center alone and looking very foolish, like he just got pantsed at the urinal mid-stream. It’s a mental error so uncommon that when it happens it’s almost worth it just to witness one—almost.  

National League pitchers who don’t take the bat off their shoulders  

It’s widely assumed that Major League Baseball will eventually phase out the pitcher from the batting order in the NL and opt for the universal DH in the near future—the shortened season even acted as a trial run for this to great success—but for now, let’s enjoy the magic. Yes, most of the time pitchers will strike out, hit a weak grounder or just lay down a bunt. But then you have your Bartolo Colon moments, when, against all odds, the pitcher does something outstanding to the absolute astonishment of everyone watching. It reigns supreme as the greatest “Did that really just happen?” moment in all of sports. So every time a pitcher goes up to the plate, sits in the back of the box and reads the paper while three meatballs pass him by, it breaks my heart a little more.  

Courtesy of Creative Commons / Gorbould

New York Mets pitcher Bartolo Colon heads down the first base line after hitting a tapper in front of home plate. Colon had a batting average of just .084 in 21 seasons.

Big men “shooting” three pointers with atrocious, sinful form.  

As soon as he gets the ball behind the three-point line, there’s a moment of serenity where everyone watching realizes what is about to happen. He’s lined it up perfectly; the nearest defender would need a plane ticket to get to him. This man, a 7-foot Stretch Armstrong with hands like baseball mitts, has waited for this moment all season, perhaps his entire life. And in a flourish of uncoordinated limbs and rickety joints, he shoots—well, it’s really more of a push—an absolute dart, a low line drive that bounces off the front of the rim knowing it had no chance of ever reaching its destination. The center must now retreat knowing he has disgraced his team, his family and the very game of basketball with a shot so appalling it should warrant a flagrant foul and a hefty fine.  

Hitting a golf ball into the water 

My entire understanding of golf and its many customs derives from a single viewing of “Happy Gilmore,” so I can only assume that when a ball is hit in the water, the golfer must dive in to retrieve it. As if sullying their Vineyard Vines polo shirt and freshly creased khaki shorts weren’t bad enough, the golfer must now deal with the absolute misery of walking around in wet socks for the remainder of the competition. This will undoubtedly affect every facet of their game, leading to a symphony of errant shots, missed putts and discourteous language. If a golfer can’t even handle any noise from their own fans, an afternoon of wet socks will unhinge them at their most basic level. 2020 has been that afternoon, and I am sick of my metaphorical shoes squishing every time I take a step.  

A gymnast just missing the landing 

I’ve heard someone argue that gymnastics is not a sport, but rather “athletics,” and therefore doesn’t fit here. I’m less draconian about definitions and feel it certainly warrants its place as a sport, but for our purposes it is merely a vessel for understanding the tragic farce that is human existence. Imagine, for a moment, a gymnast releasing from the bars after a flawless routine, spinning and twisting through the air with breathtaking clarity, as if humanity’s innate pursuit of perfection were crystallized in a fleeting moment. But as the ground nears, physics does the dirty work of the universe, and the poor gymnast comes face to face—literally—with their own futility as they overshoot their final flip and splatter themselves onto the padded floor with a crisp “SMACK.”  

Everything about the New York Jets 

While I feel this mostly needs no explanation, it is worth asking what Adam “Bundy eyes” Gase has on the front office of the Jets that has allowed him to keep his job for this long. iCloud leaks? A hostage? Whatever it is, it cannot possibly be more damaging to the organization than the product on the field. But hey, at least there’s Trevor Lawrence to look forward to, right? 

The list could go on, but like this year, I just want it to end, so hopefully you got some pleasure reveling in the weirdest, most obtuse moments in the sports world that match the manic energy of 2020. 

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