The best thing I can say about 2020 is that it’s finally over.
This year, which will have just a little more than two days left in it by the time you read this, has been a nightmare in so many ways. If you and your family made it through this year realatively unscathed and unaffected by everything that has gone on, consider yourself lucky.
On the bright side, 2021 almost has to be better by default. At least, it’s highly unlikely that it will be any worse.
We lost the entire spring sports season in 2020, except for a few assorted games. The fall sports season was filled with games that were cancelled, rescheduled or put together at the last minute. Already, we’ve seen Grantsville cancel four boys basketball games, and Tooele play a boys basketball game in Morgan with just two regular varsity players available. Tooele’s swim team got shut down, and by the time Christmas break rolled around, Tooele and Stansbury high schools had pivoted to virtual learning.
The remainder of the winter sports season is still up in the air. We managed to dodge the predicted post-Thanksgiving surge, but with Christmas just past and New Year’s Eve still to come, and a test positivity rate north of 20%, we’re far from out of the woods. That’s why Jed Thomas and the Tooele boys basketball coaching staff opted to put together a team at the last minute to play that game against Morgan just before the break: there’s no guarantee of how much longer this season may last, so they might as well play as many games as they can now.
I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the season continues as planned, and we’re crowning state champions in February and March. It would be good for everyone involved. The community can get behind our local athletes and have something to cheer for, and the student-athletes can get a little slice of normalcy in a time that’s anything but normal.
Beyond the world of high-school sports. College and professional sports have gone through their own set of trials and tribulations. The Jazz were able to play their home opener with limited fans in the seats at Vivint Arena, while the University of Utah played its entire abbreviated football season in an empty Rice-Eccles Stadium and hasn’t had any fans for its basketball games at the Jon M. Huntsman Center. The National Basketball Association just tipped off its season last week, nearly two months behind schedule, while the National Hockey League will drop the puck on a shortened schedule next month — three months after the league’s typical October start. The vast majority of NBA and NHL teams are playing in empty buildings.
Here’s hoping that at some point in 2021, we can return to the stands again. Now that I’ve graduated, I would love to join my friends and fellow U of U alumni at a pregame tailgate party in the fall. I look forward to next winter, when the student sections at high school basketball games can be full once more.
Most of all, I’m hoping for a much better 2021. As I mentioned before, at least it can’t be any worse than the year we’ve just endured.
Darren Vaughan is a veteran sports writer from Moab, Utah. He feels bad for the fans who aren’t able to attend games this year. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.