Sports

A sporting year to forget - or a year to remember?

Ogden column: Looking back at 2020 and ahead to 2021

Iowa wrestling coach Tom Brands keeps Spencer Lee loose before a match at last season's Big Ten Championships at Rutgers
Iowa wrestling coach Tom Brands keeps Spencer Lee loose before a match at last season’s Big Ten Championships at Rutgers Athletic Center Piscataway, N.J. This turned out to be one of the final winter championships of 2020. Iowa won the title, but was denied a shot at an NCAA championship because of the coronavirus. (Associated Press)

Welcome to the end of 2020.

A week from Thursday will be the final day of this forgettable year. But, in reality, it wasn’t all bad, was it?

As is custom this time of year, many websites, newspapers, TV and radio stations will look back at the year gone by over the next week. What were the top stories of the year, what will we remember for years to come?

We will take a look at the top Eastern Iowa stories of 2020 next week, so consider this a primer for what’s to come. On Saturday, our award-winning photo staff will share its favorite sports photos of the year.

So what were the unforgettable stories of 2020?

It appears the biggest sports story of the year could claim another victim before we put a bow on 2020. Without going very far out on a derecho-damaged limb, I bet the year will be most remembered for what didn’t happen. This crazy year was cruising along until March when the word “coronavirus” took hold of our lives and forced cancellations of NCAA winter championships and spring sports from youths to professionals.

Will the Iowa football team be the final shoe to drop this year? It appears a COVID-19 outbreak has sidelined several coaches and an untold number of players. A Music City Bowl matchup with Missouri, it would seem, is in jeopardy.

This virus has claimed things much more important than sporting events, but it’s hard not to think it cost the Iowa wrestling team a national championship, the Hawkeye men’s and women’s basketball teams deep NCAA tournament runs, countless high school athletes state championships in track and field, soccer, tennis and golf.

All three of Iowa’s public universities announced major financial struggles because of the shutdowns and Iowa eliminated men’s and women’s swimming, men’s gymnastics and men’s tennis.

The coronavirus wasn’t the only thing that brought us down in 2020. The derecho that hit Cedar Rapids and other communities in August did serious damage to the Memorial Stadium and ImOn Ice Arena, causing the RoughRiders to skip the 2020-21 United States Hockey League season. The Iowa football team got caught up in the racial strife that swept this country when several current and former Black players spoke out about inequality within Kirk Ferentz’s program, resulting in the firing of strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle.

Former Iowa basketball coach Lute Olson died in August at 85.

On the brighter side, another top story contender would be Iowa’s ability to successfully host high school baseball and softball seasons, not to mention a fall full of football, volleyball, cross country and girls’ swimming. The winter seasons have suffered from starts and stops, but a new year may bring a new beginning.

How about Iowa wrestling legend Dan Gable getting the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Iowa State winning the Big 12 regular-season football title and earning a spot in the Fiesta Bowl, Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs selected 13th in the NFL Draft or Hawkeye Spencer Lee winning the Sullivan Award as the top amateur athlete in the United States?

Other positives to think about include Iowa sweeping Big Ten Player of the Year honors in basketball, wrestling and indoor track and field, Luka Garza’s All-America basketball season for the Hawkeyes, a new pro hockey team coming to Coralville or the Cedar Rapids Kennedy softball team becoming the first Metro program to win a state title since 1998. Iowa City Regina returned to the top in high school football and Waukon also won a state title.

What are we missing? What are your thoughts?

As mentioned, we’ll list our top sports stories of the year next week, but I want to know what were your top sporting moments in 2020? Send me your list and, more importantly, your thoughts at the email address below.

A new year is just around the corner and we always look forward to the possibilities that brings — a vaccine that could bring back the “old normal,” an Iowa men’s basketball season with endless possibilities, a yet-to-be announced Hawkeye wrestling season that could bring a third NCAA title to Lee and the team crown back to Iowa City, a nine-win Cyclone football season with a win over Oregon.

This is the season of hope, so there’s nothing wrong with looking ahead with optimism.

Happy holidays.

Comments: (319) 398-8416; jr.ogden@thegazette.com

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Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.