Disruption: 2020’s lasting legacy

A global pandemic that shuttered several aspects of society in 2020 was equally as devastating for the sporting world. Several events, such as the Olympics, were pushed back as the world grappled with COVID 19, while organizers struggled for a sense of normalcy.



December 30, 2020 - 9:18 AM

Jacksonville Jaguars fan cutouts wait for the game to start before the Jaguars vs. Bears game at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville Sunday. Photo by Matt Pendleton / Times Union / TNS

2020 reminded us that the show mustn’t always go on. Disrupted by the coronavirus, sports stopped cold three months in and then started up again in emptied-out stadiums, stumbling, skidding and finally staggering across the finish line — all the while shadowed by loss.

Celebrations were muted, crowd noise was piped-in and dozens of games were canceled at the last minute even as the sports industry hemorrhaged jobs. Facing increasingly long odds, some mega-events — the Olympics, March Madness, the Boston Marathon and Wimbledon — pushed the starting line into 2021. Those were hardly the only dislocations.

Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash in late January, and the toll of beloved figures we mourned kept mounting — Diego Maradona, Don Shula, John Thompson and Bob Gibson, among others — until Phil Niekro passed away two days after Christmas. But those moments of unity lasted only so long. Straining under the combined weight of a pandemic and a nationwide reckoning on race, the last few bricks in the wall between sports and politics crumbled and fans and athletes quickly chose sides — take Naomi Osaka, for one, who used her U.S. Open-winning run to speak out on racial injustice.

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