2020 is a strange trip around the sun worthy of leaving the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia shaking his head and spinning in his grave.
As a kid, I unofficially marked time by major sporting events. February brought baseball’s pitchers and catchers to Spring Training. April and the arrival of the Masters’ golf tournament reminded me the Midwest winter could be in the rearview mirror. And Memorial Day brought the Indy 500 auto race — and the official dropping of the flag in summer.
This year, I am so confused I might as well scrap the months’ names — I’m disoriented when reading the sports pages.
We are on Labor Day weekend, a traditional end to the summer, and the Kentucky Derby is lining up to run. Basketball is in full swing, and the Indy 500 ran last week.
If I didn’t know any better, I’d think I am in an alternate universe where Christmas in July is not just an advertising slogan.
This year basketball is playing the NBA season inside a bubble in Disney World. Baseball games now play extra innings with a runner on second base. And artificial intelligence is feeding crowd noise levels during games. Add in cutout cardboard fans to the equation, and you need to question what the future holds.
College football, depending on your conference of choice, is not going to welcome in cooler Saturdays. Even high school football, the traditional occupying force of Friday nights across America, is in flux.
I realize we are in the middle of the worst health challenge in generations, but this is unsettling for most of us. While one side of our brains obeyed the written calendar, the other side of our minds swam in the warm waters of sports marking time.
Up until now, the most famous asterisk stood next to New York Yankee Roger Marris, whose 61st home run finally surpassed Babe Ruth’s long-standing record of 60 in one season. The asterisk, for decades, eroded the accomplishment because the season was a few games longer. But the merit, number of home runs in a season, was literally correct.
So what happens in 2021, if we ever get back to a semblance of normal? Will records or accomplishments be forever stained with the asterisk, denoting the achievement occurred under a cloud of conditions?
Could statisticians claim the humidity was higher for the 2020 Indy 500 because it ran in July? What might a fan say about a player hitting .400 in a season of only 60 games? Or if a record for consecutive free throws in basketball happens, does the sterile bubble change anything?
This week as the Kentucky Derby runs in August instead of May and the Tour de France races now instead of June, how will history judge these accomplishments?
As if my brain needed another challenge, the sports statistics might never be the same, as 2020 becomes the asterisks of our generation. Let’s hope in 2021 Jerry Garcia returns to resting in peace.