Additional Reporting from Garrett Dzubiek
As the new year is right around the corner, 2021 will be remembered for many things, but its historic occurrences in sports might be the one thing that sets these past 12 months apart from the rest. From shattered records to the underdogs prevailing in nearly all major sports leagues, this year has been very different from the rest.
The year started off with a bang after the Alabama Crimson Tide took home the College Football National Championship in a landslide, defeating the Ohio State Buckeyes 52-24 on January 11, 2021. While Alabama was the favorite, the game was predicted to be much closer than it turned out to be.
Football primarily stole the early stage, sadly enough with the Browns defeating the Steelers, 48-37, in the AFC Wildcard, ending their 25-year playoff drought and the Steelers’ season.
While there weren’t any more big games in January, the year would pick up again in February with Super Bowl LV. The powerhouse group of the Kansas City Chiefs would take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
This would also be the first time in NFL history that a team would play a Super Bowl in their home stadium, with the game being played in Tampa Bay. Tom Brady solidified his G.O.A.T status by winning the Super Bowl with his new team, the Buccaneers, in his first season since leaving the New England Patriots. The Buccaneers would defeat the Chiefs 31-9 in a one-sided affair. Brady recorded his 7th Super Bowl title, more than any other franchise, let alone one player.
“I think that after this Super Bowl, there just isn’t a debate,” began Freshman Landon Pfeil. “He is the greatest of all time, and he has more rings than any other team.”
Also in February, Tiger Woods, arguably the greatest golfer of all time, found himself in a hospital bed for three weeks following a high-speed roll-over on the highway. Luckily, he is nearing a full recovery, and just recently, the five-time Master’s winner was seen walking, and he even posted a video on social media of him hitting golf balls for the first time since the accident. Many hope to see the legend out on the course once again soon.
March had its annual NCAA Basketball tournament, widely known as “March Madness”. This year’s tournament was special though, as they were able to have fans back to watch as Covid destroyed it last year.
April saw the ending of March Madness, with Gonzaga’s Jalen Suggs hitting an incredible half-court buzzer-beater to send the Zags to the championship over Michigan. However, in the championship, Baylor would go on to destroy Gonzaga, winning 86-70. It also had the MLB Opening Day on April 1st.
April also stood out to many of the fans, when the Texas Rangers held the first event with spectators since the beginning of the pandemic.
“I think this year is special because it is the first year that we get big crowds back,” started junior Dylan Gardner, a member of the Avonworth basketball team. “Last year we didn’t have anyone in attendance, so it is just special to hear the fans again.”
May was remembered as a month, not for its athletic greatness, but what athletes do off the field that sets them apart from the rest. Globally recognized athletes like LeBron James, who consistently shares his thoughts about social issues in the U.S, opened up about the Chauvin case, one that shook so many Americans.
He also received a lot of backlash over a tweet he shared at the end of April. The tweet was directed towards the police officer that shot and killed 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant, and included a picture of the officer with the caption reading, “YOU’RE NEXT #ACCOUNTABILITY.”
June was a relatively quiet month, with few moments sticking out beside the U.S Open, won by John Rahm, and the start of the Stanley Cup FInals.
July held the NBA championship, featuring the Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks. The Suns wound up in the finals after coming off a 50 win season, a surprise to many, considering that they finished dead last in the league just two years before.
The Bucks dominated their way to the big game, with their former league MVP in Giannis Antetekoumpo, yet they hadn’t won a title in over half a century, since the days of the Sky-Hook.
July also had the last half of the Stanley Cup Finals, in which the Tampa Bay Lightning defended their title as they defeated the Montreal Canadiens in five games.
The Pirates cemented their tradition of losing, especially in August, when they went 2-16 over the three weeks of the month.
August also witnessed the beginning of what will likely be the end of Ben Roethlisberger’s run, one filled with two Super Bowls, numerous records, and a guaranteed spot in Canton.
In the later half of October, and even a few days into November, the Houston Astros and the Atlanta Braves faced off on America’s highest stage. A controversial series, considering the Astros had won the World Series just a few years prior, but in the midst of cheating, leading to hate from around the league, unhappy about the team’s unfair fortune.
Nearly every fan outside of Houston was rooting for the Braves, so the baseball world felt a sigh of relief after the Braves took home the trophy.
This was very unexpected, as the Braves were below .500 going into the all-star break, and their best player, Ronald Acuna Jr., suffered a season ending injury just a couple of games before the all-star break. Add on top of this ace pitcher Mike Soroka re-tore his ACL at the start of the season, star outfielder Marcell Ozuna being arrested on domestic abuse charges, and having the worst record of the teams in the playoffs, both NL and AL Some key trade deadline acquisitions would boost the team back to winning, and ended with a championship.
While all of this was going on, the Las Vegas Raiders seemed like they were falling apart. Their head coach, Jon Gruden, was forced to resign after evidence was leaked of him being racist, homophobic, and misogynistic. Just a couple of weeks later, star wide receiver Henry Ruggs III was involved in a fatal car accident. Ruggs, who was a first-round pick just a year earlier, was charged with DUI resulting in death and is facing up to 50 years in prison. It was revealed that Ruggs was traveling at 156 MPH before the collision.
With no more major events in the year, we can start to wrap up the sporting world of 2021, and there’s a lot to wrap. It was an exhilarating year of joy, disappointment, shock, triumph, and defeat. We can only hope for 2022 to bring the excitement that 2021 brought.