It’s a new day, a new time, a new year, a new hope, a new Tribune.
2020 took so much out of us, too much away from us, but it gave us a few things, too.
Foremost among the calendar’s thievery was the loss of human life, the thousands of Utahns who died this past year from the pandemic, a tragic number added to the country’s hundreds of thousands, all of them, every single one, have and has been and will go on being mourned and missed, straight through this next year and every year thereafter.
Saying a premature goodbye to a loved one is a terrible thing to have to go through, particularly when that family member or friend is in isolation, and it was said that way far too often in 2020.
The tricks such a threat played on people’s minds, worried about their own well-being and the well-being of others, about their jobs and their ability to keep their businesses, their households afloat and their bills paid, exacted their toll, day by day, freeway exit by freeway exit. That burdened not so much the greedy, rather the moderate, the regular.
Social and racial injustice, and proper calls for their correction and elimination, and political and electoral divide troubled/affected/prompted everyone. Even something as simple as wearing a mask to protect others came into debate. So dumb. But those matters also made us think, and with any luck stirred more than a few to logical, helpful action.
All of that spilled over into lesser realms, primary to our interest here, sports.
Nobody had ever experienced sports the way they were presented, observed, endured — enjoyed? — over the past nine months, a time during which Donovan Mitchell, as one example, became almost as well known for his strong cries for racial justice as for his double-pump 360 dunks. Beginning with the Jazz at Oklahoma City on a fateful night in mid-March, the first of many fateful ones, schedules and seasons were put on ice and then rearranged, games canceled, athletes tested, stadiums emptied, bubbles created, crowd noise piped in, postgame interviews done via Zoom, nearly every bit of it seen through a screen, commercial breaks enabling quick escapes to the refrigerator rather than trips to the hot dog and taco and beer stands.
Fans were put in a kind of philosophical bind, wanting, trying, needing to lean into and on bits and pieces of what they in any normal year joyously plowed into as a means of distraction from the pressures of their lives — sports — and all the while knowing, with too much clarity, that what they were watching on the court, on the field, on the diamond was nowhere near as important as they wanted it to be.
Not with the world on fire.
That clouded everything. But it did not ruin it.
The games, at least some of them, were shoved into different places and forms and times — The Masters in November? The Kentucky Derby in September? The NBA Finals in October? — but some of them were saved.
The Olympics were pushed off for a year. Wimbledon was lost. The Boston Marathon was canceled for the first time in its 124-year history. Everything from rugby to table tennis to swimming was pushed, postponed, punctuated.
But Major League Baseball threw a form of its season together. NCAA football and basketball are bumping and skidding their way along, suffering disruption and causing some dissatisfaction.
Writing this is a little like giving a weather report on local news at 10 p.m., informing, no reminding an audience what it just lived through. But there’s a forecast, as well.
There is hope now for fewer clouds and more sunshine tomorrow, despite the uncomfortable cold of the day extending still. With vaccines becoming available in larger numbers, with more understanding about the coronavirus and how to treat it, maybe the pandemic will begin to ebb.
And if the pandemic ebbs, sports will transform back to what they’ve previously been — competition to be righteously and unrighteously immersed in, thrills to stir the heart and misery to wallow in, and, come what may, a respite from the hustle and bustle of normal existence.
Normal, eh? Sounds pretty good.
And whatever comes, a new version of The Salt Lake Tribune will be here to report it, process it, illustrate it, amplify it, comment on it. The weekly print edition, of which this is the first bite, will serve up in-depth reporting, writing, analysis across all subjects, and here in this section, on sports and everything that penetrates and surrounds them. The ample daily dish will continue online at sltrib.com.
A toast then, to better times ahead, to a safer, healthier, happier, more just Utah in 2021. Be they better or worse, you’ll read and understand and comprehend them, unvarnished, at greater lengths and widths, deeper depths and higher heights, in these pages than by way of written words found anywhere else.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 2-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.