2016 Sports Year In Review
Every year about this time, I write my year in review post. It’s filled with reflections, thoughts, predictions and my thanks. Usually, the predictions are doomed to fail. The reflections and thoughts are based on observation with what I hope is a discerning eye and open mind.
2016 was a year of personal challenge. That’s a good thing. I don’t want to stay the same person I was years ago, with the same old stagnant thinking and actions. But, it was a personal challenge in that I wasn’t able to write as much as before. But, some of what I did write had a unique point of view (links below).
For some reason, this 2016 year in review is a bit longer than in years past. Maybe it’s because I didn’t write as much and I’ve saved it all up for year’s end. Whatever the case, I hope you can set aside some time to read this – what I hope is a – unique perspective on my 2016 Sports Year in Review.
MOURNING THE LOSSES
Hey 2016 – Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
As a keen observer and curator of social conversations, I’d imagine that this is the sentiment of many as we come to the end of the year. 2016 was tumultuous in many respects and not just from the political front.
What seemed like a somber start to the year with the deaths of David Bowie, Abe Vigoda and Glenn Frey in January only continued with the deaths of many other notables and icons that affected many in and outside of sports.
Dave Mirra and Maurice White (February)
Bud Collins, Joe Garagiola, Johann Cruyff, actress Patty Duke and comedian Gary Shandling (March)
Prince and Dwayne “Pearl” Washington (April)
Muhammad Ali, Pat Summitt, Gordie Howe, Buddy Ryan and Kimbo Slice (June)
Director & producer Garry Marshall, NBA’er Nate Thurmond and Coach Dennis Green (July)
ESPN broadcaster John Saunders and actor Gene Wilder (August)
Jose Fernandez, Arnold Palmer (September)
Dennis Byrd (October)
Florence Henderson (November)
John Glenn, Alan Thicke, Carrie Fischer (December)
Just when you thought we’d seen enough, 2016 had to go out on full….
- RELATED: Notable Sports Deaths 2016 – Newsday
- RELATED: People We’ve Lost in 2016 – CNN
That’s an exhaustive list in itself but it does not do 2016 justice in terms of the talent and impact lost this past year.
As I read through the sentiments and tweets about Craig Sager, I thought about what was being said. Sager had a zest for life. By all accounts, he treated people with respect. He dared to – no, not be different – be himself.
How many of those who tweeted about Sager put those same characteristics into practice in our own lives?
More on 2016 in a bit.
On December 21, I cried.
I cried because I read these words, “Grandma, call him again! Call him again!”.
A former NFL players was found dead in his home. In a Detroit News article detailing the death of Robert Eddins, the words of his son jumped off the screen.
“Grandma, call him again! Call him again!”.
We saw a lot of death in 2016. Or, it felt like we did. Feelings of sadness and mourning and melancholy for those who impacted our lives somewhere along the way. And, feelings of anger and outrage at those whose lives were ended in controversy.
But, what of those left behind? What of those left behind when it’s a killing that has taken a life?
“Grandma, call him again! Call him again!”.
Does our need for justice outweigh our responsibility to empathize? Do our rights and our personal opinions/beliefs come before human decency? They make for “great” tweets and story links down the road, but what about in the day-to-day aftermath? Are we moved enough to act instead of tweet/post/snap/share?
“Grandma, call him again! Call him again!”.
I’m looking in the mirror.
Bad Advice In Journalism
When historians look back at 2016, they might see it as a critical juncture in journalism. Social media has given an platform to journalists to freely express their personal opinions and belief. Nowhere was this more evident than on Twitter.
The recent U.S. election highlighted a crossing-of-the-line, if you will, in journalism. In the sports realm alone, professors, editors, national and international writers decided they were going to use it to tweet their voting preferences AND condemn those who disagreed with their choice.
Some even preached a “DON’T stick to sports” mantra as we inched closer to the November elections.
There’s only one problem with that advice.
It’s missing a key point.
Anyone who knows anything about social media, Twitter especially, should know that it is a reflection of society. People from all walks of life – all races, cultures, beliefs – who have learned about life in vastly different ways.
I’ve called Twitter the “World’s Largest Sports Bar” for years. As it has grown, it’s evolved into the “World’s Largest Sports Bar” meets the “World’s Largest Message Board”. Sports media, as a whole, who are the driving force of Twitter understand this best.
Or, in other words, it’s a reflection of society.
I am not advocating the “stick to sports” mantra. Nor am I saying “don’t stick to sports”. Having been on social media for the past 10 years, I know where of I speak when I say it’s a reflection of society.
I’ve seen the highs and lows. I’ve seen the bullying tactics of fans, celebrities, media and various generations. I’ve seen the rallying for a cause or people coming together to help others. I’ve seen Twitter fights and social media reunions.
The choice – and make no mistake, Twitter, Facebook…they’re all choices YOU make – is much more complex when you realize it’s not just an American society that you interact with. It’s all of the societies of the world.
Don’t want to stick to sports? Fine. But, be prepared.
- Be prepared for people who don’t think like you.
- Be prepared for people who don’t hold the same beliefs like you.
- Be prepared for people to misunderstand 140 characters. What you think you are saying in a tweet doesn’t always come across as what you mean…especially when sarcasm is used. Not everyone lives, eat & breathes Twitter (social media) like those who work in sports media.
- Be prepared for people who interpret a story one way while you interpret it another way.
- Be prepared for those who don’t believe that your thinking can evolve from a one year, five or even ten years ago.
- Be prepared for those who see that you don’t stick to sports and judge you accordingly.
- Be prepared for fellow media members calling you out because you’re sticking/not sticking to sports.
- Be prepared for angry fans who see your opinions on non-sports topics and view that as a biased point of view on sports topics.
- Be prepared for angry media members who don’t stick to sports lashing out at other media members who don’t stick to sports only because they think differently.
- Be prepared for disagreement. It can come from anywhere in the world.
Media is responsible for telling the story. There once was a thought that they shouldn’t become part of the story.
Thanks to social media, that belief is history.
From “lap dances” to journalist bans to mean tweets, media themselves became more of the story in 2016. With it, media sites like Awful Announcing have joined the ranks of Sports Illustrated (Richard Deitsch’s Media Circus) and The Big Lead as go-to sources for sports media stories.
The changing landscape of sports journalism is tough to keep up with. On the one hand, we have people (media included) only getting their news from social media (without reading the story), major sports site editorial failures or reporters getting lap-dances from athletes (prompting Twitter feuds).
On the other, there were some incredible pieces written this year. Like these (see links in tweet):
A little non-sports, but worth a read. Would apply to many Latino athletes in American sports.
I do not foresee this type of story-telling going away soon. But, if the aforementioned professors, instructors and media members are teaching the next generation of sports journalists to “not” stick to sports, what are we left with?
Are we left with sports media that care more about their opinions, their wants and their need to be right than they do the story? Make no mistake, this is where we are and continue to head in sports media today:
The older I get, the more I care about being a voice. Not just any voice. But, a voice for the voiceless. One area that I am trying to be that for is with Latinas In Sports.
Look across the sports landscape in women’s sports in America or, better yet, look at the coverage of women’s sports and you’d be hard pressed to find much talk about the Latinas.
No other sport is giving Latinas greater exposure to sports fans than in MMA.
Prior to 2015, there was Ronda Rousey (who has some Latina in her) and everybody else. Today, there’s the reigning UFC Bantamweight champ, Amanda Nunes (Brazil), Americans Rousey (#1 Bantamweight), Julianna Peña (Bantamweight #3) and Marion Reneau (#12), Brazilians Cat Zingano (#6), Bethe Correia (#9) and Claudia Gadelha (Featherweight #1)…
just to name a few…
UFC 207 which takes place this Friday will feature two Latinas fighting for the championship. We will see the return of Rousey after a lengthy hiatus as she challenges the champ Nunes. The question I have is will we see anyone talking about their heritage? If Rousey wins, will sports sites call her white like some have done in the past? Or, will they give her Latina heritage a nod?
That’s the point of the hashtag and Twitter account I created, #LatinasInSports. Bring recognition to the women in sports on the field, court, pitch or in the media.
Thankfully, we had the Rio Olympics to help tell our stories.
- Maya DiRado – USA – 4 medals in Swimming
- Diana Taurausi – USA – Gold in Basketball (again)
- Mariana Pajón – Brazil – Gold in BMX
- Caterine Ibargüen – Brazil – Gold in Triple Jump
- Laurie Hernandez – USA – 2 medals in Artistic Gymnastics
- Paula Pareto – Argentina – Gold in Judo
- Rafaela Silva – Brazil – Gold in Judo
- Maggie Steffens – USA – Gold in Water Polo
- Sarah Robles – USA – Bronze in Weightlifting
Felicidades to all of these athletes. However, for my money, there were two stories that stood out above the rest for Latinas:
When you become the first-ever to win a gold medal for your country…mucho mucho respeto!
And…when you’re the first-ever female MLB analyst at ESPN…and you happen to be Latina…mucho respeto por ti, tambien, Jessica!
Death is no respecter of race, religion, age or skin color. It has no regard for status or notoriety. History? Death writes it own history.
As I referenced earlier, 2016 disregarded race, religion, age, skin color, history. It thumbed its nose at everyone. Death put an exclamation point on this year with what transpired on November 28, 2016.
They were riding the wave of history, this small club out of Chapecó, Santa Catarina in western Brazil. Associação Chapecoense de Futebol had risen to the top flight of Brazilian fútbol (Serie A)
One minute they are on the verge of history, the next a new history is written. As Yahoo’s Eric Adelson put it, “The Copa Sudamericana final was to be the biggest moment in the history of the soccer club”. Instead, we were left to mourn and wonder.
How? Why? Players, coaches, journalists, airline crew – gone.
How? Why? A city left in sorrow.
How? Why? The world cries out.
Death is no respecter of anything or anyone. 2016 solidified that point a thousand times over. But, to take a team and media members like this – a plane running out of fuel – when they are on the precipice of legend…
Chapecoense was awarded the Copa Sudamericana trophy. Football teams from around the world poured in with their condolences and assistance. Individual players like Ronaldinho stepped up to help the club both now and in the future.
For as much as we mourned briefly, the town of Chapecó will continue to mourn forever. Hope and joy were lost with the crashing of that plane. Mourning has no expiration date.
A new season will roll around in 2017. Maybe the next squad, with assistance to play from around the globe, will reach the Copa Sudamericana again next season (what a story that would be). Or, maybe ten years down the road. Or, maybe never.
As each day, week, month and year pass, maybe a little hope and joy will be restored to Chapecó. Until then…
Top Tweets from 2016
My Raider fandom:
One of my favorite people to follow on Twitter. Amy Trask gets me:
Ahh, the same name club strikes again
Well…he wasn’t wrong
2016 got you down? Go into 2017 with a new attitude – “I Got This”
Valid questions for all of us
Kids with their athlete parents – it’s getting dusty in here
*** Sigh ***
My favorite tweet comes at the end of the year.
Before we predict, we must acquit… slow clap …ourselves for our 2016 predictions. Before that, however, let’s take a look at what I predicted for 2016.
Well, let’s see….
- Virtual Reality was huge: Snapchat Spectacles, anyone?
- FIFA Presidency had plenty of scandal surrounding it.
- Drone legislation? Check
- Olympics and technology: Miss
- UFC – Women’s growth: Oh yeah!!
- Athlete involvement in the election. Two words: Donald Trump
- Major gambling scandal: Tennis, Soccer, Japanese baseball
- Increased money to NCAA athletes: Meh
- Domestic violence news in other countries: Mostly American stories making news elsewhere
- MLB: Nope. Still not making any headway with the younger demo.
- Twitter Edit feature: I like dreaming
Purely luck on some of these predictions that came true. Do I dare have anything to say about 2017? Of course I do – #predictionsdoomedtofail:
- Sports Media #1: Popularity of live, especially Facebook Live, will see a slow shift away from Twitter as the sports behemoth of social media.
- Sports Media #2: Without some serious evolving in 2017, Twitter will become less popular with sports media.
- Social Media: Twitter will be bought by…Amazon. (Cue, lol emoji.)
- E-Sports: Seems like it’s exploded already but we ain’t seen nothing yet like we will in 2017 with e-sports.
- “Reality” check: Pokemon was a big hit this past year. But, will Augmented Reality hit it big in sports? Maybe.
- Medical Advancement: There will be a major breakthrough that will shake one or more sports to its very core.
- Business: Marketing by teams, leagues, athletes will become less one-to-one and more generalized like the old days. Think: LinkedIn or a similar, new LI-type platform.
- Minor league sports: One or more will be in financial trouble in the U.S.
- Sports Ratings #1: Declining ratings won’t be just in the NFL anymore. Unless…
- Sports Ratings #2: Criteria will finally be developed to measure all ways to watch a show or event, including on social media.
- Politics and sports: We will see these two intersect in ways we never have before around the world. It might not be pretty.
- Officiating: Less human, more tech in the 2017-18 seasons of at least 3 major sports around the globe.
- Emojis Rule: Yes, I’m a little biased, but 2017 will be the year of the emojis. Animated emojis.
- Athlete scandals: 2016 will be tame compared to what we will see in 2017.
- Mariners, World Series Champs: I’d rather dream about this than a Twitter edit feature.
Years like these should challenge us. Challenge us to be and do better each day. Treat people with kindness and respect, even when we don’t agree with them. I can hear people now, “Respect is earned”.
Sorry, there are different levels of respect.
You can respect someone for their business sense, work ethic, parenting, etc… But, the kind of respect I’m talking about has to do with respect of a fellow human being. Respect others as people.
What would happen if we taught the next generation to respect themselves and others for simply being a living, breathing human being? What would happen if we taught them that they and others have value just by being alive?
Do you think that would help facilitate an end to racism, sexism and any other -ism you might want to throw in? If we teach our kids to respectfully disagree with someone while still maintaining their personal beliefs, what kind of country and world would this be? Instead of digging in our heels to prove “we are right”, what if we invest in the future with intentional teaching?
What does this have to do with sports? It has everything to do with it in this social media age we live in today. If we don’t prepare the next generation of sports media, athletes, marketers, business people, owners and more, the future of sports will become an afterthought.
We need to put an end to sweeping generalizations about any demographic group. Not all blacks are thugs. Not all whites are racist. Not all Hispanics are immigrants. Not all Native Americans are alcoholics. Not all Asians are education-oriented. Not all women are “angry” feminists. Not all men are egotistical misogynists.
Not all (insert demographic group here) are (insert corresponding description here).
Sweeping generalizations stifles dialogue. It doesn’t help promote it. When we do this, we show how much we value our own opinion over others.
Not everything is a black-and-white issue. Not every story should be looked at in a this-or-that/either-or/us-or-them point of view. That’s when sweeping generalizations happen.
Three of the most important pieces I wrote this year had to do with race/culture. None were what you would call a black-and-white issue.
This part of the post is always hard. It’s getting harder to remember all of the people who made an impact on me over the past year without writing it down somewhere. And, well, I forgot to do that.
Yes, that means I’m getting old. But, part of it is also because I was busy this year in my regular, non-writing job. Busier than in years past. That’s no excuse, but if I forget your name…..LO SIENTO MUCHO!
This list of people includes those who have been a part of my 2016 year whether it was through work or otherwise. Who are they?
- I don’t surround myself with only those I agree with. I appreciate people who make me think.
- I enjoy conversations with those who can make me laugh on a continual basis too.
- Those who took an interest in what I did or said – they’re on here.
- And, some on here kept me updated on sports I wanted to know about but didn’t have time beyond checking Twitter.
- Finally, some, well, I just couldn’t imagine this list without them.
In no particular order, I am grateful for all of you and I say thank you. May your 2017 be blessed.
- Vicente Fernandez
- Aymara Del Aguila
- Mi Sportsmanias Familia
- Jose Romero
- Yussuf Khan
- Alejandro Danois
- Cindy Hval
- Tariq Ahmad
- Russell Baxter
- Tom Buchheim
- Derrick Docket
- Joe Favorito
- Pam Chvotkin
- Dave Cook and the Eastern Washington family
- Bob McKamey
- Jeff Mason
- Dayna O’Gorman
- Travis Bell
- Joe Scott
- Gyasi Ross
- Amy Trask
- Cesar Hernandez
- Tom Harrison
- Jimmy Sanderson
- Andrea Canales
- Jessica Lopez
- Joshua Decker
- Kelly Mosier
- Katie Cavender
- Jason Clinkscales
- Russ Cohen
- Jonny Rico Aviles
- Freddie Coleman
- Lisa Bianchi
- Marissa O’Connor
- Mario Flores
- Mike Freeman
- Dave Zorn
- Paola Boivin
- Young Kwak
- Myk Crawford
- Ann Pegoraro
- Emily Sutherland
- Cassie Devaney
- My Google Hangout/Chat buddies