Here's a dumb statement for you: What a year it's been!
It's hard to even write an opening paragraph to set up this column in which we're going to look back at the best, worst and most noteworthy of 2020. The sports world completely changed on the night of March 11, when Utah Jazz forward Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. That positive test shut down sports for a long time. The NCAA Tournament was done. The XFL went out of business. Baseball's Opening Day was wiped out.
Luckily, sports eventually returned months later and we were able to get back to some normalcy, at least where sports are concerned. Things were still completely screwed up (hello, college football and your complete joke of a season), but enough happened—good and bad—that we can still hand out some awards.
MOST HILARIOUS SPORTS LAWSUIT OF THE YEAR
It's hard to remember some things that happened pre-pandemic, but before COVID-19 took over the sports world, one man filed a lawsuit against the NFL because he claimed the shaking and gyrating of Jennifer Lopez and Shakira put his life "in danger of hellfire," and that the NFL "let that spirit in my house" while the Super Bowl LIV halftime show was "pandering pornography" and "contributing to the delinquency of a minor."
CONTRACT OF THE YEAR
Another thing that happened before the pandemic: CBS forking over more than $17 million per year to retain the services of its top NFL analyst, Tony Romo. With ESPN trying to revamp Monday Night Football at the time, Romo used his free-agent status to cash in like no other broadcaster in sports media history.
BEST INTERVIEW OF THE YEAR
On April 8, new Bucs quarterback Tom Brady spent two hours on SiriusXM's Howard Stern Show. Brady was more open than we've ever seen before, talking about his football and non-football life. He revealed that he knew last season would be his last in New England, Gisele was not satisfied with their marriage at one point and that's why he skipped OTAs that year, and that he doesn't understand why players still shower together.
BEST USE OF ZOOM
Zoom started to become a massive part of everyone's lives in April and that's when ESPN's Katie Nolan came up with the creative idea to see how many athletes/celebrities/famous people she could get on one Zoom call. Among those who ended up on the call at some point: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Dwyane Wade and Clayton Kershaw.
BEST SPORTS-PORN CROSSOVER STORY OF THE YEAR
When Joe Buck decided to kill time during the lockdown, he started doing play-by-play on videos sent in by fans. One adult site tried to capitalize on this and offered Buck $1 million to call a live sex scene. Buck turned down the offer, telling SI.com at the time, "I am highly qualified as I have been practicing these calls most of my life, but I don’t want to just take that job without a proper, open audition. So if they get Jim [Nantz] and Al [Michaels] and Mike [Tirico] and all the others who do what I do to audition, I’m in. If any one of them say no, I’m out. That’s all I can commit to at this time. I can say I have NEVER been more flattered. And I know my dad would be proud."
MEDIA EVENT OF THE YEAR
ESPN's 10-part docuseries The Last Dance came at the perfect time when sports were shut down and people were craving something to sink their teeth into. And it delivered big time.
BIGGEST BAIT-AND-SWITCH OF THE YEAR
Twitter went nuts when Eli Manning joined the social media service in late May. He started off by showing a decent sense of humor, but the feed quickly turned into a promotional page, with Eli constantly plugging products.
STEPHEN A. SMITH MOMENT OF THE YEAR
Stephen A. Smith was very concerned about NBA players and their "recreational activities" while in the Orlando bubble. The result was this sensational rant.
MOST CRINGEWORTHY MEDIA TREND
Reporters such as Jay Glazer and Adam Schefter teasing news on positive coronavirus tests as a way to get people to tune in to their respective shows. So seedy.
SCOOP OF THE YEAR
When Patrick Mahomes signed the biggest contract in NFL history, the news wasn't broken by Adam Schefter or Ian Rapoport or Jay Glazer. It was broken by a Kansas City liquor store employee.
DUMBEST MOMENT OF THE YEAR, No. 1A
It's still hard to fathom Thom Brennaman would brazenly use a homophobic slur while on a mic during a baseball game, but he did. And it cost the longtime Reds play-by-play man his job.
DUMBEST MOMENT OF THE YEAR, No. 1B
Fox pays Skip Bayless to get attention, and the carnival barker did that in early September when he said Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott shouldn't publicly talk about his issues with depression. What a pathetic person.
BIGGEST DISCOVERY OF THE YEAR
ESPN finally got serious about filling the booth for their extra game on the first Monday of the NFL season. In the past, the network has used gimmicks to get by in the late game of their opening weekend doubleheader. This year, ESPN used its top college football broadcast team—Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit—to call the Steelers-Giants opener, and they were a smash hit.
MOST FUN DAY ON TWITTER OF THE YEAR
I have three words for you: disheveled Bill Belichick.
MOST ABSURD PUNISHMENT OF THE YEAR
NFL Network put Ian Rapoport on the bench for two weeks because he promoted a men's below-the-waist grooming product on Instagram.
THE I-DON'T-WORK-THERE-ANYMORE-SO I-CAN-SAY-WHAT-I-WANT AWARD
When it became public ESPN would have massive layoffs, Bob Ley, one of the company's Mount Rushmore personalities took to Twitter to let everyone know how he felt about the job reductions.
BIGGEST NON-STORY OF THE YEAR
People went nuts in late October when video leaked of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman talking about military flyovers at football games. There was also a touch of politics thrown into the brief conversation, so, naturally, everyone took sides. The only problem was that Buck and Aikman weren't making those comments. They were sarcastically imitating a colleague and people on their crew.
LEAST SURPRISING ESPN DEPARTURE OF THE YEAR
Near the end of 2020, the marriage between ESPN and Dan Le Batard finally came to an end after a string of controversies. Le Batard's last show for ESPN will be on Jan. 4.
MOST SURPRISING ESPN DEPARTURE OF THE YEAR
While Le Batard leaving ESPN isn't a shock, Tom Rinaldi bolting the company for Fox Sports certainly was a stunner.
Be sure to catch up on past editions of Traina Thoughts and check out the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast hosted by Jimmy Traina on Apple, Spotify or Stitcher. You can also follow Jimmy on Twitter and Instagram.