What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions

The Dubsism 15 Most Important Sports Stories of 2021

As we enter a new year, once more we find ourselves having just completed what has proven to be a tumultuous twelve months.  Let’s be honest, 2021 was not a great year in the sports world, and for reasons you might not think. In other words, as we head into 2022, this is the perfect time to take a look back at those stories which had the most impact on the world of sports in as we head into the new year. That’s why it’s an annual tradition here to explore 15 such stories in sport we think mattered the most.  Not all of them are positive stories (especially not in this shit-pile of a year), but not every movie has a happy ending. 

In other worlds, it’s our list. If you don’t like it, go make your own.

15) The Phenomenon Known as Shohei Ohtani

I’m an old man. I’ve been watching baseball for longer than many of you reading this have been alive. Believe me when I say I’ve never seen anything like Shohei Ohtani. Having one player that can dominate a game from all aspects really only happens in Little League.

In 1971, Rick Wise of the Philadelphia Phillies pitched a no-hitter in which he also hit two home runs. But that was one game.

Some fans liken what Ohtani did in 2021 to Babe Ruth’s legendary career. But there’s one issue in that comparison which sets Ohtani apart. Sure, George Herman “Babe” Ruth had a season win which he won 23 games as a pitcher…and we all know he was both baseball’s single-season and career home run leader for decades. But he never put those things together in a single season like Ohtani has.

  • Ruth’s MVP Year – 1923 (age 28): .393 Batting Average, 41 Home Runs, 130 Runs Batted In, 17 Stolen Bases
  • Ohtani’s MVP Year – 2021 (age 26): .257 Batting Average, 46 Home Runs, 100 Runs Batted in, 26 Stolen Bases
  • Ruth’s Best Pitching Year – 1916 (age 21): 23 wins, 12 losses, 1.75 Earned Run Average, 170 Strikeouts
  • Ohtani’s Best Pitching Year – 2021 (age 26): 9 Wins, 2 Losses, 3.18 Earned Run Average, 156 Strikeouts

If you’re one of those people who want to dissect those numbers, remember two things…Ohtani did this after “Tommy John” surgery and before getting into his “prime years.”

14) The National Football League Implements A 17-Game Season

Under Kommissar Roger Goodell, the National Football League loves to provide the illusion it carries many banners. Be it breast cancer awareness, “social justice,” or player safety, they are all canards for the real priority of the NFL…the bottom line.

In other words, don’t buy Goodell’s top-grade line of bullshit about why the league expanded it’s schedule for the first time in 43 years.

“This is a monumental moment in NFL history, The CBA with the players and the recently completed media agreements provide the foundation for us to enhance the quality of the NFL experience for our fans. And one of the benefits of each team playing 17 regular-season games is the ability for us to continue to grow our game around the world.”

~NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell

“Grow our game around the world” my ass. You could grow tomatoes on the moon with the fertilizer value of that statement. The bilge about “player safety” also goes out the window with this change. First of all, to make this happen, the NFL had to back down from the original plan for 18 games (which is still going to happen sometime in the future) so it could more easily strong-arm the the player’s union into a schedule expansion.

Naturally, this paves the way for the expanded schedule to feed a new media partner, as beginning with the 2022 season, Thursday Night Football will become the exclusive broadcast property of Amazon Prime…for a price, naturally.

13) The De Facto Exile of Krystsina Tsimanouskaya

If you thought international athletic intrigue ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall, you would be wrong. In this most recent Summer Olympics. sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya from the former Soviet republic of Belarus was essentially sent into exile.

Apparently, Tsimanouskaya took to social media to call out her coaches after they entered her in the 4 × 400 meter relay. Not only was this an event in which she had never competed, the coaches did so without her consent. This was done because several other members of the Belarussian team were disqualified after failing doping tests.

As a result of her social media posts, the coaching staff told her she was being sent back to Belarus; the orders to do so having come from high-ranking government officials. Fearing for her safety, Tsimanouskaya approached the Japanese police at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport seeking protection. Eventually, she was taken to the Polish embassy where she was granted a humanitarian visa. As a result of this affair, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) revoked the accreditation of the Belarussian coaches and expelled them from the Olympic Village.

12) The On-Going Jon Gruden Saga

Don’t get me wrong, I am not now, nor have I ever been a Jon Gruden fan. I didn’t like the guy even before this incident, and frankly, I think the football world is better off without this idiotic asshole. However, from the jump I thought something didn’t smell right about this affair. That’s why we here at Dubsism put our special investigator on the case

If you’re not familiar, Gruden landed in the deep end of the pool when emails from 2011were released in which Gruden used “racist, sexist, and homophobic language.” As it stands now, Gruden is a football pariah, but he’s also suing the NFL as he believes he was unfairly targeted by their investigation. As objectionable as what he said is, Gruden’s allegation is at least plausible given the age of the e-mails, who in fact leaked them (we all have those work emails with the “confidentiality” notice – that means they don’t get to release them either), and the obvious double-standard for things said by guys like DeSean Jackson for example.

Since this is now in the courts, expect this story to hang around well into 2022…probably even 2023 given the glacial pace of the “wheels of justice.”

11) Phil Mickelson Wins PGA Championship at 50

In a blow struck for us old guys all over the world, Phil Mickelson became the oldest player to win a “Major” golf tournament at 50 years, 11 months, and 3 days old. The previous record was held by Julius Boros who won the 1968 PGA Championship at age 48.

10) The “Failed” European Soccer Super League

Back in April, a dozen elite English, Spanish, and Italian soccer clubs announced they were forming their own “Super League” base on a model somewhat similar to UEFA’s Champions League. In short, this new “Super League” would have a set group of permanent members, with another rung of rotating members using a promotion/relegation model based on performance in the European domestic leagues.

When you look at the 12 clubs involved in this, it becomes clear what is driving this.

  • English Premier League: Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur
  • Serie A (Italy): AC Milan, Inter Milan, Juventus
  • La Liga (Spain): Atletìco Madrid, Barcelona, Real Madrid

Not only is that most of the royalty of European soccer, the absence of Germany’s Bayern Munich and France’s Paris St. Germain is also exceptionally telling. Frankly, the “big” clubs are growing weary of paying the freight for the “small-frys,” and both the German and French leagues are largely dominated by those two teams, meaning neither Bayern Munich or Paris St. Germain have a domestic “date” to bring to the big dance.

However, the “Super League” collapsed when the English clubs pulled out in the face of wide-spread fan protests across the English Premier League. See, the EPL is the most-profitable professional sports league on the planet, and the English clubs weren’t about to kill the goose which lays the golden footballs. They thought the “super League” would be an additional revenue stream, not an “either-or” proposition.

This is really only delaying the inevitable for a host of reasons. First, the governing body of European soccer UEFA is a dying organization, in much the same way the NCAA is in America (see that further down this list). Second, the Spanish and Italian clubs are still pushing for this, especially since their domestic leagues aren’t nearly as profitable as the EPL. The leads to the third reason…there’s just too much potential for a gargantuan money-maker for the concept of the “Super League” to go away.

9) The Disappearance of Peng Shuai

In November, the 35-year-old Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai posted sexual assault accusations against high-ranking Chinese Communist Party (CCP) official Zhang Gaoli. In no time, those posts were scrubbed from Weibo (the Chinese equivalent of Twitter) and soon thereafter Peng herself disappeared from public view. After two weeks on international outcry, the Chinese government began releasing statements claiming Peng was in perfect health…she was just “resting at home.”

Screenshot of Peng’s original accusatory post, since scrubbed from the internet. From New York Times

Nobody bought that; it felt too much in the 1980s when the now-defunct Soviet Union went through a series of geriatric and infirm leaders in between Leonid Brezhnev and Mikhail Gorbachev. All too often, those guys would suddenly be gone from public view and the “official” story was a load of bolshevik about having a “cold” or some other nonsense. A week later, there would be a state funeral in Lenin Square.

In the case of Peng, the “cold” story became an obviously phony prepared statement, and several photos and videos of a similarly dubious nature, especially since within China all social media is under the complete control of the central government. Then on December 19th, a pro-Beijing news outlet in Singapore published an “interview” with Peng in which she “recanted” her accusations against Zhang.

“First and foremost, I must emphasize I have never said or wrote about anyone sexually assaulting me. I know there are many misunderstandings.”

~ Peng Shuai, as told to Singaporean news outlet Lianhe Zaobao…supposedly

This “interview” also sees Peng denying being under house arrest and claiming she’s not been seen at tennis events either in or out of China because of the pandemic. Even the COVID-fearing, pro-commie rag New York Times wasn’t buying this.

On December 19, Lianhe Zaobao, a Chinese-language Singaporean newspaper, published a video interview with Shuai that appears to be the latest attempt by Chinese officials to assuage global concern for her safety. In the video, a journalist claims to have run into Shuai on the sidelines of a Shanghai skiing event and proceeds to ask her a series of pointed questions about her allegations, prompting her to again retract her accusation of sexual assault.

~ The New York Times

You can decide for yourself…here’s a full recap of the timeline of events here, along with a complete translation of Peng’s original post on Weibo. Outside of a few top-level CCP officials, nobody really knows what’s happening here. What I do know is this won’t be the last time shenanigans of the Chinese government are mentioned on this list…

8 ) “Sportswashing”

This is nothing new…but it has made a major resurgence recently. The first example of this phenomena is widely held to be the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.

In other words, “sportswashing” is defined as any entity such as an individual, group, corporation, or government using sport to improve its reputation. Generally, this is done by hosting an major sporting event and/or by purchasing or sponsoring of teams. Generally, the idea is to use sports as a diversion by drawing attention away from more unsavory things.

As it stands heading into 2022, the two governments doing the most is this area are those of Saudi Arabia and China. Both have a long track record of human rights abuses, and both are using sport to hide that as best they can. The Chinese approach will be on full display when they host the Winter Olympics in February. It’s a safe bet the Chinese media will never mention the Peng Shuai situation.

As far a Saudi Arabia is concerned, they used the fervor surrounding the soccer “Super League” to purchase a controlling interest in the English Premeir League club Newcastle United. This is just the Saudis latest foray into sports, having previously dabbled in hosting boxing matches, horse racing, wrestling, and Formula 1 races.

See, this way, we’re talking about sports and not how dissident journalists tend to enter Saudi consulates and never come out.

7) Bob Baffert, Medina Spirit, and Betamethasone

If you’re not familiar with the world of American horse racing, suffice it to say that trainer/owner Bob Baffert came into last May’s Kentucky Derby as the unquestioned king of the “Sport of Kings.” When Baffert’s 3-year old Medina Spirit won “The Run for the Roses'” it marked the 7th time a Baffert horse captured The Kentucky Derby. That record seemed to cement Baffert’s place on the summit of the horse racing mountain.

That was until Medina Spirit failed a post-race drug test. Baffert’s Medina Spirit tested positive for betamethasone, a corticosteroid which is a legal medication commonly used to treat joint inflammation. The catch is betamethasone is not legal to use one race day as it may mask injuries that would otherwise prevent a horse from running, thus possibly exposing it to incurring even greater damage.

Another problem is rumors about Baffert’s horses had been circulating throughout the racing world for quite some time; there were also several “issues” with other drug tests on other Baffert horses. As a result, Baffert was suspended from racing his horses by Churchill Downs and the New York Racing Association for both 2022 and 2023. When it issued the suspension, the Churchill Downs authorities addressed Baffert’s proclivity for living on the edge of the rules by skewering his never-ending cover stories with the term “increasingly extraordinary explanations.”

“increasingly extraordinary explanations” means you have red-lined the Bullshit Detector for the last time.

Naturally, since this suspension could mean the loss of millions of dollars, this has landed in the courts, Just like the Gruden saga, this promises to extend into 2022 and likely 2023. Plus, the sudden death of Medina Spirit in December at Santa Anita only muddies an already murky situation.

6) Russian Track and Field Suspension Extended

In a move that surprised almost nobody, the International Amateur Athletic Federation voted to extend the suspension from world competition for the Russian Track And Field Federation (RusAF) into a seventh year. In other words, Russian Track isn’t getting paroled out “Doper Prison”…yet again.

The reason is simple…and was explained…yet again.

“RusAF has made steady progress towards meeting the conditions set for its reinstatement to membership of World Athletics. The Taskforce does feel that these changes are reflective of a new culture within RusAF, one that is generally looking to reject the doping practices of the past and to commit to competing clean moving forward. But, there are still people in Russian athletics who have not embraced this new culture, and there is still much work for RusAF to do to ensure that they do not exercise influence, and instead it is the new generation of athletes and coaches that push Russian athletics forward.”

~Rune Andersen, Chair of IAAF Inspection Team

Parole denied…yet again.

5) The Major League Baseball Lockout

At 11:59 p.m. ET on Dec. 1, the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between Major League Baseball (MLB) owners and the Player’s Association (MLBPA) expired. The CBA effectively set all the rules for the working relationship between the owners and the players. Literally, minutes before there were about to be no rules, the owners voted unanimously to hold a “lock-out.” As a result, baseball is now in the midst of it’s first work stoppage since the strike of 1994-95. 

Since then, MLB had enjoyed over a quarter-century of labor peace, but that’s over now. To anybody who was paying attention, the clouds driving this storm began forming when the owner’s tried to use COVID as a reason to shorten the 2021 season…and concomitantly to cut player salaries since less games were going to be played.

The owners thought they could pull that off since the player’s union agreed to pay cuts in the pandemic-shortened season of 2020. But the MLBPA wasn’t about to do that again, especially since the now-expired CBA was very “owner-friendly.”

In the broadest of strokes, it’s easy to see this as a squabble between billionaire owners and millionaire players. But the fact is MLB revenues have been increasing (with the obvious exception of 2020) while the average player salary has decreased. Don’t even try to tell me you wouldn’t be pissed off if the owners at your job were raking it in while driving down your salary,

In other words, the owner’s know the MLBPA will enter any new CBA negotiations with some pretty strong demands; ones they certainly won’t like but may have to accept. To strengthen their bargaining position, the owner’s staged the lockout. Since players don’t get paid in the off-season, there is no threat of having their income cut off. But staging a lock-out effectively freezes all interaction between players and the teams…no contract negotiations, no free-agent signings, no access to team facilities (which also means no team-provided medical treatment and/or physical therapy for injuries)…no contact of any kind between teams and players is allowed until a new CBA is in place.

So…for the fans, it’s now a game of “wait and see.” For MLB and the MLBPA, sometimes the hardest part of playing “Chicken” is knowing when to blink.

4) Chicago Blackhawks Sexual Assault Case

Kyle Beach as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks

The National Hockey League (NHL) found itself in a radioactive mess when one of it’s “Original Six” franchises was named in a lawsuit. Former Chicago Blackhawk Kyle Beach leveled allegations of a sexual assault committed by the team’s assistant coach Brad Aldrich during their Stanley Cup-winning season in 2010.

At first, both the NHL and the Chicago Blackhawks seemed to have a rather dismissive attitude toward the allegation, especially since Beach originally filed the suit in May as an anonymous “John Doe.” But that changed in October when Beach laid out the details of the attack in an emotionally-charged television interview.

In addition to telling the story of being sexually assaulted, Beach alleged that despite informing team officials of what had happened, the Blackhawks’ management ignored his complaints. Once that came out, the NHL went into full “Red Alert” status; they knew they had a public-relations nuclear catastrophe on their hands. Within hours, the NHL had commissioned an independent investigation which not only uncovered every detail, it found Beach’s claims to be of the utmost credibility (you can see the full report here...be forewarned, it’s over 100 stomach-churning pages and unimpeachably cited).

Once that report became public, there was no doubt heads were going roll. First and foremost came the “resignations” of Blackhawks General Manager Stan Bowman and senior vice president of hockey operations Al MacIsaac. In addition, even though Joel Quenneville had moved on from the Blackhawks, his level of involvement as detailed in that report forced his resignation from his position as the head coach of the Florida Panthers.

3) The Impending Death of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)

The NCAA’s decades-long denial that it is in fact running two professional sports leagues is now very likely to spell it’s very downfall…and I for one say it’s about time. There’s no way I would shed a tear at the demise of an organization which rakes in billions from football and men’s basketball, yet will levy punishments for buying a kid a four-dollar bagel.

Despite what you may think about the new Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) rules which allow players to earn an income from their use in promotional campaigns, if nothing else it has made the NCAA finally accept it’s model is in need of dramatic reform. That was evidenced by the NCAA scrambling to draft a new constitution in the wake of the major athletic conferences forming alliances which effectively pave the way for them to squeeze the NCAA out of the picture.

The end is coming…and not a moment too soon.

2) The Gansu Disaster

On May 22nd, 2021, 172 runners were competing in a state-sponsored 100-kilometer (62-mile) ultra-marathon held in the Yellow River Stone Forest in Jingtai County, Gansu Province, China. This is a mountainous area of northwest China which is prone to rapid and brutal changes in weather. The area’s elevation doesn’t help; most of this region is at least 7,000 feet above sea level.

In the middle of this race, a cold front swept in from the northwest. Within two hours, temperatures plunged to 20 °F, a heavy rain/snow mix began falling…driven by wind gusts routinely topping 50 miles per hour. At an exposed check-point with an elevation of nearly 7,400 feet, several runners collapsed from hypothermia.

The scope of the negligence involved in the planning of this event is almost incomprehensible. Not only were the government officials who organized this race completely unaware of the approaching storm, they didn’t know the checkpoint where the runners collapsed was in a “blind spot” for mobile phone coverage. Race officials at this checkpoint had no way of summoning help other than to brave the blizzard conditions to go down the mountain where help could be reached. As a result, the rescue effort took over eight hours to reach the checkpoint, but by then, the 21 runners who had collapsed on the mountain were dead.

1) “Let’s Go Brandon!”

Overlooking the obvious political nature of this phenomena, you have to marvel at how quickly this became a defining cultural moment. Given that references to this can be scrubbed from the internet at an almost “Chinese government” level, the sheer vastness of the result of a “Let’s go Brandon” web search is nothing short of incredible.

It all started back in October at a NASCAR event when Brandon Brown won his first Xfinity Series race. During the post-race interview, the reporter makes a comment to Brown about the crowd’s chanting. Perhaps she couldn’t hear it correctly…between the noise of the track and her broadcasting headphones…that’s perfectly understandable. But the television crowd could clearly tell that what the race reporter interpreted to be “Let’s Go Brandon!” was actually a raucous “Fuck Joe Biden!”

That exploded across the interwebz despite “Big Tech’s” best attempts to suppress it….and a culturally-defining moment was born.

About J-Dub

What your view of sports would be if you had too many concussions

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