2011. The year sports mirrored real life.
Generally we look to sports as an escape. A way to get away from a tough day at the office, or the world as many of us know it. But this year was different. The sporting world mirrored what society deals with each and every day.
Time magazine called this the year of the protester. How do we remember 2011's Stanley Cup Final? Riots in Vancouver of course.
The tragic deaths of Wade Belak, Derek Boogaard, and Rick Rypien taught many of us about how prevalent depression and mental illness really is. Studies will tell us that 1 in every 5 canadians will suffer from some form of mental illness. The toll can tear families apart, and it did to the NHL family this past summer. Whether you want to believe some of the studies out there that links concussions to depression and mental illness is your choice, but this was also the year of the brain in sports. Look at the changes the NFL has made, and the NHL to an extent as well.
The disturbing child sex abuse scandal at Penn State University brought to light the issue of pedophilia. Former junior hockey coach Graham James also pleaded guilty to more heinous crimes on young boys, and it reminded us all that while steps have been taken in society to curb these despicable crimes, it seems the justice system can still do more.
In a time of a global recession, millionaire players battled billionaire owners with lockouts in both the NFL and NBA. Many people around the world have lost their jobs, while others still worry about losing their own. It was hard to take sides, but both their concerns have similar messages in what management and employees are echoing on a much smaller scale.
When shift-disturber Sean Avery lent his name to a public service announcement in support of same-sex marriage, it sparked quite the debate. An NHL player representative voiced his opposition, and a sportscaster was dismissed for throwing his support behind the agent. Avery has since been waived by the Rangers, but not before making waves once again.
Tim Tebow did his best impression of Indiana Jones on Sundays, pulling out a string of unexpected wins and igniting the debate of religious faith and asking the question -- do you believe?
We go through a lot of reflections and "best of" pieces at the end of every year. People ask me what my favorite sporting event was, my favorite live event, concert, movie, album/cd (or do we call them downloads now?), and whatever else jumped out from the year. Looking back on the sporting world in 2011 -- it was a weird one. Sure, Game 6 of the World Series between the Cardinals and Rangers was an instant classic, but for the most part, it was a year many in the sporting universe are ready to turn the page on.
If a player is struggling, we tend to rant and rave about how lousy they've been. Sure they're well compensated, but now some of us wonder if perhaps there's something else behind their lack of success? Maybe it goes well beyond the stadiums and arenas.
That was sports in 2011.