Aren’t we all happy that 2020 is coming to a close? You bet your sweet bippy, we are.
I mean, to say the year has been over, under, sideways, down and inside-out would be the biggest understatement since Rip Van Winkle said, “I think I’ll take a wee nap.” All sports fell off the grid due to COVID-19, and those that returned certainly didn’t look the same.
In this strangest of years, the first leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown, the Kentucky Derby, became the second leg, and the second leg, the Preakness Stakes, became the third leg, and the third leg, the Belmont Stakes, became the first leg. The Masters golf tournament was played in November instead of April, and the Open Championship and Wimbledon weren’t played at all.
Major team sports went into bubbles and performed in mostly empty buildings, with fans replaced by cardboard cutouts of actual people and the soccer side FC Seoul using sex dolls to occupy the pews. The bad news: The faux fans were hell on beer sales. The good news: No long lineups at the washrooms.
There was, mind you, one constant: Athletes, coaches, managers, owners, talking heads and sports scribes continued to flap their gums, or write, often for the better but sometimes not so much.
And with that in mind, I give you the second annual RCR Awards, presented to those who delivered interesting sound bites in 2020.
The QB Conundrum Cup: To New Orleans head coach Sean Payton, whose NFL club benefited from a COVID outbreak that put all three Denver Broncos quarterbacks in sick bay and ineligible to play his Saints. The Broncos were forced to use practice squad wide receiver Kendall Hinton at QB and the Saints whupped ’em easily, 31-3.
“I felt bad for the cardboard fans,” Payton said.
The Sign Of The Times Shield: To comedy writer Brad Dickson, for his take on life in 2020.
“On the news tonight all they talked about were boycotts, protests, riots, violence, dissension, disease, lawsuits and court cases. And that was just the sportscast.”
The Empty Nest Nick-Nack: To longtime Canadian national team goaltender Shannon Szabados, geeked up about the National Hockey League’s return from a COVID shutdown for a summer playoff tournament in fan-free rinks in Edmonton and the Republic of Tranna.
“Happy the NHL will be back,” she tweeted, “but without fans how do we expect players to know when to shoot the puck? How will opposing goalies know they suck?”
The Nothing Runs Like A Deere Diploma: To RJ Currie of sportsdeke.com, who’s apparently familiar with the Saskatchewan Roughriders and their green-clad faithful on the Flattest of Lands.
“The Nebraska State Fair broke a record for the longest parade of old tractors when over 1,100 showed up. In Canada, that’s just part of the last-minute Labour Day crowd at Mosaic Stadium.”
The Jailhouse Rock Trophy: To Ryan Brown of WJOX Radio in Birmingham, not impressed after watching six straight quarters of Kentucky football.
“Hoping if I’m ever convicted of a major crime this will count as time served.”
The Give Your Head A Shake Goblet: To Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner who, after observing the women’s 3-on-3 game during NHL all-star novelty events, offered this analysis of the Ponytail Pucksters: “I think a lot of these players can play in (the NHL).”
Sure, Mitch. And some of Snow White’s seven dwarfs can play O-line for the Green Bay Packers.
The Flip Him The Bird Bauble: To Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, for his observation after Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Zack Wheeler was scratched from a scheduled start because he tore the nail on his right middle finger while putting on his pants.
“As any good Philadelphian knows, what good is a guy if he can’t use his middle finger?”
The Scripps Spelling Bee Shield: We have co-winners in this category. First to Craig Calcaterra of NBCsports.com, after Tres Barrera of the Washington Nationals was slapped with an 80-game ban following a positive test for the drug Dehydrochlormethyltestosterone.
“If he can spell it on the first try, they should reduce his suspension to 40 games.”
And now to RJ Currie for this observation after the Toronto Blue Jays had released relief pitcher Marc Rzepczynski: “He was hampered by a high pitch count and a low vowel count.”
The White Guys Can’t Coach Hoops Cup: To Steve Simmons of Postmedia Tranna, for his incredibly tone-deaf attempt to shout down anyone with the (apparent) bad manners to suggest the appointment of Steve Nash as head coach of the Brooklyn Nets was a classic case of white privilege.
Simmons on Sept. 6: “Two words that never, ever, should be attached to Steve Nash: White privilege.”
Nash on Sept. 9: “I have benefited from white privilege.”
The Hot Air Honorarium: To RJ Currie of sportsdeke.com, for this observation: “A Chinese man reportedly invented a car that can run on wind. A tentative name was Feng Chezi, which roughly translates to Don Cherry.”
The Where’s The Beef Bauble: To New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton, who doesn’t eat anything that had four legs, hooves and lived in a barn yard or pasture.
“Just because I’m vegan doesn’t mean I just go outside and pick up grass and, you know, put ranch on it. I still love good food.”
The Tube Steak Trinket: To Bob Molinaro of pilotonline.com, noting that Nathan’s annual pigout would go ahead as planned, even as COVID-19 raged in the U.S. “Social distancing will not interrupt the gluttony and star-spangled grossness of Nathan’s July 4th Hot Dog Eating Contest. Contestants will be at least six foot-longs apart as they set out to determine who will be this year’s wiener.”
The Don’t Give A Rat’s Ass Award: To Ann Killion of the San Francisco Chronicle, for her take on the NCAA kicking off its football season during the killer COVID pandemic.
“The Power 5 conferences like to use the phrase ‘student athlete’,” she wrote. “Maybe ‘lab rat’ is more appropriate.”
The Show Me The Money Medallion: To tennis legend and social activist Billie Jean King, who hopped on the Ponytail Puck bandwagon and urged the NHL to create a full-time women’s professional league, because it would be “good business.”
“They can do this. They can do this,” she said. “Why can’t we have 700 girls or a thousand girls playing in a league?”
What Billie Jean didn’t do was explain where the NHL—or anyone—would find 700-1,000 elite-level female hockey players.
O.J. will find the real killers first.
The Allied Van Lines Award: To former Major League Baseball pitcher C.J. Nitkowski for this tweet: “My wife had an odd way of comforting my son after a rough pitching outing yesterday. ‘Well, at least you still get to live in our house. When dad pitched bad, we usually had to move.’”
The Boys Will Be Boys Peeler Pole Plaque: To former NHLer Brett Hull, for his moronic comments after Brendan Leipsic of the Washington Capitals was booted out of the NHL for disgusting, degrading, disturbing and sexist language about women.
“We did the same things, we said the same things, but there was no way to get caught,” said Hull, fondly recalling his playing days and confirming that he continues to live in another century. “We can go out after games, we can go to strip clubs, we can go to bars, and we could do whatever we wanted, and it would all be hearsay. The fun is gone. The game is not fun anymore to me.”
The Will They Ever Grow Up Goblet: To Melissa Martin of the Winnipeg Free Press, reacting to oinker Leipsic’s attack on women.
“To be honest,” she tweeted, “I’m super burned out on writing about shitty men in sports.”
The DUI Diploma: To Greg Cote of the Miami Herald, noting a NASCAR race in Homestead is called the Dixie Vodka 400.
“Hmmm. Should a bunch of guys driving 180 mph in heavy traffic be sponsored by vodka?”
The Divorce Lawyer Laurel: To syndicated columnist Norman Chad, who offered a unique pre-game analysis of a Green Bay Packers-Indianapolis Colts skirmish.
“Bettors love that the Colts are well rested. I was well-rested before my second marriage, and it didn’t help.”
The Treadmill Trophy: To Nick Canepa of the San Diego Union Tribune, who, like many sports writers, apparently doesn’t spend a whole lot of time in the gym. When the 2020 American Fitness Index listed San Diego as the 11th-fittest city in the U.S., he wrote: “I’m thankful they didn’t go house-to-house.”
The Let’s Play Hooky Honorarium: To comedy writer Alex Kaseberg, noting USC football players were part of a fraud investigation.
“The penalties could be stiff. Some of the players may be forced to attend classes.”
The Centre Of The Universe Crock Pot: To Cathal Kelly of the Globe and Mail. Musing on the challenges of a global pandemic that had shut down 99.9 per cent of the sports world, Kelly took quill in hand and scribbled a thought that could only come from a jock journo in the Republic of Tranna.
“When I think of the very best of sports in the city I live in, I remember that night last May when the Toronto Raptors beat the Milwaukee Bucks for the NBA’s Eastern Conference title. A lot of Canadians hadn’t cared until that moment. Suddenly, every single one of us did.”
Right. Except for the 30 million of us Canadians who were too busy that night to care.
The Finders Keepers Cup: To Bryson DeChambeau, the PGA Tour’s Frankengolfer who apparently doesn’t believe the rules of the game apply to him. After his tee shot on the 13th hole in the opening round of the Masters went wayward, a search party failed to find his ball in the allotted three minutes. At one point, the frustrated DeChambeau turned to a tournament rules official and asked: “So you’re saying if we can’t find it, it’s a lost ball?” Well, duh. And if you don’t shoot the lowest score, you don’t get the green jacket and visit the Butler Cabin, either.
The Bare Face Bauble: To comedy writer Brad Dickson, for his take on Nebraska Cornhusker football fans.
“There’s something seriously wrong with people who will wear a rubber corncob head on their noggin but won’t be seen in public in a COVID mask.”
The Greybeard Geezer Goblet: To rapper Snoop Dogg, who handled commentary for the fossil fist fight between fiftysomething boxers Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr.
“Like two of my uncles fighting at a barbeque.”
And, finally, the Born With A Silver Spoon(er) In His Mouth Medallion: To Sportsnet gab guy and muppet head Colby Armstrong, who went positively ga-ga in a truly embarrassing and butt-kissing blah, blah, blah session with Canadian national women’s hockey team member Natalie Spooner.
“Thanks for joining us,” he began. “Great seeing you as always and…we see you a lot, like we really get to see you a lot, and especially through (COVID) we get to see you out there a lot advocating for women’s hockey. I have three little girls and you know they love you. They’re big fans. What’s it like being a role model? I’ve been able to watch you and see you deal with a lot of people and fans and little girls, and I think you have a great personality for it, so I think it’s worked out. You’re a very social person, like, fun to be around, high energy, probably the, you know, the person in the room or in the gym that keeps it bumping. You love singing, you love dancing…people follow Natalie Spooner on her, what do you have, Instagram? I don’t have it. I tell my wife, we watch your stuff all the time. You found a way to entertain. Ya, very entertaining.”
At last report, Armstrong remains in recovery following emergency surgery to have his lips removed from Spooner’s butt cheeks.