A wish for 2021: That we can care more about sports without caring less for one another

This year, I’m going to watch and write about sports and try to do those things without feeling like, well, an idiot. Also: Hope to see you in person soon.

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Houston Astros v Milwaukee Brewers

This baseball isn’t going to write about itself.

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

This is a column about idiots.

You, and me.

But mostly me, because I write about sports for a living and, even more idiotic than that, have done so throughout a pandemic that just keeps killing people. But then again also you, because you’ve watched sports and read about them throughout this very same pandemic and its very same unflinching cruelty.

Unless, that is, you haven’t watched at all but merely like to find people who write about sports and call them idiots (the more publicly, the better) because they’re so clueless and insensitive that they continue doing their work rather than wrestling with pain, anger and fright 24/7. In that case, you’re an idiot for failing to realize that a person can do more than one thing at a time: in this case, work and wrestle.

So it turns out we’re all idiots in one way or another, and I’m certain of this because I’ve also spent nearly 10 months of a pandemic witnessing absolutely everybody insulting others and being insulted themselves. About politics, masks, freedom, empathy, hate, love, sports — you name it. Whatever we’re insulting one another about, it all sounds the same because we say the same things.

“You’re an idiot,” we all say.

God, 2020 was hard.

Maybe 2021 can be easier? One way it could be is if we all stop calling one another idiots all the time, though that might be too much to hope for. Short of that, here’s my own plan: I’m going to watch and write about sports and try to do those things without feeling like such a, well, you know. An idiot. Believe me, I’ve struggled with that — on a regular basis — since March.

So let me start afresh with this: I’m excited. Still wrestling with all sorts of feelings on the pandemic front, sure, but no longer where sports is concerned. I have a job to do, after all, and part of it is to be excited or at least try to be. Pretending to be was a move out of the 2020 playbook, no good to me now.

I’m excited to watch the Bears attempt to beat the Packers, which probably won’t happen, and get into the playoffs, which might happen, and then go from there, when “anything could happen,” as they say, even though these are the Bears, and I’m pretty sure only something catastrophic would happen.

Excited to see what the Bears do with quarterback Mitch Trubisky, coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace.

And what the Bulls do with a chance to grow under a new coach, Billy Donovan, and with new direction coming from VP of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas.

And for Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews to come back healthy and strong and resume his wonderful career, even if that might mean skating for a last-place team.

I’m excited to watch Illinois — a Final Four-caliber team — chase the dreams it couldn’t last March. Northwestern has an interesting team, too, with every bit as much going for it at this point in the season as the NCAA Tournament squad of 2016-17 had.

Excited to have the chance to do better at following the Sky, the Red Stars, the Fire and other teams that know all too well about fighting for oxygen in the media, and to tell some of their stories.

Excited for baseball, of course, and the storylines galore that the season will bring. If this version of Tony La Russa is anything like the previous versions of La Russa, the White Sox just might blow the doors off the American League. It could be they do that even if this version of La Russa is a clunker. Which brings us to the Cubs, who should have a chance to win a rather terrible division even if a stripped-down version of themselves does a good bit of clunking.

What’s even more exciting than any of the above? The possibility that 2021 will bring us all back together, literally, in person. That we’ll share a ballpark, a stadium, an arena. We don’t have to say hello if you’d rather not. We don’t have to smile and smile back. Hell, you can call me an idiot if you’d like.

But it’ll be so damn good to see you.

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