Jim Franz mug

BELOIT—OK, as far as sports goes, 2020 has been a different, exhausting and often frustrating year thanks to the ever-present impact of COVID-19. Just one big YIKES.

That doesn’t mean we still can’t still take a look at some of the year’s biggest winners and losers.

BEST SPORTS CITY: Pains me to say, but Los Angeles gets the nod for 2020, thanks to the Lakers and Dodgers. The Lakers made the NBA playoffs for the first time since 2013 and won their first title since 2012. LeBron James captured his fourth Finals MVP as the Lakers won their 17th overall championship and first since 2010.

The Dodgers won their first World Series since 1988 after losing back-to-back Series in 2017 and 2018.

Runnerup goes to Tampa, which not only had the Rays finish second in the Series with the third lowest payroll in MLB, but had the Lightning win the Stanley Cup. Throw in the Buccaneers winning the Tom Brady Sweepstakes and Tampa becoming the home-away-from-home of Fred VanVleet and the Toronto Raptors for 2020-21 and Tampa has had a pretty solid 2020.

BEST OVERALL YEAR: In February, Patrick Mahomes was the MVP in the Chiefs’ first Super Bowl win since 1969. In March, the quarterback signed a new contract worth up to $503 million over 10 years and in September, he announced his engagement to his girlfriend. He later announced they were expecting their first child. And he’s neck and neck with Aaron Rodgers for MVP this season. All in all, a pretty fair year.

BIGGEST DOPE: Getting in just under the wire is Washington quarterback Dwayne Haskins. Who goes from being a No. 1 draft pick two years ago to being waived Monday by the team that drafted him? Well, Haskins, thanks to some ridiculously poor choices related to, you guessed it, COVID, not to mention a strip club.

BEST COVID-RELATED MOMENT: Sarah Fuller was a women’s soccer player at Vanderbilt University who never planned on making football history, only she did. With the football team out of kickers due to the coronavirus, she stepped in and on Nov. 28, kicked off to start the second half, making her the first female to ever play in a Power 5 college football game. Never mind that Vandy was terrible and their coach got fired. On Dec. 12, Fuller was 2-for-2 on extra points against Tennessee, becoming the first woman ever to score in a Power 5 game. Never would have happened without COVID.

COMEBACK OF THE YEAR: I’d like to say Mitchell Trubisky, who had one foot out the door in Chicago when he suddenly reclaimed his job and apparently a new lease on life with the Bears. The real winner, though, has to be another NFL quarterback, Alex Smith. After suffering a horrific leg injury that required 17 surgeries, he returned to the NFL 693 days later to play for Washington on Oct. 11 against the Rams. Unbelievable.

MOST BUMMED OUT SPORTS CITY: Boston. Fans lost one legend and another in the making. Tom Brady left as a free agent and signed with Tampa Bay and Cam Newton couldn’t prevent the Patriots from missing their first playoffs since, well, when Brady wasn’t around. The Red Sox traded away 2018 MVP Mookie Betts and we all know how that worked out. The Sox were awful and his new team, the Dodgers, soared. Toss in the Celtics getting ousted in the Eastern Conference finals and the Bruins getting dumped in the second round of the playoffs and you have a rather sour 2020 in Beantown.

BEST DECISION OF 2020: Overdue for sure, but Major League Baseball finally recognized the Negro Leagues as professional baseball and decided to include their records and statistics. Too late for Beloit’s own Bill “Youngblood” McCrary, the former Kansas City Monarch, to enjoy it but better late than never.

BIGGEST LOCAL SPORTS STORY: COVID-19. It has seemingly dominated every discussion involving sports. It ended great seasons abruptly in March (Turner boys basketball) and took away others before they even started. It put youth programs on hold. It stalled high school sports completely at some high schools and left others hosting games in mainly vacant gymnasiums. There’s nothing you can say that will make this any easier on seniors in particular. We can’t be rid of this pandemic soon enough.

BEST LOCAL SPORTS STORY: This could qualify as Best Comeback as well. There’s a minor miracle occurring downtown as a beautiful new ballpark springs up along the banks of the Rock River. The Beloit Snappers, or whatever they’re going to be called in the future, went from what looked like sure contraction by Major League Baseball to a franchise with a new home, a new owner, a new MLB affiliate, a new higher classification and a new future. It’s an amazing story and that it happened in the midst of 2020 is even more remarkable.