The year 2020 stunk, and despite a lot of evidence telling me that maybe I shouldn’t, I have hope for 2021.
I am sitting here in my apartment on the south side of Mason City, recovering after my recent bout with COVID-19. I’ve spent the past several weeks quarantining, coughing my lungs out, watching way too much TV, and doing my best to keep the isolation from melting my fragile brain.
What a way to end my second year in North Iowa.
But for all of the awfulness of 2020, there were plenty of highlights, especially in the world of sports. Locally, the Osage volleyball team won its first ever state title. On the football field, St. Ansgar and West Hancock both made deep playoff runs thanks to their dominant rushing attacks. NIACC won the cross country national championship for the first time.
On a national level, my hometown of Seattle finally named its NHL team, and the Kraken will begin play this fall. The Seattle Storm won the WNBA title. The San Francisco 49ers lost the Super Bowl, and then missed the playoffs this season. Blessings, blessings all.
But it's time to floor the gas pedal, and leave 2020 in the rearview mirror, while waving goodbye with however many fingers you deem necessary. Now, to get us started on 2021, here are the five things I hope to see happen in sports this year.
1. IGHSAU sanctions girls wrestling
I talked about this in last month’s column, but I’ll mention it again, girls wrestling needs to be sanctioned by the IGHSAU. As I wrote in December, it seems like we might still be a few years away, but if the participation numbers continue to grow, maybe that timeline can be shortened. Either way, do your part to support the sport and let's see where we are by the end of this year.
2. Masks stay on faces at games
For the love of all that is holy, please stop pulling your mask down to yell at the referees. It defeats the entire purpose. Just wear the darn thing and accept that no one needs to hear your opinion right now. Or ever, quite honestly. Let’s just stop yelling at referees. This is high school, not the NBA.
3. A full spring sports season in Iowa
This past spring was a hard one for everybody. With COVID spreading quickly across the state, Gov. Kim Reynolds canceled in-person school, and spring sports season got the axe. I know from the tearful interviews I did with coaches and players that the news was an absolute heartbreaker.
In 2021, I hope to see a full, uninterrupted and healthy spring season for everyone, one that ends with a track meet on a sunny May weekend at Drake Stadium. While the class of 2020 never got the chance to compete one final time, here is hoping that the class of 2021 can go out with a bang.
4. The universal DH
I just don’t understand the opposition from National League fans. I am an American League baseball fan, and have lived my entire life rooting for a team that has a designated hitter. What do NL fans like about watching pitchers hit? Growing up, I feel blessed that I got to watch Edgar Martinez slug his way to Cooperstown, instead of being subjected to Jamie Moyer flailing his way every fifth day to a .150 on-base percentage. It’s time for the NL fans, both in and out of the Globe newsroom, to embrace fun baseball. The universal DH is good.
5. A shot clock
Iowa high school basketball needs a shot clock, if only for the sake of making the action on the floor more interesting. I saw a video on Twitter recently, shared by KRUI Sports Director Quinn Douglas, of the Des Moines Christian boys basketball team playing keep away in a recent game against Madrid, by just holding the ball until the quarter ended.
No dribbling, no passing, just standing there. That isn't fun basketball to watch, and the IHSAA and IGHSAU need to make sure that the basketball on the court is the best possible version of the game, both for the fans in the stands and the student-athletes on the court.
The biggest hurdle to the shot clock is staffing, as many schools, particularly small schools, already have a somewhat difficult time finding people to work the scorers table. Whether it is a student or one of the coaches who gets to work the buzzer, a shot clock should be a priority.
I started this column nine months ago with the intention of bringing a little bit of fun to the North Iowa sports scene, and hopefully get discussion started on some important topics. God knows I have opinions, and you all have been subjected to them.
Going into 2021, I promise that I will keep advocating where I need to, criticizing where necessary, and continue to bring you the sports coverage that our subscribers deserve. Please stay safe, wear a mask, and maybe we can pack the bleachers again at football games this fall.
Happy New Year to you all. May it be your best yet.
Shane Lantz covers sports for the Globe Gazette. You can reach him at Shane.Lantz@GlobeGazette.com, or by phone at 641-421-0526. Follow Shane on Twitter @ShaneMLantz.