Sports photos of 2021: The buzz was back on the field of play

Dec 31, 2021, 6:02 AM

Sports have a knack for reflecting society. Just look in the mirrored goggles of swimmer Reece Whitley, and you’ll see it splashing back to life.

Our attachment to games is driven by backstory and buzz. In 2020, the narratives were interrupted and the stands left eerily empty.

Over the course of 2021, the drama returned.

The backstory: a years-long rivalry between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder, its third edition billed as a “Once and For All” heavyweight bought. The buzz: a Las Vegas arena exploding with barbaric cheers when Fury lands a powerful left en route to an 11th-round knockout.

The backstory: seven-time Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton scraping Sunday after Sunday to hold off upstart challenger Max Verstappen. The buzz: shouts of shock and alarm when they collide at the Italian Grand Prix, Verstappen’s Red Bull car flipping into the air and landing atop Hamilton’s Mercedes.

The backstory: Simone Biles, vaulting into Tokyo with her sights on Olympic history. The buzz: stunned silence when the GOAT withdrew during the team final, then a global roar of sympathy and support when she cited her mental health to be the cause.

The path to the 2020 games was a strange and strenuous one. French cyclists were reminded of that during training of the science fueling the global re-opening — the center of their velodrome was turned into a mass vaccination center.

For some, the shutdown was an opportunity. Allyson Felix used it to train and qualify for her fifth Olympics — and first as a mother. Three years after delivering Camryn prematurely via emergency C-section, the 35-year-old kissed her daughter following a second-place finish in the 400-meter at the U.S trials. She earned a gold and a bronze in Tokyo.

For others, it merely delayed their turn in the spotlight. Such was the case for surfing and 3-on-3 basketball, among the new additions to the Olympic slate.

Fans weren’t allowed at Tokyo events, and foreigners won’t be there for Beijing’s Winter Games next February, either. But elsewhere — around our pitches, courts, fields and diamonds — the year is ending in front of full houses once again. Those cardboard cutouts, a bizarre stab at normalcy in a time that was anything but, are at last a thing of the past.

General News

Major League Baseball deputy commissioner Dan Halem, center, arrives for a meeting in New York, Mon...
Associated Press

MLB negotiators meet in person for 1st time since Dec 1

Locked-out MLB players withdrew a proposal for more liberalized free agency and lowered their proposed decrease in revenue sharing Monday.
21 hours ago
Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (87) celebrates with teammates after catching an 8-yard t...
Arizona Sports

Reactions from wild Chiefs-Bills playoffs overtime shootout

The win sent the Chiefs to the AFC Championship game against the Cincinnati Bengals and Twitter into a spiral.
2 days ago
Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker (7) celebrates with teammate Tommy Townsend (5) after kic...
Associated Press

Chiefs advance with classic overtime divisional round victory over Bills

Patrick Mahomes found Travis Kelce in the end zone in overtime, and the Kansas City Chiefs rallied to beat the Buffalo Bills 42-36.
2 days ago
Los Angeles Rams players, including wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (3), long snapper Matthew Orzec...
Associated Press

Rams head to NFC title game with walk-off win over Buccaneers

Matthew Stafford threw for 366 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Rams to a 30-27 divisional playoff victory over Buccaneers.
2 days ago
Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Charvarius Ward (35) intercepts a pass intended for Pittsburgh Steele...
Arizona Sports

PFF: Arizona Cardinals should target CB Charvarius Ward in free agency

Kansas City Chiefs CB Charvarius Ward is a name the Cardinals should consider looking at in free agency, according to one PFF analyst.
2 days ago
San Francisco 49ers' Robbie Gould celebrates after making the game-winning field goal during the se...
Associated Press

49ers upset Packers on late field goal to advance to NFC title game

Robbie Gould hit a game-winning 45-yard field goal as time expired to beat the Packers 13-10 and send the 49ers to the NFC Championship Game.
3 days ago
Sports photos of 2021: The buzz was back on the field of play