We say goodbye to sports’ bounce back year and hello to another filled with promise and, hopefully, good health.
For the first time since 2019, we went through an uninterrupted year, with few exceptions. The year saw familiar teams back on top: Georgia football, Kansas men’s basketball, South Carolina women’s basketball, Golden State Warriors, Houston Astros.
We had our fill of drama (World Cup), history (Aaron Judge) and controversy (LIV Golf). We witnessed the end of legendary careers (Roger Federer, Serena Williams) and one iconic figure (Tiger Woods) who is not ready to completely put away his clubs.
Now, we head into 2023 following a month that will be remembered for two untimely, unexpected losses; the deaths of 61-year-old Mississippi State football coach Mike Leach and 72-year-old football Hall of Famer Franco Harris.
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Leach was the antithesis of so many coaches who spend their careers immersed in their jobs as life passes them by. Leach found a way to have fun and live life to its fullest, while in a highly-pressurized profession.
Harris was a kind, humble man who was involved in one of the most iconic plays in football history. He died four days before the 50th anniversary of the Immaculate Reception.
Those deaths and others, including Boston Celtics great Bill Russell and soccer legend Pele, remind us sports is an extension of life with its highs and lows, triumphs and tragedies.
As we look ahead to 2023 and what I want to see more and less of in sports, a quote from the late football Hall of Famer Walter Payton:
“Remember, tomorrow is promised to no one.”
What I want to see more of in 2023
Lionel Messi (in Miami): It looked so promising with reports that the greatest footballer in the world agreed to join David Beckham’s Inter Miami team. But now we’ve learned the World Cup champion turned down the offer. Still, we can hope the 35-year-old will one day semi-retire in South Florida, where he has a home, especially considering what we’ve seen the last few years.
Accountability for those who abuse, mistreat women athletes: The National Women’s Soccer League commissioned an investigation that found widespread emotional and sexual misconduct directed at players. This is something every women’s league must investigate. USA Gymnasts were sexually abused for more than two decades. Should not that have been the red flag for every women’s league to be proactive when it comes to abuse?
Jordan Travis: Travis’ story of perseverance and determination is a lesson for all college athletes. The former Benjamin standout had been overlooked and doubted for years. He doesn’t have the quarterback skills that make scouts drool. But he has heart and has proven to be a winner on and off the field. And he will wear a Florida State uniform for one more year.
Snow games with ‘Let It Snow’ on blast: Football was made to be played in inclement weather. That means snow and frigid temperatures with men in cutoff sleeves. The fourth quarter of the Dolphins game in Buffalo was beautiful. And with “Let it Snow” on speaker. Perfect.
Mike McDaniel: The Dolphins coach is insightful and philosophical, but also entertaining. When asked one day if he had any news, he said his wife went to the grocery store, which is exciting because he’s “a big snack time guy.” We learned close friend Green Bay coach Matt LaFleur’s best qualities are “styling his hair” and “brushing his teeth.” This is just the start.
Athlete empowerment: Whether it’s calling for gun control measures, speaking out about social injustice, denouncing anti-LGBTQ laws, organizing voter registration drives, athletes have voices and are letting them be heard. We all can learn from them.
Jim Larranaga, Leonard Hamilton: This state is lucky to have two esteemed, respected college basketball coaches. Miami’s Larranaga, 73, and FSU’s Hamilton, 74, continue to connect with 18- to 22-year olds and have made basketball relevant at places where football reigns. Here’s to many more years on the bench for both gentlemen.
A healthy Tua Tagovailoa: The Dolphins quarterback entered concussion protocal once again following the Packers game after his head slammed to the turf while being tackled in the second quarter. Tua has had one very scary incident in which he was carted off the field, another which had all the appearances of a concussion and the latest. Concern for Tua goes way beyond football.
Money pumped into women’s sports: LPGA purses will top $100 million for the first time next year. Others should take note, like the WNBA. Three NBA mascots will make more money than the three highest paid WNBA players. Just ask Brittney Griner what can happen to WNBA players who play overseas to supplement their salaries.
What I want to see less of in 2023
Kyrie Irving: Whether it’s his anti-vax misinformation or sharing a link to a film with anti-Semetic statements, Irving’s special talent for playing basketball is overshadowed by his ignorance.
Four-hour college football games: I’m all for expanded playoffs, but, please, can we play them, and all college football games, in 3 to 3.5 hours. The NFL has perfected the 3-hour game. College football has perfected officials reviewing every close call and even then somehow getting it wrong.
South Florida’s football teams living in the past: Enough of celebrating the failures of other teams or talking about a brand that has not been relevant for two decades. Do something worth celebrating today. The Dolphins are coming up on 50 years since their last Super Bowl title and the Hurricanes have been a punchline for most of the last two decades. Few can challenge Miami as the most overhyped, underachieving football city in the country.
College athletes criticized for making personal decisions: Four Purdue starters opt out of the bowl game and former coaches and players say they are abandoning their teammates. Coach Jeff Brohm opts out the same game by taking the Louisville job and he is praised for returning to his alma mater. Players get crushed but Brohm, Luke Fickell, Scott Satterfield (and other coaches) do the same and receive a pass. Players have as much a right to make a business decision as a coach.
Herschel Walker: Highlights of Herschel running over people while at Georgia? I’m all in. Listening to him stumble through speeches at political rallies? Please, never again. Walker became a sympathetic figure who was exploited by his party during the state’s senate campaign.
Whiny college football coaches: It’s laughable when you hear coaches whining how the transfer portal has made it difficult to manage a roster, then they use that same portal as a way to run off players.
Daniel Snyder: Please, just sell your team and lock yourself inside your $48 million mansion on the Potomac and never come out. The Washington Commanders owner is facing multiple accusations of workplace sexual harassment and assault. Time for the NFL to make sure he is no longer part of its league. The NBA did it to Donald Sterling, the NFL should do it to Daniel Snyder.
Law suits in golf: LIV Golf got the attention of the PGA Tour and the two appear headed for a heated rivalry. But can we stop with the pettiness, insults and especially the law suits. Who knows how this turns out for LIV, but let it play out on the course.
Flopping in soccer: The World Cup was riveting and dramatic to the end. But as much as this is a part of the game, soccer must address the flopping. It gets tiring and causes many to tune out. Do not let these bad actors sully your sport.