Column: Another Newby Awards socially distanced for 2021

We were hoping the Newby Awards could get a bit back to normal this year.

Ohhh, how we’d love to walk the imaginary red carpet, pretend to hand out statuettes, and pretend to witness a train wreck from an after-party at Kanye West’s new home before he don’t take it apart.

Sadly, thanks to people like Aaron Rodgers, aspiring game show host, slash vaccine quack, the coronavirus has been renewed for a third season as we wrap up 2021.

So, picking up a Bill Murray page on “Groundhog Day,” we’re sticking to the same routine as a year ago.

Mask ? To verify.

Socially distanced? To verify.

We now present the ninth annual Newby Awards, a mostly ironic look at a year in which the sport tried to continue despite the pandemic – until everyone was put on the COVID list.

COACH OF THE YEAR

Urban Meyer seemed like a lock for that price… until he hired a strength trainer accused of racism, and signed Tim Tebow to play tight, and skipped a team robbery so he could spend some time with the family. quality with a woman who was not his wife, berated the assistant coaches he hired as “losers”, kicked his kicker in a fit of rage and largely forgot all about it. he knew about winning football matches. Barely 13 games into his tenure, Meyer was thankfully fired by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Somewhere, Bobby Petrino smiles, thinking he’s just the second worst coach in NFL history.

With Meyer out of the race and no idea where Petrino ended up, we’ll give this trophy to Ted Lasso.

BEST BASERUNNING

In a completely forgettable season for the Chicago Cubs, Javier Baez managed to make his mark with what was either the most dazzling base game we’ve ever seen or the most stubborn defensive game in the world. baseball history (spoiler alert: grab the last one).

The hijinks started at Baez’s routine pitch against Pirates third baseman Erik González, who pitched first for what should have been the inning final. The pitch was wide, pulling first baseman Will Craig out of the bag, so Baez decided – what the hell? – to return to the marble. Instead of just stepping on the sack to end the round, Craig inexplicably took off after him, creating what was surely the very first recap between the first and the house. Willson Contreras came in from second, slipping on the plate just before Craig’s disconcerting throw. Baez, in the meantime, came back to first base, another shot was jumped and Baez sort of ended up on second as the TV broadcaster shouted, “Keep going!” Go! Go! You are invisible!

El Mago is set to star in the next Marvel superhero film, assuming the villains are all playing for the Pirates.

DANCE WITH THE STARS

After dropping out of Notre Dame for a big contract at LSU, Brian Kelly put in the most impressive dance moves since Elaine Benes cut the rug to shreds on “Seinfeld”. Kelly also dabbled in acting, with a Cajun accent that sounded quite like a Massachusetts native who wouldn’t know the difference between a crayfish and a donut.

PERSEVERANCE CUP

Souad Nefissa Cherouati didn’t come close to winning a medal at the Tokyo Olympics, but she does get a well-deserved award for her tenacity. The Algerian swimmer fell far behind the peloton in the 10-kilometer marathon event, but never thought of giving up. She finished nearly 18 minutes behind the gold medalist and almost nine minutes from the penultimate, swimming alone for most of her more than two hours in the water. “Giving up is the worst that can happen to me,” Cherouati said. “I feel bad, but not as bad as I would feel if I stopped.”

This is the Olympic spirit.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the Tokyo 2020 Games, which ultimately went on a year late with no fans in the stands and a largely indifferent welcome from a city that had little desire for it. organize a major sporting event in the midst of a pandemic. Get ready for more of the same in a few weeks when Beijing unveils its own COVID Olympics, The Winter Edition.

TITLETOWN, United States

Moving to Tampa Bay with his anti-aging capsule, Tom Brady guided the Buccaneers to their first Super Bowl title in 18 years – and the seventh championship in an unprecedented career that shows no signs of slowing down at 44. Brady’s only wobble came when he backed off onto dry land after a parade of noisy boats in honor of the champions. It wasn’t the only championship parade on the bay, either. The Lightning won their second straight Stanley Cup in the NHL.

Honorable mention to the Drought Breakers: The Atlanta Braves won their first World Series title since 1995, while the Milwaukee Bucks pulled off a four-decade run without an NBA championship.

IN MEMORY

The sport lost two of its greatest social justice champions in 2021. Hank Aaron, who suffered racist threats during his pursuit of Babe Ruth’s record home run, died in January at the age of 86 year. Lee Elder, the first black golfer to play at the Masters, died in November at the age of 87.

They will be sadly missed. They will never be forgotten.

WORST CANDIDATE

Caitlyn Jenner threw her hat off in the political ring and found it was a lot more intimidating than throwing a discus or a javelin. The 1976 Olympic decathlon champion finished 13th in California’s recall election, winning just 1% of the vote.

PROFILE IN COURAGE

Carl Nassib set a powerful precedent when he became the first prominent male athlete to play a major team sport in the United States – the NFL, no less – to reveal he is gay. In a year the Las Vegas Raiders had to deal with all manner of distractions, from coach Jon Gruden forced to retire over offensive emails to a horrific car accident that led to the removal of Henry Ruggs III, Nassib simply played football with virtually no fanfare. He surely facilitated the exit of the next athlete. And the next one. And the next one.

Dishonorable Mention: Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers’ star quarterback, made everyone believe he was vaccinated – until the truth came out when he was struck down by COVID-19. Now he’s trying to present himself as some sort of out-of-the-box intellectual who just wants to lead a thoughtful debate on other ways to fight a virus that has killed over 800,000 Americans. Sorry, we’ll go with the scientists on this one, not a QB who isn’t as smart as he thinks he is.

THE NEW FROM GRAMMY

For the very first time, we will be awarding a special prize to our best sports musician. The winner is… Matthew Kaminski, the witty organist who provided the soundtrack for the Braves’ championship season. The jazz lover’s eclectic taste in music and his hilarious selections when opposing players come to the plate, create a game in every game. So why did he play “I Am The Walrus” for Alex Bregman of Houston during the World Series? Because the Beatles song includes the line “I am the egg man”, which rhymes with Bregman. Kind of.

With that, we’ll let Kaminski play us out of the imaginary scene.

Congratulations to all the winners and losers.

Enjoy the after-party at home.

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Paul Newberry is a national sports columnist for the Associated Press. Write to him at pnewberry (at) ap.org or at https://twitter.com/pnewberry1963 and check out his work at https://apnews.com/search/paulnewberry

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