The best thing about 2020 is that it’s over.
It sure sounded like it would be a pretty cool year, especially for the senior class with the double 20-20. It proved to be anything but cool.
The pandemic wreaked havoc on all our daily lives, sending kids home from school in front of a laptop, sheltering us in place and wearing masks, closing our local restaurants and small businesses and shutting down all of the local sports.
With no sports to cover, the pandemic led to my temporary layoff. While it was a trying time, it helped to reflect on what matters most in my life - my faith and my family. A little puppy brought into our house by the name of Cocoa proved to be my comfort dog, that is when she isn’t biting me.
Sadly, I lost my dear mother, “Redbird Ruth,” on Dec. 16, coincidentally 31 years to the day we lost dad. Many of you got to know mom through her connections on Facebook. While I miss mom dearly, I rejoice in her glorious reunion with dad, and I know I have the promise in Christ, that I will see them one day again.
Like everyone, I’m ready to kick 2020 to the curb. Good riddance. Adios.
Here’s my annual look-back at the sports year for 2020 in the eyes of your local sports editor:
• Stories that touched me the most: Writing about Princeton’s Liam Duffin, who overcame much personal strife to return to school and basketball, was a testimony in courage. He is to be praised … When I was brought back to work in June as a news reporter, I got to see the good side of people from teens and youth groups helping to clean up after the Aug. 10 derecho and Rachel Gustafson that created the Princeton Quarantine Giveaways to help local businesses in times of need during the shutdown.
• Best games to cover: It’s been so long since I’ve covered a game of any sport, I really don’t remember. Looking back, it would have to be the Feb. 18 double-overtime boys basketball game at Prouty Gym. PHS senior Brayden DeBates hit a 3-pointer with 2.4 seconds left at the end of the second overtime to give the Tigers a 66-65 lead over Rockridge. However, Rockridge’s Nate Henry, who scored a game-high 31 points, was fouled at the top of the key in a scrum for the ball with 0.1 seconds left. He hit both free throws in the double bonus as the Rockets snatched a 67-66 victory from defeat.
• My feel good moment: In all the gloom of 2020, I had a personal moment to cherish. In early December, I learned I had been inducted into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame as a media member. I was most humbled and honored knowing the significance of the honor.
As a youth playing hoops in my driveway and ball fields of my hometown Atlanta, Ill., I would have dreamed of making it as a player or coach one day, and better yet, into the Baseball Hall of Fame. This will be my Cooperstown.
I was overwhelmed by the countless notes of best wishes and congratulations from friends, including current and retired coaches, and kids who I have coached or written about more than 30 years ago.
Thanks to God’s timing of the announcement, I was able to share this notice with my mom. She’s always been my No. 1 fan and it put one final smile on her face in the hospital before she passed.
•Best quote(s): Mike Filippini is always a reporter’s go-to guy for a good quote. After a game in which the Red Devils lost to rival Princeton 79-65 at home, he said, “We scored 65 points, shot 53% from the field and got beat by 14 points. That’s what happens when you start four guys under six-feet tall.”
Another good one came from PHS freshman wrestler Augie Christiansen, who I asked about duplicating his dad’s feat 25 years ago of winning regional, he joked that “Hopefully, I place better than he did (at state) as a freshman.”
• Stories that drew the most reader response: During a week of vacation, I used the time off to reconnect with three college friends for a story on racism in America. Special thanks to my pals Rickie Johnson, Stan Shingles and Thomas Brown, who are African American, for sharing their personal experiences. The series was well received in the community, which was nice to see.
The stories I did on the famous Barn on the Hill that blew down during the derecho, my tribute and obituary on my mom and my column on “the week sports stood still” were also popular.
• Happy to see: Getting to see my daughter get her senior season of golf in, one of the few sports to play thus far this school year. Praying that other sports will get to follow soon.
• Strangest moment: I usually have to think about this one a bit, but I can quickly just say the entire calendar year for 2020.
• Looking back: Here’s what I wrote looking into my crystal ball for 2020 a year ago for this column - “Looking to the days and months that lie ahead in 2020, I see many more success stories and moments that I will be writing about.” Who would have known what lie ahead then?
• Sadly missed: We lost a lot of dear people from the local sports world over the past 12 months, including Redbird Ruth (my mom), Frank Yohn (horseshoes advocate), Roger Weller (LaMoille HS basketball great), Kenney Rodgers (Bureau Valley super fan), Ali Bryant (wife of Hall AD Eric Bryant, former Hall athlete, mother of two), Joe Ruklick (Princeton/Northwestern basketball great), Merle Horwedel (retired Western principal/coach), Steve Fannin (former Hall principal/coach) and Jeanna Bourquin (wife of Manlius Hall of Fame coach Kenny).
Seven baseball hall-of-famers also passed, including boyhood favorites Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Tom Seaver, Al Kaline and Joe Morgan.
I will always remember receiving a notification on my phone sitting in the middle of Apollo Theater learning of the death of Kobe Bryant in the Jan. 26 tragic helicopter accident that also claimed his young daughter and seven others.
BCR Sports Editor Kevin Hieronymus begins his 35th year covering sports in Bureau County. Contact him at email@example.com.