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This year saw an attempt to get back to normalcy in sports as fans returned to arenas after seeing the coronavirus pandemic shutter sports altogether. It also made teams and leagues think differently about the way they operated.
As the calendar turns to 2022, it figures to be an embarrassment of riches for the sports world (COVID, notwithstanding).
Chances are that none of the predictions you will read below will be right, but it’s always fun to speculate, because let’s face it, sports these days are one big blob of entertainment, followed by hot takes and people trying to prove their intelligence.
With that said, enjoy the comedy show known as the look ahead to the sports world in 2022.
Locked out and tuned out
This is probably the easiest call for a prediction. Major League Baseball and its players once again can’t seem to agree on anything, and the lockout of the players that started Dec. 1 will carry on well into the spring. A 100-game season seems like a good starting point should the lockout linger and if a full 162-game campaign gets played, the league and the players union deserve praise. But once players start missing paychecks, there is a freeze on free agent signings and owners aren’t collecting revenue from gate receipts and other sources, minds will wonder what the fuss was about in the first place. More of a regional pastime than a national one, look for more dwindling eyeballs in stadiums and on televisions.
College Football Playoff outsider repeat
Cincinnati was the first school outside of the almighty Power Five conferences to make the playoff and while that made every other school that struggles to generate revenue happy, it did so at the peril of anyone outside the southern United States caring about watching on New Year’s Eve. Of course, for this prediction to come to fruition, that outsider needs to be ranked in the top 10 in the preseason, go undefeated and then have chaos ensue, just like this year. With the continuing absurdity of the transfer portal, non-Power Five schools can load their rosters with disgruntled players and others trying to extend their collegiate careers and actually challenge the bluebloods to remain competitive. Cincinnati won’t remain an outsider for long as the Bearcats hopped on the bandwagon of greener pastures known as the Big 12 Conference.
Curtain call on Tom Brady
Sure, he said that he would like to play until he is eligible for his AARP card. But does he actually believe that and does anyone want to see that? Conventional wisdom says this topic only concerns people that are related to Brady or make a livelihood in part because of what he does on the field. Sometimes, enough is enough. Complaining to the refs anytime a defender breathes on him and temper tantrums aside, Brady is the winningest signal-caller the sport has ever seen and the need to prove something year after year at this point, no matter how manufactured the motivation is, makes no sense. Of course, many prognosticators have long since predicted Brady’s eventual skills diminishing and have looked mighty stupid. Maybe the fountain of youth is avocado ice cream, because Brady, at age 44, is leading the league in passing yards and touchdowns. Go figure.
Beards not weird
The New York Yankees have won the most championships in baseball history (none since 2009) so in that regard, they guess it entitles them to think they would know what professionalism looks like. Every workplace has rules, and have the right to enforce said rules, even if they make no logical sense. How else could you explain why the Yankees don’t allow their players to wear facial hair? Even the military has changed its standards on appearance, finally realizing the way someone looks has nothing to do with their ability to perform a job. The Yankees policy has been in place since 1973, which includes players being prohibited from having “long sideburns and “mutton chops.” All it would take is one of their high-priced stars to come to spring training looking like ZZ Top to push back on this insane rule. You think management is going to make Aaron Judge or Giancarlo Stanton sit out regular season games because of what they have on their face? Won’t be surprised one bit if the Yankees finally realize it’s the 21st century and send the babyface look away for good.
Lions, please exit stage left
Speaking of stupid traditions, the Detroit Lions have been a fixture by playing on Thanksgiving since 1932 with the Dallas Cowboys joining the plum viewing spot three decades later. These days, Dallas has a built-in excuse for why people want to sit in front of the television and stuff their faces while watching them. They are allegedly “America’s Team” and have at least won a championship in the last generation or two; plus you can guarantee about 30 million people will watch them on Thanksgiving. This year, nearly 39 million watched the Cowboys wet the bed against the Las Vegas Raiders. The Lions, well, nobody is exactly sure why they deserve any national television spotlight no matter the holiday. The NFL controls what teams play where and when, so this shouldn’t be any different. Once the league corrects this atrocity in 2022 and removes the Lions, who have lost five straight and have a 37-43-2 record on Thanksgiving, from the day’s schedule, it would upset … no one.
Serena gets her 24th
The greatest women’s tennis player the sport has ever seen hasn’t won a Grand Slam title since her triumph at the 2017 Australian Open while she was pregnant. She has come close to tying Margaret Court for the most Grand Slam championships at 24, finishing second in grand slams four other times. But there are factors working against Williams. She is 40 years old (would be the oldest Grand Slam winner ever) and she has three major tournaments to accomplish this in since she won’t play in the Australian Open. The GOAT finally catches Court, cementing her unmatched iconic status.
Monkey see, monkey do
Because no one seems to have a shred of originality these days, look for sports networks to begin copying what made people watch and discuss on social media. At least one network will attempt to duplicate what ESPN pulled off with the ManningCast. Don’t worry, whoever is crazy enough to try it will fail miserably because people have neither the tolerance nor attention span to spend three hours listening to someone who isn’t interesting enough to take them away from a regular broadcast. To offer new and fresh programming is a hard sell, especially because of the many options, but television executives have deep pockets and brains, so hopefully they use them to the viewer’s advantage.
We are the champions
Predictions for which teams will take home the hardware in various leagues:
NFL: Green Bay
NBA: Golden State
MLB: New York Yankees
College football: Georgia
College men's basketball: Gonzaga
College women's basketball: South Carolina
WNBA: Las Vegas
World Cup: France
Follow Scooby Axson on Twitter @ScoobAxson
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 2022 sports predictions: Tom Brady retires, Serena Williams wins 24th