Amidst a cheerless lockdown and time at home through level 3, my mood took an upwards turn when professional sporting leagues slowly started up again. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who was glad to have sport back, regardless of whether it looked a little different. Being able to follow competitions like the ANZ Premiership, Suncorp Super Netball and Australian Football League gave me something fresh to structure my days around, something to talk about with my family in our regular phone calls, something to celebrate—particularly the Central Pulse’s back-to-back championship!
In the media, some commentators have suggested that the teams which win their respective competitions in 2020 will always be marked with an asterisk, that they cannot be compared with previous victors due to the unique circumstances of the year.
Competitions have been played in hubs, giving some teams a so-called home advantage (even though stadiums have been empty, or all-but). Team lists have been depleted because some athletes—particularly those with families—needed to opt-out of travelling. There were no finely tuned pre-seasons. Training regimes have been rethought on the fly, fixtures not so much fixed but malleable and subject to change. In most leagues, the very rules of play have been adapted, with game time shortened to manage the load on athletes.
Apparently, for all these reasons, many believe that the last teams standing will always be marked with a ‘but’—yes, they won, but it was in 2020. On the contrary, the shifting circumstances of the year should make victory extraordinary.
Players have been separated from their loved ones, swapping work–life balance for hubs while still being expected to perform at their peak. Medical teams have managed enormous injury risks in condensed seasons. Coaches have had to rethink their meticulous plans. Teams were forced to just play sport to the best of their ability on the day, without perfectly balanced conditions or consistent training opportunities. Perhaps the technical skill has been scrappier in comparison with previous years, but, ultimately, games have still been high-quality contests. Besides, sports fans don’t watch for the best team on paper to obliterate the competition with military precision (unless, of course, it’s their own side); triumph over adversity has always been the preferred sporting narrative.
What about you? You might not consider yourself one of 2020’s victors—or even a finals contender. This year has not dealt everybody an even playing field—some have been hit harder by physical and mental illness, family responsibilities, financial demands or work pressures. Plans have been thrown out the window, and people tossed in the deep end.
However, within the unique circumstances, have you made it to the end of your season? Have you shown up and given it your all, regardless of the obstacles? In Hebrews 12:1, we are encouraged to ‘...run with perseverance the race marked out for us’. If there is an asterisk on your 2020, let it mark a year of getting back up, adapting to change and standing tall through adversity—maybe even picking up a couple of little wins along the way.