This morning we had our LAPS Secret Santa ceremony at our final team meeting of 2020. It was beset with intrigue, double gifts, software malfunctions, premature gift openings, calls for an inquest… all the classic Christmas stuff!
Clearly, it’s been a hell of a year. Sport is what we’re about at LAPS. It’s what unites our members, our team and our mission. It gives us joy, sorrow and everything in between. This year when sport was put on the shelf, millions of us around the UK felt bereft and it was clear how important sport is to us, even if it just gives us something to talk about each day.
When sport returned, even without fans, we breathed a sigh of relief. Here was something ‘normal’ that was back. The fact that it’s continuing throughout a tough winter is testament to how we feel about its importance. It’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. But it’s been here.
To sign off this year, we’ve compiled our sporting highlights of 2020. Enjoy.
For me it had to be cheering Dustin Johnson for his win at Augusta in the Masters. The way he won it, the only player to ever get to 20 under, on top of the way he’s been playing all year makes him a standout in a weird year for sport! The fact he’s cool as helps.
It’s hard for me to pick a highlight as the teams I follow were largely mediocre in 2020, Arsenal’s FA Cup win notwithstanding. I loved watching the Champions’ Cup Final between Exeter and Racing but without skin in the game, it was hard to care too much.
Fans being allowed back into stadiums got me oddly emotional. The volume of the support given to the Arsenal team at a Thursday night Europa League tie against Rapid Vienna by just 2000 people was phenomenal. Then when I heard that the fans had been applauded in to the ground by the stadium staff, I thought that was just wonderful. I’d say that feeling of togetherness is my sporting highlight of 2020.
Despite the regular playing season getting cut short, my team still managed to win some silverware. I was fortunate to be a part of the Stade Toulousain squad to win the Cup à 10 national tournament in March this year. That’s my highlight!
My sporting highlight in 2020 would have to be Liverpool FC winning the Barclays Premier League, for the first time since 1990. Especially after they came so close the year before losing narrowly to Man City. The fact they responded to this disappointment by putting in an unbelievable season shows what a great team they are. Liverpool cruised to the title by 18 points and equalled a Premier League record for the most wins in a season (32). They also finished with a points tally of 99 which is the second highest points total in English top flight history.
My standout sporting moment of 2020 was back in February, when the “Gypsy King” Tyson Fury handed WBC Heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder his first defeat in spectacular fashion, in their highly anticipated rematch. The 12th round of the 1st fight saw Fury unbelievably climb up from the canvas after a punch from the gods by Wilder. Many saw Fury winning the first fight but as we often see in boxing, Fury was subjected to a controversial draw. In the rematch, Fury didn’t leave the result in the judges’ hands and put in a ruthless performance, stopping Wilder and surely consolidating himself as the number 1 Heavyweight in the world. Hopefully in 2021 we see the biggest fight in British boxing history between Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua.
My sporting highlight was Arsenal’s FA Cup triumph! Arteta came in as manager seemingly changed the culture and style of football…. never did I expect us to beat Man City in the semi then Chelsea in the final. Another trophy, another FA Cup to keep us ahead of Tottenham’s empty cabinet. While this season doesn’t look so good (😬), I hope we stick with Arteta.
2020 was a difficult year to be a sports fan. Live sport was obviously very limited and despite everyone’s best efforts, I found most televised sport a bit flat to watch without spectators. In my opinion the NBA did the best job and so I enjoyed watching my team, the Toronto Raptors, attempt to defend their NBA title. They didn’t manage it, but there were still some great moments and this buzzer beater from OG Anunoby was my highlight.
My own sporting endeavours are limited to a friendly game of 5-a-side football with a bunch of middle aged friends every Friday and some reasonably competitive league cricket in the summer. Having waited until late 12th July to be able to play a game this year I was very excited to play our first friendly of the season. We batted first and I went in at number 9 (a place or 2 higher than last season’s average of 7 justified). We were in trouble at 27 for 7. I contributed 43 not out – my best score in a decade. I contributed in the field with a diving one handed catch in the covers and had just been told to warm up ready to bowl when I broke my leg diving for a ball on the boundary (yes, I did stop the 4). A batting average for a season is worked out on the total number of runs scored divided by the amount of times you get out – so 43 not out left me with a problem! I tried hard to get fit enough to play in the last game of the season, where I intended to hobble out, try to score 7 runs and make sure I got myself out at some point, giving me an average of at least 50 for the only time in my career. I failed! There’s always next season.
Leeds United confirmed promotion to the Premier League on Friday 17th July.
We didn’t play on the Friday but West Brom lost which meant we were up. On the Saturday, Brentford lost and we were confirmed as Champions. For many of the last 16 years I watched matches live and suffered the ignominy of being at Histon when we lost in the FA Cup, with many of my friends there supporting Histon. Driving to Cardiff for a Championship Play Off Final and losing 3-0 to Watford. Being at Wembley when we lost in the Division 1 Play Off Final to Doncaster! The relief after 16 years of hurt was immense. All the disappointments, failures and disasters meant I couldn’t enjoy the promotion run in until it was mathematically impossible for Leeds to muck it up.
The elation of finally making it back to the Premier League was indescribable, it was like lifting the weight of 16 years of disappointment from my shoulders. I’m not to proud to say I shed a tear watching the celebrations at Elland Road and wished I was there, joining the lads in singing Marching on Together…Leeds! Leeds! Leeds!
As Bill Shankly said “Football is more than a game” He was right, Leeds have been my life.
That’s it from us! Have the Merriest Christmas you can and we’re looking forward to 2021. See you then.
LAPS Members – give us your 2020 Sporting Highlights!