Let’s face it. The pandemic year called 2020 has been a bummer. If you take a look in the rear view mirror just one year back (which now seems like forever), no one could have predicted the many changes we would find just one year later.
From a mental health perspective, the events of 2020 certainly made life more unpleasant. As expected, the perpetual optimists still thrived (as they always will). The whiners had even more to whine about in 2020. If you are normally a Grinch, 2020 was the best year ever!
For the vast majority of us, the pandemic affected daily living in one way or another. For those who live in states which seem to be in a perpetual state of lockdown, it certainly makes a future trip to your favorite zoo take on a different feeling.
For our collective mental health, it is time to send 2020 down the proverbial toilet!
Resolution #1 – Have more fun in 2021!
Yes, losing those stubborn ten (now 15) pounds would be nice, too. I think that dropping the level of our nation’s collective intensity and taking on a little happier outlook could be what we all need in 2021. Despite the dark claims of some politicians and frequent naysayers (pick your favorite news channel), raising the collective fear of citizens just isn’t good for our long-term mental health.
We are learning to adapt to whatever comes our way. The Grinch of 2020 is now leaving. Hooray!
Some sports teams are learning that they, too, must work harder to have a little more fun in order to be successful, too.
The Pittsburgh Steelers were having the most fun of any National Football League team beginning the fall of 2020. Despite the pandemic keeping the multitudes of Terrible Towel-waving fans out of football stadiums this year, Steeler Nation was thrilled with the team’s perfect 11-0 start to 2020. None of the Steelers’ six Super Bowl championship teams had ever started a season with such an unbeaten streak.
Then, it simply fell apart. During the team’s 11th straight win, Pittsburgh lost a key defensive starter (linebacker Bud Dupree) and proceeded to drop three straight games. Losing to the improving Washington Football Team (aka “WFT”) and AFC East leader Buffalo wasn’t necessarily bad. The team simply needed to wake-up and shake off the losses.
So, the 11-2 Steelers then traveled to play the 2-10-1 Cincinnati Bengals in a nationally televised Monday Night Football game. Pittsburgh’s offense was averaging nearly 30 points per game in 2020, and the famed black and gold “Steel Curtain” defense was primed to smother the Bengals’ reserve quarterback, Ryan Finley.
Just the opposite happened once the game started. Cincinnati rolled Pittsburgh 27-17 and wasn’t as close as the final score made it seem. Longtime Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said, “High frustration” after completing 20 passes for a measly 170 yards.
Last Sunday, the Steelers’ offensive funk continued as the Indianapolis Colts came to Steel City and grabbed a dominating 21-7 halftime advantage. In the Steelers’ frustrated locker room, All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey tore into his teammates and coaches as he said that the Colts were calling-out the Steelers plays before they even snapped the ball. The Steeler’s offense had become so conservative and predictable that the other team’s defense already knew what was coming.
As Pouncey grabbed the team’s attention, two-time Super Bowl winning QB Big Ben had another thought. In effect, he said, “Why don’t we just go out there and have some fun in the second half?”
The quarterback started calling plays in the second half that the team did not practice in the week leading up to the game. After another woeful short passing first half (11 completions for just 98 yards with no touchdowns), a rejuvenated Pittsburgh quarterback emerged to lead the Steelers in the second half.
Welcome back, “Big Fun” Roethlisberger!
In the second half, Ben nearly drew-up plays in the huddle and caught Indianapolis flat footed. He completed 23 out of 29 passes in the final two quarters for 244 yards. That included two downfield bombs for touchdowns in passes which reminded Steelers fans that their 38-year old quarterback still had something left in his arm as he finishes his 17th year in Pittsburgh.
The Steelers rallied to win the game 28-24. They moved to 12-3, clinched the AFC North and, most importantly, ended a depressing losing streak in which the offense failed to score 20 points in three consecutive games. Steeler Nation sighed a big relief as the black and gold renewed their hopes to bring home a seventh Super Bowl title.
Sports SHOULD be fun, and the Steelers found joy last weekend.
So did Alvin Kamara of the New Orleans Saints. If your Fantasy Football team included the running back on your weekly picks, his NFL record-tying six-touchdown performance and 155 yards probably carried you to victory, too.
Kamara flashed a big grin to the television cameras after Saints thumped the Minnesota Vikings in a nationally broadcast game played on Christmas Day. His big game helped the Saints stay in contention for the #1 overall seed in the NFC with one week to go in the season.
Kamara and the Saints are having fun again, too. Could we see a black and gold Super Bowl between Pittsburgh and New Orleans?
Meanwhile, Dwayne Haskins, a former Ohio State first round selection who has struggled at quarterback for the Washington Football Team, decided to have some off-the-field fun two weekends ago. After his team dropped a home game to Seattle two weeks ago, the WFT second-year quarterback decided to have his version of post-game fun by visiting a Washington-area strip club. Unfortunately, his picture was taken at the club and (gasp!) he wasn’t wearing a mask, either. As the norm, the media published the picture and had a field day with it.
After apologizing for his bad judgment, Dwayne Haskins performed poorly once again Sunday in Washington’s 20-13 home field loss to the lowly Carolina Panthers on Sunday. With the NFC East division title on the line for his team, Haskins was lifted from the game after going 14-28 for just 154 yards with two interceptions and a lost fumble. After the game, the quarterback decided to skip the post-game press room interviews and bolted from the stadium.
On Monday, the Washington Football Team cut their starting quarterback. Just like that, Dwayne Haskins is now out of a job. It’s mostly for his miserable statistics (worst for any starting quarterback in the NFL this season). But, Dwayne Haskins’ personal immaturity finally caught up with him.
In football, it’s better to have fun leading your teammates to victories than doing so off the field. Perhaps Dwayne Haskins will spend the off-season pondering a better way to have fun and succeed with his next employer (if he gets the chance, that is).
The moral of this story?
Have more fun in 2021! Just make sure the fun you’re having would make your Mom and Dad proud of you!
Happy New Year!