Maranacook receiver Joey Dupont stretches out to make a play on Mount View defender Taylor Turner during a 7-on-7 flag football game in October in Thorndike. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

We’ve made it to the end of 2020.

Congratulations. Pat yourselves on the back. Hopefully, this finds you both happy, healthy and, like me, ready for 2021 to get here as soon as humanly possible.

Dave Dyer column photo

That’s not to say we’re out of the woods from the COVID-19 pandemic just yet. Far from it. But it at least seems the wheels are in motion for better news and brighter days ahead.

This year was such a change for everyone, and local sports journalists were no different. Not only did we have to adapt to our environment from a work perspective, but, like you, a life perspective as well. Instead of being out and about at every practice and game we could be at, we hit the phones and wrote stories from our makeshift home offices over the past nine months in an effort to bring you as much local sports coverage as possible. We got to go out, occasionally, during the summer for our “Everyday Athletes” series and some fall high school sports events. But for the most part, we were home. And it was different.

A couple of observations I’ve made from the chair of my home office during the pandemic.

Worst football year ever: If you’ve read my columns over the years, you know football is my favorite sport. And from the local level all the way to the National Football League — rightly or wrongly — the sport took a beating in 2020. Due to COVID, tackle football was replaced with 7-on-7 football at the high school level. Talking to coaches and players, the change was not loved, but tolerated. It was a “better than nothing” type of situation. From a writer’s perspective, it was certainly weird not patrolling the sidelines during a Friday night in the fall. It was, however, heartening to see high school athletes appreciate being around one another, and compete with each other in something, rather than not play a sport at all.

 

On Aug. 14, Maine Maritime Academy announced it suspended the football program over financial concerns. 207 Photo/Courtesy of Maine Maritime Athletics

Local college football — from the University of Maine to the University of New England and in between — was canceled during the fall. Sadly, one program even folded, when Maine Maritime Academy announced it was suspending its football program. My alma mater, Plymouth State (N.H.) University, also had its season canceled, which canceled my annual trip through the White Mountains to catch the Panthers in action.

We would normally get some relief at the NFL level by the New England Patriots, but you already know how that season is going. In the first year of the post-Tom Brady era, the Pats are currently 6-9, guaranteed to have its first losing season since 2000. And sadly, the game against the lowly New York Jets this Sunday is no guaranteed victory. Needless to say, a long-term rebuild is in New England’s future.

The one good thing I could take away was Notre Dame finishing with an undefeated regular-season record, and an upset win over Clemson. But then Clemson got its revenge on the Irish in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game. And now Notre Dame will likely get stomped Friday by Alabama in the Football Bowl Subdivision playoff matchup.

I look forward to, hopefully, somewhat normal seasons at all levels of football in 2021.

Caribou High’s Ethan Holdsworth (10) drives to the basket as Maranacook’s Tim Worster (22), and Cash McClure defend during the Class B state championship game last season at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans Buy this Photo

I’ll miss the high school basketball tournament: I can’t speak for everyone, but for me, the most fun I have with this job every year is covering the high school basketball tournament. There’s simply nothing like watching a game at the Augusta Civic Center or the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor in February. It’s Maine high school sports at its best. The atmosphere of the crowds is second to none. New champions are crowned, creating life-long memories for high school athletes. I eat way to much concession food. Unfortunately, it’s an experience that none of us will get to experience this winter, and that’s sad. But I believe it will help us cherish it all the more during the 2021-2022 season and beyond.

We miss you: Yes, you. The reader. The local sports fan. The fan that comes up to me at games, whether its to praise or admonish, or provide story ideas. I can speak for everyone when I say that we miss the interaction with you, and look forward to that in-person interaction in the very near future. I’m sure I can speak for coaches and athletes when I tell you, a sporting event without fans is a strange experience.

I’m proud of our crew: I’ve always been proud of the work of the Central Maine Sports crew, dating back to when I first walked through the doors for my first stint back in May of 2012. When COVID-19 hit, I thought we’d be fine in the spring and summer (which is normally a slower period for us, anyway). But the work we’ve done to roll out content over the last nine months has been nothing short of extraordinary. Putting our heads together, we were able to come up with the “Remember When” and “Catching Up With” retrospective pieces, which thankfully have been big hits with our readers.

We’ve also managed to stay on top of the ever-changing status of high school sports in the state, which at times, happened on an almost daily basis. Kudos to our crew of Bill Stewart, Sandra Pooler, Travis Lazarczyk, Drew Bonifant and Travis Barrett for being on top of everything. And thanks to the staffs of the Portland Press Herald, Times Record and Sun Journal for the collaborative effort along the way.

I need a new column photo: The current one was taken after I returned to the company in 2016. Friends of mine immediately said I should apply to be the next Notre Dame or Boston Celtics mascot. Four years later, I have no hair on my head and have half the facial hair. It’s probably time for a new photo.

Here’s to 2021.

 

Dave Dyer — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Dave_Dyer

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