2016 is sure to be another year filled with remarkable sports moments. As fans, we are very lucky. Just about every athlete and every event is covered, no matter where or when. It’s easy to forget that it hasn’t always been so easy to be a sports fan. Regardless, this doesn’t mean we can still want more. Here are five of my hopes for the sports world in 2016.
1. The world’s attention will predominantly be on Rio de Janeiro this summer as the Brazilian city hosts the Summer Olympics. The buildup to the event has been less than stellar so far, with serious concerns about Brazilian infrastructure and the economic impact of the games. While these are not issues unique to Rio, there are some new challenges to be faced, such as the water pollution in the city, which will almost assuredly make the athletes sick while competing in events like rowing, sailing, canoeing, and the triathlon. With the games still seven months away, my hope is that the remaining time is used wisely to address these issues and ensure that the games run smoothly, so that we can all focus on what the Olympics are really about: sports.
2. It’s no secret that Major League Baseball (MLB) has been struggling to appeal to younger American fans in recent years. This is a real shame, given the game’s prominence in our nation’s history. I’d love to see MLB take more steps to bring baseball back to the popularity levels of the past, and one way to do that would be to accept the outward signs of emotion that are so often frowned upon in the game. Jose Bautista’s famous bat flip during last year’s postseason was exactly the kind of action that can bring in more fans. When a star player hits a big home run, they shouldn’t have to act like they’ve been there before. If a player is happy, why should they have to hide that? It makes the players more relatable and the game more fun.
3. Despite football’s place atop America’s sports hierarchy, concerns about concussions may end up hurting the popularity of the game down the road. Some progress has been made to make the game safer. Despite this, I’d like to see 2016 be the start of even bigger changes. Any helmet-to-helmet hit that is deemed to have been at all avoidable—which is pretty much all of them—should result in an automatic suspension, as decided by an NFL committee. This would be similar to the format in which the NHL doles out punishments for dirty hits. Sure, there will be backlash at first, but that’s going to be the case with practically any rule change. Player safety needs to be prioritized.
4. It’s hard to argue with ESPN’s self-proclamation as “The Worldwide Leader in Sports.” The company adds a lot of value to the sports world, but also seems to be increasingly infatuated with two people shouting at each other on camera. Look no further than ESPN2’s daily program “First Take” for a perfect example of the type of useless debate the network has embraced. Whether there are two legitimate sides to an issue or not, the show pits talking heads against each other—arguing away and producing some truly inane content. In 2016, how about these manufactured arguments take a backseat on ESPN and let the network’s finer works, like the investigative reporting on programs such as “Outside the Lines” and “E:60” claim more prominence?
5. Finally, I hope that sports can serve as a form of diplomacy around the world this year. Complex global conflicts may not be solved, but let’s hope that sports can bring us all a bit closer in 2016 and beyond.