A sneak peek at 2024 in sports

By Mark Nagi

Well, it is that time.  Here’s hoping that you all had a wonderful New Year’s and best wishes for the 360 or so days ahead.

Regular readers of this column know that I like to get out the crystal ball at the start of every year to give you a glimpse into what the next 12 months has in store in the world of sports locally, regionally, nationally, and globally.

Some of this should be taken with a grain of salt… it’s a fun game to try to figure out which notes fit that category.

In January, Washington will win their first national championship since 1991 with a 35-31 win over Michigan. After the game, Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh announces that he will soon accept the head coaching job with the NFL’s Washington Commanders. His first hire is Connor Stalions as video coordinator.

In February, the Buffalo Bills finally win a Super Bowl, thanks to a 28-24 victory against Detroit. All western New York burns to the ground in celebration. Tennessee’s men’s basketball team spends a couple of weeks ranked number 1 in the nation, while guard Santiago Vescovi announces that he is leaving the program to go on the road to be the opening act for comedian and lookalike Josh Mancuso.

In March, the Vols win the SEC regular season and tournament titles but get eliminated from the NCAA tournament in the 1st round when their bus takes a wrong turn, and they miss their game against Binghamton. UT coach Rick Barnes announces that he will retire and move to Bali. The Lady Vols make a late season run and advance to the Sweet 16.

In April, The Masters takes place but is marred by a parking lot brawl between PGA and LIV players. Rory McIllroy is accused of attacking Dustin Johnson with a Trident. Tennessee’s Orange and White Game draws 90,000 fans to Neyland Stadium, as Big Orange Country gets to watch Nico Iamaleava throw for 300 yards and run for 200 more in two minutes of spring game action.

In May, Tennessee announces a NIL deal with Amazon. Their first order of business is signing the entire Baltimore Ravens roster. Bearden’s boys’ soccer team wins state, as does Farragut’s baseball team.

In June, Tennessee’s baseball and softball teams advance to their respective College World Series. However, the baseball team is banned from Omaha due to the NCAA’s new “too much swagger” rule.

In July, SEC Media Days lasts four weeks. Alabama head coach Nick Saban demands that the Crimson Tide get to play with 14 on each side of the football. Texas is welcomed with a “Horns Down” banner. The Summer Olympics get underway in Paris.  Americans celebrate winning gold medals in sports that most Americans have never played.

In August, we all just find a way to get through the day because it is 800 degrees in the shade and there are not actually football games being played.

In September we can all breathe again because football is officially back. Nico Iamaleava throws for 645 yards in a blowout win over N.C. State. A national championship parade is planned. The Vols lose at Oklahoma two weeks later, causing plans to be burned and ashes dumped into the Tennessee River. The Alabama/Georgia game loses some luster when Greg Sankey announces that both teams are guaranteed playoff spots regardless because “we are SEC, and you are not.”

In October, Tennessee beats Florida 45-3. Nico rushes for 5 touchdowns. National championship parade plans are somehow rebuilt from the soggy ashes. A week later, the Vols beat Alabama and Neyland Stadium falls into the Tennessee River during a wild celebration. Bearden’s girls’ soccer team wins state.

In November, the Atlanta Braves win the World Series. Tennessee earns a playoff berth thanks to a 10-2 record.

In December, the Powell Panthers football team wins state for the 2nd time. Head coach Matt Lowe is tossed into the Tennessee River in celebration. Neyland Stadium’s rebuild finishes well ahead of schedule and the Vols host Ohio State in a CFB playoff game that UT wins 3-0, with Nico Iamaleava converting a 65-yard field goal for the only points in a game played during a monsoon.

Can’t wait for the sports ahead!