In retrospect, it’s kind of naively adorable that I used to look forward to election years. As a history nerd, I used to get excited about the idea that every four years, I could be living through something momentous.
Memo to 10-year-old Ken: Be careful what you wish for.
I began 2024 with so much existential dread that honestly, I’m a bit surprised I didn’t wake up on Jan. 1 changed into a giant cockroach. I could use a few things to look forward to, and I’m probably not the only one.
So as a service, I’ve compiled a list of uplifting LGBTQ sports stories that should build excitement in the new year. These out athletes and sports figures always inspire us — and now they’ll be doing our collective mental health an incredible service.
If you need some good news to anticipate the next 12 months, here are several places to look…
Sha’Carri Richardson shows the Olympics what they missed
When Richardson was dropped from the Tokyo Summer Olympic Games after testing positive for marijuana, it was the height of absurdity. After all, coming out of 2020, why would anyone need an uplifting story?
Guess who’s back…back again…
Not only is Richardson competing at the Paris Olympics following a 2023 World Championship, she’ll be doing so as possibly the most motivated athlete in the entire Olympic Village. Her races will be a must-watch, and revenge is a dish best served in a tossed orange wig.
Tom Daley’s comeback
As emotional as his Tokyo victory was, he and diving partner, Matty Lee, did it against the pandemic backdrop of empty stands. Now if he qualifies for 2024, he’ll get to compete again in a raucous Olympic atmosphere.
With Great Britain a short Chunnel ride away, the Paris Games could easily turn into a home crowd for Daley. If he repeats as champion, we’ll get to see a packed arena do its impression of Dustin Lance Black and Nana Debs.
Team LGBTQ takes the NFL Playoffs by storm*
Back in November, I wrote a piece celebrating the Jacksonville Jaguars’ impressive 8-3 start in the season when strength coach Kevin Maxen made history by coming out publicly. At the time, I proclaimed “one of the best feelings in sports is when game results make us believe that karma exists in the universe.”
With the Jaguars currently at 9-7 and needing a Week 18 win to make the NFL Playoffs, that might be a reminder not to pin my beliefs in the essential justice of the universe on a team that once hired a head coach who allegedly kicked his own placekicker.
Nonetheless, should the Jaguars beat the last-place Tennessee Titans, they’ll get to host a playoff game with a publicly out coach, making the best kind of LGBTQ sports history right smack dab in… Florida.
I am begging for karma to be real.
Speaking of Team LGBTQ and the NFL Playoffs…
The San Francisco 49ers have clinched a first-round bye with the best record in the NFC and are one of the favorites for a Super Bowl berth. Proving once and for all that if a team wants to compete for a championship, they need to host a drag brunch in their home stadium.
It’s science, people.
Anderson Comás takes the next step in his baseball journey
Comás brightened LGBTQ baseball fans’ day when he came out publicly last February and found support from teammates and the Chicago White Sox organization. After that, he settled in for his first Minor League season as an out athlete, and an interesting thing happened.
In a small sample, he dominated. Across three teams in the Sox farm system, Comás pitched in 17 games and put up a sterling 1.38 ERA and 1.128 WHIP. Those are the kind of numbers that make front offices pay attention.
As a 24-year-old converted position player, Comás is still a ways away from the big leagues, and he needs to increase his strikeout rate. But his performance indicates he might be onto something with this pitching thing, and he’s worth keeping an eye on as he climbs the ladder.
UEFA EURO 2024 pledges to combat discrimination
The 2024 UEFA European championship will be held in Germany starting in June. Last summer, the tournament released its environmental, societal, and governance strategy. Part of UEFA’s statement declared that it will focus on “Preventing and fighting all forms of discrimination, ensuring the rights of all are respected and protected.”
Just two years removed from the Qatar World Cup debacle, it’s refreshing to see a major soccer tournament make a statement standing up for human rights — which include those of the LGBTQ community.
A new Team LGBTQ Olympic record?
While our eyes will be on performers like Richardson and Daley during the Paris Olympics, the key stat we’ll be watching is 186. That was the number of out LGBTQ athletes Outsports tracked during the Tokyo Olympics Games, and it is extremely likely we see an even higher number of out athletes in Paris this summer.
Every one of those athletes will have our deepest gratitude and appreciation for competing at the highest level. Especially since for most of us, finding the strength to get out of bed in 2024 will be the biggest victory of all.