We asked New York Times writers and editors what events they’re most looking forward to as they look over the sports calendar for 2023. Here’s what they said.
Is there really magic in an Arizona football stadium? And is a dust-up at the Masters too much to hope for?
— Mike Wilson, deputy Sports editor
A Match Between the Past and the Future of Men’s Tennis
The two best male tennis players spent most of this year shadowing one another.
Novak Djokovic, the dominant player of the last decade, and Carlos Alcaraz, the 19-year-old world No. 1 seemingly destined to dominate the next one, played just once in 2022. Alcaraz won in three sets on clay at the Madrid Open, 6-7(5) 7-5, 7-6(5) in May. It doesn’t get much closer than that. Otherwise, unlucky draws, upsets, injuries, and Djokovic’s refusal to get vaccinated against Covid-19, which caused him to miss significant chunks of the season, prevented them from meeting again, most notably in the five-set crucible of Grand Slam tournaments.
That was a shame. If the tennis gods are kind, they will bless the sport with multiple matchups between these two in the most important tournaments in 2023, starting with the Australian Open in January.
Alcaraz is a magically creative talent in a hurry to take his place among the greats. Djokovic, 35, is stubbornly persisting at the top of the sport in the twilight of his career. He relishes holding off young upstarts like Alcaraz, and he has been doing it for a while now. His body is primed like a Formula 1 racecar that shows no signs of slowing down.
Tennis is all about rivalries, one era’s stars trying to hold off the next generation until the water overflows the dam. Rafael Nadal will likely have some role in all this, too. But 2023 feels like it just might be all about Alcaraz vs. Djokovic, and somehow I get paid to watch it.
— Matthew Futterman
Super Bowl LVII at State Farm Stadium in Arizona
This selection is not about the teams that have a chance to play in Super Bowl LVII. It’s about the location.
The last time the Super Bowl was played in Arizona, in 2015, Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler intercepted Russell Wilson’s pass on the goal line with 20 seconds left and Seattle just 1 yard from winning a second straight championship. Seven years earlier, on the same field, the underdog Giants toppled the undefeated Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, buoyed by receiver David Tyree’s helmet catch, a play even more improbable than Butler’s game-winning pick.
Super Bowl XLIX in 2015 was the last Super Bowl played at what is now called State Farm Stadium.Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times
While we fully acknowledge that buildings don’t have memories, we can’t help but be curious to see whether more magic will happen in the stadium that hosted two of the most extraordinary games in Super Bowl history.
There’s nothing particularly special about State Farm Stadium, which, since we are leaning into the fanciful, resembles what we’d imagine a U.F.O. to look like, a large silver-colored dome visible for miles in the desert. But it was the setting for moments that forever changed N.F.L. history: the end to the Patriots’ quest for a perfect season, still the only gap on Tom Brady and Bill Belichick’s football résumés, and the unraveling of Seattle’s would-be dynasty as the Patriots began the second phase of theirs.
It’s entertaining to envision what might take its place alongside these past chapters in N.F.L. lore in February.
— Jenny Vrentas
The Emergence of the Next Great American Speedskater
Jordan Stolz may not be the next great American speedskater. He may be the next great speedskater, period.
Stolz, an 18-year-old from Kewaskum, Wis., about 45 miles north of Milwaukee, competed in the Olympics earlier this year. But the Beijing Games came just a bit too early in his development, and he did not finish in the top 10 in either of the races he entered.
Stolz tore up the World Cup circuit this fall, winning three gold medals and two silver and lowering his national record and some of his world junior records in the process. His diet of eating pizza every day before training, as well as the elk and moose meat his family hunts, seems to fuel him just fine.
Stolz, a sprinter who has shown aptitude and interest in distance events, has already drawn comparisons to Eric Heiden, the fellow Wisconsinite who won five gold medals at the 1980 Games, even as it is widely acknowledged Heiden’s feat likely cannot be replicated in the modern era.
That the comparison is raised at all is an indication of how good Stolz is, and how much better he could become.
In February, Stolz will compete at the world junior speedskating championships, and you have to feel for the poor 17- and 18-year-olds who have to go up against him. From March 2 to 5, he will take on the adults at the world speedskating championships, in Heerenveen in the Netherlands.
He will be in contention for three gold medals, among the many he may eventually win.
— Kevin Draper
Dawn Staley’s Bid for Another N.C.A.A. Title
If South Carolina ends the 2022-23 season by winning a second consecutive N.C.A.A. Division I women’s basketball title, and third in six seasons, the cutting down of the nets will mean more than a celebratory ritual for Coach Dawn Staley.
When Staley in 2017 became the second Black coach to win an N.C.A.A. women’s basketball title, she carried in her wallet a strand of net given to her by the first, Carolyn Peck, who guided Purdue to the 1998-99 championship.
Before the 2021-22 season, Staley decided to pass along the gesture. She sent strands of the net from South Carolina’s 2017 title game to at least 80 Black women who were head coaches of college basketball teams, the university said.
Staley wrote to the coaches that the piece of net given to her by Peck in 2015 had served as “a dream and a goal I could actually touch” whenever she doubted her own path to that achievement.
There have been increasingly hopeful signs recently.
In 2021, for the first time, two Black women — Staley and Adia Barnes of Arizona — coached in the same Final Four. In 2022, 12 Black female head coaches reached the N.C.A.A. tournament, double the number from 2021.
“I don’t want to count black women as National Championship coaches by one every few decades,” Staley wrote to her colleagues as she sent them strands of net before last season. “I want us to do it so often we lose count!”
— Jeré Longman
Tension Over LIV Golf at the Masters
In perception and often in reality, golf is a game for the smug, and the presence of the breakaway LIV Golf series promises to make the Masters Tournament the smuggest event on the calendar.
It might be too much to wish for a brawl on Amen Corner, or for someone to get tossed into an azalea. But we can dream.
All the honeyed varnish of the Masters will be tested in 2023 in new ways, thanks to the simmering showdown between the two sides fighting for golf’s future — those backing the established PGA Tour and those siding with LIV Golf, the breakaway series financed by Saudi Arabia and steered by Greg Norman, to the dismay of Tiger Woods.
The rift between the sides is a slippery one, not unlike Rae’s Creek fronting the 12th green at Augusta National.
Like other men’s golf majors, the Masters has not said whether it will welcome players who have signed with LIV Golf. It is hard to imagine it will bar the likes of Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia and Bubba Watson — among nine Masters champions aligned with LIV.
Imagine one of them with, say, Rory McIlroy, a staunch LIV critic, in the final pairing on the Sunday.
Perhaps golf’s good manners will prevail. Or maybe there will be sniping, death stares, or someone “accidentally” stepping on someone else’s ball or “hitting it farther than I thought I could” into the group ahead.
It is always interesting to see what kind of mess Norman can make at the Masters when it counts.
— John Branch
Major League Baseball’s Push for Speedier Play
Time is the most precious gift of all. What a joy it will be to get some back from Major League Baseball.
Among the rules being introduced in 2023 is the pitch clock, which will require pitchers to deliver to home plate within 15 seconds with the bases empty and 20 seconds with runners on. Purists may blanch. But even grumpy, grizzled scouts who saw the pitch clock tested in the minor leagues last summer loved the way it sped up games.
The average time of an M.L.B. game last season was 3 hours 3 minutes, and it has been at least three hours in eight of the past nine years. As a kid whose parents took me to Detroit’s Tiger Stadium once or twice a summer, I always rooted for two things: a Tigers victory, and extra innings to provide more time in that magical stadium. But today, the “never get back” line in “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” has become a sardonic joke.
The new rule will also benefit base runners, as pitchers will be allowed just two disengagements (pickoff attempts or step-offs) during a plate appearance. A third unsuccessful pickoff throw will automatically give the runner the next base.
Green lights for speedy runners should result. A utility man — utility man! — for Miami named Jon Berti led the majors with just 41 steals in 2022.In anticipation of 2023, you can already imagine Rickey Henderson and Vince Coleman dancing off first base.
— Scott Miller
A World Cup in a Place Other Than Qatar
When the Women’s World Cup starts in July in Australia and New Zealand, you know what will be one of the best things about it? That it won’t be held in Qatar.
The recently concluded men’s World Cup was held in Qatar, despite widespread objections about the way the country won the bid, its suffocation of some personal freedoms and its record on human rights. Thousands of workers are said to have died building the stadiums, though the government disputes the counts from human rights organizations.
But Australia and New Zealand? These nations are a natural fit for the world’s biggest soccer tournament, and what a relief.
They aren’t perfect countries with perfect governments or policies, but they will be perfect for soccer and the players and fans who want to celebrate the sport.
I’m ready for boisterous, beer-swigging spectators cheering on their teams. And rainbows on shirts and flags and armbands, or wherever else people choose to show them. I’m excited to see the thousands of young girls in the stands from two host countries that support and encourage girls to play sports — two countries that have active women’s national soccer teams, unlike Qatar, whose women’s team hasn’t been heard from in nearly 10 years.
The United States’ team will be ready, too: It will be out to win its third straight World Cup. But the squad will have some tough competition. England, behind Lucy Bronze, is coming off an emotional victory at the 2022 European championship and is looking for its first World Cup title.
Let the party begin.
— Juliet Macur
An End to All of the Talk About Pickleball
I’m looking forward to the collapse of pickleball. I say this as someone who has enjoyed playing the game, though more earnestly than skillfully. And I don’t say it to belittle the joy of the people relegating tennis to a distant memory.
No, I’m looking forward to the bursting of the media bubble around pickleball. A media bubble that, if I’m honest, I contributed to by assigning coverage of … the growth of pickleball.
But, enough already (well, after we roll out a few more pieces). Let’s stop talking about pickleball, eventually, and get back to just playing it for the sheer joy of playing it. Because that would make for a pretty good story.
— Randal C. Archibold, Sports editor
Southern California’s Return to Football Glory
I’m looking forward to what quarterback Caleb Williams and Coach Lincoln Riley will accomplish in 2023 after a revelatory debut season for both at the University of Southern California.
This was seen as a transitional year for the program after Riley left Oklahoma for Los Angeles and Williams joined him. Instead, the pair offered a season-long preview for what is likely to come in 2023. Riley patched a thin roster by raiding the transfer portal for skill-position players like Williams and the receivers Jordan Addison (Pittsburgh) and Mario Williams (Oklahoma). Caleb Williams proved to be the hardest person in college football to bring down, extending plays with both his arm and legs in becoming the first U.S.C. quarterback to win the Heisman Trophy since Matt Leinart in 2004.
Before Riley and Williams, the Coliseum had not rocked this hard since the days of Leinart, running back Reggie Bush and Coach Pete Carroll. U.S.C. missed out on this year’s College Football Playoff as Williams’s heroics could not mask a charitable defense in two losses to Utah. But Riley will have the benefit of another recruiting class and another season of Williams at quarterback to help restore U.S.C. to its past heights in 2023, just before the university jumps to the Big Ten in 2024 and things get really weird.
— Jonathan Abrams
Formula 1 Racing on the Las Vegas Strip
After a four-decade absence, Formula 1 racing will returns to Las Vegas from Nov. 16 to 18. The event seems a natural fit for a city built on winning and losing and doing it fast, whether it’s trying to hit it big in blackjack or make back the money you lost, marrying the new friend you made tonight, or getting last night’s marriage annulled.
The P.R. machine behind the Las Vegas Grand Prix, the first F1 race in the city since 1982, is promising spectacle, excess, and sex appeal worthy of its host. Organizers expect more than 100,000 attendees, with tickets starting at $500 for standing space with no guaranteed view of the track. Grandstand seating starts at $2,000, with access to shared hospitality areas going for $8,000 to $10,000 and more. Rooms are pricey, too: The MGM Grand has reservations starting at $1,000 per night, and the price at the Bellagio is double that.
In true Las Vegas fashion, the race has F1’s latest start, 10 p.m. local time. Two dozen racers, including the seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes, will navigate the 3.8-mile circuit, which winds around and then slices through the heart of the city. The track will feature F1’s second-longest straight in the world: the 1.2-mile stretch down the Las Vegas Strip, in all of its sensory-assaulting glory.
Simulations predict that drivers will reach speeds exceeding 210 miles per hour and experience G forces twice that of an astronaut launching into space.
Of course, a lot of nights in Vegas feel like that.
— Brandon Sneed
The Battle for Bragging Rights at the Army-Navy Game
It’s on my calendar every year and a reminder that the holiday season has kicked off: Army vs. Navy, America’s Game.
On Dec. 9, 2023, it will be played at Gillette Stadium near Boston, the first game in New England in the rivalry’s 124-year history. I started watching as a boy with my dad. I saw the game in person for the first time in 2011 with my then 6-year-old son, Jack, who was devoted to his green plastic army men. He’d seen the Army Black Knights game on TV and said, “Let’s go see the good guys, Dad.”
That was enough to send me to the banks of the Hudson River and the United States Military Academy to understand how a group of young men play a game they love while navigating an Ivy League-caliber education and enduring the rigors of year-round military training. Physically, it all takes a toll — nagging injuries become chronic because there is no rest or recovery. But sit in their classrooms, march alongside them and feel their pride on Branch Night when the “Firsties,” as seniors are known, are assigned to the Infantry, Armor and other branches for the following five years, and you know what a young man in full looks like.
For both teams, Army vs. Navy is the game that matters the most. At West Point, “Go Army, Beat Navy” is painted on rocks and rooftops and those four words are uttered with ardor. So it is fitting that it is the last big-time college football game before bowl season.
When it’s over, no matter what the scoreboard says, the good guys always win.
— Joe Drape