What a year it was: A Harambe free lookback at 2016

By in Features

It’s a new year, and as we tear the cellophane off of our 2017 calendars, what better time is there than now to compulsively navel-gaze about the year we all just went through?

If I could go out on a limb, I would venture to guess that few people are mourning the end of 2016. The year brought lots of bad news and shocking moments, but it wasn’t all terrible — just most of it. Here, the Sheaf looks back at the harrowing year of 2016.

Internationally, 2016 was full of shock and awe. In June, the Brexit referendum — and the ensuing Bregret it created — stunned the United Kingdom as people realized they had voted to leave the European Union. The vote sent shockwaves into the EU and has been identified as an example of the rebirth of populism in western democracies.

The free app Pokemon Go took the world by storm starting in July, with children and millennials alike getting some fresh air and searching for Pikachus. While it year-in-review-opinions-jeremy-britzwas an explosively popular exercise fad, enthusiasm and usage for Pokemon Go seemed to dissipate after a month or two — just like a gym membership.

On our side of the pond, the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro treated the entire world to a bounty of cringes in August. While outbreaks of the Zika virus sewed the seeds of discomfort before the events even began, photos of green swimming pools, the news scandal around swimmer Ryan Lochte’s fictitious mugging in Rio and numerous videos and gifs of athletes breaking bones kept people glued to their TVs and shuddering in disgust.

The American presidential election was one of the most bitter and spectacular — in the sense that it was one great big gaudy spectacle — races in the country’s history. Prior to election day, polls showed that both Democratic Party nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee, and current president-elect, Donald Trump, were both overwhelmingly disliked by the American public, polling at 59 per cent and 60 per cent unfavorability among registered voters in August.

This reverse-Sophie’s choice was not lost on the American electorate. In an interview with Fox News, comedian and philosopher Larry the Cable Guy perhaps summed the election up best.

“It’s kind of like the choice is, let’s see, ‘Do I want to poop my pants, or do I want somebody else to poop my pants?’” he said. “So, I dunno, I think I’ll poop my own pants.”

Sage words from a profound man.

While the election put the United States one page closer to closing the book on Barack Obama’s presidency, he’s proving to go out swinging. Following months of peaceful protests, police violence and international shows of solidarity, the US Army Corps of Engineers announced on Dec. 4 that the Dakota Access Pipeline will not run under Lake Oahe, N.D., as had been previously announced.

To many, this was seen as a delivery on a promise Obama had made to support and look out for Indigenous Americans. While the real heroes are the protesters and water protectors who stood up against violence and pressure for their human rights — and the long term future of the pipeline project still remains uncertain — I still think this deserves a minor “Thanks Obama.”

Coincidentally enough, only days earlier on the other side of the US-Canadian border, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the approval of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Expansion Project on Nov. 30, infuriating environmentalists and local Indigenous groups. Oh well, I guess you can’t win them all! At least people have a new outlet for their frustrations and protests.

Throughout May, wildfires ravaged northern Alberta — Fort McMurray in particular. In the wake of the destruction, approximately 10 per cent of the city was destroyed, leaving an estimated $9 billion plus in damages and 80,000 displaced residents. The silver lining to this tragedy, however, came in the form of outpouring of support and volunteerism from throughout the country and shows of sympathy and offers for support from the international community.

Looking now to our very own bridge city of Saskatoon, it was an eventful year as well. In October, Don Atchison’s record-breaking 13 years and 5 terms as mayor of Saskatoon came to an end with the election of Charlie Clark, following a heated four-way race with Devon Hein and Kelley Moore. Saskatoon also smashed a glass ceiling by electing a majority female city council, so look how progressive we all are.

Another noteworthy addition to the city was the inaugural season of the Saskatchewan Rush National Lacrosse League team. Evidently, people in Saskatoon were excited at having a new local team to support.

The Rush — relocated here from Edmonton after the 2015 season — saw attendance numbers steadily grow throughout the year, becoming the third most popular team in the league, bested only by Buffalo, N.Y. and Colorado.

A wildly successful first season in their new hometown climaxed with a league championship in June. If you’re so inclined, you can rush to get tickets for the upcoming season, on sale now. Their first home game is against Rochester, N.Y. on Jan. 21, 2017.

By comparison, when it comes to the Saskatchewan Roughriders, perhaps the less said the better. The team bid farewell to its long time home, Mosaic Stadium, with a whimper, logging only five wins against 13 losses. Perhaps a change of scenery will do them good this summer.

If you’re still reading this, first off, thank you. Secondly, congratulations! That means that you survived 2016, which is more than can be said for a lot of people. Yes, 2016 was a pretty big year for celebrity deaths.

The music industry took any number of blows last year, with the deaths of David Bowie, Phife Dawg, Prince, Leonard Cohen and Sharon Jones, respectively, to name only a few. Thankfully, their music lives on and — in many cases — was exposed to a renewed interest and a new audience in the wake of their passings. At the end of the day, hey, at least the members of Maroon 5 are still all alive and kicking.

The grim reaper didn’t take it any easier on people of note in other fields, either. Last year saw the deaths of performers Alan Rickman, Patty Duke and Gene Wilder, boxer and civil rights activist Muhammad Ali, author and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, dictator and cigar enthusiast Fidel Castro and trans-activist and actress Alexis Arquette. On the plus side, there’s now far fewer beloveds to potentially die in 2017!

Regardless of all the losses, 2016 was nonetheless a great year for the arts. In the music world, albums such as Beyonce’s Lemonade, Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool, Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo, Car Seat Headrest’s Teens of Denial, and Kendrick Lamar’s Untitled, Unmastered were among the most notable and beloved releases of the year. If I had to make one recommendation of my own from the last year, I’d say Tuns’ self-titled debut is an under-the-radar pick worth checking out.

While Netflix was the real winner of 2016, drawing unprecedented audiences with shows like Stranger Things, Luke Cage and a revival of Gilmore Girls, people still found their way to the movie theatre in droves to see films like Finding Dory, Deadpool, Captain America: Civil War and Zoolander 2. Well, at least most of those were hits. If you’re worried you missed out on seeing something great last year, might I recommend Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some!!?

The year 2016 will likely go down in history books as a year of calamities, but — that said — hopefully it left us all with at least some positive memories that can drown out the negatives. Bring it on, 2017 — we’ve been waiting.

Zach Tennent / Opinions Editor

Photographic by: Jeremy Britz / Photo Editor

Image Credits

Boris Johnson Photo – surreynews / Flickr

Lochte – myuzem / Flickr

Trump – ageskidmore / Flickr

Pipeline – fibonacciblue / Flickr

Hillary – marcn / Flickr

Kanye – shankbone / Flickr

Trudeau – alexguibord / Flickr

Castro – kevinwburkett / Flickr

Prince – petertea / Flickr

Bowie – shankbone / Flickr

Rickman – jastrow / Flickr

Pokemon, Dory – Wikipedia / Google