Opinion: Connecticut's hottest takes of 2021

File photo

For a crummy pandemic year, 2021 produced delightful writing that readers gobbled up.

Here are the 15 most-read opinions from our pages this year. They are a snapshot of the highs and lows of 2021, from Delta breaking through to New Yorkers discovering Connecticut’s magic. Enjoy.

— Carolyn Lumsden, Group Opinion Editor

“I’m Matt Amodio. How I win at ‘Jeopardy!’ and why I love CT”
Matt Amodio

This image provided by Jeopardy! Productions Inc. shows contestant Matt Amodio. The Yale University doctoral candidate in computer science had landed high on the list of all-time top “Jeopardy!” winners. (Jeopardy! Productions Inc. via AP)

This image provided by Jeopardy! Productions Inc. shows contestant Matt Amodio. The Yale University doctoral candidate in computer science had landed high on the list of all-time top “Jeopardy!” winners. (Jeopardy! Productions Inc. via AP)

Associated Press

I’m Matt Amodio. How I win at ‘Jeopardy!’ and why I love CT” was our most-viewed personal essay in 2021. Matt, a Yale student with the second-longest winning streak in “Jeopardy!” history, declared his love for Pepe’s pizza, praised Gov. Lamont as “extremely nice and energetic,” and confessed to being “pretty introverted.” We thank him for being extremely nice in writing this before his streak ended in October.

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“The right to lie”
Elizabeth Page

Elizabeth Page

Elizabeth Page

Contributed /

This essay about trusted figures and institutions lying to the public has been viewed tens of thousands of times.

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“She once thought living in New York was magical. Now she calls moving to CT ‘best decision of my life.’”
Amanda Salzano

A view of Stamford, Connecticut city skyline, captured on April 29, 2020 from the Stamford train station.

A view of Stamford, Connecticut city skyline, captured on April 29, 2020 from the Stamford train station.

Matthew Brown / Hearst Connecticut Media

Amanda Salzano decamped for Stamford when New York turned nasty. Connecticut’s calmness, “its kind citizens,” brought her peace. “2020 will always be the year I fell out of love with New York,” she wrote in a remarkable essay that spoke for those fleeing Covid-stricken New York City — and those wanting to.

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“Why I love to make fun of Connecticut”
Mike Reiss

Mike Reiss, seen here with his “Simpsonized” image, is the longest-serving writer behind “The Simpsons.”

Mike Reiss, seen here with his “Simpsonized” image, is the longest-serving writer behind “The Simpsons.”

Contributed photo

Longtime “Simpsons” writer Mike Reiss grew up in Bristol. He may be the first (and last) person ever to write a comical play about this Land of Steady Habits. Seriously, this is funny.

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“COVID displaced me from NYC and sent me back to Norwalk. It also reminded me of why I love my hometown.”
Brian O’Neill

Sunset Grille at Cove Marina in Norwalk.

Sunset Grille at Cove Marina in Norwalk.

Patrick Sikes / For Hearst Connecticut Media

Another New York exile, Brian O’Neill, had to move back in with his parents for a year. This is his paean to the town that sheltered him and to the buffalo calamari at Rowayton Seafood. 

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“Warning signs all over CT landscape”
Hugh Bailey

Yard signs for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump outside a rally in 2016.

Yard signs for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump outside a rally in 2016.

Associated Press file photo

What’s a Top 15 opinion list without Donald Trump? Columnist Hugh Bailey warns that “his ravings can’t be laughed off or ignored,” even in blue Connecticut.

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“Call me Black, not BIPOC” 
Stacy Graham-Hunt

Hundreds of people protest police brutality in Danbury last summer after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Hundreds of people protest police brutality in Danbury last summer after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Christian Abraham / Hearst Connecticut Media

The term BIPOC stands for Black, Indigenous and people of color. It offends Graham-Hunt, who says it’s only used “so people who are scared to talk about race don’t have to utter the word ‘Black’ or the other non-white groups.”

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“CT judge says Biles ‘quit on herself, her teammates, and her country’”
Gary White

Simone Biles waits her turn to compete on the balance beam during the U.S. Gymnastics Championships in Fort Worth, Texas, June 4, 2021. Biles wore a goat laced into her leotard during the competition.

Simone Biles waits her turn to compete on the balance beam during the U.S. Gymnastics Championships in Fort Worth, Texas, June 4, 2021. Biles wore a goat laced into her leotard during the competition.

Tony Gutierrez / Associated Press

Gary White, a state court judge and boxing referee, compared Simone Biles to the indefatigable Jackie Robinson and Joe Louis and said the gymnast quit the Olympics “because the circumstances were too tough for her.” Former gubernatorial spokesman Dean Pagani responded that “Judge White should have followed precedent and deferred his opinion without prejudice.”

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“Delta broke through my family”
Susan Campbell

How quickly do I need a second COVID-19 vaccine shot? AP Illustration/Peter Hamlin
How quickly do I need a second COVID-19 vaccine shot? AP Illustration/Peter Hamlin
Peter Hamlin / Associated Press

Columnist Susan Campbell turned her ire on whoever gave her masked and vaccinated husband the Delta virus. “Unvaccinated people are extending this pandemic for the rest of us,” she wrote angrily and warned that if you’re unvaccinated, “get your affairs in order.” 

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“A beluga died at Mystic Aquarium, and we need answers”
Dr. Naomi Rose and David Kaplan

In this file photo, Mystic Aquarium trainers play with a Beluga whale in Mystic. One of five beluga whales acquired from an aquarium in Canada after a legal fight with animal rights activists has died at its new home in Connecticut.

In this file photo, Mystic Aquarium trainers play with a Beluga whale in Mystic. One of five beluga whales acquired from an aquarium in Canada after a legal fight with animal rights activists has died at its new home in Connecticut.

Associated Press

Two whale experts questioned why sick whales were flown from Canada to Connecticut, which was sure to stress them out. The op-ed also revealed that the Cetacean Society International is headquartered in West Hartford. Who knew?

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“I left Connecticut. Does CT care why?”
Suzanne Bates

File photo

Why people leave Connecticut and why they come back are always fascinating topics for our readers — but not for the state, apparently. Suzanne Bates left for Utah a few years ago. She wonders why Connecticut shows no interest in asking migrants like her what’s making them go and what would make them stay. She hazards her own guesses for the exodus.

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“Will Tropical Storm Henri rival CT storms of the past?”
Ryan Hanrahan

In September 1938, the Great New England Hurricane smashed coastal areas New England, including Connecticut, with a ferocity rarely seen. Pictured, a toy sailboat is passed from one person to another while waters of the Byram River in Greenwich surround them.

In September 1938, the Great New England Hurricane smashed coastal areas New England, including Connecticut, with a ferocity rarely seen. Pictured, a toy sailboat is passed from one person to another while waters of the Byram River in Greenwich surround them.

Photo courtesy of the Greenwich Historical Society

While we huddled at home in August awaiting a possible Stormageddon, NBC Connecticut meteorologist Ryan Hanrahan wrote this op-ed to reassure us that this storm wasn’t it. But he also warned that the Big One will come eventually. This is a fascinating history of natural disasters in our state, including the 1938 hurricane with its Category III winds.

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“Abolish the income tax to save CT”
Geoffrey Morris

Ridgefield’s Main Street.

Ridgefield’s Main Street.

File photo

This state ain’t cheap, says Geoffrey Morris of Ridgefield, who also writes about the Great Connecticut Diaspora. “More than 10 percent of tax filers left between 2010 and 2020, with 22 percent packing up since 1991.” If we want to stop the rush to Florida, we need to whittle down the income tax, he argues. Massachusetts did and is better off for it.

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“Dark money behind school board conflicts”
Christine Palm and Frank Hanley Santoro

A woman carrying a sign protesting the teaching of critical race theory arrives at a Board of Education meeting at Central Middle School in Greenwich, Conn., on Thursday June 17, 2021. Members of the group Greenwich Patriots came out to the meeting to urge people to attend and speak at public comment to protest masking, vaccinations for students and critical race theory.

A woman carrying a sign protesting the teaching of critical race theory arrives at a Board of Education meeting at Central Middle School in Greenwich, Conn., on Thursday June 17, 2021. Members of the group Greenwich Patriots came out to the meeting to urge people to attend and speak at public comment to protest masking, vaccinations for students and critical race theory.

Christian Abraham / Hearst Connecticut Media

Worried about flaring tempers at local board meetings? In a scary piece, state Rep. Christine Palm and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Hanley Santoro track the money behind the anything-but-“grassroots” organizations that are stirring up ugliness. “A picture emerges of a shadowy and labyrinthine network of astroturf groups funded by big money.”

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“Kyle Rittenhouse, white lifeguard accused of murder, ambles along"
Susan Campbell

Kyle Rittenhouse, left, listens as his attorney Mark Richards gives his closing argument during Rittenhouse's trial at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wis., on Monday, Nov. 15, 2021. Rittenhouse, an aspiring police officer, shot two people to death and wounded a third during a night of anti-racism protests in Kenosha in 2020. (Sean Krajacic/The Kenosha News via AP, Pool)

Kyle Rittenhouse, left, listens as his attorney Mark Richards gives his closing argument during Rittenhouse's trial at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wis., on Monday, Nov. 15, 2021. Rittenhouse, an aspiring police officer, shot two people to death and wounded a third during a night of anti-racism protests in Kenosha in 2020. (Sean Krajacic/The Kenosha News via AP, Pool)

Sean Krajacic / Associated Press

15. Susan Campbell hit the top ranks once again in 2021 with “Kyle Rittenhouse, white lifeguard accused of murder, ambles along.” “If you’re white,” she writes, “you don’t get your door kicked in, you don’t get shot in your home,” and time slows so you can at least have a trial.

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Thanks for reading. If these essays inspire you to try your own hand at a first-person piece, please send yours to opinion@hearstmediact.com. But please, no more than 700 words.

Please remember that our readers love strong opinion on local issues, backed up with solid evidence.