by The Cowl Editor on November 12, 2020
by Joseph Quirk ’23
2020 has been a difficult year for everyone. The sporting world has faced many difficulties as well. After the initial COVID-19 shutdown in March temporarily paused the NHL and NBA seasons and postponed the start of the MLB season, all three sports resumed their seasons in the summer. The NHL and NBA resumed in “bubbles,” while the MLB severely cut down its schedule to only 60 games. These shortened seasons created longer periods of rest, prompted far less travel, and contained either none or a very small amount of fans. All of these reasons show why champions should have an asterisk next to their titles this year.
As an example, take the newly crowned MLB champs, the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers had been continually struggling to get over the hump the last few years and finally did so this year. However, this may be in part due to the COVID rules the MLB had in place. The Dodgers managed to stay healthy through all 60 games, earning them a top seed in the playoffs. The lessening of games allowed the Dodgers to travel and play less, meaning that their oft-injured pitchers were more well-rested heading into the postseason.
Perhaps the MLB did make the season a little challenging by not giving any teams byes in the extended postseason, but the Dodgers were initially matched up with a Milwaukee Brewers team that had been struggling all year. The Dodgers then only had to beat the young and inexperienced San Diego Padres, an inconsistent Atlanta Braves team, and finally a Tampa Bay Rays team who paled in comparison talent wise. Also, the Dodgers had to travel far less during the postseason because of the MLB neutral sites that popped up later in the playoffs. They further benefited from the lack of fans. While the electrifying MLB postseason atmosphere can be exciting, it can also put pressure on players like Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw, who has been known to choke in past playoffs.
In the NBA and NHL bubbles, the rosters of playoff teams leagues clearly got extended rest. Players were given extra time to heal and even injured players expected to miss the playoffs were able to return. Then, both leagues had seeding games, which allowed teams already in lower seeding positions to quickly move up the standings to usurp teams with better records. And again, no travel and no home court advantage definitely took away from the atmosphere. This is not to say the NBA Finals champion, the Los Angeles Lakers, and NHL Stanley Cup-winners, the Tampa Bay Lightning, were not good teams. But, much like the Dodgers, the Lightning have struggled to get over the hump recently, and it is hard to imagine that the bubble did not help.
While the return of professional sports in the middle of a pandemic is a strong achievement, this year’s champions should have an asterisk next to their titles given the abnormalities of their respective seasons.
by Scott Jarosz ’21
When sports came to a halt in March, both athletes and sports fans worldwide lost the ability to connect with their communities through the comradery of sports. However, when sports resumed this past summer, it was as if people were finally brought back together. Even though fans could not be in attendance, the return of sports brought back a familiar sense of comfort and unity. Athletes dedicated countless hours of training to prepare for the sudden resumption of their seasons and could not wait to get back on the courts and playing fields. Some athletes, such as basketball and soccer players, even had to live in a “bubble” for the duration of their seasons. Given the sacrifices athletes made to play with their teams, the championships won during the pandemic should not be marked with an asterisk.
Beginning with the NBA, the sacrifices that players had to make to continue the season were unlike anything that athletes had done before as players had to leave behind their friends and families. Once they entered the bubble on July 7, players, coaches, staff, and all other personnel could not leave the premises or see anyone outside of the bubble until their season was complete. Ultimately, the Los Angeles Lakers won the 2020 NBA Finals four games to two over the Miami Heat. With the win, the Lakers tied with the Boston Celtics for the most-ever championships won with 17 total franchise titles.
Major League Baseball was also significantly impacted by COVID-19. Because of the sheer number of players and staff for each team, a bubble format was not realistic for the MLB. Instead, each team played their regular season home games at their own stadiums with no fans. The normal 162-game schedule for each team was reduced to 60 games, which were played in a tight window. In addition, numerous teams dealt with COVID-19 outbreaks, which led to the postponement of more than 40 games. With this in consideration, players were competing under high stress and on limited rest. Despite this, players and staff powered through and completed a successful season, which concluded with the Los Angeles Dodgers defeating the Tampa Bay Rays to win the 2020 World Series.
To put an asterisk next to the 2020 NBA champion, the 2020 MLB champion, or any other champion crowned during this time would undermine the efforts made by the players and personnel of these organizations. Each of these championships were earned through hard work and dedication and are arguably even more valuable than any previous championships. Although the circumstances may have been different this year, players and personnel alike deserve to have their championships recognized as legitimate.