After months of contemplating this topic in my head and trying to find ways to justify giving any champion in the NBA, MLB or NHL this year legitimacy, I can’t get behind it anymore.
Sorry sports fans, if your favorite team wins a title in 2020, it’s not legit and will forever have an asterisk next to it.
Sure, the drastic alterations to protocols of how games will be run for the major sports leagues aren’t as foul as blatantly cheating the game like when the Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox won their World Series championships. However, there are essential elements to the products of these games that are not going to be there if and when these seasons resume that it cancels out any legitimacy of a potential winner through a postseason.
First, let’s look at the NBA. The NBA is moving their season to this “bubble” at Walt Disney World. Key players such as Avery Bradley for the Los Angeles Lakers and Davis Bertans for the Washington Wizards have already announced they will sit out the Orlando season due to health concerns. Players will not be in their element as they will live in hotels for three months, and be served food from Disney chefs. The biggest adjustment players will have to make is their depth perception when shooting. NBA arenas have a high ceiling and the stands make the basket feel a lot smaller. Now, with a lower ceiling and the building walls near the court, it may take a while for shooters to adapt. Let’s not forget fans are an essential element to momentum and the home-court advantage is eliminated for teams that were the tops of their conference.
Major League Baseball is destroyed. After months of disputes between the players and the owners, many fans were already turned off and betrayed by the selfishness from both sides to not come to terms to begin a season. Now, that there is a season, it is impossible for this to play out well. A 60-game season gives teams little to no room for error. A single injury to a pitcher or essential position player will be detrimental for any team making that playoff push for the 60 games. While the universal DH isn’t a terrible decision, the fact that a baserunner will be placed on second base to start extra innings eliminates the natural outcome from any games that end past regulation. The shortened season doesn’t allow the usual ups-and-downs that come with the 162-game grind. You are going to have random players shine and become MVP and Cy Young candidates when they wouldn’t in a full season, and you are going to see multiple mid-tier teams sneak their way into the postseason because they got hot on a five to 10 game stretch. Let’s not forget fans are an essential element to momentum and the home-field advantage is eliminated for teams that were the tops of their league.
While the NHL will see the least change in the on-ice product, let’s not forget that fans, even more so in hockey, are an essential element to momentum and the home-ice advantage is eliminated for teams that were the tops of their conference. Also, the extreme parity that occurs in the Stanley Cup Playoffs has now opened the door for a non-playoff team like the Chicago Blackhawks or Arizona Coyotes to steal a Stanley Cup.
I understand that leagues need to resume their seasons for financial reasons. It’s not their fault they need to implement the safety protocols necessary to protect players from contracting the virus. However, we are essentially watching your local adult softball league game or local pickup basketball game except with the stakes of a major championship on the line, and that doesn’t sit well with me.
While I will be watching, we will wait for normalcy to return before we have legit champions in the major sports again.