First, let me offer kudos to the NHL and NBA for pulling off the “Bubble Playoffs” without one COVID-positive result! Quite amazing when you think about it. The NHL and NBA playoffs were played without fans and were very different from what we’re used to but, at the end of the day, they each crowned a champion; the spoils went to the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Los Angeles Lakers.
TV ratings for the NBA were particularly abysmal, with many blaming the players’ outspoken political views as a reason. On a Sunday night, the 6th game of the NBA Finals drew half the viewers of what an innocuous Seattle vs. Minnesota football game did at the same time. The NBA Finals were the lowest rated Finals…EVER!
The MLB playoffs, again, are quite different and they brought us a whole new format, as well as “playoff” teams with sub-par .500 records. Yuck.
We saw eight teams from each league in the playoffs. We saw what really boiled down to a watered-down version of the sport.
Don’t get me wrong, many people are grateful to have even a part of the baseball season (shortened by 102 games) and these new formatted playoffs. I just hope and pray that we get back to a 162-game baseball season with regular playoffs where we have the division champion and ONE wildcard. We understand Rob Manfred wants to reinvent the game, a game he’s probably never played or maybe even followed, but at the end of the day, the lawyer-turned-baseball-executive wants to be the “King of Baseball” worldwide and he is potentially destroying the national pastime (and killing a minor league system along the way). I hate the DH in the National League and other rule changes, such as putting a man on second base to START an inning, reflect a beer league softball mentality.
Have the playoffs been interesting? Yes, but sports-starved fans would root for anything (although the NBA disproves that theory). I think we will see a true champion (in other words, whoever wins deserves the champion moniker) and I’m surprised that the New York Yankees frittered away their chance given the talent on that team. Aaron Boone was clearly over-thinking and analyzing the pitching rotation in Game 2. Seriously?
But their crosstown rivals, the Mets, couldn’t even get into the expanded tournament! Fortunately, the Mets have a new owner, and Bernie Madoff’s friends, the Wilpons, can step away and count their money, or perhaps pay their substantial debts! So, take heed Mets fans, new ownership is on the horizon and hopefully the best thing about watching the team going forward will not be 30- to 50-year-old re-runs! Here is one Mets fan who says good riddance to the worst ownership in sports (although the Johnson brothers of the Jets and Jim Dolan of the Knicks have certainly given them a run for their money in that area!). Oh, to be alive in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s in a New York championship era! Where have you gone, Earl Monroe, Clyde Frazier, Joe Namath, Matt Snell, etc.?
While we are on the subject of old time players, 2020 will not only be remembered for the Coronavirus, as numerous sports greats have died, most recently (with baseball alone): Joe Morgan, Bob Gibson, Whitey Ford, Don Larsen, Lou Brock and Tom Seaver as an abbreviated list. Our deepest sympathies to their families, friends and teammates, and thank you for the memories! There are too many other sports related deaths to list here, but I’d like to include Gale Sayers as many of us grew up watching Brian’s Song.
Back to the playoffs, we are getting close to a World Series and you know that MLB is rooting for the Dodgers to at least be a part of this after the Yankees bowed out. Nothing against the Braves and Rays but if they meet in the World Series you can look for NBA-type ratings on TV.
So, there it is, MLB is also now in a bubble as you have teams in California and Texas. National League teams are playing in American League ballparks and American League teams are playing in National League parks to avoid anyone having a familiarity edge.
We are seeing real fans in the stands in Texas which is kind of nice! They are spread out but, combined with the cutouts, they make the stands look full. We are seeing some decent baseball being played, but again it’s just so very different without the full stadiums. If the Tampa Bay Rays win the World Series following their NHL counterparts, Tampa Bay, Florida, will be known as the COVID-19 era City of Champions!
Again, I give great credit to the leagues and teams pulling this off, as it is an incredible amount of logistics and hard work. (See, I can be positive!) But, I also feel that if we have to go through this again next year, sports are going to be in really big trouble, both financially and in terms of fan interest.
There is a saying used in the NCAA tournament, another thing that we hope returns next year. That phrase is “one and done.” Let’s hope and pray that all of these playoffs and all of the sports experiences, like everything else with this COVID-19 fiasco, is just a ONE AND DONE.