Should COVID-19 Sport Titles Count?

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It’s an argument you’ve probably had half a dozen times already: Should COVID-19 sport titles count? Here’s our two cents.

Did you hear the one that goes: What do the Dodgers and Lakers have in common with Joe Biden? They probably wouldn’t have won without COVID-19 either. The NBA shutdown last March heralded the full-court disruption of many, many pleasures taken for granted in American life. But while barbershops were shuttered and concert halls converted to pandemic hospitals, the NBA and its co-leagues dutifully shouted “Game back on!” and bravely forged on in their essential role as bellwethers of the collective morale. After all, if a team wins Game 7 and no one is around to cheer and high-five, is it still the champ?

 

 

We’re kidding, of course. The compacted seasons were played to force TV networks into upholding contracts they’d inked with leagues for billions in ad revenues. Committed to its show-must-go-on principles, the NBA expanded its playoff format to make up missed games. MLB began play after what would have been the 100-game mark in any normal baseball season. And amid a succession of COVID-induced cancellations, the SEC passed off a No. 5 vs. No. 8 matchup featuring football teams with a combined record of 7–2…in November.

Along with canned crowd noise to compensate for empty stadiums, all the TV-driven shenanigans have upset purists, with some caterwauling about illegitimate titles.

Yet nine years after a lockout shortened the 2011–12 NBA season, few remember that all schedules that year were reduced to the number of games played last year by teams that didn’t even make the league’s bubble. Yet no one questions the Miami Heat’s O’Brien Trophy. Fewer recall that in the strike-marred 1987 season, NFL teams played just 12 games using the same rosters with which they started the season—one week was canceled, three were played using scabs. But anyone conscious at the time remembers that the Washington TBD Football Club glue-factoried the Denver Broncos, 42–10.

Winners write history—and America’s major sports leagues are always the winners. Besides, if the Houston Astros’ cheating-marred 2017 World Series win can stand asteriskless, 2020’s COVID-19 champions deserve their own feel-good Disney movies.


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