All four sports playing at the same time should not be an accident
On the first day all four major sports leagues in the United States were “in-season” together, I turned six . . .
Six days old, that is!
It was Tuesday, Oct. 16, 1962, the first day of the only season in which the National Basketball Association would not have a team in Philadelphia. The league kicked off with an evening doubleheader at New York’s Madison Square Garden . . . not the current one which Billy Joel has turned into his own personal piano bar, but the previous version on Eighth Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets. (That one is not to be confused with the first two Gardens, which were built in the Madison Square area of the city in the 1800s . . . but we digress . . . )
On that same day, the New York Yankees edged the San Francisco Giants, 1-0, in Game 7 at Candlestick Park for their 20th World Series title in 40 seasons. It would be their last championship for a decade-and-a-half.
The National Hockley League, which had kicked off its campaign six days earlier (yes, my actual birth day), was idle. And the National Football League was between Weeks 4 and 5 on its schedule.
So there were not games in all four sports that day, but that was the first year in which all four were in their regular season or postseason at the same time.
Last Thursday, when the Kansas City Chiefs opened defense of their Super Bowl title against the Houston Texans, there were a dozen baseball games as well as a playoff game in both the NHL and NBA, making 2020 the 25th year (and the eighth straight) in which there was at least one day of a four-sport crossover:
That Thursday and this past Sunday (Sept. 13) also became the 22nd and 23rd dates on which there were actual games in all four sports on the same day – the Sports Equinox as it has been named by people smarter than me. There may be more of those days to come in 2020 (depending on how the NBA and NHL postseasons play out), but the crossover itself will continue until early to mid-October.
In a year that has delivered one gut punch after another to every person on the planet, the hectic pace of the late-summer North American Sports Restart has been one of the few bright spots for those for whom athletic competition is a welcome diversion, either as a participant, an official, a fan or one of the thousands of workers that get the contests off the ground each and every day.
There were mid-week playoff hockey games that started at 11 a.m. and another that lasted longer than what used to be a normal school day. Baseball tried to squeeze so many games into a short period of time it is tossing around shortened doubleheaders like Bobbleheads and giving teams a head start in extra innings. The NFL even scratched its entire preseason (although I am not sure the league notified the Eagles) and the NBA turned itself into a version of the NAIA Tournament in Kansas City.
But they are playing . . . And they are appearing to do so fairly safely . . . And they are doing it all at the same time . . . And that is the cool part.
Although it is probably going happen any way once sports gets back to a fairly normal routine – with the World Series stretching to Halloween and the NBA season settling into a little earlier starting pattern − but the people in charge of the four main sports should make sure the Sports Crossover continues.
Scheduling is one thing, but take the time to work with the players and advertisers and sponors and TV corporations and arenas − and the fans − to turn something that used to happen accidentally into a carnival-like high point to the athletic calendar.
Not just for a day or two or a week, but for the majority of October.
It is – after all – my Birthday Month.