COVID-19 era champs deserve more respect

Sports+writer+David+Warrington+discusses+why+he+believes+that+championships+during+the+era+of+COVID-19+deserve+more+respect%2C+rather+than+being+discounted%2C+

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Sports writer David Warrington discusses why he believes that championships during the era of COVID-19 deserve more respect, rather than being discounted,

DAVID WARRINGTON

The month of October has been a fantastic month for Los Angeles sports. On Oct. 11, the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Miami Heat to win the 2020 NBA Championship, while on Oct. 27, the Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Tampa Bay Rays to win the 2020 World Series. While this should be a call for the sports world to shower LA sports with celebration and adulation, many outside of the winning fanbases have claimed that these championships should have an asterisk in front of them, and should not be thought of in the same category as championships from more conventional seasons. However, I find this to be completely untrue. These championships are at the very least equally as meaningful as any other season, and potentially even more so.

The 2019-20 NBA season was a marathon season if there ever was one. Opening day took place on Oct. 22, 2019, and the season finally came to an end nearly a full year later, on Oct. 11, 2020. There were countless twists and turns along the way, most notably when all NBA games were halted indefinitely on March 11 after a positive COVID-19 test from Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert. After that, much like the rest of the world, the NBA was on lockdown, with no direct return to play in sight. The league finally came up with a bubble idea, where players and staff would go to Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, with no one going in without a negative COVID-19 test and a good reason for being there, such as being a player, coach, referee, or otherwise necessary individual for a game or hotel. On July 30, the season finally resumed in Orlando, with only the top 22 teams making the bubble, and the top 16 qualifying for the playoffs after eight regular season games inside of the bubble.

The main argument against the legitimacy of this championship for the Lakers is that they got such a long break to rest and recover. However, this break was problematic for many players. While star players likely have enough money to have personal weight rooms and basketball courts in their homes, many younger players had very limited access to weight equipment, and some didn’t even have access to a basketball hoop for the entirety of the break. On top of this, players were completely isolated away from family and other loved ones while inside the bubble, leaving an unprecedented emotional strain on the athletes. There was also no benefit of home court advantage throughout the postseason, and overall the players had a lot of added difficulties that no team has ever had to deal with.

The 2020 MLB season was scheduled to begin March 26. However, just weeks before the scheduled start, the world came to a halt, and the MLB was forced to delay plans to start the season. After a very lengthy debate process between the team owners and the players, it was finally agreed upon that the teams would play a 60 game regular season, as opposed to the usual 162, with games being played in home ballparks without fans. This abbreviated season began July 23, with the postseason beginning Sept. 29. The top eight teams in both the American League and the National League qualified, and after the first round was played in home stadiums, games in later rounds were played in neutral sites, somewhat like what the NBA did.

The main argument against the legitimacy of the Dodgers championship is the fact that there were only 60 games this season. However, much like the 2020 NBA season, the MLB season had many unprecedented challenges. For starters, teams had to play knowing that at any time they could lose a player for over a week due to a positive COVID-19 test. They also had very little room for error. Due to the fact that there were so few games, a slump that would usually have no real effect on a team’s standing could completely ruin a team’s chances at the postseason. The postseason was also brutal, with more rounds than normal and teams getting almost no days off. The Dodgers at one point played seven games in seven days, and by the end of the postseason I’m sure all teams involved were very exhausted.

With all of this being said, I think that the most important thing to remember is that every team played under the same set of rules. The Lakers and Dodgers didn’t manipulate the schedule or break the rules in place, they simply followed the rules set by their respective leagues, just like everybody else. The only difference between the Lakers and Dodgers and the rest of the NBA and MLB is that the two Los Angeles teams managed to find the most success and bring home a championship. It is a disservice to the hard work of the winning players and coaches to downgrade their accomplishments and ignore the unprecedented difficulties they had to overcome due to the COVID-19 pandemic.