Today sports return to Philadelphia (sorry Union). The Philadelphia Phillies are set to play a regular-season MLB game for the first time since September of last year, the Philadelphia 76ers have an exhibition game against the Memphis Grizzlies, and the Flyers are just around the corner. With the start of sports getting back to play, so come the high expectations that are placed on these teams. With the 76ers, they are hoping to turn around a mediocre regular season performance, the Flyers are looking to keep their hot pace going, and of course, the Phillies are expected to make the playoffs with the new 16 team format.
Very possibly, Philadelphia could have all four major sports teams play a playoff game in the calendar year. Which is pretty impressive because it’s only happened four times since all four teams have been playing. The latest time was back in 2011 (2009,1981,1978 where the other years for those interested) when the Phillies lost to the Cardinals in the NL Division Series, the 76ers lost to the Heat, the Eagles lost Green Bay, and the Flyers fell to the Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup. So if you have a basic understanding of how math works, the more teams in the playoffs mean the likely chance that one of those teams can win the championship. So with that knowledge, it made me ponder what does a championship look like during a pandemic?
A lot of the joy that comes from watching your team winning a championship is celebrating with other fans, and joining together to celebrate. Although, considering that the MLB world series concludes at the end of October, and both the NBA and NHL championships before that, what will that mean for a parade? For fans, the parade is the crown of winning the championship (a close second is being able to brag to your friends that support other teams that they suck). Of course, we have no idea what the coronavirus’s impact could be at that time, but with Philadelphia officials already banning fans from the Eagles stadium for the upcoming season, it feels unlikely that a parade could work. With that out of the picture, how can fans express their joy? One big Zoom call?
I understand I’m getting ahead of myself, and just as easily as these teams can make the playoffs, all of them could be swept out of the first round. Although, strangely it feels exactly what a Philadelphia sports team would do. The one year when fans can’t attend, they go on and win a championship.
Continuing the idea of what the fan experience would be, I don’t know how much more changes past not having a parade. Of course, I’m not oblivious to some of the fans that will argue “It’s my American right to stand inches away from strangers, in cold weather, while I only get a glimpse of the team”. Parade or not, I think fans will still have the same communal experience as they can throw it in the faces of the losing team online. I’m sure the championship memorabilia will still come (although delayed because come on it’s a pandemic, cut some slack!) and you can wear it next season when hopefully fans can enter the stadiums once again.
In terms of the value that the championship will have, shouldn’t change. Now I’m fully prepared to make the opposite argument if the Mets, Yankees, Penguins, or any team from Boston wins. With the setup of the season for baseball, it’s simply just more meaningful games. The NBA and NHL will have slightly different setups but will still have the same elements of a normal post-season. Again, this season will always have an asterisk next to it, but so do dozens of other championships that fans don’t remember. All that matters is that the team that wins, won.
“Now I’m fully prepared to make the opposite argument if the Mets, Yankees, Penguins, or any team from Boston wins.”
Lastly, if you haven’t been paying attention (which I don’t blame you), please take this last advice, look at Liverpool. Yes, the soccer team from England. Liverpool recently won the Premier League, and this was the club’s first title in 30 years. Just like Philadelphia sports fans, their first instinct when their team won is to celebrate with other fans. Fans were gathering around the Mersey Ferry terminal, which resulted in their mayor Joe Anderson asking fans to go back home. Now, I think you know what happens next. Until that point, the Liverpool area totaled 544 coronavirus deaths, on June 25th that number jumped to 1,677. Since then, of course, fans have stayed home, but the impact was done. I understand just like you, that if one of our teams won a championship it would be very disappointing not to celebrate with all of our other fans to rejoice in victory. Again, this all may mean nothing for Philadelphia fans but someone team will win, and we must understand the importance of keeping people safe.