A Super Sports Equinox Is Approaching
By Martin Rogers
Do you remember those curious days just a few months ago, when the total dearth of elite sports action led you to think about streaming some Taiwanese baseball, marble racing or Russian table tennis, just because there was nothing else on?
Even considering such things should have led to an instant diagnosis as a sports junkie, in which case what is coming up on Thursday is the payoff, the ultimate nirvana for the sports lover who has neither the ability nor the desire to curb their addiction.
For an athletic equinox from the heavens is descending this week, one so spectacular that we are writing about it two days early to give you the chance to get all your ducks in a row.
Zoom meetings, dentist appointments and chats with distant relatives (and maybe even close ones) should be reserved for another day. Trips to the grocery store should be moved forward, to stock up on supplies. You probably aren’t flying anywhere right now, but you should reacquaint yourself with your phone’s airplane mode.
Yes, about to thunder its way into our lives is a day of sports that resembles televisual gluttony. It is like if they turned the finest restaurant you’ve ever eaten at into a buffet, and said “go ahead ladies and gentlemen, have at it.”
The start of the National Football League season, taken in isolation, is enough to constitute a big day in sports, even if nothing else is going on. A day with a game in a tight, tense NBA playoff series, featuring LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers, has the same qualification.
A day with a full slate of Major League Baseball games as the playoffs near, combined with a mouthwatering NHL Western Conference finals matchup, would be a pretty darn good day, too.
Well, guess what, they are all taking place on the same day – Thursday. Plus, the women’s singles semifinals at the U.S. Open tennis championships, a college football game featuring the University of Miami and an appetizing Major League Soccer clash between the Seattle Sounders and the San Jose Earthquakes, and there is simply no reason to move yourself from the couch for anything other than comfort breaks and sustenance.
A regular North American sports equinox, where the four major sports all play on the same day, has happened just 21 previous times. This one is a super equinox, with the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL - plus MLS and college football – and that has only happened twice before.
The last time was in October of 2018, and back then I wrote the following, somewhat obnoxiously, for USA TODAY: “If you’re complaining about being bored and having nothing to do Thursday night, it means that you hate sports — in which case, get off my page.”
Thankfully, no one was offended, probably because just as an art lover finds themselves in a cheery mode when wandering around the Louvre, sports fans are never more pleased than when there is lots of sweat and toil in the name of pursuing victory.
“This is a just reward for having suffered through three months without sports,” USA TODAY’s Josh Peter told me in a telephone conversation on Tuesday morning. “Give us all the sports we can handle. This should be a national holiday. I’ll be taking a day off, just don’t tell my boss.
“It is almost inconceivable that we have this. Not long ago we were wondering when we were going to have sports again. What I love about this is the diversity of choice, everyone will have something to watch.”
Peter reported on a sports equinox himself, when the Los Angeles area alone was home to six games across four sports on a single day two years ago, headlined by Game 5 of the World Series featuring the Dodgers and the Boston Red Sox. Peter, using a combination of car, train, taxi and bicycle taxi, managed to get to all of them.
Yet while that one was a quirk in the calendar, this week’s is something else. For starters, the NFL showdown is as good as you could dream up, with reigning Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes leading his champion Chiefs into action against perhaps the best contender to his quarterback throne, Deshaun Watson, and his Houston Texans.
The basketball slate is far from regular, with James’ push to bring a title to Tinseltown continuing, as the Lakers resume their battle with the Houston Rockets in the fourth installment of their captivating series. There is also the possibility of a Milwaukee Bucks vs. Miami Heat Game 6, if the Bucks can stay alive that long.
In hockey, things are heating up on the ice with the Dallas Stars and the Vegas Golden Knights in action, while the U.S. Open lost Novak Djokovic to an error of judgment but still has Serena Williams chasing a slice of history.
“It is almost too much,” Gene Evans, a diehard sports fan from Phoenix told me. “Who am I kidding, of course it’s not too much. I’m going to make an effort to see at least part of a game from each of the sports, including the tennis. It wasn’t the most important problem we had at the time, but I didn’t like it when there was no sports. You won’t hear me complaining about too much.”
Grab a thesaurus, thumb to the entry for “excessive” and pick out any synonym. Chances are you will be able to use it to describe the sports action for Thursday.
Overabundance? Absolutely. How can one person, or, indeed, one set of remote control batteries, be expected to keep up with all that activity? But what a sweet problem to have.
Let’s bathe in the indulgence of it all. It wasn’t fun being without sports for the most serious of reasons over the spring and summer, so it is okay to enjoy it now that the games we love are playing catch-up.
Meanwhile, you’ve got things to do. Clear the schedule, pay the bills, buy the snacks and prepare to be entertained.
Sports isn’t just back, there is more of it than ever - and everything else can wait until Friday.