There should be no asterisks associated with these championships. The Lightning,
whomever takes home the Larry O’Brien trophy, and the World Series winner are all legitimate
champions and always will be legitimate champions of their respective sports.
Claiming that the time spent away from the sport affected the quality of play– in hockey
and basketball’s case, a long time in between competitive games – is an illegitimate argument.
There are some teams that just came out flat in the early scrimmage and competition rounds, however, there was a respectable ramp-up period in between when the teams began practice and when the teams began their first competitive games. The NBA allowed players to get to Orlando well in advance of their first games and scrimmages in the bubble so that they could get accommodated to their surroundings and feel as comfortable as possible during August, September, and October. The NHL also hosted players in their two bubble cities weeks before practice began so that they could test players as well as allow those players to become familiar with their bubble situation. Both the NBA and NHL teams should have been prepared for their playoff rounds and it appears that most teams were ready to compete, so if your team came out flat or unprepared for the rigors of the playoffs, it wasn’t the scheduler or the commissioner’s fault.
The MLB’s struggle with the ramp-up period has been well-documented, as the media
has specifically focused on how the short time before games began has led to a significantly
higher amount of injuries (especially in pitchers). However, I would point out that the expanded postseason format allowed for teams that struggled early on to still have a chance to make the playoffs. Thus, there should be no complaints about the shortened ramp up time nor the shortened season because the standings at the end of the 60-game season more or less reflected the teams many baseball analysts expected to be in playoff contention. None of the extremely talented teams (ie the Dodgers or the Rays) missed the playoffs and most of the above-average teams made it, so there should be no question about the quality of competition faced in the playoffs, either. If the postseason had been made up of teams like the Orioles, Tigers, and Red Sox, there might have been some doubt as to the quality of the championship won. But, as was stated before, the highest quality and well-balanced teams were (or still are) in competition for the Commissioner’s Trophy.
If anything, this year’s champions deserve their titles more than ever. Each of the winners
of their respective championship series had to play several games without home-field or home
court advantage. They have had to spend months away from their family and friends and were
forced to focus solely on practicing and playing games in the bubble. The NBA, which has some of the most vocal and social justice-focused players in American professional sports, did not allow players to leave the bubble in the wake of Jacob Blake’s death and Kyle Rittenhouse’s act of terror. They were forced to stand pat (and play basketball for our enjoyment) instead of going out into the community and focusing on fighting social injustice.
They have also had to play every other day for two months. The constant wear and tear
on athletes’ bodies is enough as it is during a regular postseason. Couple that with the mental toll of having to play so often while not being able to see anyone besides your teammates for two months, and it becomes even harder to motivate yourself to get up every day and play
Because these athletes have played without many of the accommodations they are usually afforded, as well as the mental struggles that come with being isolated in a pandemic, I am very much in favor of these seasons and these championships counting. I’m sorry your favorite team didn’t win it all in Orlando or won’t win it all in Arlington for the World Series. But whoever does end up as the winner at the end will have truly deserved it.