Sports galore

Several professional sports playoffs overlap for first time in history



A Tampa Bay Lightning player holds the Stanley Cup up in victory after the Lightning beat the Dallas Stars 2-0 in Game Six of the Stanley Cup Finals on Sept. 28.

Luke Snavely, Sports Editor

The sound of the horn after an ice hockey player scores a goal, the swish of the net from a 3-point shot, the crisp crack of a bat and the jumbled noises of celebrations after a touchdown are all sounds sports enthusiasts love to hear. Sports fans never hear these sounds at the same time though. However, this year is certainly different. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Freedom sports fans can enjoy watching many professional sports at the same time.

In early March, the National Basketball Association (NBA) postponed the rest of their season indefinitely due to the rise of COVID-19. The National Hockey League (NHL) followed in the NBA’s footsteps and postponed the rest of their season too. Other professional sports here in the United States and across the world, like the British Soccer Premier League, had to stop their seasons as well.

During quarantine last school year, many students were despondent. Some students find solace in professional sports during difficult times like the COVID-19 pandemic and were disappointed that there were no sports to watch on television.

Now sports are back and so are the playoffs. In the months of August, September and October, the NHL, NBA and Major League Baseball (MLB) started their playoffs, which looked very different from previous seasons. The National Football League (NFL) started their season a little differently as well on Sept. 10 with a matchup between the Houston Texans and the Kansas City Chiefs, the defending Super Bowl champions.

The NHL kicked their playoffs off on Aug. 1 with the qualifying rounds. Teams in the fifth through 12th seeds in the Western and Eastern Conferences competed in a five games series to determine who would make it to the main bracket. The first-and-fourth-seeded teams played each other in their conference to determine seeding for the bracket too.

Sadly, Freedom students fond of the Pittsburgh Penguins were severely disappointed this year. The fifth-seeded Penguins faced the 12th-seeded Montreal Canadiens. Ultimately, the Canadiens won the series and crushed Penguins fans’ hearts.

Eventually, the Stanley Cup Finals matchup was set between the Dallas Stars and the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning were favorites to make it to the finals, while many people didn’t expect the Stars to go that far.

On Sept. 28, the Lightning defeated the Stars 2-0 in game six of the Stanley Cup Finals to win the treasured cup. Lightning defenceman Victor Hedman won the Conn Smythe Trophy, which is given to the NHL postseason most valuable player.

Freedom freshman Chase Grable is a hockey player for the Pittsburgh Yeti and Central Valley Warriors. 

“I was very surprised at the outcome of the finals. I didn’t expect the Lightning to win, considering the skill levels of all the other teams. I don’t mind that they won though because they are a well-put-together team,” Grable said.

The NBA resumed their season on July 30. After the games finalized the postseason teams, the NBA playoffs went underway on Aug. 17. The one major surprise in the playoffs was the young Miami Heat team making it to the finals. They eliminated the No. 1 Milwaukee Bucks in the East, who were favored to go far into the playoffs.

LeBron James and the dominant Los Angeles Lakers, unsurprisingly, made it to the finals as well. As expected, the Lakers ultimately defeated the underdog Heat team. On Oct. 11, the Lakers beat the Heat 106-93 in game six to win the NBA Finals. James was named Finals MVP. The Lakers dedicated their championship win to the late Kobe Bryant who died earlier this year in a devastating helicopter crash.

“I think that the Finals, overall, was a great series, but it was disappointing when the last game was a blowout and the Heat got crushed. The Heat put up a good fight in the other games, but I think the Lakers were just clearly the better team,” sophomore Freedom basketball player Julia Mohrbacher said.

Since the Lakers won the NBA Finals, James got his fourth championship victory. This has led many people to believe that James is the greatest player of all time in the NBA. Others believe that Michael Jordan deserves that title.

“I would consider James the greatest of all time because even though he doesn’t have as many championships as Jordan, he overall as a player is just better. He can take over any game and bring his team the win. He does it all: shooting, finishing and defense,” Mohrbacher said.

Finally, the MLB started their season on July 23 despite the ongoing pandemic. Instead of the usual 162-game season, the MLB condensed its season into just 60 games. This opened up the playoffs for some surprising teams, like the Miami Marlins.

The MLB playoffs also looked very different from past years. 16 teams, eight from the American League and eight from the National League, filled the playoff roster. Adding extra teams to the playoffs drew some backlash from fans.

Christopher Coennen is a Freedom physical education teacher, a Beaver Valley baseball coach and a Freedom football coach. 

I do not like the 16 team playoff situation. It is rewarding mediocrity. Sub-.500 teams made the playoffs. The idea aligns with the ‘everybody gets a trophy’ idea that seems to dominate (and ruin) sports nowadays,” Coennen said.

The teams in the playoffs would compete in a three-game series to determine who would make it past the first round. Then, those teams would compete in a five-game series. The final World Series matchup is a seven-game series.

There are many exciting, interesting teams to watch this postseason, like the San Diego Padres.

“They have a ton of young talent, and they are just fun to watch. Watching them push every at bat, whether up or down by a lot of runs, makes baseball the sport it is. Fernado Tatís Jr. is an absolute beast and is a ton of fun to watch,” Coennen said.

Overall, in the current, alarming environment of the United States today, professional sports and their playoffs have been comforting to both students and teachers. Many fans wonder what they’ll do when the NHL, NBA and MLB playoffs all officially conclude. Hopefully, they’ll be able to watch more sports, like the rest of the NFL season, in spite of COVID-19. Otherwise, fans will be stuck just watching the highlight reels.