I have a confession. I’m so much of a sports fan, I often can’t make up my mind what game I’d like to watch. For all but the most compelling events to me, I tend to watch like someone would in a sports bar–multiple screens, multiple sports, simultaneously, focusing on whatever is truly worthy of attention in the moment. In prime time, that often means I have multiple browsers playing content simultaneously, creating a cacophony of sound where only the most significant plays stand out. and if I’m focused enough that’s the screen I land on.
On more nights than not, it’s not as overwhelming as that may sound at first blush. Many nights, there’s often only one or two games of consequence on at once. In the summer, when baseball is pretty much all that’s happening on many nights, MLB.com’s interface allows multiple video with only one audio, so it’s almost normal. But on many fall nights, particularly when football is part of the equation, it’s almost paradoxically making the ability for any entity to track my fandom, viewership and engagement impossible. You think studies that revealed that via multitasking people can compress 30 hours of media engagement into 24 are impressive? If my data was factored in, we’d be well north of that number.
Then there’s nights like last night. It’s called a sports equinox, when every major sport has at least one game going on. Reportedly, it’s only occurred 30 times in the 52 years since the first such convergence was recorded on Sunday, October 17th, 1971. When the Pirates and Orioles World Series–yes, the first to feature both a night game and two competing teams wearing uniforms without belts–went to a seventh and deciding game in the same week where the NBA season had started and on a Sunday where all but one of 13 NFL games was being played, with the NHL as usual a week into its season, all four major sports were available.
But since I like to believe I’m a global modernist, these days I’ll even throw MLS into the equation. And last night, thanks to the expanded MLS playoffs, all FIVE major sports had games being contested simultaneously. If you were a Dallas fan, you were busy. While the Rangers were taking a 2-1 lead in the World Series with a gutsy shutdown of the Diamondbacks to raise their post-season road record to 9-0, the NHL Stars and NBA Mavericks each earned early season wins of their own. Alas, the MLS Dallas FC dropped a 2-0 decision to the Seattle Sounders in the first game of their best-of-three. (Phoenix fans drew some small consolation from the Coyotes’ 8-1 conquering of Connor Bedard and the still-moribund Blackhawks, but the Suns were idle and, mercifully, so were the Cardinals.)
Jam-packed to be sure. But not as record-breaking as to what Los Angeles saw on October 28, 2018, and in particular two crazed visitors whom SPORTS ILLUSTRATED’s Michael McKnight profiled:
It began with a Sunday morning hangover, and it ended 12 hours later with a moonlit walk along Sunset Boulevard. In between, best friends Sam Lipton and Daniel Alfredson accomplished something that had not only never been attempted before, but had never been possible: attending five games in five American pro sports leagues in a single day, in a single city.
Last month, they stumbled upon the magic date. On Oct. 21, 2018, five pro sports teams in Los Angeles would host five home games—if the Dodgers made it to the NLCS, that is, and if their NLCS opponent owned a better regular-season record than theirs, and onlyif the NLCS went seven games.
When Alfie looked closer, he saw that the Chargers “home game” that day would be played in … London. He texted Sam the bad news, then returned to his spreadsheets, depressed but undeterred.
His Excel grids showed him that on Oct. 28, the Rams, Kings, and Clippers would play in L.A., and the Galaxy would host their final game of the regular season. “All we needed was for the Dodgers to make it to the World Series against an AL team with a better record,” Sam recalled. Only then would a Game 5 at Dodger Stadium be possible.
Overnight, they became Dodger fans. Dave Roberts’ team swept the NLDS. They fought past the Brewers in a seven-game NLCS. If the Dodgers could avoid a World Series sweep, the planets would be aligned. Sam and Alfie were in a Chicago dive bar when the Dodgers’ Max Muncy slugged a walk off homerun in the 18th inning to win Game 3, embracing each other in celebration as Muncy’s teammates embraced him at home plate.
You should watch how this unfolded via video. It’s exhausting but exhilarating.
But if you thought THAT was an equinox…well, think back to September 10, 2020. I know I often do, for plenty of reasons. As FOR THE WIN’s Nick Alvarez set it up:
Thursday is different. With pandemic postponements and pushbacks, a mega-equinox (if such a thing exists) is before us. The four major sports, the MLS, WNBA, college football, US Open and PGA Tour all have events scheduled.
Starting at 2:15 p.m. EST with 12 MLB games, there’s a slew of playoff and high-stakes tournament games in the nightcap. Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams both have semifinals matches. Lebron James and the Lakers face the Rockets. And the NHL Western Conference finals feature a pivotal third game between the Las Vegas Knights and the Dallas Stars.
Thursday’s main event, well, you know, the NFL is back!
It was both a dream and a nightmare for sports fans. Nine different networks covered the nine different leagues, conferences or tours in action. For more than twelve hours, there was something to watch. And after a spring where virtually nothing except Korean baseball was available and the mere idea of athletes competing seemed hypocritical, it was practically a celebration.
Except, of course, it was impossible for anyone like Lipson and Alfredson to see even two of these events. Most of these games were played before those lamentable cardboard cutouts, and the NBA, WNBA and NHL playoffs were being conducted in fan-less bubbles in Orlando, Bradenton, Florida and Edmonton. It was a day meant more for lamentation than celebration, since, as Alvarez reminded, it was both unique and a grim reminder of what we were all still very much in the midst of:
So grab a seat on the couch, you’re probably used to that from the last few months anyway. Get ready for some channel surfing and enjoy what could be one of the only days with a full slate of pro sports.
As it turned out, that proved to be prophetic. By fall, some weekdays were occurring with not a single game being contested, though the NFL season became so impacted by COVID and weather that regular season games were eventually being played on Wednesday afternoons.
We won’t see that this year, nor will we see another equinox, since the World Series will be dark on Thursday even if a Game 6 does occur, and both teams are playing in retractable-roof stadiums, so a rainout is impossible.
And, for me, the best news is that most of this content is available on my phone, so grabbing a seat on the couch isn’t necessary any more.
Frankly, that’s how I prefer to multitask best these days. My laptop needs a break.