With nine NHL games, three NBA games, an NFL game and an MLB playoff game — made possible by the Chicago Cubs’ victory in Game 4 of the NLCS on Wednesday — Thursday is your (first) sports equinox of 2017.
What’s a sports equinox? As my former colleague Reuben Fischer-Baum wrote on a couple of occasions, it’s when all four major U.S. sports leagues — the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB — play at least one game on the same day. Historically speaking, it doesn’t happen often. There have only been 17 sports equinoxes in history, including Thursday:
|NUMBER OF GAMES|
|Oct. 17, 1971||Sun||1 (WS Game 7)||12||3||6|
|Oct. 15, 1972||Sun||1 (WS Game 2)||12||3||6|
|Oct. 22, 1972||Sun||1 (WS Game 7)||12||3||5|
|Oct. 14, 1973||Sun||1 (WS Game 2)||12||3||5|
|Oct. 21, 1973||Sun||1 (WS Game 7)||12||3||5|
|Oct. 15, 1978||Sun||1 (WS Game 5)||13||5||5|
|Oct. 14, 1979||Sun||1 (WS Game 5)||13||3||7|
|Oct. 12, 1980||Sun||1 (NLCS Game 5)||13||4||8|
|Oct. 19, 1980||Sun||1 (WS Game 5)||13||3||6|
|Oct. 27, 1985||Sun||1 (WS Game 7)||13||1||5|
|Nov. 4, 2001||Sun||1 (WS Game 7)||13||7||4|
|Nov. 1, 2009||Sun||1 (WS Game 4)||12||7||4|
|Nov. 2, 2009||Mon||1 (WS Game 5)||1||5||3|
|Nov. 1, 2010||Mon||1 (WS Game 5)||1||3||3|
|Nov. 1, 2015||Sun||1 (WS Game 5)||12||7||5|
|Oct. 30, 2016||Sun||1 (WS Game 5)||11||7||8|
|Oct. 19, 2017||Thu||1 (NLCS Game 5)||1||3||9|
Amazingly, there was a 15-year period without a single sports equinox, between 1985 and 2001. And after 2001, seven more years passed without it happening. But sports equinoxes have occurred much more frequently in recent years — six have happened in the nine years since 2008. They might become even more common in the future, thanks to Thursday-night NFL becoming a fixture, the World Series often running later than usual, and a new NBA scheduling policy this season that moved the season’s opening night up by a week and a half.
If the Cubs can force Game 7 in the NLCS, Sunday will be another sports equinox. As will Oct. 29, if Game 5 of the World Series takes place. But even if those do happen, Thursday’s equinox will be the only one this season with the added bonus of college football — there are two FBS games tonight, including No. 25-ranked Memphis at Houston (A “Super Equinox”?). Good luck finding enough screens to watch it all!