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The rare ‘Sports Equinox’ will reach an impressive milestone in 2021

(AP Photo / Ashley Landis)

It’s that time of the year, sports fans.

The weather starts to get colder, TV screens around the United States start to get a little busier, Joe Buck’s voice becomes a part of your daily routine, and sports fans get an excuse to sit on the couch for hours on end.

The MLB postseason and NFL regular season captivate fanbases across the country, while the start of the NBA and NHL’s respective regular seasons add a little extra to everyone’s plates.

No matter which sport someone prefers, there’s almost always something to watch. On some days, there’s simply too much to watch.

It’s rare for the stars to perfectly align when it comes to those “Big Four” sports leagues, and the occasion is so infrequent that it has its own name: the Sports Equinox.

That monumental moment will add another notch to its belt as the 2021 sports calendar rages on.

>>FROM 2019: The Sports Equinox: The history of the rare event and why it’s occurred more frequently in recent years

When the schedule for the 2021 MLB playoffs was set, Bob Vetrone Jr. (@BoopStats on Twitter) revealed that just three days in the month of October had the potential for a “Sports Equinox:”

  • Thursday, October 21
  • Sunday, October 24
  • Sunday, October 31

Sports fans lucked out (or faced a dilemma if they focus on just one screen) when the Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers battled to a Game 5 in the National League Championship Series, leading to an equinox on Thursday, October 21.

According to Vetrone Jr., that October 21 “Sports Equinox” will go down in history as the 25th of all time, and the fifth in just three years. Prior to 2019, there had been five between 2016 and 2018. Before 2021, there had been just 14 since October 28, 1985.

Some highlights for October 21, 2021 include:

  • Atlanta Braves vs. Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 5 of the NLCS
  • Cleveland Browns vs. Denver Broncos on Thursday Night Football
  • An NBA slate that includes: Atlanta Hawks vs. Dallas Mavericks, Miami Heat vs. Milwaukee Bucks, and Golden State Warriors vs. Los Angeles Clippers
  • An NHL slate that includes: New Jersey Devils vs. Washington Capitals, Columbus Blue Jackets vs. New York Islanders, Anaheim Ducks vs. Winnipeg Jets, and more

A Game 7 between the Braves and Dodgers in the NLCS would lead to another “Sports Equinox” in 2021 on Sunday, October 24. Barring a sweep in the World Series, another would occur on Sunday, October 31, marking the first Halloween edition of the “Sports Equinox” in the concept’s history.

>>RELATED: 2021 MLB playoffs: Ranking all eight teams’ chances at winning the World Series

A unique scenario in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic led to the most “Sports Equinox” days in a single year in major U.S. sports history.

The postseason bubbles for the NBA and NHL, combined with the continuation of the 2020 MLB season and the start of the 2020 NFL regular season, led to three “Sports Equinox” days in the month of September alone.

A year prior, there was just one “Sports Equinox” on Sunday, October 27 in the midst of the 2019 World Series between the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals.

That 2020 record for “Sports Equinox” days in a single year could be tied in 2021, all without the COVID-19 pandemic to use as an excuse.

So, why have there been so many of these alignments over the last few years? A few things can be looked at to figure out the cause.

Thursday Night Football has been a game-changer when it comes to the whole equation, contributing to an Equinox in 2017, 2018, 2020, and 2021.

With three nights of football during the week, there’s a higher chance for the NFL to synchronize with the MLB’s postseason schedule, whether it’s an LCS game or a World Series matchup.

In 2017, the start of the NBA season was also pushed up, hoping to allow for more rest between games for the league’s teams, rather than forcing teams into tough stretches with four or five games in a span of five or six days.

By doing so, it allowed for more of an overlap between all of the Big Four leagues, even lining up NBA games with early LCS games for the MLB.

The start date was brought back for the 2019 NBA season, almost preventing the 2019 “Sports Equinox” from even occurring had the Nationals swept the Astros.

>>RELATED: 2021 MLB season: Why have there been so many no-hitters?

So, should the Sports Equinox seem less special due to how many of them there have been in the last few years?

Well, before any answer is given for that question, sports fans have to realize how spoiled they have been over the last half of a decade.

Sure, there have been tons of “Sports Equinox” overlaps over the last few years, but fans went through a serious drought between 1985 and 2001; a full 16 years without a Sports Equinox.

Plus, between 1971 and 1980, there were nine Sports Equinoxes, with none between 1981 and 1985.

From 2009 to 2015, there were only three days where all four leagues matched up, and two of them happened on back-to-back days in November during a long 2009 MLB postseason.

>>RELATED: ESPN’s Manning Cast is refreshing, and it could be the answer to Monday Night Football’s woes

Before that, there was just one in 2001, and then the previously-mentioned long drought from 1985 to 2001.

It’s easy to get caught up in the scheduling and the numbers, wondering when a “Sports Equinox” could happen or how many have ever occurred.

But, the more important thing to do is enjoy any “Sports Equinox” days that pop up, because sports fans will have only seen 25 of them over the span of 59 years.

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