Expanded expectations

The Columbus Blue Jackets have made the playoffs – for the first time in their eight years of existence. ESPN writer E.J. Hradek announced to Columbus hockey faithful that their “long, local nightmare is over.”

Setting aside the idea that there probably should be no major sports events in Ohio that don’t involve the Buckeyes, I was struck that eight years is apparently a long time to wait for a postseason berth in sports. Forty years ago the 1969 Mets set a record for the fastest postseason appearance for an expansion team – in their eight season. (Even that was considered a miracle.)

But things move a lot faster now.

With players moving more easily from team to team, and with more teams spreading out the talent, it’s easier than ever to build a winner using pieces from outside an organization. And expanded playoffs have helped too – multiple rounds mean more invitations, so franchises who don’t build a champion can at least build a team good enough to play a few extra games. (In the NBA, for instance, a losing record doesn’t mean you’re missing the playoffs.)

Add to the fact that there are more media voices (through talk radio and blogs) following teams, and it adds a bit of heat to owners – who have to answer to taxpayers as well as fans, since their venues which are frequently publicly funded.

The Blue Jackets are heading to the postseason after eight seasons – just like the 1969 Miracle Mets in terms of time, but also completely different in terms of impact and significance. I suppose it makes sense: after all, Columbus was a minor league city to New York for years.

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