Written by: Rob Van Winkle, CC2K Staff Writer
Televised sports really are the ultimate distraction. They feature highly trained adult professionals playing what is essentially a child’s game, while you sit back passively and take it in. Unless they are an owner of the team (or a gambler), this viewer has no vested interest in the outcome of this game, and every minute that’s spent watching it is a minute that cannot and will not be spent doing actually productive things. When you get right down to it, watching sports on TV has no lasting or redeeming value whatsoever.
And I love it.
In our increasingly “flat” world, sports represent a new kind of nationalism, with your chosen team replacing country. Friends are made (and enemies shunned) based solely on sports allegiances, and the feelings of love and hate that are generated throughout the course of a game can be so passionately felt that they can cause physical pain and mental anguish. For all the controversy over ballooning salaries and performance enhancing drugs, sports still remain the purest form of entertainment there is: no scripts, all drama.
For true sports lovers, there is something to be consumed all year long. However, one question remains (even if it will never be asked): if for some reason one had to choose only one month of the year to cram in all of your sports, which month should it be? In other words, in a modern world where sports are everywhere, all the time, which month of the year should we look forward to the most?
In order to get to the bottom of this question, let us first eliminate those months that simply could not be in contention. Empirically, the “worst” two months for sports are July and February, in that order.
The problems with July are many. Firstly, there is a serious dearth of sports going on, with both Basketball and Hockey having recently concluded their seasons, and football still two months away. Baseball is the only professional sport in full swing (no pun intended), and while this will surely suffice for all lovers of our national pastime, certain more ignorant citizens might not be mollified. Secondly, July features the only two days of the entire year where no professional sports of any kind are played (both the day before, and the day after, the baseball All-Star Game). Those are serious demerits that can’t be overlooked.
February might seem to be a surprising choice to some, given that the ultimate sports-cum-pop-culture event – The Super Bowl – is typically played then. However, much like how Mardi Gras is followed immediately by lent, so too is the Super Bowl in many ways the harbinger of six solid weeks of lackluster athletics. Basketball and Hockey are still months away from the playoffs, and so the games lack both early-season excitement and late-season drama. Baseball is still two months away, while football is over half a year from starting up again. Add terrible weather for much of the country, and is it any wonder that more sports fans commit suicide during February than in all other months combined?
Arguments could be made for any other month in the calendar (March Madness during March, NFL playoffs in January, NBA and NHL finals in June), yet there are as many demerits for each month as there are things in its favor. No, for the true sports fan, I contend that there are only two months that truly deserve to be in the discussion: April and October.
My case for each:
April is the month of new beginnings. For those of who live with seasons, it marks the true end of winter (despite what the calendar might say) as the weather finally starts to consistently hover in the “no heavy jacket” range. And as for April sports, things are either just revving up, or kicking into a higher gear.
Baseball – Pitchers and catchers report to their spring training facilities toward the end of February, and fans are subjected to the next six weeks of lineup tinkering, roster shaving and an endless supply of hot stove rumors (for an example of what I mean by this, scan through the New York sports pages over the past two months and see how many times the elbow of Johan Santana was mentioned in terrified tones, only to have it all amount to nothing). However, April features the glorious return of meaningful games. The only thing more energizing than the return of baseball is the undistilled optimism that pervades every player, and every fan. As one friend and baseball buddy puts it, the beginning of April is when every team is going to go undefeated, and every pitcher is a candidate for the Cy Young award.
Hockey and Basketball – In April, both the NBA and the NHL make the transition from regular season to the playoffs. This means that games in the early part of the month are rife with “win and in” and “lose and go home” tension, and they are followed immediately by the ramped up atmosphere of post-season games.
Football – While the lack of NFL games during April is certainly a tick in the negative column, all is not bleak for football fans during this month. The NFL draft occurs at the end of the month, which causes an extended period of team-based optimism both before and afterward. They might all be benchwarmers or glorified Ryan Leafs, but at the time when they first don the cap of your favorite team, these guys are future All-Pros that are going to be the difference makers.
College Basketball – the dirty little secret of “March Madness” is that the championship game is almost always played in April. It’s the most exciting game in what is arguably the most exciting tournament of the year, and it’s almost an afterthought with all that comes after it.
Since October is situated on the other half of the year, it’s only fitting that it is the other truly terrific sports month. This is the month that features the other truly invigorating weather change (those first few cool breezes are a terrific contrast to the blazing summer sun), and those colder temperatures usher in a truly epic thirty-one days. Here’s what we get:
Baseball – Two words: October Baseball. Even casual fans of the game have to admit that there is something special about the baseball playoffs. This is the month where teams raise their game, and players become legendary. Plus, the multi-game playoff system (best of 5 for the first round, best of 7 for the others) ensures that the drama grows as the month goes on.
Hockey and Basketball – For fans of the NBA and NHL, October is the month when things get started again after a long delay. As the month starts, teams are practicing and playing exhibitions games. By the end of the month, the season has begun. As before with baseball and April, this is the month of endless optimism, as every team trumpets their improvements and predicts great things.
Football – Not only is the NFL season in full swing by October, but it can officially be called “Mid-season.” Sundays in the fall belong to football, a fact made all the more obvious if you either live in a metropolitan area, step outside your home that day, or both. Fans roam the streets and fill bars and restaurants ready to scream and cheer at the TVs as though it makes a difference. Those fans going to the game plan comprehensive pre-game cookout plans, and no one bats an eyelash. It must seem extremely bizarre to those who don’t take part, but for those of us “in the know,” it is nothing short of heaven.
College Football – If Sundays during the fall are owned by the NFL, then Saturdays belong to the NCAA. But on this day, the casual fans are replaced by thousands of screaming college kids, and since the players aren’t (technically) paid, then it could be argued that the games are more pure. Also, there is almost too much of a good thing; while Sundays feature a maximum of fifteen professional games, a typical Saturday could have four times that many. A fan could watch twelve hours of football without even needing an expensive cable package.
And so with that, the case is laid out. I personally believe that baseball’s beginning gives April the edge here, but I certainly see the argument on the other side. I welcome feedback, so log on, leave some comments, and let’s play ball.