Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Ranking the Sports Months

Every year, watching The Masters on a Sunday afternoon reminds me of two things: I probably hear more of Jim Nantz's voice during the first two weeks of April than any other human's, and that April has to be one of the best sports months of the year. Every year I proceed to rank them in my head; I can handle the first three or four, and definitely the last two or three, but the middle becomes daunting. How does November stack up against May? Is February a lock as the worst sports month? When is the Australian Open again? This year, after searching for a TANBR post topic for weeks, I decided to document my thoughts. I expect some feedback, because I'm probably missing an event here or there.

1. October

Lineup: MLB Playoffs, College and NFL Football, NBA basketball preseason/start

Reasoning: If Jim Nantz represents April, then Joe Buck has to represent October. From the weekday nights of playoff baseball on FOX and TBS (those nights seem to be getting later and later, by the way) to the afternoon NFC games that seem to feature the Cowboys half the time, Buck/McCarver and Buck/Aikman dominate the October airwaves. Except for Saturday, that is. October is the heart of the college football season-- almost every game in October is a conference game, meaning a loss can not only eliminate your team from title contention, but from a possible conference championship as well. Just consider a typical weekend in late October: Friday night, you might catch Game 6 or 7 of a baseball LCS, with perhaps some preseason NBA or a late-night WAC football contest as you pregame.

"Well, you're exactly right, Joe."

But Saturday, you must wake up early to watch College Gameday, detailing the thirty or so BCS-conference games of the day, of which at least five or six are probably watchable, and two or three are can't-miss. Come Sunday, there's a slate of NFL games in the morning and afternoon, but not the night-- there's playoff baseball on again.

Bottom Line: It's the only month to feature the three major sports in action.

2. April

Lineup: Final Four, The Masters, MLB begins, NBA playoffs begin, NFL Draft, NCAA football spring games

Reasoning: No other month features such a variety of season-defining events. The three most important games of the NCAA tournament occur in the first week, with the most prestigious golf tournament beginning the Thursday after. The stretch run of the NBA regular season occurs the following week, with the playoffs beginning in the month's third weekend. And just when you've finally gotten over football after two months, local coverage of college spring games and the ever-increasing two-week coverage of the NFL Draft on ESPN are enough to whet your football appetite. Major League Baseball, for once, feels novel.

Another chance to post this gem. My favorite part: the stretch of "It's obvious to me right now that the Jets just don't understand what the draft's all about," Tagliabue's smirk at the 1:05 mark, and the Jets fan subsequently reveling in his team's ineptitude.

Bottom Line: It's the month with the most meaningful variety of sporting events.

3. June

Lineup: NBA playoffs & Finals, NBA draft, U.S. Open (golf), MLB regular season, French Open, College World Series

Reasoning: A truly paradoxical summer sports month (it's surrounded by three of the worst), June is second only to April in terms of variety. The NBA conference finals and finals are the month's highlight, with the most challenging golf tournament of the year ending on Father's Day. An underrated weekday event, the NBA Draft, has begun to garner more press, attention, and drinking game rules. The College World Series was more fun without the 2-out-of-3 championship series format. Baseball continues.

Bottom Line: A solid variety of mainstream and niche events put June solidly in third.

4. March

Lineup: NCAA basketball conference tournaments, NCAA tournament, NBA basketball, MLB spring leagues, NFL Combine/Pro Days

Reasoning: March probably features the most glaring dichotomy of watchable sports: the sheer volume of college basketball over the last four weeks of the month provides the quantity, while underrated highlight-based events such as the NFL Combine and light MLB spring league work provide varying amounts of quality. NBA playoff races begin to heat up but take second billing to CBS's coverage of postseason basketball. In the last two weekends of March, I'd say I log about 45 hours of basketball viewing on average.


Bottom Line: March gets its fair amount of press, but lesser-known happenings like the Combine give it an extra push.

5. January

Lineup: NCAA major bowls, NFL playoffs, NBA regular season, Australian Open

Reasoning: No other month features such an eventful first day-- over thirteen straight hours of postseason football make January 1 one of my laziest days. The BCS bowls and its championship keep moving further and further back, and the presence of Thom Brennaman has probably devalued the month a notch. The month's middle three weekends contain ten NFL playoff games and Don Cheadle commercials. Basketball continues.

Bottom Line: No other month can string together such impressive weekends.

6. December

: NCAA bowl season, NFL regular season ends, NBA basketball, NCAA basketball out-of-conference play

Reasoning: December's simply a poor man's January. Bowl appetizers such as the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl fail to provide a significant distraction from the BCS games looming. The Heisman Trophy presentation is rather special, but it lasts a ridiculous two hours. And there's a couple of Saturdays in December that are absolutely excruciating; that's usually when I watch my one Division I-AA game of the year. Both forms of basketball continue, with some intruiging CBB out-of-conference games here and there.

Still the bowl name king, though.

Bottom Line: The only storyline salvaging the month is the NFL race to the finish.

7. September

Lineup: NFL football & NCAA football begin, MLB regular season ends, U.S. Open (tennis), Ryder Cup

Reasoning: The novelty of football beginning and the drama of baseball ending are really the only aspects separating September from the field below it. However, at least from a college football standpoint, September means out-of-conference games, which often translates to less-than-quality football weekends. Still, Labor Day weekend alone carries quite a bit of weight-- the first weekend of college football, the heart of the U.S. Open, and a slate of sometimes-meaningful MLB games.

Bottom Line: September's just an event or two away from the top five.

8. November

Lineup: NFLfootball, NCAA football, NBA basketball, NCAA basketball begins

Reasoning: The sports world kind of longs for the postseason baseball of October for a day or two but then moves on. The NBA regular season has begun in earnest, with both college and pro football holding steady throughout the entire month. All in all, a fairly vanilla sports month, if not for the tradition-heavy football games surrounding Thanksgiving weekend. Ohio State/Michigan, Florida/Florida State, USC/UCLA, and Alabama/Auburn all usually occur on one of the last two weekends of the month. There's also some interesting college basketball invitationals, if you're so inclined.

Bottom Line: The volume is there, but it still seems like November's just situated in the right place to piggyback off other months' sports drama.

9. May

: NBA playoffs, Kentucky Derby, MLB baseball, Indy 500, French Open

Reasoning: Kind of an odd sports month. The ever-growing NBA postseason knocks out its second and third rounds with frustratingly long breaks in between series games. (I smirk every time I see the TNT '40 Games in 40 Days' gimmick.) Baseball's contenders have begun to appear, with out-of-shape pitchers slowly leaving the 15-day DL. That leaves one of my favorite annual events, The Frattiest Day of the Year, the first Saturday in May. Pull out your derby caps, mint leaves, and monogrammed flasks for the Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports.

CB: "You know who's good? The Spurs. They play fantastig basketball."
EJ: "Right, Charles, you're not the first to think that."

KA: "You know who else is fantastic? Our photoshoppers..."

KA: "Oh!"

EJ: "It's Charles's face on a cheerleader!"

CB: "That's just terrbl."

Don't forget about the French Open-- maybe my favorite tennis event, just because I have a perverse interest in watching athletes slip and slide all over the place on TV. There's also the Indy 500, which the generation above us has a fleeting interest in.

Bottom Line: The last month to evade the truly wretched bottom three. It's actually a fairly nice mixture of sports; I might have placed it at 8.

10. August

: MLB baseball, NFL preseason, PGA Championship, U.S. Open (tennis)

Reasoning: Call it a football bias, but the welcome distraction of NFL training camps is the only thing saving August from the bottom two. Baseball's continued its post-All Star Game ennui, and the playoff races haven't begun to take shape yet. The PGA Championship's probably on the same level as the TPC at this point; I can't remember the last time I made an effort to watch the final round without Tiger playing for some sort of milestone. The opening rounds of the U.S. Open go down in Flushing Meadows, but they normally inconvience shows like "Boston Common" on USA.

Nineties. Hey, nice font. Must be a comedy!

Bottom Line: It's too hot to go outside, the movie theaters are empty, and it's the 10th-best sports month. No wonder everyone goes on vacation.

11. July

: MLB baseball, MLB All-Star Game, British Open, Wimbledon, WNBA begins

Reasoning: Unless you enjoy waking up early to watch Saturday and Sunday golf or tennis, have a favorite WNBA team, or just really, really enjoy the MLB Old Timers' Game, July is a month best spent outdoors. Even hardcore baseball fans must secretly hate July-- there's less baseball due to a mid-month break, and outsiders are constantly making fun of the All-Star game's silly homefield advantage rule. My personal July highlight is hearing Berman "back-back-back"-ing it during the Home Run Derby. That, or hearing golf analysts bubble over some hilly, windy land because people have been swinging clubs there for 200 years. Don't like July.

Bottom Line: WNBA begins.

12. February

: Super Bowl, NBA basketball, NCAA basketball, NBA All-Star Game

Reasoning: It almost seems unfair to include the Super Bowl as a February happening; it was always the last Sunday in January up until 2002. But still, it seems fitting that the one game whose media oversaturation is quickly becoming the bane of true football fans' existence is situated in the most wretched sports month. Both college and pro basketball have lost their lustre by this point; only a handful of teams in each are fighting for postseason berths (or lottery positioning). The NBA's All-Star Weekend has grown tremendously into a three-day event during the second weekend of the month, but it often amounts to just the Dunk Contest for casual fans. There might be something about NASCAR in February, such as the Daytona 500, maybe, but notice there are no NASCAR posts on the right-hand side of your screen.

Such a beautiful jersey. My birthday is coming up...

Bottom Line: The month's main sport, basketball, has grown stale by this point. There's not much else.

1 comment:

Will said...

Actually, the list of Indy 500 fans includes the generation above us and George R. Bartlett, II. Just saying.