Baseball camps are open in Florida and Arizona. College basketball is gearing up for tournament time. The sports fan has to divide his or her time between worrying about who's going to be the fifth starter for his or her baseball team, and filling out bracket sheets for hoops. March has to rank right up there as one of the best sports months of the year. Thinking about that topic, I decide to rank the months of the year in sports from worst to first. One admission to make right off the bat (so to speak), is there is a baseball-centric bias here. Sorry, but I'm ready for baseball, and if this list were put together in another season, it might be different. For you're information, entertainment, and debate, here are the Top 12 Sports Months of the year...
#12 February: Whoa! Wait a second! I hear you yelling at your computer screens already, asking how the month with the Super Bowl in it could possibly be the worst sports month of the year. The Super Bowl was played on February 1, and really should be played in January (before 9/11 it was). The NBA and NHL All-Star games are played in February, the Pro Bowl used to be, and the Daytona 500 is also run in the year's shortest month. If I cared about those things, February would be much higher on the list. February does have golf at Pebble Beach, and how can you go wrong with Bill Murray in cow pants? February definitely moves up from the bottom spot during Winter Olympic years.
#11 August: August has baseball in it, which is the only reason it beat out February. Having said that, even a lot of baseball people hate August. It's called the 'dog days' for a reason. Many teams are out of it, and the ones that are in contention are just trying to make it to September when the pennant races really heat up. Major League Baseball has a 162-game season, and the schedule hits the 100 mark during August. It's hot everywhere, and humid in the Midwest, Northeast, and South, and there are still two months to go in the season. But it's still better than preseason NFL football, which comes your way on all four major networks during the month. On the positive side, the U.S. Open Tennis Championships begin in New York, where night matches can run really late, but the crowd never seems to care.
#10 December: The nights are longer and colder, and the only thing the sports fan has to curl up to is an NBA game on TNT or maybe the ACC-Big Ten Challenge on ESPN. The NFL season winds down, and that means important games with playoff implications, but it also means the final game of the year where Peyton Manning or Tom Brady sit out the entire game, because their team's playoff spot is locked up and they don't want to risk injury. The college football bowl season starts about a week before Christmas, though, and once it starts, there's at least one game on every night (except for Sunday and Monday because of the NFL). If you really miss baseball at this point, ESPN does a nice job covering the Winter Meetings, where something like 80 players changed teams this year.
#9 July: July is the month where Major League Baseball pauses to hold its All-Star game, which is both good and bad. The Mid-Summer Classic doesn't mean as much as it used to (mostly because of interleague play, and that no player stays in very long any more), despite home-field advantage in the World Series being on the line. The home run derby the night before is almost better than the game itself, but how many times can you listen to Chris Berman say back-back-back-back-back in three and a half hours? The All-Star break also creates a hole in the sports calendar. It's the only time in the entire year where there aren't any major league sporting events for more than a day in a row. ESPN has tried to fill the void by holding the ESPY Awards, but it seemed better when they were held in February.
#8 May: May is a great sports month, yet somehow it's only number eight on the list. Baseball is on television and radio every night, the NBA and NHL playoffs are getting pretty serious, and other sports that you don't pay attention to the other eleven months, come at you in May. The Kentucky Derby and the Indianapolis 500, each with their own iconic venue and traditions, are in May. Whichever horse wins the Derby will be the favorite in the Preakness two weeks later. French Open tennis starts in May, and on a personal note, the Marysville Gold Sox begin their brief, eleven-week run. Hard to believe there are seven months that are better.
#7 September: Football kicks off, and baseball winds down. Both the NFL and college seasons get started, and in the pros that means a Thursday night opener, and two Monday night games instead of one that first week. College football is on every sports channel on Saturdays, and so what if Notre Dame is playing Slippery Rock State. There will be some upsets, though, but Florida State will still beat Delaware Tech 72-0. September also offers plenty in the baseball world, and just ask the Oakland A's and San Francisco Giants about September last year. Both teams made the playoffs as Wild Cards, but saw potential home games slip away. Some teams like the Colorado Rockies in 2007 charge in September to make the playoffs, while the Red Sox and Braves remember their epic collapses in 2011. September also crowns a U.S. Open tennis champion, although, starting this year, no longer on CBS.
#6 June: Baseball has settled in, it's not early anymore, and the indoor sports take center stage. Both the NBA and NHL crown their champions in June, and last year, that meant the Los Angeles Kings hoisting the Stanley Cup. I've admitted grown a little wary of the National Basketball Association, but there's some new blood this year, and if the Golden State Warriors and/or the Atlanta Hawks are playing for the crown, I'm going to have to check it out. Wimbledon starts in June, horse racing concludes it's Triple Crown with the Belmont Stakes, and the College World Series is played in Omaha. The NBA Draft is in late June, and it's become an area tradition that the Sacramento Kings will get the sixth overall pick, and still be lousy next year.
#5 January: The new year starts off with a parade and some football games. The Rose Bowl may lose some of it's luster over the next few years with the four-team college playoff starting on December 31, but it's still the Granddaddy of Them All, and will still be the featured game. A several year-old New Year's tradition now is an outdoor hockey game played in a baseball or football stadium. As long as they keep those games in cold weather cities, it will be a major event. College football's championship and the NFL playoffs are all featured in the year's first month, and conference play gets underway in college basketball. There's also the Australian Open Tennis Championships, and, if that's not enough for you, there's always the NBA and the NHL.
#4 November: Other sports are going on, but let's face it, November is all about football. You've got the three NFL games on Thanksgiving, and the best college football games of the season. Many of those games are on the holiday weekend, with matchups like Auburn-Alabama, Michigan-Ohio State, UCLA-USC, and on and on. There's also a chance of snow in the Midwest and Northeast on Sunday, so you check the guide to see if you possibly get that cold weather NFL game. Just before Thanksgiving in warm weather places like Maui and the Bahamas, college basketball gets going with some great early matchups in those holiday tournaments. The NBA opens its season right around Halloween now, but usually in November, and maybe, if it rains during the World Series, baseball could be extended into the month.
#3 April: Baseball begins for real, and the first Monday of the month (until the Commissioner decides to start the season on a Friday again) should be declared a national holiday. There's the nationally televised Sunday night game, which is fine, followed by a lot of day games featuring the best pitcher from every team getting that first start. You may see 45-thousand people in 40-degree weather in Philadelphia on April 6, and with the team not projected to do very well, no crowd that big in Philly again. The Houston Astros are even on ESPN that day! April also brings us the championship game of the NCAA Basketball Tournament—the same night after all of the baseball openers. The Oakland A's play a night game, though, which makes no sense. April also brings us the start of the NBA and NHL playoffs, and a tradition unlike any other—the Masters.
#2 March: So if you ask me early in March (which is now) what the best sports month is, my knee-jerk reaction is going to be this one. Spring training baseball games start tomorrow, and fans of every team can be optimistic about their season. Of course, the madness sets in in a couple of weeks, and everyone, regardless of where they work or their knowledge of college basketball, is filling out a bracket sheet. 48 of the 67 NCAA Tournament games are played in the first weekend, with 16 games each on Thursday and Friday, causing absolutely no productivity in the workplace. It's especially difficult to not only fill out your basketball brackets, but also look at player rankings for your baseball fantasy draft. There may be one sports month that's better, but March may be the most fun.
#1 October: October and March are kind of 1A and 1B to me, but October gets the nod for several reasons. First, baseball games in March don't count, while in October, they are worth everything. The playoffs and World Series all fall inside the month that will finish with just one team (I still can't believe it's the Giants) calling themselves champions. October used to be (and sometimes still is) the only month where baseball, football, basketball, and hockey are all going at the same time, and throw some good college football games in there, too. October is the busiest month of the year, which in a way is a shame, because it detracts from the World Series. If you like sports at all, though, October has to be the month for you. Although March is a close second, it has arrived, so let's play ball!
Tell it goodbye: Some disheartening broadcasting news for baseball fans that you may not be aware of. First, if you like watching the Cubs or White Sox on WGN, you will no longer be able to. Both teams' new television contract does feature games on WGN, but in Chicago only. The Cubs were almost always on on Sunday mornings, and even though White Sox homer Hawk Harrelson has to be the worst of all the announcers, his “you can put it on the boarrrrrrd, yes!” will be missed.
She is gone: For Dodger fans like myself, the best part of the summer was getting to listen to the games on the radio. Even in northern California, you could do that after dark, because Bakersfield radio station KNZR has a great signal. For the first time in decades, that station will no longer carry Dodger broadcasts. They are going to another station, but one with no signal that carries outside of the Bakersfield area. There really is no option now, other than trying to listen on your phone while driving.
Say what?: Speaking of listening on phones and other devices, I was renewing my MLB Audio subscription, and I started reading some of the fine print regarding blackout restrictions. This affects no one I know, but it specifically says online telecasts of the Oakland A's and San Francisco Giants are blacked out in Guam. You can watch any other team, but not those two, due to 'territorial restrictions'. Major League Baseball thinks Guam is in the Bay Area? Really?
Sweet tweet: Saw this on Twitter over the weekend (I believe from MLB), “This is the last Saturday without a baseball game for a long time.”