A Quick Breather Before the Sports World Heats Up
August 27, 2018

It's the weekend before Labor Day. There were some good baseball matchups, but television sports was mostly dominated by preseason football. The college headlines are still about what coaches know about spousal abuse but didn't tell anyone, and a major tennis tournament is about to begin, but not yet. The weekend before Labor Day is kind of ho-hum, but that doesn't mean things aren't about to happen.

Labor Day weekend used to mean the beginning of NFL football. Somehow, some way, they league season was pushed back a week. College football (and the TV networks) seized that opportunity, and used that for season kickoffs, including Thursday, Friday, Sunday, and Monday night games. There actually were a handful of games this past weekend, but nobody noticed.

September 1 is Saturday. In Major League baseball, that means a trading deadline of August 31 for any waiver deals by contending teams that want to have the new players on their playoff roster. Pitcher Justin Verlander was dealt from Detroit to Houston on that date last year, and the Astros went on to win the World Series. The first day of September is also when rosters are allowed to expand to up to 40 players (something that really doesn't make any sense, but that's a topic for another day). This weekend, the networks gave us the mighty Red Sox and Yankees each playing a lousy team (Tampa Bay and Baltimore). Hopefully, as far as ratings go, nobody noticed.

Today brought us the beginning of the US Open tennis championships. The women's number one seed Simona Halep lost, and according to ESPN, became the first woman ever who was ranked number one in the world, to lose in the first round of a grand slam. New York does a nice job with opening ceremonies, which this year featured Virginia Wade and Billie Jean King, a live 15-minute performance by Kelly Clarkson (not quite Super Bowl halftime-like, but pretty good), and then Serena Williams rolling 6-4, 6-0 in her first round match. Over the weekend, there were tournaments in Cincinnati and Toronto, and even in the tennis world, nobody noticed.

It may be too late now, but make a note for the future. The weekend before Labor Day is a good weekend to not worry about sports. Sure, the Dodgers swept the San Diego Padres, but as far as missing the big stuff, the best is yet to come. A's-Astros during the week, Arizona-LA over the weekend, US Open Tennis, and college and more and more and more preseason NFL football (people actually watch guys like Tom Brady play for like five minutes), There might be some big baseball deals, too. It's coming up on Labor Day, stuff happens, and we'll notice.

Counting down to this?: For weeks now, ESPN's 'Bottom Line' ticker has noted the number of days until the beginning of college football season, the countdown is to this coming Thursday when the network will feature Northwestern at Purdue. This is the big kickoff game? It does get a lot better on Saturday with the likes of Oregon State-Ohio State, Washington-Auburn, and Louisville-Alabama on ABC, and Cincinnati-UCLA (4pm for Bruin fans) and BYU-Arizona on ESPN. ABC Sunday has Miami vs. LSU, and Monday Night Football (College Edition) features Virginia Tech-Florida State on ESPN.

East coast bias (again and again): This may sound like sour grapes from a West Coaster, but network programmers continue to believe that the only teams in baseball that matter are the Yankees and the Red Sox. Not only did be see that on Sunday, but both teams will be featured again during the holiday weekend, with no network coverage of the showdown Dodgers-Diamondbacks series in the National League West (MLB Network has the Thursday game, which is fine, but its just a local telecast put on their channel). The weekend baseball lineup has FS1 on Saturday giving us Detroit-Yankees and Tampa Bay-Cleveland, TBS Sunday with Cubs-Phillies (not a bad matchup, actually), and kind of a weird one for the ESPN Sunday Night gameŚLA Angels at Houston. If you are wondering where the Red Sox are, they appear on ESPN Monday afternoon at Atlanta, followed by Yankees at Oakland (the only way the surging A's get on national TV). Dodgers-D-Backs are nowhere in there.

On assignment: During the San Francisco Giants' recent Cincinnati-New York road trip (after visiting the Dodgers), not only did most of the Giants not show up to play well, but the team's announcers were missing. In Cincinnati, Rich Waltz filled in for some play-by-play because Jon Miller and Dave Flemming were both gone. In New York, Miller returned but Duane Kuiper took some time off (Mike Krukow didn't make the trip, either, but he doesn't travel much any more, and they had Javier Lopez fill in for him). Flemming, we believe, was working the Little League World Series for ESPN. We have a rule in our newsroom. There are three of us, and two can't be off at the same time. That should apply here as well.

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