Ahh, October. Football fans have the college and NFL seasons to keep them busy over the weekends, normally pro basketball fans could get reacquainted with their teams as training camps start up, hockey fans are ready for that season-opening face off, and of course Major League Baseball has its post-season. No matter which sport is your favorite, you almost have to rank this month as the greatest sports month of the year. On Saturday, when the calendar turned to October 1, I started thinking about how the other months would rank. I'm sure your list would differ, depending on which sports you prefer the most, but here's mine...
2. March: A close second to October, really. The NCAA Basketball Tournament and baseball's spring training. Last year, in a 19-day period from March 11-29, there was at least one spring training game, or NCAA Basketball Tournament game on TV, or both.
3. April: The baseball season gets underway for real (actually March 31 last year), the NBA playoffs begin, the NCAA Basketball Tournament championship game, and the Master's golf tournament.
4. September: Baseball's pennant races, the beginning of football season, and the finals of the US Open Tennis Championships. I picked April ahead of September because sometimes the end of the baseball season isn't all that exciting, but you're always ready for Opening Day.
5. January: The Rose Bowl and all the other New Year's Day games. College football crowns its champion a week or so later, and all the NFL Playoffs leading up to the Super Bowl. If you're lucky, maybe it'll be snowing in New England, Chicago, or Green Bay. It's also summer “Down Under” for the Australian Open.
6. June: While baseball teams are establishing if they are for real or not, there's also the NBA Finals, the Stanley Cup is awarded, and Wimbledon gets underway. Having covered summer collegiate baseball for the last decade, there's also the College World Series and the MLB Draft. The NBA Draft is at the end of the month as well (the Sacramento Kings are in the lottery AGAIN?)
7. November: Rivalry college football games, Thanksgiving NFL, and NBA Openers (unless there's a lockout). College basketball begins too, but usually with teams like North Carolina playing teams like Slippery Rock State.
8. December: Final weeks of the NFL regular season, lots of Bowl Games, and the NBA Basketball Christmas Day games (I think there up to five of them now).
9. May: MLB, NBA Playoffs, NHL Playoffs, the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Indy 500, and French Open tennis. Lots of stuff goin' on.
10. July: Maybe this should rank higher, with Baseball's All-Star game and festivities. But that's really about it for the month, except for the conclusion of Wimbledon. There is baseball, though, and that keeps it up there.
11. February: How does February rank near the bottom of the list when it hosts the mother of all sporting events—the Super Bowl? That's really the only reason it doesn't rank last. I still think of the NFL Title game as still belonging in January anyway. It got moved back a week in 2002 because of 9/11, and the greedy NFL folks decided to leave it there. In a Winter Olympic year, February would move up. The short month also has the NBA and NHL All-Star games, and the Daytona 500.
12. August: It's hard to pick a month with baseball in it to be the worst of the year, but they do call it the Dog Days for a reason. Unless you get totally geeked up for NFL training camps and exhibition games, there's not much else going on. The U.S. Open does start at the end of the month, but the good stuff is in September.
That's the list. I actually changed it a couple of times while writing this, so it's completely subjective and even somewhat arbitrary. Oh well.
It's Worth Repeating: The drama last Wednesday on the final day of the baseball season wouldn't have happened if the playoffs had been expanded. The epic collapse of the Red Sox and Braves (or dramatic comebacks by Rays and Cardinals, whichever way you look at it) wouldn't have mattered because all four teams would have made the playoffs anyway. I'm just sayin'.
“Comments”: Saturday was the 50th anniversary of Roger Maris' 61st home run—at the time breaking Babe Ruth's record for most homers in a season. I found the video on You Tube with Red Barber's call. In the comments section, someone wrote this: (Current Yankees radio broadcaster John) Sterling would have called it thusly, "It is high, it is far, it is....GONE! Maris is safe at home. And you too, can be safe with a New York Life insurance policy. Contact your independent insurance representative to get all the coverage your family deserves. New York Life...the company you keep. Oh, and Maris just set the single-season HR record, too. Suzyn?"
Did you ever notice...?: I took 20 minutes out of my baseball viewing Sunday to watch 60 minutes and the last regular appearance by everybody's favorite curmudgeon Andy Rooney. The 92 year-old Rooney has been a regular contributor to the CBS news magazine since 1978. I like to write and complain about stuff, too, so I guess I unknowingly have been influenced by his writing style a little bit. However, if you run into ME at a football game, I wouldn't mind at all if you say, “Hi.”