Open Mouth, Insert Football: The dead zone

Ben Morrow
Sports Columnist


I heard ESPN’s Tim Cowlishaw say on “Around the Horn” that he thought this was the best time of the sports year. He cited the Masters, the NBA, the NHL playoffs and MLB Opening Day as his reasons. Apparently this guy likes spring.

Allow me to disagree slightly.

The excitement of a thrilling college basketball season is finished. As great as it was, we have now entered into the twilight zone of sports.

To put it bluntly, this is garbage time. This is the part of the ball game when you put in the scrubs. This is when the crowd leaves in droves even though the buzzer has not sounded. As far as I’m concerned, this is the part of the sports calendar that just dies.

Welcome to the dead zone.

I’m a fall guy. Spring brings pollen and allergies. Fall brings cooler days and football. For me, there’s no comparison to what we just finished watching and what the next few months will bring. Spring drives us outdoors to enjoy the warm days apart from our televisions. The tradeoff is an obvious absence of good sports to watch during our down time.

I’m not the only one who thinks watching golf on TV ranks up there with watching grass grow. Watching the NBA, except for maybe the Finals, is too sterilized and – dare I say? – boring during much of the season. Watching the NHL at any time of the year holds zero interest for me. And the beginning of Major League Baseball? Opening Day is nice, but it merely marks the beginning of a long summer marathon that I will casually monitor throughout the next six months. Call me in September when the action begins.

September is when the NFL starts (Actual games, not the 500 preseason weeks when all the good players get hurt). It’s when pennant races wrap up and America’s pastime becomes more than an alternative to fishing or taking a nap. It’s when college football begins and every game can make or break a season. It’s when college basketball looms on the horizon.

The sports year for me begins in September and basically ends on Opening Day. If you want to stick the NBA playoffs in the middle of an otherwise wasteland of sports, OK. The first half of the baseball season, the NFL and NBA drafts and the forgettable golf season are simply filler for the fans until the real action starts back up again. There are exhibitions ESPN pushes to keep ratings up while the great outdoors and practically everything else competes for the fans’ attention. They are diversions to keep us watching. They are smoke and mirrors that are used so you don’t see how bored you should be with the whole thing.

Don’t believe me? How much golf do you watch on a regular basis? Do you rabidly obsess over the next Thursday night baseball game? Or do you more or less keep tabs? Do you and your friends find yourselves talking nonstop about the latest Nuggets/T-Wolves game? Yeah, me neither.

As sports fans, we don’t always like to be honest. We don’t want to admit when our team has had a lousy year or when our favorite athlete gets busted for performance-enhancing drugs. We hope for the best and forget the worst. And it’s hard to admit that, as sports junkies, we still get bored out of our minds during a significant portion of the calendar year. Is it possible that nearly four out of 12 months are basically a waiting game?

No, we like to immerse ourselves in draft projections, recruiting charts and fantasy baseball, as if these will ever fill the void of cheering on Casey Brockman or Isaiah Canaan. Nothing replaces pep bands on Saturday or big hits on Sunday. There’s nothing like watching the BCS standings while lamenting the lack of a playoff system. And, as the last couple of weeks have taught us, there is absolutely nothing like the madness of March.

Unfortunately, the most watchable of the sports seasons have come and gone. Now that college basketball has departed for another year, the best we can do is wait. Yes, there will be the occasional draft to update us and an all-star game or two to tide us over, and yes, spring training and Opening Day is ushering in the warmth of springtime.

Blah blah blah.

I am going to pop some Claritin and go outside to watch my son play T-ball. Let me know when September gets here.