Fewer than 10 days until pitchers and catchers.
The fact that this number dances vividly in the heads of many a sports fan is less a testament to the arresting allure of the national pastime than to the absolute wasteland that goes by the name of February.
February: the jury duty of months. It’s there lurking, waiting to suck you in with its banality and its utter lack of enjoyment.
February: the Hartford of months. The dirges of winter, the piles of midterms, the six-inch puddles on the corners.
February: the Dirk Diggler of months. Unnecessarily long. It tricks you with its ostensibly short length (God forbid years like this one when the month drags on for an extra excruciating day) and then lasts forever. Great sense of humor, too. “Hey, how about as a reward for getting over the hump of this travesty we give the world … Valentine’s Day!!! Yay!!!”
Even the world of sports, typically oblivious to the ebb and flow of nature, goes dormant during February, apparently appreciating the fact that it can hibernate and laugh at all of us while we suffer.
Let’s take a quick look at all that we have to talk about these days. February gives us three All-Star games in two weeks with the combined viewing appeal of those two stations on Comcast (5 and 8) that are stuck on the two people at the desk with the little map in the background and that poor boy with the spiky hair who looks so confused as to why he can’t move or talk (I mean, judging by the question marks on the bottom of the screen). Don’t tell me the Pro Bowl was exciting this year. When defenses can’t blitz and corners can’t press receivers, damn right offenses should put up gaudy numbers. It’s just not football.
February brings us blockbuster non-stories such as college football national signing day, George Foreman struggling to become a lean, mean, reduced-fat, geriatric, standing, walking, and hopefully punching machine again at age 55, and the gut-wrenching travails of the NBA and NHL regular seasons that are more meaningless than this year’s Republican primaries.
(At least for me, college football signing day brings the possibility of Miami reverting to its old tendencies and bringing in its traditional bunch of upstanding citizens, which would allow me finally to dub them the Cok’ Canes in honor of fine coach Larry Coker. Some things just fit too perfectly.)
NHL general managers are currently meeting to discuss possible rule changes, but they haven’t brought to the table the most important one: shortening the season by 30 games. The NBA should think about this as well. Mark Cuban got into a fight in the media with Larry Brown this past week when he expressed reservations about sending any of his Mavericks to the Olympics simply because he has seen the lethargy that has plagued Steve Nash and others when they play nine month NBA seasons and then expend all their spare energy balling for their countries in the summer. This is easily remedied.
The most exciting seasons both sports have had in the last decade were the lockout-shortened 1994-95 hockey and 1998-99 basketball seasons. Fifty games is about right. Making the playoffs is a joke anyway when more than half the league’s teams get in, so just cut down on the number of teams, eliminate room for injuries and give the regular season a little more import. Trust me, nothing would change. Honestly, Kris Kross is way more relevant these days than these regular seasons.
We’ve also got the Daytona 500 this weekend. Great sporting event. One question: hey NASCAR, why blow your proverbial load at the beginning of your season? It’s like Gerardo opening a three-hour set with “Rico Suave.” Where do you go next? I don’t understand the logic of starting your season with your biggest event. And in the middle of February? You’ve got one of the biggest fan bases for any sport in the country, dwarfing Indy Racing, but the problem is that the Indy 500 is associated in Americans’ heads with Memorial Day, barbecues and the beginning of summer. You’ve got your signature event in the middle of the Canada of months. Baffling.
Thankfully, there are always college sports. But February, while providing its share of thrilling games and helping to determine the fate of fringe tournament teams, is just a precursor to March. The Stanford-Arizona contest over the weekend, while eventful, doesn’t really mean much when it’s all said and done. Both teams will be in the tournament. Stanford’s undefeated mark at this moment will be rendered meaningless with an early-round loss, and if Arizona’s loss affects its seeding, so be it: the Wildcats won the Dance as a four seed while failing on countless attempts as a one or a two. February: the wingman of months, setting March up for the big payday.
Here at Yale, February is pretty barren as well. Men’s hoops and men’s hockey are away the next two weekends. Both track teams are done at home for the winter season. Undoubtedly, the best bet for Eli sports fans fiending to watch teams with legitimate aspirations will be Saturday’s squash contests against Harvard to determine both Ivy League championships.
February: the Swing Space, the Sigma Chi, and the Science Hill of months. Eight days until Spring Training.