January has the Rose Bowl. February has the Daytona 500. March . . . madness! The Masters is played in April, the Kentucky Derby is run in May. June has the NBA Finals, while Wimbledon commands our attention in July. The NFL kicks off in September, the World Series takes center stage in October. If all the gridiron action isn't enough, November offers Thanksgiving and December Christmas. All of which leaves us with . . .
They don't call 'em "the dog days" for nothing. (And how about an extra dose of compassion for the greyhounds running at Southland this month? A deeper water dish, and an extra nap or two would be nice this month.) With apologies to my sweet wife (her birthday makes the month worth celebrating by itself), August is a month that left sports fans behind. And nary a holiday break for the full 31 days.
The PGA Championship? A distant fourth among golf's four major events. Tennis' U.S. Open? Sure, it starts in August, but ends in September, the late-summer shadows over Arthur Ashe Stadium reminding us that, yes(!), we sports fans can return to our viewing pleasure. Poor August. Herewith, four ideas for the sports-minded to survive the year's longest (and hottest) month.
Brush up on your sports literature. And no pictures! John Feinstein's Season on the Brink, George Will's Men at Work, David Halberstam's October 1964, and Tim McCarver's Baseball for Brain Surgeons are among the books I'd happily take to the hammock with me. For fiction lovers, you might try John Grisham's Bleachers. You can read it in a day, and if you played so much as jayvee sports in high school, the story's bittersweet reflections will feel quite personal.
Movie time. That Braves-Marlins game on TBS not doing much for your Friday night? Hit your local video store for a sports flick. Where to begin? Well, for my popcorn, Raging Bull (with Robert DeNiro as Jake LaMotta) is among the 20 finest films ever made, let alone sports movies. From Rocky to Cinderella Man, boxing is the second best sports genre on the silver screen. Then there's baseball, Hollywood style. Bull Durham and Field of Dreams are the only Kevin Costner movies I can watch twice, the original Bad News Bears is so good my daughter learned of Hank Aaron as a mere first-grader, and The Natural is worth watching just to see the Sundance Kid swing a bat (and smash those stadium lights!). Even second-tier baseball movies (i.e. The Sandlot or Hardball) are worth their two hours in August.
Attic treasure hunting. Whether it's baseball cards, a souvenir pennant from your first big-league game, your letter jacket from high school, or the softball jersey you fit into five summers ago, sports memories abound in attics worldwide. The trick, of course, is surviving August temperatures as you dig through the dust, boxes, and packing peanuts. Fellas, time to pack that cooler with some ice-cold, frosty suds, and act like this mission is as important as a mid-September tailgate party (not much cooler then, here in Memphis). Ladies, a gin and tonic will never refresh more than over that box of yearbooks. And yes, soccer shorts made your legs rather special.
Finally, the best suggestion I can offer for sports nuts in August: imitate your heroes. Head to the batting cages, gather the crew for some pickup hoops, take the family out for an afternoon of tennis, play 36 holes next weekend instead of 18 (no carts!), maybe even jog a few laps around the block. There may not be all that much to cheer in the sports world this last, dog-eat-dog month of summer. Which makes for an entirely appropriate time to put in the sweat work yourself. At least till Labor Day.