Monday, August 12, 2019

August Angst: Sport's Cruelest Month

Posted By on Mon, Aug 12, 2019 at 10:25 AM

What if we woke up one morning and there were no sports? No scores to check. No standings to evaluate. No breakdown of an MVP race or worldwide ranking. This irrational fear creeps into my subconscious every August, a month without friends when it comes to sports.

When the PGA Championship moved to May this year, August lost its only signature sporting event, the lone story line that attracted attention across the country. The move leaves our calendar's eighth month in a sort of solitary confinement, locked in a room no one is particularly interested in exploring. We could not have May without the Kentucky Derby. "March" and "Madness" are now a brand name. Wimbledon makes July taste like strawberries and cream. And October baseball is now often the only baseball much of the country follows. The Daytona 500 in February, the Masters in April. You get the idea. But August?
click to enlarge DREAMSTIME
  • Dreamstime

There are two qualifiers to this month's dearth of headline sports. Soccer is being played, far and wide . . . because soccer is always being played far and wide. 901 FC has five games this month (though only last Saturday's match against North Carolina at AutoZone Park). And there's baseball. Every day, there's baseball. But the sport's "dog days" got so named for a reason. Once big-league clubs have played 100 games, we know the six or seven that might win the World Series. For the other teams — wild-card races be damned — the last two months of the season are a slog, and attractive only to the die-hards who know no better than to keep track of batting races, record pursuits, and such. Soccer and baseball results in August are to that room of solitary confinement as tally marks are to the prisoner who sits inside. They help the month move along, but that's all.

What could be done to improve August on the sports calendar? First of all, we must eliminate preseason NFL games. These are a multimillion-dollar scam on the American public, dressing up amateur football players in professional uniforms for five weeks of tryouts, each franchise selling these as two more "home games" on the schedule. They are fraudulent yet yield the same violent injuries we see in regular-season games, only to young men who won't be able to afford care and attention when they're released shortly after the calamity.

Instead of preseason "games," let's move the NFL's all-star showcase — the Pro Bowl — forward, to the last Sunday in August. And there will be no injuries, for this exhibition game — "tackles" having long been merely suggested — will transition to flag-football. Let the stars of the previous season play a game for fans — and themselves — that is entirely about fun and joy, with the extraordinary athleticism of Patrick Mahomes, J.J. Watt, and Julio Jones still on display, just minus the helmet and shoulder pads. This would be an extraordinary kickoff to the football season, and the kind of attention-grabber August desperately needs.

For the time being, I find myself staring at August 31st, circled on my office wall calendar. The Memphis Tigers will take the field that day to open the 2019 college football season against Ole Miss. Sneaky, this 2019 version of August, allowing its tail to wrap itself around the biggest game we'll see this fall (er, summer) at the Liberty Bowl. Soon enough, September (the U.S. Open tennis tournament!) will be here. Until then, enjoy those soccer results and baseball scores. No tally marks required.

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