Dave Thurman (2:23 pm)
I picked up the newspaper this morning and flipped to the sports section (doesn't every self-respecting man begin there?) and read with great apathy the carte du jour for the day. Now it strikes me that I should be fairly excited since there is plenty of sports news to choose from as we move into the middle of July. For instance:
1. The Major League Baseball All-Star Game...As a kid I remember waiting with tremendous anticipation for the night when all the stars came out - guys like Johnny Bench, Willie Stargell, Hank Aaron, Tom Seaver and Willie Mays (can you tell that I rooted for the National League?) Now I find the Homerun Derby more compelling that the game itself. Maybe it's because so many of the players have tainted baseball and themselves by consuming massive amounts of illegal substances. Or possibly it's due to the fact that they make a gazillion dollars and play like primma donnas who are afraid of getting hurt. Heck, Pete Rose took a few years off of Ray Fosse's career because the Cleveland catcher dared to stand between him and home plate (and victory for the NL). I realize that I sound old but those were the days! Now I just can't get fired up about this annual rite of summer.
2. The British Open...I love golf, and like most Americans I especially enjoy watching Tiger Woods but I'm having a hard time getting up for this event. I suppose it would be more fun if Phil Mickelson was involved, although there are still plenty of great players to follow. Then there's that whole time change thing which keeps me for enjoying this tournament as much as the Masters or the U.S. Open. I'm sure I'll watch some of it but it's not like I am filled with eagerness and expectation.
3. Big offseason trades and acquisitions in the NBA...I can't remember a summer with more blockbuster deals than this one, highlighted by Shaq joining our boy LeBron in Cleveland. Yawn! I lost interest in the NBA years ago. My son Drew disagrees with me here, but the last few times I have attended a game (and I'll only go if somone gives me seats down near the floor), I was amazed by the fact that: a) the teams don't really play until the fourth quarter; and, b) they bring out every "dog and pony show" iminagable in an effort to engage and entertain fans - dunking mascots, insanely crazy contests, loud music, barely-clad-dancers and acrobats from the Far East to name a few. Sure the players are awesome athletes and LeBron is captivating, but I can't stay tuned in for more than a few minutes. So excuse me if I don't get super excited by all the offseason moves.
4. Athletes being murdered (by their lovers no less) - Wow! When can you remember two big name athletes being killed so closely togetehr and under eerily similar circumstances? First it was Steve McNair, killed by his young girlfriend, and then Arturo Gatti, supposedly by his young wife. This is the stuff the paparazzi lives for, but it doesn't fill the vacuum I am feeling right now that can only be satiated by big-time sports actually being played on the field or court!
So what does all this mean? Very simply that it's time to bring on the college football season - unequivocally the greatest sport played at the most exciting level in the entire world. You heard it right. College football is the Mt. Olympus of athletic contests. Nothing else compares. And Ohio State? They are perched on top of Olympus as Zeus. Give me a Saturday afternoon in Ohio Stadium and it will warm my heart for months. I confess that during the fall I count down the days like a kid at Christmas. Saturday morning it's hard to concentrate on anything, as butterflies churn in my stomach, and I look down at my watch every fifteen minutes wondering if game time will ever arrive. After kickoff, pity the poor fool who dares call my cell phone. For three hours I am in the zone, transfixed, an armchair quarterback, so into the game that it's downright scary. I have told my wife that I am not responsible for my actions, although she has yet to make this concession. There is nothing in the world of sports that comes close in my book - not March Madness, the Olympics, or the Superbowl. I enjoy them all, but none fills that sports vacuum like college football and my beloved Buckyes. So with apologies to old Hank, I simply ask, "Are you ready for some Saturday afternoon football?"