BY KEVIN J. ALLEN
Welcome to the sports vacuum.
This is the day of the year when baseball is on a brief hiatus, basketball
free-agency buzz has died down (somewhat) and football training camps are still a couple
weeks away from kicking off. There are no noteworthy games today. No team to root for. No
athlete to let us down (on the field, anyway).
This year is a little different because one of the titans of the
industry -- George Steinbrenner -- passed away. But generally
speaking, it's the time of year we sports editors absolutely hate.
If you'll recall, this is the time of year ESPN was busy plugging
its "Who's Now" competition, which determined 2007's
ultimate sports star (the winner slips my mind). And it's around the time
of year Valdosta, Ga. was making its push to become the network's
"Titletown USA" a while back. Again, it's the time of year that
those of us in the sports industry kind of dread.
it what you will. Black Wednesday. The doggiest dog day of summer. The
Sportsless Sportsday. I call it a sports vacuum, and it's a perfect
for a little self reflection.
Sure, you could take this day to become a bit more worldly. Go ahead
... flip over to the Drudge Report and read about the oil spill or the
comings and goings of our 44th president and the cast of characters in his
daytime soap. But let's face it. You're a sports fan and those
things just depress you.
Let us take this rare opportunity to assess ourselves as sports
fans, consumers of sports media and lovers of all things competitive. And
let's ask ourselves, are we better off this year in the world of sport
than we were this time last year?
At the moment, two of our favorite one-name sports stars -- LeBron
and Tiger -- have left us feeling a bit better about ourselves and worse
about them. I hope it's not a trend, but I half expect my mother to sit
me down and tell me quite solemnly that Michael Jordan -- like Santa, the
Easter bunny and a movie where Dan Aykroyd was funny -- never existed
It was fun this time last year to speculate where LeBron might land.
It was fun last year to speculate when -- not
whether -- Tiger Woods would surpass Jack Nicklaus' major-win
record. Now, like the microbrew beer you thought would be a great idea to
order, you're left with a gross aftertaste and a bit of sporty
Considering all that's right and wrong with sports and the
athletes who play them today and all the changes in the ways we cover them and the ways they decide they'll cover themselves,
it's hard to determine whether we're in the midst of a golden era or dark age.
Enjoy this time, sports fans. Savor it. By next week we'll have a
new British Open champ to yap about, a slew of position battles and NFL holdout dramas and
another sports star in handcuffs that will grab our attention.
Maybe you're still in shock about the LeBron-to-Miami
announcement and the ensuing controversy in Cleveland (I just realized those
are two words that I've never read in the same sentence ... Cleveland
and controversy ... nice!). And maybe you feel like you need yet another
shower in the wake of the LeBron-a-thon TV special that you wish you
hadn't felt so compelled to watch that almost ruined your Sunday meatloaf.
take comfort in the fact that we've come a long way in sports since
this time last
year. Following the 2009 All-Star Game, it seemed the only thing people
to talk about was whether those were, in fact, mom jeans that Barack
wearing when he tossed the first pitch. Now we can praise the false
hope we have that there's a bit of parity in the Midsummer Classic
following the NL's 3-1 win.
Tim Tebow was a senior-to-be last year who was busy telling the world he was a
virgin, and we all chuckled at the notion that he could one day be a
first-round draft choice.
We weren't entirely sure Brett Favre would return to quarterback
the Vikings in July 2009. We're a bit more confident this year.
New Orleans, then best known for its abundance of bare breasts in
February, is now a championship city.
Then again, we've been forced to read police reports that reveal
Steelers QB to be, at best, a person who thinks bar-bathroom romance enthusiast and, at worst, an alleged
rapist. Sounds familiar, considering it was this time last year he was issuing
a statement calling a sexual-assault lawsuit filed against him
Michael Vick, clueless and teamless at this time last year, is still
apparently clueless and narrowly escaped becoming once again teamless.
Twitter, the blogs and the mainstream media, it seems no proverbial
stone goes uncovered in the sports world. But on the other side of
those stones, we don't always like the moss we see. We'll always wonder
whether the likes of Cobb, Mantle, Jordan and countless others would
have been received as well by the public in a new media atmosphere.
Luckily they'll never have to be.
So which is it? A golden era or dark age?
Perhaps it's just a vacuum. And a good day to take a break from it all.