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.
Call 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 time 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 heartburn.
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.
But 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 wanted to talk about was whether those were, in fact, mom jeans that Barack Obama was 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 "outrageous."
Michael Vick, clueless and teamless at this time last year, is still apparently clueless and narrowly escaped becoming once again teamless.
Between 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.