Thu, 4 February 2016
The Sports Fan's Dead Zone
It's January 31st and it's 60 degrees outside. It feels like spring is in the air, but don't be fooled. On this day last year winter was just getting going on its way to a record-breaking month of snowfall and blizzards. Remember getting 3 feet of snow, then 2 feet, then a foot, then another 2 feet, day after day, week after week; it just kept falling, piling up to heights not seen before in this corner of the world.
At least we had that excitement last year. The sports fan's Dead Zone is upon us and there aren't any Winter Hurricane Blizzard Super Storm Whomevers coming to keep us occupied. The Dead Zone lasts from whenever the Patriots season ends (1 game too soon this year) to when the Red Sox season begins. The Dead Zone can be delayed by a compelling Super Bowl, which I think this year's is. Roughly we are talking about the period of time from late January to early April. It encompasses the whole month of March. Sure March Madness occurs during this time, but who cares? Seriously, does anybody around here give two flips about college basketball? I haven't paid close attention since the great UMASS teams of the nineties. Sure, every so often Boston College will make some noise and I'll pay attention, and maybe I'll tune in for the Final Four and beyond. But other than that, if the Bruins and Celtics aren't interesting, this time of year is dead.
Unless your thing is All-Star games, of course. And if it is, you have some explaining to do. Hard-core gamblers, okay, I understand it, gotta feed your jones - gamble on. But if you're not risking your paycheck on the NFL Pro Bowl, then why the hell are you watching it?! Team Irvin, team Rice, or whatever the new gimmick was this year - nobody is playing real football, it's not entertaining. How about Team I Don't Give a Crap?
The NHL All-Star game is kind of a joke too. Like the Pro Bowl, the NHL now tries a new gimmick every year to try and make it relevant, aka get higher ratings. This year's 3 on 3 play was a brave attempt at entertainment by the NHL, and its skills competitions are kind of cool. But there was no game to watch, no competition where the stakes are high. The saga of John Scott was the most noteworthy thing about the game.
These all-star events are becoming less about a game where the outcome matters, and more about a weekend of events and irrelevant mini-competitions designed to get ratings. They aren't a showcase of the best at their sport doing what they do at the highest level, and trying to win an important game in their given sport. Perhaps a league will get the formula right some day and an all-star event will mean something again. Until then, they are denizens of the Dead Zone.
What about the Bruins and Celtics? First of all, they are very clearly the 3rd and 4th most important sports in New England. When one of them makes a playoff run or builds a consistent winner, they become more relevant but still won't ever top the Sox and Pats. Secondly, even when the Bs and Cs are competitive, which they both are to some degree this year, February and March can be a real drag. Hockey and basketball teams only play two or three games a week and given that their schedules are bloated and need trimming, some of these games can get dull. Even the players take nights off during the season. They get bored this time of year too!
Spring training at JetBlue Park, with its sun-splashed palm trees and golf-course tanned broadcasters, does provide some relief from the Dead Zone, but it's still a tease. Getting up to speed on the new guys, Greg Kimbrel and David Price most notably, and wondering if Hanley Ramirez will yank a hammy the first time he bends over at first base, will only make us crave the real deal. Watching spring training games is not my idea of a good time. It's similar to watching all-star games; the results don't matter, it's not real competition.
So we take comfort in an old New Englander habit, desperately looking forward to the Spring. The coming of Spring is a time of hope and rebirth, when daylight holds on a little longer every day, mud-colored snow piles slowly give way to grass and pavement and the robins return to signal in each new day. It's a time to assess what was, the Patriots' season was a bust, and anticipate what could be, the Red Sox look like a potential contender.
After all, truck day is only a week away and pitchers and catchers report on February 18th.
Category:general -- posted at: 3:46pm EDT