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Friday, April 19, 2024

Column: Sportocalypse

My God, it’s coming. It will be the best of times, it will be the worst of times, an age of wisdom, an age of foolishness, the season of light, the season of darkness, a summer of hope, a summer of despair, we have everything before us, we have everything behind us, we’re all going direct to heaven, sports all going direct the other way — in short, the period will be so unlike past periods, that its noisiest authority insists on you reading, for good or evil, this whole column.
Every year, just as we wander into the heavenly scenery that is summer vacation, we’re also condemned to the ninth circle of hell for sports fans. As soon as the NBA and NHL hand out their championship trophies, the Four Horsemen of the Sportocalypse come charging in: golf, tennis, baseball and NASCAR. This unholy season becomes a seven-headed beast once we add soccer, horse racing and poker to the mix. My fellow sports fans, this is torture of biblical proportions.
Some of you don’t see summer this way, Nike bless you, because you are a fan of one of the seven heads mentioned above. It takes fortitude to love any of those sports. They’re falling from the mainstream (if they haven’t already) and are hard to follow, but you do your best to do that sport justice. You might hope ESPN will show a few matches or races, and maybe a few journalists will cover the event. But you’re too prudent to expect too much and too temperate to make a scene about it. You just have faith you’ll find enough coverage somewhere to make you happy.
I envy you. Fall, winter and spring turn me into a glutton. All that basketball and football coverage just makes me greedy for more. I can handle the abrupt end of football season. The NBA, March Madness and the lead-up to the NFL draft are more than enough. But after the NBA Finals? There’s nothing. All summer I’m left lusting for fall. Of course, I could focus this energy on becoming a fan of summer sports, but let’s be real. I’m too lazy to learn about them and have too much pride in other sports’ seasons to even attempt it. Because of that, summer and its sports’ fans will always be the target of my wrath.
I beg you, summer sports fans, to see the error in your ways and join us nonbelievers. You can’t dedicate your lives to this summer doctrine when more earthly pleasures can be found elsewhere on the calendar. It’s illogical to believe in these teams, and you shouldn’t need a clairvoyant disease to see it.
Baseball, soccer and tennis are just a group of people passing a ball around trying not to let the other team touch it. And in two of those games they don’t score. If you want to watch something that depressing, grab a cat, a ball of yarn and swing it in front of its face. The amount of times you let the cat hit it depends on what sport you’re simulating.
And let’s not pretend those other things can be called sports. Golf, each swing and its result takes seconds, no need to watch it intently. NASCAR and poker, people standing in a circle watching others do something in a circle, only exciting when someone crashes and loses. Horse racing, only if you want a gambler’s high and a loser’s low. These are things you put on TV when you’re doing something more fun, like a pool party or … anything.

Face it, summer is sports’ Gehenna, the place our fanatic souls burn in an unquenchable lake of fire. Still, some don’t need a brompton cocktail to endure them and even see enjoyment in these sports.

But for those of us left behind by the rapture of our favorite games, fear not. This summer we are treated to something special — a savior is in our midst: the Summer Olympics. We will be flooded with basketball, volleyball, track and field, swimming, gymnastics, the list goes on. Each event is epic, full of drama and the winners are adorned with glory. We can’t predict who will prove to be the messiah with necklaces of gold sitting atop the holy podium, but as a born-again summer sports fan, it doesn’t matter as long as I’m saved.

NOLAN SHELDON can be reached at nosheldon@ucdavis.edu.

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