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sports, days, nights

King Kaufman, who happens to be one of my favorite sportswriters (by which I mean he annoys me less than other ones and occasionally tells me something I didn’t know), recently ruminated on his favorite Sports Days in the year. There were quite a few responses, as you might guess, some of which Mr. Kaufman includes in a more recent column. So. Do I have ten? Because, you see, I’m not so much a sports fan as a baseball fan, so it’s very likely that nine or ten out of the ten will be baseball-related. Still, it’s fun.

First, of course, is Opening Day, the best and holiest day of the year. As Mr. Kaufman said, there’s little point in going on about this. Either you know what I mean, or you don’t.Yes, baseball, and yes, the Giants. Earlier games don’t count, even if they are played in North America and involve the Reds. I’ve only actually attended Opening Day once, in San Francisco in 1993, in outrageously good seats. I went to a game late in Opening Day weekend in Boston, but it wasn’t quite the same. Oh, and it’s Opening Day; night games don’t cut it.

Second is definitely Patriots’ Day, the third Monday in April. This is a Boston-specific sport holiday. They play morning baseball (actually starting around eleven, so it’s closer to midday), and when the game is over, as you head up to Kenmore Square, you watch the runners go past. I usually don’t care who wins the Boston Marathon, and besides, they are so ludicrously fast (and the game so leisurely) that they’ve finished long before the game is over. They do show the finish on the JumboTron (or whatever one calls the 21st Century descendant thereof), which is fun. If you have to work, go by Kenmore between five and six; they will still be running. One year I passed the route whilst walking home from work, and was shocked to realize that the losers, the pathetic people trailing in four hours after the winners were awarded their laurel leafs and chowdah were blowing by me.

Third is the Beanpot. If y’all don’t know about the Beanpot, it’s a remarkable thing: there are four Division I hockey teams in Boston/Cambridge/Newton, and they play a tournament every winter. Is there anywhere else in the country where there are four Division I teams in any sport in a metropolitan area? And these are not suburban colleges twenty miles outside of town, these are all on the T (although Harvard is on the Red Line, Northeastern is on the E, and BC is a goodish walk from the end of the line). First Monday in February, there are two games, and on the second Monday there’s a consolation game before the winners play. It’s best when rivals BC and BU play in the final. It’s best when BU wins. Oh, and yes, it was better when they played in the Garden, but it’s still pretty cool to go to the Whatsit Center and see a sold-out college hockey match. Or, this year, any hockey match.

Fourth, I think, is the last day the Giants are in contention. Ideally, of course, this will be Clinch Day, but even if it’s Elimination Day as it was last year, it’s an exciting day. I won’t say I look forward to Elimination Day, but I pay a lot of attention.

Fifth, pitchers and catchers reporting. 18 days, 22 hours, 26 minutes as of ... now.

Sixth, the World Cup final. Let me point out that I don’t actually watch it, but I love being in a city when it happens. The jubilation is beyond belief. Watching the French and the Brazilians abuse each other remains a highlight of city life generally. It would be disappointing for the Americans to win, as their celebration wouldn’t entertain me at all, I suspect. Although, if it’s a pigflyer idea like that anyway, we may as well suppose that if there was an American team good enough to win, I might watch and enjoy the match itself. By the way, I know it’s not an annual event, but rules are not rules in this sort of thing.

Seventh, hmm. I’m running out of ideas. Oh, the NCAA hockey final. For now, I could actually make that the last game the BU Terriers play in the NCAA tournament, but as I grow further from BU, I enjoy the final more, whoever is in it. If I can get it on TV, that is. Hockey GameCast is just annoying, even with audiostreaming radio. And can I get Mike Eruzione on color, please? I can’t explain why watching hockey is improved by having him say “Get the puck in front of the net, and good things happen” but it is.

Eighth is Bay-to-Breakers. Again, I have never watched it, either in person or on TV. I’ve never cared who won. It’s all about the slideshow (or the newspaper) the next day. It’s so Ess Eff.

Ninth is The Game. I don’t care which one. Wherever you are, there’s a The Game. It’s Berkeley/Stanford or Harvard/Yale or Army/Navy. In my current neck-of-the-woods, it’s William&Mary and James Madison University (although really it’s UVA/Tech). I don’t remember what it was in Philadelphia (Penn/Villanova?). If you are actually at a college, this may not be football (ASU/UofA is basketball, and was pathetic twenty years ago and I suppose still is). You know it’s a The Game if the local newspaper interviews the guy who made that play in 1976 every year beforehand. Or if they interview people in another city who either travel back every year for it or set up enormous game-watching parties with alums wearing their colors and looking goofy for the photographer. This, by the way, is another one I can do without watching, I just like the idea of it, and I like the articles in the paper.

What’s ten? Um, well, er, I’ll go with the day back after the All-Star Break. Really the day after that, when I can read box scores again. I loathe the All-Star Break, not because I dislike the game, which is sort-of fun, but because there are three days with no games. Feh.

I was considering other baseball days, of course. The first actual Spring Training game, or at least the first one I listen to over the radio. It’s lovely to hear baseball again after the long winter, and there are often daffodils nearby, which make it extra nice, but the actual games aren’t even remotely interesting, and there are usually a fair number of scrubs playing who are neither Major Leaguers nor prospects. There’s the first Giant-Dodger game of the year, which is always thrilling, but no more so than the others. There’s the Trading Deadline, but that’s more of an annoyance than anything else, despite how much time and effort I put into following the rumors. Fourth of July baseball is great, whether your team is in first or not. I always like Memorial Day, when I do my annual Hope and Faith list. And, I suppose, there’s the last day of the regular season, when the final numbers are posted, the last playoff stuff has been decided, and we can start talking about the awards. Well, start the last phase of talking about them. Do they still do the A’s/Giants day/night double-header? Or did interleague play kill that?

Are there others in other sports? I like to watch the Stanley Cup finals, if there are any. I have an odd fondness for the Head of the Charles regatta, which extends to looking up the winners sometime the following week. I do try to catch some of India/Pakistan Test Matches over the internet. I like the idea of the Masters green jacket, although I couldn’t care less who wins or loses, and I’d pay to be excused from watching. Oh, shoot, I forgot about the Kentucky Derby. Slip that in there sixth, ahead of the World Cup final. I do research before the Derby (tho’ not enough) and by post time have a preferred victor, and I watch the damn thing if I can, and usually watch it several more times by the end of the weekend. The Preakness wouldn’t make the top ten, but the Belmont probably would, maybe ahead of Bay-to-Breakers. The Breeders’ Cup and the Dubai World Cup wouldn’t, although I like to read about them later. If I wind up living somewhere closer to a track, the first day of the racing season might well make the list, although it didn’t at either Golden Gate or Suffolk Downs. Too much competition, I suppose.

What else ... I have a bit of a soft spot for Wimbledon, although if they stopped holding it I probably wouldn’t notice for a few years. I don’t give a crap about the FA Cup. I neither could nor could not care less about March Madness, although I tried betting one year just to see if it made the thing more interesting. I have even less interest in the Super Bowl. I don’t follow the Olympics at all, although I suppose I would watch the hockey if I happened to come across it.

Oh, of course, the Filene’s basement wedding dress sale. Damn, is that on FSNE or NESN this year? Somebody should tape that for me.

Thank you,


The World Cup is a good pick (says me, the non-sports-watcher). I walked down to Union Square (the one in Somerville) at 8 or 9am on a weekend day, when the Brazilians had won a game ending at 5 or so. Madness! There were trucks driving around the block over and over with green and yellow balloons hanging from their cabs. Everyone was honking and shouting. It was awesome.

You asked: "Is there anywhere else in the country where there are four Division I teams in any sport in a metropolitan area?"

Heck yeah. In particular college basketball in Philadelphia is nuts. The Big Five round-robin is the big thing with many of the games being played as doubleheaders in the Palestra which is this amazing old barn of a gym on Penn's campus. There seems to be a movement to expand it to six teams these days by adding Drexel. (Penn, Temple, LaSalle, St. Joe's, and Villanova are the traditional Big Five.)

But yeah, Opening Day is definitely the top of the list, but for me at least the first game I can get to of the year is always a good thing. For the past few years I've been able to get down to Philadelphia for the first Sunday home game of the year which has been nice. Won't be able to do that this year, but since they're playing in St. Louis the previous weekend I'll be there.

I was wondering about Philly Basketball but totally forgot about LaSalle and St.Joe's. And Villanova is further outside town than the Beanpot colleges, so I was reluctant to count it. The Big Five round-robin sounds like a very cool thing (for hoops fans), even with a lame name and no, you know, Beanpot. Is it the total bragging-rights king, where if, you know, St. Joe's wins the Big 5, they get to give shit to the others, even if Villanova is Final Four? Since the NCAA Hockey championship is so low-profile (not to mention the division championships), a year where BU takes the Beanpot home is a success, no matter what happens the rest of the year.
Oh, and have I mentioned that the Giants don't come into Washington until September, by which time I will (touch wood) no longer be living in Virginia?

Super Bowl Sunday has always been a favorite of mine, because it's the only time I've routinely been able to talk lots of friends into watching a game with me. Sure, they're watching the ads rather than the game, and I often have to answer basic questions about the rules of the game, but it's almost like there's a shared interest. And when my local team is in the Super Bowl (as has happened 7 times in the last 15 years, with the 8th time coming in 6 days), it's great to feel some shared excitement.

Lisa and I will never forget staying in Little Korea in Manhattan when Korea won a World Cup game they were not supposed to win. The nightclub where everyone was watching the game was across the street, Korea won in the middle of the night, and the rest of the night was an enormous street party complete with drummers and dancing. About 30 feet from our bed. It was amazing.

For me, I think my favorite sports day is any day that I can watch a game and live or die with the team as part of the community (even if I'm traveling and have only temporarily adopted the OSU football team for the duration of an academic conference, for example). A close second is any day I can watch a game and take the time to appreciate it. It's a marvelous form of escapism.

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