Football Season is Over
The football season is over. It looks like we’re in for a long, arduous, potentially boring offseason. For those of you that don’t watch football as their primary sport: don’t read this. For those who are already feeling the effects of football withdrawal, I will try to give you a guide on how to survive this offseason. There are plenty of big sports events/games from now until the season starts on Sept. 5.
Let’s look at the upcoming events that as sports fans you might be interested in following. Sidenote, I won’t be talking about the Alliance Football League. It’s just starting out and we have to give the league time to see if it’s even worth watching. But let’s look at some key dates during the offseason:
NFL scouting combine (Feb. 26-March 4): Glorified draft hopefuls running around an indoor field in their underwear. While this may be perceived as a viable way of evaluating draft prospects, it’s quite obvious that draft scouts use more material than just the combine to evaluate the players. As a football fan, I will probably watch this event as I’ll be desperate to see anything football related. Saquon Barkley took the combine by storm last year, impressing in all the drills. Barkley did 29 reps in the weight lifting, a premonition of the dominance he would display on the field this past season.
NFL free agency (begins March 13): In one week we will see the landscape of the NFL change as star players switch teams and some teams suddenly become Super Bowl contenders. There are plenty of big names on the market, including former Steelers, running back Le’Veon Bell, Cowboys defensive end Demarcus Lawrence, former Super Bowl champion quarterback Nick Foles and many other star players. In this process, we will see great players turn down large sums of money in the request for larger sums of money. I know you are probably thinking that if you were offered 50 million dollars you would just accept the offer. Of course, you would also probably suck at playing football. These players are some of the best in their respective positions.
NCAA March Madness, first rounds through Elite Eight (March 21-March 24, March 28-March 31): The road to the Final Four starts here. These two weekends are good basketball games on top of good basketball games. Some of these games will be blowouts while others will be buzzer-beating thrillers. There are many teams which can make a run to the national championship, a list headlined by the Duke Blue Devils and the projected number one draft pick in Zion Williamson. Duke seems too good to fail, right? Right?
MLB Opening Day (March 28): For me, this is one of the most exciting days in the lull of football offseason. Baseball will be back. The exciting thing about the upcoming baseball season is that no one knows who will win it all. Unlike the NBA or even the NFL, baseball is completely unpredictable, with many teams having the capability of overachieving and underachieving. The Yankees and Red Sox are the only two teams that have star-studded lineups, but both teams will still have to make some moves to help their chances of making it to the World Series and winning the championship. All this excitement starts on Opening Day.
NCAA March Madness Final Four (April 6-April 8): The road ends this year in the anti-climatic setting of Minnesota. The Final Four games usually live up to the hype and occasionally we will see a game that we can remember forever. The Villanova vs. North Carolina National Championship game in 2016 with the Kris Jenkins buzzer beater stands out as one of the best. For many players on these teams, their tournament games are their championship. It is also worth watching the “one shining moment” video at the end of the final game. You may cry when you watch this.
NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs (begin April 10): This is much more exciting than the NBA playoffs, which most people already know will be won by the Warriors. The NHL playoffs are always exciting with many overtime games as well as the unpredictability of who will take home the Cup. There are many teams that look like they can contend for the cup this year. Last season the Washington Capitals erased their legacy of failure and won the Stanley Cup for the first time in their franchise’s history. Some of the teams looking to erase the choking tag attached to them are the San Jose Sharks, Winnipeg Jets, Columbus Blue Jackets and New York Islanders (of recent years they’ve been a joke). Of course, fate may have it that the Penguins, Canadiens or Maple Leafs will win it and the drought will continue for the rest of those teams, but it will be exciting to see which teams will advance and play in the Cup.
NBA Playoffs (begin April 13): The only thing to look forward to is seeing which teams will have the honor of getting demolished by the Golden State Warriors. If we are lucky we may see the Warriors get upset but we’d be kidding ourselves if we actually believed that would happen.
The Masters (April 11-14): This is a good tournament to fall asleep to. The combination of many golf shots and Jim Nantz’s voice are the perfect recipe for a Sunday afternoon nap. If only we could get Tony Romo to comment alongside Nantz. That would be exciting even for the dull game of golf.
NFL Draft (April 25-27): The draft is how dynasties and Super Bowl contenders are built. This draft has many big names, especially on defense. What makes the draft watchable is the fact that it is reality T.V. Whether it’s watching Aaron Rodgers or Johnny Manziel sweating through their fancy suits as they slide in the first round or Laremy Tunsil dropping in the draft because of a released video of him taking rips from a bong through a gas mask, the draft has all the drama. Draft night has also been known for having big trades that affect the process. All-pro receiver Antonio Brown might be traded prior to the draft in exchange for draft picks.
NHL Stanley Cup Final (start date TBD- June 1): After all the close games in the previous rounds we will get the final two teams. We can’t predict who will make it but regardless of who plays in the Final, we are guaranteed to see a great final round. Another convincing reason to watch the Stanley Cup Final over the NBA Finals is the fact that a full roster is needed to win the championship. Last season the Cleveland Cavaliers were carried by one guy, Lebron James. So much for it being a team game.
NBA Finals (May 30-June 16 including a possible game 7): Will the Warriors be dethroned? Is there anyone who can beat the Warriors? If not, we will see the dynasty continue. I guess every fan will be hoping that the super team gets broken up in hopes that another super team gets formed to overtake them.
NBA Draft (June 20): The Knicks are in a tank war with the Cavaliers to try to land generational talent in Zion Williamson. There are plenty of other talented players entering the draft but Zion Williamson has had more hype than any prospect since Lebron. This is the start of the offseason, which by my account is the most exciting part of the NBA season.
NHL Draft (June 21): There are a few cellar dwellers hoping to land the next Connor McDavid. Other than those teams, the draft is a useful time to reload on depth positions that many rosters lack. The NHL draft is one of those drafts that you can only see the impact of several years later.
NHL free agency (July 1): Last season John Tavares left the Islanders to play for his hometown team in the Maple Leafs. How dare he! What a traitor! NHL free agency, like any version of free agency, is key to starting a championship run.
NBA free agency (all of July): The start of the most exciting part of the basketball season! Will Kevin Durant or Klay Thompson leave the Warriors? Will Lebron bring in another star player? Will Kyrie, Kawhi Leonard or Jimmy Butler try to join a super team or take the maximum salary? Most fans are hoping that the Warriors get their roster pulled apart, giving the rest of the league a shot at winning the championship. Everyone is dreading the scenario in which the Warriors will land another star player and be even tougher to defeat.
MLB Home Run Derby and All-Star Game (July 8-July 9): Like the NBA all-star week, if you watch this you are watching practice. On the positive side, this game no longer determines which league gets home-field advantage in the World Series.
NFL preseason (all of August): The significance of the pro bowl without any talent. At least you get to see your favorite players dressed and playing for five minutes. Rookies get over-analyzed during this time, which will give optimism to the fans of the teams that draft Dwayne Haskins and Kyler Murray (assuming Kyler Murray is playing in these games and not playing baseball).
College Football Kickoff (Aug. 31): A little taste of football. It’s also the start of many national championships runs as well as draft prospect speculation (you’ll see some players before they become famous). This week may not have many close games or matchups between ranked teams, but it shows that you’ve made it and survived the offseason.
We can do it! I know this won’t be as exciting as football but there are still things worth watching.
Photo Caption: Look forward to the start of college football during the NFL offseason.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons