For years, I've referred to the first week of April as the best week of the year for a sports fan. And every year my wife responds with, "You say that 4-5 times every year!"
And she's right. I do. So for the first of what will likely be many times this calendar year, here's why I think this is the best week of the year to take off work, and park yourself in front of the TV (if not 2-3 TVs) and enjoy life as a sports fan.
The best week is actually a ten-day binge that began last Friday with major league baseball opening day. (I know, opening day was technically Thursday, but for me, the season doesn't start until the Cubs take the field and that happened on Friday. Never mind the final score of that game.) I think Opening Day should be a national holiday. Think about it. What do Thanksgiving, New Year’s Day, Memorial Day and the 4th of July have in common? More good games to watch than TVs to watch them on. And unless you have the day off, how are you gonna watch them all? Perhaps opening day is more exciting to a Cubs fan, because we're mathematically still in the playoff hunt. But I think opening day is great. There's a certain pageantry, with the starting line-ups being introduced and the red, white and blue buntings in every park. If you're a baseball fan, you get it. Win or lose, this day brings a smile to your face.
Just when baseball begins to dominate the brain, the Final Four tips off. Few events in American sports are more highly anticipated, and it almost always delivers. Credit Butler, and their brilliant style of disciplined, team basketball for doing it again this year. Watch the Bulldogs try and slay Connecticut in a "Dog Eat Dog" national championship right here on WSBT-TV Monday night.
Speaking of shocking UConn, an over-emphasized "WOW!" goes out to Muffet McGraw and the Notre Dame women's team for doing what no one outside of South Bend thought they could: de-throne two-time defending national champ Connecticut. The Irish will play Texas A&M Tuesday night for the program's 2nd national title. Notre Dame has officially made the best sports week of the year even better! Thanks Muffet, for adding four hours of must see TV to what already was the busiest week on the calendar.If you're not a fan of college hockey, take a few hours this week to get hooked. There's more parity in college hockey than any other sport. #1 seeds go down every year. The same nail-biting excitement that we get in the NCAA men's basketball tournament is on display here, except there are no blowouts. Nearly every game goes down to the final seconds, and more than once in recent years, a team has rallied from a last minute deficit, only to go on and win the national championship. High drama. The two winningest programs in college hockey history will square off in the Frozen Four on Thursday (Michigan vs North Dakota - 16 combined national titles). Notre Dame can join them with a win over Minnesota -Duluth. And it all takes place on the most spectacular rink I've ever had the pleasure of watching a game in...Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Minnesotans know how to put on a show when it comes to ice hockey. Like I said, this is the time to get hooked.
And while you're at it...might as well take Thursday off of work, because the Masters tees off that morning. (At least keep a screen open on your computer in the office with live streaming coverage of Amen Corner.) There was a time, not too many years ago, when the powers that be at Augusta National wouldn't allow anything but the back nine to be televised. Now you can watch the par-3 tournament on Wednesday, network coverage, a channel dedicated to Amen Corner, another to holes 15 & 16, and the featured pairing (like Woods, KJ Choi & Matt Kuchar on one day...and Mickelson, Robert Allenby & former PGA champ Y.E. Yang on another). If ever there was a day to grab four TVs and set them side by side in the same room, this is it! Mix in the azaleas and the perfectly manicured rolling green fairways of Augusta National, Rae's creek, Mickelson coming off his best tournament in 51 weeks, Tiger still an enigma on the course, and a dozen talented young players poised to win their first major championships - and this has the potential to be one of the great tournaments in golf history. All you have to do is watch!
Which really, is the whole point I'm trying to make. Everything fans love about sports is on display in abundance this week. To quote a line uttered years ago, that still rings true today: "The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat" is what makes us watch. And this week, you can watch it EVERY day.So sports fans...enjoy the best week of the year! Who knows how many weeks you'll have to wait until the next one roll around?