When the NBA Finals end, sometime near the end of June, I have this anxious feeling sink into the pit of my stomach. With all due respect to baseball, I'm left feeling like I'm headed into a sports void. And it makes me wonder, "What am I going to do with myself?"
It is in this moment that my wife tightens her grip on the remote control. Where October through June was dominated by basketball and a few scattered showers of NHL and football, July is now taken under siege by The Bachelorette, HGTV, and an absurd amount of cooking competitions on Food Network.
I have no defense. All of my troops were used to secure the previous nine months of TV time.
But this July, I've discovered the hidden treasure that is July sports. Granted, it's a World Cup year so things are a little bit inflated, but there is a rhythm to the July sports season that I never knew about. Unfortunately, we're already halfway through the month, so consider this post one to bookmark for next year.
My general thesis is this: With the right amount of patience and compassion, you can turn July into one of the most enjoyable sports months of the year.
July 1 - 3
There are always rumors going on in the NBA regarding who will be traded, who will sign where, but it's really a waste of time until July 1st.
Once July 1st hits, now the rumors and gossip turn into reality TV. For three days, the NBA becomes an hour-by-hour cross between TMZ and Us Weekly. Paparazzi camp outside of players' homes sending out photos of moving trucks. CIA operatives are called upon to decode cryptic Twitter and Instagram messages. Adrian Wojnarowski's Twitter feed carries more suspense than Donald Trump's.
There is guaranteed to be player movement. This year, LeBron went to LA. Boogie Cousins signed with Golden State. And Timofey Mozgov was seemingly traded 17 times.
Here's my approach to baseball: I have the season start on the 4th of July. This way you come in with about 80 games to go, far more manageable than 162.
In the Midwest, baseball is miserable in April and May. A good rule of thumb is "bring a hat and glove" to the ballpark should mean a baseball cap and a mitt, not a stocking cap and the same gloves you would wear skiing in Colorado. June is getting closer to true baseball weather, but it's still hard to choose game 45 of the regular season when it's competing against the NBA and NHL playoffs.
The 4th is also the perfect kickoff day for baseball. Fire up the grill, get the hot dogs going, brats, couple of hamburgers. Bruce Springsteen's Born in the USA playing on the Alexa. Fireworks at night. That is far more compelling than turning on a game in April and seeing the players' breath during the National Anthem.
Take it to the next level - I recommend incorporating the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest into your 4th of July morning routine. This year, Joey Chestnut wolfed down 72 hot dogs in 10 minutes. 72! And this feat went relatively under the radar.
Look, no one should have to eat 72 hot dogs and feel like the tree that fell in the forest without a sound. We need to show our support to the Michael Jordan of competitive eating. And it also removes any guilt I could feel later taking down two hot dogs, a hamburger, chips, baked beans, and that third helping of potato salad.
July 6 - 21st
I won't spend time on the World Cup since that's only once every four years, but what if I told you July can still thrive in those other three years without it. With NBA Summer League, Wimbledon, and the British Open (golf) there is enough to turn on the TV indoors when it hits 95 degrees and the humidity of a steam room outside.
NBA Summer League - The NBA is loaded with young talent, but it's hidden because the kids are 18-21-years-old going up against 25-32-year-old men. So, for example, Chicago Bulls rookie big man Wendell Carter Jr. may struggle during the regular season against the likes of Joel Embiid, Anthony Davis, and Karl-Anthony Towns but during NBA Summer League he looked like Tim Duncan.
This is the perfect time for fans of non-playoff teams to feel a sense of hope in their teams' future. It's also this who's who of former college stars. I also enjoy seeing the sidelines where you'll have 2nd and 3rd year players who carry this new sense of swagger and bravado. They're no longer the new kids on the block; it's kind of like the confidence sophomores in a fraternity have going through their first Pledge season from the other side.
Wimbledon - If you're not an avid tennis fan (me), I think the trick to Wimbledon is just wait until the men's and women's final
game match. Don't try to do more than that, because one tennis game (if you're not used to watching tennis) feels like it lasts for two days. And I couldn't name more than five tennis players, but by the Finals you're almost guaranteed to have either Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Serena, or Maria Sharapova involved, so it feels kind of familiar.
British Open - It's not quite as brutal as the US Open, but what makes this tournament great is you have a three-way battle going on: golfers vs. other golfers vs. the course. The most entertaining golf matches have a Man vs. Nature element. I like when the winner shoots a -3 not a -16 for the four days. Way easier to relate to when you see a top player four-putt his way to a triple bogie.
Dare I say, the Tour de France
I know. This is pushing things a little too far. The words of a desperate man who has watched the TV taken over by too many episodes of Love it or List it and Say Yes to the Dress.
I joke that the Tour de France is the only sporting event where I scour the internet just trying to find one spoiler alert. So I know this is an uphill argument to make.
But I had this on the other day and it was like a 120 mile race. Four guys jumped out to the lead from the very beginning and held the lead for 119 miles. But the peloton kept getting closer and closer until something like 0.3 miles left the four leaders were gobbled up by the pack and someone new took the lead. And the next day they have to get back on their bikes and do another 120 mile leg. Over and over for a month. And we're not even at the mountain stages yet!
No sport is like this. The leader in golf, the team in basketball that gets a big lead, the football team who is up by 28 points, you cheer for the comeback story. In cycling, you root for the leader. The guy who has the guts to go after it alone. The peloton approaching has this feel of someone trying to out swim a shark. (sidenote: Shark Week starts on July 22nd. This is quietly a great month!)
And what's the downside of getting into the Tour de France? You might start wearing more spandex and bike to work, but is that such a bad outcome? I envy die-hard Tour de France fans the same way I envy die-hard baseball fans because they've got 162 of the 365 days figured out. The Tour is the same way, if you can get into this event, your entire July is taken care of.
Because, at the end of the Tour de France, it is July 29th. You've made it through!
The bad news: August is actually worse for sports...
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