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NY Post
New York Post
24 Feb 2024

NextImg:The best & worst sports months on the calendar

This is the desert. These are the dog days. This is February, and sure there are plenty of sports going on but … well, February can also be a rough stretch of road for a sports fan. February is when you dream of the other months, the busier months, the months when the sun occasionally shines and you never have to slosh in your boots.

What follows is one man’s rankings of the months of the year when it’s best to be a sports fan. I trust you may disagree. Please feel free to tell me how much.

1. September: Football is back, and September is when you really immerse yourself in it, because you go from seven months of nothing to seven days a week of games and chatter and debate. Baseball pennant races aren’t what they once were, but you can still get a crackling duel or two down the stretch. Used to be even better when the U.S. Open featured a more familiar array of stars.

Darius Slayton celebrates after a touchdown with teammates during the second quarter against Philadelphia. Getty Images

2. April: We give birth to a new baseball season and to two college basketball champions, and in a time when more people than ever care about the women’s tournament that’s a splendid thing. You also kick off NHL and NBA playoffs, to say nothing of one tradition like no other taking place at Augusta National, and another across the three days of the NFL draft.

3. October: There’s really no other month like it. If your baseball team has punched a ticket for the postseason, your heart starts to quicken as soon as you hit Oct. 1. The NFL calendar is in full rhythm. Basketball and hockey return, and it’s still early enough in the season where even random Tuesday night games matter more than they seem to later on.

4. June: We crown champions in both hockey and basketball, and that’s more than enough if you live in one of those cities. Baseball teams are starting to announce where they are in the league pecking order. The U.S. Open wishes us a Happy Father’s Day every year. And every now and again we get a Belmont Stakes worth shouting about, even if this years that noise will be a little fainter, having to emanate all the way from Saratoga.

5. May: If you have dogs in the hunt in both the NHL and NBA, then this is a relentless gauntlet of a month, your basketball team and your hockey team taking you to the limit on just about every single night. Throw in the Kentucky Derby and the Indy 500, and there’s a little something for everyone.

6. January: If you are a football fan, this is a bonanza, from the start when the colleges are winding down to the end when the Super Bowl tournament is in full force. The NBA and NHL are with us every day, and you’re getting a real sense about whether your preferred college hoops teams are worthy of your time.

Caitlin Clark celebrates after breaking the NCAA women’s all-time scoring record against Michigan at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Getty Images

7. December: This year will be extra interesting as we see how the college football folks build their first real postseason tournament. NFL games start to replicate playoff games, especially if you have a team that hasn’t begun to play out the string or play for draft position. Baseball’s hot stove begins to percolate.

8. March: Spring training may technically belong to February, but March is when the games start, and that’s when we can truly begin to sniff the onset of summer. And if the NCAA Tournaments don’t have quite the luster they once did, the first weekend is still a pretty spectacular and fun time.

9. July: In those years when tennis is at the forefront ,there are the best matches from Wimbledon at the start of the month, and in those years when your baseball teams are either struggling or looking for help, there is a trade deadline at the end of it. But football is also back, so it’s not quite a wasteland.

Juan Soto jokes around and pushes catcher Austin Wells during live batting practice at Steinbrenner Field, the Yankees Spring training complex in Tampa Florida. Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

10. November: Football is king. And if you reside in that kingdom maybe you rate this month a little higher. Otherwise, this seems about right.

11. August: If you prefer colder weather, then you may very well flip this and February. August was the original dog days, and in many ways still is. The baseball grind occupies most of your attention, and hoping no key players snap a tendon or a bone in NFL training camp takes up most of the rest.

12. February: At least we get the Super Bowl every year now. For years we didn’t even have that, which is why Sports Illustrated (RIP) invented the swimsuit issue back in the day.

A strong shout-out to Coach Meg Barber and her NYU Violets, the No. 1-ranked Division III women’s basketball team and a perfect 24-0 heading into Saturday’s regular season finale at Brandeis.

If you haven’t already, you must, must, must watch “The Greatest Night in Pop,” the story behind the making of “We Are the World” on Netflix. In fact, I dare you to watch it just once.

True story: Dwight Gooden almost wasn’t assigned his No. 16 for his rookie season, 40 years ago. Lee Mazzilli had only recently been dealt, and some felt it was premature to issue it to another player. “They wanted to give me 35,” Doc recalled. “I was 16 since high school, and I went to Frank Cashen, who made it happen.”

Dwight Gooden delivers a pitch during a game at Shea Stadium circa 1984-1994 in Flushing, New York. Getty Images

So it will be 16 and not 35 that’ll be retired April 14.

Aaron Judge with 700 plate appearances this year: I think we may see 70 bombs.

Roland Chapdelaine: Last year, Mets fans had hope until St. Patrick’s Day, when Edwin Diaz got hurt. This year, hope didn’t survive the third week of February. Wait till next year again … maybe!

Vac: I’ll just say it: If Kodai Senga was going to be the difference between the light and the dark for the Mets season, they were already looking at more darkness than “True Detective,” Season 5.

Chris Sheldon: Dear Yankees: We haven’t won a World Series since 2009. Please sign Blake Snell. The upside (possible title and money well spent), is better than the downside (no title and money misspent). Again: 2009.

Padres starting pitcher Blake Snell throws to the plate during the first inning of a baseball game against the Dodgers. AP

Vac: I’m nostalgic for the days when lefty pitchers relished playing at Yankee Stadium almost as much as lefty hitters did. Snell to The Bronx would be a perfect old-school fit.

@rightgeorge99: Mike, if Mets payroll is lower this year, and their expressed sentiment is that it’s gonna be awhile, why did ticket prices go up? No one is paying us working classes any more than they have for past 20 years. How can we continue to afford fanship? I listen on radio now, have to. Sad.

@MikeVacc: I wish this kind of common-sense talk could permeate an owner’s field of vision, any owner’s. I fear we will still be waiting 20, 50, 100 years.

Tony Giametta: It would take a lot of guts to do, but if the Nets want to be relevant again, they should offer Kenny Atkinson the job as head coach once more.

Vac: I suspect we’re sooner to Looie Carnesecca’s return to coach the Nets, sadly, but bringing back Atkinson certainly would be a karmic olive branch from Sean Marks to the basketball gods.