The debate over the Greatest Sports Month of the Year is sort of like asking, “Who’s the hottest Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Model?”
It’s a question with no wrong answers that’s nonetheless guaranteed to evoke an avalanche of opinion and spirited debate. And perhaps when it comes to my particular brand of logic, it’s likely to produce a certain amount of heckling.
That’s OK. When you call the bleachers home—as those of us on Bleacher Report do—heckling comes with the territory as much as a hot dog, peanuts and a cold beverage.
It may be madness to ignore March. Say that only fools overlook April. But, without further ado, I offer up October.
True, it’s not the month with the most big-time events, far from it.
If the argument is consigned purely to numbers, it’s April hands-down, with NCAA Final Four, the start of Major League Baseball, The Masters, NBA and NHL playoffs, Champions League quarterfinals, and the NFL Draft all sharing center stage.
But considering the significance of the events, and my particular sporting passions, October is the month for me.
By the way, I’ll take Cheryl Tiegs when it comes to SI and bikinis. But that’s a discussion for another day. (See the famed fishnet one-piece in the 1978 issue for clarification.) But I digress.
October is home to the Major League Baseball playoffs and the World Series, the separation of contenders and pretenders in the National Football League and College Football, the lifting of the curtain on the NBA season, the home stretch for major motorsports series around the globe and golf’s President’s Cup.
Toss in the Rugby World Cup every four years just to ice the cake.
The spotlight is white-hot, the pressure is withering and the opportunities for career-defining heroics ever-present. Has any other month ever been associated with a famous nickname such as Mr. October?
· The Friday-to-Sunday stretch with the MLB postseason sharing the stage with College Football and the NFL can’t be beat. I need not explain the importance of baseball playoffs. And while we haven’t reached the finality that is December/January football (bowl games and pro playoffs) , it is a critical time of year.
For some metric perspective I offer this: With the compressed nature of football (one NFL game is the calendar equivalent of 10 baseball games) if you fade in October the final eight games can be rendered meaningless.
Just ask the 2008 Buffalo Bills, who began the season 4-0 but opened October with a loss and went on to drop seven of their next nine games.
· Admittedly, the 82-game marathon that is the NBA regular season does not offer up greatness in its opening stanza. But to those of us who’ve been waiting since June for Kobe, LeBron, Shaq and Chris Paul to emerge from their summer slumber, for those of us who consider weeknights without sports the digital equivalent of crossing the Sahara without water, it’s like an old friend moving back to your hometown.
· I’ve heard the derision from fans of stick-and-ball sports. I’m familiar with the phrase, “if it has an engine it ain’t a sport.” To that I offer the wisdom of former NFL coach Jim Mora, who famously told sportswriters that “You really don’t know. You think you know, but you don’t know. And you never will.”
My fascination with heavy horsepower makes October unique. NASCAR has entered “The Chase,” the 10-race spotlight that determines its champion. The heat in the Formula One paddock and pit lane is enough to make me don a fire-suit.
And IndyCar, even in its relatively emaciated state, demonstrates the magic of man and machine as it surges to the checkered flag.
· Lastly, when it comes to golf’s President’s Cup and the Rugby World Cup—two sports with seemingly nothing in common—the defining characteristic is national pride. Whenever two flags fly and men weep equally in victory or defeat, it’s the pinnacle of sport.
October, it’s the 31-day crucible in which greatness is forged. Thankfully, its arrival is only 178 days away.