October: The Classic Month In The American Sporting Landscape
It may not be truly quantifiable, but October is the best month in American sports.
We have the baseball playoffs, college football is heading into rivalry season, the NFL is beginning to separate the wheat from the chaff, the NHL is underway, the NBA will begin at the end of the month, and the most underrated team sport in America, college hockey, has dropped the puck.
While the early rounds of the MLB playoffs can be tedious, there is no disputing the moniker, Fall Classic, when it comes to the World Series.
While the Super Bowl has become a de facto national holiday and its scope blows every sporting event out of the water, there is no series play that matches the World Series in appeal or tradition. The NBA and Stanley Cup Finals pale in comparison.
In college football conference play has begun, old rivalries are playing out, and new ones are ever-emerging.
This weekend's three match-ups between Top 25 teams (and one pitting two of the Top Five) is just the beginning. Traditional rivals, Big 10 foes Iowa and Michigan, take to the gridiron on Saturday, as do Boston College and Virginia Tech, an organic rivalry that's moved from the Big East into the ACC.
Once pollsters sort out the merits of each teams and as the season develops, we'll see the upcoming Saturdays become even more intense.
In the NFL, we may see teams like the Tennessee Titans fade from the scene altogether. Squads starting out 0-4 since 1990 have a roughly two percent chance of making the postseason.
On the other hand, the New England Patriots play their fifth straight undefeated team in five games (though they do follow that up with the winless Titans and winless Buccaneers in the next two weeks).
The Cincinnati Bengals, a team I'm interested in for no other reason than their starring turn on HBO's “Hard Knocks,” are a fluke play away from being undefeated and will be in the driver's seat in the AFC North if they emerge from Sunday's game with Baltimore victorious.
There is good football to be watched as these teams battle for position.
The NHL, while always under the radar—in no small part to the abhorrent leadership of Gary Bettman and the lack of quality television coverage—had a few teams open their seasons in Europe. This ploy is puzzling at best, but the NFL has the Patriots and the Buccaneers going over to play a game in London's Wembley Stadium in a couple of weeks.
Much like the NBA, the NHL season really doesn't get interesting until May and June come the Finals, so we are in a holding pattern until then.
As for the NBA, the primary intrigue right now is to see how players will get along on new teams. Shaquille O'Neal in Cleveland and Andre Miller in Portland look to make the most impact in the recent class of team-changers.
The first few weeks of the Association's season is compelling, but the lead-up to it here in October is where the fans are frenzied. Other than a few marquee tilts sprinkled in through the next few months and the All-Star Game, the next time the NBA is truly relevant is in April.
When it comes to college hockey, it is a rather parochial sport, primarily clustered in the Northeast and the Midwest. The bulk of the nation is keenly unaware of the rivalries and the quality hockey.
It is a sport where even the smallest of schools, like Colorado College, are consistently at the top of the Division I rankings and are perennial title contenders.
The season is a grinder, but you'd better win early in the season when you can. Defending 2008 Frozen Four champions, Boston College, learned this the hard way last season and failed to make the postseason.
With only 16 teams getting bids in the playoffs, battling for at-large bids starts early. A rematch of the 2008 Frozen Four final game with BC taking on Notre Dame takes place October 23, the night before the two schools line up on the football field. Rivalry renewed.
So, what other month but October?
December-leaking-into-January has the bowl season, more mature NBA and NHL seasons, college basketball in full swing, the waning weeks of NFL, but America's Pastime is out of the picture.
March has Madness, of course, and Spring Training, but since the USFL took its turn, there is no glimpse of football. The summer months have no playoffs or basketball, while football season doesn't start until September.
While it ultimately does not matter what month is the best, we are in October, and it is nothing short of intense when it comes to the American sporting landscape. I brought in another cable box to my living room so I'd be able to monitor as many games as I can on the weekends.
Even the President's Cup is getting me excited. USA! USA!
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