Forget Christmas, This Is The Most Wonderful Time of The Year

Danny BifaniContributor ISeptember 15, 2008

There is no better time for the sports fan. Baseball enters its final two weeks with nearly half of the teams alive in the playoff chase, football is just getting underway, hockey starts in a few weeks, and basketball begins a month after that. In the MLB, we have a new single season saves record holder, with four divisions up for grabs. In the AL, the Rays will make their playoff debut, but the Red Sox will try to make them a wild card by claiming the top spot in the East. The Twins try to win the Central over the ChiSox when they were expected to lose ninety. The Mets and Phils will again fight for the NL East, and whoever loses that battle will surely be in the wild card mix with the Brewers, the red-hot Astros, and possibly the Cardinals. Manny Ramirez seems to have given the Dodgers the upper hand in the West, and the Cubs look like the class of the NL. With a potent lineup, deep rotation, and fantastic bullpen, the Cubbies have to be favorites to win the pennant. Wouldn't it be something if they won it all exactly a century after their last championship? It should be a wild ride.

In the NFL, Carolina, Arizona, and Buffalo are all 2-0, while San Diego, Jacksonville, Cleveland, and Minnesota are 0-2. The Giants still look super, the Patriots do not. The Cowboys are angry, the Broncos seem to have a great QB again, the Bills finally seem revitalized, and the Packers may have very underratedly made one of the best off-season moves, albeit one of the most unpopular ones, by ending the Brett Favre era in Wisconsin. Sure, a couple of teams look great, but the road to Super Bowl XLIII is very much wide-open.

The league over the past generation has entered an era that makes it difficult for dynasties to form, but the Patriots have proved that not entirely true over the past few years. However, they're getting older, and an entire year without Tom Brady doesn't help. The Colts are banged up, too, another one of the AFC's premiere teams. The Chargers looked great, but have started off sluggish. The Cowboys are filled with talent to them brim, but haven't won when it mattered in over a decade. The defending champs are good, but were not a powerhouse championship team last year and certainly aren't one now, especially with Michael Strahan's retirement and Osi Umenyiora's injury. The quest for a ring is a realistic dream for so many teams in the NFL today, and that's what's so great about it. We, as fans, like a little dominance every now and again. The Steelers of the 70s, Niners of the 80s, 'Boys of the 90s, and Pats of the 00s - all great dynasties. But isn't it just as good - or better - when the big, bad warrior falls and the underdog wins the day? C'mon, was anyone outside New England really cheering a Patriots win over Big Blue? Heck no. Sure it would have been interesting to see 19-0, but 18-1 will be remembered forever. The Giants became America's team with that upset. Kind of like how the Patriots played the very same role six years prior against the two-touchdown favorite St. Louis. But they had their time in the sun and now it is over - we've seen that show already, and it's time to move on. Imagine the Giants prove they were no fluke and win again? How long before they're the hated favorite and no longer universally adored for knocking off Belichick and perfection? For better or for worse, all good, or great, things eventually have to come to an end.

Back to baseball, there's nothing like October and the postseason. I've long been in favor of shortening the season, maybe knocking out some April games. But you can't take away October. Yes, it's too cold, and baseball is a warm weather sport. But October is great. It's as if it's set up intentionally to make it that much more difficult. If you get past the LDS, you play in mid-October. Then if you win the LCS, it's on to the Fall Classic at the end of the month, where, if you're playing anywhere in the North, temperatures will dip below 45, maybe 40. Pitchers will have a really tough time getting loose and batters will feel the chills in their bones as they step up to the plate. There are a million reasons why the most important baseball should be played earlier, but the one that matters most keeps it there: "Playing for October". It's when magic is made and when miracles happen. It's tough when your team isn't in it, but the best feeling in the world when it is. There's nothing like October baseball.