Thursday, July 21, 2011

Preparing for the Worst: A year without the NFL and NBA

The NFL has been locked out for over four months now, although thankfully an agreement seems close and the football season should kick off soon.  The NBA has been locked out for fewer than four weeks and the light at the end of the tunnel isn't quite visible; both sides seem miles apart at the moment, especially since owners claim that up to 22 of the league's franchises are losing money (which, given the Association's enormous popularity and TV ratings, seems impossible).  So what happens in the worst case scenario, if the NFL settlement falls through and the NBA can't reach an agreement either?

It's a highly unlikely, nearly unfathomable nightmare, but one that still has a slim chance of becoming reality.  I'll forecast the coming year (glass half empty version) in sportsland, USA.  And let me tell you, folks, it's not pretty.

the rest of July 2011-Business as usual, with the national pastime and its trade deadline dominating sports headlines.  The next few weeks would represent the calm before the storm

August 2011-No NFL training camp, and trash cans across the nation are filled with NFL season preview magazines.  Sports fans are forced to spend the dog days of summer following baseball, which is a good thing for the Pirates, Indians, Giants, and other overachieving teams in smaller markets.  Fantasy baseball remains competitive deep into the season for the first time in years and Nets point guard Deron Williams disappears without a trace in Turkey.

September 2011-Without fantasy football, productivity skyrockets in office buildings across the country and the economy improves.  Die-hards will still hold mock drafts and simulate a season, though, because you can take the player out of the game, but you can't take the game out of the player.  Or is it the other way around?  Someone will mention major league soccer, and you'll do everything in your power not to punch him in the nose.

October 2011-The MLB playoffs receive record ratings, and the World Series matters again when the Phillies and Red Sox square off in the first seven game Fall Classic since the D-Backs came back against Mariano Rivera ten years ago (with the Red Sox taking the title, of course).  College football becomes even more popular, and kids don't dress up like Tom Brady and Chris Paul on Halloween.  Instead, Adrian Gonzalez and Roy Halladay are much more popular choices.  NFL and NBA season ticket-holders, unable to fill their free time, put on their favorite jerseys, band together and roam the streets on weekends.

November 2011-Baseball's marathon season is over, and there's no Peyton Manning and LeBron James on TV?  What gives? Fans have a lot to be thankful for when Thanksgiving rolls around, but lack of entertainment isn't one of them.  Did I already mention that college football becomes even more popular?  By this point, four in every five NFL players have become completely out of shape, and the NHL still can't benefit from a lack of competition with the other major sports.

December 2011-College basketball revs up during the holiday season, but Christmas Day just isn't the same without a full slate of high-octane basketball on ABC.  The voices of Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy, and Mark Jackson's substitute are replaced by Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby in living rooms across America, and no one gets NBA tickets in their stockings.

January 2012-Without NFL playoffs, the dead of winter is truly a lifeless time for sports fans, especially when the college bowl games wrap up.  ESPN finally runs out of human interest stories and is forced to replay its entire "30 for 30" series everyday.  Every NBA player is out of shape by now, except for Steve Nash and Ray Allen.  College hoops, anyone?

February 2012-NO SUPER BOWL!?! (Yes, that is in fact smoke pouring out of my ears; please stand back while my head detonates) This is the single biggest disappointment of the year for Americans.  Spring training, more hockey and college basketball, and an added emphasis on Valentine's Day barely qualify as a consolation prize.  KIA files for bankruptcy when people stop buying their cars and Blake Griffin can't jump over a school bus in the dunk contest in a last ditch attempt to save the company.

March 2012-March Madness gets taken to another level this year; I'm talking fans foaming at the mouth and filling out a dozen brackets.  Inevitably, people will forget they are watching college kids instead of professional athletes.  BYU fans, enjoying another quiet, meaningless season in Utah won't be able to recall which NBA franchise drafted Jimmer Fredette, and neither will anyone else.  That same person who brought up MLS will do it again, and this time you won't be able to restrain yourself and will deliver a powerful right hook to his jaw.

April 2012-Baseball returns with an expanded playoff format and altered schedule thanks to Bud Selig, who just can't leave the sport alone, and the absence of NBA playoffs means fans get to see their local nine in action during chilly spring nights (because that's when baseball should be played, right? Nothing like stiff muscles, broken bats and half empty stadiums).  NHL playoffs start, but people seem to have trouble caring or remembering.  I call it NHL-induced-amnesia or apathy, depending on the symptoms

May 2012-See April, but replace "chilly" with "mild and comfortable."  Summer is just around the corner, and by now fans will jump on the hockey bandwagon once half the playoff teams have been eliminated.  The ones who don't will wonder why the NHL playoffs are scheduled during 85 degree weather.  Deron Williams is found and explains that he simply "got lost" in his unfamiliar surroundings.  Authorities suspect he was kidnapped by radical Turkish basketball fans who didn't want to see their league ruined by an infusion of NBA players.

June 2012-No NBA Finals to interfere with graduation ceremonies, and everyone's favorite TV shows have already wrapped for the summer.  The Stanley Cup finals capture the nation's attention span for a couple weeks, but then it's officially time to start looking forward to the summer Olympics in London.  Michael Phelps is the big winner here because he becomes relevant again, Subway commercials notwithstanding. Vote totals for baseball's All-Star game rise for the second consecutive season.

There you have it; something uglier and scarier than the hypothetical child of Joakim Noah and Rosie O'Donnell.  On the bright side, the MLB and NCAA would benefit greatly from increased attention, but that's the only positive I can  think of.  So here's to the end of both lockouts, because I'm not sure we can last a whole year. 

I know I can't do it, and I'm not even a big football fan.

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