The weather in Georgia has been positively spring-like the last few weeks … enough so that cherries and dogwoods have already started to blossom. (Obviously, trees have no idea it’s still February.) So the fact that the Braves open spring training on Saturday against the Mets feels … well, about right. But with games in February, opening day now in March and the World Series in November, fans now have a mere three months without the “boys of summer.”
I’m sure fantasy owners, the MLB network and baseball fanatics are thrilled at this gradual (and televised) expansion, but I feel the trend of nearly-all-year-round ball is just … unhealthy. For the players, the fans and the kids who start playing on “traveling teams” when they’re 8 years old. And this follows a trend of expanding sports for profit and obsession.
The NFL wants to expand to a ridiculous 18 games. The college football bowl season now includes teams that are 6-6 and lasts until mid-January instead of all culminating in one wonderful day (January 1st). While college basketball ends perfectly with March Madness, the NBA playoffs go on forever, with four 7-game series that stretch nearly to July. Golf, a sport that’s hit a lull thanks to a decade of Tiger-mania actually shortened its schedule to end in September rather than November. A smart move, but one that was based on financial reasons rather than the purity of the sport.
As a kid I associated so much with the changing of the seasons and the sports that accompanied it. I couldn’t wait to re-oil my baseball glove as the weather warmed. Or to spend Saturday afternoons in the fall tossing the pigskin while Munson growled over the AM dial. Or to spend hours on chilly winter days practicing free throws in the cozy (err.. sweaty) neighborhood gym. And back to spring again when the golf clubs got dusted off and the dogwoods began to bloom.
It makes me wonder. Do kids today still associate sports with the seasons, or is it just one long year of pick-a-sport-and-get-into-it?