2014 Summer Preview: What Will Sustain Us as a Sports Nation?
The dirty little semi-secret in sports talk radio is that there are many hosts out there who dread the months of June, July, and the first part of August.
Yes, the same time of year to which the rest of the free world counts down like a prisoner approaching their parole date, many in my business abhor, some even fear. For the very reason that you look forward to it (vacation!) is one very big reason that sports talk is a barren wasteland in those months.
Add in the fact that the Astros are working on their fourth consecutive 100-loss season and you can see why some might be fearful of (GASP) having to get creative and maybe even (DOUBLE GASP) talk about something other than sports.
Luckily, for those in the radio business with summer doldrum-aphobia
and a total inability to think creatively, the sports gods will typically drop a few savory sports nuggets from the sky to ease the summer hunger pangs.
Examples from the summers that I've been writing here on HoustonPress.com include:
2010 2010 was carried during the month of June by the first real hardcore tremors of college conference realignment. This was the summer where the Longhorn Network was created, and the entire Big 12 almost imploded with the Texas schools (most of them, at least) getting absorbed into the then-PAC 10. The eventual end result two years later would see A&M move to the SEC, the Big East implode, and Baylor become the best sports program in the Big 12 less than two years after nearly being orphaned.
In July, we got LeBron James turning heel on the entire city of Cleveland with his made-for-TV announcement that he would be "taking his talents to South Beach" to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. The vitriol LeBron sustained us as a sports watching people well into 2011, through the NBA Finals.
Meanwhile, in the background of all of this, we had the 2010 World Cup going on, which gave us lots of reasons to drink in soccer-oriented bars we'd never been to before.
2011 2011 was the Summer of Scandal and the Summer of Stoppage (as in, work stoppage). NCAA investigations and eventual sanctions rocked the University of Miami (Nevin Shapiro, yo), Ohio State (memorabilia for autographs, and Jim Tressel lying about it), and Oregon (Willie Lyles' "scouting services" and Oregon's overpayment). Meanwhile, the NFL had to forego all of OTA's and normal rookie activities as the lockout drifted into late July, before eventually winding up settled in time for a free agency period the speed and fury of which resembled a 90 percent off sale Black Friday. Not wanting to be left out of the fun, the NBA got their lockout kicked off in early July, as well.
2012 Again, more scandal to tied us over. Bobby Petrino was fired as Arkansas' head coach in April after being caught in an affair with an underling (and lying about it), so there was no shortage of stories about Petrino's life crumbling under the weight of society's schadenfreude. Even though Arkansas wound up tumbling to 4-8 that season under the schizophrenic leadership of John L. Smith, the Razorbacks' plight paled in comparison to the fallout of the Jerry Sandusky child predator scandal at Penn State, which saw the NCAA come in and hammer the school with bowl bans and scholarship reductions that were thought to be de facto death penalty levels. Jerry Sandusky went away to prison for the rest of his miserable existence, and the Paterno family fought to find their version of the truth (which may or may not have involved the Easter Bunny and magic beans).
2013 2013's summer was the true content mother lode. Last summer was the content equivalent of Forrest Gump and Lieutenant Dan ending up with ALL of the shrimp in the entire gulf in their boat.
There was murder (Aaron Hernandez!).
There was hard partying (Johnny Manziel!).
There was NCAA scandal (Johnny Manziel....AGAIN!).
There was racial tension (Riley Cooper going to Kenny Chesney concerts!).
There was the end of a plan coming together (Dwight Howard!)
Hell, we even saw the internet and social media become a platform to virally spread the frivolity of the suburban, multi person swimming pool dunk!
So now comes 2014, and we have to ask the question, "What will sustain as a sports loving people (and more importantly, as bloggers and talk show hosts!) through the months of June, July, and August?"
Here are the best candidates, in no particular order (and, yes, a couple of these are way more specific to Houston than nationwide):
1. 2014 World Cup There are few events that are as much fun to watch out and about than the World Cup, especially in bars with fans of specific nationalities involved in the game. International soccer fans, when properly medicated, are a lot of fun. Bonus backdrop story for this year's World Cup? The confirmation of scandalous bribes made by Qatar officials to get the World Cup to their country in 2022. Bribery is a fun new wrinkle we haven't had the past few summers.
2. Hernandez murders In theory, the only intrigue left in this one should be the trial, which won't get underway until after the summer sometime, but if we've learned anything about the Aaron Hernandez Experience, it's that people associated with him still mysteriously die even when he's in prison. Also, who knows how many other unsolved murders they now throw onto his ticket. "Anyone know who did this?" ... "Nah, just throw it on Hernandez's record..."
3. Summer of Johnny, Part II Johnny Football is back! Hard partying, devil-may-care, HOLLYWOOD strolling, and now with some MONEY in his pocket! This could be one of those rare sequels that's better than the first episode.
4. Andre Watch Andre Johnson promised he'd miss voluntary minicamp. Andre Johnson promised he'd miss OTA's. Andre Johnson promises he will miss mandatory sessions later this summer. Andre Johnson keeps his promises. Come back soon, Andre.
5. Donald Sterling I have no idea if this story still has legs or not. Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has agreed to buy the Clippers for two billion dollars, the league has approved him, and yet Sterling is still suing everyone in sight, including the league for a billion dollars in punitive damages. I have no idea if Sterling has a case or if he is the equivalent of the homeless guy screaming on the median by himself. We'll see.
6. NBA free agency/hot stove Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Love, Rajon Rondo, Deron Williams....these are the names to watch, Rocket fans.
And if none of these storylines produces any succulent drama, well dammit, we will always have pool dunks....
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