Turning The Page On The Sports Calendar
For the most part, I passionately follow three sports. Aside from closely following the IZOD IndyCar Series, I am also a huge fan of college and pro football. It seems that most people are either big fans of college football or pro football, but not both. I follow each as closely as the other and would be hard-pressed to say which one I prefer. In the mid-eighties, I was also one of the few mega-fans of the USFL; the spring football league that launched the careers of Jim Kelly, Reggie White, Herschel Walker and many others that went on to outstanding NFL careers.
I attended every home game of the Memphis Showboats (including playoffs) and one away game at the Birmingham Stallions. I still remember the three-year cross-country odyssey of the Boston-New Orleans-Portland Breakers and am considered a de facto source of USFL trivia among my friends. That and $2.50 will buy you an over-priced cup of coffee at Starbucks.
The point is – my current sports calendar focuses on IndyCar racing in the spring & summer, and football in the fall and winter. September usually crowds my schedule because the IndyCar season is still going, while college and pro football are in full swing. Throw in the baseball pennant races that I still casually follow and it is a chore to arrange my sports viewing schedule.
College football wrapped up its season a month ago, with Alabama destroying Notre Dame on the field. Off the field, Alabama won as well, with a Crimson Tide player’s girlfriend looking like a dream, while a Fighting Irish player’s girlfriend actually was just a dream. Last night, the NFL wrapped up its 2012 season with the crowning of the Baltimore Ravens as champions. IndyCar part-owner Jim Harbaugh, who also happens to coach the Niners, came within three points after a power-outage in the third quarter. I was surprised he didn’t weigh in on aero-kits or Dallara spare parts in any of his post-game interviews. Unfortunately, the media’s love-fest with Ray Lewis continues.
So now, I feel like I can completely turn the page and focus exclusively on the upcoming IndyCar season. Hockey doesn’t get my attention in normal years. With a shortened season and the Nashville Predators off to such a slow start, that’s even more of the case this year. Baseball used to be right up there in my sports passions, but since they lost the 1994 World Series due to labor unrest – my interest waned and never came back. It is now more of a post-season curiosity than anything else. College basketball is more of a novelty for me. In my lifetime, the Tennessee Vols have had a few very good seasons sprinkled in with a lot of mediocre to bad seasons. It’s hard to sustain excitement over a secondary product at a football school. Of course, the primary product has been sub-par for many years also. At the least the Titans are always winners. Oh, wait…
So as of today, I’m no longer focused on John Harbaugh’s post-season success versus Falcons coach Mike Smith’s lack thereof. I’m not that concerned whether or not Gregg Williams will get reinstated by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell (he will), so that he can join the Titans and bolster their woeful defense. Nor am I going to fret too much that Adrian Peterson beat out Peyton Manning for MVP.
It’s time to put all that away for the next seven months and focus on much more timely matters, such as where Ryan Briscoe will end up for 2013. Will Mike Conway get more races than Long Beach with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing? Conway’s signing for even one race may have signaled the end of Ryan Briscoe’s chances of getting a full-time ride with a quality team. RLLR was his last shot at a full-time ride with a good team. If Conway ends up getting more races, Briscoe may have to look elsewhere, but where? The music is starting to wind down as chairs start to fill.
There are many other questions to ponder as the opening race at St. Petersburg quickly approaches. How will the lineup shake out at Dragon Racing? Sebastién Bourdais appears set in one car but what about the other, if another even runs? Several possibilities have been tossed about but Marshall Pruett reminded us last week on Trackside that Katherine Legge still has a contract with Dragon. Although the driver lineup has been settled at Schmidt Peterson Motorpsorts, there is still the matter of Davey Hamilton and the HP sponsorship he holds. If he is no longer associated with SPM, it’ll be curious to see if HP is still on the sidepod of Simon Pagenaud’s car.
Although there is a gaping hole in the September schedule, I think most of us have resigned ourselves to the fact that there will be no other race added. When the schedule was released last fall, then-CEO Randy Bernard seemed to leave open the possibility that something would be added. Now that we are into February, I’d say that possibility no longer exists.
On a more positive note, there are many intriguing questions leading into this season. How successful will the three double-headers be? How will the standing starts utilized at, at least, a couple of races play out? How will tickets sell for the long-awaited return to Pocono, as well as the always tenuous Milwaukee Mile? Maybe I’m a blind optimist, but I expect all of these questions to have positive answers.
Then, there is this…here in Nashville, we woke up to unexpected snowfall and 15-degree temperatures a couple of times this week. It has been much colder and nastier in other parts of the country this week, especially in Indianapolis and the Midwest. This should help you thaw out. With the first day of on-track practice for the Indianapolis 500 being Sunday May 12th, that means we are only ninety six days away. That should warm any racing fan’s soul. We’ve finally closed the book on football and completely turned the page toward racing season. Bring on the month of May!