For sports fans, there might not be a more exciting, eventful or altogether consequential month than the month of May. With the NBA playoffs in full-swing, even the most fair-weather basketball fan begins tuning in to watch the games. Unfortunately, when they land on a round-one Clippers – Grizzlies game they become confused, double-check their local listings to make sure they hadn’t confused TNT with ESPN’s newest channel, ESPNAlternateReality, and realize the Mayans were right all along (which will come as sweet relief to sports fans in Middle Earth, Narnia and Cleveland). Nevertheless, May is filled with NBA playoff action, and the sports world is more exciting because of it (even if the league’s commissioner is a smarmy, conniving weasel and was complicit in Clay Bennett’s theft of the Sonics).
On the gridiron, Jerry Jones’ Cowboys don’t kick off the NFL’s season-opener against the defending Super Bowl champion Giants until September 5th, but for die-hard football fans, the month of May still has plenty to offer: Mel Kiper’s 132nd thru 167th mock drafts, rookie mini-camps and a league veteran filing a completely legitimate lawsuit against the NFL commissioner — personally. (Which makes us a perfect two for two with shady and/or overzealous & unjust pro sports commissioners… luckily for Bud Selig, he hasn’t had a pulse in about a decade, otherwise we might be looking at the unethical commish trifecta) Speaking of trifecta’s…
There isn’t a bigger, more tradition-rich or wagered-upon event in sports than the one held at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May – The Kentucky Derby. Widely referred to as “The Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports” (or as I call it “The Most Exciting Two Minutes In Life Not Involving a Consenting Scarlett Johansson”) it’s horse racing’s most prolific day and the first of three stops in the road to the Triple Crown.
Finally, the major league baseball season enters only its second month of play, and anything is possible for teams not named the Kansas City Royals. (Take heart, though, Royals fans! I can’t give you “anything is possible,” but I can give you “something is certain” — and not be referring to a losing season. For you, Royals faithful, your “something certain” is a top-3 pick in next year’s MLB draft, and that inspires hope and change, right? I say that if it worked for Obama in 2008, there’s no reason it can’t work for you in 2013 or in some other subsequent year in the next decade or two) I don’t know if this reasonable (if not rational) optimism that any non-Royals fan can share with another non-Royals fan is found in either of the two other major sports, but I know this much: it can be deadlier than casting Channing Tatum in a leading role. You see, I was influenced by exactly three movies during my formative years: Rocky IV, Top Gun and The Shawshank Redemption. Now, I forget the life lessons from the first two films, but I remember with mind-searing detail two lessons from Shawshank. First, never do anything that could even maybe land your ass in a place even the slightest bit similar to Shawshank (including, but not limited to getting drunk and making death threats against your wife) and secondly, Andy’s words to Red in an unmarked postcard, which read in part: “hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things – and no good thing ever dies.” Maybe it was youthful optimism that led me to believe the latter of the two, or maybe it was the natural result of fifteen years in the public school system, I dunno. Regardless of the how or why, the fact remained that my critical analysis skills had failed to critically analyze one very important thing: Andy Dufresne had written those seemingly inspiring words to Red AFTER CRAWLING THROUGH FIVE HUNDRED YARDS OF HUMAN SEWAGE. He either contracted some kind of unidentified poop-ingested disease during the escape, or he was never right in the head to begin with – there’s no middle ground on this one, folks. Sorry, there just isn’t. All I’m saying is that maybe hope isn’t always the best thing, after all. Maybe it sometimes impairs our ability to thank rationally. You know, like Royals fans do.
Some of you may be wondering though, if May really is as great a month for sports fans as I’ve said it is, then why am I being such a Negative Newt? After all, no one likes the guy who poo-poos on the banner of hope, right? Of course not. Any idiot knows that. Hell, even I know that. But I love Seattle sports. A lot. And I’ve loved Seattle sports a lot for a pretty long time. So I know what the sports gods have in store for us in June, just like I know what medical research has coming down the pipe for my receding hairline: more hope. And in case you hadn’t checked the scoreboards lately, hope hasn’t exactly been putting up any W’s for Seattle’s sports faithful lately. Just like it hasn’t been putting any hairs back on my head.
Let’s take a brief inventory of what hope has given the emerald city over the last five years, whether it has written more in promises than reality will cash. A savvy businessman from Oklahoma City made Howard Schultz an offer he couldn’t refuse to buy the toy that the Starbucks mogul no longer enjoyed playing with. Bennett assured Seattle that he had no plans to move the team (which is never a good sign at the press conference announcing the sale) and Schultz said he believed the man who had just written him a check for $350 million. And then all we could do was hope that our gut instincts were wrong, hope that the Sonics would stay. Nope, not in our house…
The Hawks? If you regard Mike Holmgren’s tenure in Seattle as a success – and I think 9 outta 10 reasonable & rational sports fans would — I’d set the line on a successful Pete Carroll era at 4-1. (Would I take any of the action at 4-1? Absolutely. Then again, I used to be a degenerate gambler. So much so that to this day, I’m convinced that the WA state legislature banned online betting in large part because of me – I’d put those odds around 5/2… and bet the house) The oddsmaker in me would LOVE to set the Carroll line lower, at least 7/2… but when we were told to hope that Tarvaris Jackson would develop into some semblance of an NFL quarterback, despite what his years with the Vikings made patently obvious… Yeah, the line stays at 4-1 for the time being.
Lastly, there’s the Mariners — hope’s last, best stand. Do you remember that movie Fallen, starring Denzel Washington and John Goodman? You know, the one where this evil spirit (Azazel, I think was his name) could jump from host body to host body and carry out its will and no one could seem to stop Azazel because he was so cunning and crafty? Well, if Azazel is false hope for Seattle’s true sports fans, then the M’s would be its favorite host, which I guess would make me Denzel Washington. John Goodman would be… I don’t know. This parallel made sense in my head a few minutes ago when I drew it up, I swear. Maybe those of you who’ve a) seen the movie and b) had the endurance to read this far can do what my brain is too fried to do at the moment.
Believe it or not, this article began as more of an angry letter to the Mariners who, as June approaches, are becoming closer and closer to becoming “sellers” at the trading deadline without a friggin’ thing to sell for more than 40 cents on the dollar. Truth is, at 16-24 and a staggering 8 ½ games out of first place, we’re already at the point of being sellers… it’s just that hope won’t allow us say so – and Seattle fans don’t deserve to be patronized. Nor should we allow ourselves to be.