The Space Between: Sports’ Dry Season

Mike McMaster

It’s like purgatory for sports fans. The Superbowl is over and we have all seen David Tyree’s catch a hundred times. According to Yankees.com there are still 21 days, 22 hours, and 51 minutes until opening day of the baseball season and no one watches the regular season in the NBA.

For some of us it’s fine. We can still turn on the television and be completely enthralled by the speed and violence of the NHL, but many games are not televised; although hockey’s following is composed of die-hards, it is unarguably far smaller than the other major sports.

So for most of us, we turn on the television during the week and are forced to watch the greatest living pitcher of all time squirm in front of our nation’s Congress because he isn’t “quite sure” what a vegan is. Then, once we swallow the embarrassment of the court proceedings and try to accept that our nation’s past-time is being dragged through the mud, we try turning on the television again.

This time, sports fans are not looking to watch sports on TV. They have accepted that they will just have to wait for March Madness for more excitement to come. Instead, they will have to settle for an old re-run of Family Guy on FOX. But when they turn on the TV, to their horror, they find NASCAR. Grudgingly, they turn off the television and silently wonder how 500 laps could ever possibly grab any TV ratings. Oh, right, because there’s nothing else on.

For sports fans, the lack of sports world action is disappointing, but for the sports media industry, it is nothing short of devastating. Shows like Sportscenter need to scramble to find new material so that they can fill a full hour of highlights. This year, what they came up with was nothing short of a disaster.

In order to fill dead time, Sportscenter came up with a competition that they called “Greatest Highlight.” The people at Sportscenter compiled a list of the sixteen greatest sports highlights of all time and created a bracket. The highlights were pitted against each other and Americans had the opportunity to vote online to eventually crown a champion.

Ignoring the fact that trying to compare highlights from different sports is like trying to compare apples with oranges, I was still appalled by the results that ESPN and America came up with.

First, there were some major omissions in sports highlights in the bracket itself. I simply cannot understand how there can be a competition to measure the greatest highlights of all time without including a single moment from the career of Muhammad Ali. Ali may very well be the greatest athlete of all time, and he was not included. Set aside for a moment the greatness of the rumble in the jungle, but one of the greatest photographs ever taken is of the Greatest of All Time standing over the limp body of Sonny Liston in a 1965 first round knockout.

Also, this competition completely ignored Cal Ripken Jr. After his streak ended, the ovation that he received from the crowd was overwhelming and moving. That night yielded some of the greatest footage in the history of baseball.

There was one last highlight that I would have liked to have seen included. Call me a romantic, but I think one of the greatest moments in the history of sports was when Lou Gherig made his unforgettable July speech in Yankee Stadium. His brave words, “Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth,” will never be forgotten in the baseball world.

Regardless of which highlights were not included, ESPN did a poor job of constructing the bracket. The bracket was stacked in some areas, and very weak in others.

I guess at the end of the day I’m trying to say three things. First, there were several major omissions in the construction of this bracket. Next, the bracket was poorly constructed. And finally, but most importantly, I can’t believe I’m writing about a Sportscenter filler. I can’t wait for March Madness!