Friday, February 25, 2005

Bonus Material

TGIF loyal Twins Chatter readers! I don't have time for a new Twins-related post today, but never fear. As longtime visitors to this site may remember, one activity that demands a fair amount of my time is our humble St. Olaf school newspaper, for which I am a sports editor and writer. Rather than send you back to your home page empty handed, I've decided to reprint my column from this week's issue, entitled "February: the Cruelest Month". It's nothing too special, but if you have the time and/or inclination to read another sports column this Friday, I encourage you to continue on down this page.

Have a great weekend and check back on Monday!

-Ryan M.

February: the cruelest month

By Ryan Maus

Of all the months on the calendar, February always seems to get the short end of the stick. It has the fewest number of days, its main holidays are predominantly arbitrary and overly commercialized and it falls during the time of year when winter seems like it may never end.

Even sports wise, February has traditionally been something of a letdown. The Super Bowl, the most over-hyped annual event in the history of the world, is now over. The already-too-long NBA season is dragging along at a snail’s pace, its playoff chase still months away. The Madness that is college basketball’s conference and national tournaments doesn’t commence until March (which, I’ll admit, isn’t necessarily a bad thing – “February Fanaticism” just doesn’t have the same ring to it).

Even the National Hockey League, previously a popular winter diversion for dozens of fans south of the Mason-Dixon Line, gave into greed and officially canceled its season last week. A large percentage of the league’s nine southernmost teams will probably cease to exist by the time its labor problems are solved, which may not happen before the year 2007.

In other news, Canadian pharmacies prepared for a run on the popular antidepressant Prozac, as millions of distraught Canucks mourned the imminent demise of their favorite national pastime.

While February may be a dark and dreary month in more ways than one, hope still exists for the near future. College basketball’s postseason is shaping up to be a classic. Will the still-undefeated Illinois men glide all the way to the Final Four? Can the top-ranked LSU women put an end to UConn’s streak of three straight national championships? Will a recent slide keep the upstart Gopher men out of the NCAA tournament for the sixth consecutive year? All of these questions and more will be answered soon enough – just not during February.

Last week also saw the passing of another annual February landmark: the beginning of Major League Baseball’s spring training. This past offseason was one of the most eventful in baseball history, although not always for the right reasons. Just days the Red Sox put the kabash on their infamous Curse, it was leaked that several current major league baseball players (including superstars Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi) admitted in front of a grand jury to have used illegal steroids. Over the past few months, steroid speculation has been a constant topic in baseball circles, almost overshadowing the numerous high-profile player transactions that have taken place.
The offseason of 2004-05 won’t be remembered as the winter the Yankees traded for Randy Johnson and the Orioles for Sammy Sosa, or even the year that the Mets signed both Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran to extravagant contracts. Instead, it will be remembered as the offseason when the truth about baseball’s dirty little secret was finally revealed.

Fortunately, it seems as though fans are willing to forgive baseball for its previous (and some would argue, current) transgressions. Spring training and regular season ticket sales are up all over the country, as the 2005 season promises to be yet another great one.

So even though the sports landscape currently looks pretty bleak, don’t despair. Pretty soon you’ll be cursing an anonymous shooting guard from some school with three hyphens in its name for ruining your entire bracket, and shortly thereafter the boys of summer will head north and start playing games that actually count.

Instead of being bored to tears this February because there’s absolutely nothing happening, try to think of this month as a speed bump on the road to bigger and better things. In that regard, one of February’s many shortcomings may actually be a positive thing: With just 28 days, the month will be over that much more quickly.