Congratulations, sports fan. You’ve now lived through one of the more exciting sports weeks in recent memory.
Now figure out something else to do for two months.
Guess what? The golden period we just experienced, the one with a classic rivalry in the NBA Finals that produced a few good games (Games 1 and 2, and maybe 5), one unforgettable one (Game 4), and an extermination of the interlopers that Celtics fans will cherish forever, the one with maybe the best U.S. Open in history, the one with a few great soccer games from Euro 2008, the one with some excitement about NASCAR and the College World Series and tennis as minor diversions from the mainstream?
And all we’ve got for about two months, as far as actual athletic competition goes, is one of the long, slow baseball summers that have cured so many insomniacs in recent years, the end of Euro 2008, the end of the College World Series, Wimbledon, the British Open, two somewhat important sports drafts, and the Coke Zero 400.
I can tell you how all of those will go.
Baseball: The Rays fall back to earth; the Cubs keep winning and add a piece at the trading deadline, sparking more “this is the year” talk; the Yankees pick up a pitcher (C.C. Sabathia? Erik Bedard?) and get within a few games of the Red Sox, only to have a seven-game losing streak derail their season; the Tigers do something similar but crash more spectacularly; Josh Hamilton starts losing his grip on the batting average portion of the Triple Crown; Chipper Jones’ average slowly declines to about .380 and people start writing his chances of .400 off as one last pipe dream.
And everyone chokes and dies on the unfathomable amount of unnecessary hype an All-Star Game at The House That Ruth Built in its last year when there’s nothing to compete with it. Alex Rodriguez is clutch with an eighth-inning, go-ahead two-run double and wins the MVP, ensuring home-field advantage for Boston come October.
Euro 2008: There’s one more fantastic game left to be played, but it won’t feature Italy, as the Azzurri ride Pirlo and a rejuvenated defense after their 2-0 elimination of France and a grand theft against the eternally cursed Spaniards to the title.
Cristiano Ronaldo cries at some point.
College World Series: LSU and Fresno State end up in the finals, the big school and little school Cinderellas trying on that slipper, as the two beat writers who will no doubt be burned out by Omaha’s incredible nightlife will spin it.
Then LSU will win. And that will be that. Fun.
Wimbledon: Hey, a Federer-Nadal final! Hey, Federer wins in four sets! Hey, I’m falling asl…
The Ivanovic-Sharapova final on the women’s side breaks the Internet for reasons no one can explain.
British Open: Were you sick of the coverage of Tiger’s knee last week?
Well, even though I’ll be eating not just my hat but a whole haberdashery if Tiger decides to play between now and the Open Championship, despite the fact one tournament’s usually a required Buick appearance and the other is Tiger’s own tournament, he’s probably going to show up at Royal Birkdale, shoot something middling on the first day while struggling with some of the cold, wet conditions and their effects on his knee, then proceed to eschew a driver for the last 54 holes and win by three to six strokes.
(Update: Or not. Replace the above with “Sean O’Hair wins first major.”)
It will be exciting because someone will “lose” Chris Berman’s passport after the ESPN delegation arrives at Heathrow on the Monday after the tournament.
NBA/NHL Draft: No one really knows who the NBA drafted, as the picks are drowned out by Stephen A. Smith trying to talk through a mouthful of Cheesy Doodles.
It’s the same thing at the NHL Draft, except with Don Cherry’s suit.
Somehow, the Spurs and Red Wings profit.
Coke Zero 400: I won’t lie: This is the first time I’ve ever been upset about a corporate sponsorship change.
It’s always been the Pepsi for me, a nice week of coverage of NASCAR in my local paper because of its proximity to Daytona, a return to roots before the series goes back to running its races in Kansas and Chicago and New Delhi to extend the brand, or something like that.
Oh, and Jimmie Johnson wins.
Now, that’s fairly bleak, and it’s been stripped of a lot of possible storylines. Sure, Chipper could be hitting .420 at the end of June, or Donald Young could storm through the gentlemen’s bracket at Wimbeldon, or Sergio Garcia and John Daly could be dueling down the stretch on a Sunday in July.
But I don’t think that will happen.
I think we’ll suffer through a summer of accusations of malfeasance in basketball officiating, the insufferable revving-up of ESPN’s NFL and college football coverage when there aren’t any games for months to come, and political posturing over the Beijing Olympics.
Then, though, on August 8th, I think we’re going to have one of the best Olympics of modern times. While it might not please the rah-rah “U-S-A” patriots among my four readers to know this, China has been directing its efforts, for about a decade, toward shocking the world at these Games.
Their infrastructure for training is almost as impressive at the flush American one, and they’ll have the Olympic home-nation advantage, almost always good for a handful of anomalous medals.
So this Games could spark an authentic athletic rivalry between the Eagle and the Dragon, a best-case scenario I could plausibly see happening.
But there’s a long time until then.
I guess I understand how James Patterson sells books in the summer.