Even in an Olympic year, August is the speed bump on sports calendar
Sometime in the night, as you lay sleeping, August found an open window and crept in like a cat burglar, except that cat burglars leave quickly and August never does. It settles in for 31 days, with its hot breath and its hideous Hall of Fame blazer, complaining from the couch that there's nothing on TV, nothing in the fridge, nothing at all to do.
August has a million of these phrases, which is why it's so unloved by sports fans. It is one big buzzkill, the speed bump of the sports calendar. August is always nattering on about "preseason football" and "golf's fourth major" (like the fifth Beatle, dwarfed by its colleagues) and the "back-to-school sales" that tell you summer is ending. As that famous saying about August goes ...
Oh, right. There are no famous sayings about August, or songs, or poems. It is without question the worst month of the sports year, made somehow worse this year by the Olympics, which love us now but are sure to leave us 12 days into August, rendering Americans for the bulk of the month quadruply bereft: Without NBA, without NHL, without real games in pro or college football and with six weeks left of baseball pennant "races," in which weaker teams "chase" the second wildcard, and what an image that conjures:
Picture a fat man jogging after a bus as it slowly pulls away from the curb, SECOND WILDCARD in the destination box above the windshield. The man stops, doubles over and waves a hand as if to say: Go ahead without me. It's just not worth the effort. Another one will come along next year.
Once, February was the worst month of the sports calendar, or any other calendar. It was August with ice, the dog days with darker mornings, the reason the swimsuit issue was invented. But February got its act together, went on the wagon, saw a dentist about those teeth. It shed the excess weight of the Pro Bowl (offloaded on to January) and scored the hottest date on the sports calendar: the Super Bowl.
The Daytona 500, pitchers and catchers, the diverting bacchanal of NBA All-Star Weekend -- February's life now looks fuller than ever, packed as it is into the smaller sack of a 28-day month.
August, on the other hand, is three days longer and contains what? It's emptier than your local Borders. Six days after the Olympics end, Premier League soccer starts, but it's that unnatural part of the season, the part least like the rest of it: Fields ablaze with reflected sun, short-sleeved supporters squinting into the distance. The rest of Europe, sensibly, has gone on vacation, shutting down, treating August like any other nuisance: Ignore it and maybe it will go away.
But it doesn't. August hangs in the air, like humidity, or a breaking ball thrown by a tired arm, two things for which August is famous. They've been calling these the "dog days" since ancient Rome, because Sirius, the Dog Star, has aligned with the sun. The Romans thought the pair was acting in concert, conspiring to doubly heat the Earth, like a twice-baked potato.
Which is what you will feel like tonight, as you try to sleep, the oscillating fan in your bedroom sweeping its gaze back and forth, back and forth, as if it's watching a match at Arthur Ashe Stadium. The U.S. Open tennis begins there on August 27, though it's really a September event, promising an occasional evening breeze, a return to school, marching bands, lighted fields and a time when everything -- literally and figuratively -- will be kicking off again.
Before then, to be fair, August will be fun to have around the house for a while -- the life of the party for 10 or 12 days. But two weeks from now, when August is hung over, sleeping it off on the couch, empty bottles of London Pride on the coffee table, you'll be checking your watch, leaving train schedules in conspicuous spots, offering daily to drive your guest to the station.
August won't take the hint, but August never does. The adjective,
What a difference a capital A makes.