We’ve entered the lull in the sports calendar where the NFL has given way to spring training and the NBA is in full swing, quickly approaching its always-extravagant All-Star Game this weekend in Charlotte. This should be one of the most exciting times of the year - fresh off a thrilling Super Bowl, the anticipation of spring baseball and new faces on new ballclubs giving way to a captivating playoff race that only The League can provide.
Instead, the Big Game was a flop, highlighted by a sixth championship ring for that guy and that coach and that team everyone is tired of, 100 of Baseball’s biggest free agents remain unsigned, and while the NBA is in the midst of its most interesting Eastern Conference playoff race in almost a decade, the drama off the court has been much better water cooler talk than the action on it.
Hockey may be good, but unless the Blackhawks are going to the playoffs I wouldn’t know.
The Super Bowl was an anomaly. After the highest scoring season in NFL history, fans expected a high-octane match-up with the Rams, one of the league’s best attacks who delivered an all-timer against the Chiefs back in November, and the Patriots, with the greatest player and coach in history gunning for history. What we got was a defensive struggle - both on the field and on the eyes. No one cared if Tom Brady and Bill Belicheck won their record SIXTH Super Bowl together; the game was a slog lacking an indelible moment that gave people a reason to care the next morning. By the time the combine rolls around at the end of the month, the game will almost entirely have been forgotten, and it’s onto next season.
The MLB is in year two of a free agent Cold War. As pitchers and catchers report for spring training this week, baseball’s biggest stars are still looking for homes. It was peculiar a year ago when guys like JD Martinez and Yu Darvish were still unsigned as camp began, even moreso when former Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta went until the middle of March before inking a deal believed to be less than his market value.
The excuse back then? Front offices were waiting until the great free agent class of 2018-19 to make a run at the game’s biggest superstars - former MVP Bryce Harper, and star shortstop Manny Machado, with the latter not even costing team’s draft compensation if they signed him.
We’re entering mid-February, and the most noise we’ve heard about either has been via negotiations through the media.
But it’s not just Harper and Machado caught up in the free agent freeze. Closer Craig Kimbrel, former Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel, and dozens of other players won’t be reporting to camp on time. The reasons why their future’s are stuck in limbo this late into the game vary, but what was one of the most exciting periods of the year in baseball has become back page news.
While baseball’s hot stove has cooled off, the drama in the NBA has reached a fever pitch. Clubs are building superteams in an attempt to knock the ultimate superteam - the Golden State Warriors - and the ones not competing are clearing cap space for the biggest fish in this summer’s free agency. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, the two biggest sharks in the water, are battling their frustration in the media as rumors swirl about their plans to team up with the New York Knicks next year, all while their current teams are on a collision course for the NBA Finals.
There’s also the Lakers: the team that lives and dies by drama. It’s SHOWTIME! HOLLYWOOD! You can’t go a season in LA without drama. Insert the best player in the world and the biggest mover and shaker in sports, and you have a recipe for drama even Shakespeare couldn’t write.
First, LeBron James signs in LA, aiming to become a media and sports mogul and the NBA’s first billionaire. Then, Anthony Davis signs with Klutch Sports, the agency founded by Bron’s good friend Rich Paul. When Paul, on Davis’ behalf, relayed A.D.’s intention to leave the New Orleans Pelicans, all eyes immediately turned to the Lakers, the definitely-but-won’t-be-penalized act of collusion on Klutch Sports’ and the Lakers’ behalf, and whether or not Pelicans GM Dell Demps was really dumb enough to go through with the trade.
Turns out he wasn’t, and not only did the ensuing drama put a stain on Lakers legend Magic Johnson’s record, it may have caused a bigger rift between LeBron, coach Luke Walton and his young teammates openly involved in trade rumors.
All this and we haven’t talked about a single game yet this season.
One team is so far and away ahead of the pack that every season has become a formality to us as fans. It doesn’t matter what the other 29 teams in the league do, no one is stopping Golden State. We’ve given up hope that any team currently constructed - not MVP Harden and the Rockets, or the stacked Celtics, or Kawhi and the Raptors, or the newly-built Sixers core - has a chance of standing up against the Warriors dynasty. The games, and the season, are irrelevant.
As we get closer to March, the universe will get a little more interesting. The first Duke-Carolina game of the year is just nine days away, and in the blink of an eye we’ll be locked into Championship Week and March Madness games on television. The NFL calendar will turn. Bryce Harper and Manny Machado will sign, eventually, and day baseball will return. The drama in the Association will take a backseat to the Playoffs; whether or not the games are good or the outcome is predictable is up in the air.
But right now? Sports kinda sucks, and I’m dying for that feeling to change.