Column: The Dog Days of February

No TV? You won't miss much – not even highlights
John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

Last week my beloved television went Poof! It’s seven years old – or, 14 in sports writer years.

So, what great sports events have I missed? Well, I can’t be sure, of course, but I’m willing to bet: Not many.

Sports writers complain about the dog days of summer, when all we have to write about is tennis and Tiger and the Tigers – and, well, that’s about it.

But there’s a lesser-known slow season for sports scribes, and it’s called February. College football picked its champion more than a month ago, the super-hyped Super Bowl has finally blown over, and baseball is still a solid six weeks away from opening day. And that leaves basketball and hockey.

Both the NBA and the NHL are in the middle of their endless, 82-game seasons. The players are so worn out, some nights they don’t even try to fake it. Only the owners want to see this many games.

That’s why I call this “Highlight Season,” because the pointless games are only good for generating pointless highlights for ESPN.

I recall when sports highlights were a big deal, and you’d wait up for the 11 o’clock news to see them. Now you can’t avoid them, any time of day or night, and what used to be special has become downright dull.

The worst highlights are baseball, basketball and golf, because I can tell you right now how every single one of those clips ends: Ball goes over the fence, ball goes in the hoop, ball goes in the hole. There – that’s about it.

So once I see it’s time for hoop highlights, I can cover my eyes and play Carnac the Magnificent: “Wait, wait – don’t tell me: The big guy jumped up in the air, and stuffed the ball in the hoop? Or, maybe, just maybe, the small guy shot the ball from half-court – and swished it! Ohmygosh!”

Golf is even worse: Once you see the backswing, you know the ball’s going in the hole. The only question is, how cool will the geeky golfer look trying to high-five his caddy? Answer: About as cool as the Brady Bunch break-dancing. Nobody wins.

Baseball highlights are just plain strange. We see the pitch, we see the hitter connect – which always looks like a harmless pop-up – and then they cut to a shot of a some baseball dropping over a fence somewhere. Is it the same ball? Whose fence is that? The events seem utterly unconnected.

During my hiatus, I suspect I’ve also missed a lot of ads – which are all the same, too. From years of watching games on TV, I’ve learned that opening a can of beer can make scantily clad women materialize out of mist, and when they do, they like you a lot … for some reason.

I’ve also learned there’s some new product – have you heard of this? – that can make a middle-aged man as randy as … well, the kind of guy who’d like scantily clad women to materialize out of mist, just by opening a can of beer.

During games they advertise these pills every 12 seconds, until you can repeat the medical warnings verbatim. But you have to admire any product whose possible side effects are the best advertisement for it – unlike every other medicine, whose side effects always include headaches and diarrhea.

And what’s up with the couple lying in the empty bathtubs on some sunny hillside? I’m no doctor, but I think I can diagnose their problem – and it’s not a lack of pills. Who does that – ever?

So, while my TV is broken, what am I missing? Maybe not that much.

About the author: John U. Bacon lives in Ann Arbor and has written for Time, the Wall Street Journal, and ESPN Magazine, among others. He is the author of “Bo’s Lasting Lessons,” a New York Times and Wall Street Journal business bestseller, and “Third and Long: Three Years with Rich Rodriguez and the Michigan Wolverines,” due out this fall through FSG. Bacon teaches at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, and the University of Michigan, where the students awarded him the Golden Apple Award for 2009. This commentary originally aired on Michigan Radio.

Section: Entertainment, Opinion

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  1. By Stephen Landes
    February 18, 2011 at 7:51 pm | permalink

    John, you’ve been saved from Justin Bieber (what’s a Bieber) playing basketball. Ugh!

  2. By Kerrytown Taxpayer
    February 19, 2011 at 1:31 pm | permalink

    Dear John –

    Sorry to hear of your TV being broken.

    Today (19th Feb) is bracket buster Saturday in NCAA Men’s basketball. The Detroit Titans face off against Drake.

    Detroit (15-14) at Drake (11-16)
    Date: Feb. 19, 2011 – 8:05 pm EST
    Location: Des Moines, Iowa
    Arena: Knapp Center
    Live stats:
    Live video:
    Live audio:
    Series: Bulldogs lead, 10-9
    Last meeting: Drake, 69-61 (11/20/05)

    Also, one of the greatest TV events of the year is on Fox on Sunday the 20th at noon. The Daytona 500.

    Diversity in reporting !