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These are the so-called Dog Days: the hottest, stickiest days of the year.
The term is meant to convey that, at least weather-wise, these are the worst of times.
The term actually comes from the prominence of Sirius, the Dog Star, in the skies during July and August. I’m not much of an astronomy guy, so I’ll just accept that at face value. (For the record, I’m not much of an astrology guy, either. Fortune cookies, though? A different matter altogether.)
Anyway, while the air may be sultry, I find that the sports calendar during the Dog Days is rife with opportunities.
For starters, there is the start of football. Nobody is a bigger fan of the ramp-up of preps football than the wife and I.
We’ve come to learn, and accept, that summers around here are fairly barren in the sports arena. We’ve figured out that this is the best time to take most of our trips. We’ve also learned that the wife can take just so much of me.
I’ve noticed that, around the middle of July, she starts checking off days on the calendar: It’s her own little countdown to getting me out from under foot.
As covering football is one of my favorite things in the world, the countdown is a boon to us both.
There are many other good things to be found during the Dog Days.
For instance, the races in Major League Baseball are starting to take shape.
By this time, you can tell who has missed the boat and who should be in contention at the wire.
The leagues’ redesign from two to three divisions has almost guaranteed that the races stay exciting well into September.
So, if you’re a Red Sox, Yankee, Tiger, Indian, Ranger, Angel, Phillie, Brave, Brewer, Card, Giant or D-Back fan, you can look forward to continued fun.
In the past, it was often the case that there might be only one or two contests in play at this point in the season. Now, there are seven (let’s go ahead and crown Philadelphia in the NL East, the only one that seems guaranteed.)
I’ll admit, as a curmudgeonly guy, I was distraught when the new set up was introduced. I liked my National League East just as it was back then: Chicago, New York, St. Louis, Montreal, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
But, in retrospect, that set-up was a clunker. Many times, the Cards or Mets (or, seemingly, anyone but the Cubs) had a virtual lock on the championship by mid-August.
Now, you have dogfights set up for just about every piece of the playoff pie.
The other good thing is that there are but eight slots in the playoffs. Contrast that with the NBA and the NHL where the top 16 teams qualify.
In other words, MLB expanded its playoffs while keeping the regular season relevant. Of course, such relevance is what puts fannies into seats and eyeballs on the tube as the season winds its way down.
Change is good. Even in these doggiest of dog days.