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I think the world of sports suffers from seasonal affective disorder.
OK, it suffers from a variant of the disorder. The real SAD is no laughing matter, with the "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders" calling it "a specifier of major depression."
The disorder I'm referring to here is the way that sports have become mixed up, relative to the seasons.
For instance, the big news out of Denver last week was that John Elway reported for work. For work??? Hey, this is April. Who plays football in April? Apparently, the NFL does.
It also plays the game in the winter. In fact, a sport that used to embody all that is noble about the autumn plays all its games of consequence during the dreary days of winter.
Baseball is no better. America's "summer pastime," played by "the boys of summer," really has all of its juice in the autumn.
But the sports that have really stretched the calendar to its limits are professional basketball and ice hockey.
The NHL is just finishing up its first round of the playoffs. It is highly likely that the Stanley Cup will be awarded sometime around the middle of June. In fact, last year's final game was played on June 15. Recall that hockey is played on ice.
The NBA is just now firming up its playoff teams.
The pro hoopsters wrapped up their finals last year in mid-June, as well.
By June 15, over one-third of the pro baseball season will be completed. Put in local terms, the high school State champions in all the spring sports (baseball, softball, soccer, etc) will have been determined BEFORE June 15.
By the way, June 15 is less than a week away from the first official day of summer.
So, we have football in the winter; basketball and hockey in the spring; and baseball in the fall.
We also have football in the fall. And the summer (the last day of summer is Sept. 20). We have basketball and hockey in the fall and the winter (and almost in the summer).
Baseball is played in the spring and the summer, with its spring training taking place (mostly) in the winter.
All of these examples point to an prolongation of each of the sports' seasons.
That's good, right?
I suppose if you're a fan of one particular sport, it is a boon. Redskins zealots, for example, can follow their team virtually year-round via a number of media.
A longer season means more games and, in most cases, that translates into increased enjoyment for the fan.
But, what of the players?
Today's professional jocks are expected to dedicate themselves fully to their sports. That means a calendar full of nothing but football, baseball, hockey, etc.
Believe it or not, playing professional sports used to be a part-time vocation.
As a lad, I collected baseball cards. This was before I took up hobbies such as reading "The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders."
Also, I believe I'm the only guy who collected baseball cards whose mom didn't throw away (or sell in a yard sale) that prized Mickey Mantle rookie card. Anyway, I digress.
Baseball cards in the late 1960s carried a world of information on their backs: Every important statistic was right there. They also usually provided a "fun" fact about the player who was depicted on the front.
Often, this fun fact told of the player's "off-season job," as in "Joe Schmedlap sells automobiles during the off-season."
In fact, a lot of top-notch pro jocks had secondary skills which they plied during the off-season.
-Red Grange delivered ice.
-Roger Maris sold beer.
-Nolan Ryan installed air conditioning units.
-Yogi Berra sold men's suits.
The fact is, the demands on today's professional athletes (and their hefty compensation) precludes them from having any interests outside of their particular sport, let alone trying to take on a second job.
My concern is we are starting to see the same thing at the high school level (less, of course, the hefty compensation).
Increasingly, athletes are being pressured to focus on a particular sport year-round. As a result, the three-sport jock is becoming an endangered species.
Similarly, few of these athletes have the time to take a part-time job. Do the demands of their sport affect their studies? I know not.
Nor do I know whether an increased focus on a single activity enhances an individual's odds for success or whether it expedites burnout.
I suppose the answer to that question won't be found in my current copy of "The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders."