The First Non-NFL Weekend Since Summer

In some ways it’s a little torturous to have a weekend with no real NFL action before the season is even in the books, but the truth is we have to get used to it. We still have next Sunday’s Super Bowl before we truly have to say goodbye so let’s use this little break as practice, because the best thing a football junkie can do is develop some coping mechanisms. In that spirit, let me tell you a little bit about my sports Saturday and offer some ideas for alternative treatment.

One thing I realized coming into today is that we’re actually pretty lucky. I mean there are weekends in the near future that won’t offer nearly as much as the buffet of competition we have access to right now. This weekend includes: a Grand Slam tennis final, a real PGA golf event (and Tiger made the cut!), NHL All-Star Weekend, a UFC card on free TV, FA Cup soccer in England, league soccer all over the rest of the world, the NFL’s ProBowl (don’t you do it!), a full slate of NBA games, a USA Men’s soccer friendly, the Winter X Games from Aspen, and literally HUNDREDS of college basketball games between men’s and women’s. I didn’t include any of the winter olympics preparation stuff or events for gear heads, but the point here is that you have oodles to choose from. I promise you there will come weekends this summer that don’t offer 5% of what you can get today so, again, this is good practice.

So here are the things I tracked closely today or plan to keep an eye on tomorrow:

  • TENNIS: This morning at 3:30am EST was the women’s final of the first tennis Grand Slam tournament of the year, the Australian Open and the men’s final goes off tomorrow morning at the same time. Even casual fans have heard of Caroline Wozniacki and Roger Federer, so there is definitely some star power at play there. I will grant you that the start time isn’t great so this may not be an event for beginners. The first thing I checked this morning when I woke up was the tennis final and I was a little disappointed to see that Wozniacki had beat Romania’s Simona Halep in three sets. As you may or may not know, Caroline has tended to date famous athletes (golf’s Rory McIlroy, the NFL’s JJ Watt, NBA player David Lee) so she skews just a little too much to the reality TV side of things for my taste, but she’s a fine competitor with a tremendous story of redemption. Both women were looking for their first career Grand Slam victory and they were the #1 and #2 seeded players in the tournament so I probably should have dragged myself out of bed to watch it. Just to put a bow on the weekend’s tennis, I might actually wake up early to watch Roger Federer take on Marin Cilic of Croatia in the men’s draw. If Fed wins, it will be 20 Grand Slams for a man that is ancient in tennis years and is supposed to be on a retirement tour of sorts. He’s my favorite non-American tennis player of all time and I really hope he gets it!
  • SOCCER: Today was the some of the nicest weather we’ve had in DC in quite a while so I had to take the opportunity to get out of the house and, sadly, that meant forgoing my beloved Bayern Munich’s match this morning (9:30am EST) against Hoffenheim. It was, however, a little easier to walk out the door after Bayern conceded two goals in the first 15 minutes of the match, putting their home win streak in dire straits. As I chased a maple syrup fueled three-year-old around the Smithsonian Zoo, the updates poured into my smart phone: goal, goal, goal, goal, goal. Bayern turned things around and won 5-2! Probably good that I didn’t watch because I was clearly bad luck in the beginning.
  • COLLEGE HOOPS: The only appointment viewing I had on the schedule today was a 2pm EST men’s college hoops tilt between my wife’s alma mater, UVA, and Duke University at Cameron Indoor. #2 Virginia was a slight underdog playing on the road against the #4 team in America and this game did not disappoint. In a back and forth battle between a team laden with seniors and a team laden with NBA talent, the Hoos took down Coach K and the Blue Devils 65-63! It was the first victory for Virginia at Duke in 23 years (and boy did the Duke players wearing black and white stripes make UVA earn it!) Seriously though, the officials are clearly in the tank for Duke and every college basketball fan knows it. We know it!!!!!!! As I write this, 4 of the top 12 teams in the country have suffered losses. I’m telling you, college basketball is terrific every year, but I think this season is especially interesting. Get on board now so you can dominate your office pool come March.
  • NBA: Warriors-Celtics is the NBA match up of the week tonight and I imagine I will take in a little bit of that, mostly because I decided not to watch the Wizards-Hawks game. Atlanta is the worst team in the Eastern Conference and word broke earlier today that John Wall wasn’t going to play so I cashed out. Washington is winning a 25 point blowout so I chose wisely where that game is concerned. Also, that means you can get 50% off your online order from Papa Johns on Sunday because the Wiz won and scored more than 100 points! You’re welcome.
  • HOCKEY: I am recording the All-Star Skills Competition so I can fast forward through it later. I mostly just want to see Connor McDavid in the fastest skater contest and Alex Ovechkin in the fastest shot contest. Tomorrow is the actual all star game though and I think I will try to watch some of that. They have a fun format where they do a little mini-tournament and it’s a bunch of 3 on 3 hockey so it showcases skill and speed. It’s gonna be a ton better than the NFL ProBowl tomorrow, trust me.
  • SOME GAME VAGUELY RESEMBLING AMERICAN FOOTBALL: The NFC is a three point favorite in this year’s ProBowl. The game kicks at 3pm EST in Orlando and I’ll probably tune in because I have a real problem. At least I’m not betting on it though. I mean if you look at this game and think, “Gimme the AFC and those juicy three points!” you are really gonna be hurting two weeks from now when the Super Bowl has passed and we’re staring a lengthy offseason in the face. In all seriousness though, the ProBowl is a huge tease because, if you do flip over there, you’re gonna see NFL stars wearing real shoulder pads and helmets. You will be tempted to hang around and see what you see, but you’re gonna be left feeling empty. If this is something you insist on doing to yourself, I will tell you though that the game can be streamed for free on the Yahoo Sports app.
  • WINTER X-GAMES: Once upon a time we were all very aware that X-Games was cool shorthand for Extreme Games, but today no one cares because these sports are widely accepted if not completely mainstream. I find this stuff incredibly interesting and the whip around coverage is usually really good. Back before I had a child or a wife I would have been more likely to squeeze some of this in, but I don’t really see it in my future this weekend since I have to allow for some Paw Patrol and HGTV. If you like snow mobiles, they have something for you. Skis? Snowboards? Snow BMX? Yes, yes, yes.
  • INTERNATIONAL SOCCER: Sunday night at 9:30pm EST you can bet I will be torturing myself by watching the disappointing USA Men’s national soccer team get schooled by Bosnia and Herzegovina. BIH is ranked 38th in the world in soccer and 167th in the world for “ease of finding it on a map,” but I expect them to thoroughly outplay the 25th ranked American squad playing at the Los Angeles Chargers’ “home stadium.” Neither team qualified for the world cup and I don’t even know if the best 11 will be there for either country, but I feel obligated to watch for some strange, patriotic reason. I promise to write a column about USA Men’s Soccer as soon as I can type more than 130 words on the topic without sobbing.

Ok, I’ve already talked about more sports than even I can squeeze into a weekend so I will leave you there, but there really is something for everyone. If you wind up watching something this weekend that I missed, be sure to send it in. If the eight bullets above did nothing more than leave you breathless and dizzy, know that we get one more NFL game and it’s not that far off!

A couple updates to this article can be found here.