Can you smell that? It's a beautifully bittersweet olfaction forged by a summer of discontent. It steadily approaches us and encompasses us in all the glory of its sweet scent. â€¨No, it's not the smell of a beautiful woman or large sum of cash coming our way. This wonderfully sensual aroma reeks of cleats, shoulder pads, Gatorade and grass and Saturday and Sunday afternoon's on the couch, nachos, pizza and Buffalo wings. Yes, my people, that smell is the far away yet impending start of high school, college and NFL training camps. The summer of our discontent will soon be at an end. I'm confident in saying that this is the most boring time of the athletic calendar. Baseball is in its annoyingly long stretch when the monotony of seeing the same teams every single day becomes too much to bear.
But, I can't be that upset. We've been blessed more than usual this summer, which has made the time between Eli Manning's miracle passes to Plaxico Burress and David Tyree and the impending start of the season go by faster than usual.
First, there was a great yet disappointing end to the college basketball season. As a UNC graduate and fan I was extremely frustrated with UNC's first half in the Final Four, but I can't hate on the perfect ending of the national championship game between Memphis and Kansas. Mario Chalmers' shot will go down in NCAA tournament lore with names like Bryce Drew, Keith Smart and Michael Jordan.
Ken Griffey Jr. took his place in one of the most exclusive clubs in baseball, becoming just the sixth man in major league history to hit 600 home runs. Take away those accused of steroids and only Aaron, Ruth and Mays are above Griffey on the list.
The rise of the Tampa Bay Rays has been a phenomenal story to say the least. I got to see most of their team when they played for the Double A Durham Bulls in North Carolina the last few years. Now, that entire team has the Rays in near first place in the AL East and boasting the third-best record in all of baseball. What's next? The Charlotte Bobcats beating out the Celtics for the Eastern Conference title?
Tiger Woods, Rocco Mediate and the U.S. Open. All I have to do is say those eight words and immediately you know what I'm discussingâ€”possibly the greatest major in the history of golf. Tiger Woods battling a torn ACL and stress fracture battled for four days, led after 54 holes, was tied after 72, tied after 90 before finally besting the grizzled veteran Mediate. That's a huge simplification of a tournament that registered historic moment after historic moment. The ratings showed how much people were into itâ€”NBC's coverage of the 18-hole playoff yielded the network's highest non-NFL rating since 2000.
Then, there was what John McEnroe called, "the best tennis match of all time." Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, who have faced each other more times in championship matches than any other players in the Open era, put on a show. They played a five-set thriller that saw amazing shots, three rain delays, an injury and, finally, the end of the best streak in Wimbledon history. The epic match could signal a changing of the guard, from the 26-year-old Federer to the 22-year-old Nadal. At the very least, we're likely to see a repeat at Flushing Meadows next month, which could be historic.
Finally, we had the U.S. Olympic trials. Virtually every American record and several world records were broken during the swimming trials. All-everything swimmer Michael Phelps qualified for eight Olympic events and will seek to win eight gold medals in Beijing. Tyson Gay, the world's fastest man, ran a wind-aided 9.68 in the 100 meters, the fastest time ever by a human.
So, while that smell of football certainly makes me want the main courseâ€”I've had plenty of appetizers to tide me over.