Under these criteria and using large volumes of science, we see that American sports culture peaks during two six-week periods. The first comprises NFL Weeks 15-20: the last three weeks of the regular season and the first three of the playoffs. Games are on four nights per week (NFL on Monday/Thursday/Sunday and college football on Saturday). Sunday becomes a truly special ritual, where grown men will get up early and don ridiculous jerseys better suited for children. They (we) check their (our) fantasy teams, monitoring injuries and tweaking lineups in the precious hour before games get rolling. Woe betide he who starts Ben Tate behind a healthy Arian Foster. And when college dies down, oh hey! Wall-to-wall NFL playoff games on Saturday AND Sunday for three weeks before the Super Bowl Chattering Bullshit Week. Or, as it's known in the Palumbi household, the Week of Rumination On How The Pats Might Blow This Game And Break My Heart. Yes, I know we won a bunch earlier.
The second "high" is, more or less, the entirety of the NBA playoffs. There are playoff games every single night, and the NBA's talent level is so high right now that even the blowout series produce some quality moments. Meanwhile, baseball is fresh and new in the background. We haven't yet learned that our teams are dreadful go-nowhere crockpots of mediocrity (2011 Giants, 2012 Red Sox). And while the NFL playoffs are uniquely intense, the NBA produces the best stories. We see the players make faces and react on the court, the stars are more important, we identify more with them and the drama is more pronounced. Football is an industrial game, basketball is a beautiful game, and that's what makes this second period so amazing. But like the best highs, it carries a brutal crash. You start to notice the comedown before Game 3 of the Finals, where they take a two-day travel break. Suddenly, when you've been used to basketball every other night (at least!), there's two days without. "Whoa," your brain says. "This is less fun than we were having a minute ago." Yes, brain, but you see, we're running out of sweet sweet basketball cocaine to put up our eye-nostrils. Enjoy these last bumps while you can! And I did, though the Thunder collapsed and didn't give us the Finals we really deserved (take it to six at least, guys! Come on! Daddy's got a sandwich bet on this!) But now it's all gone.
So what to do now? Baseball's in full swing and it's on every night, more or less. But it's baseball--great to watch every night through the end of June, but the innings start to blend together. Like the fantastic South Park episode, "The Losing Edge," wherein the prospect of an entire summer playing baseball makes the boys conspire to lose. Baseball is fun for a while; after a certain point it's just an endless succession of set pieces and guys standing around. It is, for all its various joys (there are many!), a game of standing. And I just can't do it all summer long. So I'm assembled some suggestions on how to spend your annual involuntary vacation from Awesome Televised Sports.
Get A Life
I'm going to get this out of the way quickly. There are people out there who compulsively fill their schedules with things like hiking and barbeques and non-court-mandated community service. My sister is one of those people; she says "yes" to everything because--get this--she actually ENJOYS large segments of the human experience. My sister does not watch sports on TV, because she has other things to do. So if you're one of THOSE people, this might not be the article for you and frankly I don't know how you made it this far.
Tour European Music Festivals
These things rule pretty hard. Whether it's the population density or the culture or whatever, Europe has a ton of enormous annual music festivals with, like...GOOD lineups. Folks around the Bay Area go nuts for the various festivals that come through here, but the Euro venues are larger and the lineups just wreck their American counterparts. The Treasure Island Music Festival just announced its lineup for this year, and the Saturday headliner is...Girl Talk. A fucking hippie with a laptop, playing other people's music through a PA system by hitting buttons on said laptop. I assumed this dude's star would fade to "mid-range Youtube celebrity" about five years ago, but apparently some people's lives are so boring that they'd rather hear mash-ups of familiar songs than actual creativity. The Sunday headliner is a band called "The XX," who appear to be a pack of mumbly limeys who use synthesizers but aren't danceable. If this video is any indication ("Guys, nobody move! Ever!") they will be about as exciting live as the somnolent Silversun Pickups.
In contrast, I was awake at 8am last Saturday and managed to catch a fantastic live set from Trivium, playing at Graspop in Belgium. They were playing a mediocre time slot on a side stage, because even Trivium (the best American hard rock act since Metallica) can't get good booking when Judas Priest is playing the main stage. You see the difference from Treasure Island? Judas Priest are legends. Girl Talk is a gimmicky loser. The XX are sullen teenagers without even the testosterone to play loud music.
Get Yourself In Shape
With the Supreme Court about to punch a Scalia-sized hole in Obamacare (known to literate human beings as the Affordable Care Act), one thing is clear for our generation: we are fucked. I mean, anyone under the age of 35 who's been paying attention to the world instead of acquiring iPhone apps and expensive sipping liquors already knows this. But if you are lucky enough to have health care now, it's not going to be the same in ten years. The purchasing power you THINK you have is eroding by the day; America is currently a two-class landscape where either you have employer-sponsored insurance, or you don't. It is compelling, when you have health care, to assume you always will. The last thirty years of rolled-back worker compensation and protections, however, shows us the opposite. So enjoy yours while you have it, Jack, and ignore the plight of the rest of us until you become the rest of us. BUT I DIGRESS (sorry, Drew).
In a landscape without health care, you have to take care of yourself. I've never been offered employer-sponsored health insurance in my life, and it's unlikely to happen any time soon. I've developed a lifestyle conducive to health and preventative medicine, because you must understand: if you get seriously ill, you are going to bankrupt yourself and possibly your family. With your Summer TV freedom, it's time to apply these changes. Here's how I roll, as somebody who has not received medical care since a round of antibiotics in 2005 (and rehabbed a fractured ankle on his own without professional medical care!):
--Eat a lot of spinach. Another cheap green might suffice, but the iron, fiber and other nutrients in spinach are hard to beat at that price range. And remember, the economy is probably going to get worse as the filthy Euros spend their time at music festivals instead of paying taxes.
--Exercise by running. Maybe you've got a gym membership, but gyms are lousy wastes of money and centers of VENEREAL DISEASE. Also, nude old men in the locker room. Our ancestors didn't have gyms, so we don't need them either. Push-ups, crunches, and running is all you really need. Running in particular is key: burns calories, boosts energy, and it's the natural way our human forbears got their exercise. Because their food didn't sit still.
--If you get hurt, use the Internet for rehab. What do doctors know, anyway? Orthopedic injuries can basically be separated into two groups: serious structural damage, and Other. If you've got the former, fine: you'll probably need a medical pro. But if it's the latter, like my ankle (minor structural damage), that x-ray isn't showing shit. You'll need an MRI to really see what's going on, and that's about three times pricier. What's more, nobody will give you an MRI without first x-raying the region, so you're paying for that x-ray too. Point is, medicine is for when something is seriously wrong. Otherwise, you can probably take care of it. People used to survive smallpox (okay, most of them died) without anyone knowing anything about the human body! They'd just drain your "humours" and send you back into the Factory of Tuberculosis and Finger-Slicing Looms.
Become Involved Politically
Our country faces an enormous choice in November. On the one hand, we've got the sitting incumbent who muddled his way through enormous crises and opposition so intransigent a less-gentle nation would have bludgeoned them with baguettes and sent them to the guillotine. On the other, we have a man whose primary qualification for the office is being richer, more ambitious and less principled than anyone else he faced in the primaries. I'm sure rank-and-file Mormons aren't happy that the country's most prominent LDS member is a shameless liar in the pursuit of worldly power; a phony so transparent that it's not even considered a criticism any more. I'm sure they are embarrassed about that, just like they were embarrassed by the hateful scam that was California's Prop 8. They're just not embarrassed enough to say a word or lift a finger to oppose this man who daily exposes their faith as a cult in the pursuit of riches and sexual dominion. But hey, maybe God will come around on that whole "bearing false witness" thing. Just like He changed His mind about black people in 1978!
I'm an Obama supporter, but we have to be real about this: the circumstances (SCOTUS using Fox News talking points to strike down the ACA, Europe imploding because of the very austerity the GOP wants to impose) might end up making that November hill too steep. That's why we have to hedge our bets, and start supporting Mitt Romney.
The mighty Jon Chait gave me this idea when he pointed out that the economy might actually fare better under Romney, because Romney doesn't actually believe his anti-government rhetoric. Once the GOP is on the hook for economic performance, they'll swiftly return to the classic neo-Keynesian framework used by sane people everywhere. They don't actually oppose government aid to the economy; they just opposed it when it might benefit Barack Hussein Obama. So we need, as a people, to harness Mitt Romney's utter lack of convictions for our own purpose. The man doesn't actually care about public policy; he just wants to be president (similar to the way the LDS leadership agreed to stay silent on his temporary pro-life stance in Massachusetts--having a Mormon in power was more important than upholding dearly-held principles. Very Christian). He'll do and say whatever will gain him the most.
Downside: an Etch-A-Sketch president lacking any convictions or discernible human soul (the human-soul thing is a problem for Mormon men, I've noticed). Upside: potentially the most responsive public figure in the history of democracy! Pump up Pericles all you want, but that man had a lot of his own ideas. Mitt labors under no such burdens. If we really get behind the Romneybot and throw our cash into electing him, how can he refuse We The People? Billionaires can shill for him (thanks, John Roberts!) but once Mitt's in office popular support will be more valuable than campaign funds. And it's not as though he's got his own convictions with which to oppose us. So let's get on board for Mittens and take back America by (indirect) force! It might feel dirty, but this is clearly something to file under "hate the player, not the game."
Wrap-up paragraphs suck; you read the piece, right? Thanks for doing that. I'm going to try and update this more, because one of my part-time gigs dried up! *economytrollface*