Believe me, I know. Football just ended, and you never realized how long the months between February and August are without your beloved sport. Football is not for everyone, but for those that are truly addicted, and we can easily spot each other, there are few things in life that bring as much joy from what amounts to a vicarious activity. Luckily there are plenty of sports related distractions to well… distract you until training camp rolls around, and then you are free to “wow” your friends with just how in to training camp you are.
I recently read an article by OSN's Wade Evanson (find it here), and it said so many things so many of us are thinking these days. It just hit home. It was comical and yet somewhat dark in the best of ways, and it was a fun distraction from the grind of the next six months, but the one thing I thought might be a quality companion piece, would be an actual “tourists spots for football junkies”.
What follows are mere ideas, not suggestions, for how you can attempt to fill the days between now and preseason.
Portland Winterhawks Hockey (7 more games before playoffs)
Sure, it's a sport that simply has not found enough love in the northwest, and it’s minor league hockey to boot. However, the Winerhawks currently lead the WHL with a 50-9 record and are favorites to return to the WHL Championship, where they have been the runner-up two years in a row. If you are looking for a quick sports fix from a proven and local winner, this is the best it will get.
Portland Trail Blazers Basketball (25 more games before playoffs)
While they are 26-31 and a longshot to make the playoffs, the Blazers are still Portland's main draw, and are a very entertaining team to watch. Damian Lillard, Nicolas Batum, and LaMarcus Aldridge routinely reward fans with their stellar play, even if the team doesn't always win. With a slew of games remaining and plenty of cheap seats still open for purchase, you've really got nothing to lose. If the team ends up making the playoffs, there is a chance they could be playing all the way in to June, and that would be like killing two birds with one stone (OregonSportsNews does not condone animal cruelty, this is a metaphor, do not attempt [the killing of birds that is, use metaphors all you wish]).
Portland Timbers Soccer (First game March 3rd)
They play soccer, which for many people, is not a fun sport to watch. I have admittedly found a soft spot for the Timbers, and cannot tell you how much fun it is to rub dirt in the fans of Seattle's team. They went 1-1 here last year, and beat the Timbers 3-0 in Seattle to even the series, but the Timbers won the Cascadia Cup as they fared better against Vancouver. For those not in the know, this is the ultimate spite championship, and yes, it is routinely rubbed in the opposition's collective faces. If nothing else, the pageantry and rivalry of the three Cascadia Cup teams will bring you back to your glory days of collegiate and NFL fandom, and that is enough to live off for months at a time.
NCAA March Madness Tournament (March 19th-April 8th)
Few things can distract us from the absence of football quite like 68 basketball teams being shoved in to an insane, winner take all, 21-day showdown. You are likely to root for anywhere from five to fourty underdogs, and will find yourself emotionally uplifted or distraught after a team you cannot even pronounce loses a game in triple overtime and destroys your far-too risky bracket. Or…. that same team or a similar one, like, I don't know, let's say, Butler, goes from general obscurity among even the most intense college basketball fan, to breaking everyone's brackets, while single handedly saving yours. In the words/intention of those ridiculous Bud Light commercials from a few years ago, here's to you, you crazy, “I saw all of this impossible crap happening”, worst picks ever that actually pay off, March Madness bracket guy. Who inevitably loses to the new girl in the office that picked all of the teams with her favorite colors or animals. Here's to you.
Seattle Mariners Baseball (First game April 1st)
The Mariners have not been truly competitive since “the Kid” was in his prime, and the times don't look so bright this season. They are however the only MLB franchise north of SF or northwest of Arizona, so if you are looking for a better or closer alternative, you my friend, are simply out of luck. The main draw was once Ichiro, but he is gone, so fans now line up by the dozens to see Felix Hernandez and a bunch of guys in uniform that the casual fan cannot name, and no, I am not an exception there. Google helps, but unless this is a long-term investment you are planning, I would learn enough to get by or just talk to people at a sports bar after you have generously purchased their first two beverages and I'm sure they will spill and Mariner and/or sports related sorrows you wish to hear.
NFL Free Agency (March 13th) and Draft (April 25-27th)
Free agency is essentially the NFL equivalent of recruiting. High priced and highly sought-after players go through the courting process, then sign with the team with the most to offer, which often does not come down to mere dollars and cents. Whether your team makes a big splash or comes up short on a player that could genuinely turn the tides, free agency is anything but dull. A little over a month later, the draft takes place, and this is where the teams really decide which direction they will take this year. It is a long and drawn out process, but at the end of it all, it is where most fans' teams decide if this is their year, or just another year. You wait anxiously to see if your team takes a highly talented, instant impact player, or if they take a gamble or worse, trade down, essentially telling you if it really means business this year, or if another slow, rebuilding, developmental season awaits you and your ambitions.
It all just wets the whistle for training camps to open in mid to late July.
CFL (First game June 28th)
Yes there is a Canadian Football League, and no this is not a joke. If you are looking for a football fix, it is the closest you can come without watching old highlights. It is a summer league, which is what the NFL Europe was (now there was a joke), so real games happen instead of the training camp half-speed practices you're watching this time of year.
In closing, and you have probably already realized this, and that is that a sure-fire method to delude yourself in to believing that something else exists that can compare to watching your favorite football teams, a void that teams not named the Seahawks, Ducks, or Beavers can fill, actually exists. It doesn't. But it is admirable to attempt to fill that void, and while I have had limited success doing so, feel free to make the effort and post your results to others looking for aide in these trying, football free time.