09

With all due respect to Andy Williams and singing his song about nine months before it was intended, I woke up today with “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” in my head.

Because for a sports fan, that’s what this week begins.  For the next month, I will wear out the buttons on multiple remote controls, put a nice ass-groove in my easy chair and become a general waste of space (yes, even more so than I am the other 48 weeks of the year).

About two hours after I finish writing this, Connecticut and Georgetown tip off in the second round of the Big East Tournament (as an aside, how good is the Big East?  Connecticut is ranked 19th in the country.  The Huskies are the NINE SEED in their own conference tournament).  That is the first meaningful game in the major conference tournaments.  Over the rest of the day, the Big 12 and PAC-10 tournaments will get underway and scores of little guys will wage war for the right to dance in March Madness.

That leads into the real tournament, which will start two days sooner with exciting play-in games (pre-season No. 2 Michigan State might be in one.  Don’t tell me those games are worthless for teams that simply won’t play beyond week one.  If you’re a five seed, do you want to see Tom Izzo on the opposite bench in the opening round game?  Didn’t think so).  Thursday through Sunday of the NCAA Tournament mark, bar none and do NOT try to convince me otherwise, the four best days on a sports fan’s calendar.

Mixed in here, we have spring football.  The first practice at Missouri happened on Tuesday afternoon with reporters bombarding Gary Pinkel with questions about his starting quarterback.  Of course we know that the questions won’t be answered for about five months, but damn it, coach, inquiring minds want to know!

The day of the NCAA title game, Major League Baseball begins.  I used to love baseball.  I grew up on Frank White and George Brett and Amos Otis and Hal McRae and Dan Quisenberry when my team used to have a chance.  I don’t much love the ruined sport anymore, but I still love opening day.  Because I know that if the Royals can win on that first day that they will spend at least one day over .500 and in first place.  Hey, when you’re a fan of perhaps the most moribund franchise in all of professional sports (I’m willing to listen to arguments the Royals are not that, but they are at least in the team picture) you look for your silver linings when you can get them.

The Big Dance ends that night, the shine is off baseball season for me by Wednesday afternoon.  But Thursday begins the most gloriously traditional event in all of sports.  I’ve always told my wife, when we get rich and you want to get me the one present that will top anything you’ve ever given me outside of a wedding ring and two children, find a way to get me Sunday passes to the Masters.  Walking Amen Corner with my dad is at the top of my bucket list.

The Masters will end on April 10th this year.  That is 32 days from now.  Over those 32 days, I will revel in memories of Bryce Drew and Butler and Bucknell and Ali Faroukmanesh and Laettner at the buzzer and Hakim Warrick’s blocked shot on Michael Lee (notice how many of these memories revolve around misery in Lawrence, Kansas?).  I will agonize over thoughts of Tyus Edney and Albert White’s missed dunk and Northern Iowa and Xavier and Khalid Reeves and Damon Stoudamire and Kemba Walker

I will eat too much, drink too much and exercise too little. 

I will experience the optimism that maybe the Royals will stage a sequel to Major League with Luke Hochevar channeling Rick Vaughn, Billy Butler going all Pedro Cerrano and Ned Yost telling the boys in blue there’s only one thing left to do:  “Win the whole effing thing.”  I will crash down to earth realizing my team is much more like the real-life Cleveland Indians than the Hollywood Tribe.

I will wonder if we will ever again see the real Tiger Woods, if Tom Watson can somehow take me back to my youth one more time, if I’ll ever get the chance to walk Augusta National and realize a lifelong dream.

Then it will end and we will enter sporting Siberia for the next three months until fall camp opens on college campuses across the country.  But I don’t want to think about that right now.  Buckle up, folks, it is indeed, the most wonderful time of the year.

Gabe DeArmond is the publisher of PowerMizzou.com, the Missouri site on the Rivals.com network.  You can read his daily coverage of the Tigers online at http://missouri.rivals.com.

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