Here's a depressing thought: At this current moment, we're closer to the start of the last NFL season than we are to the start of the next NFL season. But fear not. The end of football is a time to be celebrated, with dozens of great sporting events happening between now and the first Thursday in September. You just have to plan accordingly and this 10-step guide will help get you through the next six months on the sports calendar.
Jerry LaiJerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
Think big picture
Sure, it's easy to panic. "We're further from the start of the 2017 NFL season than we are from the beginning of the 2016 season!" But that obscures the many big events over the next six months which, if you look at and imagine each as the next stepping stone, help bring us closer to the NFL season we're already missing. It's easy: The Daytona 500 to Selection Sunday to the NCAA tournament to baseball's opening day to The Masters to the NFL's schedule release to the NFL draft to the NBA/NHL playoffs to the Kentucky Derby to golf's U.S. Open to Wimbledon to the opening of NFL training camp. See, that's not so bad. If you understand that big things are always around the corner and accept that August is basically sports purgatory - waiting for the big events of the fall - then we can get through this. Together.
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Enjoy, but don't believe, fake news
If you want your football fix for the next two months, you'll have to deal with free-agent rumors, draft speculation and combine results - meaningless trivialities when it comes to the real world of the NFL. Remember, any rumor you hear about player movement or the draft has been put out there by somebody with an ulterior motive. Combine results are great if the information you hope to obtain is about performances of matriculating college football players in mesh shorts doing various athletic tasks while coaches, scouts and media hover around like they're at a meat market. How meaningless is it? Of the eight fastest 40 times on record, five of those players flamed out of the league, two are currently playing (because they were drafted in 2013 and 2015) and are contributing though low on the depth chart and the other was Chris Johnson. One-for-eight. At best, two-for-eight. And that's the combine stat to which we all attribute some kind of importance.
As for mock drafts: Drafts are living, breathing things - so to predict how a team with the No. 9 pick is going to react to the millions of possibilities with which they'll be presented after the first eight picks actually go off the board is like trying to play pin the tail on the unicorn.
Consume it all. It's fun. Find out which players your team is interested in, form a completely baseless opinion about why you want your team to select the guy they totally won't and then sit back and enjoy the draft. Follow every free agent rumor but don't be surprised when you find out the Redskins and Kirk Cousins have been lying to you this whole time and that Kirk and Dan Snyder hashed out the deal over a baccarat table in Monaco. It's all misinformation. Enjoy, but know the risks beforehand.
Getty ImagesJoe Robbins
Take up an outdoor activity
Play golf. Go for walks. Get to a pool. Garden. It doesn't matter. If your "outdoor activity" is drinking Miller Lite while grilling bratwurst and listening to a baseball game, so be it. At least you're getting some sun.
But really, you should take up golf. If you don't already play, go buy a pair of clubs, go to the driving range a few times, maybe take a lesson or three and then, when you can reliably (but not always) get ball flight, tee off to play 18. Enjoy a hot dog and beer at the turn and then another beer on the back (this time from the roving cart), don't hold anybody up or play up on anybody and you've just spent a lovely day doing something productive. Golfing with friends is great, but don't underestimate the upsides of getting paired with strangers - almost everybody is friendly and has a story to tell. Playing alone? Not advisable. What happens if you hit a hole-in-one when you're playing alone? You'll tell people and best-case scenario is that they say they believe you while secretly laughing behind their back. The worst-case scenario is you're branded a liar and forced to march around with a scarlet flagstick on your Under Armour shirt. Oh, and if you already play golf, remember: The key to the game is swinging as hard as you possibly can.
There are only two reasons not to be golfing: sunset and lightning. Rain is fun if you have the right gear. Cold can be countered with layers. And beer is the magic elixir that brings it all together.
Don't get into playoff hockey
If you're already into the NHL, great. Enjoy your playoffs. They're fun and exciting and a great way to cap an endless season. But if you're just thinking of dipping your toe onto the ice, get away. Go. Run as fast as you can out of that 42-degree arena and into the incongruously warm, summer sun. Playoff hockey is an exercise in masochism, as my buddy Dan Steinberg perfectly put it. Spend six months rooting for your team only to watch more than half the league make it into a postseason that's ultimately won with a hot goalie and some nice caroms. The correlation between being good and winning the Stanley Cup is equivalent to wearing Air Jordans and being able to dunk. It doesn't hurt, but it sure as heck doesn't help. Also, don't fall for the "playoff hockey overtime is the most exciting experience in sports." It's basically 12 men fighting to win a coin flip which I guess is exciting in its own way.
Getty ImagesChristian Petersen
Start creating a sports DVR library for the teams and players you love
a) Tape every game. Most likely you'll erase it. If you have to keep it - sure, that two-hour recording is going to eat up space for all your episodes of whatever "peak TV" shows you have unsuccessfully tried to convince your friends to watch (or, as in my house, Sofia The First, Elena of Avalor and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse) but better to have three hours of a rewatchable NFL game on your DVR than that backload of episodes of The Affair or those HBO documentaries sitting there for weeks, both of which we know you're never going to watch.
b) Selectively start recording when you think a great finish may be coming. If you're a fan of either Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal, you should have been hitting record when the fifth set in their Australian Open final began. You have to plan ahead, y'all. Sure, the Rafa fans would have to painfully hit delete after the match but the other 95% now have a set of tennis to tide them over for months, if not years. This is easier in sports like golf, tennis or baseball, when the stoppages of play or situational at-bats make for obviously potential drama. But how was, say, a Kansas fan supposed to know they should have hit record with 2:45 left in Monday night's West Virginia game, when the Jayhawks were down 14 points? Some things are unknowable. That's why you o with (a) or try:
c) Wait for a replay. If a game is good enough, it's likely to be replayed on some channel in the not-so-distant future. A Patriots fan has had like a half-dozen opportunities to get that fourth quarter on their DVRs.
d) Don't rush it. A good sports DVR library takes years. Start slow, playing around during the 9th innings of baseball games to try and get your team getting a walk-off home run. Maybe start taping random NBA Finals games hoping you get something like Game 6 of last year's Western Conference Finals. Keep building through NFL season (hit record on any potential go-ahead drive by your favorite team). The Olympics are a great time to get material. In a couple of years, boom. You'll have enough to tide you over through even those most boring July sports nights.
There is one problem with this: Once you accumulate a good enough library, you'll never want to switch DVRs or move. I legitimately stayed in an apartment for two weeks longer than I needed because I had to figure out a way to transfer all my recordings. Yes, most stuff is available on YouTube but it's like listening to music on Spotify. The joy just isn't there.
Denny MedleyDenny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Embrace weekday morning/afternoon sports
Watching sports on weekdays feels like you're getting one over on the man. It's like taking a long lunch, sneaking out of work or, when you were little, faking sick so you could stay home and watch The Price Is Right. There are plenty of weekday sporting events in the summer but one sport brings the best, and the most:
There are two great parts of being a tennis fan: The first is how one of tennis fandom's detriments (nobody you know watches) is actually one of the biggest advantages (there's no one will engage in banal conversation with you about it but when you encounter someone who does follow the sport, it's like as joyous as finding water in the desert both because you can finally talk tennis and because, when you do, it's always with someone who knows the sports well. Because when you're talking second-tier sports, there's no such thing as halfway fans). The second is daytime matches. All year. Flip on the TV most days from March to September and there will be a big event to watch, from the European clay-court events (played in the morning in the U.S. and in some of the most beautiful vistas in sports) to the back-to-back majors (the French Open and Wimbledon) to the American swing that sees top players hit at least three events (Cincinnati, Toronto/Montreal and the U.S. Open). It's non-stop. The NCAA tournament is the holy grail of weekday afternoon sports viewing (but it goes on for just two days) but there's also golf, soccer and a bunch of college sports - at least through mid-June. When you watch you can appreciate how great it is to follow an event that ends at 1 p.m. rather than 1 a.m. (cough, NBA FINALS, cough).
Dive headfirst into new sports (except diving, which is not a sport)
Why do we watch the Olympics? No one cares about archery, dressage or sailing except for once every four years (though combine all three and you might have something). But when there's an achievement attached to it - in this case, an award for competition that athletes gear their whole lives toward, where the difference between eternal glory and fourth place can be millimeters, hundredths or one step, stroke or bounce - we can't get enough. Throw in patriotism and it's the whole package.
There's no Olympics until next February so this summer, choose your own adventure: For the Daytona 500, pick a favorite driver (can't go wrong with Joe Gibbs Racing's lineup), pick an enemy driver and kick back on the recliner. Don't just fill out an office pool, watch the first weekend of the NCAA tournament (it's the rare event where the beginning is catered to the non-sports fan more than the end) and don't even pick a team - just root against Duke, Carolina, Kentucky, Syracuse and Baylor. Spend the next seven weeks playing this song and then get yourself on a couch to watch the back-nine on Sunday of The Masters. Then, as a follow up two months later, have a Father's Day BBQ and bring the TV outside so you can enjoy the final round of the other great golf tournament, the U.S. Open. Comment about how golf is better without Tiger so people will believe you're a deep thinker. Then, throughout the summer, as a fun sort of parlor game, make ridiculous statements about various sports that you have to defend to people who think you're serious: "AAU has helped the NBA, I think." "I miss anchored putters." "Football on Thursday nights is just what the doctor ordered." "College athletes do get paid. Room, board, tuition and food." "Wimbledon's courts are better when they're slowed down." "The Patriots should have traded Tom Brady." "The Patriots should invite the Falcons to their banner-raising." "The Patriots aren't cheaters." "Five, minimum, but if he's really rolling it, maybe Tiger could get six, or even seven, more majors.
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Once you get your daily fix of Foxsports.com, spend some time curled up with a good book and baseball silently playing in the background. Here are five books to get you started:
a. America's Game by Michael MacCambridge, 2005 (history of pro football)
Don't miss the two most underrated events of the summer
In the years before and after a Summer Olympics, swimming and track - the two stars of every Summer Games - hold their world championships. Swimming's is from July 23-30 in Budapest. Track's world championships begin a few days later, running from Aug. 4-13 in London. The former is a chance to see if Katie Ledecky can shatter even more world records, watch the contentious relationship between Katinka Hosszu (the Iron Lady with her dippy husband) and everybody else, continue the Lily King/Yulia Efimova beef, get our first look (maybe) at Ryan Lochte since that interview with Billy Bush, which somehow was only the second stupidest Billy Bush moment of the year, and watch the American men battle it out to see who will fill the otherworldly shoes left by Michael Phelps. The latter competition will feature Usain Bolt in what he says are his final races. Remember, in the last seven Olympics/world championships, Bolt has gone to the line 21 times. He's crossed first in 20 of those races. The only time he didn't: when he was DQ'd for false starting in the 100 back in 2011 in Daegu. (Ignore the fact that Bolt is totally coming back for the Tokyo Games, by the way, and just roll with the party.) These will be great late-summer fun when the baseball season is at its lull and there's only so many puff-pieces about undrafted free agents at training camp you can read.
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But, overall, just remember one thing
It's only 204 days until the start of the 2017 NFL season.