By Martin Rogers
FOX Sports Columnist
One of the joys of this job of writing about sports is having had the ability to travel far and wide over the years, meeting fans from all over the world.
The more you do it, the more the realization that those of us who love sports are for the most part cut from the same cloth.
Sure, the languages and accents and the actual games we follow might be different. Yes, American fans are used to paying concession prices that would make those from overseas faint. Admittedly, most from these shores will never get their heads around cricket, just as your average Belgian or South African is perplexed by the vagaries of the gridiron.
But rest assured we beat to the same tunes, carry the same frustrations, wish for the same outcomes and are touched by the same stories of sentimentality, whether we are an American basketball fanatic, a Brazilian soccer fan, a German motor racing enthusiast, a New Zealand rugby diehard, a Japanese baseball connoisseur, and so on.
What does happen though, is that we work to a very different calendar, a fact brought home by the current lull in the American sports cycle.
For much of the year, the action here is incessant and occasionally overwhelming. There is a lot of overlap, but from September through to the midpoint of each following year, it always feels there is something of great significance going on.
Football season is short enough that every week of NFL action brings multiple games that truly matter in the overall scheme of the campaign. From the Super Bowl, sportive attention turns to the Daytona 500 and to the NBA All-Star Game. From there it is a short hop into March and all the college hoops Madness that ensues. And then to Opening Day and the Masters, and then the long postseasons of both the NBA and the NHL.
Since the Golden State Warriors (Jun. 16) and Colorado Avalanche (Jun. 26) hoisted their respective pieces of silverware, however, it has been a bit sleepy on the domestic scene. NBA Summer League has some entertainment value, but that’s mostly restricted to analyzing initial glimpses of the most promising rookies.
The MLB All-Star fun provides a welcome interlude, with the unique magnificence of Shohei Ohtani the undisputed highlight Tuesday (8 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app), plus outstanding talent such as Aaron Judge and Juan Soto, and feelgood legacy picks Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera.
Once Tuesday night is through, though, the start of most NFL training camps will still be days away, with still seven more blank Sundays before the journey toward the latest dose of fantasy football heartbreak begins.
Although it might seem quiet in the U.S., that’s not the case everywhere. Consider what the European fan has had to get stuck into over the past couple of weeks. In tennis, the French Open bled quickly into Wimbledon, respectively won by a pair of men’s legends (Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic) and an emerging superstar and a controversial surprise on the women’s side (Iga Swiatek and Elena Rybakina).
In Europe, they pack it in over the summer.
Last weekend brought the Open Championship of golf at its most iconic venue and spiritual home, St. Andrews in Scotland. It was a reminder that sometimes the story is one you don’t expect. A final round that shaped up as a head-to-head showdown between crowd favorite Rory McIlroy and emerging star Viktor Hovland turned into an absolute putting masterclass from brilliant Australian Cam Smith, who rolled in birdie after birdie on the back nine to shoot 64 and claim his first major.
If Smith defects swiftly to LIV Golf, as looks likely, then the renegade league will have a bona fide young star to add to its ever-strengthening ranks.
Next weekend sees the conclusion of the Tour de France, the ever-popular cycling spectacular that has so many central European nations spellbound, and where an epic battle between reigning champ Tadej Pogacar and current leader Jonas Vingegaard beckons over the closing stages.
Realistically, geography matters less and less in sports. Television and streaming developments mean that if there is a sports event happening somewhere in the world, you can find a way to get a look at it without too much difficulty.
However, it is a long-proven fact that viewers like watching things that are taking place in their own country. The UFC found this a few years back, when their pay-per-view figures for U.S.-based shows were far greater than those taking place overseas, despite being designed to start to coincide with American prime time. They were never fully able to work out why.
There is no accounting for how sports fans act in the name of their passion. It is a kind of sickness for which, thankfully, there is no known cure.
When sports are happening, everything feels right. When it is a quiet period, like the one happening in the U.S. right now and for a little while longer, things seem a bit off. We find ourselves doing weird things, like talking about the weather or buying things we don’t need, or tackling home projects that will never get finished.
The good news is that busier times are ahead. That’s something to be thankful for, and I’m glad to remind you of it, but an apology is also due. This column started with the intention of providing a solution for the dead period, but there really isn’t one that we can see.
Unless you’d want the NBA’s discussed but still non-existent midseason tournament to be played in July? Or the NFL season to be extended forward three weeks (good luck getting that by the Players Association) or NASCAR to drastically reduce its regular season and begin the playoffs now, neither of which would really work.
Mission failed then. Sorry for that, and only the following as an excuse.
It’s the quiet days of summer. When the games are off the schedule, we’re all a little off our game.
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