Knowing that I’m originally from the home of The Replacements, Prince, and Mary Tyler Moore, a co-worker of mine asked me today if I was going to watch the Twins game tonight. I assumed he was joking. It is, after all, still February. But a quick check of the baseball schedule made it clear that not only was he not pulling my leg, but spring training started in earnest on Wednesday, February 28, with four exhibition games. Now, I like the baseball, but it’s just too early. And there’s too many of these Grapefruit and Cactus League games. People complain all the time about there being too many preseason NFL games (and they’re right), but I usually don’t hear anyone make the argument that there are too many exhibition baseball games each year. And there’s 30 of them! For each team! The only reason to have thirty exhibition games would be to pit MLB teams against a team of washed-up celebrities like the old MTV Rock and Jock specials. I can see it now — Johan Santana pitching to Daisy Fuentes or Poison’s Bret Michaels. Tom Arnold at second base trying to throw out Albert Pujols. That would be good stuff.
But at least Major League Baseball doesn’t seem to pretend that its exhibition season means anything. Fans have to really seek out TV coverage and, except for those who time a visit to their great aunt Sylvia in Sarasota just right, most can’t make it out to the park. That’s contrary to the NFL,which gets tons of TV coverage for its preseason schedule and somehow successfully sells the idea that each preseason game means something crucial to each team. (Here’s what each coach and fan wants out of the NFL preseason: Zero. As in zero season-ending injuries.) I haven’t seen a marketing force as good as the current NFL since Madonna at the height of her popularity — every move the NFL makes is somehow now a major event.
Look at this scouting combine going on now. Where the hell did this come from? I don’t recall having this shoved down my throat before. Not only is it ridiculous to televise this thing (although local Madison Charter subscribers don’t have to worry about watching it, since Charter still doesn’t carry the NFL Network), but do we honestly need it? I mean, this isn’t a Goldie Hawn movie and these athletes being scrutinized aren’t dreamers just wandering off the streets hoping for their big break. Standouts like Georgia Tech wide receiver and Wisconsin’s own Joe Thomas spent years actually playing football! And the games they played in exist on film for NFL coaches and general managers to actually watch to see how they perform in a football game! Does it really matter as much how fast these guys can run, how high they can jump, or how much they can bench press? Why don’t they just add a tug-of-war competition, an obstacle course, and a dunk tank and make it like Battle of the NFL Hopefuls? Maybe I’d watch that. But only if there wasn’t live coverage of a Culver’s Punt, Pass, and Kick event on at the same time.
Hey, the Wisconsin women’s basketball team — fresh off of a game in which they scored 93 points and still LOST — take on Michigan on Friday, March 1. Bucky is ranked seventh and the Wolverines are ranked tenth. Wisconsin swept Michigan this season and with Jolene Anderson leading the way, I expect them to advance easily to Friday’s game. Where, unfortunately, they’ll have to play Purdue, whose star Katie Gearlds dropped a Kohl Center women’s basketball record 41 points on the Badgers at their last meeting. Meaning that the women will be free over the weekend to watch exhibition baseball and college football players doing jumping jacks at the scouting combine.