By Sterling Pingree
This may be the greatest time of the year. Now I love Christmas season, the Super Bowl and October baseball but the two week period that we are in the midst of right now is in fact, the most wonderful time of the year. Here is my case.
I believe that in the internet age, where everything can be run down and poked fun at, March Madness is our only remaining bastion of pure joy in society. Where we now only have 4 teams remaining, the Final Four is the fantastic conclusion of sports greatest tournament. The two semi-final games on Saturday night are a spectacle, when else are you going to watch a basketball game in a football stadium? This weekend’s games: Gonzaga vs South Carolina should be entertaining and North Carolina vs Oregon gives me a chance to root against UNC, which is one of my favorite things.
Sandwiched in between the season finale of March Madness is WrestleMania. Say what you want about wrestling or sports entertainment, but last year this event put over 95,000 people in Jerry’s World in Dallas. Also, mark my words, after seeing Rob Gronkowski at a WWE show last week and his Instagram video with his WWE superstar buddy Mojo Rawley, Gronk will someday participate in a WrestleMania. If Rawley wins the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal this year, Gronk making a cameo seems almost certain.
While Monday night is the pay off for the NCAA tournament, it’s also the opening day of baseball season. There is something magical about baseball’s opening day, that differentiates it from other sports. The other professional sports start, they begin, but baseball opens. There’s all the old chestnuts that I don’t need to wax and rehash here……..wait a minute, this is A Sterling Moment and this is what I do, I wax chestnuts! Opening day is magical because baseball returns during the time of year that where hope springs eternal and flowers blossom and the grass turns green and you go to the ballpark and hot dogs and Cracker Jacks and Neil Diamond songs and the smell of a fresh baseball and the sound of a ball smacking into the perfectly oiled pocket of a glove and the crack of the bat and the stadium organ and the legends of Babe Ruth and Ted Williams and it’s fathers and sons and that the beginning of the season means that everybody starts with the same record and anything is possible! (How is that for a chestnut hashing!?)
That’s a lot going on in just one sporting weekend, but like a made for TV offer, THAT’S NOT ALL! You don’t have to call now but the sporting gods will throw in the world’s greatest golf tournament for free anyway! The Masters tees off on Thursday, which for the first time in quite a while it will be somewhat of a bitter sweet moment. One of my favorite traditions in all of sports is the striking of the first tee shot at Augusta National to start The Masters. The three ceremonial tee shots are hit generally by the 3 greatest living players and the past few years that honor has fallen to Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and The King, Arnold Palmer. Sadly, we lost Arnold Palmer last year, but the beauty of this “tradition unlike any other” is that it evolves and continues in ways that are unique to the Lords of Augusta. The Masters is on the short list of my favorite sporting events and the course itself seems like it’s from another world. Last year during the tournament, I met a guy who had been at Augusta National for the practice round the day before; I had to shake his hand just because that hand had been on those hallowed grounds the day before and I thought perhaps some of that mystique might brush off onto me. Whoever last year’s champion Danny Willett slips that green jacket onto next week will immediately take a place in history and join the most exclusive club in America.
After the Super Bowl ends all that is left is the sadness that the football season is over for 7 months. Same with the World Series or almost any other major sporting championship. However, the beauty of this most wonderful time of the year is the fact that it is the mere tip of the ice berg. Yes, the college basketball season is ending, but the NBA Playoffs are just around the corner to feed your Basketball Jones. Not only that, but The Masters and Opening Day both signify the beginning of golf and baseball, not the end. While the weather in Maine isn’t where we’d really like it to be, watching people compete at Fenway Park and Augusta National can remind us that no matter how bleak the winter, we know that somewhere grass is still green and up here, it will be again.
Sterling Pingree (@SterlingPingree on Twitter) is a co-host on The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.