By Jeff Praught | Dugout Chatter
For many, the month of August is a fairly uneventful month. It marks the halfway point of summer, but with few exciting moments planned on the calendar (unless you count CityFest, our community’s “second Pride”).
Not so in the sports world, which is why I love August.
Major League Baseball (MLB)
Games during this month are usually referred to as the “Dog days of summer,” implying that the games become less and less meaningful and tend to drag on. Baseball’s 162-game season is the longest in all of sports, and everyone from the players to the employees, and even the fans, feel the drag of the summer slate.
But that “dog days” moniker really only applies to the teams that are out of the playoff hunt and with the advent of the second wild card a few years ago, only a handful of teams are really out of the hunt.
Consider this: at the MLB non-waiver trade deadline on July 31, only four teams (Colorado, Miami, Milwaukee, and Philadelphia) were truly considered to be “out of it.”
What resulted was the busiest inventory of trade activity in the majors since 1997, as teams made acquisitions hoping to catch lightning in a bottle by grabbing a wild card spot in October. Wild card teams face a steep hill to climb in the playoffs — they play a one-game playoff game for the right to advance to a Division Series against a division winner — but the Giants proved in 2014 that as long as you have a seat at the table, you can win it all.
For fans, that’s exciting.
For teams, that’s a lot of potential revenue out there for the taking during an extended playoff run. Every home playoff game nets teams an estimated $1 million.
With so many teams still in the hunt, August really is the month where pretenders are weeded out and contenders emerge. By the end of August, instead of 26 teams chasing a playoff spot, we will likely be talking about maybe half that many who are still in realistic contention. If your favorite team is still within five games of a playoff spot come Sept. 1, do not count them out.
National Football League (NFL)
America’s most popular sport (measured in dollars, not history) is professional football, and millions of people are going to watch an exhibition game on Sunday, Aug. 9.
Think about that. A game that not only does not count in the standings, but will likely only feature one or two series with players anyone has heard of. But America will watch, because football is king here. Training camps opened in late July and fans attend the open practices in droves. But when exhibition games begin in August, that’s when our collective pulse starts to race.
The Chargers open their exhibition season with a home game on Thursday, Aug. 13. People will complain that ticket and concessions prices are the same for exhibition games as they are for the regular season, but they will still watch and many will still attend; in fairness, those games are not sold out.
Part of what makes professional football so exciting, even for the novice fan, is that so many of us participate in fantasy football. The regular season begins on Sept. 10, so leagues will be rushing to get their drafts done before that. Because Labor Day Weekend is a tough holiday on which to coordinate drafts, the majority of leagues do their drafts in late August.
My fantasy football league is no exception and I look forward to draft date every year. The one I run has been together since 1993. Many of the original members still participate in my 16-team league, giving us a great way to stay in touch despite people moving, getting married, having kids, or otherwise living busy lives. Football is a constant in our friendship.
Sometimes we agree to meet up in vacation destinations such as Las Vegas or Lake Tahoe and other times we meet locally, with a few people drafting online. Regardless, August is the month during which we research teams’ third-string wide receivers. We realize what players retired without us noticing, or which non-Pro Bowl players switched teams.
By draft date, we think we are prepared to pull the wool over everyone else’s eyes and grab the “steal of the draft.”
In the end, we don’t draft as good a team as we thought we did, but at least we drank a lot of beer and had a good time during our draft.
AFCSL and the World Series
For only the second time since 2009, I am not preparing at least one team from America’s Finest City Softball League to attend the World Series. This event is by far the most exciting sporting event I have ever participated in and August is the month when everything ramps up. Teams throw fundraisers to raise money for travel and hotel costs, all while trying to coordinate practices and scrimmage games to prepare for the tournament.
AFCSL’s Open Division has six teams attending this year’s World Series in Columbus, Ohio, and I am jealous of every one of them.
Columbus hosted this event back in 2010, and it was a terrific experience because the city boasts the country’s largest softball complex, large enough to have the entire tournament held in one location. Most World Series require teams to play as far as one hour apart from other divisions, but not true in Columbus. So when you’re done with your games, you can walk over and cheer on your friends from other San Diego teams, as well as friends from other teams across the continent.
The five-day tournament begins on Aug. 18 and runs through Championship Day on Aug. 22. The women, who normally play in their own World Series in August, will be competing in Orlando this year Oct. 18-24.
—Jeff Praught is actively involved in the LGBT sports community, having participated in softball, basketball, football and pool as a player, and serving on several boards in recent years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.