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Sports' best months

April is the best month of the year for sports fans. There's baseball, basketball, hockey, golf and even one of the most significant days of the football season. So if you love sports, be sure to squeeze out as much as you can over the next three weeks of the best month in sports. You can rest come December. Today, we rank the months in sports from best to worst starting with good old April.

1. April The best sports month of the year. The NCAA championships in college basketball kick off the month along with baseball's opening day, which is what sports fans consider the official start of spring. Then the most grueling tournament in all of sports begins — the Stanley Cup playoffs. For hockey diehards, it's night after night after night of passionate action. The NBA playoffs aren't quite as intense because the NBA rarely features first-round upsets, but it's still the postseason. The month also has the Masters, the first (and some say the best) of golf's majors. And we close with the NFL draft, our pick for the best sporting event that is not an actual game. If you don't love April, you don't like sports.
2. January New Year's Day used to be the best day in college football with four major bowl games — Orange, Sugar, Rose and Cotton — deciding the national championship. But the BCS has turned New Year's Day into a salad — just an appetizer to the main course. That main course, however, is a true national championship game, which is played a week later. New Year's Day now is highlighted by the NHL's Winter Classic outdoor game, the best new idea to come along in sports in a couple of generations. But January's best is the NFL playoffs, especially the Sunday of the conference championship games. While February's Super Bowl has become the biggest sporting event in this country, true football fans cherish the conference championship games — the best day of the NFL season. We'd mention tennis' Australian Open, but unless you're an insomniac and are up at 3 in the morning, you never see it.
3. October When you think of October, you think leaves changing, crisp air and college football. Nothing beats a clear, cool Saturday afternoon from places such as South Bend, Columbus, State College, Ann Arbor and Athens. The thing is, college football is not even the best part of October or the fall. After all, we have the Fall Classic, better known as the World Series, this country's most famous sporting event this side of the Super Bowl. As if college football and the World Series weren't enough, October also is when the NHL and NBA seasons get under way.
4. February We're talking Super Bowls — the NFL's big game and the Daytona 500, the Super Bowl of NASCAR. The Super Bowl has become, essentially, a national holiday with more than 100 million people tuning in. And it's odd how Super Bowls played in February have been the best ones. For a while there, January Super Bowls had become duds with scores such as 46-10, 42-10, 55-10, 52-17 and 30-13. Just one of the first 37 Super Bowls was played in February, and that was Super Bowl XXXIV, when the Rams stuffed the Titans just short of the end zone to win 23-16. The past eight Super Bowls have been played in February, and the average margin of victory has been seven points, with five games decided by six points or fewer. But other than the Super Bowl and the Daytona 500, February is blah, mostly because the NHL and NBA All-Star games, once highlights of the year, have become boring games that hardly resemble the actual sport.
5. May Americans tend to favor the four major sports — football, baseball, basketball and hockey — but May is for sports with a refined taste. The Kentucky Derby, our pick for the classiest sporting event, gives us the most exciting two minutes in sports. The French Open is the first tennis major that Americans notice. Then the month wraps up with the most famous and storied car race in the United States — the Indianapolis 500, which is as much of a tradition on Memorial Day weekend as hot dogs and potato salad. Plus, the NHL and NBA playoffs get down to the nitty-gritty.
6. September Labor Day weekend might be the best sports weekend of the year. Often, the NFL season opens, and it's only the most popular sports league in the country. The second Saturday at the U.S. Open is the best tennis day of the year with two men's semifinals and the women's final. College football usually has a kickoff classic or two. Through it all, baseball's pennant races start the final month.
7. June Sometimes, the Stanley Cup final is pushed into June, and we also have the NBA Finals. The Belmont Stakes is in June but is only interesting to the casual sports fan if there's a Triple Crown on the line. Typically, golf's U.S. Open is one of the better sporting events of the year, but we've soured on it in recent years because of the U.S. Golf Association's insistence of making the course virtually impossible. The winners are often a result of good luck rather than good play. Only twice over the past six years has the winner broken par. Five-over par has won twice over the past five years. That's ridiculous, unfair and close to being unwatchable.
8. July We love the British Open. In fact, we think it's the best golf tournament of the year because of its international field and ever-changing conditions. Not far away are the semifinals and final of Wimbledon, the best tennis tournament there is. Baseball's All-Star Game is the best all-star game in all of sports because it most resembles a real game. But the All-Star Game also produces the two worst days of the sports year, the day beforehand and day afterward. There's no real baseball and, thus, nothing to do. How bad is it? ESPN tapes its ESPY Awards that night because athletes are available.
9. March March comes in like a lamb with the ho-hum days of the NHL and NBA seasons, but it starts to roar in the middle with March Madness. The conference basketball tournaments lead into the NCAA Tournament. Upsets are now the norm. Mid majors sneak their way into the big tournament by winning their conference tournaments then start taking swings at the heavyweights. In recent seasons, teams such as George Mason, Gonzaga, Virginia Commonwealth and, of course, Butler have become giants by being giant-killers. But if you're not a college hoops fan and you don't live in Florida or Arizona to catch spring training, March is kind of a drag.
10. November If it wasn't for Thanksgiving Day and the tradition of football with a side of turkey and stuffing, November would be a pretty dull month. Sure, you have the meat of the college football season plus a little NHL and NBA. However, those seasons are so early that the games are still somewhat insubstantial.
11. August August features many of the things we don't really like about sports. The PGA Championship is the worst of golf's four majors. We're on record as saying the Little League World Series should not be televised because for every little hero it shows, it shows a 12-year-old having the worst moment of his life on national television. And then there's NFL preseason football. We cannot stress enough how much we dislike preseason football. The NFL charges full prices. The networks act like they're meaningful games. And most of the time it's a bunch of guys we've never heard of playing against a bunch of other guys we've never heard of. It's Arena Football on a big field.
12. December The worst sports month of the year. College football, other than a few conference title games, takes a break only to pick up with a bunch of meaningless bowl games. The only bowl game worth watching this month is the one that happens to involve your school. The NFL season is winding down, and while there might be a few postseason spots at stake, teams with serious Super Bowl aspirations already have been determined. A slew of teams are merely playing for draft order. Besides, most of us are too busy getting ready for Christmas to pay much attention to sports.

Sports' best months 04/09/11 [Last modified: Monday, April 11, 2011 9:50am]
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