That slumberous sigh you will hear Wednesday will be the collective yawn of a nation deprived of its daily sports fix. The day after baseball's All-Star Game is generally considered the dullest on the sports calendar. Major-league baseball has the night off, and it's a dead period for football, basketball and hockey. Golf and tennis are between majors, and the only competitive baseball involves minors (leagues and people, i.e. Little League). Not exactly sports-bar fodder, which leaves us with this sports-bar debate: What is the best sports day of the year? Here, in no particular order, are our top eight.
Super Bowl Sunday
This is a no-brainer, even if only a fraction of the 45 Super Bowls has matched their hype. This day has evolved into a de facto national holiday, and all the game's surrounding elements — commercials, concerts, etc. — often make the game a subplot to a bigger story. Even when the game is boring, the day is transcendent.
Second Saturday of college football
Aside from two or three glitzy matchups, Week 1 is essentially colleges' preseason, with most Top 25 teams working out their kinks against a for-hire directional school. Week 2 is when things really get rolling. Check out the second Saturday of this September: South Carolina at Georgia, Notre Dame at Michigan, Alabama at Penn State, Utah at Southern California, Mississippi State at Auburn.
Sunday at Augusta
Is there a more sublime setting in golf than the final pairings approaching Amen Corner as the Sunday sun begins its descent at the Masters? The azaleas and intensity are in full bloom at that point of the year's first major, setting up arguably the most compelling two hours of golf you'll witness all year.
March Madness, opening day
If we were forced to rank our days, this would be our No. 1 by a buzzer-beater. If you're like us, you're gazing at your NCAA Tournament bracket over breakfast, catching the early games over lunch and watching the late-night games over the objections of your spouse, who wishes you'd turn the TV off after 12 hours of hoops.
It's a pumpkin-spiced fusion of gastronomical and gridiron nirvana. What could possibly be better than gorging yourself, watching football and dozing off in a recliner? Repeating the process. Blissful.
Kentucky Derby day
The most exciting two minutes in sports annually is preceded by two (or more) hours of some of the best buildup reporting you'll see all year. NBC's prerace coverage is always teeming with poignant features and sharp analysis, and the Churchill Downs pageantry is a hoot to behold. Moreover, by day's end there's still hope of having a Triple Crown winner.
New Year's Day
This day has lost a lot of its juice. Its onetime fixtures — the Sugar, Orange and Cotton bowls — have been pushed back a few days, and the BCS title game doesn't arrive for another week. Still, nothing soothes a New Year's Eve-produced headache like a couch and college football.
Major-league baseball's opening day
This day has inspired poetry, which we'll leave to the poets. We like it for the fresh start it symbolizes. The grass looks greener, the uniforms seem brighter, and Tropicana Field is fuller. Then comes Day 2.