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Once More Into the Zone
by Jim Alderson, 5/7/04

The Kentucky Derby provided a clue. I was engaged in the consumption of my usual Saturday morning routine of breakfast and a second pot of coffee while scouring the Net for most any diversion that would take my mind off the undeniable fact that my lawn badly needed cutting. A few drops of rain solved that problem by convincing me that I could not possibly cut grass in this deluge, and entirely too many sites I was perusing were requesting a credit card number. Not wishing to contribute to the Chechen economy I gave up on the Internet and flipped on the television and discovered that one of the ESPN family of networks was treating me to breakfast at Churchill Downs. It was a shame I had already eaten.

The television continued to inform me of the activities of the beautiful people who desired to be seen at the Derby while I puttered around the house, mostly closing curtains so I could not see exactly how badly my yard was in need of mowing. I finally decided that I could no longer bear dwelling on the uncut lawn and determined there was only one thing to do: I left the house.

A couple of hours were spent roaming around my local mall. Included in the window shopping was an electronics store that offered a wide variety of televisions for sale, all tuned to an ESPN which was doing a superb job of bringing to millions of American homes the taut drama of a driving rainstorm in Louisville a mere six hours before the race was to begin. Lunch at a local establishment provided a bar television that featured crack ESPN reporters demonstrating exactly how deep was the mud on the track.

Returning home and discovering that, unfortunately, my grass had not cut itself, I retreated to my den and recliner where the televised sports viewing choices seemed to be limited to the tedium of watching the Baltimore Orioles and Cleveland Indians spend four hours and thirteen innings doing virtually nothing but grounding the ball to shortstop, and continuing Derby coverage that often featured people splashing around in the huge ponds the dayís downpours had created, leading me to believe that my tailgate group are not the only ones engaging in multiple Communions before a sporting event. By the time they actually got around to running the Kentucky Derby, I had lost all interest and was actually thinking about mowing the grass before a shower in both Louisville and Danville left me glued to my recliner pondering exactly why it was that the sporting public needed eight hours of televised build-up for a race that lasted two minutes.

The answer, of course, is simple: the networks have nothing better to show. Once again, we have entered the Dead Zone of sports. The NCAA Tournament is long over and the Virginia Tech footballs have been packed away for three months. We now have in front of us what will seem like an endless summer of having nothing better to view on the television than the Orioles finding even more inventive ways of blowing games and playing down to their potential, wondering how many cars Tony Stewart will take out this week, and what will seem like thousands of golf tournaments reminding me mostly of my utter ineptitude at the game and hours of shots of freshly-manicured fairways and greens; that is not what I care to see when my grass is of a mid-shin length. The sports pickings will be slim.

There will be sports available, as there always are during the Dead Zone. However, just as it always is during this part of the year, there will be precious few that I care to watch. I occasionally check in the various newspapers I read the progress the NBA is having in ending this season before the next one begins; as usual, it will be close. The NBA is again conducting what they call basketball and I call an abomination of the game without benefit of the first second of my viewing. This is the third year of my NBA boycott, but they donít seem to be learning their lesson. I am told that NHL hockey is being delivered fresh daily, but it must be getting lost in the jungle my yard is beginning to resemble. The only tennis I care to watch is womenís and that for reasons that have little to do with the skills of the players and besides, Anna almost never gets out of the first round and continues to reject all of my proposals of marriage.

Soccer, rodeo, drag racing, fishing, poker, lumberjack, boxing, cricket, whatever so-called extreme sports consist of, cycling, fencing, track and field, sailing, volleyball, large men attempting to pull busses, tiddlywinks, televised rock-paper-scissors competitions and anything else the networks attempt to foist off as legitimate sports do little for me but cause me to check the calendar to find how much more time will pass before Tech again begins playing football. It will be a while.

The Dead Zone is a period of time when my weekend television viewing will revolve not around college football and basketball but HBOís Sunday night series. They have attempted to compensate for limited viewing options by following the Sopranos with the deliciously-funny Deadwood. Speaking of Deadwood, does anybody else notice what seems to me to be a striking physical resemblance between Calamity Jane and algroh? Were they separated at birth or what? The hyperactivity displayed by Jane would also seem to be reflected in the sideline demeanor of Calamity Al and both possess a keen sense of fashion, but then the colorful language used by the aptly-named Swearengen can sometimes be heard from Frank Beamer when games are not going as planned. Attempting to draw analogies between football and Deadwood - yep, itís the Dead Zone all right.

There will be quite a difference in this yearís Dead Zone than last yearís, which was anything but. Around this time last year we were beginning to get an inkling that things could go very wrong for Tech athletics. A Dead Zone spent watching Iron Chef will certainly seem like a hoot after spending last summer watching transfixed as Techís administration engaged in a grim struggle to keep us from the secondary Liíl E athletics existence ordered for us by a woman passing through the presidency of the University of Miami, biding her time until her party regains political power in Washington. Compared to what we went through last year, however, the tranquility of watching the Discovery Channel could be just what is needed before a fall football season conducted as members of the ACC. I might even get my grass cut.

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