Here in the Glorious North, few things are anticipated with more child-like excitement than the changing of the seasons from Summer to Fall, bringing with it the stunning change of colours, the thrill of the hunt, the twin sporting campaigns of football and hockey, the forced return of our children to institutions of learning, and the curious metamorphosis of the pumpkin into a spice.
It’s a magical time of year.
For not absolutely every one of us, however.
No, some of us look on to the approaching autumnal spectre with the enthusiasm one might reserve for, say, a prostate exam…from a robot doctor…in front of a studio audience…in the rain…twice.
So, not fondly, you might say.
Some us enjoy, nay pathetically cling to, the abbreviated Northern Summer season, resplendent as it is with warm sun, hot sand, scorching bonfires, cold beer, cool water, frozen treats, charred meat, burnt children, and countless other wondrous things we could gratuitously add temperature-related adjectives to if we were that committed to lazy writing.
It is also mercifully free from boots, scarves, rakes, extra layers, frost warnings, and fires used to actually provide warmth.
Not to mention it is the season that reminds us that, just beyond the horizon, lurking, taunting, beckoning like a frostbitten siren, lies winter.
Which is worse.
So in the spirit of abject desperation, let’s look back on The Summer That Was In Sports.
No summer could commence without that most Canadian of Summer traditions: Playoff hockey.
However, since all seven of our NHL franchises had taken advantage of early-bird discounts on their cabin rentals this year, none saw fit to participate in the most exciting tournament in sports. As such 16 American teams battled for The Cup. There were many large hits, timely saves, soul-crushing goals, sleep-pattern-altering overtimes, handshake lines, Bob Cole shouting “Oh Baby”, and then Gary Bettman getting booed at centre ice, speaking of Summer traditions.
Oh, and Pittsburgh won, in case you care.
Yay, Sid! Moving on…
Our local heroes, the Hounds, didn’t see any Summer action either, seeing as Junior Hockey is smart enough get things settled by May, but there is optimism from our camp that last season’s slip from Western champs to mid-pack, and that Drew Bannister’s boys will continue the tradition of up-tempo, high-energy hockey to which we have been accustomed in recent years. Our man Brad Coccimiglio is the writer to follow on SooToday for all things Hounds. Watch for his season preview soon.
Our gridiron guys, the Sault Steelers, did not have a brilliant campaign, it must be said. Knowing many of the chaps personally, however, I know they plan on treating 2016 as a blip and have every expectation of returning the NFC championship to its traditional home at Rocky Dipietro Field and soon. Go Steelers.
Back to the pro ranks, Canada’s MLB reps, the Toronto Blue Jays, chose the Summer season to make their appearance in contention for the defence of their AL East crown. MVP and Actual Viking Josh Donaldson continued to do Viking Things, and Edwin Encarnacion continues to walk his parrot and treat baseballs like clay pigeons. Despite injury concerns and a 100% reduction in David Prices, their starting staff has been a revelation. JA Happ, a curious off-season big money signing, has put up career numbers. Marco Estrada kept on baffling hitters with his changeup, and Aaron Sanchez made the welcome leap from prospect to Really Good Pitcher. Stroman and Dickey have been meh, but hey, even the best butter tarts sometimes have raisins in ‘em. The emergence of Joe Biagini, and the moves to bring in vets like Jason Grilli and Joaquin Benoit have solidified what was a dodgy bullpen. With a division lead going into September, all signs point to at least one more banner for the Rogers rafters.
In roundball, the regular season record wrecking Golden State Warriors decided to play rope-a-dope in the playoffs with Oklahoma City, and had to deal with a less-than-100 Steph Curry, and as a result lost a hotly contested Finals to the Cleveland Lebrons. This of course means we can stamp another square on the Impending Apocalypse Bingo Card: A Cleveland Championship. (It’s the square between Kardashian Nobel Prize and Trump Presidency, if you can’t find it.)
The big story of the summer in sports of course was the Olympic spectacle that was Rio. And a spectacle it was, too.
The Good, The Bad, and The Poop-filled.
My thoughts on the IOC, its selection process, and the slug trail of corruption and political grandstanding that accompanies it is for another, more serious column. That said, despite incomplete projects, unfulfilled public works promises, random crime, poor ticket sales, sailing lanes occupied by discarded couches, and one too many Ryan Lochtes, the buggers pulled another one off. Rio, that beautiful, deeply flawed jewel of a city, shone for the world.
As for Canadians, we done good. Yeah we did. 22 medals good.
Our Canadian women decided that they would occupy the podium exclusively in the first week, which was all kinds of amazing. Megan Benfeito and Taylor Ruck were multiple winners. Rosie defended our lone London gold, and Erica Weibe brought one home in wrestling.
And then Penny. Oh my, Penny. That delightful, lightning-quick, lion-hearted Toronto teen, brought home four, FOUR, medals. If Canada’s Sweetheart hasn’t been copyrighted for her yet, someone in legal get on that. She was such a revelation that we can even forgive her inexplicable love for the music of Drake. We’ll give you that one, Ms. Oleksiak.
Our long-languishing track team exploded back to glory with six medals, three of which were taken home by the short-range missile known as Andre DeGrasse. Yes, Usain Bolt proved he wasn’t done being THE BEST EVER quite yet, although even he acknowledged the young Canuck was at his golden heels. The whole Bromance Brotherhood thing though, CBC? Do you think maybe you could halt the references to a few hundred or so? Honestly it was getting so cheesy I thought I had inadvertently cheek-changed the channel to the NBC telecast.
Still, yay us.
Oh, and Michael Phelps…still ridiculous. He’s going to be the first athlete in history to sell his naming rights to a mine.
There were other sporty things this summer:
The Saskatchewan Rough Riders are still really terrible.
Toronto FC is finally looking like a top-tier MLS team.
Jason Day and Dustin Johnson are really freaking good.
And the NFL apparently is unfamiliar with the concept of down time.
That should shutter it for now, the news and the season itself sadly.
On to next week’s Fall, shudder, Sports Preview.
As ever, thanks for reading, and if you need me, I’ll be digging my flannels out of the crawl space.
And not enjoying it, either.