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Summer Alternatives

Sports to enjoy right now

In the doldrums of summer, there's a dearth of new sports activity for true diehards to embrace. The NHL and NBA championships have long passed and the NFL season is still months from truly starting. While MLB's All-Star Game just occurred—with a stirring tribute to retiring Yankee Derek Jeter as one of the hallmarks—the season doesn't get really interesting, even for baseball lovers, for at least another month.

However, there are a couple notable events that are worth the sports fan's attention and effort. First of all, the WNBA has taken to branding itself the “Summer Break” of basketball. While condescending in at least one light, the All-Star Game was played just last weekend, with the East winning in overtime. The story behind the game-winner by Tamika Catchings is worth it even for a casual fan: While Catchings had been ruled out of the WNBA season until July 5, she was still voted into the game by fans and hit the crucial layup. The highlights package of the game includes a look at one of the most surefire locks as a future star in the league—All-Star Game MVP Shoni Schimmel. It even features the circus shot in the 4th quarter with 3 minutes remaining that everyone should be—but probably isn't—talking about.

Don't simply satisfy yourself with tracking your next fantasy football team or counting down to baseball's playoffs; enjoy some of the sports that are happening right now.

Meanwhile, many Americans still feel the sting of having cared about soccer once a quadrennium. And that oh-so-familiar defeat doesn't hurt any less for being so consistent. So Grantland has published a handy guide on how to continue being a soccer fan in America. This is especially useful so we can hope to avoid another spate of articles in approximately three years and 300 days about how this is finally the World Cup where soccer breaks through in America. The MLS may not have a team in New Mexico, but the PDL does—and there may be some exciting news from the Albuquerque Sol FC coming up soon.

Last but not least, it's never too early, especially in a self-billed fishbowl town like Albuquerque, to think about collegiate sports. With Cameron Bairstow signing a contract to play on the Chicago Bulls with fellow ex-Lobo Tony Snell, there's plenty of reason to believe the Lobos will continue to push out great talent. And the Lobo football team looks to continue their upward swing.

Don't simply satisfy yourself with tracking your next fantasy football team or counting down to baseball's playoffs; enjoy some of the sports that are happening right now.

sports

The Summer of Our Discontent

In the bleakest of sports times, there may still be reason to cheer

U.S. women's soccer team
U.S. women's soccer team

This is the worst time to be a sports fan. 

Late June to early August has always been a tough time. There are years when we have the Summer Olympics to get us by. There's a brief respite for the Tour de France, although it's lost some of its luster recently. And yes, I am excited about both the upcoming Women's World Cup as well as the 15th WNBA Season. But there's no denying these are dark times.

The NBA, NFL and NHL are all done with their seasons. MLB, for those who care, hasn't really picked up any steam yet by this point in the season. But most importantly, for now, the two behemoths of American sports, basketball and football, seem to be on a collision course with no righting in sight. 

The NFL is already locked out and the NBA appears to be heading in that direction. As though sports fans weren't already mired in what is traditionally the worst time of the year, that slog is now compounded by the fact that it might stretch on even longer.

There's already been extensive coverage of why this is happening in both of these leagues, so for now, let's focus on the positive: There are reports that the NFL sides might be close to reconciliation. The NBA can learn from this NFL experience and perhaps avoid actually locking out. 

But even more importantly, we can shift our focus from those leagues to the alternatives. The aforementioned Women's World Cup features not just a strong U.S. team, but a hungry one. The Tour de France, free from those Americans that some claim the French love to hate, might have a chance to stand on its own, as opposed to being hounded by the WADA for violations; focusing on the actual sport and its real winner could prove to be a successful formula. And the WNBA is becoming a refined product on its own, not merely the little-sister-league of the NBA.

The WNBA is trying to make summer–the ironic winter of sports–its time to shine: By celebrating 15 years of existence, the league gets to simultaneously advertise its product as well as remind viewers that this league is no longer an experiment. Love it or hate it, the WNBA appears to be here to stay. The human aspect of sports is really what captivates people, and the inclusion of fan voting on the top 30 WNBA players of all time seems a great place to start.

Bicycling Magazine says that of the 200-plus riders who will take place in this year's Tour de France, Chris Horner and Levi Leipheimer, two Americans, are some of the most worthy riders to watch. Perhaps America will once again have riders come from seemingly out of nowhere to challenge for the yellow jersey, enabling us to focus on the sport and the will of those who participate. 

The Women's World Cup, taking place in Germany, presents a similar opportunity for the American women to take on the shadow that's been hanging over their program–in this case, for the last twelve years. In 1999, Brandi Chastain sealed a victory for America with her iconic penalty kick and celebration, but Team USA has been mired in mediocrity since then. The U.S. is ranked first in the world currently but needs to perform in order to maintain the enthusiasm that is beginning to dwindle. 

So while the millionaires of the NBA and NFL fight with their billionaire owners, take some time in this traditionally dark period to try to get back to the great storylines that make us truly care about sports.

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