If the months of March, April and May are the hottest and most active for sports fans, given the NHL and NBA are in full playoff mode, and March Madness is about calling in sick and watching four weeks of non-stop basketball, then the months of June, July and August, before the NFL gears up for its season, has to be the loneliest. I call it the dry months. For those three months basketball is only pick-up at the local courts, hockey is a forgotten sport, and CFL football is a tease.
I ride this sports rollercoaster of peaks and valleys every year, retreating to my office every evening and weekends starting in March, abandoning family and friends for the comfort of my television. Any channel will do. Sometimes any sport will do. And then every summer, somewhere in mid June, I emerge just in time to reclaim my family and friends.
I cannot get into tennis because I cannot hit the ball. Baseball is too slow, and this year the steroid scandal has done nothing to get me back in my den. Soccer has never been fun for me, and golf, well let’s just say the ball is way too small and I never hit a ball that didn’t like a left or right turn.
This last year, with the NHL lockout, the predictable NBA playoffs, and baseball’s steroid scandal, I was never so aware of the dry months until last Saturday when I came home from work and flipped on the television: hockey is back.
The universe is right again.
It is like that at Concordia. The Concordia Stinger football and hockey teams are making front page news in school papers, while rugby, wrestling and other sports are receiving proper headlines and getting their due. Then, in early October, with the annual Nike Basketball tournament at Concordia gym, it is like turning on the television: Stinger basketball is back.
For alumni basketball fanatics who like the closeness of the game, Saturday nights at the Loyola gym, cheering on a Stinger’s team, that by no means should be taken for granted by the rest of the league, is like revisiting the old days.
October is when I love walking into the Loyola gym and watching the women’s and men’s basketball team workout. In 1990 I would often get to the gym for the free time at noon, and be lucky enough to get into a quick two on two pick up game with some of the players.
That was the year the men’s team strolled into the Nationals in Halifax and won it all. We were gold that year. New head coach John Dore found a way to get the very best out of his players. One young reporter covering the Stingers said that the players would run through a brick wall for Dore if they were asked to.
When Keith Pruden, now in his 11th year as head coach of the women’s team, arrived on the scene, many understood that this man was here for the long run. Since that time, the women’s team has always been a contender. Interviewing Pruden after a Stinger win, I was taken by his praise for his player’s performance. I was equally struck by how he shouldered the responsibility for a team loss.
As the years rolled by and I played less and graduated, I still walk into the Loyola gym every October with the same enthusiasm.
Nothing about Stinger basketball has changed. Both the men’s and women’s teams are holding try-outs, a mix of veteran, sophomore and potentials thinking about getting to the Nationals in March. As the first tournament comes and goes, and the games begin, many fans cannot seem to get enough.
Basketball is back… until March anyway.