While basketball and hockey started at different times, there is a small sense of comfort and normalcy, as poisonous as those words can become, in the return of the February doldrums. The Sunday after the Super Bowl is always a comedown. The parades have been had, such as they were this year. Campaigns have worn off. They’re just there.
We spent five months building to the biggest event on the American sports calendar, and then it’s over and it’s just a vacuum. An icy, grey vacuum in most places. NBA or NHL Sunday afternoon games don’t really center the whole week the way the NFL does, which is why it’s king.
The speculation about next season has begun, but free agency is still a few weeks away. The NBA and NHL are still miles away from their playoffs, and even though they’re not even halfway through their seasons (NBA) or a quarter (NHL), the buzz of the start of their seasons has worn off.
So you get a conference final rematch of the Nuggets and Lakers last night, and it feels like it should be a whole thing. But it isn’t, because both teams know that at this time of year, there isn’t anything that’s a whole thing. Although you get a moment like this from LeBron. Or the other one in the 4th quarter where he blocked a shot and then ripped a 30-foot bounce pass to Alex Caruso. Even when he’s in third gear LeBron will give you that.
Or you get a game between two of the best teams in the NHL: Colorado and Vegas. Except Colorado hasn’t played in two weeks, and they each have 35+ games left, so it’s kind of a nothing-burger 1-0 win for the Knights because the Avs are without several of their weapons who are on the COVID protocol list.
Or a renewal of the NHL’s defining rivalry of the past decade in the Caps and Penguins kind of just floats through the ether. It’s why the NHL is putting up their made-for-tv Not Winter Classic next weekend with four teams playing outside on the 18th fairway of a Lake Tahoe golf course. It’s some kind of spike in the nothingness, just to rouse anyone on the couch.
Maybe that’s why spring training is still eagerly anticipated for so many, even if 80 percent of MLB isn’t trying and is thoroughly uninteresting. We’re all buried in snow and polar vortexes (even in Texas!), so we just all want to see something on our TVs or laptops that looks like it might bring light to someone. When you can’t get your Vitamin D, you’ll pretend it comes through a screen of any kind.
For some reason, I saw that Hubie Brown was trending on Twitter earlier. Every time this happens now your heart skips a beat, but then you see that all it is is people who at first thought the same as you did, and other people talking about how awesome that person is. And Hubie is the best, and it was all stemming from Hubie being all that he is on another national broadcast yesterday.
So with nothing going on, I’ll share this tidbit. My father, a huge basketball fan, would tell you one of his best accomplishments was the voicemail greeting he did as Hubie Brown on his home phone. He left it on there for no less than seven years. Luckily, I still have it memorized.
“The young man is not home. What does this mean? WHAT YOU DO is leave a backup communication. This is the only way you accomplish your goal, of scoring contact.”
It’s how I got this way.