Tuesday, May 5, 2009

May Is When Summer Blockbuster Season Starts

In the entertainment world, May is huge.

In TV there are the May sweeps, which is basically the period when networks put on their sexiest programming to try and steal extra ratings points. May is also the end of "pilot season," when new shows are being finished up that will be the big fall premiers (and then get cancelled within three shows).

In the movies, of course May is the start of the big summer blockbuster season. They kicked it off last Friday with X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which is the epitome of a summer movie: huge budget, huge star(s), huge action, part of a series (whenever possible), with an open ending in case it does well, so then can make more. They aren't looking for best picture Oscars this time of year, just ticket sales. Wolverine was a really fun movie even if they completely missed the boat on a better explanation for why he he had lost his memory prior to X-Men, and on the post-credits cliffhanger (I won't mention either till next week to avoid the spoiler). Next up is Star Trek and I don't know about you, but I am going on opening night (tonight) in a Darth Vader costume to make the nerds' heads explode. Seriously though, Star Trek + J.J Abrams = me happy.

Sports, which is merging more and more into the WWF world of sports-entertainment it seems, also hits its stride in May and then gallops through the summer at a torrid pace.

NBA Playoffs - The NBA playoffs actually begin in April and don't end until 2011, but no one really cares about the first round unless a series goes seven games anyway. Coincidentally, the second round starts and the seventh games of the first round series are all in May. The stink of games being fixed is still all over the NBA, with Monday's Rockets win over the Lakers being no exception, but fans don't seem to care. There is so much personality and so much intimacy in the league because there are fewer players on the field/court than any of the other major sports, and there is no hat or helmet to hide them. It is a stage and so many of these guys are performers, besides being athletes. I am losing interest more and more every year though. Maybe its the ubiquitous tattoos, or the thug personae, or the fact that the playoffs take 3 months, or the fact that my team is never playing, or the fact that games are fixed and the refs will not allow the Lakers to miss the NBA Finals this year, or the fact that the first 44 minutes of every game are generally irrelevant.

I have decided though, that I will root for Orlando. For two years I have held it against Dwight Howard that all he does is dunk (leads the league every year) and that he won the dunk contest on that famous Superman dunk, but it was a layup and shouldn't have counted. But after his Game 1 win in Boston, he gave the perfect interview: he said all the right things, stayed humble, said he was upset that they didn't play better, etc. He made his serious face for two straight minutes, but he couldn't hold back his goofiness. Right at the end, he broke character and said with a child's smile, "But I did come up with my wrestling name tonight...'Black Magic.'" He doesn't strut and pose and make "I'm angry" faces like Kobe Bryant. He doesn't taunt and showboat like LeBron James. He's just a happy guy who happens to be perhaps the best player in the world.

NHL Playoffs - A day after a triple overtime thriller in which an 8-seed (who just knocked off the team with the league's best record) beat a 2-seed on the road to even the series, the league's two best players faced off and each threw in a hat trick, sending their game down to the wire. The NHL playoffs are clearly the best postseason in sports and they come to shine in May. The regular season is all-but forgotten though and you wonder if they might be better off just playing a 20-game regular season, then a World Cup-style round robin tournament that would lead to the Stanley Cup playoffs starting the day after the NCAA Tournament ends, and finishes right at the start of the NBA Playoffs.

Horse Racing - Yes, people pay attention to horse racing in May. The Kentucky Derby, which is always the first Saturday in Many, is the official summer-sports kickoff. And in years when the favorite wins the Derby, the sport truly shines. It may be the only sport where an upset means certain doom for event organizers. How pissed are the people at the Belmont that the Derby winner was a 50:1 shot that wasn't even scheduled to race in the Preakness because it was silly to put him in a race of that length. Goodbye Triple Crown for 2009.

Tennis - The men's Grand Slams have been pretty spectacular in the last few years, as we watched Rafael Nadal scratch and claw his way up onto the pedestal with Roger Federer (and possibly push Federer off?). Their rivalry has grown into historical proportions in the sport and with a lot of young talent nipping at their heals, men's tennis seems to be hitting a renaissance. Women's tennis has a ton of stars but no one to really carry the crown right now, which makes for interesting Grand Slams because unless the Williams Brothers, I mean Sisters, decide to dominate everyone, it is anyone's game.

Golf - Alright, maybe the Masters is the official kick-off of the summer sports season, but it is in April and that is clearly Spring and doesn't help my premise here, so I ignored it. With Tiger Woods back, and back at a high level, the question of whether you would bet on him or the field is back in play, and that makes for exciting golf...OK, it makes for watchable golf, but still only on Sundays at the Majors.

Baseball - It isn't the postseason, but May is the time when pretenders start to be sifted out and we get a truer sense of who are the real deals for the fall. The Padres had a fantastic start, but have lost 6-in-a-row as May rolled in and are out of the race. Florida once had the longest winning streak and largest lead in the game, but are now just .5 game up on the field and falling. Contenders are showing their faces, and don't tell them that games in May don't matter (especially Rick Ankiel's face, which is still indented into the outfield fence from last night). The Dodgers and Cardinals are on fire, the Phillies, Mets, Red Sox and Angels are waking up, and we even have some surprises that are making bids to be the next upstarts to go the distance (are K.C., Toronto, and Seattle really still leading in the A.L.?).

NFL - Despite being months away from the actual season, the NFL makes news year round. Be it the new draftees coming to camp and fighting for spots, or the commissioner (who I am liking less and less despite his hard stance on discipline) taking a bid from London for the Super Bowl, which he previously said the league would look into, and that they had no interest in. Or the debate over the Commish suggesting we throw quality of play, competitive value, player health, and the entire record book out the window to cash in on two extra regular season games.

Cycling - With the sport's crowning event (but contrary to popular belief, not their only event), the Tour de France still two months away, Cycling is still pretty much off of the everyday sports-fan's radar, but with Lance Armstrong back in the field this year, and multiple Americans being presumptive favorites, news from the grand tours of Europe will make it onto Sports Center this year and the sport's profile will be higher than ever in America (just look at how huge the Tour of California was!). Incidentally, why don't we translate the "de" in "Tour de France?"

Other sports, like soccer and car racing probably have big events right now and certainly must in the summer, but since I don't care about soccer unless I know the players personally or it is the U.S. National Team, and car racing isn't a sport, I won't bother looking into those.

No comments: