Celebrating fall, unparalleled sports season 

I n Chapter 16 of L.M. Montgomery’s classic 1908 novel “Anne of Green Gables,” the orphan Anne Shirley comes home carrying royal crimson maple branches with which to decorate her room. “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers,” she tells Marilla Cuthbert, her guardian at Green Gables.

I too have always felt a particular affection for October. Fall just holds a certain romance, a certain magic, a certain je ne sais quoi. Fall means sweaters and hoodies and pants and jackets. (I’ve always said I look better the more layers I have on.) Fall means hot coffee and tea and cocoa. Fall means pumpkin pie. And pumpkin patches. And pumpkin carving. And pumpkin spice. Fall means sleeping under my comforter again after months of hot, sticky nights (although this year my TH has AC.) Fall means raking and jumping into leaf piles. Fall means we are only weeks away from one of my favorite holidays, Halloween, when I will once again put together a mediocre-at-best costume at the last minute before we carry on the Vassar tradition of being disappointed by the much-hyped festivities. Ah, fall. Breathe it in. I’m so glad to live in a world where there are Octobers.

I say that as a fan of sweaters and hoodies and coffee and pumpkin pie and cozy beds and leaf piles and Halloween, yes, but I also speak as a sports fan. Is there a better season to be a sports fan than fall?

Just think about where we are in the sports world as October begins. For many fans, fall is synonymous with the NFL. (If you’ve avoided the moral cesspool that is football so far, congratulations. I’ve tried, but have not been able to resist sporadic Sunday afternoon check-ins.) With week five approaching, the season has passed its quarter mark. Already, the Patriots have lost their annual early-season games only to—after collective histrionics—shellack a division opponent. Already, Ryan Fitzpatrick has completed the full boom and bust we expect from a Ryan Fitzpatrick season. Already, the young season has produced a slew of season-ending injuries, most notably for Jimmy Garoppolo and Earl Thomas. Football’s back, baby. So is the other kind of football. Across the pond, the English Premier League chugs into matchweek eight. There are storylines galore. Defending champions Manchester City look to be involved in a three-horse race with flashy Liverpool and newlook Chelsea. Once-mighty Manchester United, meanwhile, flounder in 10th place, the club embroiled in a classic Jose Mourinho drama. For an American fan, one of the EPL’s greatest features is the time difference between the east coast and the U.K.; the Premier League rules my Saturday and Sunday mornings this time of year. I can wake up, put on a hoodie, make a coffee and watch soccer until half the day is gone. Bliss.

As the NFL and Premier League hit their stride, the MLB season approaches its climax. After the languid march that is the 162-game regular season, the MLB playoffs have arrived. Playoff baseball is actually watchable, and it is glorious. At last, games mean something. Each pitch could be the season. Managers pull their starters after three innings. Relievers’ arms fall off. Home runs prompt iconic bat flips. Stadiums actually have people in them. Glorious, I tell you.

What’s more, the sports gods aren’t done. No, on top of the NFL, EPL and MLB playoffs, October brings the return of the NBA. The preseason has already started. That’s right, folks, the Association is less than two weeks away from tipping off. I am literally salivating as I type. My Celtics might have the deepest roster since the 1980s; LeBron looks great in Laker yellow; the Timberwolves organization might explode; Kawhi Leonard laughs weirdly but might still make the Raptors a force; Chris Paul’s body is ready to fail him at the most inopportune time. I am wiping the saliva off my keyboard. (Yes, I know, the Warriors are almost certainly going to win again. Don’t ruin this high though, please.) I ask again: With the NFL, Premier League, MLB and NBA overlapping, is there a better sports season?

Let’s quickly look at the other three contenders. Summer we can quickly cross off the list. It is trash.

The NBA, NFL and Premier League are all quiet. The WNBA, MLS and NWSL are all growing and deserve attention, but still can’t generate enough buzz to sustain me. Baseball drags on and on and on and on and on. Watching a three-hour pitcher’s duel before realizing there are 100 more games until the playoffs is a feeling unsatisfactory enough to drive any fan from the sport. If you confused October baseball, with its tension and stakes, for a sport completely distinct from July baseball, I wouldn’t blame you. Summer is a sports desert; just think about how many people watch the Little League World Series. (This year we had the men’s World Cup, of course, and next year we’ll have the women’s tournament, but those take place once every four years and end early in the summer.)

Winter is a decent enough sports period. But the NBA season dulls after the holiday period, reminding us again that an 82-game campaign is too long. Winter also means the midpoint of the European soccer calendar. Winter is fine, just less exciting. The college basketball regular season is boring, and the college football bowl season is dumb.

It is spring that gives fall its toughest competition; spring is championship season, after all.

March Madness gives way to the amazing (although too long) NBA playoffs. European domestic soccer leagues wrap and the Champions League crowns a winner in May. I sometimes even get into the NHL playoffs. And there’s baseball again, of course, the first months of which are exciting until you watch a three-hour pitcher’s duel and realize there are 120 more games until the playoffs. Spring is absorbing, but it’s no fall. Anne of Green Gables knew her sports.

I wonder if the changing weather helps fall’s case. As the weather gets colder and the days grow ever shorter, curling up in front of a game feels just right. In the spring, as the snow gives way to sun, we want to get outside and stretch our limbs after months of hibernation. Or maybe the magic of fall sports comes from the barrenness of the summer before. Absence, they say, makes the heart grow fonder. Whatever the reason, I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.

 

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