Why the next 4 weeks are the best of the sports calendar

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By ALEX PUTTERMAN
College Contributor Network

Many sports fans think March is the best month on the athletic calendar. Baseball is on its way, the NBA and NHL seasons blaze forward, and of course the NCAA Tournament arrives in all its glory.

But March's sports superiority is up for some debate. Someone less enthusiastic about college basketball might prefer April, when the MLB schedule starts for real, along with the NBA and NHL playoffs. A football fan might choose October or January, depending what other sports he enjoys most. Credible arguments exist for enough months to make "what is the best sports month?" a highly contested question.

But months are a social construct (ok fine, not really), after all, and they should not restrict the debate over the best stretch of the sports calendar.

Because the next four weeks, from Thursday, March 19 to Thursday, April 16, form undoubtedly the greatest month-long period of the year.

The NCAA Tournament's opening weekend serves as the primary reason some sports fans rank March among the best sports months. With game after thrilling game tying us to our couches from noon to midnight for four straight days, these 48 games together compose maybe the best sporting event of the year.

The following weekend - which features the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 - is nearly as exciting, with the opening rounds' persistent chaos replaced by a tamer slate of higher-quality games.

The second half of March is so thrilling, it's a shame the first part of the month (with conference tournaments but not too much else) doesn't keep up. If only we could transpose the first half of a different month onto the second half of this one...

Oh hi, April!

Those first two weeks of our fourth month are packed with sports. You've the high-stakes climax of one sport's playoffs plus the hopeful commencement of a season and the hectic denouement of two more. The whole circle of athletic life packed into two weeks.

Major League Baseball's season starts April 5, an occasion that (perhaps tritely) is said to symbolize hope and possibility. For baseball fans, the start of the season, even more than the World Series, feels like a holiday. The NHL's schedule wraps up April 11 and the NBA season concludes four days later. That means battles for the final playoff spots, maneuvering for seeding, debates about end-of-year awards and building excitement for the playoffs. The Final Four completes the circle, with the high-stakes climax of the college basketball season.

This end-of-March/beginning-of-April period is spaced well, with drama carefully rationed to maintain viewer pleasure. The NCAA Tournament gives way to the start of baseball season just on time, and once we're complacent with pitching mounds and batters boxes, the NBA and NHL grab the headlines.

No other four-week stretch - confined to a single month or otherwise - can compete with this one. The end of September and beginning of October are baseball-heavy with a dose of football but don't have a headliner like March Madness. May and June feature the NBA and NHL playoffs, dragged down by a less exciting slice of the baseball season and lacking all college sports.

The best challenger to March/April supremacy might be the four weeks that follow Christmas, beginning with a festive lineup of NBA games and continuing through college bowl season and the NFL playoffs. But in the end that's too one-dimensional. If you don't like football you won't enjoy the turn of the calendar.

Between March Madness, the beginning of baseball and the wrap-up of professional hockey and basketball, the current spring stretch offers variety to go with its undeniable quality. There's no other time like it.

So enjoy the next four weeks because you won't find four better ones until next year.

Alex Putterman is a junior Journalism major at Northwestern University. He recently finished a term as Daily Northwestern sports editor and continues to cover Wildcats sports. He has a wide range of interests but loves baseball above all.
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