Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Waiting part of game for fans

I will spend today waiting. That's how I'll spend tomorrow, too. And other than writing this column, that's how I passed the time Monday.


Drumming my fingers on the desk, checking my watch, counting down the hours until normalcy returns.

The Major League All-Star game is terrific. The All-Star break? Terrible. Three days when a summer routine is shattered, and nothing steps in to fill the void. The sports world just comes to a halt.

Sports fans are notorious creatures of habit, but we're becoming increasingly accustomed to waiting. We waited 115 minutes to see a goal in Sunday's World Cup final. Now we must wait four more years to see another. We'll wait for just about anything: seasons to start, trades to occur, suspensions to be issued, LeBron Jameses to sign.

We always get through it, and we'll survive this lull, too. In the meantime, here's my list of the eight most excruciating waits in all of sports:

8. The No-Doubter Booth Review.

I'm not talking about instant replay of calls that could go either way. Those lulls actually can be enjoyable, as fans debate amongst themselves what the ruling should be. No, I'm talking about the obvious calls that you can make with your naked eye from the 60th row. Some desperate coach throws a challenge flag, and 60,000 fans wind up suffering as the official tries to act like he's performing due diligence. Each time they show it on the big screen, it gets more obvious -- and annoying.

7. The Star Player's "Indefinite" Suspension.

Make up your minds, authority figures! Tells us whether it will be four games, six games, a year, whatever. We realize our guy's a criminal. We can handle the punishment, but we have to know what it is first.

6. The Period Between the Moment Your Team's Coach or Manager Proves Beyond a Reasonable Doubt That He Deserves to be Fired and the Moment he Actually Gets Fired.

This can last days, weeks, months or even years. UVa fans recently endured this with Al Groh, Orioles supporters with Dave Trembley. Everybody knows he's gone ... eventually. In the meantime, the losses pile up and otherwise loyal fans find themselves hoping things get bad enough to expedite the change. Never fun.

5. The National Anthem Performed By Somebody Who's Trying to Get Discovered Rather Than Honor His or Her Country.

Had to make the list. For the last time, you Whitney Houston wannabes: Spare us the remixes.

4. The Last-Ditch Series of Timeouts.

You know the scene: A visiting college player hits two free throws to put his team up three points with 0.1 seconds remaining. Instead of your team inbounding the ball and getting it over with, your coach burns a timeout, confident he can draw up some miracle half-court bomb. You know better, of course, but you just can't bring yourself to leave. So you wait. And then your guy can't find any open teammates, so he calls another timeout. More huddling. More scheming. More waiting. Then he fires the inbounds pass into the third row.

3. The Ridiculously Unnecessary Bullpen Move.

Orioles interim manager Juan Samuel pulled this one the other day (which might explain why he's "interim.") Situation: Two outs, bottom of the ninth, nobody on base, Orioles leading Boston 6-1. Will Ohman, who entered the game with one out in the inning, has just struck out J.D. Drew on a 2-2 pitch. Game's all but over. Regardless, HEEEEEEEEERE COMES JUAN! Yep. He wants the righty.

2. The Line for the Stadium Restroom.

Pretty self-explanatory. Luckily, we males don't encounter this problem often. But that fact -- coupled with increased beer consumption at sporting events -- merely makes it more devastating when we do.

And finally:

1. The Period Between Your Bubble Team Getting Ousted From Its Conference Tournament and Selection Sunday.

Ask Virginia Tech fans -- this one gets worse by the hour. It's bad enough that you must spend days reviewing the schedule, looking at the missed opportunities your team had to lock up a bid. But inevitably, small-school players who couldn't even dribble a week ago suddenly start draining 40-foot shots to claim at-large berths, becoming the toast of every hoops fan in America but you. Meanwhile, Joe Lunardi -- whom you've spent months following and enjoying as he's gradually come to respect your squad -- sprouts horns and a tail, and you curse him as he yo-yos your team in and out. By the time the broadcast starts, you're too nauseous to enjoy it. "This," you think, as yet another school that's not yours pops on the screen, "is almost as brutal as the All-Star break."

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