All due respect to Joni Mitchell, but hearing the song "Big Yellow Taxi" in the summertime always has me flashing back to summer camp in northern Illinois in the late 1980s and one of my hippie counselors strumming it on an acoustic guitar while making us sing along off-key. It's not one of my favorite memories, but it’s not a bad one, either. Yet today, on the first day of summer, I woke up with it in my head as I began to think of what the Cleveland Cavilers accomplished last night, what it means, and what we're in the midst of.
It's hard to really stop and smell the roses, but 2016 is filled with great sports stories even while the nightly news is usually bad and the election season makes us all feel dirty. And even after we lost two of the greatest ever, Muhammad Ali and Gordie Howe, this has been a great year for sports fans, and the best news is that it's probably going to continue all the way into the winter.
Embrace it, because we rarely have it this good.
Just a quick recap of the big things that happened before hometown boy LeBron James brought his city a championship for the first time in over half a century: NHL enforcer John Scott was voted by the fans onto the All-Star Game despite the league’s protests, and went on to win the game's MVP; The Denver Broncos won the Super Bowl and let Peyton Manning go out on top; the Villanova Wildcats won the NCAA Men's championship in stunning, buzzer-beating fashion, while the UConn Huskies women's team continued an unprecedented streak of total domination, going undefeated on their way to a fourth straight championship; Kobe Bryant dumped 60 points in his last game; the Golden State Warriors historic regular season; Leicester City shocked the world by winning the Premier League Championship; the Pittsburgh Penguins won another Stanley Cup; Dustin Johnson won the U.S. Open, and that’s really just scratching the surface of what we've seen over the first six months of the year.
What's next to push things forward? The USA's play in Copa is promising, The Olympics start soon, Brock Lesnar returns to UFC competition, the U.S. Open should be interesting, and Jim Harbaugh and Nick Saban's war of words means this should be a pretty entertaining NCAA football season even though Michigan and Bama don’t play each other. And have you seen the Chicago Cubs? They seem to have a new guy coming up every week that can compete at a big-league level as the Northsiders march toward the playoffs, maybe a pennant and possible (God willing) World Series.
And that doesn't even take into account the NBA, NHL, and NFL seasons starting back up again in the fall. Basketball's off-season promises to be an interesting one for free agents and trades; Peyton is gone from football, Brady might be out a few games, Cam and the Panthers will probably come out playing like monsters after the humiliating loss in the Super Bowl, and really anybody could end up winning the Super Bowl in February of 2017.
So what to make of all of this? Simple: we're in the middle of one of the truly great years in sports history, and the best part is that it's only June and that the future is wide open. Embrace it, because along with LeBron's redemption in Ohio, Sidney Crosby shutting up any critics who said his name doesn't belong among the greats finally proved he's no longer "The Next One," but The One of his generation, there's probably more to come. Those two stories alone, nearly a week apart, make this one of the more memorable months; but it's the entire year that's one long buffet and everything looks good.
There's a lot wrong with sports, but we get to read about that all the time. Yet one thing the team owner or the athletes who get paid a whole bunch of money to play games we grew up playing in our backyard or driveway can't do for us is tell us to shut up and enjoy it. A year from now you might look back and hear that damn Joni Mitchell song in your head if you don’t spend some of the year savoring sports in 2016.