It’s a great summer to be a sports fan.
Memorial Day is here and, with it, the unofficial start of summer, a glorious season of cutting out of work at 3:30 to hit up outdoor happy hours, day drinking while playing golf and braving hours of traffic and the mass of humanity that heads east (or west) to the beach, a loud, overcrowded place that forces you to lather up with oil to sit on trillions of tiny grains of sediment that make it hard to eat, drink or hold a conversation without getting sand and suntan lotion in every crevice of your body, iPhone and/or Kindle, all because society and beer commercials have forced you into believing that sitting on a shoreline near a continent-spanning body of saltwater provides some sort of cathartic release intended to relax you as you take a break from normal life. But anyway, here are some sporting events to watch this summer while you’re hopefully avoiding the beach and sitting poolside instead:
Indianapolis 500/Coca-Cola 600/Monaco Grand Prix (May 29) – The greatest racing day of the year. It kicks off in the morning (at least here in the States – 8 a.m. ET) with the famous Grand Prix that winds its way through the historic, luxurious streets of Monte Carlo and La Condamine. Few other events in sports provide better views than when the F1 circuit hits the Mediterranean coastline.
The Indy 500 is next up, just after noon in the East. Did you know the Indy 500 has been blacked out in central Indiana for the past 66 years? The blackout has been lifted this year because organizers reached some sort of mythic 350,000-ticket barrier, so for the first time since 1950, race fans in Indianapolis who aren’t at the race (and that has to be, what, like seven people?) will get to watch live. Also this is the 100th Indy 500, not that you care.
NHL Stanley Cup Finals (May 30) – Yeah, the hockey season is still going on. When I initially listed all the events, I had a colleague glance over it to see what I missed. We forgot to add the NHL Finals not once, but twice.
NBA Finals (June 2) – If the Warriors aren’t in it, the Thunder should buy ad-time on ESPN and show Kevin Durant reading that hilarious “the Warriors are the smartest franchise in the history of franchises” piece from The New York Times Magazine.
Copa America (June 3-26) – For the first time ever, the 100-year soccer tournament that features 16 teams from the Americas, will make its way this side of the equator. Ten U.S. cities will play host to the event, with 32 games in total. The U.S. will play three games in the group stage (June 3 vs. Colombia at the 49ers’ stadium; June 7 vs. Costa Rica at Soldier Field and June 11 vs. Paraguay at The Linc in Philly) plus the quarterfinals (if they make it) and hopefully beyond. Lionel Messi and Argentina are favored to win the Cup, which will be awarded June 26 at MetLife Stadium. Brazil gets the second-best odds, while the U.S., Chile and Colombia are contenders as well.
French Open finals (June 4-5) – Can Novak Djokovic get the Grand Slam he’s been so close to winning over the past five years, thus capping a historic career Slam and becoming the first man since 1992 to win the first two legs of the Grand Slam? (Given the nine Coupe des Mousquetaires he’s got in his back pocket, it’s stunning that Rafael Nadal never pulled off that feat. But that one time he won the Australian Open in 2009 was the lone time he lost the French in his prime.) Can Serena Williams find her footing after two straight Grand Slam losses? And what sort of crazy on-court antics will a Frenchman perform during the men’s final?
Belmont Stakes (June 11) – The Nyquist-Exaggerator showdown was going to lead to a rarity – a Belmont Stakes that didn’t have a Triple Crown on the line but was still must-see TV. Then Nyquist was pulled meaning you won’t need to be Googling “what time does the belmont stakes start, no, not coverage, but what time do the actual horses start racing” on the second Saturday in July.
U.S. Open, golf (June 16-19) – Can Jordan Spieth repeat? In what way will Phil Mickelson choke away the tournament? Will Oakmont show its claws? Is Tiger Woods going to make his much-anticipated comeback, shoot a 77-79 and then earnestly tell reporters “I’m close.”
NBA draft (June 23) – You know when a player stays in school so long that scouts, bored with the whole process of following a guy for four years, start finding things to criticize? That happened to Ben Simmons in the span of one year. Look, I have no idea how much to take away from the fact that Simmons’ LSU team was dreadful this season. But I do know there’s at least a little to be taken from that.
U.S. Olympic trials (June 23 – July 10) – Though trials in some sports took place as early as last September, the main events (gymnastics, swimming and track) go down over a 17-day period about a month before the Games. Trials are the most underrated shows in sport. The tension of dozens of athletes vying for spots on an Olympic team they’ve been training for most of their lives leads to unbelievable, goosebump-making competitions. The U.S. swimming trials, in particular, where only the top two finishers get Olympic berths, even if the third-fastest swimmer could contend for a medal in Rio, is particularly riveting.
Wimbledon (June 27 – July 10) – Will Roger Federer come back strong and make another run to the finals to chase that elusive 18th Slam? Is a Maria Sharapova comeback in the offing? Will Djokovic be chasing a Slam? Will Rafael Nadal play? Is eating grass pescatarian?
Tour de France (July 2-24) – There’s one key question in the post-Lance era of the Tour de France: Can you make it through the three weeks of the Tour de France without hearing a single thing about the Tour de France?
UFC 200 (July 9) – Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones 2, the light heavyweight title bout, is the main event following 10 undercards in the 200th event from the MMA kings. Jones won the first meeting via unanimous decision after a long lead-up that included a press conference brawl.
MLB All-Star Game (July 12) – The only All-Star game worth a lick. Is it stupid that the winning league gets home field in the World Series? Sure, but it’s no more ridiculous than alternating home field between the league, like the format before that infamous tie. And it’s not as if trying to compare the record of a team in a solid NL division versus that of a team in a weak AL division is apples to apples either. I like the twist – but only if MLB changes the rules to allow for free substitution.
British Open (July 14-17) – It is simply The Open. Everyone in sports should know this and respect that it is the oldest and best of all the Majors in Golf. Always has been, always will be!
Baseball Hall induction ceremony (July 24) – Two of the most popular players of their era will have their plaques unveiled in Cooperstown this year. Ken Griffey Jr., who earned the highest percentage of votes in HOF history (but was left off three of 440 ballots because baseball writers can be a ridiculous lot), and Mike Piazza, who got in on his fourth year on the ballot, will be the inductees. Meanwhile, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are still pulling in less than 50% of the vote.
PGA Championship (July 28-31) – There are 67 days between the end of the Masters and start of the U.S. Open. In a span of 42 days starting on that Thursday at Oakmont, the final three majors of the year will all be played. Thanks, Olympic golf tournament no one is going to.
XXXI Summer Olympics (Aug. 5-21) – The world’s greatest athletes, and some divers, descend upon Rio for the greatest event in sports.
WWE SummerSlam (August 21) – BROOKLYN! The WWE heads back to the Barclay’s Center for its annual summertime brawl, in what will surely be a confusing moment for hipsters who won’t know whether to be ironically dismissive of the event, ironically interested in the event or ironically ignorant to its existence.
U.S. Open, tennis (Aug. 29 – Sept. 12) – Take all the usual storylines and add this one to it: Will Puffy once again sit in Novak Djokovic’s player’s box, alternating yelling “take that, take that” and singsonging “Bad Booyyy!” while Andy Murray’s on-staff linguistics professor comes up with new curse words that won’t get him fined.
And then, just when you’re lamenting the end of summer by wearing white and prepping for Labor Day, the college football season kicks off, with the NFL opener – that sweet, sweet NFL opener – a few days later. And from there, it’s only 108 shopping days until Christmas.