THE SPORTS DOCTOR- Just do it: Get off the sofa and into the stands
It's almost over– and not a moment too soon. Note to self: 14 of 16 correct picks on the first day of March Madness guarantees nothing but disappointment and basketball burnout. By the onset of April, I'm thankful for two things: the NCAA tournament is over, and I didn't have to watch much of it on ESPN.
If you remember what it's like to play basketball instead of watch it, April is far from the cruelest month. Aside from the odd golf match on Sundays, which are easy enough to avoid, there aren't enough sports on television to make it worth picking up the clicker. With the sun in your face and the wind at your back, April promises live action. In that vein, here are a few picks designed to remind you that watching sports doesn't require a sofa.
Minor league baseball is the deal to end all deals. Your chance to see a real game for less than you'd spend on a Whopper combo is just a week away. The Lynchburg Hillcats, A+ affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates, play their home opener on Thursday, April 9. If you can make it to Calvin Falwell Field, you'll have the chance to see the biggest prima donna in baseball after Manny Ramirez.
Pedro Alvarez will start the season as a Hillcat, but don't expect him to be there for long. One of Sports Illustrated's 10 US players to watch, Alvarez was second overall in the MLB draft and agreed to a $6 million minor league contract with the Pirates on August 15, 2008.
About a minute later, he refused to sign the contract, and MLB placed him on the restricted list. In September, Alvarez negotiated a $6.4 million contract that put him in Lynchburg at third base. But chances are he'll move to the AA Altoona Curve within the month.
If your sports preferences require more noise and speed than minor league baseball can provide, the Richmond International Raceway has slashed prices for its May 2 Cup Series. At $40-$55, tickets are 25-50 percent cheaper than they were last year. Not only will you be able to see Jimmie Johnson bump his competition and hear fans cheer Junior to another 14th—no, make that 16th– place finish, you can park free on Raceway property and bring your own food and drink into the grandstand.
For some of us, $40 is still pricey, but think of all the money you can save by bringing your own Fritos to the race. It's almost a deal.
If bloody noses are more your speed, there's boxing to be had in Virginia. On April 11, Bedford's own light heavyweight Scott Sigmon faces off against South Carolina native Toris "The Bull" Brewer at the Lynchburg Armory. Sigmon– known as "Cujo" to friends and foes– has a 5-1 record with 2 KOs, call Brewer a "bum," and claims his 14-2 record with 6 KO's is "inflated."
Conversely, the Bull vows he's not coming all the way to Lynchburg "to get whipped." A mere $25 ($55 for the front row), buys not only Cujo and the Bull, but several other fights, including a bout between Charlottesville's "War Time" George Rivera and former IBO champion Michael "The Godfather" Corleone.
Don't forget about UVA's lacrosse team, the most viable of all Wahoo athletics. Fresh off winning the longest game in NCAA Division I lacrosse history, the number one-ranked Cavs play a few more games before starting the ACC tournament on April 24. Do you really want to miss a chance to see UVA emerge victorious on the field? It happens so seldom, it's surely worth the $7 general admission.
Of course, April isn't just a time to get out and watch sports; it's also the time to get out and play a few games. Pick up a bat, put on those running shoes, dust off that bike.
Dare I say it? The days are even long enough for a little twilight golf. The end of March Madness marks the onset of real life, thank heavens. Toss that bracket into the rubbish bin where it belongs and practice your own free throws– or yell at an actual person rather than the television for once– it's April!