The first Monday in April is always the most bittersweet day on the sports calendar for me. On the one hand, there's the NCAA National Championship Game, which means that after tonight we'll have to mothball college basketball all the way until November. Since Illinois (and the rest of the Big Ten, for that matter) failed to get to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, this period off is going to seem extra-long. It also doesn't help that after the ousting of George Mason, this NCAA Final has almost no buzz going for it. Anyway, I always harken back to the oldest adage in sports that defense wins championships. In this case, the formerly high-flying UCLA has morphed into a bruising Big Ten/Big East-type team with suffocating defense. Florida has the athletic advantage, but I believe that the Bruins' D will slow the game down similar to their regional final game against the super-athletic Memphis team. It will be an close and ugly victory for UCLA. Honestly, I'm just waiting for the "One Shining Moment" montage, which is the ultimate capper to any sports season (although I didn't see last year's rendition since I was being talked off the ledge after having my heart crushed in the Illini loss).
On the other hand, it's Opening Day in baseball and the White Sox have begun their World Series title defense. I didn't stay up until 2 am to watch the end of last night's Sox opener, but it's great to see Jim Thome's hot bat in spring training carry over into the regular season. This is probably the most excited I've ever been for the start of baseball season. For my entire lifetime as well as the lifetimes of several generations of Chicagoans, the White Sox have come out of every offseason with tons of questions marks following a disappointing season. However, the Sox erased all of those years of misery with their stunning World Series run last season and an offseason that strengthened the team even more. I don't take much pleasure in how the Sox have become the dominant favorite to win the World Series again this year (I want to avoid the Sports Illustrated jinx at all costs), but it's a whole lot better than going through the motions of a 162-game season without anything on the line.
Picking only one of baseball, basketball, or football as my favorite sport is pretty much impossible – that would be like asking a father to pick one of his three kids as his favorite. Every one of those sports has aspects that I love (my wife notes that I always have a sport to watch with deep interest, so my complaints about one of the seasons ending falls on deaf ears). Suffice to say, saying goodbye to basketball (I'm not counting the Bulls here since even if they make the NBA playoffs, they're practically guaranteed to be swept by the Pistons – I won't have much more interest in the NBA after that occurs) while saying hello to baseball makes this a day of mixed emotions.