Written by Justin Surber
As every sports fan knows, we are fast approaching one of the best times of the year – the NHL and NBA playoffs both begin next month, kicking off an eight-week smorgasbord of high-level, high-intensity games on a near-nightly basis.
To those among us without a significant other, welcome to one of the benefits of single life.Please enjoy watching game three of the Hawks-Bucks series, and keep your audience in mind at work tomorrow when excitedly telling us about Al Horford’s put back with less than a second to go. To those who are lucky enough to have a partner who enjoys it as much as you do – enjoy the third overtime of Caps-Islanders, and just get on with it already.
But for the rest of us, once the calendar turns to April, it is time to begin preparing our delicate dance -watching as many playoff games as humanly possible, while somehow not driving our partner to re-think whether our companionship is really worth the trouble.
As with most things in life, the key is preparation. First round playoff pairings are finalized around a week ahead of the first games in the NBA, but only days ahead in the NHL. This time must be spent wisely, prioritizing what series to focus your time and energy on, while not wasting precious relationship capital on snoozers. While charts and graphs are optional, their value cannot be overstated. For efficiencies’ sake, I will use my own categorization method, but keep in mind this is a highly subjective scale, organized from least-to-most important:
The relationship-builders: Maybe your guy or gal wants to go see Batman v. Superman, have dinner with friends or family, play a board game or really, do anything but watch another damned game. This category is where you build up all the goodwill that you will need later on. Personally, most of the NBA Eastern Conference first round is here: I mean, is watching Toronto-Chicago really worth it? How about Atlanta-Indiana? Use these early-round snoozers to take her out to dinner or play that game he’s really excited about so that when you block off a week to watch every minute of every Spurs-Warriors game, you don’t end up creating a rage monster.
Yes, I’m really staying up to watch this: First, every game tied in the final minute or in overtime automatically jump to this category. I mean, there’s just no such thing as a bad buzzer-beater or overtime goal. Second, any especially-interesting first round series goes here as well. Blackhawks-Kings? Now that’s worth budgeting some time for. A lot of the second round NBA playoffs fall here as well. Clippers-Warriors and Spurs-Thunder are going to be great series with compelling story lines that are absolutely worth the judging looks you’ll probably earn when you try and explain why you can’t go to the in-laws for dinner.
The Finals (or games involving your team): Now we reach rarefied air. If your team is fortunate enough to reach the playoffs, you are duty-bound to watch as much as humanly possible, no matter how painful it can be. The NBA and NHL finals also fall into this category. Two top-level teams slugging it out with the promise of a trophy for the winner? Sign me up. Now this will require some advanced planning, as it is basically three-plus hours almost every night for two weeks. On those rare nights where both finals have an off day, go to dinner with his parents; take her to a cooking class; prepare a candlelight dinner;do whatever it takes to earn enough slack to make sure he doesn’t “accidentally” unplug the cable during overtime of game seven.
Spurs v. Warriors: Yes, this series gets its own category this year. Yes, it is higher on my personal priority list than even the finals. Yes, I’m still serious. Seriously, this is the kind of matchup that maybe happens once a decade, if we’re lucky. You have two historically great teams; teams that, in most any other year would be the prohibitive favorite to win the title…and one of them won’t even make the NBA finals. As of this moment, they have the first and third best regular season winning percentages of all time. It would be like the 1996 Bulls playing the 2001 Lakers in a conference finals. If you’ve ever wished your significant other was more into sports, here is your best shot – basketball being played at the absolute highest level, with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green matching up with Kwahi Leonard and the Spurs monolith. If Steph Curry draining 35 footers and Kwahi’s butter-smooth drives and defense can’t get someone to watch, then nothing will. But you owe it to yourself as a sports fan to not miss a minute; we may never see a series between two teams this historically great again.
So there you have it folks. We’re less than a week away from the playoffs beginning, so it’s time to batten down the hatches and get ready. And don’t forget to enjoy it; after all, it just might be the best six-to-eight weeks of the entire sports year.