Springing forward

Raheel Ramzanali: 5 things I’m excited about in April

Villanova should make the Final Four entertaining. Elsa/Getty Images

October always gets the headlines for being the best sports month, but lowkey, April is making a solid push. Here are the 5 events (Spoiler: I feature no NFL related events so if you’re an NFL sheep, please move along and spare me the “NFL is king!” crap) I’m excited about in April and why it makes this month the best in the sports calendar:

1. NCAA Final Four April 1

Technically the Final Four starts in March on the 31st, but the title game will be on April 2 so this is an April event. Don’t let dates interfere with this being the marquee event in April. This will decide the World Champion of College Basketball and put to bed all of our crappy brackets. This year is also special because we get two different types of matchups in the Final Four: The Cinderella story with Loyola Chicago and the heavyweights with Kansas and Villanova. Side note: Is Villanova the Clemson of basketball? To be back in the Final Four two out of the last three years and winning it all in the greatest title game ever is starting to feel a lot like what Clemson is doing in the College Football. To me, Final Four weekend is one of the best sporting events to watch and I’m glad we get it in April.

2. NBA Playoffs April 14

 While a champion will be decided in this tournament, it won’t happen for another two months so the NBA gets second place with the playoffs. The official start of the playoffs means we get plenty of important games every single night and locally, we finally get the start of the journey for the Rockets. This has been an interesting season for Houston because they clearly have the best team, but until they beat the Warriors in the playoffs, it won’t feel like a success of a season.

3. Wrestlemania April 8

Skim down, check out the other two. Welcome back. There is no way I’m putting golf or baseball ahead of the single most important entertainment event of the year, Wrestlemania! Is that Ronda Rousey beating up on the most powerful woman in Sports Entertainment? SURE IS! I’m sorry, is that the Undertaker dominating in April at Mania? SURE IS! Oh look, here is John Cena getting over again. Get your index fingers ready, because that SURE IS a YES chant breaking out.

4. The Masters April 5

Ugh, the only reason I’m including this on my list is so I don’t have to hear it from my SportsMap colleague John Granato. John is the protector of golf and would spike my alkaline water with molly and percs if I didn’t include The Masters. Total minutes of golf I’ll watch from April 5-8? Probably six minutes. However, I will record every day and play it back in the summer for the ultimate nap background noise.

Baseball opening Day March 29-April 2

Again, don’t let the dates trip you up. Baseball Opening Day might be on March 29th, but it really doesn’t start until our World Series champs receive their rings on April 2 in Houston. The only reason I’m pumped for this is because the Astros will sweep the Rangers to start the season in Arlington and that will be the last time we hear from Rangers fans for the season. The fact the MLB is starting the World Champs on the road just shows you why baseball is so off. In fact, I think next week I’ll write about why baseball messed up by not starting the Astros at home on the 29th.


 

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome