Sports Events Calendar and Results

NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs April 12 - mid-June. The most thrilling playoff season in all of sports is underway. Toronto fans finally, finally have a quality young team to be excited about. Though defeated in the first round, Toronto's future looks bright. The Detroit Red Wings didn't make a playoff appearance for the first time in a quarter century.

Tour of California May 11-20. The women race May 11-14 and the men race May 14-20. If you watched both the women's and men's Olympic races this past summer, you know women's racing is as eventful and entertaining as men's. Props to the ToC for hosting and publicizing both. In 2016, American Megan Guarnier finished first and Kristin Armstrong was second overall. The miles paid off: Armstrong won a third consecutive gold in the women's time trial in Rio. In men's racing, Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe won overall. Brent Bookwalter, born in Albuquerque, NM, was third while Australian Dennis Rohan placed second. World road champion Peter Sagan fittingly crossed the line first on Day One, while Mark Cavendish finished first on the final day.

Giro d'Italia May 5-28. In 2016, German sprinter Marcel Kittel won a couple stages and the honor of wearing the leader's pink jersey - the first German to do so in 10 years. Shortly thereafter, Kittel dropped out of the race - common for sprinters planning to compete in the Tour de France. Vincenzo Nibali won overall for a second time. Eugert Zhupa, the only Albanian in the Giro, finished the race a second consecutive year.

Tour de France July 1-July 23, departing from Dusseldorf, Germany. In 2016, Alberto Contador dropped out at the end of the first week, unable to recover from two of the 2.7 average crashes a Tour de France cyclist suffers. Sprinters Mark Cavendish and Peter Sagan both wore the yellow jersey for the first time in their careers, and Sagan won the overall green jersey competition a fifth consecutive time, of course. Unlike any year in Tour de France history, all 198 cyclists were still in the race at the start of Stage 8, which concluded with Chris Froome earning a lead he would keep to the end for a third time. Adam Yates, countryman of Froome, earned Best Young Rider overall and initially after Stage 9, despite an inflatable road banner spontaneously dropping into his path as he raced to the finish on Stage 7. Eritean Daniel Teklehaimanot, who wore the polka-dot jersey for a day in 2015, finished the classification 28th, while Rafal Majka won the polka-dots overall. Australian sprinter Chloe Hosking won the women's stage of La Course.

Vuelta a Espana Tour of Spain, August 19-September 10, departing from Nimes, France. Sweet justice of sorts, Nairo Quintana finished first over Chris Froome in 2016 - a flip-flopping of the Tour de France results.

2017 World Series (baseball) October. The Cubs beat Cleveland on 2016, severing Chicago's role in: "The combined championship drought for the two teams playing for the championship is 176 years, by far the most in the history of American sports." [FoxSports.com]

Spring Training baseball, baby! Late February - March in AZ (Cactus League) and FL (Grapefruit League). Again the A's beat the previous season's World Series champion, the Cubs, in a Spring Training game. In 2016, the A's beat the champion Royals, then tanked the regular season. Bets on a pattern?

The Masters (golf) April 5 - 8. Sergio Garcia finally won the elusive major on his 74th start, besting the field at the Masters in 2017. Lucky for him, it happened just in time to wear the green jacket for his wedding. The secret to winning at last, according to Garcia, was "believing." He said he also felt a calmness that hadn't been there before.

32nd Annual Tour of the Gila around Silver City, NM, April 18 - 22. Congrats to Tayler Wiles for winning overall in 2017. Scroll down to see photos of podium boys! In 2016, Kristin Armstrong competed as part of her Olympic training, and earned the Stage 3 time trial win. In 2008, Chris Horner told me about the Gila, "It's always well done. You're at altitude, too. It's a really well put-on race and a great little city."

World Cup 2018 (futbol) June 8 - July 8 in Russia, although the Swiss are investigating that award as well as the bid Qatar won to host the 2022 Cup, after six top FIFA officials were arrested May 27, 2015. The FBI alleges corruption by FIFA in the form of money laundering and accepting bribes and kickbacks for media and marketing deals. Included among the six arrested is the official who runs the US region. In a blast from the past positive side note, U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard was fantabulastic in 2014, breaking the record for most saves in a single World Cup game. Italy was defeated in a controversial game that included biting (bad, bad Luis Suarez). The 2014 World Cup champion was Germany.

Summer Olympic Games 2020 August in Tokyo. Under economic, political, environmental and Zika epidemic pressures, along with a fast deadline for global federations to decide which Russian athletes could complete, the 2016 Rio Games proceeded with expected glitches, but success overall. Just before her 43rd birthday, American cyclist Kristin Armstrong won a third consecutive gold in the women's time trial, but Peter Sagan was unable to recover from two mechanical failures to medal in mountain biking. In wet conditions, the women's cycling road race was a nail-biter, as was the men's. US swimmer Simone Manuel won four medals, including two gold and two silver. Katie Ledecky earned five medals, including four gold and a silver. Michael Phelps won more medals duh), and the "Final Five" (the next team will be four) US women gymnast team medaled as expected.

SportsSlant Book Club

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed, 2012

The Sportsman: Unexpected Lessons from an Around-the-World Sports Odyssey by Dhani Jones, 2011

Boy Racer by Mark Cavendish, 2010

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, 2009

OPEN An Autobiography by Andre Agassi, 2009

The Agony of Victory: When Winning Isn't Enough by Steve Friedman, 2007

Gimp: When Life Deals You a Crappy Hand, You Can Fold - or You Can Play by Mark Zupan, 2006

Lance Armstrong's War by Daniel Coyle, 2005

Downhill: The Life Story of a Gravity Goddess by Marla Streb, 2003

Bobke II by Bob Roll, 2003

Not by Accident {Reconstructing a Careless Life} by Samantha Dunn, 2002

The Punch by John Feinstein, 2002

Zamboni Rodeo: Chasing Hockey Dreams From Austin to Albuquerque by Jason Cohen, 2001

Tropic of Hockey: My Search For the Game in Unlikely Places by Dave Bidini, 2000

Open Net by George Plimpton, 1985

Movietime

Concussion - arguably the most serious issue of the NFL, well-told.

Moneyball - more than a baseball movie (though it does that well), it's about reassessing life decisions, challenging priorities, and acting on intuition.

Bull Durham - minor league baseball, way funny

Half the Road - entertaining, informative, intelligent documentary about the state of women's professional cycling.

The Triplets of Belleville - animated cycling, unique

Breaking Away - oldtime cycling drama

American Flyers - oldtime cycling drama

Mystery, Alaska - pond hockey vs. the NHL, humor

Fight Club - "No fear. No distractions. The ability to let that which does not matter truly slide." Certainly not for everyone, the first 3/4ths of the movie is a highly entertaining, thought-provoking, cultural commentary with some brutal street fighting mixed in.