Interesting time of the year

It’s an interesting time of the year for sports fans.

As I write this, Major League Baseball is enjoying its All-Star break, the NBA Summer League is going strong, college and professional football teams are prepping for summer practice, and the dead period for high school sports is over.

Neighbors, business is about to pick up.

It was an interesting first half of the season for Major League Baseball. Well, interesting if you’re a fan of the Arizona Diamondbacks or Milwaukee Brewers.

It’s been a concerning first half for Cubs fans to say the least.

The defending World Champions limped into the All-Star break with a sub-500 record. They have the best manager and front office in baseball as well as a world of talent. I still say they need one more front line starter and they will do fine.

Most of their starting rotation showed some age and/or fatigue in the first half. The big bats did not produce and some — or perhaps most of the reason — is youth. There are no old men among the position players.

I still think the Cubs will win the division but if they don’t, big deal. This is a team that was pretty much left for dead by July for the majority of every year since 1945 with few exceptions.

If you think I’m overly disappointed with their performance this year, guess again. They still have a pretty good opportunity to turn things around. And they still have the nucleus of a very good team for years to come.

On to the NBA Summer League. Let me save everyone a great deal of time and trouble: Lavar Ball — blah, blah, and blah.

If people really want to make Lavar Ball go away, make him president and general manager of the New York Knicks — it seems to work for everyone else.

SEC Media Days are taking place this week as we get geared for college football. While every team is a contender in July, the focus should be on who might have the hottest seat in the conference. Kevin Sumlin at Texas A&M and Bret Bielema at Arkansas probably led the pack in that regard. At least they have the excuse of playing in the same division as Alabama.

Hugh Freeze got Ole Miss in all kinds of trouble with the NCAA. He too plays in the same division as Alabama and even though he has beaten the Crimson Tide, he still can’t seem to get his team into the SEC Championship Game.

And yet, his seat isn’t nearly as warm as that of Butch Jones. I’ll make this prediction: If Tennessee finishes third in the SEC East, he will have to fight to keep his job. If by some fluke he finishes fourth behind Kentucky, a rather large vapor trail will follow him out of Knoxville.

Is it too soon to start the Lane Kiffin back to Tennessee rumor?

Before we get too far upfield with this let me say I am a lifelong Kentucky fan. I do not believe the preseason hype. I think the Wildcats might get back to a bowl this season but I refuse to believe they will challenge for a division title or even third place.

It’s not that I don’t want them to win. I would love to see them shock the world and win the East. It’s just that I know the history of Kentucky football and how quick they have been historically to crush the hopes of their fans.

Only the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs have left more fans so bitterly disappointed on a consistent basis.

The NFL is getting ready for a new season. Maybe this year they can actually have a Hall of Fame game.

And finally, high school sports are about to begin.

Blood, sweat, tears, the popping of pads, angry outbursts, threats of violence — and that’s just the people watching practices.

Imagine what the players and coaches are going through.

High school golfers will soon open their season while football, cross country, volleyball, and girls’ soccer are starting their summer practice.

These kids — and coaches — work hard. I encourage you to support them. It’s easy to cheer for them and share a good word when they’re in full uniform under the lights or at a meet.

It’s something else when they labor in the heat under the eyes of only their coaches and teammates.

Now is when they need encouragement the most.

This is the time they learn life lessons from sports — don’t give up, it will get better. They need to hear that message at home as well as on the field, the court, or the course.

The fun is ready to begin and I am looking forward to it.