The Extra Point: The Dying Embers

The balls, bats and jerseys are being put away for another year as the Ohio State athletic calendar winds toward a close for the 2007-08 season. Staff writer Jeff Svoboda pens an ode to the time that just passed, as spring is always a sad time for those Buckeye fans who find the time between now and late summer to be hard to fill.

Oh, the irony of college sports.

Spring in Ohio is a universal time of rebirth. After a cold winter, the sun comes out, birds sing and Ohioans flood out into the nice weather to enjoy their favorite pastimes, whether they are grilling, golfing, canoeing or any other activity that provides fun in the sun.

Spring is also a time of rebirth in sports. Late March and early April bring Jim Nantz-apalooza with March Madness and The Masters as well as the NCAA basketball tournament, events that bring the sports calendar, according to many, out of the post-NFL and college football doldrums.

Yet when it comes to the college sports calendar, March Madness really is the end of the line when it comes to amateur athletics in the mainstream consciousness.

Sure, the College World Series will dominate ESPN in June, though the overall profile of that tournament pales in comparison to that of its big brothers in football and basketball. And yes, there are a number of spring sports on the docket, and astute Ohio State fans have been able to find their baseball, softball and track Buckeyes on the Big Ten Network while the men's lacrosse and volleyball teams had cameos on ESPN to end their fine seasons.

But to keep the seasonal metaphor going, those sports are like the changing of the leaves during the fall, a sign that it's time to enjoy the good times while they last before college athletics go away into hibernation.

This weekend will be the first without intercollegiate athletics on the Ohio State campus during 2008; the last competition staged at an Ohio State facility came last weekend when the Scarlet Course hosted an NCAA men's golf regional. Baseball closed up shop at Bill Davis Stadium May 13; softball's Buckeye Field was shut down for the final time before a massive renovation April 30; the men's tennis squad hit both the indoor Varsity Tennis Center and outdoor Stickney Tennis Center while hosting NCAA play May 10-11.

Even the practice fields at football's Woody Hayes Athletic Center facility are dark now that spring practice ended in late April. For someone who loves the atmosphere of live athletics competition, it's a bleak scenario.

While a few programs are still in action in postseason play, such as the men's tennis and rowing Buckeyes, that action will take place in locales far away from Columbus. The action on the Ohio State campus officially has drawn to a close, just as it does every spring.

It's hard not to find myself getting wistful when this time of year comes around. Although it will be great for this writer's social calendar and overall stress level to not have athletic events to cover every day, there will be a big part of me that misses the competition that takes place almost each and every night from August through May.

Each year, the last couple of trips to an Ohio State athletic venue strike me as events to be cherished. As the writer of Buckeye Sports Bulletin's Briefs section in the print publication, I am the guy who makes trips every so often to watch the non-revenue sports. Come spring, that means some time in Buckeye Field or Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium to check out programs like softball and lacrosse.

As I get out of the car to each venue, usually the warm-up music hits the ears and sights of the teams practicing lay out before the eyes. As I approach the gate and take in familiar faces, there is a real feeling that I will truly miss the spirit and the atmosphere during the summer.

But it's an annual rite of college athletics to watch the calendar turn, just as it's a custom to see off players after their four or five years are up. It seems like the upcoming season, which will be missing longtime standouts and familiar names like football player Kirk Barton, wrestler J.D. Bergman, baseball player Dan DeLucia and volleyball player Danielle Meyer, will be a little less rich than those before.

Of course, as summer heats up, there are plenty of ways to pass the time. Camps and recruiting will continue to make headlines, and the football team's preparations for what should be another run at a national title will be a big story. There's always something going on when it comes to Ohio State athletics, even if it's not on the field, and will be there every step of the way. And once August does come, it comes with a bang because of the Scarlet and Gray gridders.

But that seems so far away. Ironically enough, the rebirth of spring is nearly over in Central Ohio, with temperatures continuing to rise and June in the offing. In contrast, when it comes to the Ohio State athletic calendar, the leaves almost have all fallen from the trees. August can't come fast enough.

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