Why October is my favorite month in sports

Jeff Birchfield • Oct 12, 2018 at 6:21 PM

Whether you like football, basketball or baseball, or your interests are geared more toward NASCAR or hockey, there is no doubt that October is the best month in sports.

My three favorite sports are auto racing, basketball and football, although this is a time of year where local sports writers get to embrace sports as diverse as cross country, golf, soccer and volleyball. Wrestling is also starting at the high school level, while there is always plenty going on with the local boxing and mixed martial arts scene.

As for my favorite sports, this is the time when NASCAR is closing in on a championship, and this weekend the tour goes to Talladega, which is usually the wildest race in the playoffs. Sunday's race is even more intriguing than most years with the news that seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson and his crew chief Chad Knaus will be parting after 17 years.

His teammate, Chase Elliott, is the only driver locked into the next round of the playoffs after winning at Dover, meaning there is so much incentive for others to race hard.

In recent years, Team Penske has dominated Talladega with six wins in the last eight races. So, the trio of Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney have to be considered the favorites. It is, however, a track where the unexpected often win and may be the best shot for a driver like Alex Bowman to advance to the next round of the playoffs.

Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch still have to be the favorites for this year's championship, but the racing over the past couple of months, which in my opinion featured great races at Bristol and the Charlotte Roval course, have certainly made things more exciting.

Another of my passions is college football, and this season has been so much fun covering the ETSU football team alongside our sports director, Joe Avento. The Bucs are off to a 5-1 start and I'm headed to Charleston, South Carolina, on Saturday to watch them take on The Citadel.

Win or lose, the Bucs have gotten off to their best start since 1999, although those facts are always deceiving with the program dropping football from 2003-15. Coach Carl Torbush deserves a lot of credit in getting the program re-established, and obviously Coach Randy Sanders has taken the ball and run with it.

Beyond our hometown team, I'm much more a college football fan than a NFL fan. I love the pageantry of the college game and my favorite pre-event show for any sport is ESPN's College GameDay.

While there have been hard times lately for the University of Tennessee, it was a great experience to cover the Vols’ win over the Bucs in the first meeting of the two programs.

Even with the Vols' struggling, I still love the sport and also became a Clemson fan years ago. I worked in the Anderson, S.C., area for about a month with General Shale Brick and made a number of visits to the Clemson campus.

Even when there isn’t a team I’m rooting for, I enjoy the matchups like Thursday night's game between Texas Tech and TCU. I will sometimes pick up late games on the radio with the Pac 12 Conference teams, making a better drive home.

It's hard to beat the rivalries of college sports, and so many traditional matchups are in October including Texas vs. Oklahoma, Florida vs. Georgia and Tennessee vs. Alabama.

The NBA tips off this week and for this Lakers fan, there is hope for success with LeBron James now playing in Los Angeles. However, I'm much more of a college basketball fan with the University of North Carolina basketball team my favorite in any sport.

This season could be frustrating with Kentucky and Duke, yes, my most hated team, projected to be the top teams. Still, I love that anticipation before they tip off next month with the Tar Heels having some great early season matchups with Stanford, Texas and either Michigan State or UCLA.

Locally, it should be another exciting year for ETSU, who at one time last season owned the nation's longest winning streak, and for Tennessee, who could challenge Kentucky for SEC supremacy.

For me, this is a time to reflect and be thankful that I truly get to work in an industry I'm passionate about and to be able to share my love of sports with other people.

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