I love sports.

I love them so much, in fact, the beginning of the playoffs are typically the most bittersweet days of my year. While I am as excited as the next person about postseason competition getting underway, in the back of my mind I can’t help but register it as the beginning of the end.

When the NBA Finals start, I tell myself, “Well, at most, only seven games left.” The conclusion of the NFL’s Wildcard Weekend means less than a month until football season officially ends. I countdown college football’s bowl games in reverse order, leaving me depressed by New Year’s Day, and you don’t even want to know what happens to me once the NCAA Tournament is no longer an all-day affair.

I do it with every sport I care about. I just cannot stop from looking forward to the bitter end.

The summers are the hardest times for me because I live for the football and basketball seasons — high school, college and the pros. It is about the only time of year I count the days until the new season starts.

From mid June, when the NBA Finals end to late August, when football teams start playing, I get an amazing amount of yard work done, though, and my dogs catch a lot more Frisbees. Although I hate it at first, by mid July, I typically grow to love my relatively sports-free life.

Obviously, working as a sports journalist, I never completely get away from the world of athletics, but my compulsion subsides. The teams I truly care about are not competing and the sports I adore are on hiatus, so I do not devote as much attention.

My world grows to include things I neglect throughout the rest of the year when work and personal passions consume me. I watch movies — something that never usually happens. I travel more, even if it is just to San Antonio to visit family or a daytrip to Austin, where my wife and I lived for a decade.

I get all my chores and work around the house done and my schedule becomes far more flexible because there is very little to compete against.

Its not like I ignore the entire world during the rest of the year, I just have far less time to do things when I’m not consumed by watching games both professionally and recreationally.

Some might say I need to rearrange my priorities, but sports take a high priority in my life. They give me joy, and any free moment I have available to dedicate to my interest will probably be used doing so. I tape games and watch them when I get spare time. I continually read articles on the Internet, and like most red-blooded Americans, fantasy football keeps me awake at nights.

But as much as I love sports, I love taking breaks from them as well. I can’t speak for any high school athletes, but I would assume they feel the same way.

After devoting so much time to their respective sports, once their season ends or the school year concludes, it probably leaves them feeling a bit awkward. Many kids, however, are so devoted to their sport, they will spend the entire summer trying to perfect skills, improve speed and strength or add weight in an attempt to return in the fall ahead of schedule.

I would never tell anyone to give less than 100 percent in order to achieve a goal, but coming from a self-professed sports nut, there is more to the world than just sports. It should be explored, especially during youth.

Hopefully, students use this summer vacation to open their eyes to other interests and outlets for their energy, creativity and ability.

Once teams return to practice and classes resume in the fall, most kids will be spread far too thin to investigate new curiosities.

As painful as it is to go without one’s favorite sports, it is also refreshing, renewing and allows predominately single-minded people like myself to branch out and hopefully appreciate their passion even more once it returns or perhaps find an entirely new one.

But like so many times before, as soon as my favorite sports seasons begin, it will not take long before I start counting the days until they end.

Contact Clay Whittington at clayw@kdhnews.com

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