If you’re a sports fan, today is one of the great days on the calendar. During the afternoon, Major League Baseball begins anew with its traditional Opening Day festivities across the nation. As midnight approaches, NCAA men’s basketball bids its farewell in this year’s Final Four with a stirring national championship matchup.
If you’re a dog, all you know is both of these sports use a ball, and that’s all that really matters.
Like all dogs, our rescue pup, Rocky, loves chasing his beloved tennis ball all over his backyard. Part Italian Greyhound, Rocky loves running laps like Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt while carrying the ball like Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch. Beast Mode, indeed.
But Rocky takes his love of sports further than many dogs, joining his sportswriter daddy on the couch to take in games big and small on the living room television. So like millions of Americans, Rocky will be locked in today –- when he’s not talking sports with his buddies around the water dishes at his daycare.
There’s plenty on the line for Rocky today. Not only does it mark the first game of the 2015 season for his beloved Boston Red Sox — the team he adopted after he was adopted himself to his forever home just 15 miles south of Fenway Park -– but there’s also the matter of the NCAA Tournament, the men’s as well as women’s games.
As you may recall on this very website, Rocky picked Wisconsin to win the men’s national championship on his bracket. While roughly half of all tournament bracket selections on ESPN.com had Kentucky as the eventual winner, Rocky, naturally, picked an underdog, and went with Wisconsin. As we also explained, one of Rocky’s best friends at his daycare is a Corgi named Badger, so Rocky went with the Wisconsin Badgers, and now he’s one win away from looking like the genius he already believes he is.
If one national champion isn’t enough for Rocky, there’s Tuesday night’s women’s championship. When your daddy is the former UConn women’s basketball writer for the Hartford Courant, and the team nickname is the Huskies (!), there’s really not much to think about at bracket time.
But watching sports with Rocky is not as simple as wrapping him in his favorite Red Sox fleece on the couch and handing him the remote. There are rules that must be followed and traps that need to be avoided. Here are Rocky’s tips for enjoying watching sports on television.
Rocky is as mixed breed a dog as you’re going to get. He’s an Italian Greyhound. He’s a Chihuahua. And, most important when it comes to TV watching, he is a Jack Russell Terrier. As such, he has that whole herding thing wired into his DNA, and that makes him more likely to be stimulated by moving objects on the television than, say, a hound.
Nothing says moving objects quite like a sporting event. Rocky can sit on the couch and watch football and basketball for hours, as the images on the screen flitter back and forth. You know what sport Rocky has no interest in? Golf. Sure, this week is the Masters, but if you’re a good master, you’ll understand the lack of motion in a golf tournament is a turnoff for your dog.
Speaking of football, Rocky’s daddy and mommy can spend an entire Sunday watching nothing but football. Red Zone Channel? We beg for it like a delicious treat. Part of our motivation is our love -– in my case obsession –- with fantasy sports. Susan and I play in the same league, and I enjoy my daily fix on FanDuel.
All that competition and, shall we say … financial opportunity, can lead to moments of extreme frustration when one of your running backs fumbles or your wide receiver drops a sure touchdown. That frustration usually leads to another f-word. And that is a no-no for Rocky.
Like fireworks on the Fourth of July, f-bombs uttered in the house scare poor Rocky half to death. Let one fly around him and the ears go back, the eyes go white, the tail flips wildly and he begins to tremble. Maybe it’s the sound of the word itself, or maybe, most likely, he understands the underlying anger behind it. Dogs certainly do read body language, and Rocky is as tuned-in as any dog out there. So we have learned to express ourselves in different, less-vocal ways, to a bad play. Personally, I get up and walk into the kitchen until I’m over it, then come back, usually with a treat. All it takes is one salmon stick and Rocky forgets what all the fuss was about.
Whether watching sports or some other show, we have to be careful when certain images appear on the screen. Dog commercial? Gotta change it. The Geico Gecko? Change it. Elephants, screaming goats, Budweiser Clydesdales? BARK BARK BARK!!! It’s really bad in the living room, where the TV hangs from the wall. Rocky believes these creatures are really in the house. As a puppy, he would go into the room behind the wall where the TV hangs, expecting the image he saw to actually be in there.
But there is also a sport that sets Rocky off. It’s a sensitive subject. You see, Rocky’s favorite toy in the whole wild world (of sports) is his tennis ball. Loves it. Carries it around in his mouth all over the house. Even taught himself his own trick of putting the ball on his back, spinning around and catching it in his mouth in the air as the ball flies off him.
So you can just imagine when daddy puts Wimbledon or the U.S. Open on the screen. “HEY, THAT’S MY BALL!” He can’t for the life of him figure out how Roger Federer got his hands on it, but he’s not happy about it.
Thank god Rocky isn’t obsessed with his football.
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About the author: Jeff Goldberg is a freelance writer in Quincy, Mass. A former editor for MLB.com and sportswriter for the Hartford Courant who covered the University of Connecticut’s women’s basketball team (Huskies!) and the Boston Red Sox, Jeff has authored two books on the UConn women: Bird at the Buzzer (2011) and Unrivaled (2015). He lives with his wife, Susan, and their rescue pup, Rocky, an Italian Greyhuahua/Jack Russell mix from a foster home in Tennessee, hence the name Rocky (as in Rocky Top).