With the St. Louis Hawks stuck in a parallel universe, pro basketball fandom in town has been at something of a low ebb since the middle of the 1960s. But it's time to face facts: The NBA Finals Schedule for 2011 has come out, and people are going to be talking to you about it for the next three weeks, since the NBA Playoffs go on seemingly indefinitely. From May 31 to June 14 the Miami Heat will be checked for every sign of choking, or overconfidence, or whatever else we can foist upon LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and the other guy; the Dallas Mavericks will be held up as America's team every time Dirk Nowitzki shoots one of those unblockable fadeaways, just like he did in the driveway back home in Würzburg, where his father made him a backboard out of old David Hasselhoff records.
For informational purposes, here is the schedule for the NBA Finals, should it go to seven games:
Game 1: Tue May 31, 8 PM (Miami)
Game 2: Thu June 2, 8 PM (Miami)
Game 3: Sun June 5, 7 PM (Dallas)
Game 4: Tue June 7, 8 PM (Dallas
Game 5: Thu June 9, 8 PM (Dallas)
Game 6: Sun June 12, 7 PM (Miami)
Game 7: Tue June 14, 8 PM (Miami)
This means you could have a maximum of seven nights during which you'll have to find something else to do, not to mention seven days where you'll be best off not watching anything on ESPN. Which is not exactly news. The Rams are locked out, and the Blues are just out, so your best local bet is the Cardinals, who happen, luckily, to be a fun team to watch at this moment. Assuming you watch them whenever they're on TV, you'll be covered every day except the following:
May 31: The Cardinals are playing the San Francisco Giants an hour earlier than usual, for a 6:09 start time. The good news is you'll miss the pregame folderol that comes with the first game of any series; the bad news is that if the pitchers are sharp enough—and lately, they have been—you'll still have a lot of basketball left by the time the game is over. And heaven forbid if the Heat and Mavericks are playing a close game and decide to trade fouls.
Elsewhere on TV you'll have new episodes of America's Got Talent and the socialist-realist pomp and circumstance of The Voice on NBC, if you like that sort of thing. U.S. Marshals is playing on AMC, if you liked The Fugitive but weren't really all that into the character of The Fugitive.
June 5: The Cardinals are playing a day game! Abort mission! The good news is that if the Chicago Bulls had reached the NBA Finals this game—nationally televised, against the Cubs—would have been even tougher to watch.
June 12: Another day game, this time in Milwaukee. Maybe you should road trip up to Milwaukee and catch this one live; the six-hour drive back to St. Louis should be enough to exhaust Game Six of the Finals, and in the meantime you can check out the Milwaukee Art Museum, which looks like a spaceship from the first version of TRON.
It's hard work, especially with LeBron James around for the national media to hate lovingly for two weeks, but with a little work and a devoted attachment to the St. Louis Cardinals you, too, can successfully avoid the 2011 NBA Finals. Follow that schedule closely.