By DJ Gallo
Special to Page 2

July is one of the greatest months on the sports calendar. There are major happenings such as the All-Star Game and the opening of NFL training camps, but also high-profile events in "secondary" sports, including Wimbledon, the British Open and the Tour de France. And this year we have the World Cup final, too. It's fantastic.

The only problem is that many people go on vacation in July and miss everything.

That's why I decided to run through all the events on tap this month so you can mark them on your calendar and plan your schedule accordingly.

You're welcome.

July 4 -- Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog-Eating Contest: Coney Island
Nothing speaks more to the wealth and hubris of the United States than holding an eating competition on our Independence Day. What's that, Sudan and Somalia? You all don't have enough food? Well, we've got so much that we actually compete to see how much of it we can shove into our mouths. And then, when it's over, we puke it up. It's wonderful. You all should really jump on a plane and get over here and enjoy some delicious hot dogs. We have plenty for everyone.

Oh, by the way, don't ever invite Takeru Kobayashi to your Fourth of July cookout. I made that mistake once and the dude went through all the hot dogs I grilled in less than five minutes, which meant there were none for anyone else. Plus, he didn't even bring the potato salad he promised to make. Jerk.

July 7 -- Running of the Bulls: Pamplona, Spain
The Running of the Bulls has lost some of its allure for me in recent years. I mean, once you've seen one guy get gored through the neck and carried 50 yards down a Spanish street by a one-ton animal, you've seen them all.

So this year I've joined a Running of the Bulls fantasy league to make it more interesting. You pick one bull and then accumulate points for gorings, tramplings, deaths and total time to complete the course. Deaths get the biggest points, of course, so I'll really be rooting for a lot of those. The winner receives an all-expenses-paid trip to Pamplona to kill, butcher and eat his draft pick. It's a pretty cool prize, really. More fantasy leagues should offer it. At least those that aren't keeper leagues.

July 7 -- My birthday: celebrated the world over
That's right, I've decided to become one of those writers who thinks you actually care about his personal life. Feel free to get me whatever you want to for my birthday, but I'd really like it if you buy me some Isiah Thomas popcorn. It's so delicious because Thomas overpays for all of his ingredients. He will not be outbid!

But if you don't want to get me Isiah Thomas popcorn, feel free to pick something from my Amazon.com Wish List.

July 8 -- Wimbledon women's singles final
If your plan for this Saturday is to wake up early and take in some "Boobfest at Wimbledon," don't bother. Tournament organizers have decided to crack down on cleavage-revealing tennis outfits this year. (Next year they want to eliminate fun, and the year after that, joy.) Perhaps Wimbledon officials have decided the male, 14-34 demographic isn't all that desirable anymore. Not sure if their advertisers will agree, but -- hey, more power to them. And maybe Wimbledon is onto something. Many sports could benefit from cleavage bans. The PGA Tour, for instance.

July 9 -- Wimbledon men's singles final
A win by Roger Federer would give him four consecutive Wimbledon singles titles, matching the best run of Pete Sampras' career. That would be just the latest connection between the careers of two great players whose games are eerily similar, right down to their ability to stifle anything resembling a personality or what could be interpreted as normal displays of human emotion.

July 9 -- World Cup Final: Olympiastadion, Berlin, Germany
Most people assume I'm Italian because of my last name, but I'm not. My last name is actually Slovakian. I remember thinking as a kid, though, that there must have been some mistake in charting my family ancestry and that I probably really was Italian. But then, when I was 8 or 9 years old, I started playing soccer; and on the first day of practice, only a minute or two after it started, a kid brushed into me ever so lightly while I was doing a dribbling drill. Just a light bump. The thing was, I didn't immediately drop to the ground and start screaming and wailing and rolling around in the grass as though I had fractured both of my femurs or dislocated my shoulder. It was then that I knew for sure that I wasn't Italian.

July 10 -- Home Run Derby: PNC Park, Pittsburgh, Pa.
Hopefully the following will save some time for the research team of Mr. Chris Berman. The nearby towns to which home runs in the derby will be hit are: Altoona, Johnstown and Erie; Morgantown, W.V.; and Youngstown, Ohio. A particularly long blast may even go "back, back, back ... over the three rivers all the way into the mighty Mississippi! That one's going to the Gulf of Mexico!"

July 11 -- All-Star Game: PNC Park, Pittsburgh, Pa.
So the American League is approximately 378-4 against the National League in interleague play this year and is far and away the superior league in every conceivable manner of measurement. Yet if the National League can pull out a win here in this exhibition game, the NL's representative will have home-field advantage in the World Series. All I can say is: well done, Mr. Selig. It's a rare person who will stick with his awful idea long after it's been proven awful. You remain steadfast. And because of that, you are an inspiration to us all.

July 12 -- NBA free-agent signing period begins
The NBA free-agency period has already begun, but July 12 is the first day teams can officially sign and announce free agents. So don't fear, Hornets fans. This means team management has nine days to sober up and call off its five-year, $64 million deal with Peja Stojakovic. Don't blame the Hornets. It was a holiday weekend and they got a bit drunk and went crazy. But it's nothing that can't be fixed. I'm sure by next Wednesday they'll remove their beer goggles, roll over and see that Stojakovic stopped being hot about three years ago.

July 20 -- First day of NFL training camps
The Cleveland Browns are the first to open their rookie camp, beginning July 20. And I really pity the Browns' rookies because they get hazed worse than rookies on any other team. From what I hear, it goes down like this: On the first day of camp, all the first-year players are gathered together in a dimly lit room with no windows and no ventilation. Then several veteran players come into the room and lock the door behind them. They ask for everyone's attention and then -- now here's where it gets bad -- say to all the rookies: "Welcome to the Cleveland Browns. You are now a Cleveland Brown." Ouch. Laying that kind of reality on someone can almost be classified as cruel and unusual punishment.

July 23 -- British Open, final day
This year's Open will seem a bit odd because it's the first one in decades without Jack Nicklaus. Diehard Nicklaus fans might want to skip the live coverage and just watch one of the many DVDs about the Golden Bear's great career. And if they're lucky, they might even find one that doesn't have Nicklaus' voice on it.

July 23 -- Tour de France, final stage
Many people think cycling is about simply getting on a bike and pedaling faster than anyone else. But it's not. There's a lot of strategy involved. For instance, figuring out a way to be the only rider not busted for blood doping so you can ride the final stage of the Tour de France unopposed.

July 30 -- Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony: Cooperstown, N.Y.
Bruce Sutter is the only major league player getting inducted this year and -- nothing against the retired reliever -- but no one is regaling their grandchildren with stories of watching Bruce Sutter play. And if there is such a person, he deserves to be given a "World's No. 1 Most Boring Grandpa" T-shirt. And then forced to sit through Bruce Sutter's Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

July 31 -- Baseball trade deadline
The Yankees and Red Sox likely will be buyers at the deadline, as always, but also look for the Royals to make some moves. If the American League can win the All-Star Game, the Royals will have home-field advantage in the World Series laid at their doorstep -- which is plenty of motivation for them to turn it around and make a push. A team simply can't squander such an opportunity! And it will all be thanks to the genius of Mr. Bud Selig.

DJ Gallo is a regular contributor to ESPN The Magazine as well as the founder and sole writer of the award-winning sports satire site SportsPickle.com. He also contributes headlines to The Onion.




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