I missed it. Missed the smell of fresh-cut grass, Craig Sager's amazing Technicolor dream coats and the way Diamondbacks hitters struggle to work the count.
I missed Mel Kiper's Transylvania 'do and the Oakland Raiders' NFL draft don'ts. I even missed the Suns missing the playoffs.
Two weeks' furlough. Sniff. Couldn't write about sports, talk to the boss or check my work e-mail. I was forced into an unfamiliar world, one of a contemplative, reflective sports fan instead of knee-jerk, in-the-moment journalist. It stunk. It also gave broader perspective,
and the realization that our local teams should embrace the art of patience.
The Cardinals are a textbook example of that.
I love that Anquan Boldin is still on this team. He belongs on the Cardinals. They scouted him, targeted him and selected him in the second round after every other NFL organization passed over him.
His stubbornness and demands for a new contract and new team would have pushed some owners to the brink. Pride makes one vulnerable to snap judgments. The Cardinals waited it out. They would consider only a collection of high draft picks as worthy trade bait. When that didn't happen, they came to the right conclusion: Boldin is too gifted a player to settle for less.
They waited, too, on releasing Edgerrin James until they were sure they were covered in the draft. They are, with the selection of Beanie Wells in the first round.
When James' gripes against the Cardinals reached a fever pitch, a lot of us said: "Let him go." This club doesn't need any more of that bad karma. The team, however, felt that the $25 million they paid James gave them the right to wait and see whether they could acquire a back that would justify releasing the veteran.
They think they did in Wells, and James should be gone any day.
Patience with Justin Upton will benefit the Diamondbacks, too. After the player was hitless in his first 15 at-bats and started the season 3 for 23, talk escalated about sending him to the minors to work on his swing. After measuring the player's state of mind and shortcomings, management decided the young star would benefit most by working out his swing in the majors.
They may be onto something. He went into Monday's meeting with the Chicago Cubs hitting .444 in his previous three games with two home runs and four RBIs.
And as uncomfortable as this makes all of us, the Diamondbacks exercised good fiscal sense when they delayed signing ace Brandon Webb to a contract extension because of what we now know were concerns by an insurance company over Webb's arm. We learned Saturday that Webb will be out six weeks with a strained muscle in the back of his right shoulder.
They looked bad when they held off on the deal. It wasn't an easy call. Few athletes in this town are revered the way Webb is - and with good reason. He's a gamer who gets results. He is a class act and a perfect face for the organization.
If Webb recovers and returns to form, the team should get moving on that extension.
The Suns can learn from these examples. The cries of blowing up this franchise and sending Amaré Stoudemire and Shaquille O'Neal packing don't make sense, especially because their 2010 first-round pick belongs to Oklahoma City - without lottery protections.
Do you know how many games Stoudemire, O'Neal and coach Alvin Gentry had together last season? Two. And they won both. Don't you want to see what the three of them together can do, especially because Gentry's style is much more Mike D'Antoni than Terry Porter?
It's as O'Neal said after the season: If "we can get the same group of guys next year and start from scratch with the system everyone is accustomed to . . . maybe we can go a little further. This team has a shot (at the championship)."
This doesn't mean you don't build for the future. But you don't ignore the past and its truths, either.
The Coyotes have been an unmitigated flop during their time in Phoenix, and much has to do with the "Friends of Wayne Gretzky" era. But I'll give the organization this: Its decision to finally stick with a youth movement and not go the Petr Nedved, Brett Hull aging-veteran route is the right one. The Coyotes have groomed some quality young players and not complicated the process by mixing in an abundance of past-their-prime free agents. They're patient. Finally.
In a sports industry that screams for instant gratification, letting a plan play out isn't easy.
Often, it's worth the hardships.