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Ranking the Top Sporting Events

In Baseball, Basketball, College Sports, Football, Golf, Hockey on March 28, 2011 at 9:12 pm

Sports are a part of the fabric of American Culture. As the years have passed, sporting events have become bigger in terms of the level of competition and fanfare. While there might be great games played on a daily basis, there are certain events that we as fans look forward to each time they come around. These are the events that you call up your buddies to go have a few pops at the bar for. The kinds of events that you expect magic from each year and it rarely fails to deliver.

This list takes the best of the best in sporting events and ranks them on the amount of interest that each garners each time takes place. One thing I need to mention though, this includes both single-game and events as a whole, so it might have a few overlaps. File this under “obvious foreshadowing.” I know this list won’t be the same as everyone else, but it’s my list, damn it!

Before we get to the list, a few honorable mentions. These are in no particular order.

Accenture Match Play Championship
It’s golf meets the NCAA Tournament. The best players in the world all flock to one place and get after each other for five days. What I love the most is the unpredictability. It’s not unusual to see a 16-seed knock off one of the top players and make a run deep in the tournament. It’s also a chance to see some of the players that don’t play much on the PGA Tour, which for golf enthusiasts is a nice thing to see. And it’s a lock that once Tiger gets bumped in the second round, everyone tunes out. That knocks it off the list.

Triple Crown Horse Races
They take place close together each summer and every few years there exists a real chance that the next big horse could win the triple crown. The issue is that, it’s freaking horse racing. There is so much build-up to a race that only lasts a few minutes. Bonus point for the man that calls each race at the track though.

Home Run Derby
What we all love about baseball, the long-ball. To quote a good friend of mine when it comes to baseball, “If I’m going to pay $500 for a ticket, I want to see some ******* Home Runs.” Hard to argue with that, we like offense and we like watching a baseball sail in to the night. This is something I used to get REALLY excited for. I used to love getting excited to see Sosa, McGwire, Bonds, Griffey, etc. go out and swing for the fences. But much like other All-Star Weekend festivities, the stars don’t show up each and every year. And the guy that deserves to win doesn’t win each year (see: Hamilton, Josh).

BCS National Championship Game
Here’s one I bet you weren’t expecting. For a game that gets a month to gain as much steam as the sporting networks will force-feed the American Public, it loses points for the fact that so many people want a playoff system. There’s always some team that claims they got screwed out of playing for the National Title even though they play in a cupcake conference and easy non-conference schedule. This has improved over the last few years, but it never fails to piss someone off, each and every year. Add in that the game has only had a pair of really memorable games, and maybe those people that want a playoff  feel a little bit better at the end of the day.

World Cup
The world’s sport makes its presence felt on American culture once every four years in an event that even I was paying attention to last summer. Plus, it has Tommy Smythe on ESPN for a month straight. Even if you can’t understand a damn thing the guy says, still great TV. What keeps it off this list? IT’S SOCCER. If I want to see a game with no scoring and a bunch of athletes flop around like they just got shot, I’ll dial up Vince Carter or Vlade Divac’s greatest hits. Soccer sucks.

Now to the list.

10. NHL Winter Classic
Hockey in the elements. Rain, snow or shine, they play on. It’s been a revelation for the NHL since it’s inception in 2007. Great sporting venues such as Wrigley Field and Fenway Park have played host to what has become a New Year’s Day tradition. Add in the retro sweaters the players usually trot out and you’ve got yourself a great event. The only downside to this event is that it could become repetitious in terms of the teams that participate. Teams in warm-weather places wouldn’t make any sense playing in this game. Now if only I could manage to not be deathly hung over for next year’s game…

9. World Series
This one was so near to my heart for so long just because it’s baseball. While I still love tuning in to the Fall Classic every year, it is no longer as high on my list as it used to be. Can you remember the last time there has been a World Series that delivered in terms of drama and great baseball? Every Series since 2003 hasn’t been much of a competition. It was refreshing to see two teams that no one thought should be there last year (Brian Wilson helped), but there isn’t enough parity in the game to the point where you feel like anyone could win it each year. I want them to shorten the regular season (to avoid playing the games in freaking November) and add playoff teams. It’s a pipe dream, but hey, I can always wish.

8. The Masters
For my money, this is the biggest golf tournament each and every year. Every year, the tournament is held at the same place and every year someone carves their spot in history. Not many golf tournaments captivate everyone for four days each and every year. The biggest thing that keeps everyone coming back is that either Tiger or Phil always shows up. They may not always win, but they give everyone a show.

7. NBA Playoffs
While I have to admit, I had been sour on the NBA playoffs for a decade, they have redeemed themselves in the last couple of years. It all began with the epic Bulls-Celtics series back in ’09 and finished with a great Finals series last year between old rivals. This year, even I am excited with everything that could happen in the playoffs. With the Bulls competing for a top seed, to getting to see Kevin Duran t play, to the Big Three in Miami and how they perform. All this without talking about the defending champs in LA. I vividly remember as a kid in the mid-90s being captivated  by so many good teams. In the West you had Seattle, Phoenix, Houston, Portland, San Antonio, Utah and LA all being locks to make the playoffs. In the East, you had Jordan’s Bulls, Ewing and Riley’s Knicks, ‘Zo and Larry Johnson in Charlotte, Shaq and Penny in Orlando and Reggie Miller and the Pacers. That’s alot of talent and depth kids. It also saw numerous rivalries born as a result, something that isn’t near as prominent today. It slides down on this list because of the decade-long lull after Jordan retired.

6. Thanksgiving Day Football
What has become the best part of the holiday instead of dealing with the relatives you don’t see but once a year and have nothing in common with. What is better than eating as much turkey and stuffing as you can shovel into your mouth and passing out on the couch or in your favorite chair while the game is on? My money says not a whole lot. What doesn’t land it higher? The fact that they’re regular season games and always feature the same teams. Shame on the NFL for forcing us to watch a bad team and a hated team each and every year.

5. Baseball’s Opening Day
Another personal favorite of mine, the unofficial signal that summer is on its way. Every team starts with the same record and each team has hope that it might be their year. How many of us wouldn’t love to skip out on work or class to go to the yard, get a few dogs and beers and watch the spot we grew up watching with our dad or grandpa. Baseball will forever be the game that will make me feel like a kid, and that alone is what puts it this high on my list. Then my feelings come crashing back down to Earth because I am a Cubs fan and we employ some of the game’s biggest chumps. I’m looking at you, Soriano.

4. “Game 7”
This is one that might not be thought of as an event, but Game 7 grabs my attention NO MATTER WHAT. It gives the sports that have a best-of-seven format the feel of a super bowl. Do or die. Win or go home. All or nothing. I’ll stop with the cliches now.  Obviously my favorite is Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, but I’m not picky. Last year’s Game 7 of the Lakers-Celtics series? Fantastic. Game 7 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals? One of the best hockey I have ever watched with a great ending. I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

3. Stanley Cup Playoffs
For those of you that know me, the fact that this is on the list shouldn’t be much of a surprise. It might not be a popular choice because it’s not overly-popular in this country. I get all that. But this is hands-down the best post-season out of the four major sporting leagues. 16 teams take the ice and embark on a two-and-a-half month odyssey for the greatest trophy in sports. Players often play through anything and everything for their chance to hold Lord Stanley’s Cup. If they’re not in the emergency room, a player is going to suit up and do whatever they can to help the team win. The stars show up each and every year, and there’s always an upset waiting to happen. The fact that the last two President’s Trophy winners failed to get out of the first round means that any team can win at any time if a few guys get hot. In baseball and basketball, the lowest seeds aren’t given much of a chance to win. Hockey doesn’t work that way. What kept me from ranking this higher than third is the fact that it needs perfect circumstances to get any media coverage. With the Blackhawks winning last year and Montreal making a deep run, it got the sport some mainstream press. This needs to happen more often. The rivalries are (Chicago-Vancouver, Boston-Montreal, Pittsburgh-Philly) beyond fierce and magic can happen if those teams meet up. Not to worry, new rivalries can be born as a result of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and rivalries make a sport go. This year has been so wide open that it is almost impossible to predict how the Cup will be won. Probably by the team that scores more goals than the other. No expert, but that’s just my ethos.

2. Super Bowl
The biggest sporting event in the United States has to be on this list somewhere. The current sport of the USA and its championship game is the one sporting event that everyone watches each year. Even those who don’t watch much football will tune in for the commercials. It also gives friends and family a chance to come together and enjoy each other’s company while throwing back a few beers and mowing down the taco dip. People clear their schedules for Sunday (and for some, even the day after) to watch a game that they might not even have a cheering interest in. It’s become the event that everyone gets excited for every year and even has people hoping that the day after become a national holiday. That alone puts it in front of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for me.

And the most exciting sporting event in the country today is:

1. Daytona 500
What can I say about this event that brings out the excitement in everyone… Ah, who the hell am I kidding?  There is NO WAY IN HELL that anything positive dealing with NASCAR will ever end up on anything I write. NASCAR sucks out loud. End. Of. Story.

My real Number 1:

1. NCAA Tournament
For anyone that disagrees, look at what has happened with this year’s tournament and tell me you haven’t been captivated by what VCU and Butler have done. Has the talent in college basketball been the best this year? Not even close. Does anyone feel like the best team in the country won’t be the one that wins the tournament? Absolutely, and I’m one of them. But it doesn’t matter because we all love the Cinderella story that VCU has pulled off in this tournament. And what happens when these magical runs don’t happen? You get some pretty damn good basketball being played to win a national championship by the best teams in the tournament.  All this and I haven’t even talked about the four best days in sports with the first two rounds of the tournament. Upsets happen, titans fall, the little guy proves they belong, buzzer beaters and overtime games until you end up in front of the TV completely exhausted and wanting more. And this happens over the course of three weeks. That makes the NCAA Tournament the most exciting event in sports today.