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The Best Sporting Event (to Watch)

Recently I had a discussion with friends about which sporting event is the best to watch. First, let’s define a sporting event. For the purposes of this blog post, I’ll define it as any game, match, contest, or series of games, matches, or contests, which can be referred to collectively and which occur over a time span of at most two months. So one possible “sporting event” could be the Super Bowl, or it could be the NBA playoffs – both would qualify under my definition. I’m also writing this from mostly an American perspective so the FIFA World Cup, for example, doesn’t make the cut (although that is one hell of an event and rivals my #1 and #2 choices in some aspects). Maybe if the U.S. started having better results in soccer it would be a different story.

With that said, here is my list of the best sporting events to watch:

  1. The Olympics. Summer, then Winter. The key to having a great sporting event is drama. There’s just something incredibly dramatic about watching the best athletes playing for their country on the world stage. I’m talking about when some athlete you’ve never heard of before from some country you’ve never heard of before, wins a medal and proceeds to cry his or her eyes out. And this is something that happens almost every day in the Olympics for 3-4 weeks. Even watching USA Basketball obliterate their opponents is something to see, but even more so is watching some country that has no business beating the USA in basketball play like it’s the last thing they’ll ever do. I put the Summer Olympics first because there just seems to be more of a mystique about the summer events (with the exception of hockey in the Winter Olympics). Also, the fact that the Olympics happens only every four years puts more pressure on the athletes and makes for more drama.

  2. The NCAA Basketball Tournament. The next best thing to watching athletes play for their country is watching them play for their college, especially if it’s some podunkt college you’ve never heard of. In the tourney, there’s always a Cinderella, and there’s always a powerhouse team that loses to Cinderella. Also the television coverage is usually fantastic. There are no fancy camera angles, no gimmicks, no silliness – the next game begins just before the previous one ends so it’s nonstop basketball from the start of the broadcast to the finish.

  3. MLB Playoffs. Baseball is the National pasttime, period. There is such a great history and tradition in baseball, and history and tradition creates drama. The 2004 ALCS between the Red Sox and the Yankees might have been the greatest thing I have ever seen in sports because no team had ever come back from a 3-0 deficit and the Red Sox had never beaten the Yankees in a big game and the Red Sox hadn’t won a World Series since 1918. That kind of statement doesn’t make sense in any other sport because the other major sports aren’t that old, or they were played totally differently in their early stages. With the exception of steroid usage, baseball is the same sport as it ever was and the statistics and records are applicable going back 100 years.

  4. NFL Playoffs. The NFL Playoffs beats out the NBA/NHL because succeeding seems like so much more of a struggle due to the violence of the sport. Watching a dog-tired running back fighting for a few more inches to get to the first down marker as the 4th quarter winds down is some serious drama. The Super Bowl is sort of lumped in here, but I would not count the Super Bowl itself as a great event. It has just become too much of a spectacle, and there’s too many people that watch the game who don’t care, which takes away from the pleasure of watching for people who do care.

  5. Major Tournament Golf. Again, golf has great history and tradition. It also currently has the most dominant athlete in any one particular sport since Michael Jordan. Tiger Woods is that good and he is liable to do just about anything on Sunday when the Masters, the U.S. Open, the British Open, or the PGA Championship is on the line (see this year’s U.S. Open at Torrey Pines).

  6. NBA Playoffs. With the exception of hockey, this sport raises its level of play the most when the playoffs start. The first month of NBA Playoffs are incredible – multiple games every night of the week, going into the wee hours of the morning with the west coast games.

  7. NHL Playoffs. Yeah it’s a Canadian sports but the level of play goes through the roof in the playoffs. I love the new rule changes implemented after the strike but the league is in serious trouble. I’m sure the ratings were pretty good for the Bruins-Canadiens playoff series, and even Detroit-Pittsburgh was a great final this year. I’d suggest skipping the regular season unless you can stomach a steady dose of your favorite team playing a stretch of games against the likes of Columbus, Anaheim, Phoenix, Tampa Bay, Florida, Nashville….ugh. The NHL needs to send some teams back to Canada and get the whole U.S.-Canada rivalry thing going again.

  8. EOT


1 Walt Webb { 08.06.08 at 10:59 am }

I would tend to agree with some of the things you have said in your post. But being Canadian I would disagree on where you put hockey into the mix. Maybe if you ever played the game you would have a better understanding of just how tough the game is. The Stanley Cup playoffs are the toughest grind in professional sport, bar none. Yes Football is a tough and violent game with some great hits but they play once a week and if they get all the way to the Super Bowl, what do they play 20 games total. Give me a break, you have to win 16 games to get your name on the Stanely Cup, win 16 not play. Hockey is also much faster than any of the other events you have mentioned. Baseball don’t get me wrong I like the game but a guy gets a hang nail and he is on the disabled list. Golf yeah its a sport that old men play although it is enjoyable and the guys on the tour do make some truely amazing shots. Basketball, even though it was invented by a Canadian I might add. Tune in for the last 2 minutes to see who wins.
Your very right about more Canadian teams. If Americans can’t see hockey for what it is with the speed and flow of the game then they don’t deserve a team. Places like Detroit, Boston, NY and Minnisota are good fans of the game they get it, but others don’t and never will.
Speaking of a tough sport, have you ever watched a Lacrosse game?
“No Guts No Glory”
Walt Webb

2 msg { 08.06.08 at 2:47 pm }

You make good points, but I must disagree on some. There’s no doubt that pro hockey is fast and tough guys play it, but the title of the post was not “Toughest Sport”, or “Fastest of the Tough Sports”, it was “The Best Sporting Event (to Watch).” The rule changes in pro hockey have been great, but there’s still something wrong with the league and it has something to do with having too many teams in the American South and West, where nobody cares about the game. It may take years to fix that league. And I just can’t agree that hockey players are tougher than football players. You pick 10 hockey players to bring to a fight and I’ll pick 10 football players. The hockey players might be crazier and they’ll fight till the end, but the football players will absolutely destroy them. They’re just bigger, stronger, and crazy enough.

3 Walt Webb { 08.06.08 at 3:27 pm }

Point taken. Yes I agree completely, there are to many teams in the southern states and out west. Bettman should quit trying to ram hockey down their throats, it will never happen. If he persists in having US teams, why not a location like Portland where they have supported Jr. Hockey for decades. With the economic climate now there are alot of locations in Canada as well as the US where they could support a franchise. Move them the hell out of Atlanta (which aready had a team that failed in the 70’s) and Nashville and put them somewhere where they will be appreciated.
“NO Guts No Glory”
Walt Webb

4 msg { 08.06.08 at 3:41 pm }

I completely agree. Also, if they can’t find a town that can support or appreciate a team, then just fold it up. It seems to me that the league should only have about 20-25 teams. I’ll probably never happen but contracting the league would raise the overall talent level and produce more games that people actually want to watch!

5 Allsports says get Ride of the US centers that don’t appreciate the Game of Hockey | { 08.06.08 at 5:53 pm }

[…] browsing the web for sports today I came across this post by an American sports fan. In it he/she gives their opinion on what are the best sporting events to watch. Hockey for this […]

6 Walt Webb { 08.06.08 at 6:08 pm }

Yes your right there msg. Maybe reduce the schedule slightly too. That we are not playing hockey at the end of June

7 swash { 08.06.08 at 11:54 pm }

No Wimbledon on the list?
No Cricket? (Ok, I know you said its from an American perspective)….but what about water melon seed spitting contest I saw the other day on TV. It was quite entertaining.
And hot dog eating contest was awesome too! I was quite disappointed “Tsunami” Kobayashi lost… :(

8 msg { 08.07.08 at 5:31 am }

Wimbledon happened to be really good this year, but that sport has an equipment problem. If you get a couple of guys in a match that can serve 140+ mph, then there are no rallies and the match is BORING!

That makes two years in a row that Kobayashi didn’t win. I’m not surprised, there just isn’t career longevity in that sport. :)

9 Deej { 08.15.08 at 9:46 pm }

I sense a bit of an American bias in this list. Noticeably missing is the FIFA World Cup, arguably one of the most watched sporting events in the world. I think it is right up there, if not surpassing, the Olympics in terms of generating pride and excitement about representing one’s country (there’s no money in this event by the way, just honor and pride), and has a long and storied history. The format of the tournament (round-robin followed by knock-out) is also arguably better than most American single elimination tournament formats (although statistically it would take a series of tens to hundreds of games to have the results really match the ability of the two teams involved). It may never catch on in the US (Beckham be damned), but for me (and lots of others outside the US) it is the best sporting event to watch.

10 msg { 08.15.08 at 10:16 pm }

Well Dan I actually said in the post that I was writing with an American bias, so good job sensing it. But soccer has some serious problems that make watching it very painful. For example, they absolutely must do something about all the flopping. The average number of flop jobs that occur in a World Cup game is probably right around 100, seriously. And the silly yellow/red card system only amplifies the problem. You better be damn sure that somebody committed an egregious foul before kicking him out of the rest of the game and the next game. I don’t think the referee can possibly make that judgment accurately on the spot after seeing it happen in real time. I don’t watch a whole lot of soccer games, but I’ve seen quite a few flops contribute directly to yellow or red cards, with the consequence of key players getting booted or having to sit out subsequent games. And if somebody gets a red card in the first minute, you don’t even get to substitute. What’s up with that? And in a tournament like the FIFA World Cup that happens once every four years you can have a whole team’s fate decided because somebody took a dive. That seriously detracts from watchability.

11 Deej { 08.16.08 at 2:47 pm }

Should have read the post I guess, I just cut right to the list.

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