50 Sporting Events to Watch Before College Football Comes Back

Alex CallosCorrespondent IMay 9, 2012

50 Sporting Events to Watch Before College Football Comes Back

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    The start of the college football season is still more than three months away, so this is the time that many diehards need their college football fix.

    Well, during these summer months, they are simply not going to get it.

    There are, however, other sporting events that will help pass the time. Some may be more well known than others, but this list offers a little something for everybody.

    It will also help avid college football fans make it to the first college football game of the season on August 30 without experiencing too much withdrawal.

No. 50: Nathan's Famous Hot Dog-Eating Contest

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    Every Fourth of July the world famous Nathan's Hot Dog-Eating Contest takes place on Coney Island.

    An estimated 40,000 people who have come to watch the event in recent years, and it is aired nationally on ESPN.

    In the past, the competition was dominated by Takeru Kobayashi of Japan. But in recent years,  American Joey Chestnut has taken home the title.

    This competition may be a little difficult to stomach for some, but is one of the most interesting sporting events of the summer and certainly the most anticipated on the Fourth of July.

No. 49: Pocono 400

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    There are a few NASCAR Sprint Cup Races that stand out. One of the best is the Pocono 400.

    It will take place on June 10 at the Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa.

    This is the first of two races held in Long Pond, which is one of the best tracks in the sport. The race used to be 500 miles but was shortened to 400 in 2012.

    This is a perfect way to spend a spring Sunday afternoon.

No. 48: Taco Bell All-Star Legends and Celebrity Softball Game

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    This annual event began in 2001 and is very entertaining to watch during the All-Star festivities.

    While the Midsummer Classic is certainly one of the highlights of the summer, along with the Home Run Derby, this softball game pits celebrities and former stars against one another in a battle of National vs. American League.

    There are always big-name players participating, as the likes of Ozzie Smith, John Kruk and many baseball greats take center stage.

    The game takes place before the Home Run Derby and is usually aired by ESPN.

No. 47: Bridgestone Invitational

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    The Bridgestone Invitational is one of the six or seven most-anticipated golf tournaments of the year and takes place in Akron, Ohio, from August 2-5 this year.

    All of the biggest names in golf participate as they prepare for the final major of the year, the PGA Championship, the following weekend.

    Tiger Woods has won the event seven times. Other past winners include Vijay Singh, Stewart Cink and Darren Clarke.

No. 46: NCAA Lacrosse Championship

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    The annual Memorial Day event that is the NCAA Lacrosse Championship will be aired once again this year on ESPN.

    As always, some of the sport's elite programs are in the recently announced 16-team field. Among those are defending national champion Virginia, Syracuse, Duke and Johns Hopkins.

    The tournament begins May 12 and 13 with games on ESPNU. The Final Four will be May 26 on ESPN2, with the finals slated for May 28.

No. 45: Bassmaster

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    While the Bassmaster Classic happens at the end of February every year, there are plenty of other fishing events every weekend throughout the spring and summer.

    The Bassmaster Elite Series features an event every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. on ESPN2, so be sure to set the alarm and get the day started off right with some good ol' fishin'.

    Those lucky enough to have the Outdoor Channel or ESPN Classic (apparently that still exists) can see fishing shows three days a week from now through the end of July.

No. 44: World Series of Poker

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    The 2012 World Series of Poker consists of 61 events this year and runs from May 27 through July 16.

    But the main event is what all fans are waiting to see. This 10-day spectacle happens from July 7 through July 16 and brings out the best the game has to offer.

    It has not yet been announced when ESPN will air the main event. In 2011, it was tape delayed.

No. 43: Coke Zero 400

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    The Coke Zero 400 returns racing to Daytona International Speedway during the hot summer months.

    In 2012, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will come back to Daytona on July 7 for the 400-mile, 160-lap race.

    The race is now held annually on the first Saturday of July closest to Independence Day. What sets it apart is that it is run under the lights on a Saturday night, which makes for some added drama.

No. 42: College Football Fall Practice

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    With spring practice now having come and gone, fall practice is now the next thing college football fans can look forward to when it comes to their sport.

    It gives fans a chance to read about their team on a daily basis and perhaps even go to a practice or two.

    Plus, the start of practice can only mean the games are just a few weeks away.

    Most practices will begin the second week of August.

No. 41: NFL Class of 2012 Enshrinement Ceremony

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    It will be hard to match the festivities from a year ago when names like Shannon Sharpe and Deion Sanders were inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

    Still, this is an interesting annual event that will be fun to watch.

    The ceremony will be held on Saturday, August 4, and among those being enshrined will be Curtis Martin, Dermontti Dawson and Cortez Kennedy.

    This year will be eventful as always and is a great way to officially kick off the NFL preseason.

No. 40: Scripps National Spelling Bee

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    This yearly event is intriguing, if nothing else. The age limit for the contestants is 15. Most are between the ages of 10 and 12, but some are as young as eight

    The competition is set for Thursday, May 31. Of the 278 competitors ready to take to the stage, only 228 will advance to the televised competition. The semifinals will air from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on ESPN2, with the finals to follow from 8 to 10 p.m. that same night on ESPN.

    Who will take home the crown this year? Tune in to find out.

No. 39: WWE Summerslam

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    Wrestling used to be more popular, but everybody knows WrestleMania is one of the biggest spectacles in sports. And during the summer, nothing in the sport is more entertaining than SummerSlam.

    This year will be bigger than ever as the 25th annual SummerSlam will be held August 19th from the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

    What the wrestling world refers to as the summer classic can only be seen on pay-per-view. All of the sport's biggest names will be there.

No. 38: Memorial Golf Tournament

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    With the exception of the four majors, there is no bigger tournament on the PGA Tour than the Memorial held every year on the course that Jack Nicklaus built in Dublin, Ohio.

    The Muirfield Village Golf Club plays host to the event. It is the last big tune-up before the U.S. Open two weeks later.

    All of golf's greats participate in the event that runs from May 31-June 3, right after Memorial Day weekend.

No. 37: MLB Futures Game

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    The annual MLB Futures game is a great chance to see the brightest young talent in baseball. It is also unique because it pits the best players from the United States against the world.

    The 2012 game will take place right before the All-Star game. Some of the biggest names in the sport, including phenom Bryce Harper, took part last year.

No. 36: Pennsylvania 400

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    The Pennsylvania 400 is the second of two NASCAR races that take place at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa

    This year's race will take place on August 5 and be televised nationally by ESPN.

    The track has been shortened to 400 miles this year, which should produce an even more exciting race than in years past.

No. 35: MLB Trade Deadline

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    The annual MLB trade deadline happens every year on July 31. It is the last time teams can exchange players without them having to clear waivers first.

    This is a great day to sit back and watch players move from one team to another.

    Over the years, there have been some big names that have changed teams, including Hunter Pence and Carlos Beltran in 2011.

    Who will be switching teams in 2012? ESPN will have wall-to-wall coverage on July 31.

No. 34: NCAA Track and Field Championships

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    The NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships will be held from June 6-9 in Des Moines, Iowa.

    This is always a spectacular event, but a lot of the competition is hard to find on television. The final  day will be on ESPNU. The events from earlier in the week can be seen on ESPN3.

No. 33: Summer X Games

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    This is the biggest weekend of the summer for X-Games fanatics. It will take place a month earlier than usual—from June 28 to July 1—so as not to conflict with the London Olympics.

    All the biggest names in extreme sports will be showing off their best tricks in downtown Los Angeles. More than 200 athletes take part in skateboarding, motocross, BMX and rally-car racing.

    The events take place at the Staples Center and Nokia Theatre L.A. Live.

No. 32: NFL Training Camp

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    NFL training camps give fans a chance to get a first-hand look at their teams.

    All camps begin at the end of July and signal that the college football season is just around the corner.

    While training camp can't be seen on television, at least for the most part, it is an excellent chance for families to take in a practice and get a few autographs from their favorite players.

    It can get a little hot on the field, however, so be prepared.

No. 31: UFC 146

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    The UFC holds an event every month, so there will be plenty of top-notch pay-per-view action to choose from.

    The next event is UFC 146. The main event will feature a heavyweight championship bought between Junior dos Santos and Frank Mir.

    For the first time in UFC history, all five fights on the main-event card will be heavyweight matches.

    This event takes place May 26 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

No. 30: Hall of Fame Game

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    The Hall of Fame game may not seem like much, but it is the first competitive football game of the season and is a chance to finally see some hard-hitting action. It is the culmination of Hall of Fame weekend and the first preseason game every year.

    This year the game matches the New Orleans Saints against the Arizona Cardinals and will take place on August 5. 

    It will be interesting to see the reaction the Saints get from the crowd after what has happened to them in the offseason.

No. 29: Sprint Cup All-Star Race

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    The NASCAR Sprint Cup All-Star Race takes place on May 19 and is a break in the middle of the season, similar to an All-Star game in other sports.

    It happens under the lights at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. It showcases race winners from the previous season, the current season and the past 10 All-Star races, along with the past decade's Cup Series champions.

    Needless to say, there is a lot of talent on display on this night. The race is only 90 laps, covering 135 miles, and airs on SPEED.

No. 28: UEFA Champions League Final

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    The 2012 UEFA Champions League Final will take place on May 19 at the Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany.

    This year, the game will features Chelsea against Bayern Munich in what should be a very highly contested match. 

    The winner will move on to the 2012 UEFA Super Cup on August 31.

    FOX will televise the event in the United States.

No. 27: NHL Western Conference Finals

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    The 2012 NHL Western Conference finals between the Los Angeles King and the Phoenix Coyotes is slated to begin in a few days. It features two teams who were not expected to be there.

    The Los Angeles Kings were the final team to qualify for the playoffs and have defeated the top two seeds in the West over the past few weeks. Phoenix is the No. 3 seed and will be the favorite.

No. 26: NHL Eastern Conference Finals

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    The best team in the East, the New York Rangers, is still battling it out with the Washington Capitals. The winner will take on the No. 6 New Jersey Devils for a trip to the Stanley Cup.

    The Devils are the surprise of the Eastern Conference, while the top-seeded Rangers have struggled against lesser opponents and are attempting to avoid being upset by the Capitals.

    This should be an interesting series that could easily go the distance.

No. 25: MLB Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

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    The Major League Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony will take place on July 22.

    This year, two players will join that select baseball fraternity in Cooperstown: Barry Larkin and Ron Santo.

    Since Larkin is the only living member, the floor will be all his on what should be an emotional day.

    Fifty members of the Hall of Fame are expected to be in attendance, along with a slew of Reds fans.

No. 24: Coca-Cola 600

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    The Coca-Cola 600 takes place every year at Charlotte Motor Speedway and is the longest sanctioned NASCAR race, covering 400 laps and 600 miles.

    This year, the race will take place on Sunday, May 27, beginning at 6 p.m., and will air on FOX.

    This race is extra special because it will be under the lights.

No. 23: NBA Eastern Conference Finals

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    While it is not certain who will be playing the Miami Heat in the NBA Eastern Conference finals, they just may be on a collision course with the Boston Celtics in what would likely be the Celtics' last run.

    With a roster that is getting up there in age, the Celtics are not likely to reach this level again.

    LeBron James and the Heat, however, may be too much for them to handle.

No. 22: NBA Western Conference Finals

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    While the Eastern Conference is a little more set in stone, the Western Conference is still up for grabs.

    Oklahoma City may be taking on San Antonio. Or it could be the Los Angeles Lakers against the Los Angeles Clippers. Don't count out the Memphis Grizzlies, either.

    Who really knows at this point?

    No matter who is playing, this promises to be a highly contested series that will feature two of the NBA's top teams.

No. 21: Manny Pacquiao vs. Timothy Bradley

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    One of the top two boxers in the world, Manny Pacquiao will be taking to the ring on June 9, but as everybody knows, it will not be against Floyd Mayweather.

    Pacquiao will be taking on the undefeated Timothy Bradley. He is 28-0, but has never fought anybody close to the skill level of Pacquiao.

    Bradley may be able to hang in for a while, but don't expect him to beat Pacquiao.

    This one is pay-per-view only, but should be well worth the price.

No. 20: Tour de France

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    The Tour de France may not be as popular here as it is in Europe, but this 20-stage event is one of the world's most popular sporting events.

    This year, the event begins on Saturday, June 30, in Liege and ends on Sunday, July 22, in Paris.

    The sport grew in popularity when Lance Armstrong was dominating the circuit. It still can be interesting to watch, especially if it is a close race.

    Check out the NBC Sports Network any time during the event to hear the latest.

No. 19: Preakness

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    The follow-up race to the Kentucky Derby is the Preakness. It takes place on May 19 at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Md.

    While it does not have the prestige of the Kentucky Derby, it is the second leg in the race for the Triple Crown. The 2012 version will be the 137th.

    The anticipation is always high as fans want to see if the winner of the Kentucky Derby will be able to continue his magical run for the Triple Crown.

    This year I'll Have Another will be attempting the feat. Tune in to NBC to enjoy this race.

No. 18: Brickyard 400

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    The Brickyard 400 is one of the biggest races of the year on the NASCAR circuit. With the exception of the Daytona 500, few other races can match the intensity of this race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

    This year, the race will take place on July 29 and is the biggest event of the summer in NASCAR.

    ESPN televises the 400-mile, 160-lap event that will keep fans on the edge of their seats.

No. 17: French Open

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    The French Open, which has been dominated by Rafael Nadal in recent years, is the second of the four tournaments in the tennis Grand Slam.

    The action takes place on the clay courts of Roland Garros just outside Paris.

    It all begins Memorial Day weekend on May 27th and continues until June 10th.

    Nadal has won six of the past seven tournaments and will be trying to defend his title for the third straight year. There is also a competitive women's field as well.

    ESPN2 and NBC will have all of the action for two weeks.

No. 16: Belmont Stakes

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    The final leg of the Triple Crown is the Belmont Stakes. In 2012, the race will be held on Saturday, June 9, in Elmont, N.Y.

    What sets the Belmont Stakes apart is that it is longer than the previous two races, making it very difficult for a horse to win all three.

    It is still unsure if I'll Have Another will be going for the Triple Crown. But if he is, this could be even higher on the list.

    NBC will cover the 144th Belmont Stakes.

No. 15: Little League World Series

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    Williamsport, Pa., is the site every year for the Little League World Series. This year, it will run from August 16 until August 26. 

    The event will feature eight teams from the United States and eight teams from around the world in a double-elimination tournament.

    The winner from the United States will take on the winner from the world to determine the champion.

    The ESPN family of networks will have all the action.

No. 14: UFC 148

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    UFC 148 is highlighted by Anderson Silva taking on Chael Sonnen for the middleweight championship.

    There is also a bantamweight championship bout between Dominick Cruz and Urijan Faber, both of the United States.

    The MGM Grand in Las Vegas will host the event. Other big names such as Rich Franklin and Tito Ortiz are also scheduled to fight.

    This pay-per-view event is the most anticipated of the summer.

No. 13: PGA Championship

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    The PGA Championship is the final major of the golf season. While it is not as well known as the other three, it is the fourth biggest golf event of the year.

    This year, it will be held August 9-12 on the Kiawah Island Golf Resort near Charleston, S.C.

    TNT has most of the coverage. CBS will take over on the weekend.

No. 12: College World Series

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    The format of the College World Series is similar to that of the Little League World Series. It features the final eight teams in a double-elimination tournament.

    It takes place every year in Omaha, Neb., and begins on Friday June 15th. It will run until either June 25th or 26th.

    ESPN and ESPN2 will have all of the coverage, which will feature the ping of the aluminum bat hitting the ball.

No. 11: NBA Draft

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    The 2012 NBA draft is slated for Thursday June 28th, and will be televised as it always is by ESPN.

    This year as in the past, there will be a lot of underclassmen going early, particularly those from Kentucky.

    Look for a few Wildcats to go in the first five picks and a few more to go later in the first round.

    It is always fun watching NBA commissioner David Stern shake the hands of players a foot taller than him. It makes for great television.

No. 10: Indy 500

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    With the exception of maybe the Daytona 500, the Indy 500 is perhaps the biggest race of the year.

    Considered "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,'' this event draws more fans than most people can imagine. The permanent seating capacity of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is 267,000, but it is estimated that more than 400,000 people attend the event when the infield seats are added in. 

    The open-wheel race cars cover 500 miles in 200 laps over the 2.5-mile oval circuit.

    This is truly a spectacle. It that takes place May 27th and ABC has all of the coverage.

No. 9: MLB Home Run Derby

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    The 2011 State Farm Home Run Derby had some amazing moments, including Robinson Cano winning the title while hitting home runs off his father.

    Over the years, there have been a lot of memories, most of them brought to viewers by Chris Berman and his "back, back, back" home-run calls.

    The 2012 event will once again be on ESPN, the night before the All-Star game in Kansas City.

    This is certainly entertaining to watch, but would be even more fun to attend.

No. 8: U.S. Open Tennis

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    The unique aspect about the last of the four Grand Slam tennis events is not that it is held in New York City, but that it runs right into the start of the college football season, making it a great way to pass the last few days.

    The hard courts at the U.S. Open make for some fast play, and there have been memorable matches over the years.

    The Williams' sisters are always in the mix on the women's side and, of course, four men always seem to be in contention: Andy Murray, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

    There is no better way to end a tennis season than this.

No. 7: British Open

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    Known as The Open Championship, the British Open takes viewers back to where golf began.

    This year, the event will be in England at Royal Lytham and St. Annes Golf Club in Lancashire from July 19-22.

    No matter where the event is held, the courses are unlike those found in the United States. They are  links-style courses with bunkers that golfers can get lost in.

    There have been some exciting finishes over the years. TNT and ABC will have the coverage.

No. 6: Stanley Cup Finals

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    The exact date of the 2012 Stanley Cup finals is not yet known as the teams are still battling it out. But when the final two teams take to the ice for Lord Stanley's Cup, it is hockey at its finest.

    The action is hard-hitting and fast-paced. Expect a few games to go into overtime and most of them to be decided by a goal or two. That is just the way it seems to play out. 

    NBC and its family of networks has the coverage as East meets West with everything on the line.

No. 5: MLB All-Star Game

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    The 83rd annual Midsummer Classic will take place on July 10 in Kansas City.

    For some, it is the highlight of the summer, as the best baseball players in the world meet in a game that means something. Well, at least that is what they want viewers to think.

    Everything from the introductions to the national anthem to the massive number substitutions makes this the best of all all-star games, no matter the sport.

    With every team represented, fans from all 30 cities can enjoy the game while watching their favorite players.

    FOX will have the coverage once again this year.

No. 4: NBA Finals

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    The 2012 NBA Finals could be better than ever. Several talented teams appear headed on a collision course to meet in the title series.

    While the NBA regular season may leave something to be desired, the playoffs are as good as it gets in any sport, particularly when it gets down to the final two teams.

    The date is not yet set, but as long as two of the better teams are playing, it should be quite a series.

No. 3: U.S. Open Golf

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    Some may consider the British Open to be a bigger event, but the difficulty of the courses at the U.S. Open, along with the fact that it is held in the United States, make it the second-biggest golf event behind the Masters.

    This year, it will take place from June 14th-17th at the historic Olympic Club in San Francisco. It will be the fourth time the event has been there.

    What also sets the U.S. Open apart is that the golfers play on some of the toughest public courses in the world.

    This four-day event will be televised on ESPN and CBS.

No. 2: Wimbledon

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    The All England Club and its grass courts have been the host of the Wimbledon Championships since 1877. This will be the 126th time the biggest event in tennis has been here.

    Wimbledon is the third of the four Grand Slam tennis events and the most highly regarded of them all.

    The event will take place from June 25-July 8. The field is as strong as ever, particularly on the men's side where Novak Djokovic will be trying to defend his title.

    The women's draw will be completely up for grabs once again.

    ESPN and NBC have all of the coverage.

No. 1: 2012 Summer Olympics

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    This is a no-brainer. London will be the site for the 2012 Summer Olympics. The greatest spectacle in sports will happen just a few weeks after Wimbledon is over.

    The opening ceremony will be on July 27 and the Olympic Games will end on August 12th.

    There is so much to see at the Olympics that this could be a top 50 by itself.

    Among the American athletes that fans are anticipating seeing are Michael Phelps and Allyson Felix. In the team competition, the U.S. men's basketball and women's soccer outfits figure to get most of the attention.

    Jamaica's Usain Bolt, who is arguably the fastest human being ever born, will also be on display. The Olympics has so much to offer that it is hard to narrow it down.

    More than four billion people are expected to tune in to the opening and closing ceremonies. NBC and its networks will have all of the coverage.