America's Top Ten Sporting Events

Alan RubensteinAnalyst IIISeptember 2, 2010

America's Top Ten Sporting Events

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    This is one of the most exciting times of the year in sports.  U.S. Open tennis and college football begin this week, and the NFL begins next weekend.  

    What are the biggest sporting events in the NFL every year? It can depend on your perspective and rooting interest.  These 10 are undeniably a major part of the American Sporting calendar every year.

10. US Open Tennis

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    The U.S. Open has been held every year since 1891.  It has been the final Grand Slam of the Year since 1987. It is held the week before and after Labor Day weekend.

    It moved to hard courts in Flushing Meadows, Queens, NY with the creation of the National Tennis Center in 1978.

    It was previously held at the West Side Tennis Club on grass, and then clay during the final three years there.  The U.S. Open was originally held at the Newport Casino in Newport, RI.  It is now the site of the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Jimmy Connors is the only player, male or female to win the Open on all three surfaces.

    In 1970, the U.S. became the first Grand Slam to utilize the tiebreaker. It is presently the only slam to use a tiebreak in the final set.  The other three play out the final set.  That creates the possibility of a 70-68 fifth set.  

    The dawn of the replay era likely began here as well.  

    Many point to a 2004 women’s quarterfinal between Jennifer Capriati and Serena Williams.  Williams lost out on a few questionable calls, which it was later proven should have gone in her favor.  Replay commenced two years later.

    Connors, Pete Sampras, and Roger Federer have each won five titles in the Open era and Chris Evert’s six lead the women in the Open era.  

    The USTA opened Arthur Ashe stadium in 1997. It is named after the tennis great and former U.S. Davis Cup captain. It is the largest tennis stadium in the world.

9. MLB All-Star Game

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    The original of the All-Star games first occurred on July 6, 1933 at Comiskey Park in Chicago. The game was created by Chicago Tribune sports writer Arch Ward.  The idea was that the game would coincide with Chicago’s Century of progress exposition.

    Lefty Grove earned the win and Bill Hallahan was charged with the loss.  Babe Ruth hit the first All-Star game home run and Frankie Frisch hit the National League’s first HR.

    The 1934 game was remembered for pitching.  Carl Hubbell struck out five Hall of Famers in succession.  Ruth, Gehrig, and Jimmy Foxx in the first and Al Simmons, and Joe Cronin in the second.

    Each league has also gone on long winning streaks. The American League won 12 of the first 17 games. The National League won 26 of 29 games between 1960 and 1985.  The American League had a 13-game unbeaten streak, which ended this year.  

    The Home Run Derby was added in 1985, and Futures game in 1999. The most All-Star games have been played in Chicago and New York.

8. Masters

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    Legendary golfer Bobby Jones wanted the perfect piece of land to build a golf course after his retirement.

    He found it in Augusta, Georgia, and the first Masters took place in 1934.  

    It was originally known as the Augusta National Iniviation Tournament. The course was flipped back then with 10-18 utilized as the front nine and 1-9 as the back nine. It was reversed to its present state in 1935, and the name Masters was first used in 1939.

    The Masters was first televised in 1956 by CBS. They only televised the last four holes.  They have televised every Masters since then.  

    CBS was not allowed to air all 18 holes until 2000.  Augusta National restricts the cable networks to only three hours of coverage per day in the early round. This is presumably done to increase ratings.

    Tickets to the Masters are very tough to get.  Only members of a “Patrons” list are eligible.

7. Kentucky Derby

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    The fastest two minutes in sports is the oldest of these 10 prestigious events. It has been run every year since 1875.

    The Derby and Churchill Downs were founded by the Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr. He was the grandson of explorer William Clark (Lewis and Clark). He was inspired by the Epsom Darby in England and the Paris Grand Prix, now known as the Arc D’Triomphe.

    The race was originally held at 1.5 miles and was changed to its current distance of 1.25 miles in 1896. Aristides was the winner of the inaugural Derby.

    The Derby was way ahead of its time in many ways.  Between 1875 and 1902, African-American jockeys won 15 times, and the first female owner occurred in 1904.

    The first televised Derby was in 1952.

6. NBA All-Star Game

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    The first NBA All-Star game was played in Boston in 1951.  The game was also at Boston Garden in 1952.

    The game is often criticized as the least genuine All-Star game of the four major North American sports. Its lack of defense frustrates many fans.

    Taking a cue from the ABA, the NBA began its slam dunk competition and All-Star weekend (then just Saturday night) in 1984.

    It has added to the festivities and created some legendary moments. Five-foot-seven Spud Webb winning the 1986 slam dunk contest in his hometown of Dallas, and Michael Jordan’s dramatic victory over Dominique Wilkins stick out.

    Even the national anthem has created excitement. Marvin Gaye brought the house down at the 1983 NBA All-Star game at the forum in Inglewood, CA.  His soulful rendition of the Star Spangled Banner is the All-Star game’s most memorable performance.

5. Daytona 500

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    5) Daytona 500- The first official Daytona 500 occurred in 1959 after the opening of Daytona International Speedway. Originally, shorter races were held on what was called the Daytona Beach Road course.  The original race was won by Lee Petty, the patriarch of the great Petty racing family.

    In 1995, the Daytona 500 passed the Indianapolis 500 as the most watched auto race in the United States.  Indy still attracts more attendees and international viewership. It was the first auto race to be covered in its entirety when CBS covered Daytona in 1979.

    No one has won back to back at Daytona since Cale Yarborough in 1983-84.

4. NFL Draft

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    e.g. 'Chicago Blackhawks', 'Chicago Cubs'Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

    The NFL Draft began in 1936 as a way to disperse college players to NFL teams equitably.  Jay Berwanger, the first Heisman Trophy winner the previous fall, was the first player picked.  He elected not to pursue a professional football career.

    The draft has always been held in New York.  The 2010 NFL Draft was the first one held in primetime.  Although tickets are free, fans must arrive early and wait on long lines to see who the next great NFL stars might be.  

    The first draft was nine rounds.  There were as many as 17 rounds in the 1970’s.

3. NFL Opening Night/Weekend

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    daytona 500

    The NFL kickoff game on opening weekend began in 2002.  It has included the defending Super Bowl champion since 2004.  Created by NFL marketing executive John Collins, it provided the NFL with an additional $1.9 billion in revenue in the 14 months after its inception.

    Like the Super Bowl, the game features a pregame concert and other pregame ceremonies.  The defending Super Bowl champion is a perfect 6-0 in the opening night game.

2. Final Four

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    The NCAA Tournament began in 1939.  When it first began, the NCAA took a back seat to the more prestigious, and East Coast based National Invitation Tournament.

    The NCAA Tournament wasn’t televised until 1962.  Only a condensed version of the championship game was aired on ABC’s Wide World of Sports.  This was after the semifinals were edited out.

    The tournament began to gain steam when John Wooden and UCLA rose to prominence.  This led to NBC televising parts of the tournament beginning in 1969.  In 1971, the Final Four was played at the Houston Astrodome.  This was the first time it was in a domed stadium.

    The 1979 game between Magic Johnson and Michigan State and Larry Bird and Indiana State put college basketball and the Final Four on the map as one of the biggest sporting events in the United States.  It remains the highest rated college basketball game ever.  

    Three years later, the Final Four returned to a dome.  Michael Jordan announced himself to the basketball world by hitting the game-winning shot for North Carolina at the Superdome in New Orleans.  This was also the first tournament telecast by CBS.

    The NCAA signed a $10.8 billion deal in April with CBS and TBS to broadcast its games through 2024.

1. Super Bowl

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    The Super Bowl has become so big, that over 200 countries now televise the Super Bowl.  The commercials, half-time show, and events surrounding the week leading up to the game have become just as big as the game itself. The name was derived from late Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt after seeing his children play with a superball.

    Super Bowl XLIV set the record for the most viewers with 106.5 million.