Captains Corey Pavin (Left) and Colin Montgomerie (Right)
There are many top sporting events all around the world. Many of you may automatically think of the Olympics, but I was talking about something even more defined.
I am talking about the specific championships that are presented just for one sporting event. Something that is special to the fans of that particular sport.
For example, FIFA World Cup for soccer, FIBA World Championships for basketball, and of the course the one and only Ryder Cup for golf.
But where does the Ryder Cup rank among the top sporting events in the world?
The FIBA World Championships were originally founded to be a model of the FIFA World Cup, but for Basketball. Well, I cannot tell if basketball is just unpopular around the world, if FIBA has completely failed, or both.
For my own observation, I would love to see a poll to tally if anyone actually watched all of the USA games played this year in Turkey, or even a poll to see if anyone knew it was happening!
Yes, it was in my local paper; Yes, it was on national TV. But come on FIBA, this event has been happening for 60 years! You would think it would have a little more publicity after that many years of competition.
But maybe it did 30 years ago. I am only 18 so I can't say that I remember every single FIBA USA game ever played. Although, me being a big-time basketball player and fan, I also can't say that I remember ANY FIBA USA game.
To me, the games are another attempt to equalize the World Cup, and we all know that just is not going to happen.
Comparing the Ryder Cup to the FIBA World Championships is easy. Ryder Cup wins, and it is not even close.
I don't watch cycling, but I can say that I have seen a couple Tour de France stages in my day. You would think that a cycling event would not possibly be as big as basketball, soccer, or golf, but it is.
The Tour de France is respectable in my mind.
I would not go as far to say that watching professionals ride bicycles is the reason why the Tour de France is so popular, but it has to factor into the popularity a bit, right?
The way I see it, even though the Tour is annual, a big part of the reason it is popular in the United States is because of Lance Armstrong. He made it known in the U.S. in the last decade or so.
I would not say he is the only reason that the Tour makes it on this top five, but it's pretty darn close. It is similar to golf though, so can we ask ourselves the question where golf would be without Tiger Woods? I am not saying cycling and golf were not popular before Lance and Tiger, but they gave their respected sports a bit of a boost.
The Ryder Cup handles the Tour in terms of popularity. Cycling is "cool," but again, I would not have a clue about it without Lance Armstrong.
I love to watch track and field. Basketball used to be my favorite sport my whole life, and it lands at No. 5, so cut me some slack.
The Track and Field World Championships are special. They are similar to being a second Olympics for the sport.
Last year was magical. Usain Bolt burst onto the track scene in 2008, breaking the 100-meter world record in May in New York. Then, literally two-and-a-half months later, he breaks the 9.7 mark with an astonishing 9.69. How could anybody beat 9.69? Well, in Berlin at the 2009 World Championships, Usain showed everyone his magic yet again, recording an unbelievable 9.58, a whole tenth of a second faster!
That is what happens at the World Championships. The current men's 100, 200, and 400 meter World record sprints all occurred at the IAAF World Championships at some point. Not the Olympics, not any of the Olympic Trials, but the World Championships. It is special, and though it may not be as publicized in around the USA, this sporting event climbs its way to the third spot in my Top Five easily.
Although the IAAF Championships are something to be reckoned for, Ryder Cup takes the cake on the head-to-head matchup.
Justin Leonard sunk a long putt to clinch the USA victory in the 1999 Ryder Cup
Where to start? This sporting event is a thing of beauty. It contains every aspect of the perfect competition. Team and individuals, nailbiters and blowouts, and the pure genius of two continents battling each other for what some might say "Just an old Cup," but it's more special to the participants than any major that could be won.
The passion exhibited by each competitor that goes into every match, to me, surpasses any other sporting competitor alike. The main reason why I love golf is because it takes a combination of patience, mental toughness, and pure talent to succeed. It is not so much an athlete's game, but a thinker's, which sets up for dramatic finishes and genius displays of dominating performances.
Sure, you have to be able to turn 180 degrees without throwing out your back, but you cannot tell me that there is an athletic difference in another professional sport that is even remotely comparable to John Daly and Tiger Woods. Let's be honest, you do not have to be athletic to be a great golfer.
I am straying away from my main point. The Ryder Cup is something amazing. Two of my favorite sporting events in history were in golf. Tiger Woods' performance in the 2000 U.S. Open might be the greatest performance by an individual in the history of professional sports. Also, if anybody has watched golf in the past 15 years, you will remember the 1999 Ryder Cup, where the United States team was down a whole four points going into the last day. In other words, the U.S. Team was screwed, and needed a miracle.
On that Sunday in 1999, out of the 12 matches that were played, USA racked in the first seven matches of the day to take the lead 13-10. The Europeans tried to make a comeback winning the next 2 out of 3 matches, when Justin Leonard sunk a 45-foot putt to birdie the 17th hole and eventually halve the match, clinching the U.S. victory. I think that will possibly be the only time that you will see fans and teammates ''storm the field" in a golf tournament.
Every time I look back on that special day in 1999, I get pure chills. It is so refreshing to see so much passion in the world's best golfers when there is nothing at stake besides bragging rights with some old friends.
That is what makes the Ryder Cup so special. One moment you can catch Fred Couples holding back tears after losing a match and another see Ernie Els displaying intense emotion (which everyone who watches Golf knows Ernie Els and emotion do not go together).
The Ryder Cup is special not because it is two continents working out differences to play a "Gentleman's" game, but because the players put forward so much effort and passion to win, when there is nothing at stake. There is no reward besides pure bragging rights and a win for their respected Countries, and to get the best Professionals in the World to all buy into that, there is nothing better.
The FIFA World Cup is what the world outside of the United States looks forward to besides the Olympics. Soccer is arguably the most popular game in the World, and history has shown that.
The fact that at one point you can have Algeria playing the United States, two completely different nations competing in a friendly game of soccer in South Africa, where there are fans from Germany, The Netherlands, and Australia, is awesome.
The reason why the FIFA World Cup takes the top spot in my top five is simple. If there would be one sporting event comparable to The Olympics (Not saying that there is), it would be the World Cup. If you can even start to compare a sporting event to The Olympics, then it is something remarkable, and the World Cup truly is.
The one thing in my mind that separates the World Cup from other International Sporting Competitions is if you are the slightest fan of any sport in the United States, you will drop that sport for two weeks and watch soccer to cheer on your fellow Americans.
The reasons why you will? First, the U.S. is finally not the best at something across the world, and everybody loves to cheer for the underdog. Second, Americans are starting to realize that soccer is the top sport worldwide, and that Europe does not care if they win the Basketball World Championships, or if they are good at driving NASCAR. It is all about pride, and every four years, the World gathers by their radios and TVs and computers to cheer on their respected countries.