Around the holidays, many people spend time with family and friends celebrating. In Canada, family and friends spend time around the fireplace and TV set watching the World Junior Hockey Tournament. The annual tournament starts on Boxing Day and has become a tradition, just like lining up at 8:00 am for deals at Best Buy. With the World Juniors getting underway yesterday, it got me thinking about the best tournaments out there. Here is my list of the top 5 tournaments.
Spain hoist the FIFA World Cup trophy
Go Canada Go!
The World Junior tournament is played annually in different host cities. It has been dominated by Team Canada for the past decade or so—winning five titles in a row, twice. Although in recent years Team USA has challenged for the title (and won in 2009), the dominance of Canada makes this tournament comes in at No. 5. The other reason this particular tourney falls short of the title is the fact that it is most popular only when it is hosted in a Canadian city or a Canadian border city like Minnesota or Buffalo. The arenas are full and provide a great atmosphere, but when it moves to Russia or Sweden the crowds are sparse, though the hockey is still great.
Ichiro raises the hardware
The World Baseball Classic (WBC) has one thing very correct: play the tournament every three years. The WBC also has it right that they get the best players in the world to participate in their games. Since the tournament happens during the baseball offseason, players aren't inclined to decline the invitation to play for their country. The other positive this tournament has going for it is that the favorite hasn't won yet. The USA, who you think would be the dominating force in this tourney, isn't. The Dominican Republic, Cuba, Venezuela, South Korea and the two-time defending champions Japan, have all medaled ahead of the USA.
All-Blacks prepare for battle
I'm not that well versed on this particular tournament, but I know that it has a reputation in the sporting community as one of the best played tournaments, along having some of the best action in the stands. Here is some information on the Hong Kong Sevens from Wikipedia:
"The Hong Kong Rugby Sevens is traditionally one of if not the biggest event on the Hong Kong sporting calendar. As such, there is a tremendous party atmosphere, with particular emphasis on the South Stand, where hordes of rugby fans dress up and dance for most of the duration. Activities that typically ensue as the weekend progresses include the throwing of empty beer jugs around the South Stand, Mexican waves, and streakers running across the pitch. Since 2007 the South Stand has been made officially accessible to over-18s only, due to its hyper and somewhat provocative atmosphere, although this rule is not strictly policed."
Bill McLaren, in his autobiography Talking of Rugby, writes at length about his Hong Kong Sevens experiences:
"I remember a big South Sea islander saying that, in his view, the Hong Kong sevens were really the Olympic games of Rugby Union. Certainly, the Hong Kong event encapsulates all the really good things that the game has to offer–splendid organisation, wonderful sporting spirit, universal camaraderie, admirable field behaviour, the most enjoyable crowd participation, the chance for emergent rugby nations to lock horns with the mighty men of New Zealand, Australia, Fiji, Wales, Scotland and the Barbarians. There is, too, scintillating running and handling which is what the game is supposed to be all about."
Kyle Singler of Duke after winning the title in 2009
The Cinderella teams, Gus Johnson, betting and Duke University are all things that make the Men's NCAA College Basketball Tournament so enjoyable. Every year in March, 64 teams start with a chance to be crowned National Champions. Each weekend, games are played in a single elimination style tournament that eventually culminates in a great weekend of college hoops now known as the "final four".
Besides the lose and you're out style of the tournament, non-basketball fans get involved due to the betting that goes on during the tournament, and of course everyone's hatred of Duke, which fuels fans from the other 63 schools involved. This makes for a fun time for those in North America. Since March Madness is only really popular in North America, it holds it back from climbing to the top of the rankings.
Spain wins the 2010 FIFA World Cup
As everyone saw this summer the World Cup has become the single largest sporting spectacle in the world. With the popularity of soccer, the tournament is the culmination of national pride and the most popular sport. Even if your country is not represented (like Canada), you can still cheer for players that you follow in domestic leagues or for the countries of your grandparents.
The beautiful game has a great stage every four years. The players, coaches and FIFA all take great strides to make certain that the tournament runs smoothly. What helps make the FIFA World Cup so fascinating is that all the games are so competitive. Unlike some of the other tournaments where there are elite teams and some that are just happy to be there, the World Cup qualification tournament eliminates the bottom feeders to ensure a high quality product. The only downfall of the World Cup is that it happens only every four years. Like the WBC they should make this tournament every three years since fans just can't get enough.