The 20 Best Sporting Events For American Couch Potatoes
As sports fans, these are the days we live for.
The events that we think about weeks, if not months, in advance.
These are the events that keep us going. The events that help us deal with the nagging wife, the crappy job, the bad weather, the nagging wif--. Whoops.
And when we have a vested interest in who is playing in the game, that exponentially adds to our level of passion for these events.
Imagine being a Boston Red Sox fan in '04, or a Butler University fan in '10, or an Arizona Cardinals fan in '08, or a Detroit Tigers fan in '06, knowing that this might be the only time in your life when your favorite team plays for a championship.
If your team is not competing in the final and most important game of the season, as is usually the case, there is still much to be excited about: the competition between two great teams, the chess match that exists between both team's head coaches, the passion the players display while competing for the championship and the sheer drama that comes from such an emotion-filled event.
It is why we watch sports in the first place.
No. 20—The Winter Olympics
The Winter Olympics only come along once every four years.
Fortunately, they take place two years in between the Summer Olympics, making the wait between Olympic Games just two years, as opposed to the four-year interval it was until 1994.
The events, which are rather unorthodox to those of us who primarily follow football, basketball and baseball, include figure skating, downhill skiing, hockey, bobsled and snowboarding.
And while we wouldn't normally watch these sports, some of us grow to like them for this two-week period when our nation is being represented.
Regardless of the popularity of these events, the Winter Olympics have given us as Americans some great memories: (1) the USA hockey team defeating the Soviet Union in the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, New York; (2) Scott Hamilton's gold medal in figure skating at the '84 Olympics; and (3) Lindsey Vonn winning the gold in the women's downhill in Vancouver in 2010.
If nothing else, it gives us something that might be able to snap us out of the annual winter funk.
No. 19 —The BCS National Championship Game
For good reason, you probably thought this would be higher on the list.
As a strong opponent and critic of the Bowl Championship Series, I find the BCS National Championship game to be rather bittersweet.
Actually, more bitter than sweet.
Don't get me wrong—I watch the game every year. In fact, my Ohio State Buckeyes have played in the BCS Championship game three times.
But, for me, the game is somewhat anti-climactic.
When I watch the game, which comes after the Sugar, Rose, Orange and Fiesta Bowls, I wonder what could have been. I think about the matchups we were deprived of seeing because the powers that be haven't wised up and given us a playoff.
That's not to say we haven't had some competitive championship games.
Miami (Fl)-Ohio State, USC-Texas, Florida-Oklahoma. Oregon-Auburn.
But, without a playoff, many of us will be left wondering, "What could have been?"
No. 18—Opening Day Of The NFL Season
Before the 2002 season, the NFL wisely made the decision to move the first regular season game to the Thursday before the inaugural weekend of games.
For us football fans, it has been a huge blessing.
Instead of having to get through that entire week in early September before getting a chance to watch the first set of games on Sunday, we are given a game in prime time on Thursday to hold us over, making the wait less excruciating.
Granted, these Thursday Night games haven't always been exciting, but they at least give us a glimpse of the season to come and hold us over until Sunday.
No. 17—The World Cup Finals
While soccer is not a terribly popular sport in the United States, those who follow soccer are incredibly passionate about it.
In fact, it has been said by some that this is the biggest sporting event in the world.
I don't know if that's true, but with the way the rest of the world follows soccer—or as they incorrectly refer to it, football— that is certainly believable.
But until the United States becomes a consistent power in soccer, I don't see the World Cup climbing much higher on the list.
No. 16—Day 2 Of The NFL Draft
Granted, the anticipation of Rounds 2 and 3 (Day 2) of the NFL Draft is nothing like the buildup to the first round, but this being a football-crazed nation, we still love the early portion of the NFL Draft.
It gives us, especially fans of beleaguered football teams, the belief that things can get better and the hope that things will change. That finally, the Browns or the Bengals or the Redskins or the 49ers or the Lions will make some insightful selections and change the course of their franchise.
And, with the college talent pool so deep, there are always a number of well-known players that are drafted on Day 2, making the event much more entertaining.
No. 15—The Summer Olympics
I believe that most Americans like myself find the Summer Olympics to be more entertaining than the Winter Olympics.
We find the events—basketball, baseball, track and field and swimming—to be more to our liking.
And it is the drama in swimming and track and field, sports that we usually don't watch, that make the Olympics so exciting.
The split-seconds at the very end that determine the difference between first and second place, between gold and silver.
That's what makes the Summer Olympics so great.
No. 14—The NFL's Conference Championship Sunday
Despite it not being the Super Bowl, for the two teams that win their conference championship there is a sense of accomplishment and a sense of purpose in having achieved this goal. Being awarded the Lamar Hunt or the George Halas Trophy, regardless of what happens in the Super Bowl, is an incredible accomplishment.
For one of the teams that makes it to the Super Bowl, this will be last enjoyable moment of the season.
And, if nothing else, there is a sense of pride that comes with representing your conference in the Super Bowl.
No. 13—The NCAA Tournament Selection Sunday
In February, college basketball fans know in the back of their mind that this day is just around the corner.
Selection Sunday symbolizes so much.
We hope to see some intriguing matchups, especially those ones pitting a coach against his former team, like Roy Williams and North Carolina against Kansas in 2008's Final Four. or a meeting of the last two national champions (Maryland against Syracuse in 2004) playing one another.
The NCAA Tournament is not just for college basketball fans. It is for Americans in general.
Think of the office pools, the people who never watch college basketball asking for your opinion on who to pick as well as the different formulas people have for picking the games.
This day also gives us some closure to what happened in the regular season and, for the first time, allows us to review the giant bracket and see the potential the tournament has to offer.
No. 12—The NFL's Opening Weekend
In this country, men and boys wait for the NFL season.
We watch the draft in April, we buy the magazines previewing each team during the summer and we watch Trey Wingo and the gang on NFL Live talk about the upcoming season.
While the first game on Thursday is special, this is the true beginning of the NFL season.
This weekend gets us back into the habit of eating Buffalo wings, drinking beer and getting barbecue sauce on our face while forgetting to wipe it away.
For us men and for our salvation, it is a return to normalcy.
No. 11—College Basketball's Championship Week
Championship Week is an extension of the NCAA Tournament.
It is the process by which the college basketball world whittles the field from the 345 or so teams down to 68.
It is the chance for the country to see some intriguing players and teams from the smaller schools that they know very little about.
But most of all it is a tuneup for the greatest event in sports: the NCAA Tournament.
No. 10—Day 1 Of The NFL Draft
For some NFL fans, this is THE DAY. It has just as much buildup and anticipation as does the season itself. It is a reminder to the fans of what could be, of how their favorite team—maybe a perennial loser— has a chance to be good.
The importance of Round 1 of the NFL Draft cannot be understated.
The picks an NFL team makes in Round 1 determine the direction of the franchise.
Peyton Manning. LaDainian Tomlinson. Ben Roethlisberger. Aaron Rodgers. Troy Polamalu.
They were all taken in the first round.
Charles Woodson. Clay Matthews, Jr. Philip Rivers. Ray Lewis. Ed Reed.
They as well.
In the NFL, a team can go from 6-10 to 11-5 in one season, so fans know the importance that a single offseason can have on the status of their team.
And the NFL Draft is usually the most important part of a team's offseason activities.
No. 9—The Final Four Saturday
A giant stadium filled with tens of thousands of people.
Four of the best teams in the country.
Jim Nantz calling the game.
The potential for two back-and-forth affairs that capture the excitement of March Madness.
What more could you ask for?
No. 8—Fantasy Football Draft Day
You've probably seen the FX television program The League.
It is an accurate representation of how awesome/pathetic some of us are when it comes to fantasy football.
This is the day where all of the research we've done on players and teams during the offseason is put to work. It is the chance for us to draft and shape our beloved team. It is where we decide how important a kicker or a defense or a running back is to our club.
It's quite an exciting time.
But we shouldn't take it too far.
God knows we don't want to get caught rosterbating or something like that.
No. 7—The New Year's Day and BCS Bowl Games
Despite the fact that so many of us are disappointed that we know another college football season will be coming to an end without a playoff, we are intrigued by the best games the bowls have to offer.
The matchups between the SEC and the Big Ten.
The showcase for players about to enter the NFL Draft.
And there are also the marquee teams who have underachieved but now have a chance to rectify their season with a big win.
As I've stated before, I would certainly like to have a playoff, but I know that should my team win an important bowl game to finish the season, it will cause me to temporarily forget about the disappointment of not having a playoff and relish in my team's victory.
No. 6—The NCAA Basketball Championship
This is the culmination of all that the NCAA Tournament has given us.
The excitement, drama, passion and intensity.
The hard work of the players, coaches and teams coming to fruition.
On this day, we have the last two teams standing.
But, sadly, only one of them can be champion.
That makes for quite an entertaining event for us as fans.
No. 5—Day 2 Of The NCAA Tournament
What's not to like?
It's virtually the same thing as Day 1 of the tournament.
The only difference is that it does not quite possess the luster of the first day.
It does, however, give us the hope for redemption should the first day not provide us with our share of excitement and upsets.
Just like Day 1, it is the chance for the Davids to challenge the Goliaths, and for us to find out which new Cinderella will capture our attention.
No. 4—The Super Bowl
In the United States, the Super Bowl is something of a holiday.
In fact, in the U.S., more food is consumed on Super Bowl Sunday than on any other day except Thanksgiving.
The parties, the food, the anticipation, the halftime show.
And, of course, there is the game.
No. 3—Any Game 7
We all know what the two most important words in sports are.
The drama, the anticipation, the buildup.
It immediately starts after Game 6.
Unfortunately, the actual event does not always satisfy the pregame hype, but it is a special event, nonetheless.
No. 2—The NFL's Divisional Playoff Weekend
Here's what you have: (1) The top four teams remaining in both the AFC and the NFC; (2) the two best announcing teams from both CBS and FOX calling the games; and (3) an entertaining set of games that takes us closer to the Super Bowl and the culmination of another great NFL season.
While the divisional playoffs are not as important as the conference championship games, the reason they are a better event for a couch potato is because of the quantity.
Watching the games on Saturday and knowing that two more will be coming Sunday is very reassuring.
No. 1—Day 1 Of The NCAA Tournament
Let me run down the list of things I've done over the years to watch the first round of the NCAA Tournament: (1) skipped school; (2) faked sick so I could come home from school; (3) scheduled vacation days so that I was home from work when the games were on; (4) scheduled my classes in college so that I wouldn't have any afternoon classes on Thursday and Friday during the second semester (when the games took place); and (5) found some reason, ANY REASON, not to go to work that day.
After freeing myself of any of these restraints, I then proceed to call up DirecTV and order all of the games, and switch back and forth between them throughout the day trying to soak it all up.
The first day of the NCAA Tournament to me, and to many sports fans, is like Christmas to an eight-year- old.