The Masters and the World's Top 12 Events in Sports
Sports are one of the world’s few shared passions. Just like anything else the world’s nations share with each other, sports can involve money, diplomacy, egos and detestation for opponents involved on either side.
The events that serve as a canvas for these feelings have become intensely-focused meeting places for competition. The media has blown up into a multi-billion dollar operation that covers everything from athletes’ marital problems to their postgame press conferences.
We, as fans, are the investors that fuel this machine. We spend our hard-earned money on things like memorabilia, tickets, cable packages, contributions, concessions and anything else offered to us in order to show our support and loyalty. We have made sporting events what they’ve become—a true spectacle.
In honor of our passions as fans, I have comprised a list of my most admired sporting events in today’s world. First, please understand that you will not agree with me on this list, most likely. It is merely my opinion and an attempt to inspire thoughts on which events you cherish most.
Also, know that my list has not changed in years. A true ranking doesn’t surrender to being a “prisoner of the moment.” In other words, the World Series does not move up the rankings in October and November—it stays the same at all times.
So without further delay, here are my top 12 sporting events in the world today:
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Before the barrage of anti-nationalist accusations begin to fly, let me defend myself.
I am just as proud to be an American as anybody. I like beer, sports, fried foods, tailgating, scantily-clad women and everything else remarkable my country represents.
Other countries participating in the Olympics are just as dedicated to their nation’s flag and customs. This breeds deep rivalry amongst competing forces and generates an awkward blend of bloodthirsty hatred and diplomatic respect among those competing. What’s not to love?
Personally, I just think it falls short of expectations.
Yes, there’s the occasional Michael Johnson or Michael Phelps that intrigues audiences for a few weeks, but beyond that, the lack of spectacular, stunning events keeps me disinterested. The “Dream Team” and “Redeem Team” were fun to watch, but only in comparison to watching the Harlem Globetrotters against inferior opponents.
Basically, anything not involving one’s own country’s medal count is not worth paying attention to, nor is watching your own country battle a lack of worthy competition in certain events. With such an array of off-the-wall events and inconsistent competition, the Olympics leave me reaching for the remote more than Uncle Sam would appreciate.
I will give credit to the opening and closing ceremonies, though. Despite the confusion and chaos, you have to respect the effort (and turn your TV on mute if you don’t want to hear the same speech in 30 different languages).
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The reason I’ve given tennis’s oldest tournament such a low grade is simple: I don’t particularly enjoy tennis. This isn’t a knock against those who do, but simply a relation to my lack of knowledge for the sport as a whole.
That being said, I do have an appreciation for the history and prestige surrounding this mid-summer event. The dress code and traditions remind me of the Masters and the Kentucky Derby (both of which you might see shortly), and its continued sophistication amongst all of the sponsor-heavy, over commercialized tournaments shows its dedication to those traditions.
Maybe someday I will take the time to understand that tennis is not just an exhausting form of ping pong, learn the rules and scoring system, and develop a liking for events such as Wimbledon. Until then, my attention is on other spectacles of sport.
10. Daytona 500
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From a delicate, graceful event such as Wimbledon, we move to its polar opposite: NASCAR’s Daytona 500.
Daytona attracts a different breed of human being. Some watch for the wrecks, some watch for the strategy of race teams, some watch for their undying love for a particular driver and some watch for all of the above.
In my case, I watch the highlights to see who won, then move on with my life. I’m sure this would be different if I had ever attended a NASCAR race, but unfortunately, I haven’t put my ear drums through that amount of punishment to this point in my life.
Daytona is an enormous event, but due to lack of interest from non-adrenaline junkies, it fails to match the sheer revelry of other events. For me, speed is a great American amusement, but still doesn’t force me to sit through several hours of repetitive circling. Getting dizzy isn’t my idea of a well-spent Sunday afternoon.
9. The NBA Finals
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I know some will have a major problem with this not being in the top five, but for those people, I challenge you to understand my point of view.
The NBA plays an 82-game regular season. During those 82 games, it’s not irregular to see pitiful displays of defense caused by the lack of effort and complacent attitudes of its players. Though every game technically counts, it seems to me that some players only step up on both ends of the floor during the playoffs.
By that point, I usually find myself so appalled by the regular season that I cannot force myself to focus on playoff games.
Some years are different, and sometimes captivating players are involved that keep me interested, but those occasions are few and far between.
Storylines come and go, but my frustration surrounding the NBA always seems to remain. If you’re the opposite, congratulations—you have a greater tolerance than I do.
8. The College World Series
Maybe it’s the correlation of summertime to the CWS that makes me watch, or maybe it’s the tendency of camera crews filming games to pan the crowd in search of Rosenblatt’s most attractive females. Either way, the baseball is fairly decent, as well.
Though I usually watch only the first round games, the championship series and parts of the in-between elimination games, I usually take a positive experience from the weeks surrounding this summer classic. Games are typically close, hard-fought, and decided by the ability of young athletes to handle the pressure of the situation.
Because other sporting events have a stronger tradition of keeping me glued to my seat, the CWS isn’t higher on this list, but it will always remain an attention grabber.
7. The World Cup
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Soccer is not my favorite sport, and may not even be in my top five favorite sports. But, I cannot deny the World Cup’s ability to temporarily blind me from other sporting news every four years. In fact, that’s my only knock on the Cup—it doesn’t happen more often.
Goals are always at a premium during the World Cup, and it almost seems as if the fate of nations rests on each yellow card or missed offsides call. That’s what draws me in—the weight of each decision made on the field and the passionate responses of the fans in attendance.
I don’t feel that soccer will ever unseat the “big three” sports dominance in the United States, but its combination of culture and passion will continue to attract billions of viewers, and for that, it gets my nod at number seven.
For my sanity’s sake, I pray “vuvuzelas” are a thing of the past, and hope an embargo is placed on Brazil’s incoming shipments of them in 2014.
6. The World Series
It’s hard to imagine that the highest ranked event involving “America’s pastime” would be at number six, but don’t let its middle-of-the-pack ranking take away from its greatness.
Like the NBA, professional baseball has an extremely lengthy regular season (162 games, to be exact), but unlike basketball, the effort is always there, day in and day out.
The only reason the World Series couldn’t crack my top five is because of its layout. A seven-game series only keeps me closely focused when one team reaches three wins. I watch every game, but don’t hinge my hopes on each and every pitch until I’m convinced each pitch could win or lose the game for a team.
Baseball is, and always will be, America’s sport. Though its unexplainable qualities might not always sweep the country off its feet, it will remain a staple in the viewing diet of true sports fans nationwide.
5. The Kentucky Derby
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For my money, the Run for the Roses is truly “the most exciting two minutes in sports.” Combine the rituals, refinement and the southern traditions of the Kentucky Derby, and you have one of my most adored athletic events of the year.
Several hours of changing odds and pre-race scratches (and a mint julep or four) lead up to the much-anticipated bugle horn call to post, and then “They’re off!”
Thousands of men in their finest summer suit nervously grip the hand of their date tightly while she classily cheers in her dress and oversized hat. The powerful, majestic horses gallop past while the announcer narrates each turn. Down the backstretch they go, every jockey battling for position heading into the race’s latter stages.
Finally, they make their final turn. Every heart pounds in anticipation as they approach the finish line.
Then, in the blink of an eye (and sometimes the flash of a photo finish), the thoroughbreds cross the finish line and another champion is draped in a blanket of roses.
Usually, such lengthy lead-in followed by an action-packed, but short-lived two minute ending isn’t anyone’s idea of excellence, but the Kentucky Derby is life’s one exception to that rule.
4. The BCS National Championship
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Plenty can be said about the BCS vs. playoff system debate, but I have no complaints about the current system. While I agree that method of determining the nation’s two most talented teams will never be perfect, I feel that the BCS has gotten it correct more often than not.
For me, college football is the purest form of team competition left in today’s world. The pageantry, level of competition and passion of collegiate fan bases never ceases to amaze me on Saturdays in the fall. Every athlete on the field is an ambassador for their university, town, and sometimes even their entire state. They don’t play for cars, houses or jewelry (insert pay-for-play joke here); they play for championships.
Every January, it comes down to one game in which the winner is crowned as college football’s elite. Some years, this means that team has completed their entire schedule without a single blemish, thereby accomplishing the athletic pinnacle of an undefeated championship season.
While the BCS national championship doesn’t secure a top three slot based solely on personal preference, it’s an event I never plan to miss, no matter how close or far my favorite team is from being involved in it.
3. The Super Bowl
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It’s the most-watched event in the United States and consistently draws record-setting TV audiences every year. Not only is there hype surrounding the game itself, but also buildup surrounds the halftime show and commercials. This leaves very few with an excuse not to find some sort of enjoyment out of Super Bowl Sunday.
NFL players go through a grueling 16-game regular season, and then must battle even harder against the hungriest of opponents once they reach the playoffs. The teams that reach the Super Bowl are nothing short of battle-tested groups of warriors. Every player on both sidelines forgets salaries and endorsements for one evening and focuses exclusively on winning the highly-coveted ring that will forever signify them as a Super Bowl champion.
This achievement is the summit of professional team sports in the United States, and the game’s excitement usually reflects its significance to the competitors.
2. The NCAA Basketball Tournament
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Everybody loves upsets and buzzer beaters (unless it’s your team being upset or having a shot beat them at the buzzer). That’s all March Madness is—one upset after another, and exciting finishes left and right.
It’s 67 games within about three weeks. No team is safe. No win is guaranteed.
Shots may start falling for an unknown Cinderella and take them to new heights they had never dreamed of while fighting just to secure a spot in the tournament. Players once unknown become household names and carry their team’s weight on their shoulders.
It is truly madness, hence the name.
A team’s regular season wins, conference tournament wins and previous national championship banners mean nothing. They must go out and earn it. Put up, or shut up. Win, or go home.
1. The Masters
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Yes, I said it.
The Masters is the greatest sporting event in the world, and I have plenty of reasons to back up my claim.
First, the beauty of Augusta National Golf Club. Words cannot do this hallowed ground justice. Every blade of grass, every grain of sand and every drop of water is pure perfection. The sound of birds so joyfully nesting amongst the tall Georgia pine trees; the echo through the forest of crowds roaring as their favorite golfer makes a spectacular shot; the voices of Hall of Fame announcers on every hole, narrating each move with such charm and elegance—these are just a few of the traits that make this magical place truly faultless.
Second, the beauty of the unknown. Golf is an individual sport with an ever-increasing worldwide following. Children around the world are learning the fundamentals at early ages and perfecting their games through the decades following in hopes of someday walking courses like Augusta National with the best of the best: the members of the PGA Tour. Every man playing in The Masters is capable of making a charge due to the course’s ability to appeal to all different types of approaches. It’s not just the players who hit the ball a mile that will succeed—it can accommodate any variety of skills, which sometimes leads to unknown names sneaking in and earning their first-ever green jacket, thereby making their place in Masters history.
Last, it’s a “tournament unlike any other.” No other tournament succeeds so gracefully at honoring its past champions while openly welcoming the champions of tomorrow. The ambiance surrounding these four days in early April brings together golf’s legendary greats and lets them recapture everything about golf they have always loved, and teaches the younger generation of golfers to respect the game’s past and continue its traditions in the future.
The lessons of sportsmanship, respecting others and honoring traditions can all be learned by those attending The Masters and the millions viewing the tournament from around the world. It is truly a special event, and I am proud to say it is my number one sporting event in the world today.