Is the Super Bowl the Greatest Sports Show on Earth?

Glen JonesContributor IFebruary 2, 2009

Well, what a game!  It looked for a while like it was going to get one-sided, but then the Cardinals came back strong to take the lead near the end of the fourth quarter before the Pittsburgh Steelers nailed a touchdown with 35 seconds left.

It was certainly dramatic and exciting, and respect is due to both teams. But is it the best sporting event the world has to offer?

I’ve been pondering this for a week and I would like your input. Below, I make a case for the Olympics, the World Cup and the Super Bowl as the best sporting event in the world. See what you think and please offer feedback.

The Olympics

The Olympics take place over a couple of weeks and involves lots of different sports.  The diversity of the Olympics, with all those disciplines and countries, is what makes it special.

Everybody experiences their own Olympics, watching sports that interest them and focusing on athletes that they know. In many cases, there is one particular event that captivates many people, such as Usain Bolt's staggering 100m track victory last summer.

The 2008 Olympics featured more than 10,000 competitors in more than 300 events, and apparently 4.7 billion viewers watched at least some part of the TV coverage. It's definitely the most global sporting event, but the sheer size of it takes away from some of the power.

One slight negative is the politics involved. During the Beijing Olympics, everyone seemed to have something to say about China or Tibet, and I didn’t like that. Maybe that’s a drawback of an event that pulls so many nations together.

The World Cup

Not as global an event as the Olympics, but there were 32 nations competing at the 2006 finals, and many more that participated in qualifying but did not make it.

The World Cup has a group stage and then becomes a knockout competition. This creates a lot of excitement,and always results in one nation of elated fans and another with heartbroken supporters. This seems particularly so in England, where the whole nation goes potty when England is competing in a World Cup.

The World Cup is much more comparable to the Super Bowl in terms of format, with a playoff final for the last two teams standing and one of them winning the trophy. Unlike American football, though, a soccer match flows more, with long periods of open, unscripted play. 

American football is broken down into plays, each one being a little strategic battle. The beauty of a soccer game is that events tend to be less predictable; you never know when one team is going to put a move together than could lead to a goal.

And maybe when a goal is scored, that moment creates a bigger moment of elation than scoring a touchdown. After all, an entire country is happy when a goal is scored. Only pockets of people are happy when, say, the Steelers score a touchdown.

Around 700 million watched the 2006 final, by the way.

The Superbowl

Although the winner is called the "World Champion," the Super Bowl is only an American event. It doesn’t have any of the attraction of the international competitiveness that the other two have.

Many soccer fans don’t like the stop/start nature of an NFL game and will complain at the amount of commercial breaks; however, I think this is perfect as a TV viewer.  Usually a drive will keep you watching for a while, and then someone will score, or take a time out, and you have another opportunity to go fetch more food and beer.

Another big plus with the Super Bowl is the halftime show, something unrivaled at any other sporting event. The shows can range from mediocre (Bruce Springsteen) to amazing (U2, Prince) or controversial (Janet Jackson). The entire event is blown to huge proportions; even the commercials bear close scrutiny.

130-140 million Americans watch some part of the Super Bowl, and that represents the vast majority of the worldwide audience.

I'm interested to hear what you think. Let me know.


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