Power Ranking the Best Championships in Sports
The main object in all of sports is to compete and beat your opponent. Only the truly talented survive. Every major sports has its pinnacle, its zenith.
It is on that stage that the best in their respective sports are crowned. It is where heroes are made and legends remembered. But not all titles are created equal in the eyes of sports fans. There are some that are truly special and others that get a passing gaze from those in the know.
So here is a list of the best championships in sports. They are power ranked for your pleasure. By pleasure, I of course mean your scathing comments.
We are judging here for two things: importance on the world's stage and the importance these championships have to their sport.
15. MLS Cup
Yes, America does have a professional soccer league. And no, they do not have many fans.
But I have to say, they are growing, both in talent and in fan base. MLS was once an unwatchable rabble of college-level players. It has transformed into a sport league that evokes passion and fine play. You may not have the crisp passes that you have over seas, but it's getting there.
It is tough to single out just one of the four major tennis tournaments. But if one is so inclined, they can do no better than Wimbledon.
It is the oldest tournament in tennis and still maintains the same field of play that was originally used, grass. If you want to be considered the best in tennis, you better make a great showing at Wimbledon.
13. The Masters
Golf has four major tournaments: the PGA Championship, the U.S. Open, the Open Championship and the Masters.
The Masters was chosen for its tradition and its small number of invitees. While golf has no official championship that declares an out-and-out winner on the year, the Masters is a signaling of who is on top of the sport.
Augusta is one of the hardest courses in the world and to do well under the limelight here means you have made it as a golfer.
12. World Baseball Classic
The World Baseball Classic has a long way to go to meet the prestige of the World Cup. But it has been successful in garnering attention that baseball is no longer just America's game.
The first iteration was played in 2006. We were all treated to All-Star caliber teams that played in a tournament-like format. We found that the best way to play baseball is with fundamentals and not brawn. Japan has won both the 2006 and 2009 Classics.
Plans are set to have the next Classic, most likely in 2013 with an expanded field of 24 teams.
11. Rugby World Cup
You can't tear sports fans from the TV when Rugby is on in Australia. The same can be said for sports fans in New Zealand, South Africa, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Madagascar, Fiji, the Cook Islands, Romania, Samoa, Tonga and Argentina.
Fans in those countries go wild every four years when their countries are represented by the best in Rugby. It is a relatively new tournament, started in 1987. But its popularity is destined to grow.
England has the Cup in 2015 followed by Japan in 2019.
10. ICC World Cup
What may come as a shock to most of us is that there are other people outside of the United States. These people have a somewhat different take on sports.
That leads us to the revelation that cricket is the second most popular sport in the world. The biggest tournament that is held is the ICC World Cup. This is a similar format to the World Cup in that it is held every four years.
The stakes get raised even higher when India and Pakistan come together. Their rivalry is one of the most heated in the world.
9. BCS National Title Game
In 1998, the Bowl Championship Series was put into place in order to clear up some of the confusion that was out there from the bowl series that was in place.
What we have been left with is even more confusion and controversy. The national title game loses a bit of its luster when marginally intelligent observers are left to ask, why no playoff? Every other sport in the world has some form of one, why not here?
The BCS uses a long list of criteria to deem the rankings of the top teams in the nation. They sometimes get it right, as in this year. But other times, fans are left to wonder if the right teams are represented at the big game.
You also have the issue of having a plethora of bowl games leading up to the title game. With 35 games in tow, it is tough to consider this one that much more special. But we college football fans will take what we can get in any form they spoon feed us with.
8. NCAA Champonship: Men's Basketball
All you have to do to excite a sports fan is mention March Madness. It is a time for glee and celebration...and don't forget skipping work.
The only real drawback is that the NCAA tournament is too fun. There are a great wealth of upsets and some great teams suffer from the one-and-done format. But who cares when you have your bracket in hand and Purdue is getting you closer to winning the whole thing?
The advent of the bracket may be the wisest decision in the history of sports. Why no other league has done the same is beyond me.
7. The Stanley Cup
The Stanley Cup is truly a spectacle to witness. It very well could be the most famous trophy in all of sports.
The NHL does the title right. The NBA could take note of the passion and energy that is left on the ice. It is just a shame that the sport has fallen out of favor with the television viewing public. There have been many attempts to coerce the American public into watching the finals, but it remains a treat for only hockey fans.
Hockey is yet to entice those sports fans that have merely a passing interest in hockey.
6. NBA Finals
Don't get me started on this lot. OK, you got me.
The NBA's greatest series has been tampered with. Now we are forced to watch a relatively benign seven games in which no one player can show too much emotion for fear of being fined.
Do you remember the days of the Bad Boy Pistons? When McHale clothes-lined Rambis to the ground? That is what I call sports. That's what I call entertainment. But now the players are fearful to even retaliate with harsh words for a player that steps on their ego.
Baseball has the brush-back pitch. The NBA has gentle shoves down low. Now they have slowed down the game even further with technical fouls being called for overt shows of emotion to bad calls. Well, stop calling bad fouls.
But the biggest bust for the Finals is that they take so long. The NBA playoffs take a little over two months to conclude. The NBA, where prolonged endings happen.
5. The World Series
Every year we are treated to the Yankees playing someone for seven games in October. There was a miracle this year when a team that sought talent over marketability won the whole thing.
The sad truth is that the World Series has lost some luster. It used to be America's pastime. Now it is an afterthought to many fans. It comes much to the chagrin of myself and other baseball nuts that the Giants clinched a World Series title to little national fanfare.
They won a title for the first time as the San Francisco Giants and the leading story on ESPN was something about Brett Favre losing his wallet. Please remember how great this could be.
Bud Selig, stream the opening rounds on the Internet for free. March Madness can do it, so can you too.
4. UEFA Champions League
It pains me to no end that the great number of American sports fans cannot stand soccer. I once was one of you.
I hated the low scoring, the flopping and the seemingly slow pace of the game. Then I started watching more closely. There were hard hits. There were amazing passes that floated for 50 yards to land at the foot of a teammate.
But the one thing that got me interested was the fanaticism. How can a billion people be wrong?
The UEFA Champions League takes the best clubs in Europe and pits them against each other. Imagine if there were more than one NFL-type league in North America. They all would boast like talent and all situated in different countries.
Now imagine these NFL level clubs played in a yearlong tournament that ended with one juggernaut playing the other. That is exactly what the UEFA Champions league is. The best of the best playing each other.
3. Super Bowl
This is how you run the show. You keep the playoffs simple, sweet and to the point. Then you play a one-game final and give it a snappy name. The best part, include witty commercials for those that don't even like football.
What you get is a sporting event that is more holiday than championship game. Many sports fans wait the whole year for just this event. It is their Christmas, New Year's and Thanksgiving all rolled into one.
It really doesn't matter that, more often than not, the game is somewhat of a letdown. We still drink the Kool-Aid every February and tune into one of the best championship games on earth.
2. World Cup
I have already expounded on the merits of soccer and the UEFA Champions League. Well this is that title series on steroids.
It takes the best national teams from the world and pits them against one another for one month every four years. The margin for error is minuscule. It is so exciting that it has fantastic ratings even in America, where we still have failed to jump on the soccer bandwagon.
It is a championship that transcends sport and delves into nationalism and patriotic pride.
1. The Olympic Games
The pinnacle of sport has to be the Olympic games. This series of finals takes the best athletes from all over the world and gives them just two weeks every four years to be the best.
Athletes train their whole lives for sometimes seconds of competition time. Countries take great pride in the medals they win. It is a peaceful way to highlight our differences and similarities among nations while taking part in a great competition.
Countries go through great pains to secure a spot to host the games, and rightfully so. The country is then bestowed with millions of dollars in revenue for all of their troubles. There is hardly a sports fan out there who does not drop everything every four years to watch the spectacle that is the world games.