Thursday, March 27

The best of the best

I liked Bud Shaw's article today about the NCAA tournament, and found it interesting how he ranked the "Best Sporting Events". Shaw has them as such:

1) NCAA Tournament
2) Super Bowl
3) Masters
4) World Series
5) Olympics
Honorable mentions: NBA Finals, Indy 500 (though not anymore), Stanley Cup Finals (in person), Kentucky Derby.

That's a reasonably well-crafted list, though I would of course make some changes. Obviously, the Masters is not going to make my list since a) it's golf and b) it happens like one third of the way into the season. Everything else on the list is a culmination, a final battle between the sports' finest competitors for the big prize (except for the Derby and Indy 500 - why can't these non-sports structure their tournaments properly?) but the Masters is just an early-season tournament with semi-artificial importance attached to it. Also: I hate golf.

Anyway, here's how my list shakes out:

1) Super Bowl
No question in my mind. The biggest game (not a series, a game) of America's biggest sport, and the grandests spectacle we have to offer. It's essentially a national holiday.

2) World Cup of Soccer
I'm surprised about how high I placed this myself, but the sheer scope of this event makes it athletically and culturally significant. Hell, if it gets me to adjust my schedule to watch soccer games it must be something special, right? It's easily the best international sporting tournament there is. Now, about those 0-0 ties...

3) World Series
I love how tense late-October baseball gets and the drama the games offer; it's too bad we've been plagued with sweeps in recent years.

4) NCAA Tournament
This could be #3 if it weren't for those pesky later rounds. It's interesting how much fan excitement wanes after those frenetic opening days.

5) Olympics
Lots of neat events (swimming, 100 m dash), lots of not-so-neat events (kayaking, archery), and all the way through tremendous skill and athleticism. Still, it's such a broad competition that it stretches the attention span. Like, name one thing that happened in the 2004 Athens or 2000 Sydney games.

6) NBA Finals
Tough, intense basketball between two battle-tested teams at the end of a long road for basketball's prized championship - what's not to like? Other than the fact that it takes place in late June, that is.

7) Stanley Cup Finals
Try to remember what an elite list this is; playoff hockey is tremendously exciting, especially once it hits sudden-death overtime, where a game-winner is among sports' most awesome moments. Still, as Shaw points out, hockey on TV is suboptimal.

8) BCS
I'm on record as a BCS apologist, but even if you don't like the system, you can still appreciate watching 10 of the nation's top college football teams do battle in early January.

I'd be interested to see what readers and my fellow columnists think.


dave said...

I think that Shaw should determine which audience these rankings apply to. For instance is he talking about people just in this country or is he talking about global viewers. I find it hard to believe that the NCAA tournament is as big a deal in other countries as it is here. Based on his rankings I think its safe to say he is refering just to this country, which is probably the reason he doesn't have the world cup on there.
With your personal rankings, you have the World Cup ranked high. Thats if you are talking specifically about this country. In this country the world cup probably doesn't rank above any of the events Shaw listed. In the rest of the world the world cup would definitely be number one.

I don't know if anyone is going to agree with me on this next point, but I don't think the NCAA tournament deserves the amount of attention it receives. One reason is that most of the best talent in college leaves for the NBA after the first year (This hurts both the NBA and NCAA). The biggest reason however is that most people don't watch the NCAA tournament because they love to watch good basketball. Most people watch it because they have money on the games. It's not like that for everyone, but I would guess for a vast majority of people it's true.

I think the NBA playoffs and finals are extremely underrated. Most people criticize the NBA because the players don't play hard during the regular season. Well in the playoffs, they do play hard. Me personally, I like the NBA playoffs more than anything, and I know I'm in the minority.

Go Kobe

Anonymous said...