Next time you’re with a group -- friends, family, doesn’t matter -- try initiating a fun social experiment by asking everyone to name the world’s best sporting event.
Some of the older folks might bring up the World Series, at which point some whippersnapper will temporarily cease impersonating a duck for something called The Gram and roll their eyes.That same whippersnapper might say the Counter-Strike or League of Legends World Championship, at which point some old guy will inevitably start mumbling something about the decay of modern society and the good ole’ days when men were men (clenching fist for emphasis) and made things with their hands and drank whiskey straight. Regardless of age and interest in sports, however, the most frequent mention will likely be the Super Bowl.
There’s nothing particularly wrong with that answer, it’s the most watched sporting event in the world and this year’s tilt is a legitimate contender for game of the year, but does the biggest spectacle necessarily make the Super Bowl the best sporting event?
While most of sports’ biggest moments were made for prime time on weekend television -- from UFC to NFL and NCAA football -- there are so many other incredible sporting events that play out while you’re grinding away at the nine-to-five.
Here are four events totally worth faking the flu or “I’m not sure, but it’s definitely respiratory” or, if you’re a normal person, taking a day of vacation to enjoy.
The opening round of the Masters ... or any major
Watching golf is an acquired taste.
While high definition and advances in broadcast tools have made the game easier to follow, six hours listening to the soothing whispers of Peter Kostis and Gary McCord isn’t for everyone.
However, any sports fan with even a passing interest in golf can get excited about the PGA’s four majors. The Masters kicks things off in one of sport’s greatest cathedrals, Augusta National. Because the Masters is the only major held at the same course each year, players have a sacred connection with the event that makes for a great tournament, notably during the first and second rounds when things are happening all over the course.
If the Masters isn’t your cup of sweet tea, see if you have a connection with the beauty and authenticity of the U.S. Open or that ancient quality that connects the British Open with the game’s origins.
Really any major will do. Except the PGA Championship. Go to work for that one.
What’s that? Wrestling is fake?
Now that you’ve dropped that revelation kindly take note that everybody knows, nobody cares (and that professional wrestling is still a guilty pleasure of Millennials everywhere). It’s time to get on board with the Showcase of the Immortals.
Wrestlemania is basically World Wrestling Entertainment’s (WWE) Super Bowl, which is to say a Sunday spectacle that caps the “season” by turning a normally three-hour affair into a six-hour war of attrition.
That’s technically a stretch for the purposes of this article. While Wrestlemania itself takes place in prime time on a Sunday, however, Wrestlemania Weekend is actually four shows, starting with WWE developmental brand NXT’s show on Saturday evening and stretching all the way to Tuesday with the post-Wrestlemania Monday Night Raw and Smackdown Live, widely revered for being among the best weekly episodes of every year.
Wrestlemania Weekend is one of the most unique and interesting events in all of sports. Sure, the results are predetermined but WWE mixes the pageantry and theatrics of a massive rock show and cinematic storytelling (at least the made-for-TV variety) with legitimate, and astounding, athletic skill and the primal violence that just about every human is programmed to love.
It’s worth taking in all four days. Quit being too cool for school and mark out like everyone else.
Major League Baseball opening day
The National Pastime has become mostly a playoffs-only sport in recent decades, but opening day is special. There’s a childlike excitement to the first day of a summer-long grind that takes many sports fans back to their own Little League experiences.
By mid-June, the smells of fresh-cut grass and ballpark franks will largely be replaced with the dread of enduring three- to four-hour games filled with more cup adjusting than actual baseball. On opening day, however, every team is a contender and there’s a magic in the air that can’t be ignored. Or maybe that’s the day-drinking and unofficial start of warmer weather.
Either way, soak it in.
Champion’s League Soccer
American football is dying a slow, painful death, at least at the professional level.
Youth participation is falling, health concerns are numerous and seemingly perpetual, ratings are down and the product on the field is downright boring.
And does anybody get paid more to do a worse job than NFL commissioner Roger Goodell?
This means a once blasphemous concept is worth at least considering: American football might not be the best football.
Soccer is already the most popular sport in the world and the UEFA Champions League basically showcases the best teams from the top leagues in the world (well Europe) for a winner-take-all tournament. Best of all, in an era where commercials and other considerations are pushing games longer and longer, soccer’s running clock still makes for brisk action that gets you in an out in less than two hours.
Games happen at weird times on weird days, but they feature the best talent in the sport playing in front of massive crowds with the kind of passion and intensity that only college athletics even begin to approach in America.
Find a pub. Enjoy. You might even just be able to make some lame excuse why your lunch break ran long.