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    Super Bowl Special: The Top Ten Mega-Sporting Events (10-6)

    The Super Bowl is upon us. It's a remarkable event, able to bring together the vast majority of Americans, calling them to a rather inert form of action in living rooms and bars all across this great land. In this Age of Entertainment Plenitude, with the hundreds of TV channels and thousands of other diversionary options we now enjoy, it's a remarkable feat. Some watch for the game, which usually disappoints, some watch for the ads, which usually disappoint, some may even watch for the halftime entertainment, which always disappoints, but most watch because, well, everyone else is doing it.

    For the sheer scope and spectacle of the event alone, the Super Bowl surely ranks as one of best sporting events in the world. But where exactly does it rank? Well, I have listed below my list of the Top 10 Mega-Sporting Events in the world.

    (Realize, however, I can't help but create this list with my own personal sports biases, meaning for example that you will not find any auto racing event here, even though I am quite aware the Indy 500 and Nextel Cup Chase provide chills and thrills to millions of Americans. I am also being pretty strict in my definition of sport, meaning The World Series of Poker, Nathan's International July 4th Hot Dog Eating Contest, and The Strongest Man competition - all events I enjoy watching immensely - have also been left off the list. Golf, for some reason, still counted.)

    So without further ado ...

    10) Triple Crown - I can't say I know or care much about horse racing, but I must admit watching these amazing, noble beasts compete fills me with all sorts of powerful, mixed emotions. The animal lover in me cringes at how the sport uses and at times abuses the horses (watching a horse get put down after a severe injury is almost unbearable), but I also agree with the people who argue that many of these horses, especially the legendary ones, take an enormous amount of pride and enjoyment from running and racing. Horse racing has a long and storied history in America - I encourage people to see the movie Seabiscuit for one of its meaningful chapters - and the fact that no horse has won the elusive Triple Crown title for 30 years only increases its mystique. Obviously, the Kentucky Derby is by far the best-known and most-watched race in the Triple Crown, but I have a fondness for the Belmont Stakes, where a few years ago I bet $5 on Sarava, who spoiled Big Brown's chance at a Triple Crown and at 70-1 odds became the biggest underdog to win in the race's history.

    9) Tennis and Golf Grand Slams - If three competitions are good, then four must be better, right?? Right! Now, I'm putting these two together because I view tennis and golf as pretty similar: Individual sports - played mostly by rich, white people (at least in America) - that can be quite monotonous to watch, but at times create compelling theater, such as any match Nadal and Federer play (like this weekend at the Australian open) and last year's U.S. Open, when little-known Rocco Mediate took a hobbled Tiger Woods to a sudden death playoff before finally succumbing to defeat on the 91st hole of the tournament. The grand slams in each sport consist of the four major tournaments, none of which I can highlight as clearly standing out above the others (though if I had to pick, I'd go with the Masters in golf and Wimbledon in tennis because they don't have generic names). Both golf and tennis are sports I generally don't care much about, but when the grand slam tournaments roll around, I usually start paying attention.

    8) NBA Championship - While I'm well aware for most people this would be higher, I've always sort of thought of pro basketball as a crappy sport. This is partly because my hometown St. Louis never (edit: in my lifetime) had a team that I grew to love and root for, and partly because pro basketball is a crappy sport. Why do I say that? Well, basketball is supposed to be a team game, but in the NBA every man seems to playing out on his own island and defense seems an afterthought. I think the game may actually be too easy for players, as baskets seem to fall with amazing ease. Compared to the excitement of the college game, where you can almost always feel the energy and the players' pure love of the sport, pro basketball is a big disappointment. No player really seems to get too worked up until the end of the game, so I feel like you can totally miss the first three quarters of a match and still get at least three-quarters' worth of the excitement. For me, the NBA Playoffs are kind of like the fourth quarter for the regular season. It's the time to start watching. Intensities and rivalries heat up significantly, making the game exciting again.

    7) BCS - Whereas pro basketball gets substantially better in the postseason, college football oddly takes the other tact by engaging in one of the most atrocious contraptions in sports today: The Bowl Championship Series. It was bad enough when college football had its 200-odd bowl games, all sponsored by corporate America, the vast majority of which were soulless and meaningless events designed only to put a few million more dollars in the coffers of universities. But then when college football fans cried out for a postseason that meant something, that could actually produce an undisputed champion, the powers that be came up with the wretched Bowl Championship Series, which is designed only to put a few hundred million more dollars in the coffers of universities. Everyone knows some sort of college football playoff system would be infinitely more exciting, including President Barack Obama. Unfortunately, the current system is so profitable that not even the wishes of the most powerful man in the world will be heeded anytime soon.

    6) World Cup - I know for 90%-plus of sports fans on Earth, this would probably be No. 1 on the list. But again, I can't help but let my personal preferences color this ranking. I just don't love soccer. It's okay. The players are clearly tremendous athletes. But all that running, with so little scoring, kind of just reminds me of a mouse going in circles on a wheel (which is exactly what auto racing reminds me of, except machines and not athletes are doing almost all the work). Plus, all that player diving and writhing after every little piece of contact is totally obnoxious. What can I say? I'm American, and in America, we play soccer as little kids, then move on to bigger and better things. But I have to admit, I get a little riled up for the World Cup - I even got up in the wee hours of the morning in 2002 and invited my cousins over to watch the US try to make its mark in the soccer world.

    OK, I need to take a break, so I'm going to post this for now and then return with my Top 5 Mega-Sporting Events later today.


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