Dave's Sports Views

Analysis, humor and opinion on the sports world

Location: Dallas, Texas, United States

Friday, April 07, 2006

Best of the Rest

With the Masters underway in Augusta, Ga., so kicks off a season of many secondary events that are popular with certain sports fans but not all. They don't have the national cachet of baseball, football, basketball, or NASCAR, but they often provide for compelling entertainment, and many true fans wouldn't miss them.

Here are my five favorite events in the "non-major" sports:

5) The Frozen Four -- I have to admit hockey wasn't even on my radar screen when I was young. A great season by the Flyers might catch my attention but otherwise I was watching basketball instead of hockey. But going to college at Bowdoin and graduate school at the University of Minnesota turned me on to college hockey. The Frozen Four has produced some classic games -- my two favorites were the 1989 and 1991 championship games, both held in St. Paul, Minn. Harvard beat Minnesota in overtime in 1989, and Northern Michigan won an unbelievable 8-7 triple overtime game against Boston University in 1991.

4) Wimbledon -- I've heard people group golf and tennis into one column in terms of following sports, and I have to admit it's true for me. When I was younger and played a lot of tennis, I wouldn't miss one of the Grand Slams. As I've gotten older and play a little bit of golf, I appreciate that sport more. But I still make some time for Wimbledon. It doesn't get much better than waking up early on a Sunday morning in July to catch the ladies' or men's final. The points are sometimes painfully short, but the fast grass keeps the tempo of the match going and puts an advantage on the server that makes service breaks truly rare.

3) The U.S. Open (golf) -- The Masters certainly has a lure, but most of all, I appreciate watching the world's greatest golfers enduring the tough conditions on USGA courses. It makes me, for once, feel a little better about my own (bad) game. And while Augusta is probably the nation's most revered course, it's fun to see new courses every year and learn about the USGA "Openizes" them. As I mentioned with Wimbledon and service breaks, birdies at the U.S. Open are so precious that a 10-footer puts you in the edge of your seat.

2) The World Cup -- Can you see a trend developing here? Service breaks at Wimbledon: rare. Birdies at the U.S. Open: rare. Goals at the World Cup: really rare. There's a reason why Andres Cantor goes nuts about each one. While the Olympics has become an overcommercialized mess, the World Cup is now the premier international sporting event for its displays of nationalism and pride. Though soccer has risen in popularity in the United States, it will never become anything close to the national sport that it is in most countries. And by that measure, the World Cup gives us a chance to look inside other cultures and feel their own heartbeat for a while.

1) The Kentucky Derby -- The first one I ever watched came in 1977, when Seattle Slew raced to victory and then went on to win the Triple Crown. Affirmed and Alydar staged their classic battle the next year, and carried it through for two more big races. I figured winning the Triple Crown was easy. No one has won since. In '79, Spectacular Bid almost made it three straight but lost to Coastal in the Belmont Stakes. Pleasant Colony, Alysheba, Sunday Silence, Silver Charm, Real Quiet, Charismatic, War Emblem, Funny Cide and Smarty Jones couldn't finish the deal. But on Derby Sunday, we wait in anticipation for the next possible Crown winner to emerge. While there's nothing better than a Belmont Stakes when a Triple Crown is at stake, the Derby is the only of the three races where you can truly root for any horse, because they all technically have a shot at the Crown.

Those are my favorites; I'd love to hear yours.



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