Klonsinski: March Madness inspires reflection
Zach Klonsinski | Friday, March 18, 2016
With March Madness finally underway, we’ve reached one of my favorite points on the sports calendar. Instead of trying to make sense of this year’s chaotic tournament, however, I thought I’d try something a little different.
Below is my personal ranking of the best events on the (roughly) annual sports calendar.
- Army-Navy football game
Passion. That’s the word I’d use to sum up Army-Navy and kick off the countdown. Sure, it’s only a few hours, but American flags, flyovers, fireworks and even hand-painted helmets (please keep those, Navy!) all make this one of the greatest spectacles in the American sports world. While they’ll rarely have the caliber of player that is fit to win a Heisman on the field (Keenan Reynolds got snubbed), there’s still raw passion on the field over who sings second, even if it’s been “Anchors Away” the last 14 years.
- The first The Masters commercial of the year
Yes, it’s about five seconds long (if that), and, no, there’s not exactly a date this always happens — I usually see it around the NFL’s conference championships or Super Bowl — but the instant the piano version of Dave Loggins’ “Augusta” comes on, there’s hope that spring is just around the corner and images of azaleas in bloom lift me briefly into golf heaven.
- The Kentucky Derby
Like The Masters’ theme song, the Kentucky Derby is a short experience: I only religiously watch “My Old Kentucky Home,” the call to post, and the race itself. But its reputation as the fastest two minutes in sports never disappoints. While not on this list, the Belmont Stakes also make the cut it in years where there’s a Triple Crown threat.
- The Open Championship at St. Andrews
Although the Open at St. Andrews isn’t a yearly event either, it still easily makes my top 10. If it were annual instead of unofficially every five years, it would be much higher on this list. Regardless, returning to the home of golf and watching players cross the Swilcan Bridge is, simply, special.
- Women’s World Cup
To further highlight just how ignorantly American I am of the FIFA World Cups, I actually find myself more invested in the women’s version. Being a newcomer to the soccer — er, football — world, the men’s tournament might supplant it in the coming years for me, but I’ve been vastly more invested in the women’s version because the United States has found success in recent tournaments.
- The Summer Olympics
This is basically Army-Navy, but on a longer, grander and international scale. The pageantry of the opening and closing ceremonies coupled with all of the different competitions and raw emotions every event evokes is second to none in the sports world. The only choice I had to make was which version I enjoyed more. …
- The Winter Olympics
… And for me, that choice wasn’t difficult. I’ll admit I’m biased toward winter events, living in cold areas for most of my life, but I find myself more invested in the Winter Olympics. Hockey, I’m sure, is a large reason why, but even “mundane” events like cross-country skiing and curling hook me. You really can’t go wrong either way, but give me the cold.
- First four days of March Madness
Distinguishing between the second and third spots on this list was extremely difficult, but in the end, lingering views on the amateur debate finally won out for me. Still, the first four days (excluding the games in Dayton) of the tournament almost always provide the greatest underdog stories of the sports year on a non-stop basis. It loses its luster once my teams and the Cinderellas are out, but there’s no other four-day sporting event I’d want to watch more. Well, almost.
- The Masters
This shouldn’t be a surprise given No. 9, but The Masters capture every sort of emotion for me. History, nostalgia, tranquility, the beauty of nature and the arrival of spring all combine beautifully. Oh, yeah and there’s the golf part, too. And Jim Nantz’ “Hello friends. Welcome to a tradition unlike any other.” And the green jacket, one of the most iconic trophies in sports, trailing only No. 1 on this list.
- First round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs
The only debate I had about the top spot in my countdown was whether to include the whole Stanley Cup Playoffs or just a part. The entirety of the playoffs felt too long for this list, so then it came down to the first round or the Finals. I chose the latter because, in the spirit of the first four days of March Madness that inspired this list to begin with, the first round is full of non-stop hockey featuring four games every night for a week and a half between the best teams and players in the world. For me, there simply isn’t a greater stretch in the world of sports.
Honorable Mentions (in no particular order): Opening Day and final day of the MLB’s regular season, Wimbledon, Men’s World Cup, Daytona 500
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.