Ranking the Best 20 Days of the Year for Sports Fans
Break out the Sharpies. It's time to pen in some personal days.
We have to be sports fans 365 days a year. That doesn't mean we wake up every morning, click our heels and yell "Sports!" on our way out the door.
Being a sports fan is rough. We irrationally tie our happiness to the success of a group or individual we've likely never met in our lives. It's a recipe for unrest.
That said, there are days that make all the suffering worth it—events you can mark down on a calendar as a reminder that a light exists at the end of the tunnel.
The following are the best of these days. They are the 20 greatest days of the year for sports fans, and we'd all be out on a ledge if it weren't for their saving grace.
20. Stage 1 of the Tour De France
Boo! Hiss! Bikes are for pansies!
Hear me out, guys. Cycling is a hilarious and grueling sport with a huge PED problem and zero star power. It's not lawless, but it's close.
Drugs, poor sportsmanship and pretty much anything else is touch and go in cycling until after the race is run. With this in mind, the Tour de France is a juiced up exhibition of young jacks and old veterans chomping at the drops. They've trained all year for this, and the first day of their three-week quest can quickly turn into a bloodbath.
Best Part: The wrecks and the running commentary of Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen.
19. Sunday at the NFL Combine
Sunday is a day of speed, jiggling and surprises at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Quarterbacks, running backs and offensive linemen all take the field on the Lord's Day to be timed in the 40-yard dash and complete various drills. It isn't a make-or-break day for most of the first rounders, but it is fun to see college football stars in spandex and out of their element.
Best Part: Linemen 40-yard dashes.
18. The Indy 500
The Indianapolis 500 is the Woodstock of IndyCar racing.
Something exciting and organized happens, but the main event (the race) is secondary to the giant party. Sports fans and random Joes from across the Midwest converge on Indianapolis for this annual race, and from everything I've heard and witnessed, a good time is had by all.
Best Part: The victory milk chug. The pro marijuana trolling attempts are pretty funny, too.
17. Cooper's Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake
Every year a mob of reckless individuals gather at the top of Cooper's Hill in Gloucester, England, in the name of destroying their bodies to reach a piece of runaway cheese.
I have never done this, but you can bet your sweet bonnet I plan to do it before I die. Hell, I might die doing it, and I'd be more than okay with that.
Best Part: The part where the people fall down the hill.
16. The Kentucky Derby
You don't have to be a sports fan to love the Kentucky Derby, which is an important part of its charm.
Drinking mint-laced bourbon and watching the ponies is something anyone can enjoy, and every sports fan owes it to themselves to attend at least one running of this prestigious debauchery.
Best Part: The horses' names.
15. Manchester United vs. Manchester City
The David and Goliath dynamic of Man U versus Man City is quickly being flipped on its ear, but even the most leisurely soccer fan can appreciate a game between these bone-deep rivals.
Best Part: Man City outscoring United 7-1 in their last two meetings.
14. The Daytona 500
NASCAR isn't for everyone, but the Daytona 500 is the one race on the circuit that transcends the sport.
I couldn't care less about stock car racing, but I'm hard-pressed to think of a more enjoyable day than one spent in the infield at the Daytona 500. Sitting on top of an RV with a cooler of cold ones and a cutoff Dale Earnhardt Sr. shirt? I'll take two.
Best Part: People watching/victory spinouts.
13. The NFL Draft
Like any draft, the NFL draft is entertaining for a whole half hour or so.
If you can go, great. If not, you get to sit at home and laugh as talented young men in suits are shipped off to horrible parts of the country.
It's good fun, but excitement wanes considerably after the first ten picks and is replaced by a slow, dogged grind. Why is this taking so long? They've had months to make this decision. Just pick the punter from Jambalaya State and move on.
Best Part: Picking busts and champs with friends.
12. The Home Run Derby
Few things are more pointlessly satisfying than watching huge men smash baseballs at brand new trucks.
Best Part: Not Chris Berman's commentary.
11. National Signing Day
The dorky gimmicks...the deceptive hand movements...and hats!
When you get down to it, National Signing Day is all about the hats. These poor ball caps never asked to be part of something so momentous, but every year they find themselves making or breaking the hopes of thousands.
Best Part: Watching another of April Justin's offspring not choose LSU.
10. The Super Bowl
The Super Bowl is either a life-changing event or one of the most overhyped exhibitions of sport you'll witness all year.
Seeing as most of the games fall in the latter category, I can't place the king of football games too high on the list. It's only the best day of the year if your team is in it (and wins it). For the rest of us, it usually turns out to be a four-hour game with increasingly bad commercials and a sparkly pop concert in the middle.
Best Part: The inevitable halftime show nipple moment that offends Middle America.
9. The NBA Draft
The NBA draft is the best of all drafts for two reasons: The swagger and the heckling.
"Swagger" isn't a term I use lightly. Mind you, I say this as a writer for the Swagger division. It's a term that has been overused to the point of meaninglessness, but the NBA draft is one of the few occasions where it still applies.
These kids dress and strut on a whole other level than kids at the NFL draft, and the hecklers at the NBA draft far outstrip their football counterparts.
Best Part: David Stern basking in the hate. And Afro hat-pillows
8. College Football National Championship
Some are barn burners, others quickly devolve into a public shaming.
Like the Super Bowl, you never fully know what to expect from a college football national championship game. The exclusivity and predisposition toward blowouts make this day less universally loved, but as Florida State-Auburn showed us, a great matchup is a beautiful thing.
Best Part: Anyone but Alabama winning.
7. Opening Day
You pray for beautiful weather on Opening Day, but it's all about the smells.
Grilled meat, cut grass and "eau de stade"—a mix between popcorn, concrete and stale beer. Walking into that stadium for the first time in six months makes you feel like you forgot how to smell over the winter.
Best Part: There's still hope. And buntings.
6. The Iron Bowl
You can root for the smallest school in the country, but if you like college football, you appreciate the Iron Bowl.
Alabama versus Auburn might be the closest football comes to an actual gladiatorial battle in a stadium packed with bloodthirsty plebeians. I mean that in the most appreciative way possible.
5. NHL Opening Night
Opening night for the NHL receives high billing on this list because it isn't guaranteed.
No one knows if and when it's going to happen, because timely starts to professional hockey are like jackalopes in these parts.
We've heard the elders whisper of such things, and one guy claims he saw one run into the woods behind his house. But nobody knows when they'll see it again.
So when NHL opening night comes around, the catharsis and relief is almost unmatched.
Best Part: Not having to stare at Gary Bettman's face anymore.
4. College GameDay at Your Alma Mater
If you're lucky enough to have attended a university visited by ESPN's College GameDay, you have felt pure happiness.
Few feelings rival the sense of pride one is filled with when Lee Corso and company come to your collegiate stomping grounds. There's a sense of achievement. You have done something right to have earned this recognition, and can die now secure in the knowledge that the world has witnessed your school's majesty.
3. Fantasy Football Draft Day
It goes fantasy draft, wedding anniversary and then their child's birthday. That is the order of importance of things in the life of a fantasy footballer.
Weeks—no, months—are spent scouring the interwebs and researching for this sloppy free-for-all. No one walks away unscathed or happy.
Fantasy drafts are a battle. It's practically trench warfare for those who still hold an in-person draft night. You get to look your buddy in the eye as you slide the knife in and take the player his entire strategy was founded upon.
Best Part: Snagging a top-10 quarterback in the fourth round.
2. Game 7
Game 7 of any playoff series is automatically electric.
There's no tomorrow. Someone is going home soon, because this is Game-freaking-7—the mountaintop, Highlander showdown of the playoff atmosphere.
Someone might get broadsword-ed. That's how real things are about to get.
Best Part: The unexpected hero whose one contribution saves the day.
1. 1st Day of March Madness
We had so many plans. Such shiny, dumb notions of what could be.
Every year college basketball fans think they've got March Madness figured out, and every year the majority of us are left hugging our knees in a corner as New Mexico pulls a New Mexico and New Mexicos its way out of the Round of 64.
It all starts with the first day of the tournament, a day of violent tectonic plate movement in the hardwood that swallows dynasties and blasts Cinderellas into the atmosphere. This is the day when brackets shatter and that brittle frame of reference we call reality comes crashing down.
It is Rapture and Genesis. Endings and beginnings. And it's the most beautiful thing of all things.
The Best Part: Crying children—a CBS tradition.