I've been truly blessed as a sports fan to attend a broad number of events in my 38 years, I thought it an interesting exercise to provide a "Top Ten" events as well as a list of ten that I have yet to see.
The list is based primarily upon the magnitude/history of the game/match/event, not necessarily the quality of play or competitiveness of the game. However, the latter can certainly enhance. I'm not going to include an otherwise "normal" game that ended up with significance (record broken, no hitter, etc.).
The rankings are certainly biased by my personal preference for the sport, and I am a history guy so that can certainly affect the outcome as well.
Number 1: World Series
Date: October 26, 2005
Venue: Minute Maid Park, Houston, TX
Combatants: Chicago White Sox vs. Houston Astros
Outcome: The Pale hose defeated the Astros 1-0 on a Jermaine Dye worm-burner off of Brad Lidge in the late innings, securing the World Championship. Brandon Backe pitched extraordinarily, but was exceeded by Freddy Garcia (once an Astros prospect traded for Randy Johnson). An unbelievable play by Juan Uribe on a foul ball in the 9th remains one of the best plays I've ever seen.
Discussion: As baseball is at or near the top of my sports list, the opportunity to see a World Series game, including one with my team the Houston Astros, distances itself from the field.
Number 2: Rose Bowl
Date: January 1, 2004; January 1, 2005
Venue: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, CA
Combatants: #4 Michigan vs. #1 Southern Cal, #13 Michigan vs. #6 Texas
Outcome: Southern Cal behind sophomore quarterback Matt Leinart overmatched the overmatched Wolverines securing a share of the National Title. Vince Young and Texas crashed the party that most thought should have included California erasing a 10-point 4th quarter deficit and won the game on a last minute field goal by Dusty Mangum.
Discussion: A deference to the actual Rose Bowl Game here, the one that is played early in the afternoon on January 1, not the one that is a few days later as a mechanism for the BCS.
Number 3: MLB All Star Game
Date: July 13, 2004
Venue: Minute Maid Park, Houston, TX
Combatants: American League (Mulder) vs. National League (Clemens)
Outcome: The AL put 6 runs on the scoreboard in the first inning off the hometown Clemens, putting a damper on the competitiveness of the game.
Discussion: It was amazing to see all the best players on one field, to see the younger stars in awe of the older ones, to see the workout on Monday, and the futures game on Sunday (which featured Prince Fielder, David Wright, Felix Hernandez, Aaron Hill (MVP), and Justin Morneau).
Number 4: Red River Shootout
Date: First or second weekend in October every year 1992 - 1999
Venue: Cotton Bowl, Dallas, TX
Combatants: Texas Longhorns vs. Oklahoma Sooners
Outcome: Texas won 5, Oklahoma won 2, one game ended in a tie. Coaches included Gary Gibbs, Howard Schnellenberger, John Blake, and Bob Stoops on one side, John Mackovic and Mack Brown on the other. Featured the last Longhorns tie and first (and only) Longhorns overtime game (loss).
Discussion: This is a nod to any major college football rivalry, this one is my personal favorite at the neutral site with the State Fair. It got "better" (or more nationally impactful) in the years after my studentship.
Number 5: BCS Championship Game
Date: January 7, 2010
Venue: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, CA
Combatants: #1 Alabama Crimson Tide vs. #2 Texas Longhorns
Outcome: Longhorns Heisman runner-up Colt McCoy knocked out in the first quarter and Alabama dominated the action, however the Longhorns pulled within 3 points and had the ball with under 5 minutes left, before turnovers deep in their own territory led to two TDs on short fields.
Discussion: This one gets zero points for "tradition", but the matchup was solid, the game was well played, the better team won, and seeing a national title decided puts it solidly in the Top 5.
Number 6: Preakness Stakes
Date: May 18, 2002; May 17, 2003
Venue: Pimlico Race Course, Baltimore, MD
Combatants: A bunch of 3-year old horses
Outcome: In both cases, the Kentucky Derby winner outdistanced the field to win on short odds (3:1 or shorter). War Emblem (2002) won by less than a length, Funny Cide (2003) lapped the field by almost 10 lengths.
Discussion: From the infield, this was one of the final years in which you could bring any food and drink to the infield without restriction. A full day of racing is involved, and it's well represented by college students, many of which attending the dozen or more universities in the Baltimore-DC metro area, or returning home after the semester from out of town. Can't see much from there, but it's about being there. Weather was lousy both years.
Number 7: Cotton Bowl
Date: January 1, 1999; January 1, 2000
Venue: Cotton Bowl, Dallas, TX
Combatants: #25 Mississippi State Bulldogs vs. #20 Texas Longhorns; #24 Arkansas Razorbacks vs. #14 Texas Longhorns
Outcome: The upstart Longhorns behind first year head coach Mack Brown and Heisman trophy winner Ricky Williams controlled the game against former Texas A&M coach Jackie Sherrill. The overconfident Longhorns are crushed by hungry Hogs who were thirsty for revenge after the epic 60's and 70's battles.
Discussion: Having grown up in Southwest Conference territory, this was the must watch game every New Years, and this was one of the last times it was still in it's traditional early morning time slot on New Years Day. Tradition and outcome of (first) game bump this up higher than most would have it.
Number 8: NCAA First and Second Round
Date: March 16 and March 18, 1995
Venue: Frank Erwin Center, Austin, TX
Combatants: Arkansas, Syracuse, Purdue, Memphis, Louisville, Wisconsin-Green Bay, Texas Southern, Southern Illinois
Outcome: Arkansas and Memphis advanced to Kansas City, but not without needing every last point. All of the six games but one were decided on the last possession. Arkansas was the defending champion and barely escaped a 15/2 upset from Texas Southern, then needed overtime to beat Syracuse which could have won the game had they not called a timeout they didn't have.
Discussion: Amazing format of two double headers on Thursday plus the DH on Saturday. Having been to tournament games in football stadiums (Alamodome, Reliant), they don't compare to a basketball arena where you can actually see. The spirit of March Madness was alive for this regional.
Number 9: NBA All Star Game
Date: February 12, 1989
Venue: Astrodome, Houston, TX
Combatants: Eastern Conference vs. Western Conference
Outcome: The West won an offensive affair, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar played in his last All-Star Game, Moses Malone was on the team and hanging around with Jordan, Barkley, Olajuwon, Stockton, Malone, and Nique all as participants.
Discussion: Seats were very high and the game is an exhibition for sure, but the confluence of all stars is still worthy of inclusion here.
Number 10: Stanley Cup Playoffs
Date: April 15,2003
Venue: MCI Center, Washington, DC
Combatants: Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Washington Capitals
Outcome: Lightning won early in overtime on a controversial 5 on 3 (second penalty was boarding, who calls that?).
Discussion: The Stanley Cup Playoffs truly are the "second season" as it stretches for months into the summer. It was great to get a taste of the action, but I still have more of an appetite for higher stakes and better sports cities.
Honorable Mention: Various Bowl games (Fiesta, Sugar, Holiday, Alamo, Houston), regular season games at historic MLB Ballparks (Wrigley, Fenway, Dodger, Camden), regular season college football games at historic stadiums (Michigan, Ohio State, Notre Dame), NLCS, NCAA Basketball 3rd/4th rounds, NCAA Baseball Regionals, Big 12 Championship Games, Hydroplane Racing).
Top 10 events I have not seen, but want to see (with odds).
1) Super Bowl (10:1) - I would love to go to one, but won't pay for the ticket, may pay for the travel, and really am happy watching at home. Although the premier event in American Sports is still worthy of #1.
2) Kentucky Derby (Even) - I definitely am going to try to work this one in, am willing to pay for a ticket as needed, on the bucket list for sure.
3) Tour De France (5:1) - This one is definitely high on the desire list, but also high on the "difficulty" list. Would almost have to plan an individual trip and not try to tack it onto a Continental Tour.
4) Major League Baseball Hall of Fame Induction (Even) - I've promised myself if/when Biggio makes it, I'm going to go. Would be higher odds, but you never know how your personal schedule might impact. Bagwell also in the upper echelon pool of candidates in the short term.
5) College World Series (1:2) - Very likely to happen, I just need to make it happen. Preferably in a year the Longhorns make it there. Probably the easiest logistics of any on this list, hence the short odds.
6) World Cup Soccer (10:1) - Probably needs to be in the U.S. again for me to attend, won't even care who's playing, just want to see the passion of the fans.
7) Stanley Cup Finals (5:1) - I would need to plan a road trip with no team in Houston, but I might pull the trigger some time.
8) Masters (10:1) - I'd really like to, but doubt my commitment to force the hand. This one covers all the majors, I would love to go to any, but put this one first.
9) Olympics (10:1) - Again, would have to be in U.S., but I'd try to go if I could get there. Doesn't matter what sport, just want to be a part of it.
10) U.S. Open (tennis) (20:1) - Getting down the list here, not a big tennis fan, but would be fun. Would have to find myself into a situation.
Honorable Mention: Daytona 500, Orange Bowl, Final Four, Indy 500, Iditerod, NBA Finals, Heavyweight Boxing fight
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