Sorry, NFL, there's no such thing as a "new tradition," which is why "NFL Kickoff Live 2003" presented by Pepsi Vanilla doesn't quite make this list.
Yeah, it was football. Yeah, it was Redskins vs. Jets. Yeah, that's all cool. But it was only one game, and we're not quite as juiced about Britney and Aerosmith as we once were. Maybe in five or 10 years "NFL Kickoff Live"
will make this list of the 10 best days in sports, but not yet.
1. First round of the NCAA men's basketball tournament
OK, it's actually two days. But who can sleep? You're either playing hooky, or sneaking glances at the scores on the Web, or, if you're a real junkie, having them beamed into your cell phone.
32 in, 32 out, and our bracket's all shot to hell.
|Nothing beats the excitement of Cinderella dancing on Day One of the NCAA tourney.|
2. Opening Sunday, NFL season
The Thursday night opener was just an appetizer. The feast begins on Sunday, Week 1; even without the DirecTV Season Ticket, we can still catch three consecutive games, and by late Sunday
night, our fantasy team is all shot to hell.
3. January 1: Orange, Rose, Gator, Outback, Capitol One
No national champion decided, but three of these five games are gonna be good ones. And you've got an icepack planted on your head, and your fanny planted on the couch for 10 consecutive hours.
4. Baseball's Opening Day
This one used to be at the top -- when we had that glorious Monday with the NCAA hoop final and baseball's first games, nothing could beat it.
But, oh, how it has fallen. Not just because baseball, as a sport, has fallen. But because we no longer really have "an" Opening Day. Take this season, for example. The opener was supposed to be in Japan, when everyone else was still wrapping up their exhibition schedule. It was cancelled, but it really didn't matter -- an Opening Day in Japan might be great for MLB's international marketing, but it ain't much for us stateside.
Then there was a first game, on Sunday night (do you remember who played?) and, finally, just about every team played on Monday. It used to be great when you could count on the Reds (and in ancient
times, the Senators) opening one day ahead of everyone else.
5. NFL Conference Championship Sunday
Four teams, one day, three decisions: NFC champ, AFC champ, Super Bowl point spread. You don't have to watch the commercials. There's a new too old/too young Cinderella QB to root
for. And by the end of the day, everyone's preseason and midseason predictions are all shot to hell.
6. NCAA Final Four Saturday
It's hard to beat the NCAA hoops final for pure, mind-bending, gut-wrenching excitement. But that doesn't start until 9:18 p.m. on the East Coast, which hardly makes it a day. Saturday, though
-- two games, back to back, and you know at least one, and maybe both, are going to be just awesome, baby!
7. NFL draft
It's almost -- almost -- anticlimactic after all of the mock drafts that come before. (Gotta keep Mel busy!) The subplot is all those late-round picks who are going to be good, but we don't know who they'll turn out to be, until 10 years later when we learn that Joe Left Tackle, fifth round pick out of North Oklahoma A&T State, is about to play in his 160th straight game and, as a nine-time Pro Bowler, is a shoe-in
for the HOF.
|The Super Bowl hasn't produced enough Adam Vinatieri moments to make us forget those 55-10 routs.|
8. Super Bowl Sunday
Finally, you can show off your football expertise to people who won't argue back. Of course, they're also not listening to you -- while you're glued to the X's and O's, the 20 other people in the room are
rating the commercials and debating the merits of Lipton Onion Soup as a dip base. If the game ever actually matched the hype, this it'd be an easy No. 1. Of course, that happens about once a decade.
9. NBA draft
Sometimes you know what's gonna happen. Sometimes you think you know. Sometimes you haven't a clue. But what makes it special, besides David Stern, is that it's two rounds: no nonsense. And there's the green
room, which can make for some of the best reality TV around. Watch the soon-to-be multimillionaires squirm a little. And hope and pray that your team picks the one who can make the transition from college -- oops, high
school -- to the pros.
10. Daytona 500 Sunday
The biggest race of the year used to happen every Memorial Day, in Indianapolis. No more. Now it's a mid-Feb Sunday, in Daytona. A great spectacle and a great race to break up what's otherwise the
dullest sports months of the year.
Also receiving votes:
Feb. 15: Pitchers and catchers report
Not much happens, but oh, how the world suddenly becomes sunnier. Spring is on the way.
It's Monday, the rest of the country is working, but it's a holiday in Boston. You've got ducats for an early-season Red Sox game at Fenway, a morning game, for chrissake, and after the Red Sox win, you exit to see the finish of the Boston Marathon. And everyone else in the country is working.