I was thinking about tournaments this morning, thinking, 'What is the best tournament in the world right now?' Let's chop it up! Ground rules. I suppose I should preface this by saying, this is a list of my own personal favourite tournaments, the ones I invest in emotionally and the ones that interest me. I am going to stick to the sports I know something about. This rules out tennis, cricket, sailing and ten-pin bowling. I am also leaving out sports that are not enjoyable. So, you won’t find NASCAR here. It isn’t even a sport! They just drive in circles! Somebody stop me using exclamation marks!
2008 standings and comments included, and keep an eye out for the brand new entries!
20. The Ryder Cup ’08 standing: 16 In 2008 we wrote:
Only starting to come around to Golf as an enjoyable viewing experience. Sure, it's painfully slow, rather elitist and sometimes just pure boring, however there is some enjoyable elements to it, including the Ryder Cup. It ticks most of the tournament boxes. It's spread out in gaps that make you actually look forward to it, and has the added advantage of being Europe v USA, an interesting showdown to say the least.
’10 update: For 2010 there are some added elements, for example, there’s one of these Ryder thingys this year, right? Plus there is the little matter of El Tigré! Not enough to move it off the bottom, but hey, thanks for trying and yes, I will watch you!
19. Serie A (The top Italian soccer league)
Straight in at number 19, the top Italian league. Beckham! Ronaldinho! AC Milan, Juventus and Roma. So much history and so much drama. The Italian league has become interesting again. Still needs an influx of good young talent to break into the top 15 though.
18. The Stanley Cup
The NHL playoffs are like Lady Ga Ga to me. Loud, crazy and somewhat exciting, but I do not understand what’s going on. Icing? Like, on a cake? Why do they sub out the goal scorer every time? Is Canada really that good at something? Nevertheless, found the NHL playoffs pretty intriguing the last couple of seasons. I am willing and open to finding out more! Face off!
17. The UEFA Cup ’08 standing: 14 In 2008 we wrote:
The 'other' big European club level soccer knockout tournament. Kind of a Champions League lite, if you will. The starting, group phase is about as turgid as it gets, however the final stages often throw up surprisingly enjoyable matchups. This tournament throws club teams from all over Europe up against each other, and the knockout stages, while lacking the drama of the Champions League, are still plenty colourful.
’10 update: Maybe this tournament has become a big of an overloaded monster. There are perhaps about five thousands teams involved in the knockout stages alone. Still, pretty enjoyable in the later stages.
16. The NBA Playoffs ’08 standing: 14 In 2008 we wrote:
Did anyone actually watch the NBA playoffs last year? Apart from Bill Simmons? I want to love the NBA, and the Celtics current revival has certainly caught my interest, but last years NBA playoffs were about as exciting as Swedish art-house movie making. The whole system is flawed as it is, with too many teams allowed into the knockout stages. There are some truly brutal low seeds making the playoffs the last few seasons. They need to whittle this down, which would lift the standard of play in the first round immensely.
’10 update: Still the same system, only now with the reprehensible Kobe Bryant the leading actor on the stage. Maybe if Le Bron Bron takes flight this summer the NBA will become interesting again. LeBron is infinitely more charismatic, entertaining and, well, likeable than the guy who paid a woman off to avoid going to court over an alleged rape. Or, Kobe, as he is also known.
15. The World Baseball Classic
Potentially fantastic. Definitely in need of a bit of tweaking but, limitless possibilities. Ironically, it might actually take the USA winning this thing for it to take off. The American sporting media has reacted in a negative manner almost across the board to date. The rest of the World is having a blast and enjoying it, the States is yet to get on board.
14. The Rugby World Cup ’08 standing: 12 In 2008 we wrote:
This has nearly everything you could look for in a tournament. It has an abundance of colour in the form of various nations gathering to play the game, with legions of fans from the countries adding flavour to the event. Added bonus? The renditions of each countries national anthem. For whatever reason, the fans never hold back on these at the Rugby World cup. If you ever feel you have lost your lust for life, and need a boost, just check out any of either the French fans belting out the wonderful 'La Marseilles' or the rowdy, earthy and vibrant Scottish fans singing the uplifting 'Flower of Scotland'. The big drawback? The terrible early stage games. Nobody needs to witness New Zealand 106 Japan 3, or Australia 112 Namibia 5. Report card says, 'Good but could do better'.
’10 update: Hey guess what, there is a Rugby World Cup next summer! Something to look forward to. Once again though, you can probably skip 50% of the first round games, and that’s a bad thing.
The fifth best rugby team in the world has every chance next summer
13. The English FA Cup ’08 standing: 12 In 2008 we wrote: One of the purest tournaments in world sports. Every single club football team in England can enter the FA Cup. They start playing regional qualifiers almost the day the tournament ends! Eventually the field is cut to 64, then 32 and so on. The best part if the third round, when the clubs from the higher divisions in English football are added to the field, creating freakish matchups like Yeovil Town against Liverpool, which would be like The New York Yankees playing a semi pro side from Mexico. Lately some of the bigger clubs, Man United, Arsenal and Chelsea, have diluted the respectability of the tournament by fielding weaker reserve or youth sides in order to keep their 'A' team fresh for the more financially important Champions League. Apart from that though, a great tournament with buckets of exciting games.
’10 update: The grand old lady of club football, the FA Cup is still one of the greatest tournaments around. For my money, however, it needs a bit of drama in the later rounds this season to spice it up. Maybe a good semi final or final, something to remember it by and invigorate the tournament on the whole.
12. The Heineken Cup (Rugby)
The highest new entry, the Heino’ is brimming with drama, talent and fine play. It has everything. Great games, great players, bizarre French club uniforms and cheating on a biblical scale. The Heineken Cup Final has fast become one of the feature sporting events of any year. Probably helps at least in terms of this particular listing, that the tournament has been dominated by Irish clubs the last few years!
11. The European Championships (Soccer) ’08 standing: 6 In 2008 we wrote: The World Cup lite, basically. Same concept, same length of time between games. Almost as good, just lacking that little extra bit of colour provided by teams from the far corners of the globe.
’10 update: Qualifiers for this start next coming winter, no doubt this will move back up the list closer to that time. For now, it just seems like a far away tournament with less colour than the World Cup, it’s big brother.
10. The Cheltenham Festival ’08 standing: 9 In 2008 we wrote: Another one of those events that all serious sports fans need to attend once, if only to experience it. The Cheltenham horse racing festival has approached legendary status in Ireland at this stage. Males aged 19-90 get all glassy eyed and giddy if you mention it to them. Days off work are taken, pints are downed and the festival may as well be held in Dublin considering the level of participation over here. The wild roar that lifts up over the massed Cheltenham crowd when the first race takes off on Tuesday afternoon is one of the single greatest moments in sports. Some serious racing enthusiasts complain that the festival is diluted by being so long (four days), while others complain that they are forcing too many low level bad races in amongst the crackers to try and make yet more money. Minor drawbacks really to a very exciting week of sporting action.
’10 update: Only reason this fell a spot was others rising several. It’s getting close to Cheltenham time again, and the excitement is definitely building.
Part two 9-1 coming soon!