There’s no denying that the US is a country of sports lovers. Whether it’s avidly following the progress of a favorite NFL team or watching more niche sports like cycling or ice-skating, it’s part of the national character.
In fact, in a survey carried out in February 2022, 28% of people questioned said they were avid fans and 46% replied they followed sport on a more casual basis. Only 26% professed no interest in sport at all.
As you’d expect, a country of big sports fans boasts a number of iconic events across the sporting calendar – and here are ten of the very biggest.
The Super Bowl
Let’s start with the biggest of them all. Early every February arguably the world’s single most popular sporting event takes place. It’s now televised in over 200 countries and attracts a US TV audience of over 100 million people. TV slots for advertisers cost around $5.5 million for 30 seconds and the half-time show is very nearly as big an event as the game itself.
The official title of the NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Championship is quite a mouthful. Luckily it’s been shortened by most people to March Madness. 68 of the country’s best college teams compete in a knockout championship held between the middle of March and the start of April. At no other time of the year do college basketball odds attract so much attention? It’s also when all the big NBA franchises are on the lookout for the stars of tomorrow.
The World Series
At the end of each season, the best teams from baseball’s American and National Leagues meet for a seven-match series with the eventual winner being awarded the Commissioner. Trophy. Debate rages about which has been the best series of all – but all have provided a gripping spectacle for fans of the sport.
US Open Tennis
Held over the two weeks on either side of Labor Day, the US Open is the final Grand Slam tournament of the season. Since 1978 it’s been played New York borough of Queens at Flushing Meadows, also home to the International Tennis Hall of Fame. The final always takes place in the Arthur Ashe Stadium – with a capacity of 23,711, the largest tennis arena in the world.
The Masters is a golf tournament that no serious fans of the sport ever want to miss. But most have to make do with watching it on TV as tickets are notoriously hard to get unless you’re an official “patron”. Played on the famous Augusta course, it was first inaugurated in 1934 and the most successful golfer has been Jack Nicklaus with a total of six victories.
The Kentucky Derby
It’s been described as the fastest two minutes in sport as thoroughbreds from all over the world race along with Derby’s 1.25-mile distance. With a $3 million purse and $1.86 million of that going to the winner, it’s one of the richest horse races in the world. It’s also a major social event attracting the wealthy and well-connected to the track.
MLB All-Stars Game
First played in Chicago in 1933 as part of the city’s Century of Progress exposition, it has become a national showcase in which the best players from the National and American Leagues do battle. There have been some major winning streaks in the past with an incredible 13 year run of success for the American League which ran from 1997 to 2009.
NBA All-Stars Game
Basketball also has a showcase for its best and most popular stars – although hard-core fans see it as a bit of theater rather than a true contest. Along with the game itself, it also includes a slam dunk competition as well as an emotional singing of the Star-Spangled Banner. Marvin Gaye’s soulful rendition in 1983 remains the most moving ever for many fans.
The Daytona 500
While Formula 1 is popular, it’s NASCAR racing that wins hands down in the country – and the Daytona 500 is the biggest race of the season. Covering 500 miles and 200 laps of the Daytona Florida circuit, it’s a true test of skill and endurance. Only once has a driver enjoyed back-to-back victories – Cale Yarborough in 1983 and 1984.
The NFL Draft
Every year on the last weekend in April there’s a sporting event that grips much of the nation’s attention. There are winners and losers – but no play itself is involved. This is when the NFL teams get the chance to draft rookie players straight out of college in a series of rounds. It’s one of the sport’s great leveling-up processes as the worst-performing teams from the previous seasons get the first pick of the year’s crop.
So there you have them. Ten great events covering eight major sports. Everyone is a spectacle in its own way – and no true sports fan will ever want to miss them.