The sports world is in one of its great stretches of the year - from the NCAA tournament to baseball's opening day to the Masters to the start of the NHL and NBA playoffs to the NFL draft. It's all happening. But which days themselves are the greatest on the sports calendar? Fox Sports ranks the top 17.
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Super Bowl Sunday
The Super Bowl itself is the single greatest sporting event of the year, a game that bonds 115 million people and is the closest thing America has to a communal activity. Super Bowl Sunday though? Even when the football is at its best or the commercials have penguins hilariously dressed in tuxedos or the halftime performer is not The Who, you can't shake something from the back of your mind: Tomorrow is a work day.
The sports world's Oscars. [Yada, yada, Warren Beatty joke, yada, yada.] It's the most predictable sports day of the year (68 teams will be placed on a bracket) but one that also carries millions of possibilities (who goes where?) that bring a whole other type of excitement.
It's the start of the league's season, nine weeks after it really starts. Try as it might, the NBA on Christmas still isn't a national event but with good matchups, the biggest stars and the (occasional) ridiculous-looking jersey, it's a fine way to decompress after a day with presents, family, movies and/or Chinese food. (The jerseys above, however, were pretty sweet. These were not.)
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Australian Open finals weekend
The year's first major used to be the ugly stepsister to the French Open, U.S. Open and Wimbledon. Many of the American and European greats didn't even travel to Melbourne because it wasn't a big deal. (Martina Navratilova has said that if she knew how her career would be defined by the majors she won, she'd have played more than 10 times in 23 years). But now the Aussie is pure excitement, starting the year off with a bang (like the Daytona 500) and, for a fortnight, tennis fans survive on no sleep to watch the day's featured matches, which begin at 3:30 a.m. ET. For the finals, the die-hard has to decide whether to stay up or get up (I've spent years figuring out which is better) and, when a men's match goes to five sets, like Federer-Nadal did this year, much of America gets to wake up to a classic. The quirky, exhausting timing is truly a tradition unlike any other. (And this comes during the Super Bowl off-week, another bonus.)
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NFL's first Sunday/U.S. Open men's final
The Thursday night game is glorious - like an oasis in a vast desert. But after it's over - boom - you're back to no football for two days. It's as if it never happend. Then, at 1 p.m. ET on Sundays, it all starts for real. You're all jacked up, ready for some football, the games kick off and - oh, right - you remember that the first hour of early-afternoon football games are pretty uneventful. Once that clock hits 3 p.m., it's game on. An oft-forgotten part of the day: The men's U.S. Open final begins after the early kickoffs. That's not going to turn too many hands when you get a Marin Cilic-Kei Nishikori final (as in 2014) but if Federer or Nadal is anywhere near Flushing Meadows on that Sunday, you should be giving your remote's "last" button a workout.
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MLB final day
Nothing will ever top the craziness of that Wednesday night in September of 2011, which might have been the single greatest collection of games in the history of the sport. It's almost as if baseball is trying to keep it that way as MLB has gone back to hiding these games on NFL Sundays, ensuring little-to-no national bump. It's one thing to schedule things so the World Series can start during the week but taking Game 162 away from weekdays ends the chance of having multiple teams fight for a few playoff berths while all alone, and with all eyes on baseball, on the national stage.
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Crazy hats, day drinking, sundresses, seersucker, gambling and the fastest two minutes in sports. What more could you want?
The two days after the MLB All-Star Game
It's good to have a break every now and then and these two days are the only on the calendar without a major American sporting event. Go outside. Pick up a book. Fly a kite. Start watching Lost and don't be distracted by the people who say the end was a disappointment. It wasn't.
There will be some Wimbledon matches on those two days this year because of a change to the ATP/WTA schedule (men's quarters and women's semis) but that's during the day and tennis isn't a Big Four sport anyways.
Also, Christmas Eve can also be devoid of games because the NBA closes shop for the day, but if the holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday (like this coming year and the last), the NFL will have games.
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NFL Week 16
Week 17 can be a dud sometimes; teams have already clinched, starters are resting and the SNF game guaranteed to have playoff implications usually involves two 8-7 teams playing for the AFC South title. Give me the penultimate week, when playoff scenarios are crystallizing and teams are jockeying for seeds, any time. This is a handy rule for other TV viewing too. The second-to-last episodes of The Sopranos and Game of Thrones are always better than the season finale.
Father's Day (U.S. Open final round)
Moving day at the U.S. Open is just as good as the final round, but nothing says summer like playing 18 in the morning and then grillin' and drinking beers with dad while the final round is on the TV.
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You don't have to know a sway bar from a restrictor to enjoy Daytona. The Super Bowl of NASCAR is nicknamed that for a reason: even people who don't watch stock car racing tune in for the Great American Race. (NASCAR folk like their nicknames.)
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New Year's Day
Even for the NCAA and its greedy football partners, who spent decades stupidly adhering to tradition and graft by keeping a bowl system that paid a few a lot instead of consolidating into a playoff that would pay a lot a whole lot more, the College Football Playoff setup was exceptionally stupid.
Games on New Year's Eve? Nobody wants to watch sports on New Year's Eve, a day that's meant for complaining about how you paid $75 into a club that's too loud, too crowded and has drinks that are too watered down and that you would have rather stayed home or sitting at home and wondering how much fun people who are out are having right now.
New Year's Day is right there! It's everybody's favorite football day! Put the playoffs on then! It might be the best day to watch sports, with most people at home all day, nursing off a late night or a rough morning and channel surfing. But once every three years, when the Rose Bowl hosts a CFP semifinal, we get New Year's Day the way it was meant: Football through bleary eyes, while eating greasy food and a nursing a 64-ounce Gatorade. It'll happen this year, with the usual Winter Classic counter-programming from the NHL. Auld Lang Football. Finally.
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NFL divisional playoff weekend
Yeah there's a lot of NFL on the list. What did you think, it was going to be filled with days on the NHL calendar? Of all the great football weekends of the year, this is No. 1 one: The eight best teams in the league (or in the case of this year: the seven best teams in the league and the Texans) playing the round that separates the disappointing seasons from the just-miss seasons from the I can't believe it's only been three months since "28-3," this is going to never stop seasons.
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Sunday at the Masters
Let's play one of those hypothetical games like "would you rather," "desert island" or the one with two words surrounding "marry." If you only got to watch a single three-hour stretch of sports all year, what would you watch? Me? I'm flipping on the TV when the lead groups make their way to Amen Corner, cracking a beer and letting the Masters do its Masters thing. Crank up the Dave Loggins.
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Does football go with Thanksgiving or has it subtly shifted toward Thanksgiving going with football? Either way, it's a perfect marriage.
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First Monday of April: Opening Day (MLB), national championship (NCAAB)
Not only is it baseball's opening day (which the sport has weirdly corrupted by adding a full slate of games on Sunday) but it's the NCAA title final at night, with the added excitement that its the start of Masters week.
(And then there's my favorite tradition: By 11 a.m. on Tuesday, not even 12 hours after One Shining Moment, everybody has completely forgotten that the basketball game ever took place. Seriously, how long ago does that Gonzaga-UNC foul-fest seem to you?)
The only bad part about Opening Day is that over half of MLB teams have the next day off (it's a built-in rain day for bad-weather cities without domes). It's like revving up the engine for a long road trip, punching the gas and stopping at your next-door neighbors.
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First Thursday and Friday of the NCAA tournament
You surely couldn't have been expecting anything different?