Preface: I started working on this 'mega post' right after the Super Bowl last month, and let it sit as a draft since then.
I figured that I should get off my ass and finish it up before baseball season started and before hockey season ended. So, Here you go.
Now that the 2007 NFL season is a good six months away (Go Bears!), every red-blooded 'Merican male is forced to choose another sport to follow, lest he spend his weekend up on the roof cleaning out the gutters. I will watch ANY televised NFL game - Cleveland Browns -vs- the Arizona Cardinals on ESPN? Bring it on; I'm so there. Football is our true love, but if you can't be with the one you love... well, you know the rest. We get to be more discerning with our sports mistresses - Get all up into something different. These are the awkward one-night-stands and torrid flings of the sporting world. Even though they're not loved unconditionally, they can be a hell of a lot of fun.
Okay, not that everyone is sufficiently creeped out by my analogy, I present The Liar's Best 5 Sports That Aren't Football:
5) Mixed Martial Arts*
Is this really a sport? Well, I'm going on what very little I've seen.
I caught the Showtime EliteXC match on February 10th. Here are my thoughts on that:
It took awhile for me to stop giggling once the program started. The main hallway from which all of the fighters emerged was a giant smoking dragon's head that shot fire - It was straight from the 1983 Ronnie James Dio "Capture the Renegade Wizard" tour (if I'm not mistaken). All of the on-screen graphics had more black tribal designs on 'em than on a Slipknot roadie, or Maori warrior. Not off to a good start.
Then the fights began. It was incredible. I'm an old wrestler and Judo student, so I was transfixed. The athletics involved were incredible and the fights were absolutely engrossing. The high-point of the event was the Gina Carano Julie Kedzie undercard match. At first a women's match seemed gimmicky, but I was so wrong. I have NEVER seen a fight with two competitors with such skill, spirit, endurance, drive, and sportsmanship. Society has somehow managed to sexualize all female fighting, so it was an unexpected surprise to see two great Muay Thai fighters who just happened to be women. Plus, their sportsmanship before, after, and during the fight made all of the other fighters look petty and small. Fucking brilliant. If you have Showtime and see this being replayed on the schedule, be sure to check it out.
Apparently, there are about 4 or 5 different promotional leagues for 'mixed martial arts'. If they can get everything together, cut the hokey WWEsque showmanshit, and bring together a unified league with regular premium cable matches, this is gonna be one great fucking sport.
It'll never fucking happen.
Before DC got a new baseball team (if you can call the Gnats a baseball team), I used to love spending Sunday afternoons getting drunk out at RFK and catching a DC United game. Those were the good old days. The MLS was still in its infancy and the whole stadium was filled exclusively with skinheads and Salvadorians. You could smoke right in the stands, get as drunk as you pleased, yell whatever you wanted at the visiting goalie, and do anything short of rushing the field, starting a fire, or leading a riot. No one cared - They were tickled pink that you had paid $15 to get into the stadium. Then around 2003 they started to crack down on all the fun and the families started to pour in. That ruined everything, and I went from going to 4 or 5 games every season to '0'. I really should get back out to another United game this year, but it's not very high on my 'to do' list.
Every once in awhile I'll catch a European Premier League game on cable, and I'm all about the World Cup whenever it rolls around, but that's about it. For now, Soccer just stands at the far end of the chasm that separates my 'big 3' from everything else.
Hockey could easily be my favorite sport of all time if it weren't for a few unfortunate events and/or circumstances. They are as follows:
a) In the1990's The NHL decided to kill it's new found success by expanding into such stalwart hockey towns such as San Jose, Tampa Bay, Raleigh, Nashville, Phoenix, Atlanta, Dallas, and Ft. Lauderdale. Genius.
b) In 1993 the Disney Corporation scored an expansion team, named the team 'The Mighty Ducks' after a series of crappy Emilio Esteves kids flix, and set upon a mission to make hockey suck. In the 12 years the Mouse was in the hockey biz, they managed to almost completely sever the testicles from the sport in a misguided attempt to make it more 'family-friendly' (read: profitable) - Fucking twats.
c) Throughout the 90's corporate interests started buying up teams as investments and ticket prices skyrocketed. We're losing money? Well then, we should anally rape the fans to shore up our margins. What? We're losing MORE money? It's the fault of those greedy players then. Lockouts, here we come! Now the NHL is a huge joke, on the verge of collapse, and true fans can barely afford (let alone justify) paying $75 bucks for a decent seat for one game. Bastards.
d) Every city where I've lived has had terrible fucking NHL teams.
The Blackhawks had a strong run in the late '80s/early 90's, but the ineptitude of owner "Dollar Bill" Wirtz sucked all the life out of the team. In 2004 the Hawks finished on top for the first time in almost 40 years - They won ESPN's 'award' for worst franchise in professional sports. Go Hawks!
The only team owner that has done less for a team in the history of the NHL is Ted Leonsis, vice chairman of America Online and owner of the Washington Capitals. He picked up the Capitals in 1999 during a high point (for the team and of AOL stock price), and then has run both straight through the fucking floor. I fucking hate that guy with every single bone in my body. That douche poisons everything he fucking touches. ARRRRGH, fucking scum Greek cocksucker.
Anyway, The Caps are the only hockey team in this region, and I'd rather cut off my pinkie fingers than give Leonsis one thin dime, so I have to rely on (one of the many) free unused tickets floating around if I want to see a game. Even when I go, I refuse to wear my Caps Jersey. I'm in the majority - the stadium is filled with every conceivable jersey out there that doesn't have a Caps logo on it, and everyone seems to be holding a cardboard "Fuck Leonsis" sign.
Things are different back in Northern Illinois. The Hawks look like they could be back on an upswing now that Wirtz is out, but the smart money is to go with one of the many Minor League teams out there. You'll get a great game at a reasonable price, and teams that you can actually route for. If it's any indication, the Chicago Wolves are my favorite team in the sport right now (followed by ХК ЦСКА Москва, Rockford Ice Hogs, and the Edmonton Oilers). Go see the Wolves or the Ice Hogs if you're looking at attending a game back in IL. You won't regret it.
I'm almost over the NHL completely, but that's the only hockey you can find on your dial. If you need a hockey fix, here's my guide on rooting for NHL teams.
Always pull for the team furthest North, and always against ANY team further South than St. Louis. Exceptions are to be made for hometown teams, and lower rankings for Minnesota (for letting the Northstars move to Dallas), the Canadiens (for being from fucking Montreal), and Columbus (for being super-ultra-mega-gay - The Blue Jackets? Are you fucking kidding me?). There you go.
I'm going back to the lover analogy on this one. Sorry.
My love for the Cubbies may rival (or surpass) my love of the Bears, but the Cubs are definitely the mentally unstable girlfriend that you really shouldn't love.
They're the girl that comes crying to you at 4AM on a Wednesday, then wrecks up the joint, throws a toaster at your head, steals your stereo, fucks your brother, and then gets mad at you for yelling.
I thought that they broke my heart for the last time in the fall of '03, but I'm still as in love (if not more) every goddamned year. I can't help but love those insane girls. I'm an idiot like that.
NOTHING in this world beats spending a sunny early June afternoon along the 3rd base line at Wrigley Field. It feels soo good, that it can't possibly be wrong.
I'll happily catch games at other stadiums whenever I get the chance, but I often find myself annoyed with all of the unnecessary distractions around every other stadium in the league. More on that HERE.
I'll catch Cubs games on WGN, but can't really sit down and watch a typical televised game. It's just background while I do other things around the house. Same with radio - Every year I shell out the $20 for MLB radio, just so I can listen to Cubs games at work while I'm doing other things.
I'll watch every televised MLB playoff game, usually without the boys in blue anywhere to be seen (having been eliminated sometime in late May). Then I'll pick my new horse and then route for 'em for as far as they get. Gotta love October (does not apply to the October of 2003).
At the pinnacle of The Liar's list, alone stands the sweet science (Great, I'm already typing like Don fucking King).
Pugilism is probably the most primal sport out there, yet remains one of the most enthralling. I'll watch any fight that I can find from 1930's prizefights on ESPN classic to live bouts on Premium cable. The only thing I won't do is pay crazy money for pay-per-view. Actually, one of my favorite boxing memories is going to Molly's in DeKalb with Bill Garver just to watch some big PPV prizefight (If memory serves, it was either Mike Tyson or Oscar De La Hoya) - The fight lasted all of one or two rounds, but the memories of Bill in a frat bar will live forever.
There's something about boxing that's brutal, yet poetic - grotesque, yet beautiful. There's a reason why all of the best sports movies are about boxing.** It's absolutely magnificent in its base grandeur.
My favorite fights are in the lightweight/welterweight/middleweight classes, but I'll watch 'em all. I prefer to watch bouts on Showtime, followed by HBO and ESPN. Occasionally I'll find a good fight on another channel, but those 3 are the holy-trinity of pugilism. I'm tempted to shell out the extra cash just to get Friday Night Fights on HD Net, but for now I'll have to stick with ESPN on Fridays. If you can, watch matches on premium cable. They're on every other week or so, and a fight is much more enjoyable without commercials during the breaks. You get as much perspective from the corners during the break as you do from the action in the round. Plus, I've noticed that the standard break is just enough time to get another beer and pour another shot. Perfection - Pure and simple.
I have heard that there are other televised sports out there, but very few even register on my radar.
I never have, and probably never will, watch college sports, or follow them in any capacity.
Arena League football, the CFL, and NFL Europe don't even pique my interest.
The NBA does nothing for me. Sometimes I'll find myself watching the NBA playoffs, but just to route against teams.
NASCAR? Rather clean out those gutters.
PBA? Make it PBR at Mardi Gras Lanes and you've got a deal. I love me some bowling (even have my own custom ball & shoes), and will go ANYTIME someone asks, but I'd rather pull out my teeth with pliers watch it on TV.
Televised Golf? I realiz z z z z z z z z z z z z z z z z z z znh... huh, what? Sorry, I nodded off at the keyboard just thinking about it.
There are a couple of other sports that I'll watch, but they're seasonal or sparse.
It's a treat if I can find a Sumo match on one of the local Asian broadcast channels out here, but those are few and far between.
Occasional I'll find an Australian or New Zealand Rugby match somewhere in the stratosphere of my cable tier, and that's always good for a cheap thrill.
Finally, I'll find a handful of sporting events to totally get into whenever the Olympics (Summer and Winter) come around (No one can ever sully my undying love for the 2002 Japanese women's Olympic curling team). I just wish that they would bring back Tug-of-War as an Olympic sport - C'mon guys, a 100-year hiatus is long enough. Who do you think you are, the Cubs?
So there you go; those are the 5 greatest sports that aren't football.
Okay, the 3 greatest sports that aren't football and two that I tacked on to flesh the list out to '5'.
You are free to argue with the list, but we both know that you'd be wrong.
* Not to be confused with 'Mixed Marital Arts' which can be found on late-night Cinemax
** More about that in another post