Souhan: The best sports weekend? NFL proves it's king

Jan 17 2012 - 7:53pm

Images

(Patrick Semansky/The Associated Press)
Baltimore Ravens free safety Ed Reed celebrates his interception with cornerback Lardarius Webb, left, during the second half of an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Houston Texans in Baltimore, Sunday, Jan. 15, 2012. The Ravens defeated the Texans 20-13.
(Patrick Semansky/The Associated Press)
Baltimore Ravens free safety Ed Reed celebrates his interception with cornerback Lardarius Webb, left, during the second half of an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Houston Texans in Baltimore, Sunday, Jan. 15, 2012. The Ravens defeated the Texans 20-13.

Once your couch sores heal and you undergo a very specific form of liposuction to remove queso from the arteries nearest your heart, I hope you'll realize what you just experienced:

The best weekend in American sports.

The NFL playoffs provided drama (the 49ers improbably coming back to beat the Saints), upsets (the 49ers and Giants winning to advance to an improbable NFC Championship Game), emotion (49ers tight end Vernon Davis crying as he hugged his coach), storylines (the quarterback who fathered a child out of wedlock, Tom Brady, beating the quarterback who says he's a virgin, Tim Tebow), and two days that gave us all an excuse to sit inside by the fireplace pretending we'd really rather be at the gym.

You might choose another of my top-10 sports weekends ... or you might be a hockey fan.

1. NFL divisional playoffs: Four big games over two days with no overlap and the promise of real upsets. Since 1998, only one defending Super Bowl champ has made it past the divisional round.

2. The Masters: Saturday is moving day, Sunday is either rapid-cut drama or a long coronation in the most beautiful landlocked space on Earth. The Masters on CBS is sport as art.

3. World Series weekends: The NFL and Major League Baseball are our two most popular sports. When they converge on fall weekends, with the NFL staging games in the afternoon and the baseball playoffs or Series filling the night, we have our longest good sports days of the year.

4. Sweet 16: You may argue that the Final Four is more important than the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament, but the Final Four can be anticlimactic, and the championship game isn't played until Monday night. The Sweet 16 gives us overlapping, channel-flipping drama, and sometimes the best story of the tournament isn't which power school wins, but which underdog makes a run.

5. NFL conference championship games: Anticipate on Saturday, then spend Sunday watching the title games that gave us The Catch and The Brain Favre.

6. The U.S. Open: Rarely as pretty as The Masters, in terms of flora, fauna or shot-making, the U.S. Open provides a vision of elite golfers as grinders, as they try to par their way home on a great old American course.

7. Final Four: College basketball really isn't a great sport for 11 months of the year. The Final Four is the culmination of the best marketing campaign in the country, a tournament that makes us care about George Mason, Butler and VCU.

8. NFL wild-card round: Yes, the NFL dominates American televised sports.

9. Super Bowl: The NFL has become America's most dominant sport because it draws casual fans. This is the premier example.

10. First weekend of March Madness: See No. 9. The NCAA Tournament has created a culture in which you feel like a loser if you don't fill out a bracket and hand $20 to a guy you know will immediately spend it on Blatz.

I left out soccer's World Cup, which I regret, because soccer fans are not unlike American football fans when it comes to immersing themselves in sport and suds. But the World Cup isn't an annual event.

College hockey is a niche sport. The NHL is a bigger niche sport, and it's difficult for casual sports fans to get excited about hockey in June unless the hometown team is involved. The NCAA plays its biggest football game on a Monday.

This weekend exemplified why the NFL is king. With the advent of HDTV, big screens and excellent camera work, the games never have felt more vivid. The NFL makes every play feel pivotal, and the violence of the game only enhances that feeling that the players are sacrificing their bodies for our entertainment.

Nothing comes close to the NFL on TV, and we are a video society.

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