Happy Memorial Day Weekend everyone! I don’t know about you (especially since this is a blog that I expect like, two people to see anyway), but I’m a pretty big fan of MDW. In fact, I’m thinking about amending my old list of definitive holiday rankings to include Memorial Day — it’s not exactly in the same spirit as the others on the list, but it’s the first holiday after a long drought and it results in a long weekend of usually great weather. Not much to complain about there.
The popular thing to do on a long weekend with nice weather is to leave town: going camping, taking a quick road trip, hanging out on or in a river, etc. I get the sense that you’re supposed to feel lame if you don’t have any plans for the weekend, since virtually everyone seems to make them weeks in advance.
But since I am generally disinclined to go anywhere or do anything (I mean, who has the time?) I’m way happier to ride it out at home. Why? Because home is where I’ve got an endless supply of coffee, beer and an INSANE amount of sports programming to hold my attention the whole time. I realize I’m openly advocating for my own lameness, but…I mean, read through my post history. It’s not like we wouldn’t have come to that conclusion anyway.
Memorial Day Weekend is by far the best one in sports all year. Here’s what it has looked like so far:
UEFA Champions League Final
Considering that soccer has very little parity at the international and league levels, the UEFA Champions League is a curious but refreshing change of pace. In a tournament that pits the best of the European leagues against each other over the course of the season, it’s usually the most exemplary teams that make it all the way through. This is borne out in the results: since 2000, here’s every team that’s competed in a UEFA CL Final:
- Bayern Munich
- Real Madrid
- Bayer Leverkusen
- AS Monaco
- Manchester United
- Borussia Dortmund
- Atletico Madrid
That’s 17 different teams representing Germany, Spain, Italy, Portugal, France and England; of the powerhouse FIFA countries in Europe, only The Netherlands and Greece haven’t sent a team to the finals in that time. Only four of those 17 teams were repeat champs over the 14 years, and you have to go back to 1988-89 to find the last back-to-back winner, Milan. (Weird, a country notorious for match fixing over the years, strange coincidence.)
Point is, these finals are usually the culmination of a spectacular year all around, and a different matchup is all-but guaranteed every season, meaning different styles, formations and philosophies are pitted against one another in a single game.
Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t take one more cheap shot at Italy. Can you guess which year produced the only scoreless tie game? That produced the kind of possession-heavy, flop-tastic match that feels like you’re being suffocated to death by a pillow for 120+ minutes? Why that was 2002, when Milan took on Juventus. Thanks, Italy. You’re everything that’s wrong with soccer.
From a domestic league standpoint, this is also arguably the best time of year for hockey and basketball. The semifinal rounds of each tend to offer the more compelling matchups, usually: the teams are more familiar with each other, rivalries have time to develop, and the compete level just seems more intense than the finals. I don’t have any evidence to back this last one up, but whatever, is anyone gonna argue that these aren’t still at least pretty great in their own right?
This year we have Montreal-New York and Los Angeles-Chicago in hockey, both of which have the look and feel of highly intense seven-game series between evenly-matched teams…and even if they aren’t quite that great, this is still the best playoff sport by far. In the NBA, we’ve got Miami-Indiana (which has been a hurdle for the Pacers for the past few years) and Oklahoma City-San Antonio (ditto, mostly). Granted, it’s not like it really MATTERS in the NBA, since there have only been eight unique champions since the mid-80’s, but hey, I’m sure people still find the charade compelling.
Monaco Grand Prix/Indianapolis 500
Racing isn’t the most popular sport by any measure, but there are certain sporting events that transcend that popularity every so often. These are probably the two best examples in the racing world, and they just so happen to take place during the same weekend. Excellent foresight on their part, only forcing me to care about racing once a year instead of twice!
The Monaco Grand Prix features everything cool about racing: the track is built around the city streets so it’s not just a bland oval; the landscape is dotted with megayachts casually drifting around the water, and all of the TV promos feature gorgeous women sunning themselves on the beach. Formula 1 marketing team: you officially have my attention.
As for the Indy 500, it’s got some of the best pageantry of any sporting event in the country, if not the world overall. Jim Nabors singing “Back Home Again in Indiana?” The remaining row of bricks from the original brickyard sitting at the finish line? The SUPER creepy trophy where your face gets added to it if you win? Call me crazy, but I’m a sucker for it. At least, until the part with the cars and the oval and the laps begins.
Memorial Cup/IIHF World Championship
I should’ve prefaced this whole list with one qualifier: you have to kind of like/love most every sport to appreciate this weekend. Case in point here. Both this and the IIHF World Championships taking place are two highly-competitive tournament-style competitions featuring the best players in the world that aren’t in the NHL, either because they’re on the cusp of being there (the Memorial Cup features the best of the CHL, the most prominent amateur league in the sport) or because their teams have already been eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs (the IIHFs).
Even if you aren’t a hockey fan, there’s something very compelling about watching competitive hockey at any level, and having the semis and finals over the same weekend is like having your cake and also having another cake and then eating both and then somehow you find a third cake that you can save for later too. AKA: pretty perfect.
Start of French Open
One of the better tennis experiences also starts this weekend: the French Open from Roland Garros. Like the NBA, tennis is one of those games where you more or less know which 3-5 players will be around for the final — but tennis is one of the better sports to tune into and have on in the background, which is perfect for a lazy, relaxing Memorial Day Weekend where not much else is happening (or as I call it, a weekend). Add in the fun spectacle of the clay from the courts that gets kicked up all over and stain everyone’s outfits and hey, it’s the perfect background sport.
NCAA Baseball Conference Tournaments/Also Regular Season MLB Or Whatever
If baseball is your thing, this isn’t a bad weekend for you either: NCAA baseball is in full swing (get it? It’s a baseball pun because you “swing” in baseball, totally unlike other sports). Like most college sports, these games are rife with blowouts…but also like college sports, there are crazy swings, comebacks and late-game heroics. Trust me, this is pretty far down my own list, but I at least recognize it’s around. Yes, that’s about the highest praise I can give it.
See what I mean? With the exception of football, there’s something to appease basically every taste and interest, including several of the better casual viewing spectacles the world around. All that’s missing is like, the Olympics or the Tour de France or something — but then again, I said best sports weekend, not best…stupid weekend that sucks! Boom! Nailed it!