Column: The five greatest sports days

Column: The five greatest sports days

We like order, don’t we?

We like tradition. Custom. Ritual. Formal procedure. It’s all part of our makeup, and as the years go by, it becomes more and more apparent.

As diehard sports fans, we are creatures of habit.

In the chaos of our daily lives, we pledge to try new things, meet different people and entertain ourselves by admitting we don’t know what’s ahead in the often unpredictable future.

In sports though? The things we seek most are the expected.

We want the Sports Illustrated with the screaming headline after a major tournament. We want those broadcasters covering the same leagues and championships, uttering the same introductory lines every year. We want the comfort of these habitual events marking the changing of our seasons, swiftly switching our focus to a new sport and reminding us why we fell in love with the process in the first place.

Opening Night in baseball was Sunday (Opening Day for the rest of Major League Baseball was a day later). If you love sports, you were experiencing the same feelings you do at any holiday or yearly practice. It was Christmas with gloves and bats.

Then there was the Final Four Saturday and the National Championship Monday. The Masters will begin tomorrow. Exactly what you need after a long winter, right?

You can’t believe another year has passed. But these all bring you the unbridled joy that any sports tradition provides. They’re all on the calendar. They all have their place. And they’re all wonderfully predictable.

This is one man’s opinion of the five greatest sports days of the year.

5. First round of the NFL Draft

A draft? On this list? Absolutely. The NFL Draft is the lone sports draft that produces entire rosters of immediate impact players. Seasons (and championships) are born and die on this day. We get to track characteristic team interest and selections, see if our team’s needs are met – and also predict which lower-round stars will emerge.

Not to mention it’s a great television event.

There’s nonstop video, statistics and discussion. It essentially serves as a daylong chance to argue about football and reflect on the previous college football season. As much as it is the most vital day for any NFL team’s managerial staff when the most pressure is applied to general managers and player personnel managers, it is also a grand celebration of the sport.

4. NHL playoffs opener

I’m the first one to call those who don’t pay attention to regular season schedules and watch only playoff matches hypocrites. But if your team is weak and you’re tired of a never-ending 82-game schedule, it makes a lot more sense to get involved in the NHL playoffs.

This is when hockey shines. For the masses who disrespect hockey (placing it behind NASCAR in the sports landscape, as well as removing it from the Big Four), this is when they start reconsidering.

Can you blame them? Epic seven-game series, triple-overtime matches, brutal shifts, the very best goaltending and irately fanatical fans produce some of the most frenzied and classic playoff competition of any sport or league.

3. First round of March Madness

The model for all playoff systems. Where any team – even the highly-favored – has a chance to fall at any given moment. There’s a reason the least-involved sports fans are most heavily attracted to the NCAA tournament. It’s the closest sports has to a Hollywood script. It has the most compelling, dramatic finishes of any event and usually produces the most emotions.

This excitement all comes rushing in on the first day of the tournament, when each game is scheduled right after the other. The NCAA is essentially lining up its 64 teams in order – wondering the same thing we’re thinking for weeks: Is this the day the favorite goes down?

2. NFL playoffs second weekend

The first weekend still has the wild cards. And that sometimes includes teams like the 2006 8-8 New York Giants. The Conference Championship weekend is down to just two games. The Super Bowl can often be a let-down (see 2006 Colts or 2000 Ravens).

But the second weekend of the NFL playoffs is when the world’s biggest sport reaches its pinnacle. Eight worthy teams. Eight firey coaches. Entire rosters of players with rings to be won or contracts to be earned.

Football is a nonstop thrill ride, but adding in an entire weekend of single-elimination playoffs on the brink of the sport’s ultimate spectacle – the Super Bowl – is what drives teams to play their best.

1. MLB Opening Day

I’ve argued in this space before that football has officially replaced baseball as America’s pastime. But that can’t take away from the greatest sports day of the year. Baseball’s Opening Day has been written about so often it is difficult to avoid the clich

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