Blogs & Opinion

Ultimate fourth

Alex celebrates the best of American Sports on July the Fourth

Alex Ferguson Posted 4th July 2012 view comments

Happy American Independence Day, everybody!

To celebrate, I've put down the top 20 things I love about American Sports (in no particular order).

And if you don't like the list or feel something should be added, feel free to admonish me....

1) Night Games in College Football

Before you die, go and witness a college football night game. The crowd - who have been filling themselves with cocktails for hours beforehand - will be amped. When a big rival or a top-ranked team is in town and there's the chance for a major victory, the atmosphere is almost tribal. For great places to go at night, I advise Beaver Stadium (Penn State), Tiger Stadium (LSU), or The Horseshoe (Ohio State). Just bring your earphones and throat lozenges. You'll need both on the day after.

Beyond value: Jordan lifts the Most Valuable Player trophy in the NBA All-Star Game in 1998

Beyond value: Jordan lifts the Most Valuable Player trophy in the NBA All-Star Game in 1998

2) Game Sevens In The Finals

In America, the NBA Finals, World Series and Stanley Cup Finals are all settled as best-of-seven series. And if the two finalists are so evenly matched that it all comes down to one game, then a Game Seven is quite simply must-see viewing. Why? The drama baby, the drama!

3) Fenway Park/Wrigley Park

Even when the Boston Red Sox (Fenway) and the Chicago Cubs (Wrigley) are struggling, the fans still come. Why? Because both parks are pretty much unchanged since they opened decades upon decades ago. Fenway's best structure is its 300 ft ' Green Monster', which hitters have to clear if they want to hit a home run not a double on that side of the park, while Wrigley's outfield is adorned by green ivy that covers both the left and right field walls - both testaments to baseball's beautiful bygone era. This might not sound much, but when you're up-close and personal, it's a pretty beautiful thing. Unless you're a fan of one of their rivals. Then it's not.

If the Yankees lose, America's convinced an angel gets its wings. For this writer, I'm just happy about pinstriped success, folks!

Alex Ferguson
Quotes of the week

4) The Super Bowl

The game is talked about for a week beforehand. Millions of fans all over the world watch it. Non-fans also seem to enjoy it - especially when the Super Bowl ads are having a good year and the Super Bowl half-time show is good fun. And more often than not , the actual game is pretty spectacular, too.

5) The National Anthem

You might not like the tune, but singing the 'Star Spangled Banner' is a must before any organised sporting occasion (where there's a PA), no matter how small. The first day that baseball came back after the September 11th attacks on New York was particularly poignant.

6) 'His Airness'

If you're too young to have witnessed Michael Jordan, check out YouTube. If you don't believe us then, check out his stats. Or go on a messageboard and say: "I don't believe Michael Jordan was the best ever". You'll be ridiculed offline. Jordan was also brilliant at self-promotion (Nike has a lot to thank him for as their mutual endorsement relationship made both untold millions) and backing up his brilliance - especially during his Chicago Bulls era. There will be no other player like him.

7) The Filling of Lord Stanley's Cup

It's a tradition in ice hockey for a player to take the Stanley Cup for a day for himself. This means that ice hockey's most famous trophy has ended up in all kinds of places ranging from the beach to more salubrious haunts (look up 'Mark Messier' and 'Stanley Cup' for details), and it becomes a celebrity story unto itself. Not a bad reward if you consider just how much work the average player puts on the ice every single day during the season (there's a reason why they call it one of the fastest games in sports).

8) The Home Run Batter faces pitcher

Pitcher deals. Batter swings - and connects. Ball goes....goes....and is gone, into the seats. Ball flies out of field and into seats. The home crowd goes crazy as the batter trots around the bases, a one-time hero in a game where you fail a lot more times than you succeed. And when this home run happens at the end of a game in a play-off series, then that hitter has just made himself a heck of a lot richer.

9) Drafts

The great thing about drafting is that it makes sure that the best youngsters don't go to the top teams simply because they pay the most. It evens up the playing field somewhat, and that is no bad thing.

10) NASCAR fans

They might be snottily referred to as 'rednecks' by people away from the sport, but the 'Amen' of 100,000 people after the pre-race prayer for safety (which happens before every race), the unified roar when the announcer tells the drivers: "Gentlemen, start your engines", and the twirl of caps to celebrate the start of a race (plus the raining down of beer cans if a driver wins a race controversially) reminds us: NASCAR fans might just be the most united in all of sport.

11) March Madness

For three weeks during March and extending into April, the NCAA Men's Basketball tournament sees 64 teams battle it out to see who's going to be College Hoops No.1 team. On the first two Thursdays and Fridays of the tournament, it's also a great excuse for all of America to stop what they are doing and watch daytime basketball, in an effort to ensure that their picks in the office/church/school pool are doing the right thing (and that's winning). And the rewards for winning the pool? Some cash and a year's worth of bragging rights, usually....

12) Mascots

Mascots are used in a lot of sports the world around, but to the American fanbase (particularly at the collegiate level), mascots are a fantastic way of life. After all, where else other than a zoo do you see a real live tiger in a cage brought to the sideline (LSU) or an eagle flying around a stadium (Auburn)? And do you see a duck riding in on the back of a motorbike (Oregon) or a mascot is especially chosen because he's a) got ginger hair and b) can grow matching-colour beard (Notre Dame Fighting Irish's leprechaun ) much, either? Special points go to Georgia's bulldog UGA, which bit an Auburn player once.

13) The One Team Everybody Hates

For some reason, even people that don't even like baseball find an excuse to hate the Yankees. Maybe it's the money they spend on players, maybe it's their massive merchandising and TV fortunes, maybe it's the legacy of their hated owner, George Steinbrenner, or maybe it's the World Series wins, but one thing's for certain: If the Yankees lose, America's convinced an angel gets its wings. For this writer, I'm just happy about pinstriped success, folks!

14) Augusta

The US Open might have its difficult fairways, the British Open might have its testing rough, but with its azaleas, its beautiful bridges and its stunning layout - all in the Georgia sunshine, there's no course - or place for a tournament - quite like Augusta.

15) The Indy 500

The Indy 500 is one of the most exciting races on the sporting calendar, and every year something happens that takes our breath away. 2012 was no exception - especially when I was trying not to cry with the IndyCar community's salutes to two-time winner Dan Wheldon, who was tragically killed in 2011.

16) White Outs

Teams want their fans to wear the same colours at important games for one major reason: It helps to galvanise the team. There are two ancillary reasons: It gets the crowd hyped and it also looks really cool on TV. And when you're smack in it (as I was at Penn State in 2005) - it really does the job. Just ask San Antonio when they played at Oklahoma City's sea of thundering blue in the 2012 NBA Play-offs.

17) Cheerleaders and Marching Bands

Staying on the notion of cheering, The notion of marching bands playing out the team 'fight' song and the cheerleaders trying the whip the crowd into a frenzy is a very American thing that's getting bigger on our side of the Atlantic. Cheerleading and band membership happens not only at every level of sport, and you can get a scholarship at university for it, and - in the case of cheerleading - you can even get paid to do it professionally (ask Dallas Cowboys cheerleader Brittany Evans).

18) Nicknames

Americans love their nicknames for their sporting heroes, and they come in reams and reams and reams. Examples range from 'The Babe/ The Bambino' (Babe Ruth) to 'The Great One' (Wayne Gretzky) to Earvin 'Magic' Johnson to 'His Airness' (Michael Jordan) to 'Yogi' Berra. No silly name is sacred - and nor is any player. In fact, NOT getting a nickname might seem a little insulting.

19) Both teams have two names

Unlike in the UK, where generically teams are called 'United' or 'City' or 'Town', teams like Orlando opt for 'Magic', Dallas has its 'Cowboys', Miami has its 'Dolphins' (and 'Heat'), and even when a team moves, the last name travels with them (which is why LA has its Dodgers (they were originally from Brooklyn)).

20) The Hail Mary

I tried to twin this with the half-court shot in the NBA, but if I'm honest, nothing can compare to the quarterback's end-of-game, everything-or-nothing heave that seems to write itself in everyone's memory every time it succeeds (and people forget about every time it fails). Success for the quarterback is the arms raised of the official, success for the defence is swatting the ball away or catching the interception. But swatting is fine, thanks very much.

back to top

Other Blogs:

Latest Posts in :

Alex Ferguson

King James reigns

Alex Ferguson celebrates a wacky, smile-inducing year in US sport - and salutes Miami's LeBron James....


Alex Ferguson

Start your engines!

Alex Ferguson predicts who will triumph in NASCAR's showpiece race, the Daytona 500....


Alex Ferguson

Clowney's no joke

US sports expert Alex Ferguson profiles Jadeveon Clowney, the biggest defensive pick of the draft....

Alex Ferguson

Call of the century

Spacemen Portland pick Bowie over Jordan - Alex Ferguson ranks the biggest decisions in US Sport....


Alex Ferguson

A perfect union?

Alex Ferguson looks at the possible unionisation of college football and how he would handle the issue....

Alex Ferguson

Independence aces

Alex Ferguson kicks off his Independence Day fun by picking his 20 best bits of American sport....


Paul Merson

Arsenal must win

Paul Merson says Arsenal have to have a right go and beat West Ham to keep their top-four bid alive....

Glenn Hoddle

Pep 'trying too hard'

Glenn Hoddle says Pep Guardiola is trying too hard to evolve and has made Bayern Munich worse....

Ed Chamberlin

Van the man?

Ed Chamberlin explains why Tejay van Garderen is capable of plucking the Tour de France's Yellow Jersey....


Stuart Barnes

Rhythm and flow

Stuart Barnes says video referees are ruining the rhythm of games and causing too many delays....

Dewi Morris

Heart and soul

Dewi Morris looks at a crucial weekend in the Championship as we head towards the play-offs....

Phil Clarke

To Hull and back

Phil Clarke looks at the mental damage done to Hull FC and Huddersfield in the Challenge Cup....

Bob Willis

Away for a while

Bob Willis thinks Jonathan Trott will be absent from England duty for some time following his relapse....

Rob Lee

Out of the woods

Rob Lee heralds the return to form of Lee Westwood and says he could yet win multiple majors....

Rob Lee

Pinky and perky

Rob Lee blogs on his vivid Masters Breakfast attire and the men that made waves at Augusta National....

Barry Cowan

Barcelona bounce

Barry Cowan says Rafa Nadal must bounce back in Barcelona and hails the form of Stan Wawrinka....

Mark Petchey

Fillip for Ferrer

Mark Petchey marvels at David Ferrer's win over Rafael Nadal but downplays it's long-term significance....

Alex Hammond

Just Cause

Alex Hammond reveals her tips for the Irish Grand National and the other decent racing in Ireland this weeend....

Alex Hammond

Going the distance

Marathon entrant Alex Hammond previews the Newbury action and Scottish National meeting at Ayr....

Alex Hammond

Rocky's road

Alex Hammond explains why she is backing Rocky Creek and Lion Na Bearnai at the Grand National....

Johnny Nelson

Battle of Manchester

From Crolla's derby delight to Munroe's emotional farewell - Saturday had it all, says Johnny Nelson....

Glenn McCrory

Manny happy returns

Manny Pacquiao is back to his best and could yet get it on with Floyd Mayweather, says Glenn McCrory....

Johnny Nelson

Delighted for DeGale

James DeGale's Matchroom switch is the perfect move to get him back in the mix, says Johnny Nelson....

View from America

The Fog of War

Simon Veness reviews the "torturous" hype ahead of the NFL Draft and why it's so hard to predict....

Neal Foulds

Trump tip

Ronnie O'Sullivan is favourite for the Worlds - but Judd Trump could spring a shock, says Neal Foulds....

Neal Foulds

Night at the Circus

Neal Foulds is looking forward to another fun, raucous Snooker Shoot-Out - but can't pick a winner....


Neal Foulds

Simply the best?

Five-time Masters champion Ronnie O'Sullivan may be the best snooker player ever, says Neal Foulds....


Kelvin Tatum

Gear shift

Wolverhampton and Belle Vue will want to kick-start their seasons on Tuesday night, says Kelvin....

Kelvin Tatum

The contenders

Kelvin Tatum runs through the teams and riders ahead of the 2014 Elite League Speedway season....

Kelvin Tatum

Kelvin's 2013 Review

Kelvin Tatum salutes Poole's hierarchy and Tai Woffinden in his round-up of the speedway season....


Richard Moore

The final curtain

Richard Moore reflects on Sunday's Closing Ceremony to an unforgettable Olympic Games......


Richard Moore

A lasting golden glow

Richard Moore suggests all the British Olympians should visit schools and talk about their experiences....


Richard Moore

Favourite Froome

Richard Moore reveals his predictions for the 100th Tour de France, which starts on Saturday....


Wayne McCullough

Wonderful Davis

Wayne McCullough watched Antonio Rogerio Nogueria take on Phil Davis at UFC Fight Night 24. ...


Wayne McCullough

Jones shines bright

Wayne McCullough was highly impressed as the talented Jon Jones made short work of Mauricio Rua....


Wayne McCullough

A bloody marvel

Wayne McCullough salutes Diego Sanchez as he edges out Martin Kampmann in a UFC humdinger....