I am a huge fan of sport and over the years of travel have made an effort to watch some of the big local sporting events when possible. I think sport is a great purveyor of positive culture and has notably bought the world closer over the years. It often transcends boundaries of race, religion, nationality and age.
I have some excellent memories of sport while travelling – feeling the drama of NFL football game in the USA, playing cricket on a dusty paddock in India, seeing passionate South Americans cheer their local soccer team, watching sepak takraw (kind of athletic volleyball played solely with your feet) in Malaysia, sweating through bouts of muay thai (boxing with kicking included) standing in a packed hall in Bangkok, playing golf at St Andrews, enjoying the stoic politeness of centre court Wimbledon and watching test match rugby in Wales. So you can imagine my excitement of being asked to review Robert Tuchman’s 100 Sporting Events You Must See Live and opened it up expectantly when I received an online copy (to save on time and shipping costs from the USA to Australia) from the publisher.
The book presents more as a reference book for a sporting bucket list – a book to store on your shelves for a long time to come back and check from time to time. The appendix even includes the full list of 100 events designed for marking off over your lifetime. Each event comes with a treasure trove of information over several pages describing the best ways to obtain tickets, related websites, the typical attendee, a secret tip to getting the best experience, nearby hotels and cafes, a little history, notable players and a few significant terms to help understand the event.
Tuchman founded a sports marketing company (which Tuchman pushes a little in his book, along with a group called GoTickets.com) and clearly lives for his sport. His passion for sport comes through in the pages describing each event.
While any choice of top 100 events is likely to be contentious and is in the eye of the author, I am disappointed with the choice of some of the events. While many of the world’s leading events are listed as expected including the Olympics Games (summer, winter and special), the four grand slams of tennis, the major golf tournaments, the Tour de France, FA Cup, the Rugby World Cup and the major motor races of the world, many others focus on local rivalries and smaller events.
An incredible two-thirds of the events are based in the United States with 40 percent of events covering just three sports – American football, baseball and basketball. None of the top 100 events are in Africa, only one is in South America and only two are in Asia (Japanese baseball and Hong Kong rugby sevens) and a further two in Australia (tennis and Australian football). None of the events are hosted in eastern Europe and only one is a women’s event (a Tennessee basketball team). Local rivalry events appear limited to the USA - no Gaelic Football in Dublin, no blood-curdling local soccer ties in Buenos Aires, Milan, Glascow or any number of other cities around the world, no Chinese gymnastics and no frenzied cricket in India or Pakistan.
While the Running of the Bulls is included, major cultural experiences such as the ancient horseback race around the main square of Siena (Il Palio), sumo in Japan or the Naadam festival in Mongolia (a contest involving wrestling, archery and horsemanship) appear forgotten.
Overall, the book is well presented with lots of detail as to how to best experience each event. And while the book makes an excellent long term reference book for the sports enthusiast, it is probably limited to those who are likely to spend a fair amount of their time in the United States.