Monday, March 15, 2010

Book Review: 100 Sporting Events You Must See Live (Robert Tuchman)

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 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.


The Jetpacker said...

We were thinking about coming up with a list like this after watching handball in Germany, hockey in the Czech Republic and recently doing a road trip to the winter Olympics. But I want to know about more obscure sports, like Buzkashi in Afghanistan: it's a sport where men on horseback vie for a headless goat and throw it into a goal to score points. WTF?!?

Heather on her travels said...

While I'm not a great sporting fan preferring the gentler cultural & artistic pursuits I do live with 3 boys who love sport especially rugby - perhaps this will make it onto their Christmas list

Serban said...

As always, I thoroughly enjoy your postings. I will make a few commentaries, one of these beign related to a game we have in Romania (it is actually considered the national game, but has a limited popularity) called oina, which is from the baseball family. I don't know much else about it, but it follows the sequence of batting and catching the ball. Apparently, the game dates back to the 14th century, if we are to believe wikipedia at

Mark H said...

@jetpacker: I also like the more interesting cultural events too when travelling. Buzkashi sounds a hoot.

@heather: I think it would make a great Xmas present.

@serban: A 14th century game that is played much the same is seriously old.

Donna Hull said...

I read and reviewed this book and totally agree with your assessment, Mark. Adding sporting events as an element to your trip is fun. One of my favorites is to visit the qualifying rounds of the U.S. Tennis Open. It's free and the great players are practicing. Quite a good show.

Mark H said...

@donna: As a huge tennis fan, the best value tends to be the qualifiers or the lead up tournaments. Living in the UK many years ago, I went to the Queens tournament the week before Wimbledon and it was super value and had a top class draw of players - far more peaceful (but less atmosphere) than the bustle of a grand slam event.

Anil said...

Very disappointing to hear - I love the concept of the book but it seems pretty limited. One event I'd really like to see is an international football (soccer) game at Ali Sami Yen stadium in Istanbul. Better known by its nickname, "hell".

Mark H said...

@anil: I think soccer games are one of the best experiences in various countries. I am sure Istanbul would be special. Two of Australia's best players currently play in the Turkish top division so it even gets a little coverage in Australia.

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