Game 7s in any sport are awesome, but not guaranteed. The Belmont Stakes is the loudest place in a town full of loud people when a Triple Crown is at stake. These aren't promised moments in sports when the calendar begins a new year.
So, what are the top sports days guaranteed to occur every year?
A group of Newsday's sports editors, reporters and producers each put together their own lists, with their top choice worth 10 points and their 10th choice worth one point. Below represents the highest point totals for the 10 best guaranteed sports days every year, counted down from 10-1.
10. NCAA men’s basketball national championship
The road to the Final Four ends on a Monday night in April with one team’s players taking turns climbing a ladder under the basket — with scissors — and coming down with a piece of the nylon net. Those few inches of fabric represent the culmination of a season’s journey from preseason workouts to being crowned as the best college basketball team in the nation. Oh, and, there’s these three things as well: One. Shining. Moment.
In 2015: April 6 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
9. NFL on Thanksgiving Day
Because what else are you going to do between courses of food on Thanksgiving? For years, it was just the Lions and Cowboys playing against other teams. Since 2006, though, the NFL has featured a third game on Thanksgiving night. By Congressional resolution, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of every November.
In 2015: Nov. 26.
8. Kentucky Derby
The fastest two minutes in all of sports, and what a glorious two minutes they are. As many as 20 horses on the track at Churchill Downs, any of which can win the race, become the darling of the moment draped in a blanket of roses that becomes a target as the horse to beat two weeks later at the Preakness. Not since 1978 has a horse (Affirmed) won the Triple Crown, and that excitement begins on the first Saturday in May every year. Plus, big hats. Lots and lots of big, outlandish, over-the-top hats on peoples’ heads. And, of course, mint juleps.
In 2015: May 2 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.
7. New Year’s Day
Back in the day, New Year’s Day was the biggest day in college football, with bowls games that mattered and decided national championships. As TV dollars and the BCS emerged, that changed. But now, New Year’s Day includes two big bowls — the Rose and the Sugar — acting as the national semifinals in the College Football Playoff. There’s also the matter of the NHL’s Winter Classic, with hockey being played in an outdoor stadium.
In 2015: NHL Winter Classic, Chicago vs. Washington, 1 p.m. at Nationals Park.
Rose Bowl, No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 3 Florida State, 5 p.m.
Sugar Bowl, No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Ohio State, 8:30 p.m.
6. Final round at the Masters
Golf’s first major of the season, and the only one to be played on the same course each year, the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club carries more tradition than any other tournament. There’s Magnolia Drive, azaleas in bloom, Amen Corner, the honorary starters, the champion’s dinner and, of course, that green jacket. There are few more riveting hours in sports than watching the leader try to hold on for the win on Masters Sunday (or Monday, should weather push the final round back a day).
In 2015: April 12.
5. NFL Draft Day 1
How can an NFL team drum up excitement with its fan base after a season with a dozen or so more losses than wins? Hello, first round of the NFL Draft! Somehow, the NFL managed to turn what is a non-action sporting event into must-consume content, be it in person, watching live on television, or following Twitter for the picks. There’s the big board, Mel Kiper Jr., Combine times and most importantly, the promise of a potentially brighter future for your team.
In 2015: April 30 at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago.
4. NFL Championship Sunday
Getting to the Super Bowl is the goal for every football team each season. Only two teams can actually do it, though. After hearing players and analysts talk about that for nearly six months, there finally comes the time to see it unfold on Sunday afternoon. Six-plus hours of NFL conference championship football that means a bit more than a Week 17 matchup between two teams with no postseason opportunity at stake.
In 2015: Jan. 18, teams and venues TBD.
3. March Madness Day 1
Twelve hours, 16 games, 32 teams. Whether there’s an upset or not, the first day of March Madness is the most exciting day in college basketball (Friday is a close second, but by then, some brackets are already ripped up and tossed in the garbage).
In 2015: March 19, multiple venues.
2. MLB Opening Day
If there’s a way for the summer to start in April, this is it. Baseball’s Opening Day brings hope for fans of all 30 MLB teams, even if many already know those hopes will fade by the end of the week. It’s still the first game of the season, when the grass is a bit greener at the ballpark, the hot dogs are a little tastier, the ace is on the mound and your cap isn’t fully broken in yet.
In 2015: April 6.
1. Super Bowl Sunday
Sure, it’s just one football game that often comes nowhere near matching the hype. But, oh, that hype — six to seven hours of pregame coverage on Super Bowl Sunday (after two weeks of the same thing). For some, it’s about the game. For others, the parties. For many, the commercials. For most, it’s about those digits in the last column of each team’s score at the end of each quarter. Whatever it may be, the Super Bowl routinely draws a viewership of more than 100 million as the showcase sporting event in America.
In 2015: Feb. 1 at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.