Down the Drive is officially all in on Spain in the 2018 World Cup. Thanks to your votes, that was the decision that was made. Now that we know whom to root for, we can officially get stoked for the World Cup. Its easy to get wrapped up in World Cup fever because tournaments are fun. Whereas the regular season of any sport has such a long wait for payoff, tournaments, playoffs or postseasons of any kind have more immediacy and higher stakes. That doesn’t mean all of these events are of the same quality as the others. That’s why this week we will be ranking the best and worst in tournaments, playoffs and postseasons.
Johnny’s Five Up
1. The Stanley Cup Playoffs
Every year is different. Every year is unique. Every year matters on a global scale, for the most genuinely intercontinental title in sports. While I’m not excited to see the Caps lift the cup, I’m happy for Ovi. Lord Stanley’s cup is the greatest beverage container in professional sports. The traditions are fun (who’d of thought I like growing beards?), the stakes matter (particularly in Canada) and the fans are always the hardcore — not the casuals who take in a Superb Owl because that delightful Bruno Mars is performing. And that’s taking nothing away from Bruno, who BURNED MINNEAPOLIS TO THE GROUND at halftime. Seriously, they’re still putting out flames from his super hot performance in Dinkytown, which I assure you, is a real place.
2. The AL/NL Pennants and the World Series
I’m wild enough, thank you very much, wild card games. Watching two teams slug it out in the crisp October air is exhilarating. I’ve never been lucky enough to live in a city when the pennant was being contested by a home team, but I know it’s got to be electric. You can live in Cleveland (you shouldn’t), and not be affected by the Cavs’ conference title win on their way to blowing it in the finals, but if the pennant was going down at the Jake? Everyone working at the garbage fire factory would be excited.
3. The World Cup when the United States is present
Are you hyped? I’m hyped. I’m planning on going to World Cup games in Boston and Montreal in a couple years, and I hope that I can bring my family with me. Even Clayton. I get really excited and super patriotic when we’re out beating Europe at their own game. Or South America. When the U.S. is good, we’re darn good. We have a kind of national ethos that you don’t find in any of those CONCACAF player-haters. The United States might not be going to Russia, but in two world cup cycles, we have an opportunity. And that’s what we have in 2026. That’s what we’ve earned. I’m sick and tired of hearing what a good host country the Soviets are. Screw ‘em. This is our time. Now go out there and take it.
4. The NCAA Tournament (Hoops)
My bracket is busted every year. But you know what some of my fondest childhood memories are? Getting out of Catholic school on Friday, the last day before Spring break, the second day of the tournament, and having watched a couple tourney games at school that day. Then, Momma Trutor would grab that hooligan Clayton and me, drive down the street to the KFC, get the March Madness bucket deal, and we’d hide from the inevitable March snowstorm while we watched Pepperdine get destroyed by superior competition. Lazy pretty boys.
5. King of the Ring 1994
Clayton: I think Razor Ramon is going to Win.
Unidentified Childhood Ne’er-do-Well Friend: Yeah, he’s the toughest guy.
Little Wonderful Johnny: I think they’re going to have Owen win, because then he can fight his brother for the title at SummerSlam.
Little Johnny was a hell of a good booker.
Art Donovan: How much does that guy weigh?
Johnny’s Five Down
5. The World Cup when the United States is absent
And without Mario Balotelli of Italy, the most entertaining striker in the game. Who’s going to watch that pile of Soviet garbage? I’m probably going to catch a few games, because I’m a down low Uruguay fan, but I’ve got way less rooting interest this time around.
4. Classic Rock Radio Battle of the Bands
“Who will survive?” intones Joey Reno, the local DJ? Queen? The Police? The Outlaws? What band will win our annual battle of the bands. Vote for your favorite when you hear a four-song classic rock block of their songs on 106.5 The Warlock in our Days of Thunder Giveaway. Let me spoil this for you. Given the critical mass of classic rock radio fans being angry 14 year old boys, angry dudes who haven’t left the seventies and perfectly content me, it’s going to be Zeppelin. The same is true for actual live “Battle of the Bands” competitions. Led Zeppelin will win those too, in the guise of a Led Zeppelin cover band. Everyone loves Led Zeppelin.
3. The NASCAR Playoffs
The “Chase for the Championship” weakens the overall NASCAR brand. You know what was the Chase for the Championship before 2004? The entire season. Drivers made every single race count, because it meant for themselves and their crews the difference down the line. Whoever got the most points was the best Stock Car driver in the world. Now it’s watered down, overanalyzed and boring. And they found a way to make people driving in cars like lunatics boring. Great job.
2. The College Football “Playoff” (FBS)
Overwrought poppycock dreamed up by the kind of people who ruin a good game of Dungeons and Dragons by reading the rule book instead of just shooting magic missiles at dungeons and or dragons. You know the guy (and it’s inevitably a guy, as the female fandom of D&D are almost always creative, thoughtful types who like to build their characters and work through puzzles). ”BECAUSE MY HALFLING ROGUE HAS +2 TO MOVE SILENTLY, I SHOULD BE ABLE TO SNEAK PAST THE ENTIRE QUEST.” It’s always a Halfling Rogue too. They’re about as much fun as a Nissan Rogue. Which is to say, not as much fun as a Ford Edge. Ford Edges are able to use Bladesong, which kind of makes stuff too easy, but whatever. I don’t care much for the pseudo-poll, pseudo-fair system that they have in place to make sure that AAC football might doesn’t bring a reckoning on those punks from Alabammy.
1. The NBA Playoffs
I like it when it’s the Bulls vs. Blazers and the NBA Playoffs, but the past few years have just been predictable, bad booking. Nothing like King of the Ring 1994. Now LeBron is going to do a heel turn, which will both be funny and hilarious. I’d get more behind this if it didn’t interfere with trying to watch a gosh darned hockey game.
Clayton’s Five Up
1. Every One-Bid Division I College Basketball Conference Tournament
Everyone of which is played with great intensity and has a happy ending.
2. The Tournament of Roses
A delightful parade that pre-games a Southern Cal victory over either Michigan or Ohio State.
3. The Vermont State Golden Gloves Boxing Tournament
For two weekends every January, the toughest townies in the Green Mountain State gather at Burlington’s Memorial Auditorium for some bahdahse beetdowns like the Ducharme brothers used to dish out behind Bessery’s.
4. The Arm Wrestling Tournament featured in Over the Top
Lincoln Hawk finds himself in the midst of a truckers-only arm wrestling tournament, bathed in Menahem Golan’s direction and Giorgio Morder’s film score. There is not a more glorious moment in Sylvester Stallone’s athletic career than his arm wrestling victories on the Vegas strip.
5. The NCAA Basketball Tournament
For all of the reasons that my brother so articulately explained.
Clayton’s Bottom Five
1. The Nextel/Sprint/Monster Energy Drink Cup (2003-Present)
The Winston Cup was a grand regional spectacle that rewarded a summer’s worth of cunning, courage and determination on the ovals. The Nextel Cup and its successors are restrictor-plated repugnances that signify the unmooring of stock car racing from its southern, working class roots. The Winston Cup is Richard Petty and Cale Yarborough trading paint. The Nextel Cup is the world that Jeff Gordon (the Garth Brooks of auto racing) hath wrought; No. 24 himself sipping Pepsi as he pulls into the winner’s circle and then brushing his teeth before his post-race interview.
2. The World Cup
I am America’s only soccer agnostic. I regard it neither as the beautiful game or the ruin of our culture. I’m not much for the World Cup because it leads to a month long referendum in the sports media on the state of soccer in America and it’s cultural meaning. I find this all distracting while I am trying to follow early season CFL football.
3. America’s Cup
I’m afraid of the woods. I’m afraid of the water, too. Watching wealthy people steer their boat is simultaneously boring and terrifying to me. I don’t like water any deeper than an above ground pool.
4. The AAU Basketball Tournament being held at the old Armory near your house this weekend
All of the worst impulses of contemporary American sporting culture rolled into one sweaty gymnasium.
5. The Little League World Series
The kernel of every terrible idea that AAU ever got about youth sports came from this dreary August event. This unholy alliance of histrionic kids and “we’re playing under protest” parents sacrifices the magic of a childhood summer to the pursuit of a two-hour, late afternoon timeslot on ESPN.
Phil’s Five Up
1. NCAA Basketball Tournament
Even though this can sometimes be painful (like it was this year for us here at Down the Drive), this is the best of the best. It starts with the first two days when there is basketball always going on and you get to see matchups you’ve only dreamed about. After numerous upsets, buzzers beaters and legendary performances, you either get the best of the best squaring off, or an underdog making a deep run and capturing the nation’s imagination. Just this year we got Loyola-Chicago and Arike Ogunbowale single-handedly winning it for Notre Dame.
If you could distill March Madness into a a liquid, I would inject it straight into my veins.
2. World Cup
Every four years, I like to start using the words “pitch” and “kit” and “stoppage time.” Global tournaments are awesome, and this is the best there is. (Sorry, World Baseball Classic).
3. The old Big East Tournament
It doesn’t matter if you want to talk about the Big East Tournament before Cincinnati joined, this was and still is the best conference tournament there has ever been. Sixteen teams would enter Madison Square Garden, including blue bloods like Syracuse, Georgetown and UConn, and amazing happened.
4. MLB Playoffs
I like the two Wild Card system. It does a good job of incentivizing that act of winning the division and also makes for the amazing magic of win-or-go-home baseball games without needing to wait until a game seven.
Fighting games are difficult and I am not good at them. When I play fighting games, I usually like to create my own tournaments to figure out which fighter is best and because I am all alone. *Fights back tears* Anyway, EVO, netter known as the Evolution Championship Series, is an esports event that brings those tournaments to life.
Phil’s Five Down
As always, in descending order.
5. Before the Wild Card era baseball
Before 1969, there was just the World Series. Then they Championship Series round was inserted. That wasn’t enough, as some all-time greats were robbed of more chances to play for a title. Just as an example, the 1974 Cincinnati Reds won 98 games but did not make the playoffs because they were in the same division as 102-win Los Angeles Dodgers. No other team in baseball won more than 91 games that season.
4. Pre-2017 Ivy League Championship
Before 2017, there was no tournament to determine the Ivy League championship. I WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO GET BACK THOSE LOST CORNELL VS. DARTMOUTH MATCHUPS.
3. Any golf tournament
Golf is kind of fun to play. It is torture to watch.
I know I love letting computers make decisions rather than actually having teams play each other.
Anyone could be national champion. There is a Wikipedia article titled “Mythical national championship” that explains how this was decided. I prefer actual to mythical winners.
Disagree with us? Let us know in the comments, on Twitter or via a FanPost. Also, if you want us to rank something specific next week, let us know.