Athens, Greece (Sports Network) -
As a sports journalist, the ultimate
assignment comes down to a selected few; the Super Bowl, March Madness, World
Series and the Olympics.
Let's take a look at the above four events and see why this week's Summer
Olympic Games are probably the most attractive assignment a journalist can be
assigned to cover.
The Super Bowl is all about what goes on before the actual game. The game
itself is a one-shot deal, for four hours, that is basically a no-contest game.
Over the past 10 or so years, few games have come down to the final quarter,
or for that matter, the final series/play. With respect to the New England
Patriots and kicker Adam Vinatieri, fans across the country didn't really care
about the game - as evident of the poor TV ratings.
Event number two is College Basketball's March Madness. If it weren't for the
office pools, would anyone watch this? It's three weeks of chaos, bedlam and
joy, but in the end, it's usually Duke, UConn, Kentucky, Oklahoma State or
Syracuse in the Final Four. Last year, did anyone really expect someone other
than either of those five teams to play for the National Championship?
The World Series is event number three. As much as it hurts me to admit it, the
New York Yankees are the World Series. It seems like they've won the crown
about 93 times and if George Steinbrenner has his way, they will have an all-
star player at every position next season. It's tough making a $180 million
team work like a cohesive unit.
Every year there are some contenders for the title. The Florida Marlins won
last year's title, but did anyone really watch the series outside of New York
and Florida? The Anaheim Angels won two years ago. Anaheim? The teams people
really want to see (Cubs and Red Sox) in the World Series, are struggling right
now. Here's an idea: let the Cubs and Red Sox play in the World Series just one
time together, that way both sets of fans will stop whining about ever winning
the World Series.
This year several teams are entering the chase for George's title. It is his,
as "he who has the most, usually wins." Tony La Russa's club in St. Louis seems
to be the most serious of challengers. The Cardinals' offense is first-rate,
but that starting staff is, well, not all-star caliber. And the Braves,
seriously, that pitching staff is anchored by Jaret Wright, who was waived by
San Diego during the off-season. Veteran Mike Hampton has the highest ERA on
the staff at 4.91. The best pitcher on the team, John Smoltz, pitches one
inning a game.
So, as August moves forward, the Yankees will gear up for another run for a
title. So, what's so exciting about covering the World Series?. How many
stories can be written about where Derek Jeter spends his free time? Or, how
Alex Rodriguez might not even be the best player on his team? Joe Torre is a
wonderful guy, but let's be serious, a $180 million payroll is not exactly made
up of Triple-A ballplayers.
But now, the Summer Olympics are upon us. The city of Athens has taken on the
task of bringing the world together for 17 days. After all, the very first
Olympics took place right on these very grounds. Somehow, I don't think the
Greek gods had synchronized swimming on their minds in 776 B.C.
With the exception of a selected few athletes, most are housed in the Olympic
Village outside of Athens. It's about the size of Providence, Rhode Island, and
it has everything one needs to make it through the Games. Where else could you
find athletes from two different countries conversing together before going out
and competing against one another? Imagine, Ray Lewis and Terrell Owens sharing
a few light moments together, 36 hours before kick-off. Not going to happen.
The Olympics is the event of all events. It's doesn't get much bigger than the
Summer Games. Yes, there are a few distractions - like the security guards
carrying machine guns outside every entrance. You can't go anywhere without the
knowing that someone is watching out for your safety.
So, my colleagues and I traveled to the other side of the world to bring
the news back to our offices outside of Philadelphia. I've never covered the
World Series, March Madness or the Super Bowl, but, being in Athens is very
The Opening Ceremonies are just days away, with the lighting of the Olympic
Flame. Let the games begin.
By Kevin Spiegel, Contributing Olympic Editor