Today is typically one of the best days on the sports calendar — the first full day of the NCAA Tournament. Games all day from noon to midnight, each one brimming with the suspense and drama that accompanies the one-and-done format of the tournament that determines college basketball's national champion. But we won't get that today, not this year. With the sports world shutting down due to the coronavirus crisis, the 2020 NCAA Tournament was cancelled. It's the first time in 82 years that the tournament won't be contested.
Losing one of the best days in all of sports is a bummer. It also raises the question — what are the best sports days on the calendar? Here's my own personal list.
1. First day of the NCAA Tournament
Being a huge college basketball fan, nothing beats the first full day of the tournament. Every year I take the day off, have a bunch of friends over and just watch basketball all day. It's the best — 16 games in 12 hours. There's always one or two big upsets, always a local team to root for, always a bunch of brackets already busted on Day 1. When you factor in the second day of the tournament, you get a total of 32 games in a 36-hour span. It's a dream come true for college basketball fans. I'm already looking forward to next March.
2. MLB Opening Day
Opening Day means so much to so many people. Winter is over. Brighter and warmer days are ahead. Baseball's boys of summer are back to remind us how much we love our national pastime. It's a great opportunity to take off from work or school and head to the ballpark. There's always so much hope on Opening Day, even for teams not expected to contend for a playoff spot. Everyone is in first place and anything is possible.
3. Super Bowl Sunday
Super Bowl Sunday gets bigger every year. It's come to symbolize so much more than just football. It's a day of entertainment, parties, food, gambling, commercials and so on. Super Bowl Sunday has become such a huge party that a lot of people have suggested moving it to Saturday so everyone has the next day off from work to recover. But this day still comes down to football for die-hard fans who follow the NFL for 12 months a year. It's the biggest game our country's biggest league has to offer.
4. NBA Christmas Day
The NBA takes center stage on our most popular holiday. Five games featuring the best teams in the league, playing straight through from noon until well after midnight. The NBA's biggest superstars put on a show for a national audience. Families open their presents in the morning, then gather to watch basketball all day and night. It's the biggest day of the regular season and there are some who want it to be the first day of the regular season. It will be interesting to see if that idea gains any traction, particularly with the NBA's calendar being in flux at the moment.
5. First night of Stanley Cup playoffs
The NHL has arguably the best postseason of the four major sports. The intensity of the Stanley Cup playoffs is unmatched. It's tough to beat overtime in a playoff hockey game or a Game 7 in a playoff hockey series. The first night of the Stanley Cup playoffs signifies what lies ahead over the next two months — a grueling journey to see which team can survive four separate best-of-7 playoff series for the right to raise Lord Stanley's Cup.
6. Masters Sunday
I'm a big golf guy, so this may be a little higher on my list than others. But I love everything about Sunday at Augusta. The best players in the world competing for the Green Jacket, golf's most coveted prize; world-class golfers battling their own nerves in addition to all of the physical challenges that Augusta National presents. As my good friend and NBCSP colleague Casey Feeney likes to say, the Masters doesn't start until the Back 9 on Sunday. Those two hours are as good as it gets for golf fans like myself.
7. CFP Semifinal Day
A new addition to the list, the College Football Playoff semifinals were introduced in 2014 as part of the sport's new postseason format. It provides college football fans with a doubleheader featuring the four best teams in the country. And there's more to semifinal day than just those two games — there are other bowl games earlier in the day to whet the appetite for the big games later in the afternoon and evening. This past year was particularly awesome. Penn State and Notre Dame played in separate bowl games before the national semifinal matchups of LSU/Oklahoma and Clemson/Ohio State, with the latter turning out to be one of the best college football games in recent history.
8. NFL Championship Sunday
Speaking of great football doubleheaders, the NFL's Championship Sunday always makes for terrific theater. You can make a case there's more pressure playing in these games given the heartbreak of falling just short of reaching the Super Bowl. The two best teams in each conference go toe-to-toe for the right to play in the Super Bowl and experience everything that comes along with that opportunity. Fans can sit back and enjoy for seven uninterrupted hours of high-level football.
9. First day of NBA free agency
The NBA and NFL have both been wildly successful in making their leagues relevant for 12 months a year. The first day of NBA free agency — typically July 1, but most likely later this year — has provided tremendous entertainment in this era of player movement and super-teams. As soon as the NBA season ends, fans turn their attention to all the big-name free agents and where they might end up next season. That buildup and excitement continues all the way up until July 1, when a flurry of news and signings make for a fascinating 24 hours.
10. First night of NFL Draft
I could have singled out the start of NFL free agency as well, but chose to go with the league's showcase offseason event. No one does marketing like the NFL and the league's annual draft is great evidence of that. It's grown into a three-day event, with the first round kicking things off over a four-hour span in prime time. The league recently started moving the draft around to different cities and venues, adding to the spectacle and overall fan excitement. This year's draft, whenever that might be, is scheduled to take place in Las Vegas.
Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.