Sep 19, 2012 — On your marks, get set…get off your couch and turn off ESPN, because Party Earth has ten sporting events that simply need to be seen in person. Obviously for die-hard sports fans, supporting your local team at a game is always a passionate endeavor, and that comradery simply cannot be found elsewhere.
But unless you live in Barcelona, have a chateau in the Pyrenees, or own an indy-car, there are certain spectacles of competition you’ve probably missed that simply rise above the rest in their must-see standing. The combination of fans that should be committed to a mental institution, the historic rivalry between the competitors, the ultimate prestige of victory, and the humiliation of defeat all combine to create a sports setting nothing short of epic.
We cheered our way across the globe, avoided the mob fights, and found for you the craziest, most intense, most one-of-a-kind sporting experiences on the planet. So before you kick the can, make sure you cross some of these competitions off your bucket list.
1. Monaco Grand Prix
Why watch racecars circle around the same track for five hours when you can watch the fastest automobiles in the world scream through the actual streets of a city? Well, the picturesque beach town of Monaco on the French Riviera gives you just that, when the F1 circuit (these vehicles could toast a NASCAR model) comes to town for the Monaco Grand Prix. The track is set up in the Monte Carlo neighborhood, and with sharp turns, a narrow road, and a long tunnel, is one of the most challenging courses in racing. If you still aren’t sold, did we mention it’s on the French Riviera? That means you’ll be partying with the sexy celebrities in some of the hottest clubs and bars in the world…who knows, maybe you’ll even get invited to one of the harbor’s crazy yacht parties.
2. The New Zealand All Blacks vs. the South Africa Springboks
Everyone knows that rugby is a vicious and hard-hitting sport, but no game compares to the rivalry between the All Blacks and the Springboks, the two best rugby teams in the world. Grand showdowns over the last few decades have fueled the fire between the two clubs, who fight for their philosophical differences in their approach to rugby: New Zealand with its attacking finesse and South Africa with its raw power. Watching these hulking feats of strength clash against each other on a stage like the World Cup Championship is incomparable to any other contact sport today. The teams typically have one home match and one away match a year, with upwards of 90,000 tickets selling out nearly instantly. Whether you witness a match in New Zealand or South Africa, the stadium, and the streets afterwards, are sure to be a riot.
3. Red Sox vs. Yankees at Fenway
For America’s pastime, there’s no single series during the year that compares to the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry. Take two of the oldest teams in baseball, with two of the most passionate fan-bases in the United States, and stick them into the sports’ oldest and most storied stadium, and you get a baseball experience unlike anything else. Add to that an abundance of rowdy sports bars lining the streets outside, and you’ll be guaranteed an unforgettable night that doesn’t have to end after the 9th. Boston fans hate the Yankees and Yankee fans hate the Red Sox, and no amount of family loyalty or relocation will change that fervor. It doesn’t matter how each team is doing in the standings, the series between the two puts pride and bragging rights on the line for the entire year.
4. FC Barcelona vs. Real Madrid
There might not be any fans in the world as passionate as soccer fans, and the followers of FC Barcelona and Real Madrid are some of the most zealous of them all. Both teams are two of the best in the world, and their clashes together, known simply as El Clásico, often determine who will go on to be the winner of La Liga, Spain’s premier football league. But beyond the 90,000-attendee games, there are ideological and cultural differences that heighten the bitterness towards each other. FC Barcelona is from the Catalonian region of Spain, who consider their city sovereign from the rest of the nation, while Madrid is the capital of the country that Barcelona holds itself separate from. A contention that runs deeper than sports boils to life when the two teams come head to head. You can feel the sold-out stadium shaking, see fires erupting in the stands, and join swathes of fans swaying in unison as they bellow their home chants. Throw in the most skilled players on the globe onto the field, and you have a match that cannot be missed.
5. Tour De France
While not the most mainstream of sports, the Tour De France is the most prestigious cycling race in the world in which teams from around the world compete for themselves and for country in a 23-day race in July. The event began in 1903, and during the three-week span, sends riders a grueling 2,000 miles (give or take depending on the year) through the steep and sometimes deadly roads of the Pyrenees and the Alps. Seeing the Tour De France is as much about the travel as it is about spectating the riders. You can explore tiny towns in the French countryside, run alongside the riders through the terraced vineyards in nothing but your home country’s flag, or join the competitors as they pass the Arc de Triomphe in the Champs-Élysées finale – followed by the biggest celebration in Paris since Bastille day.
6. Duke vs. North Carolina at Cameron Indoor Stadium
The most notorious rivalry in college basketball, the confrontation between the cross-town universities of Duke and North Carolina brings an intensity that’s on par with even the most ferocious football grudge matches. The hatred driven by proximity only miles apart is heighted by the fact that both programs are two of the winningest in history. The craziest games are at Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium, where the smaller space means more noise, more heat, and more unruliness. Students camp out for weeks to get into the big game, with the university having to provide free Wi-Fi to the tent city so that the students can keep up with school – obviously not the first priority here.
7. Wimbledon Finals
One of the grand slam events of the sport, Wimbledon is the grandest of stages for the tennis world. Located in London and played on the distinct grass courts, the best in the sport sweat and bleed for a chance at victory. Ditch the millions watching on TV and see it live alongside the celebrities sipping champagne, and cheer for the matches you didn’t buy tickets to with the thousands other fans huddled outside the stadium watching on the big screens. Any tennis fan or sports enthusiast must go to Wimbledon to witness the passion that the phenomenal athletes play with as they pour their souls into each set, and you know it’s a can’t-miss if it’s important enough for the live presence of the Queen.
8. Florida vs. Georgia in Jacksonville
The universities have tried to downplay the name, but the Florida vs. Georgia football game in Jacksonville holds the title for the “biggest cocktail party in the world”. Besides being one of the most savage rivalry games in the country, which is reason enough to go, the tailgating outside the stadium will be the most unruly, raucous tailgate you will ever find. The game is played at an NFL stadium, and over 80,000 supporters descend onto the parking lots for a tailgate that spreads for square miles, with any spot of open space being claimed by barbeques, beer pong tables, and coolers. It’s one massive college boozefest with beautiful coeds and lots and lots of cocktails…oh, and there’s also a really good football game if you are able to make it inside the stadium.
If you want to know how fast you are actually capable of sprinting, there’s nothing like trying to outrun a pack of angry bulls down a narrow street packed with people – it’s also really good practice for the zombie apocalypse. The Festival of San Fermín, held in the Spanish streets of Pamplona every summer, is in itself one of the wildest festivals and all-out parties in the world. But jumping into the streets with the bulls is a whole ‘nother beast (no pun intended), and your athleticism, bravery, and possibly the strength of your rib cage will all be put to the test. If you are going to say that it isn’t really a sport, just wait, because we haven’t gotten to the end. The real highlight is the seven days of bullfighting in the town’s magnificent stadium, the duel between matador and bull once described by Hemingway as “spiritual intensity and pure classic beauty”.
10. The Kumite…the Coolest Event Ever
Mixed martial arts and UFC might be all the rage these days, but it was the Kumite tournament that started it all. Featured in the movie Bloodsport, and considered to be a myth by most, the Kumite is an underground, no-holds-barred tournament held every five years, each time in a new location, that pits the best martial artists in the world in all different styles against each other. The winner of the event, called the Supreme Warrior, receives the Kumite Sword for his perseverance and courage. This is one of those events that no matter how hard you try, you’ll probably die before seeing it (possibly because you’ll be killed for trying to find the location). And if you are lucky enough to find it, if it still exists, prepare for some of the most ruthless hand-to-hand combat you’ve ever seen, more gambling than a Vegas casino floor, and of course the risk of being jailed should some foreign government raid the secret location. Good luck.