Three events this weekend are “championships” that are overshadowed by other events in their sports. One common thread: All three are condensed versions of sports that have longer, fairer tests of skill.
Cycling: We’ve already had three three-week tours (in men’s cycling, at least) as well as the Olympics. Pending future doping developments, we have a Tour de France champion and several Olympic medalists. So now we crown world champions?
A one-day race doesn’t tell you that much, anyway. Perhaps a breakaway gets lucky. Perhaps a sprinter sees a rival caught up in traffic and pounces to take the win. Maybe an uphill finish favors climbers. Over the course of a Grand Tour, many of these things even out, and the yellow and green jerseys are well-deserved.
But the good news: Cyclists still care about the world titles at stake, and that means we’ll see the best fields since the Olympics. Universal Sports
Cricket: Twenty20 cricket has caught on in the 10 years or so since its introduction, mostly because people can see all the action without investing an entire day or more. If you see big crowds at England’s county cricket four-day matches, the economy is either in amazing shape or in the toilet. Purists don’t like it because it takes away a lot of the game’s tactics. No room for defensive, game-prolonging shots here. Swing, swing away.
Maybe the top Test-playing country is the best team in the world, and maybe the World Cup (one-day, but 2.5 times longer than Twenty20) has more history. But this is fan-friendly. ESPN3
Golf: Here’s the event that needs a change. The Tour Championship takes place well after all the majors — this year, it’s also right before the Ryder Cup. And it’s all based on a yearlong points competition, anyway, so the tournament includes a lot of extraneous math.
Why not make it like combined sports at the Olympics (Nordic combined, modern pentathlon)? Convert the points to strokes. If you’re 500 points behind, you’re five strokes behind. Best score at the end of tournament is the season winner. Golf Channel/NBC
Also this weekend: Plenty of good soccer matchups, UFC 152 and a college water polo game you should watch just because Michael Hiestand was snarky about it.