I’VE ALWAYS WANTED to go to the World Cup, but it’s probably going to be a while. I couldn’t afford Brazil, and I don’t have much of a desire to go to Russia in 2018 or Qatar in 2022. So for the next 12 years at least, I’m going to have to start knocking off all of the other major “must-see” sporting events on my list.

There are different reasons to go, of course. You’ve got the sports that you actually care about, but then there are other events you want to go to more for the party that surrounds it, or for the spectacle of the game.

No one, for example, knows the point of a monster truck rally beyond “let’s crash cars and bring out Truckasaurus.” But it looks like so much fun to watch. So here’s my list of must-sees, with some mainstream events and a few lesser-known, quirkier options thrown in as well.

1

The World Cup

The World Cup is obviously #1 on my list. No sport is as truly international as soccer, and there’s no other sport where my home team, the United States, is the underdog. It’s not quite as extensive as the Olympics, because only 32 teams can participate, but it remains one of the best international competitions out there.
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2

The Summer Olympics

I made the gigantic mistake of leaving London two weeks before the Olympics started in 2012. I lived in the East End, so I expected it to be a nightmare, but everyone who stayed said it was perfectly managed and not at all a pain in the ass. And in terms of sports, there’s just so much to choose from during the Summer Olympics. This has to be my #2.
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3

The Kentucky Derby

I’ve wanted to go to the Kentucky Derby ever since reading Hunter Thompson’s article “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved.” By all accounts it’s a shitshow, and by all accounts the celebrity and funny hat sightings are unparalleled.
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4

ISA World Masters Surfing Championship

Surfing is probably the most baller sport on the planet, and at the end of the day, you still get to watch it on the beach. Surfing, FTW.
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5

Wimbledon

I’m not a big tennis guy, but Wimbledon sounds fun solely on the basis of being a gathering of Britain’s upper class, including the Royal Family. Also, I don’t even understand how you can play tennis on grass. I can barely manage it on turf.
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6

Roller derby

One of the only contact sports that consists mostly of female players, the point of roller derby is to lap your opponents and to prevent them from lapping you. This can get violent. It’s awesome to watch, and a lot of fun to play.
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7

The Winter Olympics

I’m absolutely petrified of skiing—every tree seems to be intent on bashing my head in, and I’ve been known to fall over while standing perfectly still—so the Winter Olympic games always seem doubly impressive to me. I’ve even come around to figure skating. You can’t argue that the Winter Games don’t feature some of the most skilled athletes in any sport.
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8

Tour de France

This is one of those events that, for the most part, consists of you standing in one place and watching the bicyclists zip by, but the perk is that you get to be pretty much everywhere in France during it. The Tour de France is an endurance sport, and even though cycling is plagued by doping scandals, it’s immensely impressive to watch.
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9

The Super Bowl

As an American, this is a must. But it’s only a must when your team goes, because the tickets are hella expensive. My team, the Cincinnati Bengals, haven’t been since I was three years old. So fingers crossed they make it back before I turn 30.
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10

Running of the bulls

Okay, so it might be kinda suicidal to do actually run with the bulls, but by all accounts, the nights before and during the bullfights are absolutely crazy parties. And you can stand and watch the running of the bulls from the side of the road, totally safe.
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11

X Games

The X Games are organized by ESPN, and they feature extreme sports. So if you want to see incredibly skilled people doing incredibly dumb and dangerous things, check out the X Games. They’ve also made it a pretty great social event by putting on concerts during the run of the games.
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12

Grand Prix de Monaco

I want to go to the Grand Prix mostly as an excuse just to be in Monaco. But also, the race itself is supposed to be mesmerizing—that many F1 cars racing through narrow streets, through tunnels, and around hairpin turns? Yes, please.
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13

Iditarod

This is an event you’ll have to put in hard work to follow—most of it happens out in the vast expanse of open Alaskan tundra. Dogsled racing is an endurance sport, and is a sport of patience, but you get to hang out in Alaska during the winter and eat comfort food while waiting for the racers to pass through town. Sold.
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14

The Henley Regatta

This is another Royal-sponsored contest, and is one of the few items on this list that I’ve managed to tick off of my list. My cousin rowed for the University of Washington in the Henley Regatta while I was living in London. It’s like the British version of the Kentucky Derby, with incredibly posh, colorful outfits. But there’s surprisingly less drinking than at the Derby.
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15

Stanley Cup

Hockey is one of the most fun games to watch live. A bunch of bruisers on skates literally pounding the teeth out of each other? How could that be bad? Though best spectated when your team is in the running, the Stanley Cup would be a fun event to attend no matter what.
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16

Argentine Polo Championship

For whatever reason, the Argentines have clung to polo long after most countries have let it fall by the wayside as a relic of more aristocratic times. Still, the polo championships, held every year in Buenos Aires, are supposed to be an absolute blast. Though, to be fair, pretty much everything is fun in BA.
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17

Champions League Final

The UEFA Champions League is the most prestigious club football (soccer) tournament in Europe, which means it’s also the most prestigious in the world. It’s like the Olympics, but instead of countries being represented, it’s teams. I’d love to see my favorite American football teams play European teams, but sadly we don’t have that reach. I watch this every year on TV, but one day I’ll make it to it live.
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18

Indianapolis 500

I grew up an hour and a half from Indy, so it’s a shame I never made it to the Indy 500. It’s billed as one of the best races in the world, and it has a slightly different fan-base than NASCAR. So thank god for that.
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19

Rugby World Cup

I’ve had rugby explained to me a few times, and I’ve never quite retained the rules because I always get caught up in the “Holy shit, look at those guys wail on each other.” Rugby’s a game that should’ve caught on in the United States, but was supplanted by American football. Oh well. This absolutely goes on the list.
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20

World Series of Poker

Let’s be honest—you’re going to the WSOP to be in Vegas. Because for the most part, the WSOP is a slow tournament, happening over thousands of hands and a long period of time. That said, the stakes are incredibly high, and you get to watch players who are both wisecracking jackasses, and silent, stony-faced terrors. The personalities are as much fun as the game itself.
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21

Summer Redneck Games

Held in East Dublin, Georgia, the Redneck Games feature events like Dumpster Diving, Mud Pit Belly Flopping, Bobbing for Pig’s Trotters, and Bug Zapping by Spitball. Oh, and a wet t-shirt contest, of course. If that doesn’t sell you on it…well, to be honest, I totally understand if that doesn’t sell you on it.
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22

24 Hours of Le Mans

It’s like the Cannonball Run, but legitimate, and with real race cars. Endurance racing is pretty awesome across the board, and finishing it is as much an indication of driver skill as it is of mechanical engineering. Do you realize how much work has to go into a car to keep it going for that long? This would be a lot of fun to watch.
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23

FA Cup Final

The oldest Football Association competition in the world will probably only interest those with an English team, but it’s another example in which the English have a leg up on American sports. Not only do they have a league winner, they also have a tournament winner. It may sound like a small distinction, but what if we had the equivalent of two Super Bowls? That shit would be sweet.
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24

ICC Cricket World Cup

I can’t understand cricket for the life of me. There’s something called a wicket, I know, and also a bowler, but that’s about it. The appeal here is that I would love to go to a major sporting event and watch fans go absolutely apeshit over something that makes zero sense to me.
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25

Chess boxing

Seriously, this is a thing. The rounds alternate between chess and boxing, and you can win by knocking out your opponent, putting them in checkmate, or through decision at the end of the match. It’s the perfect mix of brains and violence.
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26

Scottish Highland Games

The games themselves are mostly men in kilts throwing really heavy things. But the Highland Games are at the same time a celebration of Scottish culture. And that means music, dance, and whisky as well.
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27

Monster truck rally

Basically, you watch big cars smash other cars. That’s all there is to it.
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28

World's Strongest Man competition

Comically large men lifting huge barbells and pulling trucks and tossing kegs. It’s probably the purest display of machismo you’ll ever see.
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