The Women's College World Series, Stanley Cup finals and French Open are taking place this week. Which one are you most apt to watch and why?
French Open captures attention, imagination
By Jane McManus
Why is tennis so popular around the world? Because for those with short attention spans, the season can be boiled down to four events a year, with a single-elimination format as dramatic as the NCAA tournament but with all the personal drama of a reality show.
One of those fortnights is upon us with the French Open. Will Victoria Azarenka win her second Grand Slam event of the year? Does Venus Williams have another comeback in her? Who will excel on red clay?
I like to imagine that with each major I get a short trip to an international city. Canada is nice, and I can appreciate softball, but I'm most likely to settle in front of the television and imagine I am in Paris. Which reminds me, there is a bakery nearby that sells killer chocolate croissants.
Pace, setting make WCWS hard to beat
By Graham Hays
Considering only one of these events is responsible for my paycheck this week, I had best answer the Women's College World Series. But softball's biggest party was one of my favorite sporting events long before I first took a laptop to Oklahoma City, and it remains my favorite week of the year. Other than a parked car's ability to double as a Crock Pot when left in the Oklahoma sun for an entire day, this is the perfect event in the perfect setting.
Most NCAA team championships are down to the semifinals by the time they reach the championship round. That's fine, but it can -- at times -- feel anticlimactic after the frenzy of earlier rounds, days with too many games to safely consume and compelling people and stories popping up by the minute. With eight teams in one place, the first few days at the WCWS still have some of that energy of uncertainty. As is the case this year with South Florida and LSU, there are always Cinderella teams. And instead of three games in three days, the WCWS offers as many as 17 games in seven days, the pace slowing only to allow you to savor the final best-of-three championship series.
The actual softball aside, the WCWS is also special because of the site. It might not make sense for every sport, but giving the event what amounts to a permanent home allowed Oklahoma City to adopt it. Local fans know about it and have it on their calendars, mixing with all the out-of-towners for what really feels like a festival atmosphere, especially for the weekend sessions.
I would rather watch the Women's College World Series on a black-and-white television with bad reception than sit in the front row at Roland Garros or the Stanley Cup finals, and I like tennis and hockey, so for me, there's only one answer.
Thinking outside the box, I'll be watching the NBA
By Kate Fagan
I'm going with a write-in vote of ... the NBA playoffs. While the three aforementioned events are certainly worthy of oh-what's-the-score updates, nothing is quite as good as the NBA's postseason (especially in comparison to how boring the regular season is). Both conference finals -- Thunder vs. Spurs and Heat vs. Celtics -- have compelling storylines. Most important, the nation can come together as one -- and root against the Heat. That's a beautiful thing. It's hard to not care about young vs. old (Thunder vs. Spurs) and whomever vs. Heat.
There's something special about the NBA this time of year because the world's best athletes aren't just jogging up and down the court waiting for the games to matter. They're locked in. And that makes the games can't-miss TV.
I'll be watching all of them. (And checking for scores of those other events.)
Stanley Cup finals are appointment worthy
By Sarah Spain
I've said it before and I'll say it again: There's nothing like playoff hockey. The Stanley Cup is the greatest trophy in all of sports, so it's only fitting that the Cup finals usually feature some of the most thrilling games of the year, every year. You just can't beat a bunch of bearded men playing their hearts out for the chance to hoist the Cup on the ice and the right to take it home for some serious partying. If I'm lazing on the couch and I happen upon it, I might stop awhile to watch the WCWS and the French Open, but the Stanley Cup finals are appointment television.
French Open compelling for patience, perseverance it requires
By Mechelle Voepel
I pick the French Open.
The players' dirty-red socks and shoes, the chair umpire's polite request for quiet, s'il vous plait and the camera settling on random Parisians in the crowd. May becoming June means we get to return once more to Roland Garros, even if just through our television sets, accompanied by that ubiquitous accordion music. There's something as timeless as clay itself about the French Open, and we can get swept up in the same American fantasy about the city that enchanted Owen Wilson's character in "Midnight in Paris."
The tournament itself, though, is more like "High Noon in Paris," especially deeper into the second week when the best of the baseline sluggers sometimes duel as if they're intent on never stopping. Patience and perseverance are equal parts of prevailing in Paris, both for the players and spectators. But what a great place to linger!
Williams sisters always capture my attention
By Adena Andrews
If you've been paying attention to these roundtable entries, you know I'm all Williams sisters, all the time. If they're present, I'm there.
With that said, in the first round of the French Open the Williams sisters will compete against -- heck, does it really even matter? It's the Williams sisters. I would watch them do the running man in Times Square for two hours on a rainy day. That's how much I love to see them compete.
When I watch them, my enjoyment stems from a place beyond awesome serves and rallies. It's the fact that they're living history and a testament to not being put in a box. Even if you don't like the Williams sisters you have to love their story and what they represent.
Their mere presence at the French Open makes me feel like I'm cheering for a family member. Thanks to social media, I discovered I'm not alone. When one of the Williams sisters wins, it's like we all win. When they lose, we collectively sigh but know our accomplishments outweigh our failures and we'll return to greatness soon.
Outside of having a great back story that keeps me watching, the Williams sisters always come to play. Therefore, you know what I'll be tuning into this week.
Reservations for the hockey bandwagon
By Melissa Jacobs
As an unabashed playoff bandwagon hockey fan, the Devils and Kings will grace my television starting Wednesday night. Hockey is one sport you can pay little attention to during the regular season and jump right in during playoff time. It is fast, raw and compared to most sports, has easy to follow rules (an easy to follow puck is another story).
But what I really appreciate about hockey, and these Stanley Cup finals in particular, are the familiar names that seem to remain pillars in the sport for eternity. Take ageless wonder, Devils goalie Martin Brodeur. The now-40-year-old first led the Devils to a Stanley Cup title in 1995. Yes, 1995! Back then Bill Clinton was in his first term, "Beverly Hills 90210" was at the height of its popularity and "SportCenter" anchors were just starting to practice their "Mar-tan Bro-door" pronunciations.
Playoff hockey is exhilarating and I would watch the Stanley Cup finals no matter what; add in the Brodeur time capsule and I'm hooked.
Intensity of NHL playoffs hooks me every time
By Amanda Rykoff
I confess that I'm a bit of a bandwagoner when it comes to hockey. I don't really watch it during the regular season, but when we get to the Stanley Cup playoffs, I become hooked. There's something about the level of play during the postseason that brings it to another level and I look forward to it every spring. This year is no exception. While we haven't had as many overtime bananas games as in previous years (we had 22 overtime games during the 2011 playoffs!), I'm really looking forward to the Stanley Cup finals between the upstart Los Angeles Kings and the New Jersey Devils. Of the three major sporting events that start this week, the Stanley Cup finals takes the top spot on my priority list.
I do enjoy Grand Slam tennis, but I usually don't watch the French Open until the second week at Roland Garros. I am keeping a special eye out for Rafael Nadal, who seeks his seventh French Open win (he'd be the first man to do this). A tournament win by Novak Djokovic means he will have won four straight Grand Slam tournaments, which represents a noteworthy accomplishment. As for the Women's College World Series, I do have some interest in seeing if Arizona State can win back-to-back titles or if juggernaut Cal can live up to its top seeding. I'll watch bits and pieces when I can, but I'm not going to seek it out until the championship series.
Special place for softball
By Michelle Smith
I will be watching the Women's College World Series. It's a personal thing. As a former softball player, watching this tournament with so much at stake for the teams has always been such a pleasure. As a Bay Area native, Cal's remarkable run through this season is a picking up steam as a big story around these parts. The Bears have it all, great pitching, veteran leadership and are so aggressive at the plate. They are fun to watch. I may even find myself at a local sports bar with some of my former softball teammates once or twice in the next few days.