Trials Better Than the NFL's Big Game


Tyler McGill (large)

By Mike Gustafson//Correspondent

With the NFL's big game fast approaching, America’s eyes tilt towards the gridiron and subsequently to hit-em-knock-em-down head-slammin’ football mania. Many advertisers like to make you believe that the big game is the greatest American sporting event of the year. They point to advertising dollars and watch parties and sales of chips and salsa. The biggest sports event of the year, they say. 


I beg to differ.

Here are 10 Reasons Why the Olympics Trials are Better than the NFL's championship game. 

[Honorable mention: No one gets seriously, violently injured in swimming.
I like football as much as anyone else, but there’s something seriously wrong with head and body injuries. It’s a violent sport, and that violence has turned me off from watching and celebrating. It’s hard to cheer knowing an athlete may have suffered permanent brain damage in the game.]

10. The Trials only takes place every four years.

On the reasoning of infrequency alone, the every-four-year cycle of the Olympic Trials makes the event more special, by definition, than any other sports event (on par with the World Cup). Four years of waiting. Four years of training. And since it takes place only every four years, athletes only get one or two shots (three in rare cases) at the Olympic Trials. 

9. More world-wide interest. 

Venture far outside the United States, you won’t find too many Denver Broncos hats, Carolina Panther jerseys, or NFL fans. But at the Olympics, billions watch. Swimming is the most popular Olympic sport. The Trials decides who will become the next Olympic legend, who will rise to the throne of international superstardom. 

8. More storylines. 
More athletes means more storylines. More victories. More comebacks. More upsets. More thrilling edge-of-your-seat races.

7. One race, one chance. 

The Trials comes down to one race. One shot. There are no first quarter flukes, no blocked field goals before the half. It is one race, only a few minutes long. Entire athletes’ lives come down to a swift, 60-second performance. 

6. No ref interference.
Besides a rare disqualification here or there, referees do not interfere in swimming. There are very, very rarely controversial calls, and there are hardly any mutterings about which ref has ulterior motives. The swimmers control their own destiny, not someone else’s eyes or judgement. 

5. Rowdy Gaines commentary.
Best in the biz. And anyone who has ever yelled at the TV about commentary knows how valuable it is having a commentator who knows and understands the nuances of a sport. 

4. The united joy of sending off a new U.S. Olympic Team.

There’s something special about winning at the Olympic Trials: It means you punched a ticket to the Olympics, to represent something bigger than yourself: the United States. It’s a refreshing celebration during a political year to send off our nation’s fittest athletes to represent the stars-and-stripes in front of billions. 

3. No fluke bounces of a ball. 

The seemingly random bouncing of a ball will not determine an Olympic Trials champion. Grit. Determination. Training. Mental stamina. Technique. That is what matters, what decides winners. Not a wind gust. 

2. The clock decides. 
There is beauty in the simplicity of swimming: Get to the wall first, you win. There are no arguments, no what-ifs. The clock ticks down, and whoever has the fastest time, wins. Simplicity is beautiful. 

1. For the love of sport.  

Something about the professionalism aspect of pro sports turns me away. Yes, pride and glory are on the line in the NFL's championship game, but there are also ramifications involving sponsorships, endorsements, and money.. Sure, swimming has that, too, and you could argue that if you become an Olympian, there’s even more financial gain. But for the most part, these athletes are not swimming for the money, since there is very little money in the world of swimming in the first place. For the most part, swimmers swim for the joy of personal growth, for pushing to and overcoming their own personal limitations. The intent behind the journey to the Olympic Trials seems somehow a bit more pure than the intent behind becoming a “professional athlete.” Sure, many Olympians do go on to receive endorsements and deals. But the vast majority of athletes competing at the Trials do so for the experience, for the joy, for the love of sport.