It’s officially Super Bowl weekend, with the Ravens and 49ers set to take the field in the ultimate football contest. So, as part of our Iconic Friday, it seems like a good idea to take a look at some of the most iconic sporting events from around the globe and the annals of history.

5.  The Grand National

The ultimate steeplechase, the Grand National is a spectacle for all horse-lovers to behold.  While we here across the big blue might idolize our Kentucky Derby with its mint juleps and old South swagger, the absolute grueling course of the Grand National makes the Derby look like a romp in the park.  Vividly portrayed in the 1944 Elizabeth Taylor movie, National Velvet, the Grand National has been running strong since 1839, taking horses and jockeys over 30 challenging jumps in a four mile, four furlong race.  However, the race is not without its critics, being one of the deadliest for horses among all steeplechases.

Vince Lombardi Trophy

4. The Super Bowl

Sorry, dear football fans, this one is only #4 on my list.  Although it marks the day that countless hordes flock to their television sets to view two teams slugging it out for the ultimate football title, I am speaking purely from my own bias in putting it here.  The first Super Bowl was played in 1966 between the best football team on the planet, the Green Bay Packers, and the Kansas City Chiefs, who went down in a blaze of glory before their mighty foe.  Since then, the event has become one of the most publicized, advertised, anticipated and watched sporting events in America — to put it mildly.

3.  FIFA World Cup

Anyone who’s been to Europe during the World Cup knows just how insanely crazy soccer (pardon me, football) fans can get.  Hard to blame them — the World Cup comes only once every four years, and involves 32 teams from all around the world vying for the crown of glory.  Rivalries are incredibly fierce, fan loyalty is…fanatic, and much to our chagrin here in America, the World Cup Finals are, in fact, more widely televised and watched than even our beloved Super Bowl.

1999 Stanley Cup Champions

2. The Stanley Cup Playoffs

Hockey being, of course, the very best sport, we must give due attention to the playoffs that have ended every NHL season since 1915 (when…there is an NHL season…), which may well be the most strenuous and challenging of any sports playoffs.  The Stanley Cup Champions must pass through three grueling best-of-seven rounds, beginning with the Conference Quarter Finals, before ever reaching the Stanley Cup Finals.  Of course, being from Dallas, we here at Iconic believe that the highlight of Stanley Cup history came when the venerable Dallas Stars won the title in 1999, in the third overtime period of Game 6.  Fans in New York will likely disagree.  We’re sorry.  It was a goal.

1. The Olympics

Of course, the single most iconic sporting event has to be the Olympics.  Though the modern Olympic games have a distinct heritage from their ancient counterpart, there is at least some conceptual connection to the Greek Olympics, founded in 776 BC in the city of Olympia.  The ancient version of the Olympics actually began as a footrace between young women — and if you visit Olympia today, you can still make a dash across the field on your own.  It later became a mostly male event (though women could enter the equestrian events), held every four years.  The first events were foot races, but later wrestling, boxing, chariot racing, the discus throw, and other events were added.  The Greek Olympics ended in the 4th century A.D., and it wasn’t until the 1890’s that the modern Olympics were inaugurated.  Now celebrated in two phases, the Summer and Winter Games allow athletes of all sorts of sports to compete for the ultimate prize.  There are some 400 events in the current Games, and almost all dedicated athletes in a sport covet the chance to fight for the gold in the Olympic Games.

Photo Credits:

Vince Lombardi trophy by BrokenSphere, from Wikimedia
Mike Modano from The Sports Jury