1. The French OpenI love tennis, but I've never covered it at the professional level. Why not start at a Grand Slam in my favorite city? I know the red clay at Roland Garros poses a grueling test for the world's best players, but it also provides what I consider one of the most pleasingly vivid visual backdrops in sports. Plus, it's late spring in Paris, there's tennis until 9 p.m. From what I hear, even the rain delays have their pluses, given all the nearby cafes one can cram into for cafés and sandwiches au jambon.
2. The Kentucky DerbyIt's the iconic horse race in America. The fact that I know next to nothing about thoroughbred racing makes it all the more alluring: covering it would be an education in horse racing, horse trading and the culture of the track (Right, Tim?) Besides, one doesn't get many opportunities to wear festive hats while covering, say, college basketball.
3. WimbledonI want to cover this for many of the same reasons I want to cover the French Open -- the world's best players up close, an interesting surface, old tennis tradition. And I just have a thing for being in international capitals on expense account.
4. The Marathon Des Sables I've written about the world's most grueling footrace, in which masochists from around the globe gather to test their endurance and sanity while running the equivalent of five marathons in six days in the deserts of Morocco. But I haven't been there in person to witness it or to partake in the fine dining laid out for journalists, medics and race officials -- in contrast to the Spartan meals gulped down by the participants, who have to carry all their own food. As described by Hampton Sides in his highly entertaining account of the race from the July 1998 issue of Outside Magazine: "Desert? What desert? Each evening we've lounged on Berber carpets in billowy dining tents, listening to jazz and supping on foie gras, ratatouille, chocolate mousse, lamb tagine, paella, even crème brulee, and always with our choice of cold lager or a decent cabernet."
5. Maverick'sI'm not sure how one covers this annual, 24-hour-notice big-wave surf competition a half-mile off of Half Moon Bay, Calif. But if I could hitch a ride in a photo boat, avoid seasickness and an accidental dip in the frigid, shark-infested waters -- or better yet, get a seat in a helicopter -- this could be fun! Even without the surfers who fly down the face of the monster waves that can reach five-stories high, and who, I have to imagine, look like skiers trying to outrun an avalanche, watching these enormous rollers build and crash up close would be a thrill.
My favorite: Tour de FranceA wise reporter once said that covering the Tour de France is like covering the Super Bowl. For three weeks straight. In a different city every day. In French. I covered Le Tour in 2002 and 2003, and no event in my career has been more challenging, exhausting or aggravating. Yet among all those stretches of sitting in traffic with toute la France (the Tour coincides with the start of les grandes vacances); searching fruitlessly for my hotel in downtown Grenoble at midnight; trying to park a 14-foot car in a 10-foot space, and pleading (also fruitlessly) with Lance Armstrong's people for a few moments of his time, there were many moments of sublime beauty and culinary and cultural delight -- and yes, high drama in the peloton -- that made all the despair well worth it. A post-Tour vacation in Paris was a nice balm, too.