This is by far the best place on the Web for one-stop sports reading. News, scores and stats are all up-to-the-minute a godsend for those who absolutely have to know the Kansas State Texas Tech box score the second the game ends. And it's not just the big boys who get coverage; espn.com faithfully follows the baseball minor leagues, Arena Football and even the latest bass-fishing news. What really sets the site apart, though, is its Page 2 section. Featuring columnists like hoops Hall of Famer Bill Walton, gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson and the always amusing Sports Guy, Bill Simmons, Page 2 is that rare place on the Web that reminds us through lively, original writing and watercooler-type commentary why we watch sports: because they're fun.
Baseball fanatics know the batting averages of long-dead sluggers from the 1920s the way rabbis know the Talmud. For the more casual fan, there's baseball-reference.com. This searchable, text-only database of Major League Baseball statistics is an unparalleled barstool-argument resolver. From the home page, it takes just two clicks to find even the most obscure trivia, such as the team batting average of the last-place 1930 Philadelphia Phillies (.315) or the identity of the all-time leader in postseason slugging percentage (Nomar Garciaparra, .936). Best feature: pages that let you compare the yearly stats of current players with those of past greats.
FANTASY SPORT NEWS
What separates Fantasy Football winners from the also-rans is luck, hard work and the ability to compile megabytes of data on the latest pro-football trends, injuries and matchups. kffl.com harvests all the NFL news and stats, digests them and then sends out free e-mail alerts with the injury reports and player news items that you need to negotiate those make-or-break midseason trades. One key component is the "PC Prognosticator," a service that predicts the top 16 to 48 performers at each offensive position for the upcoming week. Warning: the site is swarming with online-gambling ads. But the trade analyzer and the wealth of other tools and resources are well worth ducking the come-ons.
When SPORTS ILLUSTRATED's beat writers contribute online, they give, as they say in jock-speak, 110%. The magazine's website allows some very fine scribes greater space and freedom than they usually get in print. The result: fresh, insightful commentary each week from such established SI stars as Frank Deford, Tom Verducci and Phil Taylor. Best of the bunch: Peter King, whose "Monday Morning Quarterback" is full of short, smart and funny observations on the NFL (AOL Time Warner, parent company of TIME, also owns cnnsi.com and SPORTS ILLUSTRATED).
Pop quiz: Should you wear metal spikes on the green? What's the acceptable way to enter a sand trap? On the links, how you play is just as important as how well you play. If your manners make other golfers think you just stepped out of Caddyshack, see Mr. Golf to set your game on a higher plane.
Sure, eBay lets you bid on thousands of conventional sports items like event tickets and autographed baseballs. But even more impressive are the site's offerings of one-of-a-kind chances to hang out with sports VIPs. Fans recently paid to play golf with Jack Nicklaus and hoops with Magic Johnson. As you might expect, final prices are steep often in the thousands of dollars.
Forget standing out in the cold negotiating with scalpers. You will find a surprising number of tickets (and some really good deals) on the hundreds of small fan sites dedicated to a particular team. But because it can be tricky finding the place on the Web where, say, Cleveland Browns fans with spare tickets hang out, a good alternative is OpenSeats, a nationwide clearinghouse for those with extra seats. With a little searching, you can easily find tickets to sporting events all over the country.
If you can play with it, sweat in it, show your team colors on it or tailgate with it, this site has it. Fogdog has great deals on everything from sports memorabilia (for those of you who can't live without your Detroit Red Wings PDA case) to top-of-the-line athletic gear. Even better than its merchandise are Fogdog's how-to-buy guides, which tell you everything you need to know about selecting the proper equipment for your sport.