Let's not kid ourselves. Football is the true national sport of the 21st century.
While it doesn't get much more American than the Super Bowl, we'd argue that the most enjoyable, purest way to experience the unique American-branded mixture of militant strategics, refined athleticism, brute force and exploitation of young labor is at a college football game.
Best to get there early enough to tailgate. Bonding with strangers, drinking and grilling beforehand is 72.4 percent of the experience.
Pretty much any stadium will do, but a game experience doesn't get much better than at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala., home of the reigning national champion Alabama Crimson Tide. (Yes, we know, the barbecue is spicier and the cheerleaders are hotter at your team's stadium, but we had to draw the line somewhere and "national champs" earns you the top spot on lists like this.)
Bryant-Denny Stadium, 920 Paul W. Bryant Dr., Tuscaloosa, Ala.
5. Kentucky Derby
There's one more sporting event we have to include on the list.
Sure, other countries have their horse races. But those competitions weren't founded by the grandson of William Clark of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Also, those races don't have a traditional drink made of bourbon (mint julep), nor do they encourage everyone to dress like a flamboyant Southern aristocrat. We're talking bow ties, seersucker, bold pastels and spectacular hats that put British royal wedding attendees to shame.
Churchill Downs, 700 Central Ave., Louisville, Ky.; May 3-4, 2013; single day general admission $25-40; 502-636-4400
6. Burning Man
The first Woodstock Music & Art Fair in 1969 was one of the most pivotal moments in American cultural history. Five-hundred-thousand people came together to celebrate drugs, weirdness, creativity, individualism, beauty and sticking it to the Man.
What's the direct descendant of Woodstock? Before you say Bonnaroo, Coachella, Lollapalooza or any other trendy music festival -- each of which is run by the Man -- let us stop you.
The world's largest festival of artistic expression is Burning Man.
The weeklong event held every year in the Black Rock Desert of northern Nevada is difficult to describe. As the website puts it, describing Burning Man is "like trying to explain what a particular color looks like to someone who is blind."
Essentially 50,000 creative spirits gather in one of the most desolate areas in the continental United States to wear bizarre clothes, make art, do drugs, experience a new form of communal living, have a hell of a lot of fun and let their freak flags fly.
Burning Man; Aug. 26-Sept. 2, 2013; 415-863-5263
7. Soul food
It's difficult to pin down the most American of foods. Almost every candidate has roots in other countries, but, of course, that's what makes them American.
Soul food makes the top of the list because it's delicious, unapologetically artery-clogging and it brings us face to face with our turbulent past.
African-American slaves on Southern plantations were often given scraps and leftovers to eat, and had to make do with whatever vegetables they could grow nearby and with little care, as so much time was spent working. From these restrictions arose some of the finest recipes in American cuisine.
There are thousands of spectacular soul food restaurants -- many of the best are in the South -- but Sylvia's in New York is maybe the most well known.
Sylvia's, 328 Lenox Ave., New York; 212-996-0660
8. Juke joints
While we're in the region, one of America's great art forms, Blues music, grew up in the juke joints of the South. Jukes arose after emancipation, taking the form of shacks and private houses where African-Americans gathered to listen to and play music, gamble and dance.
A few classic juke joints still remain, some along Highway 61, aka the Blues Highway, which stretches from New Orleans to the town of Wyoming, Minnesota, an American experience in and of itself. Po' Monkey's, opened in 1963 outside Merigold, Miss., is considered one of the last remaining original jukes. It's only open Thursdays, and it's not easy to get to, but the music and crowd make it worth the trip.