Column: Oh, the places you must go
Published: Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, April 10, 2012 22:04
People who love plays are beckoned to the theatre. Those who adore art are drawn to the Louvre. And folks who fancy being fancy go to Britain.
We sports fans on the other hand, are a bit out in left field. Guys and girls who passionately follow their favorite teams head to not one, but many different destinations depending on the season; namely, each of the home stadiums of their teams.
Now, I’m a lucky guy; In fact, call me an extraordinarily fortunate fella. I’ve been able to visit numerous pro and college stadiums through travel for my work here at the paper and broadcasting UConn games on the radio at WHUS. I’ve also enjoyed a couple ballpark trips with my father, seeing roughly nine games in ten days over many states in each adventure.
But enough about me, this is about the stadiums and parks I’d go back to in a hot second and the ones you should decide to road-trip to in less than that. Even more specifically, the places every hearty fan, regardless of devotion, should visit some day. There are some notable places omitted from this list, for example August National golf course or the courts at Wimbledon. However, this is simply because I can’t speak about them. Yet.
So, here’s what I can say about the places you must go:
Fenway Park and Wrigley Field
The two cathedrals of the game combine for more history than any Smithsonian you can find and more heartbreak than all Taylor Swift tunes. But the best part is that the parks stay true to their roots, offering nothing in the way of “Get Loud!” scoreboard encouragement or free t-shirt tosses. Instead, they just hand you pure baseball and the best atmosphere a fan could ask for from first pitch to the last, heart wrenching out.
Up in Beantown, get there a few hours early to walk around and soak in the buzz of Yawkey Way before exploring each of the century old steps inside the park. Over in Chi-town, take some time to roam the outfield bleachers before meandering to the upper deck behind home plate. There you’ll find one of the most spectacular views in the Midwest with the city in the distance and Lake Michigan off to the right.
Now, in my only visit to Wrigley I will confess the Cubs came through perfectly. Falling down 7-0 early to the Orioles, Jim Edmonds (yes, Jim Edmonds played for the Cubs) crushed a grand slam to right. Then his teammates tacked on two more runs. But it wasn’t enough as they failed to follow through in the ninth inning with the winning run at home.
As for the Sox, they’ve won more than lost in my visits, though if you take a trip soon, I’d advise not sticking around until the ninth. The bullpen has been holding leads and then blowing them quicker than you can a kiss.
Lambeau Field and Michigan Stadium
With almost as much history as Wrigley or Fenway, Lambeau provides the only sacred ground in pro football. The place is almost entirely decked out in bleachers, packing in (pun entirely intended) as many Green Bay faithful as possible. It’s been renovated recently and the improvements are stellar. I was there only for a short tour but even then, the aura was real.
Similarly, Michigan Stadium maintains almost as many bleachers as every high school football field in the country. I made a trip out this past November for the Ohio State game and a game experience has never been more surreal. Glance to your left– boom, 50,000 people. Look to the right, another 50k. And somewhere else another 14,000 are hiding within the largest capacity stadium in the country.
While plenty of college towns get up for their football, no place can fit more crazies into a single stadium than in Ann Arbor. Some say every day should be Saturday and if it were, I wouldn’t mind spending each of those at The Big House.
Madison Square Garden
The world’s most famous arena is nicknamed as such for a reason. In addition to the Knicks and Rangers, MSG has served as a stage for some incredible moments over the years whether at its current address or ones in years past. However, no better event displays the magic of Madison than the men’s basketball Big East tournament.
Over a year ago winning five games in five days would’ve been historic anywhere. But centered in the ‘greatest city in the world’ with the bright lights on, made it all the more special. Taking a quick trip to visit the venue, currently undergoing a three-year renovation plan, is more than worth the while.
Cameron Indoor Stadium
The outside looks more like a small castle. The inside is just remarkable. What it lacks in capacity is made up for in intimacy, allowing students to surround the court and become a part of each game. Even if you’d rather spend your time uttering a slightly different version of "Duck Fuke," hold your breath for just a second to soak in the best atmosphere in college basketball.
The place breathes basketball and hallways underneath and around the court provide constant reminders of the storied excellence of both programs. There’s never been a better home court in the game and that’s the only reason needed to stop by.