Given that this is Sports-Opinionated’s 100th post, I thought I’d share a more personalized view of being a sports fan.
When I was growing up, road hockey was the arena for acting out your sports fantasies. After we picked teams, there was always a point where we had to decide which NHL team we were and which players we were pretending to be. I loved being the Flames, and pretending I was players like Joe Nieuwendyk, John Tonelli or Joel Otto. In my 8 year old mind, I could pretend as if the Flames had won the Stanley Cup.
Now that my body is older, I still dream about sports like an 8 year old, but my wishes revert to experiences as a sports fan.
I’m not talking about sports that you’d like to participate in or things you’d like to achieve. I’d love to shoot par, try that downhill skating race thing in Quebec, participate in an amateur MMA fight or score on a free kick over the wall. That’s probably another list for another time.
I’m only focusing on live events. In this day and age, it’s feasible to watch just about anything on live TV or streaming over the internet, but it never quite captures the feeling of being at the event in person.
Atmosphere can only be captured with the emotions of the crowd around you, reacting to every moment in the competition. When a crafty winger cuts inside his defender and the crowd holds their breath. When a goalie robs a shot at a wide open net and there is a brief moment of stunned silence before the crowd erupts. When a quarterback unleashes a bomb and the crowds jumps up to see if the receiver has a step. Your TV or your laptop can’t recreate this energy, it’s impossible
I have been to at least a few games in every major North American sport. I’ve watched hockey games in Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Red Deer & Grand Forks (WJHC). I’ve seen football in Minnesota and San Francisco. I’ve watched basketball in San Antonio and Chicago. I’ve seen baseball games in LA, Cleveland and Chicago. I’ve had one chance to watch a soccer match in Europe (Berlin) and have been to Australian rules football and rugby as well.
I’m obviously a fortunate sports fan, but by no means am I one of those people who’s seen every major competition in every city.
The two greatest fan experiences I’ve had the luck to be a part of were in the WJHC at both Red Deer and Grand Forks, watching Canada win gold medals and in Berlin watching Hertha Berlin versus Werder Bremen. I will remember all three for the rest of my life, just because the crowds were so dedicated, emotionally attached and vocal.
If I had the time and money to do everything below, I’d sit down and craft the greatest sports road trip on the planet. Instead, I hope to slowly check them off one at a time and capture them in the “fan experience” part of my brain forever. I’ve narrowly missed several of the items below. I’ve been in the right cities at the wrong time or just haven’t been able to get tickets. Sometimes luck and timing are just as important as intention and willpower, which is what makes every fan’s list so special.
I’m sure that somehow I’ve forgotten a few important ones here and I’m sure everyone’s list looks different. Please share any events you would put on your list and I’ll add them to the post.
As a guy who grew up playing hockey his whole life. This is obviously number one on the list. The Stanley Cup playoffs are the most grueling run to a trophy in any sport and the winners typically look like they’ve been through an eco-challenge followed by a boxing match. But that’s what makes it so special.
2. Canada Olympic Hockey Game
I’m Canadian. I love hockey. Nothing else matters when Team Canada is playing.
3. Any game with Peyton Manning
I’ve been a Colts fan as long as I’ve followed football ever since they drafted #18, our fortunes have turned. I need to see him play in person.
4. FIFA World Cup
There is no sport in the world that means so much to so many nations. The crowds are huge and insane, the fans are more dedicated than those at any other sporting event since they’ve traveled across continents to come watch and the talent is the best in the world. Forza Azzurri!
5. UEFA Champions League
Pitting the best clubs in Europe against each other was one of the best ideas in professional sports. I hope the NHL finds a way to do this with the European leagues. That said, being in house for a clash of the titan clubs like AC Milan, Juventus, Chelsea, Arsenal and others would be out of this world.
6. Serie A match
I follow Serie A quite closely and would love to see a match live. My preference would be to see AC Milan play but I love the cities of Firenze and Sienna so would love to see any of their clubs play.
7. English Premier League Match
Much like Serie A, but I would actually be able to understand the fans. The EPL is much faster and more physical than Serie A as well and the English fans have a bigger distaste for diving. This scores big in my books.
8. Wimbledon or the US Open
This might seem like a strange fit among all the team sports listed above, but tennis is a fantastic sport to watch. Players like Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal make it all the more spectacular. I’d choose Wimbledon over the rest of the majors with the US Open being a close 2nd.
9. Golf at St. Andrews or anywhere in Scotland
I love playing golf, but I’m not much of a fan of it on TV. I’ll watch the final round of the majors but that’s about it. That said, seeing players do it live is a different story and this would be in the place where it all began.
10. The Masters
A consolation prize to the British Open, but special nonetheless.
11. The Superbowl
Despite being a football nut, the Superbowl doesn’t interest me as much as some of the others. The main reason it’s ranked so much lower is that the Superbowl crowd is often full of corporate seats, VIPs and the like, taking a lot away from the atmosphere I crave.
Some places are just special venues. The Big House and it’s 106,000 seat capacity could make it the loudest and most exhilarating place to watch college football. I’m a Wolverines supporter, so that definitely helps.
13. Lambeau Field
I never have or will be a Green Bay Packers fan, but I’d kill to see a game here. Lambeau field has a mystique about it like the old Montreal Forum did. I consider it a football fan’s pilgrimage.
14. Barcelona at the Camp Nou
The last of my venue-related wish list, and another spectacle of sport. The Catalans know how to build teams that play beautiful football. With almost 99,000 seats, it is the biggest stadium in Europe.
Since UFC 1 I have had an interest in MMA. George St. Pierre elicits support from me that are only rivaled by the Flames, Colts and AC Milan. If I could combine the two, I’d even buy a Tapout shirt. OK, maybe not.
16. Final Four
I don’t watch college basketball until March Madness rolls around. In March, I’m hooked. I know this isn’t right, but I have sports-ADD and this is just how I do things. That said, there is more drama in the tournament than in any other championship run in sports. One and done will do that for you.
17. Sumo Match
Another odd insertion, but I just want to see two behemoths collide the way they do. I’ve seen it on TV and the speed and power is amazing for men who don’t look like they’re in great shape. Just imagine seeing them up close.
Tomorrow, I’m going to cross one of these great experiences off my list. My dad and I are flying to Vancouver to see Olympic hockey. Russia taking on the Czech Republic and most importantly, Canada versus the USA. Seeing players like Crosby and Ovechkin live will be unbelievable, and so will cheering on Team Canada!
Not only have I always wanted to see Canada play in the Olympics, but I can’t think of anyone else I’d rather see the game with. Go Canada!
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