Monday, January 2, 2017

2016 Top Games Attended

Last year, I did a sports travel year in review which was a fun exercise and I figured on doing another one for 2016.   In total…. I saw 182 live sporting events in 2016, 9 new NFL stadiums, 9 new NBA stadiums, 6 new D1 FBS NCAA college football stadiums, 4 new NHL stadiums, and 10 MLB stadiums.  Also, I attended the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 in Louisville Kentucky, the Round of 64 in St. Louis, the men’s/women’s Big Ten basketball tournament in Indianapolis, the Women’s Final 4 in Indianapolis, and spring training baseball in Montreal.  Most importantly… the year in sport was spent with friends and family across North America.  So, without further ado…. Here are my top 16 sports events attended in 2016 as inspired by my love for live NCAA tournament games:

#16:  Montreal Canadiens @ Toronto Maple Leafs 1/23/2016
A great day had in Toronto on this day for a hockey tripleheader.  Started the day with a Canadien women’s hockey league all-star game at 1pm.  Saw the Toronto Marlies AHL hockey team at 4pm.  Ended with this gem at the Air Canada Center.  The Leafs had a hall of fame ceremony before the game.

#15:  Miami Marlins @ Milwaukee Brewers 4/29/2016
Most baseball games are rather mundane but this one was special.  The Brewers turned a triple play in this one and the Marlins had a no hitter going through 8 1/3 innings before the Brewers got their first hit.  After their first hit, Milwaukee scored three runs and had the bases loaded in a 6-3 game before Miami closed it out.

#14:  NY Red Bulls @ DC United 8/21/2016
This one wasn’t as much fun for the game itself as it was to see RFK Stadium for the first time.  Opening in 1961, this stadium played host to multiple MLB teams, the Washington Redskins, and multiple big time events.

#13:  Jamaica vs Venezuela
This Gold Cup soccer match was played at Soldier Field.  It was neat to see the Gold Cup played in the states and fun to see a game in an epic setting.

#12:  Women’s Final 4 -  4/3/2016
This event comes to Indianapolis every five years as does the men’s final four.  Unbeaten UCONN steamrolled the competition again this year.  In the other semi, Syracuse beat Washington.  I didn’t see the final this year due to seeing the Reds opener in Cincy.  I did see the 2011 women’s final in Indy.

#11:  Milwaukee Brewers vs St Louis Cardinals – 7/2/2016
This one wasn’t so much for the game itself but instead… the company I was with.  A friend of mine told me that he had great seats and all you can eat food/drink.  He had an extra and the tickets were free for him.  As it turns out… it was a second row behind the plate seat in the owner’s seats.  Literally.  This was a great weekend as I saw 2 Cards games, a Guns and Roses concert in Chicago, and a Yankees-White Sox game on the 4th of July.

#10:  Michigan Wolverines vs #10 Indiana - 3/11/2016
Michigan needed this win to get into the NCAA tournament.  Indiana had won the big ten regular season title.  Michigan hit a three at the buzzer to move onto the semis.  I saw every game of the big ten women’s and men’s tournament games this year at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse.  26 games total in an 11 day stretch.  This one was the best of a very good bunch of games. 

#9:  Washington Redskins vs New York Giants – 9/25/2016
A great game at a new (to me) NFL venue which was won by the Redskins 29-27 at MetLife Stadium.  Bought a $105 face value seat for $40 on the street.  Stubhub get in price was $128.  Went through heck to get to the game via public transportation.  Had to use credits or else they would expire meaning a crazy same day fly in and fly out kind of day. 

#8: Indy 500 – 5/29/2016
Biggest single day sporting event in the world at 350,000 or so fans in attendance.  An absolutely crazy day.  I admit to knowing little about auto racing but this event was for the people watching.  As a friend dubbed it: “the great American sh^tshow”. 

#7:  Kansas City Chiefs vs Houston Texans (Wild Card playoff) – 1/10/2016
Had a fun time with the KC crew and witnessed a KC blowout win vs Houston, 30-0.  This one was such a laugher that Chiefs fans had free reign on the lower deck in the 4th quarter.  Also, toured the NASA space center before the game including the Mission Control Center (!!).

#6:  NFL Hall of Fame Ceremony – 8/6/2016
This was my first time doing something like this and it was a lot of fun.  Bret Favre was the big draw here as well as locals… Marvin Harrison and Tony Dungy.  Had a ticket to the Hall of Fame Game the next night but that one was cancelled due to poor field conditions.

#5:  Boston Red Sox vs Toronto Blue Jays (in Montreal) – 4/2/2016
This was a spring training game but the draw was seeing live baseball at Olympic Stadium in Montreal.  I had never seen an Expos home game so it was fun to see this place packed for baseball.

#4:  Michigan State vs Middle Tennessee State (NCAA Round of 64 action) – 3/18/2016
Went to St. Louis for Fridays action and four tournament games.  Two of them were duds and two were classics.  Statistically speaking… the fifth biggest upset in NCAA tournament history as the two seeded Spartans lost 90-81. 

#3:  Villanova-Kansas (NCAA tournament Elite 8) – 3/26/2016
After two boring games in Louisville for the sweet 16…. This one lived up to its billing.  Two top five teams faced off in a thrilling game, won by Villanova.  The wildcats would go on to win the NCAA title. 

#2:  Washington-Alabama (NCAA playoff semifinal) – 12/31/2016
Biggest game in stature that I went to this year.  An Alabama dominated performance.  Very fun event to see and be a part of. 

#1:  Ballpark Chasers + Stampeder Meetups 7/23/2016 and 8/20/2016
Two baseball games with activities and such.  One in Cincinnati and one in Baltimore.  Both events had a combined 200 or so fellow sports travel enthusiasts.  It was fun meeting people with the same interests.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

November Sporting Recap including 3 New Club 122 Venues

It has been an easygoing last month or so for me... a time of normalcy almost.  For me at least....

Since I last wrote, I've added three new Club 122 venues to my list. 

The last weekend of October, I drove to Charlotte, North Carolina for two of them.  As per usual, I rented a car early that Saturday morning.  I had a nine hour drive from Indianapolis to Charlotte.  It was a fun and scenic drive through the mountains of Tennessee/North Carolina.  I got to Charlotte around 3pm and was able to check into my room and get a couple hour nap.  Feeling refreshed, I headed downtown to the Comcast Center and the surrounding neighborhood.  I ended up parking at a courthouse parking garage which ended up being free on the weekends.  This move worked out for Sunday as well.  From there, I had dinner at a brewery downtown before heading in to tour the stadium.  Charlotte's basketball arena (My 22nd current NBA arena)is nice.  Nothing really stands out with it but the view from the upper deck was fine.  I liked how fans could purchase food/drink in some spots and still see the game.  As for the game, Avery Bradley hit 8 three pointers and Boston beat the Charlotte Hornets, 106-98.

The next morning, I checked out of my room and stopped off at church.  It was the weirdest one that I've been to so far but you never know what you get... especially when you are relying on internet research.  The message was on par with what I've seen but the way it was presented was weird. Afterwards, I went downtown a few hours early to see a bit of downtown and the pregame atmosphere.  As per usual when I see a new venue, I went inside when gates open to tour the place and get photos.  The Panthers venue was my 19th current NFL stadium.  Nothing really stood out here but the place is newer yet and aesthetically pleasing.  For the first time this year, I sat upstairs at an NFL game.  My ticket ended up being in the very last row at the 30 yard line.  I actually don't mind the last row because you can stand whenever you want.  I had some fun people around me as well so it was good to converse with strangers for the game.

Afterwards, I checked out the NASCAR hall of fame which is a mile or so from the stadium.  It was fun but I will say this... no where near as nice or as much to do as the Indy 500 museum.  After this visit, I drove the nine hours back to Indy.  This may be the last time I drive that far in a weekend... it was a rough ride home.  With plenty of airline miles and cheap winter prices (booking far in advance)... I think I'm done with anything over four hours.

The weekend of 11/5, I stayed in town and kept pretty low key besides hanging out with friends.  I did take in an Indianapolis Fuel AA ECHL hockey game with my friends from Buffalo aka Peter Farrell and Andrew Kulyk.  They were on a big sports road trip and happened to be in town.  It was good to see them again. 

The weekend of 11/12, I went to Milwaukee to see family and friends.  I always enjoy going up there and it's always a non stop action type of weekend for me there.  Saturday night, I took in a Milwaukee Bucks game after dinner at Miller Park.  Milwaukee beat Memphis, 106-96.  We had lower level seats behind the basket for this game.  The new arena is being built across the street and will open in a couple of years.  On the way home, I a matchup between the east and west leaders in the NHL aka Montreal Canadiens vs the Chicago Blackhawks.  It was an exciting game won by Chicago, 3-2.

This past weekend, I traveled to Minneapolis to see my 20th current NFL stadium.  U.S. Bank Stadium opened this year and wowza was it ever nice.  It is a lot different than newer venues that opened recently due to the setting and construction of the building.  I liked the amount of daylight that was in the place due to all the glass on the roof and the open walls.  Two downers about this place that makes it only a 9 out of 10 for me.... first is the entrances or lack thereof.  It took forever to get to the concourse after my ticket was scanned.  And once I got to the concourse... it was basically a wall of people everywhere I went.  Luckily, the third deck wasn't that bad.  My seat was an obstructed view seat which wasn't really obstructed.  It was an aisle seat in the second row that had a glass barrier up so fans don't fall over.  I paid $50 for it while the going rate was $110 so I was happy.  After the game, I went to Mall of America for a bit.  It was good to be back in my old stomping grounds of the Twin Cities again.

I should mention I had a $16 round trip flight due to points and credits.  Also, my flight going home was delayed but luckily I went standby for an earlier flight and got on.  My body was happy for the extra sleep that I was able to get.

This week and weekend will be family time.  I am seeing the Clippers@Pacers Sunday.  After this weekend begins three weekends and 6 or 7 Club 122 venues.  Trail Blazers and possibly Seahawks 12/3-4, Sacramento Kings, San Jose Sharks, SF 49ers 12/9-11, and Wizards, Capitals 12/17-18.

Have a great Thanksgiving everyone!!! 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Busy October for Sporting...

It has been a busy October so far as I keep hitting the highway almost every weekend.  It has been fun chasing down Club 122 venues as well as picking away at my number of division one football venues seen.

The first weekend of October brought me to Happy Valley, PA for a Minnesota-Penn State game. I rented a car bright and early from the Indianapolis airport at around 4am.  I have been renting cars a lot when the price is right lately.  I can usually get a car in the $10-$20 a day range on weekends and I have a credit card that has rental car insurance on it.  Makes it a no brainer rather than continue to rack up miles on my 160,000 mile Chevy Cobalt.  The drive up to Central Pennsylvania was an easy and quick ride.  I wanted to get to campus early as I was covering the event for Stadium Journey.  That and get some ice cream at the famous creamery on Penn State's campus.  I did have a hiccup though in the form of pouring rain a couple hours before game time.  Luckily, it let up and I was able to enjoy the pregame festivities.  As for the game, Penn State won 29-26 in overtime.  I wasn't impressed with Beaver Stadium but did like the atmosphere there.  The student section was one of the better ones that I've seen at a college game.  I can only imagine what a whiteout night game there would be like. 

Sunday, I drove to Washington D.C. to see the Cleveland Browns take on the Washington Redskins. I was able to nab some free residential parking here just like I did at Penn St.  I liked FedEx Field, home of the Redskins.  They have a marching band and a lot of nice features on the concourse.  As has been par for the course this year, I have been able to get lower level access without paying for it.  I made friends with some season ticket holders behind me and stayed with them for the entire game.  Their section was in the end zone next to the band.  As for the game, Washington won 31-20.  Cleveland was down big early but made a game of it late.

The following weekend, I decided to see two new football college football stadiums.  These two places brought me to 55 FBS Division 1 college football stadiums visited.  For the record, there are 127 of these at the highest level of college football and my lifetime goal is to visit every campus for a game once.  The perfect opportunity arose to see both Kansas and Kansas State in the same day.  Once again, I rented a car for the drive.  The University of Kansas is a nice campus located in Lawrence, Kansas.  Their attendance at football games lacks because it is a basketball school.  Knowing this, I was able to score a ticket for $5 on Seatgeek. 

Before the game, I was able to tour the basketball museum at Allen Fieldhouse.  The big draw was the Naismith rules aka the original 13 rules to the game of basketball by James Naismith.  It was a fun experience and I'm glad it was open to the public on a Saturday.  As for the game, Kansas gave TCU a battle but a big fourth quarter helped TCU pull out a 24-23 victory. 

After the game, I drove 81 miles west to Manhattan Kansas aka the Little Apple.  It's a small college town in some surprisingly hilly countryside for the state of Kansas.  I didn't have a ticket to this game since it was going for $50 at the cheapest online as well as $65 face value.  A big challenge was out for me since the State of Kansas has rules against buying/selling on state property aka college campuses.  After an hour of searching and being prepared to walk away without seeing the game, I saw a father and daughter holding up an extra.  I had two twenty dollar bills in my pocket at the ready and asked them how much they wanted.  The father said twenty will work.  Worked for me!

Kansas State has a very good game day atmosphere.  Very rowdy and loud.  On this night, they took on the pass happy Texas Tech Raiders football team.  Tech had 330 yards passing at the half in a 31-28 halftime deficit.  Tech ended up with 500 yards passing but Kansas St won 44-38.

On 10/15, I drove to Columbus Ohio to see some NHL action.  I had wanted to see the Cleveland Indians take on the Blue Jays in ALCS baseball action.  Buy a ticket on the street, etc.  However, I had a sleepless night which woke me up at midnight and I couldn't fall back asleep until four am.  Next thing I know... my alarm clock read 11 and I had overslept it... turned my alarm off in my sleep perhaps?  Anyways, hockey is my favorite sport to see live so this was a nice Plan B.  I got a ticket for $15 off of seatgeek.  As for the game, Columbus lost to San Jose 3-2.  The Blue Jackets arena is my second favorite of the 16 I've been to... only behind Minnesota.

The next morning, I drove from my hotel in Cleveland to Buffalo to see my 18th NFL stadium.  This was well worth it... what a game day atmosphere!!  The Bills are widely known to have the drunkest fans in the NFL and they didn't do anything to change that when I was there.  I parked a couple miles out for free and went to work on buying a ticket.  The game was sold out and tickets were going for $110 on stubhub just to get in.  I was fully confident on getting a cheap ticket but it didn't work out.  Ended up having to pay $80 which sucked!  Still though, I wasn't going to keep waiting as tickets were surprisingly scarce on the street and I had struck out for quite some time that morning.

As for the game, it was Colin Kaepernick's first start at QB since his national anthem protests started.  The buffalo crowd booed him loudly and chanted USA USA USA before the game.  Buffalo won big 45-16.  LeShawn McCoy stuck it to his former coach (who traded him) by torching San Fran for 140 yards rushing and three touchdowns.

Last weekend, I stayed in Indy and didn't see any games.  Instead, spent time with friends and family.  This weekend, I will be headed to Charlotte North Carolina for my 22nd NBA arena and 19th NFL stadium.  Stay tuned!!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Hitting the Ground Running to Start the Football Season

When I wrote last, I had just finished a weekend in Pittsburgh and a trip to West Virginia to see the Mountaineers for my 50th D1 FBS football stadium.

The weekend of September 10th, I drove to Missouri for a battle between Eastern Michigan and Missouri.  The Mizzou Tigers stadium was D1 FBS football stadium #51 for me. I left Indy as soon as I could that morning so there wouldn't be any issues getting to Columbia.  I had wanted to go to Kansas but couldn't for reasons out of my control.  Upon arriving, I met up with my pal Adam Neff.  He is a diehard Mizzou Tigers, KC Royals, and KC Chiefs fan.  It would good to see him again and he showed m around campus for a bit before going to a tailgate with some of his friends.  It was fun chatting with them and people watching as well as they had a spot a few blocks from the stadium in a residential area. After the tailgate, we went inside to witness a Mizzou blowout win.  I ended up seeing fellow sports traveler David Sack outside the gate.  The stadium is a nice place.  I would need to see a night game vs a SEC team to get the full feel of the place.  The stands were 70% full which was surprising considering it was their their home opener. 

Sunday, Adam and I went to Arrowhead Stadium (my 15th current NFL stadium) to see a season opening game between the Chargers and Chiefs.  We met up with a couple regulars aka Logan and Patrick.  I had seen both of them at Royals games in the past and they are good friends with Adam.  We took a shuttle to Arrowhead and met up with a few different tailgates around the area.  Adam knows a lot of people in KC and was a gracious host to me that weekend.  He introduced me to a lot of his friends and "superfans".  I want to personally thank him for doing that.  As for the game, the Chiefs won in thrilling comeback.  They were down at one point 24-6 but roared back to force OT. 

The following weekend, I did an epic doubleheader with Ohio-Tennessee college football game at noon followed by a Pittsburgh Pirates-Cincinnati Reds game at 6:10.  I left Indy at 3am that Saturday morning and made it to Knoxville at around 8:30am.  Tickets were going for $40+ online which I thought was way too much.  A tip from a friend of mine, a Tenn. grad helped me not worry about driving there without a ticket.  Sure enough, I got one on the street for $15.  Neyland Stadium (my 52nd) ended up being a nice place for a game.  Tailgating was a bit lacking but the building itself was awesome.  Lots of standing room areas.  I continued my trend of not sitting upstairs at football games. 

I left the game with a minute to go after #15 Tennessee had wrapped it up (28-16).  I made it to Cincy for the third inning of the Reds game.  My friend and fellow sports traveler, Peter Farrell was in attendance. I got to sit with him for the rest of the game and swap road trip stories.  Always good to see him.

This past weekend, I had planned to see Metlife Stadium in New York for my 16th current NFL stadium.  I had some flight miles that were use or it or lose it aka about ready to expire.  The Redskins were playing the Giants.  I landed in New York at 7:57am and went to see Gary Herman and the King, Mike Casiano for a bit.  From there, Gary and I took a few different trains from Astoria to Metlife.  I want to thank Gary for helping me navigate these trains... the Meadowlands is a pain in the butt to get to no matter how you try.  I did not have a ticket since they were going for $130 on stubhub or $95 via the team.  I wasn't worried though as I've gotten a lot better at buying tickets on the street.  Sure enough, I bought a $105 ticket on the street for $40.  I had conversations with a dozen or so people and turned down or was turned down a lot before someone bit on my asking price.  One guy was dead set on $50 and when I wouldn't budge... he took a 0 and went in without selling!!  The group I bought from told me see you upstairs as you're sitting with us!  I thought to myself... Oh no I'm not!

Sure enough, I was able to sit in section 146 with Gary Herman and the Doc aka Dan Fouts aka what's his name.  We had a bunch of televisions behind us.  When play stopped on the field, we could turn around and see action from other games.  Kind of like being at a sports bar if you will.

Stay tuned for more adventures!  This weekend, I plan on seeing Penn St (53rd FBS) on Saturday and the Washington Redskins (17th NFL)on Sunday.