A few years back, I went to watch a friend do his first Ironman in Louisville, Kentucky. During the bike ride, when we had ample time to kill, we went to the place where the Louisville Slugger bats are made: Hillerich & Bradsby Company. It was neat to see how the bats are made and see the history of these bats.
I am not much a sports traveler. I don’t chase “my” teams. I don’t go checking off famous sports arenas. I don’t chase big sports events. Heck, what am I saying, I am not much a sports spectator. I do it in big occasions (usually involving Georgia Tech, my alma mater) or when the opportunity comes up to do so and enjoy being with family or friends (which, I admit, is not often). However, there are some things I have greatly enjoyed related to sports and travel.
All that said, I can get into sports easily when the right opportunity comes up. Here are some examples of how travel and sports have offered some great experiences…
Traveling to the Olympics
First on that list is going to the 1992 Barcelona Olympics which I shared in another post. Yes, a big enough event gets its own post :).
I worked in the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, lived in the Olympic Village, and got to see many events (for free and in the dignitaries’ seating area!) – but that was not travel for me (though it was to many who came to be part of this great event).
Traveling for the Olympics may involve more expensive hotels than normal for the location, patience with crowds at events and in public transport, etc. But it is a fun way to see a new place. The older I get, the less likely I am going to want to deal with the crowds of these large events but I may have a Football (Soccer) World Cup in me…
Baseball’s World Series
Baseball may or may not be the world’s most boring sport (or is it cricket?) though it is a fun sport to be at to socialize. But when the stakes are high, it can be as intense as any other sport. I got to watch game 2 of the World Series in Toronto in 1993 where the Blue Jays played the Philadelphia Phillies. I was working in Toronto at the time and our local office partner was able to produce tickets for us to attend (he wanted us happy about having to travel to Toronto weekly for months on end). No complaints here. And Toronto won that series on game 6.
Rugby Down Under
The day I landed in Sydney, Australia from the U.S. there was a key rugby match (away) between New South Wales and Queensland. My friend is a big fan of his home state’s team and he asked if I was too tired to go to the pub with him to watch. I was jet lagged and had spent the day walking around the city but could not say no. Well, I could have but part of me was intrigued about how Australians watch their sports in pubs so I tagged along He did a great job explaining the sport and the differences between union and league as I had watched international rugby matches before and was getting a little confused by what I was seeing in this match. In any case, though I slowed down during the middle of the game, I soon got my fourth wind of the day when the game approached its exciting end. It was a great intro to Australia right after arriving to hang out with him and his friends watching a sports event that locals love.
I had coincided with the Rugby World Cup when I went to Paris in 2006 but was not clued in before I went and was not yet too into the sport to have bothered to try to watch a match. I regret that as I now find rugby an exciting sport to watch. By the time I went to New Zealand in 2009, I was more into it having watched on TV some of the international series. So I enjoyed a couple of nights going to a local pub and watching with the locals.
And Football (Soccer) Down Under
While visiting friends in Melbourne, the opportunity came up to watch a football (soccer) match where Australia played Japan. One of my friends and I went with some co-workers.
The match was a friendly match and nothing to write home about but what is something to write about is how much drinking goes on in these matches and how not-well some of the locals handle their over-drinking. Yes, sometimes as you walked around the stadium, you had to hold your nose as not everyone managed to reach a trash can or a toilet on time. It was like a minefield! No pictures needed for this…
Baseball around North American Cities
One cool thing about catching a sports event in another town is getting to see the arenas where these events are held (though some I could care less if I see). Sadly, professional sports are way too commercialized and the owners hold cities and their taxpayers hostage (don’t get me going on this…) so I seek to not sponsor the businesses with any regularity. But I don’t deny having enjoyed watching the Yankees play at the no-longer-around Yankee Stadium or the Mets at no-longer-around Shea Stadium. Though I admitted not being much into sports travel, I have to confess I DO want to go to Fenway and Wrigley some day as well as watch the Green Bay Packers play at home in the middle of a snowstorm (for real!).
Bobby Dodd Stadium at Historic Grant Field
I may be biased but one of the most historic college football fields is Georgia Tech‘s Grant Field where Bobby Dodd Stadium sits which celebrates its 100th birthday this year (as a full stadium). It IS the oldest stadium in Division 1. And it is the site of the most home wins in Division 1 (I’d like to see more of these lately…). The foundation of the stands was built by students back in 1913 – amazing, huh? Of course, a lot of re-building has taken place on the facility, some good and some not visually impressive but it really is not THAT important as the facility is a great one to watch sports: it is not an abomination in terms of size so you really feel close to the field and it has great views of the Atlanta downtown skyline (I love being in the west stands late in the afternoon – great colors!). This stadium witnessed the most lop-sided win in history in 1916 (granted the rules of the game are not the same now) where Tech beat Cumberland 222-0. Not even a basketball score gets that high! All school loyalty aside, it is part of college football history and a great place to experience. I enjoyed it as a college student and now as an alum!
So all this said and done, the opportunity to visit a landmark in sports history has come my way and I will be going in January 2014. Stay tuned to find out where this is!!!
What fun sports travel have you done?
What do you recommend I don’t miss out?
Along with 2 friends, I arrived in Barcelona during the Olympic Games in 1992, ready to experience the Olympics. Being the pre-Internet age, planning for this wasn’t as “easy” as it would be today. So we arrived with NOTHING.
A crowded hotel scene during the Olympics with the arrival of thousands of tourists could scare most people away. Not us. Foolishly and in the carefree way of young people , none of that made us think we shouldn’t do it.
We arrived at the train station from our overnight ride in from Madrid (my first real train ride and first overnight!) and figured out where we needed to go to be in the center of the action. We found out there was a kiosk (or maybe a series of them) that helped visitors, among other things, find accommodations. So we headed to the plaza at the foot of Montjuic and found the kiosk.
It was awesome – they immediately started calling hotels to find one that had rooms. And so it was. It was a very small hotel, nothing grand but it would do for sure! Don’t remember anything about it except that the toilet tank was up high and we had to pull a chain to flush. It was the first one like that we had all seen so it clearly remained stamped in my memory whereas other details where flushed away from my memory. (I had to…)
However, I jumped a step ahead. We also took advantage of being in Montjuic to look into tickets. We were able to get tickets to a diving final event right on Montjuic from some folks who were selling their tickets without trying to retire off the proceeds from the sale (clearly, not Americans). We got lucky! So before we went to the hotel to check in, we went to the event with our bags along for the ride! Imagine that: today, who would be allowed into a venue with any large shoulder bag??
The event was in a great setting as it overlooked the city – it was a phenomenal view. Plus we got to see a medal award ceremony which was neat.
After the event, we then went to the hotel to get rid of those bags and keep on “doing” the Olympics and eating, of course.
Over the 3 days we were in Barcelona we also got to see athletics competition, a basketball game, and a baseball game. Tickets for the latter we got at the U.S. Consulate. A fellow American tipped us off that we could get tickets there. One good thing about experiencing the Olympics was the camaraderie with fellow Americans. It didn’t matter that perhaps in our country we would sit next to each other at a restaurant or bus stop and not talk to each other. But abroad? Instant conversation and friendship. It was pretty cool.
Sadly, our stay in Barcelona was too short and too Olympics-focused. We got to see some of the sites (e.g., La Sagrada Familia) and experience some of the city (e.g., Las Ramblas) but the Olympics is only once and that was the focus. I shall return to Barcelona to see progress on La Sagrada Familia and explore more of this great world city.
Ah, this picture really makes me long for winter (or a trip to the southern hemisphere where IT IS winter!). Taken many years ago while I skied awesome Alta, I long to return to those wonderful slopes and setting. I need to ski next year as I missed this season and I also have Europe in my sights for a ski trip…
Are you a ski fan? What is your favorite place to ski? Where do you want to go ski?