The Sports Getaway—whether it is the result of a road trip or a flight is one of the most sought-after adventures of sports fans worldwide.
We’ve all faced this question in the past, “If you’re such a big fan, why don’t you ever go to any home games?” Valid question, but sometimes it’s just not in the cards….UNTIL NOW!
Alright, I’ll be honest—I don’t have any secret pipe dream ideas that are going to transcend borders or oceans to get you anywhere special at a low-cost or rapid speed. But what I can do is try to entice you to undertake the greatest enjoyment in sports-fan-ship, the Sports Getaway.
There is something about a live sporting event that just takes ones fan ship to the next level, in my personal case I can experience the enjoyment of walking a few hundred meters in a variety of directions to a host of local professional sports teams, including the Blue Jays, Argonauts, Maple Leafs, Toronto FC and eventually the Raptors. This is not a common occurrence for the regular sport fan, and as a result from the official announcement of league schedules each year, fans begin their search for the games that they hope to attend the upcoming season.
I’ll admit, I am actually no different for the non-Toronto teams that I faithfully support, including the New England Patriots of the NFL and to a lesser extent the Niagara Ice Dogs of the Ontario Hockey League, for whom I have had the benefit of having one of my best friends employed by for a few years and therefore can acquire an immediate fan ship to at any given moment to increase the enjoyment of the game.
There is a variety of different types of road trips—ranging from the quick jaunt to a home game in your local viewing area as nearly a million Americans do each Sunday of the NFL season. The next stage is the overnight trip outside your local viewing area—perhaps parlayed with an event of another type, such as a concert or night out with some buddies in a new locale. The range continues all the way up to those people who travel across the country in RV’s each summer (and I’m sure any other season as well), visiting as many MLB or NFL stadiums as they possibly can in a select amount of time, something that I definitely dream of trying later in life when free time becomes more copious.
Having grown up in a family where athletics was a major focus, I’ve been privy to some phenomenal road trips over the years—to many of the finest sporting venues worldwide, well mostly North American—but I’ve got a select few worldwide venues to my resume as well.
As a pre-teen, I was lucky enough to be included in what seemed as an annual “Boys Golf Weekend”, which included playing a few rounds and taking in a PGA Tour event in the northeast United States, including multiple visits to the Buick and Western Opens in Michigan and Illinois. As I grew a few years older, those same trips changed gears to the terrain of Florida, where my dad & I would visit Spring Training baseball facilities, play some golf and visit Doral and the Honda Classic on separate trips.
Throughout high school, I had the opportunity to work for the Brantford Red Sox of the Intercounty Baseball League and for two consecutive seasons, I traveled with the team to their road games. Although not to the same magnitude as major league sport, these experiences were something that further entrenched my love for live sport action.
In university, I majored in Sport Management and found a new cast of characters to travel with for sporting events, including a few class-related trips to Ralph Wilson, the Rogers Center and the Air Canada Centre. During the Christmas exam break in second-year, I successfully maneuvered my first of what I know consider famous “24-hour sports roadtrips”, wherein a car load of guys headed off for Chicago, Illinois in the wee-hours of December 22nd, while visiting the Windy City. We took in Wrigley, Soldier Field, Comiskey and a few other tourist attractions before a Blackhawks versus Leafs game, a few hours of sleep and driving the 8 hours back to Ontario for our various family Christmas activities. If you blinked, you could’ve missed it!
Over the next few years, I successfully mixed in a few trips to Ottawa for some NHL regular season and playoff action, including the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals against the New Jersey Devils, as well as a handful of Ice Dogs games.
Finally, in the final two years of University, my peers and myself were given the unique opportunity to volunteer in Las Vegas, Nevada for the Mountain West Conference Basketball Championships. You haven’t seen College Basketball until you’re at court-level as the home team UNLV Runnin’ Rebels upset conference favourite Brigham Young and the crowd storms the court. In fact, if I could dig up the Versus television network tapes from that game, I’m convinced I’d see myself delivering post-game notes to the Play-by-Play announcer at the exact moment that an overly excited UNLV fan jumped the separation wall and landed on my back, flattening the on-television staff to their table. That’s a moment that I will never forget.
As I’ve noted above, I’ve been on a lifetime of sports getaways, but there is one that I haven’t spoken to yet, and this one gives me the chills just thinking about: A trip which was taken over the Thanksgiving Weekend of 2011 to Heaven Boston, Massachusetts. A trip which I can only hope will be instilled on a few calendars in advance of next year as the Annual Boys Weekend, all the while ensuring our arrival home for Monday’s Thanksgiving Dinner.
This trip had all of the makings of destiny, the planning began in early July when I received an email from my aunt with the Syracuse Women’s Hockey Team schedule, a team for which my cousin stars as a sophomore goaltender. My eyes were immediately drawn to that city, Boston and the dream began. My very next step was a visit to trusty www.patriots.com to check the Pats schedule—and wouldn’t you know it.
The god-damn Jets are in town, which is a heated rivalry in itself in my household, with my brother-in-law being an avid fan of the Jets. Unfortunately for him, with the arrival of my second nephew in mid-August. He was not cleared for takeoff and I shifted my focus to a few of my trusted confidants. When I made my first inquiry, the interest in the addition of a Bruins game was raised and luckily enough we were able to solidify a home game on the Saturday night against the Lightning. It turned out to be the “Player Introduction” night for the defending Stanley Cup Champions, which ultimately made for an electric TD Banknorth Arena and added value and enjoyment of the game.
Upon arriving in Boston, the suggestion arose to try to arrange a visit to Fenway Park, a structure that I had attended as a younger fan in the late-90’s but somewhere where any sport fan would never decline the opportunity to re-visit. As the cards would fall, we successfully took the public transit and toured the home of the Green Monster, even mixing in a hot bowl of Clam Chow-dah and a couple beers at the Bleacher Bar, which is conveniently located inside the centre field wall with a garage door view of field-level. This was a place I could only imagine being during the 2004 World Series, or any Red Sox home game for that matter.
Our Sunday in Foxboro is something that I cannot begin to bring the appropriate words to describe, the ultimate realization of a dream for me, having been a Patriots fan for nearly 15 years to finally visit the spectrum of Gillette Stadium in person. It did not disappoint, and after a few small ticket hiccups (including losing my own ticket to the game but being lucky enough to get a reprint from Customer Service), the five of us climbed the zig-zag catwalks to the upper bowl and witnessed ‘Poetry in Motion’, the act known as New England Patriots Football as they dissected the division-rival Jets en route to a 30-21 victory.
I consider myself ridiculously lucky for the sports experiences that I have endured in a mere quarter-century of life and am very excited to see what each impending year has in the plans for me.
To each of you: I encourage you to grab a few friends, a home game schedule and make your move, you won’t regret it.
Until next year—where the prospective destination is Philadelphia, PA—I am left with the lasting memories of Gillette Stadium, Fenway Park and TD Banknorth Arena to last me the remaining 11 months leading up to Boys Weekend 2012.