I was watching the Celtics-Bulls game a little while back, it was what would turn out to be a great game with a red-hot Celtics team going against the #1 team in the East. I found myself shutting out all distractions and getting really into this game, wishing that I was able to be there to watch it live. There’s nothing quite like a live game, my personal favorite is throwing on the old baseball jersey and sitting in the sun while drinking a cold ($8) beer and eating a ballpark frank and catching a game of America’s Pastime. I got to thinking more and more about some of the games I’ve been able to go to and how lucky I’ve been to enjoy some great games.
I decided to rank my top 5 favorite sporting events ever attended. There were a lot of factors going into this, the importance of the game itself, the atmosphere, the action on the field/court, the company, etc… This was tough to come up with, but thinking about this was a lot of fun.
Alas, here are my top 5 favorite sporting events I’ve attended:
5. Bulls vs. Celtics – TD Garden – December 2011
This game wasn’t necessarily anything special on the court. The Bulls would in fact jump out to a 20+ point lead in the first half. This game made the list because of the atmosphere. I had yet to get to watch Derrick Rose play live, since he was drafted after I moved out to Boston. This would mark the first time I saw the Bulls play since 2006, a long drought to not have seen your favorite team. The game was at the Garden, a place with so much history and aura. I also got to attend the game with some good friends and proudly got to wear my Chicago gear in Boston. Despite the heckling I received from Boston fans, there was a sense of respect since I was in fact wearing a 1980’s style Michael Jordan jersey. The Bulls would in fact pull out an easy victory, allowing me to have some celebratory beverages at Sully’s after the game rather than some sad beverages.
4. Bruins vs. Maple Leafs – TD Garden – February 2011
Ahh, the night that I became a Bruins fan. This was another game that wasn’t necessarily a suspenseful event, a game that was just an average game to watch. However, it was the first time I had ever been to a hockey game, never really liking hockey growing up because it wasn’t big in my family. But since I’ve moved to New England I’ve found that many people choose hockey as their #1 sport, so I decided I’d check it out, “When in Rome…” I got free tickets thanks to a wonderful woman named Elaine Rappoli, she so graciously gave her company’s tickets to her daughter, my girlfriend at the time and we got to sit in the Loge seating for free, not too shabby. The atmosphere in the Garden was something like I’ve never experienced before. From the moment that the National Anthem started to the last whistle it was electric. There was so much energy flowing through the arena, you couldn’t help but get into the game. I didn’t understand the game, and am still experiencing the learning curve. But even without fully “getting” what was happening on the ice, I still loved every second of it. The checks into the boards, slapshots, battling for the puck in the corner, the fights, everything was so much fun to watch. That day has led me to forever be a Bruins fan, sorry Blackhawks but you will always be #2 because the Bruins are the reason I now enjoy watching hockey.
3. Rooftop game – Cubs vs. Reds – Wrigley Field – June 2007
Wow, the first 3 on this list are all games that weren’t actually good games to be at, but were based on the atmosphere. That’s pretty shocking to me, I’ve either been to a lot of boring games or I go to sporting events for the food and drink, hmmm? This game was incredible because it was my first time sitting on the rooftops outside the outfield walls of Wrigley Field. I went to this game on a Greek event trip in college. I hopped on a party bus with a group of about 50 people and took off for Wrigley Field. For those of you who’ve never been to Wrigley, the set-up is a lot like Fenway. It’s smack dab in the middle of a residential/city area with a lot of old school buildings, bars/restaurants, and one way streets surrounding it. A couple years prior to this, some local building owners worked out a deal with the Cubs to put seating on the rooftops of their buildings that overlooked the outfield at Wrigley. Most of these buildings also put in a bar with those seats so you could get the full experience of stadium seating, beer, and hot dogs that you would get inside the stadium’s walls. I arrived at the building, $100 ticket in hand, ready to see what these rooftops were all about. This $100 ticket included all you can eat/drink and a great view of the action. Nothing beats being in the stadium and among the 40,000 plus fans but the experience of sitting on the rooftop across the street while watching the game is something I’ll never forget. I highly recommend it to anyone who has a chance to see a Cubs game at Wrigley Field.
2. Bears vs. Falcons – Soldier Field – December 2006
This was back in the Mike Vick days of the Falcons. I got free tickets from a friend’s parents that were located in the North End Zone about 15 rows up. This was my first ever Bears game so I was pumped to finally see them play live. About a week before the game I was checking the forecast and it did not look good. There were 30+ MPH winds predicted with a temperature hovering in the low teens. This was a Sunday Night Game so that means it was only going to get colder, especially with Lake Michigan being a mere few thousand feet from the stadium the cold was only going to be escalated. Needless to say I was not missing this game so I layered up with my two pairs of socks, winter boots, long underwear, multiple undershirts, a sweatshirt, and my giant North Face jacket. We brought hot chocolate for the train, hand warmers for our pockets, and plenty of additional winter accessories. This was going to be a long, cold evening but damnit I was going to have fun. We show up to the game and it was as cold as advertised. About 3 minutes of game time elapsed and I already couldn’t feel my toes. The Soldier Field staff only made it worse, constantly flashing the temperature and wind chill on the big screen. At one point I saw a windchill in the negative 15-18 area. Yet there was some crazy, shirtless, drunk guy in the stands with his chest painted. Now that’s dedication. The Bears would demolish the Falcons, Mike Vick was no match for Urlacher and the ferocious Bears defense.
When the final whistle blew, we ran as fast as our clothing-weighed down bodies would allow us towards the train. We hopped onto the next train and luckily they had the heat blasting, with only about 10 minutes left in the trip I had finally regained feeling in my entire body and could actually think about how enjoyable the experience was. If someone told me they were going to give me tickets to a game but the weather was going to be like that I might not do it again but I look back and I’m glad I endured that bitter cold to have those memories.
1. Cubs vs. Red Sox – Fenway Park – May 20th, 2011
I don’t know if I’ll ever attend another sporting event that tops this. Well maybe if the Cubs make the World Series, but let’s be serious I won’t see that in my lifetime. This marked the first time the Cubs had played at Fenway Park in 93 years. 93 years folks, that’s almost as long as it’s been since their last championship. This was a big event, the day I found out this was happening I went on the hunt for tickets. I reached out to everyone in my network to find the best seats possible for this game. I was looking for seats for the Saturday day game, a perfect opportunity to enjoy some sun, watch some baseball, and of course do some day drinking. However, one of my friends is a terrible planner and had her wedding planned that weekend. Sadly it wasn’t one of those friends that you can just you know say “Hey, I’m sorry but I’m just not going to be able to make it.” Therefore I had to get tickets for Friday night’s game, then book a flight for Saturday morning to rush back to Chicago for a wedding. I knew it wasn’t going to be a fun flight, but I had to be at this game.
With the help of some friends I was able to purchase a Triple Play ticket pack through the Red Sox that included that Friday night game and two other random games during the season. I didn’t care about the other games or where I sat, all I wanted was that golden piece of paper in my hand that let me into Fenway Park. I received the tickets and started the countdown. As the date neared, I started to plan out the night, it was going to be glorious. Ice cold beers, Fenway Franks, Cask N Flagon for the pregame, I was like a kid on Christmas Morning every time I thought about this game. A few days before the game, my girlfriend at the time found out that the legend BFab was selling two tickets to the game in the lower level. Much better seats than the outfield bleachers with our backs against the wall. No doubt about it, I was going to buy the better seats and sell my current tickets. This game was going to be even better than I expected.
Now it’s game day, I’ve got my Starlin Castro White/Blue Pinstripe jersey ironed and ready to go along with a brand new Cubs hat and tickets in hand. I arrive in the Fenway area on what turned out to be a slightly chilly evening. There were a lot of Cubs shirts and hats around, more than I expected, it made me feel at home. The fan base was fairly evenly split, but yet there was no hostility in the air. It was almost as if there was a sense of identity between the 2 sets of fans, an inherent respect between the franchises. The atmosphere was about as perfect as it could be at a ballpark, the only thing that would have made it better was if the game was at Wrigley Field at 1:20 on a Saturday in 70 degree sunny weather.
Despite the large contingency of Cubs fans that traveled to Boston or are local fans the game didn’t quite go in our favor. I don’t remember the score now, mostly because I’ve blacked it out of my memory, but I do remember seeing a lot of Red Sox players on base and many batted balls leaving the ball park. The Cubs made a run at it late in the game, putting up a few runs between the 6th and 7th inning but Boston had too much firepower and continued to pile on the scoring and secured an easy win. The result wasn’t what I’d hoped for, but I wouldn’t trade going to that game for anything. The better team won that night, but the pride shown by my fellow Cubs fan brethren is something I will never forget and a large reason why my kids will be Cubs fans.