The 10 sports pilgrimages every guy should make once in his life
No matter how close the TV brings you to the action on the field, there're some things the cameras and mics can't quite capture -- the deafening roar of engines, the bitter cold, or the palpable excitement of rabid fans celebrating a score. Sometimes you just have to be there in person. But which events are worth planning a pilgrimage?
From historic rivalries and games steeped in tradition, to iconic stadiums and insane fan parties, every dude should make these 10 classic sports treks before he dies.
Why it’s awesome: Sandwiched between the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes, the Preakness is the red-headed stepchild of the Triple Crown -- assuming the red-headed stepchild is the partier in the family. Every year, upwards of 100,000 people invade the infield and drink themselves into a stupor while rocking out to live bands and (maybe even) watching a horse race.
Ease of scoring tickets: Not tough at all -- just hit the Preakness' official site
Position yourself: The main party goes down in the aforementioned "infield", or middle of the track, a world away from the clubhouse's genteel happenings. In 2008, the festivities included a “Run of the Urinals”, during which fans raced along the tops of the port-a-potties while people threw things at them. No, we're not making this up. Time to reinstate an old tradition?
Must-try signature food/ drink: How about all the beer you can drink? That is an option, if you join the Mug Club. Or you could roll with the race's official cocktail, the vodka-and-St-Germaine-mixed Black-Eyed Susan, garnished with a single sage leaf.
Must-hit spot before/ after: If you can still stand up after a day in the infield, head into Baltimore for some steamed blue crab at Captain James Landing on the waterfront.
Why it’s awesome: The first Grand Slam event of the year, this two-week tourney overlaps with Australia Day, so showing up is like being transported to the Fourth of July Down Under -- complete with fireworks, BBQ, and tanned beauties. As for tennis, you get players competing on 120-degree courts, loud and friendly fans, and hilarious victory speeches like this one.
Ease of scoring tickets: This year's Open having just wrapped, it's the perfect time to snag tickets for next January. They're still widely available at Ausopen.com.
Position yourself: The beauty of watching grand slam tennis in person is in the ground pass, which provides access to all the outer courts and lets you watch your fave players up close.
Must-try signature food/ drink: Unlike Wimbledon's famous (and famously overpriced) strawberries and cream, the Aussie Open doesn't have a signature item. It does, however, boast a wine bar featuring vinos from Jacob's Creek, one of Australia’s top vineyards.
Must-hit spot before/ after: January in Australia falls right in the middle of summer, so it's best to cool off at the beach; Brighton and St. Kildra are two of Melbourne's most popular.
8. The Montreal Canadiens vs. the Boston Bruins
The Bell Centre -- Montreal, Quebec
Why it’s awesome: Both members of the “Original Six” (dating back to the 1920s), these two teams have met more times (combined regular seasons and playoffs) than any other two in hockey history -- a total of 889 games. One of which actually ended with Boston police trying to arrest Canadien Maurice Richard post-game in the locker room for beating Bruins defenseman Hal Laycoe unconscious.
Ease of scoring tickets: While the NHL is certainly popular -- and hockey is Canada’s biggest sport (although more Canadian adults actually golf) -- scoring a Bruins at Canadiens ticket shouldn’t be too tough. As of publishing, StubHub has hundreds of them available for the next match.
Position yourself: There is nary a bad seat in the Bell Centre, but fans swear by the "Whites" (in the 300 section). Great view, better value, and more atmosphere than the lower-level "Red" seats.
Must-try signature food/ drink: If you're in Montreal, you gotta roll with “smoked meat”. Head over to Schwartz Deli for the best sandwich in town.
Must-hit spot before/ after: Before you hit up St. Catherine Street for some post-game revelry, grab a cocktail at Dominion Square Tavern, a Prohibition-era saloon about an 8min walk from the Bell Centre.
7. Duke University vs. The University of North Carolina basketball
Cameron Indoor Stadium -- Durham, NC
Why it’s awesome: Open since 1940, Cameron Indoor Stadium is the crown jewel of classic college basketball arenas. The in-state rivalry between Duke and UNC pits two of the country's best college hoop programs against one another in a heated matchup that usually has ACC/ national title implications.
Ease of scoring tickets: With just under 10,000 seats in Cameron, don't plan on walking up to the window on game day. There's a reason students camp out in “Krzyzewskiville” for tickets -- they're not easy to get. Expect to scour the Web and pay several hundred bucks.
Position yourself: As far away from the “Cameron Crazies” courtside student section as possible. Just kidding. Sort of. Really, what could be better than 1,200 painted Blue Devil students jumping up and down and telling you about how much fun they had interning at daddy's law firm last summer?
Must-try signature food/ drink: Alcohol isn't permitted in NCAA events, so the least you can do is try some local Cheerwine, a cherry-flavored soda that, according to NC legend, has been made by the same family since 1917.
Must-hit spot before/ after: Fried catfish on the patio at Tobacco Road Sports Café, a pint of Hogwash Hickory Smoked Porter at the Fullsteam Brewery, or a stogie and one of 250 brown boozes at Whiskey -- you've got some solid options in Durham.
Why it’s awesome: The world's most famous pro golfing event, Augusta National Golf Club is a beautiful golf course with a rich history, dating back to 1933. The magnolia trees. The Green Jacket. Condoleezza Rice. Come on!
Ease of scoring tickets: The fact that there's a lottery for tickets should tell you everything -- apply now for 2015 at Masters.com.
Position yourself: Amen Corner, a phrase coined in Sports Illustrated in the late '50s, refers to parts-or-all of holes 11, 12, and 13, and is the most popular spot to catch the action.
Must-try signature food/ drink: Augusta National’s food menu is as famous as the course, and your go-to order: the pimento cheese sandwich.
Must-hit spot before/ after: The Frog Hollow Tavern downtown is a strong play or, if you want to eat fried fish and spicy boiled shrimp outside on picnic tables, Rhinehart's Oyster Bar offers "beyond casual seafood" -- which means your scallops'll be served by a dude in jeans and a t-shirt.
5. Manchester United vs. Manchester City
Old Trafford -- Manchester, England
Why it’s awesome: Built in 1910 and known as the “Theatre of Dreams”, Old Trafford is perhaps the most famous soccer stadium in the world. And its home team, Manchester United, is one of the world’s most well-known. When crosstown rivals Manchester City come over for a “derby” match, count on 75,000-plus chanting fans and a heated battle between the last two Premier League Champions.
Ease of scoring tickets: This is a tough one, as both teams hail from the same town. Your best bet is to try a travel company that specializes in sports tours, such as World Football Travel or Thomas Cook Sport.
Position yourself: West Stand, also known as the Stretford End, is Old Trafford’s most famous section, and where the loudest/ most hardcore Man U fans sit. Whatever you do, don’t wear sky blue -- it'll get you beat to hell.
Must-try signature food/ drink: It's an age-old tradition at English football matches to eat meat pies. As you enjoy both meat and pie, this should be an easy tradition to uphold.
Must-hit spot before/ after: The Bishop Blaize, located a short walk from Old Trafford, is a legendary pre-match pub; best to arrive early, though, as the line to get in's also legendary.
Why it’s awesome: One of the most famous (and intense) rivalry games in college football, this Alabama battle's been pitting the state's two largest universities against each other since 1893. As if this year's stunning finish didn't solidify the Iron Bowl's top ranking, the fact that these two teams have three national championships (and four appearances) between them since 2009 should.
Ease of scoring tickets: With over 100,000 Alabamans in attendance, tickets will be a challenge, though not impossible. If you can't find them online, scalpers will most certainly be looking to offload on the ground.
Position yourself: Until 1998, the game was traditionally held at Legion Field in Birmingham. Since '99, though, it alternates between school stadiums. Don't be too choosy about your seats -- just get inside. It's nuts in there.
Must-try signature food/ drink: Feel free to snack on classic tailgate fare, but save your appetite for the BBQ. In Tuscaloosa, make a beeline for Dreamland. At Auburn, you're headed to Price's BBQ House, or "the Q House" for short.
Why it’s awesome: Part of the unofficial Triple Crown of Motorsports, the Indy 500's considered one of the three most prestigious racing events in the world. The race is called “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” and attendance regularly hits 300,000. Yes, 300,000 revved-up race fans. It's insane.
Ease of scoring tickets: With 300,000 tickets available, you shouldn't have any problems.
Position yourself: While Indy's one of the few speedways where you can sit inside the track, the higher the seats (in the double-letter rows), the better the views. Longtime fans recommend the front straight for pre/ post-race activities, and either E-Stand (1st turn) or NW Vista (4th turn) for first-timers.
Must-try signature food/ drink: Plan on eating a fair share of dogs, burgers, BBQ, and sausage -- locals in Indy know how to work the grill. That said, keep your eyes peeled for both giant grilled BBQ turkey legs, and Indiana's official sammie -- a breaded/ fried pork tenderloin on a bun w/ onion, pickle, and mustard.
Must-hit spot before/ after: The Slippery Noodle Inn is Indiana's oldest bar and one of the best blues joints in the country. If your ears aren’t still ringing from the race, they should be soon, with two bands playing all night.
2. Chicago Cubs vs. St. Louis Cardinals
Wrigley Field -- Chicago, IL
Why it’s awesome: Regardless of what you think about the new Cub's mascot, Clark, or baseball's fall from grace as the country's favorite sport, few events encapsulate "America's pastime" like a day game at Wrigley Field. The league's second oldest stadium, Wrigley's ivy-covered walls are among the most iconic landmarks in baseball. And the Cubs/ St. Louis Cardinals rivalry is one of the game's oldest, spanning 2,000 games since 1885.
Ease of scoring tickets: As the Cubbies haven’t exactly been lighting it up in recent years, tickets aren't hard to come by.
Position yourself: While there's not a bad seat in the house, go old-school and kick back in the bleachers. You'll be glad you did.
Must-try signature food/ drink: A loaded Chicago-style hot dog from a park vendor is your classic move. Wash it down with some Goose Island or Old Style suds.
Must-hit spot before/ after: Oft referred to as the "world's largest beer garden", Wrigleyville's packed with bars and restaurants, and Clark Street's your main drag. The Cubby Bear and Murphy’s Bleachers are solid standbys near the stadium, but if you're looking for a classier spot, make the short trek to Sheffields.
1. Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears
Lambeau Field -- Green Bay, WI
Why it’s awesome: There's no more iconic football stadium in sporting history than Lambeau Field -- home of the “Ice Bowl” and coaching legend Vince Lombardi, the stadium alone is worth the pilgrimage. But add to that 80,000 screaming “Cheeseheads” -- who get especially riled up when their bitter division rivals come to town -- and you've got the must-hit game of your life. The Packers-Bears rivalry dates back to 1921, and numbers almost 200 games.
Ease of scoring tickets: NFL tickets aren't cheap and the Packers-Bears match is always the biggest home game of the year. That said, Packers.com should have tickets available when the schedule's announced in the Spring.
Position yourself: The Lambeau Leap is as famous as any on-field touchdown celebration, so the closer you can get to the Packers end zone wall, the better the story you'll be able to tell your grandkids.
Must-try signature food/ drink: Brats, of course. Prepare to take a few down during your pre/ post-game tailgate.
Must-hit spot before/ after: If you want to stick around the stadium, rock out to some live tunes, and watch the 4pm games, hit the Tundra Tailgate Zone in the East parking lot. If you're headed back into Green Bay, snag a post-game pint at the Stadium View.