My Sports Bucket List – Part 1

Jan 17, 2013 by

My Sports Bucket List – Part 1

For many people it’s a time to establish New Year’s resolutions like losing weight, making better choices, writing more blog posts or just resolving to be a better human.  I thought I would start 2013 by writing my first article on something fun and ambitious by publishing my own sports bucket list.  There are so many unique events sports fans dream of witnessing and or participating in and it’s been a topic I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.  So I’ve decided to put together my top ten list of sports related experiences I would like to participate in before my yet to be determined expiry date and encourage you to do the same in my comments section.  I have already been lucky enough to witness some amazing sporting events such as attending a World Cup game in 1994 between Argentina and Greece (the first in Greece’s history), watching a Maple Leafs playoff game in a visiting arena and seeing games in historic venues such as Maple Leaf Gardens and Dodger stadium.  But there’s so much to do and see and by creating a list I will always be held accountable.  It may take a lifetime, but I plan on doing everything on this list. 

10.  Attend a College Bowl game.

 Of all major professional sports in North America, Football is the only one that has never fully captured my imagination. However, I’m a gambler and football is a sport that appeals to that mentality and I enjoy watching the circus that surrounds a typical Sunday afternoon.  It’s also become America’s most popular sport and it’s difficult to ignore its cultural significance and its grass-roots popularity when high school football games attract 40,000++ people.  Conversely, you might see two hundred people attend a University of Toronto home game. 

I’ll likely one day attend an NFL game, but it’s not on my bucket list, nor is attending something like the Super Bowl.  On the other hand, I would very much like to see a college bowl game.  The relative purity and high level of NCAA competition at its highest level and the environment that it breeds is compelling for numerous reasons.  For most of the student athletes, playing in a bowl game represents the apex of their sporting careers.  It brings out the most ardent and supportive fans and I think the whole experience would be memorable.  Ideally the game would be between two historical college football heavyweights like this year’s BCS matchup between Notre Dame and Alabama, but then again I would also enjoy a traditional Navy vs. Army bowl game just as much.  Either way I will one day find my way to a college football bowl game.  

 9. See a full boxing card in Las Vegas or Madison Square Garden

 With the emergence of UFC, the popularity of boxing has declined measurably in recent years.  The lack of compelling fighters, personalities and the underlying mistrust surrounding the sport has contributed to its overall decline.  Also, the absence of inspiring fighters in the heavyweight class has really hurt the perception and appeal of the sport. Even the average sports fan might have difficulty naming the current heavyweight champion(s). Which begs the question: Who is the face of boxing today?  Is it Floyd Mayweather?  Manny Pacquiao?  Miguel Cotto? These fighters are all in the twilight of their career and none are in the heavyweight class.  With no great heir apparent in clear sight, boxing’s immediate future seems uncertain.  It may be years before boxing regains its lustre as a popular sport, but we cannot forget its storied past and its role in American sports history. 

 This generation may not have a Muhammad Ali, a Jake Lamotta or even a “marvelous” Marvin Hagler, but one day it will again.  In the interim, I would still like to see a full professional boxing card in a historically significant setting, ideally culminating with a heavyweight title fight.  Caesars palace or MGM Casino in Las Vegas, have become modern meccas for this generations great pugilists; however, my first choice would be seeing a fight at Madison Square Garden.  It’s one of the last standing venues in America that offers us a glimpse into the past of historically significant sporting events.  To see a fight where greats like Sugar Ray Robinson, Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier made history and cemented their greatness would be a thrill and an honour. Unfortunately, Madison Square Garden does not host boxing events as often as it once did and it will be difficult to see a fight there in the near future.  Nonetheless, when the opportunity arises I’d like to one day sit ringside and experience the raw emotion of a live fight – hopefully at that time boxing will have regained its swagger.

 8.  See a live game in the English Premier League, Italy’s Serie A, Germany’s Bundesliga and Spain’s La Liga

 As for witnessing a live sporting event, I don’t think there is anything quite like watching a live soccer match between heated rivals.  In my personal experience, the energy and passion of its spectators are unrivalled.  The tension and palpable emotion of the fans can be felt from the home stadium to the neighboring streets and its local establishments. Fans can be heard singing team chants hours, in multiple languages, before and after the match; public drunkenness, rowdiness and the presence of hooligans adds an edge to the environment that can either mobilize or pit fans against one another. Violence is always a real threat and it is an experience one must be physically and mentally prepared for, otherwise one could easily get in trouble with an overly aggressive fan.  But for a sports enthusiast and lover of the game like I am, the emotion and edge surrounding the environment adds an element that almost mirrors the competition on the field and it helps build a highly stimulating and vibrant setting. 

In contrast it’s much harder to find an equivalent experience in North America. When you pay $200 dollars to watch a leafs game at the Air Canada Centre you probably have a 1 in 100 chance of having a great experience, that is unless you like sitting beside corpses or like being told when to urinate by the heavy-handed security.  But rarely do you have a genuinely emotional experience where you feel connected with your fellow fan. It’s almost always tempered by highly intrusive security that maintains an unwelcome presence and restricts your experience from the moment you walk in until the moment you leave.  In European soccer stadiums there’s a little less governance that allows room for a little bit of chaos and fun that simply cannot be found here.  The effect is an emotional and often unforgettable experience and there are a few countries where I still must experience a match – I look forward to each and every one.

7.  See a playoff game in every NHL Canadian rink.

Thus far I’ve seen only one playoff game which was held in Ottawa in 2004, when the home team beat Toronto in Game 4, 4-1 to tie the series 2-2, only to lose to Toronto in seven games. That leaves me with Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Montreal and Toronto. I also think in my life time we will see a team move back to Quebec City at least one more team added to the Greater Toronto Area and possibly a team in either Hamilton or Waterloo. Depending on future demographic shifts we could one day see a second team in Montreal, a second team in Vancouver, a team somewhere in Saskatchewan and maybe, just maybe, a team in Halifax.   Wouldn’t that be something? Canada loves hockey and growing up playing it and following the league closely for most of my life I am no different.  It’s our sport and it is in my opinion the toughest game for an athlete to endure a full season of play in all of professional sports.  Also, as great as sports look on your HD television, the combination of the speed, power and skill of hockey players cannot be fully appreciated unless experienced live – playoff hockey showcases the best of both the spectator experience and the athletes competing.

This goal will likely take a long time to complete for a number of obvious reasons, namely the geographical distance from rink to rink.  I’ll try to visit the Bell Centre last simply out of principle because Montreal is Toronto’s most hated rival and it’s my obligation to be an honorable fan. But it might be years before the Leafs even make the playoffs and its likely Calgary is headed for a major rebuild and Vancouver’s window of winning may be coming to a close while Winnipeg’s immediate future could go either way. That leaves Edmonton who clearly has a great future, with the type of foundation that should evolve into a playoff contender for the next decade.  So this goal might take some time and might very well take a lifetime to complete.  But one day I will see each Canadian based team play a home playoff game.

 6.      A sports themed road trip

It can be any sport, but the most likely scenarios involve either hockey or baseball.  Ideally, I’ll get a chance to do a few trips over the years, but I would like to do a minimum of 4 games in 4 nights in 4 cities.  I have travelled across America, but have never been to Washington D.C and it’s a city rich with history and an abundance of national monuments and museums that I would like to one day visit.  I would start my first major trip in Washington and make my way back to Toronto.  If it’s a hockey trip I would start by seeing the Capitals then go to Philadelphia, followed by New Jersey or Long Island and end with the New York Rangers in Madison Square Garden.

 A baseball trip would again start with Washington to see the Nationals and then head south to Baltimore followed by Philadelphia and end in a game at Yankee stadium in New York.  How cool would that be? In each scenario I would find an extra day or two to spend in Washington because there are so many things I would like to see there.

After doing one or both of the trips above, I’m open to a number of different road trips perhaps   going up the pacific coast highway and visits all the California-based teams or do a minor league themed adventure perhaps somewhere in the northeast.  There are so many possibilities, like anything, it’s about time and money and hopefully finding similarly motivated sports souls to go along for the journey – but even still I would be just as satisfied doing the adventure on my own – After all it’s my bucket list.


Part 2

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