SBS Stadium Series: The glass palace of Minnesota

Written by :
Published on : October 12, 2017

 

 

The Michigang is back in action for our annual Lions road game meet up. This year takes the crew to Minneapolis, Minnesota for Detroit’s first divisional game against the Vikings.

 

This year’s trip was extra special because we got to visit the newest football arena in the country. US Bank stadium will be home to this year’s Super Bowl and it is clear why. The building is enormous and gorgeous. Let’s get inside and explore the new digs in this installment of the SBS Stadium Series.

 

 

First impressions of Vikings Village (the area outside the building). Kind of lame. All beer stands, which I love but no food, which sucks. Because I was starving and needed something in my belly besides booze. There was also this terrible band playing covers. I wont even dignify them with a joke. Overall, the best part of Viking Village would have to be the view. The glass face of the building is super dope. Also the local train has a stop right in front which is really convenient. But it’s getting close to kickoff so it’s time to head inside. As we made our way to the front gate we came across the witches protesting for social justice. The witches kick ass. Fuck racism and white supremacy.

 

 

The lines to get in moved so fast. Best I’ve ever seen at sporting event. Inside, they scan your tickets like a boarding pass with this fancy laser podium. It’s straight The Fifth Element. First steps inside US Bank are breathtaking. It’s like a football cathedral. The roof is so far above you at all heights. The scale is truly massive.

 

We take the escalators up to the the top level and as we move through the crowds it is clear. There are some Lions fans but not many. Probably the smallest number of Honolulu Blue I’ve witnessed on the road. Bobby joked “these Vikings fans sure do travel well”. We were outnumbered but not outclassed. Our Michigang was 14 deep and rocking our matching custom t-shirts. We drew a lot of attention. But that might be because we were chanting and yelling almost the entire time.

 

 

We find our seats and get ready for the show. But first, it’s time for everyone’s favorite part of a football game, the national anthem! I did not stand for the anthem. Because Trump called NFL anthem protesters, “sons of bitches”, so I stayed seated. Because criticizing protesters who are speaking out against inequality is a trash move. But I did stop eating my pizza which I thought was a very reasonable compromise. From behind me, I hear “it would be nice if all the Lions fans would stand”. I didn’t turn or respond. Facebook comment threads have taught me how to recognize a trigger situation and I’m finally (hopefully) adult enough to not always get sucked in.

 

Then, an epic DRUM BEAT on a brontosaurus sized drum. Like Game of Thrones style viking shit. The room shouts “SKOL!”. Everyone knew what was happening. Everyone but the 14 of us. The crowd claps their hands above their heads with each beat. The drumming gets faster. It’s pretty intense. And admittedly cool. It crescendos it a roar of applause. Super loud. Maybe the loudest I’ve ever heard. This is all being lead by the Skol Line (get it, it’s like goal line) a drum line band that maybe lives in the stadium. Not totally sure on that. But they do get the crowd pretty hype. Also what’s the deal with all the Skol stuff? Do they really like chewing tobacco that much? Apparently they do. Because the entire building is smokeless. No smoking deck or area period. Maybe they have a vape zone? Also not sure on that.

 

 

Finally, it’s kickoff. I get the butterflies in my stomach. I add two beers, a pretzel with cheese and a second slice of pepperoni pizza to that stomach to kill the butterflies. The game is tight. Both defenses are balling. It’s going to be a close one the whole way I can just tell. But hot damn look at the field. The whole place feels so open and new. At one point during the second quarter, the sun peaked from behind the rain clouds and shined down on the glass of the wall and ceiling. The whole building lit up like it was magic in a Disney movie. It was beautiful.

 

Each time the Vikings have a positive play, they blare this awful horn. I’m sure the fans like it. But it gets old quick. The drum is way better than the horn. The NFC North rivals trade points until it’s Detroit 14 and Minnesota 7. But there’s plenty of time left in the game so anything can happen. And for the record, the Viking fight song they play after a touchdown is real bad and I should know, the Lions fight song is not great. But this one is rough. The clock is ticking down and now the gentlemen behind me start chirping. They keep trying to bait me into something. But I surprisingly play it real cool and don’t engage. This was no easy task by the way. I’m petty and very quick with a mean joke so this is kind of my unfortunate specialty but I swallow my insults and let the Lions defense do the talking.

 

 

Lions grind out the clock with a solid ground game and it’s over. We win. 14-7. The row busts into our favorite chant “three and one, three and one, three and one” or for s fun variation, “four and o with an asterisk”. Another huge road win. Seriously, winning on the road in our division is not something I’ve experienced too much of. It was a shock and a real joy. I will remember that day forever.

 

Overall, the stadium is perfect. Not a single flaw to mention. Other than that damn horn. The total experience was great. The Vikings fans were mostly very nice. For example, most had a hard time with trash talk. One guy saw us and yelled “Go Vikings” and then we yelled “Go Lions” and then he went “but seriously that Stafford is my something, I’d say he’s probably my favorite player in the league”. Or another guy tried to heckle by shouting, “Funny hat!” at Tomas with his lion head beanie. Sick burn you guys. It’s almost cute.

 

They say that people who build glass stadiums shouldn’t throw touchdowns. And the Vikings didn’t that day. Go Lions. And who knows, maybe the Michigang will be back in Minnesota watching the Lions in the Super Bowl. A boy can dream can’t he?

 

SKOL.

 

 


SBS Stadium Series: Super Fun at the Superdome

Written by :
Published on : December 16, 2016

 

 

The annual Lions road game/road trip continues. Year five of the pilgrimage finds the Michigang ditching the cars for plane tickets as my friends and I travel down to New Orleans for a matchup with the Saints at the Superdome. Let’s get inside the famous facility for the best live sporting event I have ever witnessed in this installment of the SBS Stadium Series.

 

A noon kickoff means the crew and I arrived to Champions Square outside the arena around 10am with Lions Mardi Gras beads around our necks and as many Coors Light as our pockets could hold. Despite some grey skies and light rain, the place was jumping. Tons of vendors, booze, all manner of snacks, a raffle and even a live band. It was a great atmosphere.

 

champions square

 

We toured the fan zone, destroyed various meats on sticks and took in all the outside had to offer. Later, we discovered a promotional Bulleit Bourbon table where they offered free mini shots of whiskey. You heard right, free whiskey. This could never happen in Detroit. People would kill each other. We hovered around the Bulleit table getting as many samples as we could. RJ and Joe even traded hats in effort to disguise themselves for extra shots. Totally worked. Needless to say, we all felt pretty good.

 

Michigang NOLA

 

We join the masses and head inside. Ramps, escalators and stairs later, we find our row in the 600 level AKA the nosebleeds. But the awesome thing about the Merceded-Benz Superdome is that there are no bad seats. Even at the tippy top, you have amazing views of the field. It’s just like TV but with no commercials!

 

image2 (3)

 

We settle in with fresh beers and watch the dope intro for each squad. Credit where credit is due, the Saints intro is HYPE. The video, the fog, the shower of gold sparks, the giant flames. It’s wild and really sets the tone. No wonder people love watching this team. The house lights come up for the coin toss and I finally have a chance to look around. That’s when I noticed that the roof looks an awful lot like the Death Star.

 

superdome deathstar

 

Kickoff. Saints get the ball first and go three and out after the Lions bring pressure and force a fumble that Brees recovers and throws away. They punt and Stafford gets his first chance with the ball. Lions drive and settle for a field goal. It is at this moment, the man in front of us turns around. He is a porky pig looking father of three, in a black Saints polo. He mimes a kitty cat licking and cleaning himself. As if to say to us, we aren’t Lions but tiny house cats. Needless to say, I was not happy about this act of aggression. Side note, why would you provoke this crew when you are at the game with children? Does he not know that I am loco? For reference, here is a picture of the back of his pumpkin, I mean head.

 

Superdome dad

 

I’m an adult, so I use my words and we move on. More football, the Lions keep rolling and we share nachos and some frozen drinks. The chant “8-4!” becomes our calling card for every first down or anything positive. And for the first time all year, the Detroit Lions have a lead at the start on the 4th quarter. It felt like I was on a wave that was growing and growing. The sensation was incredible. Then the dagger, on 3rd and 10 at the Detroit 34 yard line, Stafford hits Golden Tate who rumbles for a 66 yard touchdown. We explode.

 

Some excessive dancing causes an armed police officer to issue a warning to one of the crew. As soon as the cop leaves, the Saints fans next to me start apologizing, saying they are sorry someone snitched on us for cheering. They praise our enthusiasm and seem genuinely happy for us. This sentiment becomes a theme, where almost every opposing fan we meet for the rest of the trip was super friendly and complimented us on a well played game. I’ve never seen such a thing. The Lions win 28-13 and we “8-4!” our way out of the stadium. It was pouring outside but we didn’t care. Can’t rain on this parade.

 

superdome rain win

 

We don’t know that dude in the Lion suit, he just joined us for a bit. “One of us!” “8-4!”. Honestly, it was the best sporting event I’ve ever seen. It was an exciting game, that we won. Plus it was big for our team’s playoff chances and I got to share it with my best buddies in the breath-taking Superdome with nicest home town fans a traveler could ask for. New Orleans is a class town with wonderful people. Visit once and you’ll fall in love. Guaranteed.

 

NOLA

 

 


SBS Stadium Series: Angel Stadium of Anaheim Time

Written by :
Published on : June 7, 2016

 

Living in Southern California, it can be hard to see my beloved Detroit Tigers in the flesh as often as I’d like. So when I do get the opportunity, I jump at it. The Tigers rarely come to Los Angeles, so I make a once-a-year trip to Angel Stadium of Anaheim to watch my Motor City Kitties play the Angels.

 

Normally, it doesn’t go so well. I’ve had the (dis)pleasure of seeing my team get spanked in Angel Stadium on more than one occasion. On one particularly painful visit to the OC, I even got to see Mike Trout hit a 1st inning grand slam en route to a 10-0 Angels win. This was the final meeting in a three game series, and the Tigers had already dropped the first two games. The odds of a win were in our favor. This had to be it.

 

Traditionally, my pregame experience at Angel Stadium is pretty weak. The consumption of alcohol inside the stadium parking lot is illegal, so I’m forced to get a spot in an offsite lot. Considering my long drive from LA and my lack of a desire to pay $100+ for a spot in a tailgating lot, I end up sitting in my car and drinking beers before the game (with the engine off and keys out of the ignition, of course). This is while trying to avoid the gaze of the many law enforcement officials in the area. Pretty lame. But this time, I vowed things would be different!

 

Portillos

 

I recently discovered that for some reason there is a Portillo’s in Buena Park, right near the Stadium. For those who don’t know, it’s a delightful Chicago-area chain known for it’s dogs and beef. I headed on down with a couple fellow expat Michiganders to enjoy some food and beers before we hit the ballpark. I was delighted to find that both were comically low-priced as far as things go here in Southern California. I downed my combo Italian beef and sausage sandwich. Things were already going my way.

 

We decided to stop into a bar before the game and have one last reasonably priced alcoholic beverage. We were lucky enough find Keno’s Sports Bar. This place was great. To get there you have to go through Keno’s Restaurant, which looks like a more respectable version of Denny’s. It was really weird. It’s like the restaurant was too big, so they decided to build a sports bar in a corner and separate it by tinted glass double doors. Another bonus was that they actually had Keno (Hot Spot here in Cali), a great lottery-style gambling game that is responsible for taking my money in bars all over Michigan. But not this day! I wound up trying my luck and left that bar $10 richer. The good day continued, now if only the Tigers could seal the deal.

 

We arrived a little late and settled in to our nosebleed seats just as the 3rd inning was getting underway. This was right around the time that I realized that my two friends that I convinced to come with me on this trip south were not very interested in baseball. They were both from Michigan, but they were also ladies who spent more time talking about their work as ER nurses and the latest Snapchat filters than watching the pitcher’s duel happening before our eyes. The stadium was pretty empty and it made it so that the sound carried really far. Not only could people hear my friends talking about everything except baseball, but I could hear all types of stereotypical ballpark sounds as well. Random heckling, cheers of encouragement and vendors selling their peanuts and crackerjacks filled my ears as I soaked it all in.

 

 

The Tigers starter on the mound was rookie, Michael Fulmer and as of the late he has been the best part of the team’s rotation. This June 1st game was no different. It was scoreless going into the 5th inning when the Tigers put the first run of the game on the board. It was right around this time that I realized that the young gun was pitching a no-hitter thus far. I began to get very anxious. My two friends were oblivious.

 

The 6th inning came and went and neither team got a hit. The score was 1-0 and the rookie’s no-no was still intact.

 

In the top of the 7th, the Tigers added another run and while I was excited at that fact, my focus was totally on this possible no-hitter. It took every bit of restraint I had to not tell my friends to shut up and watch what could be the best pitching performance any of us had ever seen. I kept my mouth shut. Even as Michael Fulmer got through the first two batters of the 7th without allowing a hit and my excitement level went through the roof. All I wanted to do was talk about it, but I would be damned if it was me who jinxed this thing.

 

AngelsGame

 

That’s when CJ Cron hit a single and ruined it all. Obviously there was some other Tigers’ fan idiot out there who lacked the same level of self control as me and said something about the no-hitter out loud. What an asshole. I was finally able to tell my friends what had been happening but I was crushed. Sure, my team won the game 3-0 and only allowed 2 hits, and maybe I was being greedy, but I really wanted that no-hitter.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy that I finally got to see my team win in Angel Stadium but it could have been so much sweeter. It would have been the perfect revenge for all the awful games I’ve seen there. But sometimes you’ve just got to be happy with what you get. I just have to relish the win and the fact that there’s a chance that the Tigers might have something special in Michael Fulmer. He just had another strong outing last night and might be the new Ace in the rotation. Who woulda thought?

 

 


SBS Stadium Series: Chauncey Billups’ Jersey Retirement Night at The Palace

Written by :
Published on : February 13, 2016

 

 

Wednesday night at the Palace of Auburn Hills was a very special night for the Detroit Pistons, their fans, and for me personally, with the jersey retirement of former Piston Chauncey Billups. Like all of us here at SBS, I am a diehard sports fan, but I’m also a hometown guy who roots for his hometown teams. Born in 1986, and growing up in the Metro Detroit area, I was two years too late for the Tigers’ World Series in 1984 and too young to really remember the Pistons going back-to-back in the Bad Boys era. Certainly, since then I have enjoyed a handful of Stanley Cups brought home by my Red Wings, some near misses from my Tigers, the Lions made the playoffs a couple times, which given their history is as good as it gets. However, with all of those accomplishments from my hometown teams, my favorite teams, none were as fun, or as memorable, as the ride my beloved Pistons took me and the rest of the fanbase on in 2004.

 

Chauncey was signed by the Pistons way back in the summer of 2002 and was one of the first building blocks to team president Joe Dumars’ championship club. At the time, Chauncey was joining his sixth team in his first six years, but Joe was confident in Chauncey’s ability and said, “The fact that Chauncey chose Detroit as his home validates our feeling that this organization is headed in the right direction. We feel he is a player that can come in and make an immediate impact on our team.” Boy was he ever right.

 

banners

 

In Chauncey’s first year with the team, the Pistons reached the Eastern Conference Finals before losing to the New Jersey Nets. The 8 playoff wins that year was equal to the amount of playoff wins the franchise had in the past ten years combined. With Chauncey on board, the culture had changed. Joe Dumars put together these misfit toys that no one wanted and gave the reigns to a guy considered to be a journeyman at this stage in his career, a guy that many considered a two-guard and not a true point, and built it into a perennial contender, and eventually a champion.

 

After having the bitter taste of defeat in their mouths all offseason, the Pistons went back to work the next year determined to bring home a championship to the Motor City. Coined the “Goin to Work” era, and led by public address announcer Mason and his constant shout of “Deeeetttroooooittt Baaaasskeetbaaallllll! Detroit was a blue-collar town, entertained by athletes with a blue-collar work ethic feeding off of each other making for some very memorable nights at the Palace, and Chauncey Billups was the team’s leader.

 

Midway through the 2003-2004 season, Dumars added another misfit toy by acquiring veteran Rasheed Wallace in a deal at the trade deadline. A skilled big man who mastered the stretch-four position while being able to bang in the post on both the offensive and defensive end. He had all the tools in his game but was thought to have a couple screws loose, with a hot temper, and a short fuse. According to Chauncey, it took just one practice for this well oiled machine to take on its new component and at that moment he thought no team in this league should be able to beat us. Much like Joe, boy was he right.

 

starting5

 

That summer, the Pistons went on to defeat the star studded Los Angeles Lakers in 5 games in the NBA Finals. Led by who other than Chauncey Billups, “Mr. Big Shot.” Billups would dominate the Lakers going on to win NBA Finals MVP, helping the Pistons bring home their first NBA Championship since 1990. Over the next four years, the Pistons would continue to dominate the Eastern Conference advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals in each of those four years and losing to the San Antonio Spurs in a 7-game NBA Finals series in 2005.

 

While another title would have been great and would have really bolstered their case for any dynasty talk, that six year run of watching my beloved Pistons was possibly the greatest stretch of time as a fan. I am not sure I was ever as invested emotionally in a team than I was with that team. That collection of guys, what they stood for and represented, to actually embrace that they were all just pieces to a puzzle that needed each other to make the final vision complete was so refreshing to see, and it all started with their floor general–Chauncey Billups.

 

retiredjerseys

 

As always in sports, good things must come to an end. For the Pistons, it was a rather abrupt end within a few years of winning their championship in 2004. Free agency began to lure the core away and some business decisions had to be made as players began to be dealt away. The Pistons currently haven’t been back to the post-season since the 2008 season, and attendance at the Palace has gone from the peak years when Detroit was “Goin to Work” to now looking more like a place hard hit by unemployment.

 

However, the memories and the proof that champions once filled these walls are a pleasant reminder when you look up to the rafters. Isiah Thomas said on Wednesday night that when he first got to Detroit there was no tradition, and he would dream that one day he and his teammates would fill this place with championships and retired jerseys. He mentioned that when he and his teammates passed the torch to the next core of guys, it was their responsibility to carry on the tradition before then passing it to the next core of guys. Well add some banners to the rafters they did, not to mention the amount of memories they provided to countless Pistons fans, including myself.

 

So as we honored you on Wednesday Chauncey, let me just say that I appreciated all that you did for the community while you were here, the way you conducted yourself on and off the basketball court, and for so many other reasons, you are my favorite Detroit sports athlete of my lifetime. Wednesday was your night, Chauncey Billups Night at the Palace, but believe me, for myself and I’m sure thousands of Pistons fans that night, it was incredibly special for us too. You will always be a Detroit Piston to us.

 

 


SBS Stadium Series: A Night at The Joe

Written by :
Published on : January 5, 2016

 

 

Every year for the holidays I make a trip back home and on that trip, I visit one of my favorite places in all of the world. It’s a place that is very familiar to me. I know it well. The smell, the feel of the concourse under my feet, that bite of cold air as I descend the stairs to my usual Christmas holiday seats on the glass. To me, this is hallowed ground. The holiest of sporting venues. A place where legends have been made, and champions have been crowned. It is the historic Joe Louis Arena, affectionately known as The Joe. It’s in Detroit, Michigan and it is by far my favorite place to watch any type of sporting match.

 

And sadly, it’s days are numbered.

 

Upon arrival, my first thoughts were on how this could be one of my last few times in this wonderful building that has been the location of so many fond memories. It added a shade of melancholy to the joy that I usually feel once I set foot inside the building. Not necessarily sadness, just a thought in the back of my mind that very soon these halls will be empty and the banners will be moved up Woodward to the new, as yet unnamed arena, set to be ready for the start of the 2017-2018 NHL season.

 

Red Wings Banners
                                                         All these banners will soon have a new home

 

One of my favorite things about the arena is the fact that isn’t named after some mega-corporation. No, it carries the name of, perhaps, the most legendary sporting figures in the history of the great city of Detroit. Along with Madison Square Garden, it’s the only arena in all of the NHL that lacks corporate sponsorship, and I love it. I hope with every part of my being that somehow the new stadium will be free of the chains of corporate sponsorship. And like Joe Louis Arena, it will be erected to honor those that have made a difference in the place that was once one of the most important arms in the Arsenal of Democracy. I’m afraid that might be too much to hope for, but that’s a discussion for another time.

 

This game featured my beloved Detroit Red Wings versus the New Jersey Devils. It didn’t go exactly as planned, as the Wings started Jimmy Howard and his overblown contract in net. Jimmy helped the Wings start the game with a 3-0 deficit in the 1st period, despite only seeing 6 total shots. Coach came to his senses after goal number three and replaced him with the, at this point in his career, more talented Petr Mrazek. After that, the game was far more exciting and the Wings gained on the Devils only to lose the game 4-3.

 

A view of the action
                                                                                  A view of the action

 

That’s ok though, I’m was happy just to be back home at the Joe, and there’s nothing like the energy in that place when everyone is chanting “Let’s Go Red Wings!” and those players are battling it out right before your eyes. The $19 double jack ‘n cokes were flowing and my comrades and I were in it together, cheering on our boys in red and white. There are few feelings quite like that and sometimes that’s enough. Sure, a win would have been nice, but just being there was a win in my book.

 

Another bonus was that this was the first time I had the chance to see the Wings’ exciting new rookie player, Dylan Larkin play live. He added yet another goal to a rookie season that has far exceeded expectations. This kid is the real deal and if you ask me he is the next Red Wings’ captain-in-training. It’s going to take a while, but he’s that good. When you think about the fact that he is the first teenager (19) to play in a game for the Wings since Steve Yzerman in 1983-84, it’s almost too perfect. And he’s from Michigan!?!? It just makes too much sense, he has to be the next guy to wear that “C” on his jersey.

 

That’s my prediction for next captain of the Detroit Red Wings, you heard it here first. Only it won’t be here. Not in The Joe. I guess I’ll have to get used to that. After all, the only thing constant in this world is change. That’s ok, I still have the rest of the season and then the next. Then it will just be memories, and what great memories they are!

 

 


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