SBS Stadium Series: The glass palace of Minnesota

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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: Chauncey Billups’ Jersey Retirement Night at The Palace

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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

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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!

 

 


SBS Stadium Series: A Quick Trip to the Rose Bowl

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Published on : October 20, 2015

 

Growing up in Big 10 country meant that the Rose Bowl was the top of the mountain. In the time before divisions, conference championship games and the college football playoff, it was the end of the line for the best team in the conference. The place where the might and glory of the Big 10 would face off against the the best that the Pac 10 (now the Pac 12) had to offer. As the site of one the most storied Bowl Game series in college football, I figured it was high time that I got my ass out to Pasadena to check out a game.

 

I hadn’t really planned on attending the matchup of unranked Arizona State against #7 UCLA a couple Saturdays past, but after happening upon some free tickets, I figured what the hell. Nestled amongst the San Gabriel Mountains, the stadium sits low and you don’t really get a view of it until you are right on top of it. There’s nothing glamorous about the design and you wouldn’t guess that it’s the 12th largest stadium in the U.S. when walking up to it, but you can feel the history of the site.

 

UCLA fans

 

We arrived to the game a little late so we didn’t get a chance to see the parking lot tailgate festivities, but once we got inside there was no shortage of drunken college kids. In fact, during the first ten minutes of trying to find a general admission section that would let us gain entry, we saw no less than three glossy eyed coeds who were either in the process of falling or just picking themselves up off the ground. Ah, to be young again.

 

I was just about to do my best to get on their level when I realized they don’t sell beer. Despite being located 26.6 miles down the freeway from the actual school campus, the Rose Bowl is not one of the 21 college football stadiums that supplies it’s thirsty fans with the nectar of the Gods. Next time I’ll know to bring a flask.

 

After making our way to our seats, situated three rows from the back in the corner of the stadium, we settled in amongst throngs of blue and yellow clad UCLA fans. The stadium itself was an impressive sight to behold, yet didn’t seem as large as it’s capacity of 95,000+ would have you believe. Having been brought into football by the imposing behemoth of the Big House in Ann Arbor, I thought all large college football stadiums would be just as grand in the stature. Either way, the place was packed shoulder to shoulder with fans and people were pumped to see their Bruins do some damage to the Sun Devils.

 

IMG_1344

 

It didn’t exactly go down like that, and the Bruins came out flat. The Sun Devils defense stifled the UCLA offense and gave Arizona State a 29-10 lead going into the 4th quarter. It was right around that time that the fans began to file out of the stadium en masse. The Bruins faithful that stayed until the bitter end were given shred of hope when the team brought it to 29-23 with 9:19 left but it was not to be. A late safety sealed the game and the Bruins lost 38-23.

 

UCLA fan sad

 

When it became clear that the game was out of hand, we made the decision to try to beat the crowd out of the parking lot. Hundreds of buses were standing ready to transport the sad, drunk, and hung over college kids who had made the long trip out to Pasadena. How many would puke their sorrows away on that trek back to Westwood? Perhaps they would be in better shape if they had been allowed to buy a beer during the game. Instead they were in those late stages of drunk; the wrong side of the borderline between the high and the crash. I could see the sadness and disappointment that all of us fans know so well. That knowledge that one day your football team was undefeated and sitting in the top 10 and the next day it’s gone, along with all real chances of competing for a national title.

 

At least they can rest easy, knowing that their team plays in one of the classic stadiums in all of the country. Who cares that it’s miles, and miles, and miles from the actual campus. It’s still a beautiful stadium surrounded by an even more beautiful landscape. Seriously though, they should start selling beer there…. and at all other college stadiums.

 

 


SBS Stadium Series: Questions about Qualcomm

Written by :
Published on : September 20, 2015

 

For the last four years, Alex and I have traveled to whichever is the closest to Los Angeles of the Detroit Lions’ west coast games. We’ve done Candlestick Park in San Fran and twice been to University of Phoenix Stadium for Lions vs. Cardinals. As soon as the NFL schedule is released we look for our road trip game. Boom! Week 1 in San Diego for a battle with the Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. I have never been to Qualcomm and after my trip I have a few questions.

 

First question is where are all the crazy fans? The face painted, decked out in head-to-toe team gear psychos? Where they at? I didn’t see them. 

 

The Michigang rolled into the tailgate lot and found a surprising amount of away team support. Maybe it was all the blue but it felt like there were tons of Lions fans. I’ve been to my share of hostile grounds aside from a few negative comments, the Charger locals were all chill.

 

If you look close in the picture below you can spot a few other SBS writers. Let’s play a game of ‘Where’s Joe and Michael*?’

*Michael is not from Michigan but still our friend so we let him come anyway.

Michigang

 

My next question is about the parking lot, there are several gates leading in but why isn’t there an “Antonio Gate?” I mean how many TD’s did Gates catch for the Chargers? Seems like a missed opportunity Qualcomm.

 

Qualcomm 3

 

God Damn it’s sunny there. Make sure you get tickets on the home side of the field or you are gonna get roasted. Even in the partial shade I had to rock a t-shirt do-rag just to keep the UV off my neck. Overall, I’d say the stadium has decent eye lines but it feels strange that the seating doesn’t start right behind the team bench.

 

Next question is what are they saving all that room for? It’s a complete waste of space. You could get more seats in there or move everyone a little closer. Poor planning Qualcomm. 

 

Qualcomm 2

 

Hey, haircut! Down in front. I feel like Kramer from Seinfeld was sitting in front of me. As the game continued into the second half I decided to venture out and get some snacks. Being in Southern Cali, I half expected sushi or at least tacos but I found the food options in the upper sections to be quite limited.

 

Where is all the fancy concessions Qualcomm? The new trend in stadium food is leaning into the craft and gourmet but all I could find was the usual suspects.  Step your game up.

 

I settled on nachos, a hotdog and two more beers. And yes, I dipped the dog in the cheese. This ain’t my first rodeo.

 

Qualcomm 1

 

The game was almost over and the Chargers were putting the finishing touches on a masterful and heart breaking (for us Lions fans) comeback. To my shock, many of the San Diego faithful were already leaving to beat traffic.

 

Last question: are you kidding me??? Your team plays great and storms back to win in your home opener/season opener and your fans don’t even want to stay to cheer on the squad? That’s nuts. I get leaving early if it’s a blowout but c’mon Qualcomm. Show some respect. 

 

Maybe I’m just bitter because my team lost but the flip-flop beach attitude of the Chargers fans really rubs me the wrong way. This isn’t Sea World, it’s the NFL and if they don’t care enough to heckle opposing fans and stay to the end of the game then maybe they don’t deserve a team. I know Los Angeles is ready and their fans kill people* in the parking lot. Now that’s commitment.

*SBS does not indorse fan on fan violence, just an observation on the levels of loyalty.

 

Overall, I had a really, really good time. The stadium and the fans are maybe too relaxed for my liking but the Chargers are a no-quit team and you gotta give them props for that. I just really, really wanted to win.

 

There is nothing worse than getting beat by someone who seems like they don’t care as much as you. Maybe it’s some sort of Zen tactic to drive people crazy. So I’ll leave you with the immortal words of The Anchorman, Ron Burgundy “Go fuck yourself San Diego.”

 

F Qualcomm

 


SBS Stadium Series: A Day at the Coliseum

Written by :
Published on : August 30, 2015

 

Late August is the perfect time to see a baseball game. Growing up outside Chicago, one of my favorite childhood traditions was the yearly baseball game I attended with my Grandfather. Always the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Always sometime in August. I guess that’s why I think it’s the best time to go. I guess that’s also why I’ve decided, while on vacation in Oakland, to go see a baseball game. The Oakland A’s versus the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers. (I’m also visiting from LA, but my blood doesn’t run blue.)

 

Seen from the BART train, the Oakland Coliseum is an imposing structure. A walkway covered by chain-link stretches from the station to the stadium. It’s here I begin to see all the familiar faces from baseball games’ past. There are the Scalpers, offering seats from the corner of their mouths. Then the Capitalists, selling A’s hats and “Straight Outta Raider Nation” t-shirts.

 

oakland as - walk up copy2

 

There’s a long line at the ticket booth, so I purchase my seat on my iPhone. Waiting at the metal detector, I watch an Old Married Couple get waved through. The elderly always seem to be the most prepared at the ballpark; they’re packing sunscreen, binoculars, a bag of peanuts, radio, newspaper and seat cushions. You can’t take it with you, but that doesn’t mean you can’t bring it to an A’s game.

 

I buy a ten dollar beer and find my seat at the end of the left field foul line. My section is dominated by kids- a group of nearly thirty, being wrangled by three impossibly patient adults. Most are wearing A’s gear. There’s one kid who wears Coke Bottle Glasses, like the kid from “The Sandlot.” As the game starts, the kids start cheering. Oakland scores at the bottom of the first. One of the women patiently asks Coke Bottles to keep it down.

 

oakland as - 2nd seat view

 

One thing I am certain about: no matter where you sit at a game, there’s always an Opposing Team Fan sitting nearby. And they’re not going to let you forget it. A group of three Dodgers Fans start yelling, “Let’s go Dodgers!”

The kids fire back, “Let’s go Oakland!”

“Let’s go Dodgers!”

“LET’S GO OAKLAND!”

The Dodger Fans give up, but the kids cheer on. The Dodger Fans get up at the end of the 1st inning and never return.

 

During the 2nd inning, I finish my first beer. There is nothing healthy or clean about food at a baseball game. There’s a woman sitting nearby who looks like Christina Hendricks hiding behind sunglasses. She has a box with a Chicago-style deep dish pizza inside. She eats a slice, scooping up tomatoes and cheese with her fingers. I am in love. I go buy pizza at the concession stand.

 

Dodgers take the lead during the top of the 3rd. Behind me, one of the kids asks his friend, “Do you have any money? I’m looking for the cotton candy man.”

 

This has to be the guy they are talking about

 

4th inning. I find a better (shaded) seat. I feel surrounded by die hard fans in this new section. There’s a guy with a Walkman (!) on listening to the radio broadcast while he watches the game. On the aisle, a mother daughter team of Scorekeepers, each recording the game on their paper scorecard. I wonder what they do with those cards after the game.

 

One of my all-time favorite things happens next: the Jumbotron Race. Every sporting event includes at least one electronic race broadcast on the big screen. Three opponents, thirty seconds (or whatever) to glory. It’s the exact shot of adrenaline we need at this point, and they serve it up hot!

 

Oakland retakes the lead during the 6th. The Scorekeepers are pleased. I can hear the kids from my new seat.

 

7th Inning Stretch. The crowd begins to sing; I am ecstatic. The highlight of every Cubs game was leaving my seat to try and get a view of the legendary Harry Caray, leading the entire crowd in “Take Me Out To The Ballgame.” He would lean out of the booth and wave his arm like a conductor, and we would shout and join the mass of voices broadcast over WGN radio.

 

Harry Caray at Wrigley Field

 

8th inning. On the field, I see a foul ball bounce against the seating wall. An A’s player picks it up. Several grown men jump to their feet, desperate for a souvenir. The player finally tosses the ball to a kid sitting with the adults. The men all sit back down, disappointed as kids.

 

At this point, the Earlybirds that are looking to “beat the traffic” have started to their march towards the exits. My Grandfather was one of these. I never minded leaving early, until one year we listened to a last-second Cubs comeback in the taxi cab outside Union Station. Every year after that, I always voted to wait it out and catch a later train back home.

 

The A’s widen their lead at the bottom of the 8th, and I decide that’s enough for me. Goodbye Coliseum, thanks for everything. (P.S. send the Raiders back to LA if you’re not doing anything with them.)

 

 


SBS Stadium Series: The Grateful Dead Takeover Soldier Field

Written by :
Published on : July 10, 2015

The first installment of the ScoreBoredSports Stadium Series doesn’t involve a sporting event, but revolves around a cultural phenomenon that took place in historic Soldier Field on 4th of July weekend, 2015. Fare Thee Well: Celebrating 50 Years of The Grateful Dead was an event for which thousands and thousands of people traveled from around the world to witness. For one fateful weekend in the city of Chicago, the spirit of the 60’s was alive and well as the greatest American Rock band took the stage one last time for 3 magical nights of music.

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The entrance to Soldier Field

 

This was my first time attending an event at Soldier Field and I must say that the stadium itself was quite impressive. The Greco-Roman architecture that comprised the original stadium before its 2003 renovations and still surrounds the outer walls is quite breathtaking, with Doric columns that tower over the grounds and create an imposing façade that immediately catches the eye, even from miles away. With the renovations, the stadium now looks like some intergalactic spacecraft landed right in the middle of the Roman Forum. You’ve got to respect that they were able to preserve the original stadium, the oldest in the NFL, while adding some modernity to the scene.

The grounds surrounding the stadium provided a perfect setting for the freaks of all shapes and sizes that attended the show to set up shop and sell their wares or just relax and enjoy some pre-show libations. Once inside the stadium, Solider Field continued to impress, with friendly staff and service, and a field that allowed you to get an amazing view of the entire record breaking 70,000-plus crowd that was in attendance.

On the approach to the stadium you could see the hippies and music lovers flooding the streets of Chicago, and every venue had become ground zero for jam bands that came to play the city on the same weekend as the guys who started the whole jam scene some fifty years ago. On every street corner there was a multitude of tie-dyed shirts and long hair. Everyone had a smile and a kind word for passers by, and the feeling in the city was palpable. A nervous excitement was overtaking the crowds as the final performance by these legendary musicians came nearer.

The long trek from the hotel to the stadium provided the opportunity for all types of trouble and fun. The first order of business was to find the infamous Shakedown Street, the historic semi-sanctioned marketplace famous for popping up in the parking lots of whatever stadium or venue the Dead happen to be playing at. It’s the perfect place to buy a much-cheaper-than-stadium-price beer, handmade Dead-themed crafts and shirts, or whatever illicit substance might tickle your fancy.

Aside from the music, Shakedown Street is what the Dead show is all about. It’s the shining example of what this community is all about. In the days that Jerry was still with us, The Grateful Dead did hundreds of shows a year and there were people who literally lived on tour. Moving from parking lot to parking lot and setting up shop in a centralized location were everyone could meet, have fun and earn a living by working whatever hustle they wanted. All while being close to the music they loved and lived for. The band and authorities turned a blind eye to the unlicensed selling of Dead related merchandise with the understanding that no one was getting ripped off and it was free promotion for the artists.

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South Parking Lot Shakedown Street

 

The current Shakedown Street is a shadow of its former self, as those old-heads who ran things have moved on or passed on, but that doesn’t mean the spirit of Shakedown is dead. Vendors were allowed to go about their business for the most part, that is until the final day when I heard rumors of vendors having all of their stuff seized by what was described as the copyright police. There was less of a centralized Shakedown Street at Soldier Field this year, and for the first two days we hung out at the walking path between the Stadium, the parking garage and the south parking lot (Where we finally discovered the other, larger Shakedown Street on the final day). There were people everywhere and the familiar smells filled the air as we sat on a grassy hill drinking, smoking and watching all of the beautiful people.

This is where you meet all of the interesting characters that define the experience of going to a Dead show, and there were people from all different walks of life congregating in the same place and bonding over this special music and experience. Whether a sixty-year-old biker, a forty-five-year old accountant, or a nineteen-year-old dreadlocked runaway who smells like he hasn’t showered in a month, everyone is here for the same reason. To have a good time and listen to some music.

Almost twenty years to the day since Jerry Garcia last played with the Grateful Dead in this very same venue, many people claimed that this was the closest feeling to being at those shows with Jerry. It was a real Grateful Dead show. Not Furthur, not The Other Ones, but The Grateful Dead. Strangers stopping strangers, just to shake their hands and everyone loving everyone. The collective individualism of the community was going strong, as everyone flew their own special freak flag but accepted one another as members of the same wild fraternity. Like we were all on the same side, regardless of where we came from before this weekend, or where we were headed after.

As the start of the show approached on that Friday July 3rd, the stadium was absolutely electric. People discussing which songs would be played and when, people sharing memories of shows passed, people being people. No pretension, no judgment, just love.

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Fireworks for the 4th of July

 

And when those lights went down, and The Grateful Dead finally took the stage and began to perform Box of Rain, the crowd exploded and everyone could feel what a special weekend we were all in for. Chills went up and down my spine and I got goose bumps as that familiar feeling began to take hold. Everyone began to dance and sing aloud. People sang along so loudly that you couldn’t always hear the band members singing. But that didn’t matter. These songs weren’t just the band’s to sing. They belonged to all of us. In someway or another, every one of these songs had affected our lives and they were uniquely special to each and every one of us.

For a venue that is normally home to adversarial events such as football games, this one weekend was all about harmony and love for your fellow man. I can imagine how great football would be in this historic building and would certainly love to go back for a game, but I don’t know that anything can equal the feeling of what this weekend was. Young and old, rich and poor, all these people on the level and completely immersed in what was happening around them. It was a truly beautiful experience, in a truly beautiful city, in a truly beautiful stadium and I think I can speak for everyone who was in attendance when I say thank you to the City of Chicago and to The Bears organization for making us all feel at home for three fateful days in July 2015.

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Thank you!

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