My birthday is this Thursday, July 26th, so, despite the drastic difference in the way I handle birthdays in my late twenties compared to birthdays when I was, say, ten (I won’t have and don’t want a cake, for instance, and I probably won’t play even one game of skee-ball), I’ve given some thought recently to potential gifts. Understand that when I say this, I don’t mean I’ve been jotting things down or bookmarking pages on Amazon to “accidentally” leave in plain sight for my wife to find. What I’ve been doing has more in common with fantasizing over winning the lottery than actually tabulating a list of presents I expect anyone to purchase.
Since I’m sure that many of us have similar fantasy gifts, I thought I’d write a post including some of mine and ask for readers to submit their own, but when I actually sat down to do it, I noticed (to say I was surprised wouldn’t be truthful) that a huge portion of my list revolved around sports. Even though the term “Bucket List” annoys me (I’ve never seen the movie of same name, and can’t decide whether it would make me like the term more or less), it’s culturally understood to mean pretty much what I’m after here: if money and time were no objects, what sports-related experiences do I want to have before I’m too old to climb the stadium stairs?
Obviously, if you’ve recently received a large financial windfall (lottery, death of a wealthy old relative, etc.), feel free to treat this as a shopping list.
5. Witness Team USA play a World Cup match
I’m not going to be too greedy here by asking for a semi-final or final (maybe when football has disintegrated under the shadow of the concussion threat and we start funneling our best athletes into soccer), but this I would love to see. I’m not particularly jingoistic – which probably explains my general lack of enthusiasm for the Olympics – but the U.S.’s constant underdog status in soccer gets me kind of fired up. I don’t know if any sporting event short of Kentucky’s last two runs to the Final Four had me off of my couch more than the U.S. – Ghana match from the ’10 World Cup. I’ve seen them in a qualifier, now I’m ready for the real thing.
4. Go to The Masters or The British Open
These are my two favorite majors, and if I could choose only one, it would probably be The Masters just because seeing that particular course would be so special. I would take the British Open outright only if it were being played at St. Andrews. In general, though, seeing a completely different type of golf is what makes the British so interesting. So many choices. Honestly, the toughest thing about going to a golf tournament (I had a chance to see the PGA Championship played at Valhalla in Louisville in 2000; Tiger won in a playoff vs. the immortal Bob May) is choosing between the “pick one group and follow them through the entire course,” “pick a few holes and try to see a bunch of guys play at least a little,” and “post up in the grandstands somewhere and just watch everyone go by” spectating methods. If I could be there for all four days, I could mix it up; otherwise, I’d probably go with option number two.
3. Witness a Boston Red Sox World Series game at Fenway Park
If this sounds highly particular or even kind of greedy, I apologize. I’ve had the good fortune to visit Fenway three times (twice for games, and once for a tour where I got to walk onto the field and sit in the dugout), so the next step is to up the stakes. I feel about baseball very much the way Curtis does, and seeing my favorite team (I’ve been a fan since I was ten, when Nomar Garciaparra came up and played the same position as I did in Little League) in a playoff atmosphere, at that particular park, would be pretty incredible. Ideally, I’d get seats behind the visitors dugout or down low in the right field corner. I would also accept tickets to an ALCS game against the Yankees, should that happen again (besides the UK-Duke tournament game from 1998, I think that game four of the 2004 ALCS is the sporting event I most wish I’d been able to see live).
2. Visit Anfield for a Liverpool FC match against Manchester United or Everton
This is at number two because it combines travel to England (a place I’m dying to get back to after a trip there five years ago), and a venue I’ve never gotten to visit. After supporting LFC for the entire duration of my soccer fandom, I’m more than ready to see a match on Anfield’s hallowed ground, preferably with a team that will see the Kop (the section behind one of the goals filled with the rowdiest, most vocal fans) in full voice. In a perfect world, I’d be there on a sunny May afternoon, watching them beat either of the two clubs mentioned for their nineteenth top flight championship and first since 1990. Oh, and singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” in that stadium, before kickoff, came close to warranting its own spot.
1. Witness a Kentucky Basketball National Championship
We try not to be too regionally focused here at TTAF (although there is a lot of bourbon-centric activity), but when sports is involved, it’s difficult to avoid. That said, college basketball is my favorite sport, UK is my favorite team, and so witnessing (in person, obviously; I’ve “witnessed” three on television. I wish I could’ve been in New Orleans this past April to see number eight (it would’ve been particularly sweet because of the post ’98 drought). If I get to be REALLY particular, then I’d want to be there to see a non-consensus number one version of the team (the ’98 champs or the ’11 Final Four team, for example) win, because that uncertainty would make the outcome that much sweeter. I’ve seen them beat UNC and UofL in Rupp, and Florida in Atlanta for the SEC Championship, now I want to see them take everything.
Writing about something that is by its definition not universal is tricky, because it’s so easy for the audience to dismiss or simply ignore what they don’t feel much connection with. But while these five things may not represent the specifics of what you would want to see, if you’ve made it this far, you’re enough of a sports junkie to have your own list. Share some of your ideal sports experiences with us in the comments, on Twitter @onelessrib, or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/thethingaboutflying.