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Pack My Bags, Sports Trips Beckon

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May 15, 2018

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I need to credit Jay Buckley’s Baseball Tours for today’s column idea. The company is promoting a September weekend in Seattle where customers can watch the University of Washington Huskies, Seattle Seahawks and Seattle Mariners—and I am tempted to sign-up.

I’ve always wanted to visit Seattle and the surrounding area. High on my wish list is seeing a UW game at iconic Husky Stadium overlooking Lake Washington. The venue is among the more revered in college football.

I am always up for visiting stadiums and arenas. My wife doesn’t share the same curiosity and enthusiasm, but she didn’t balk Sunday when I suggested stopping in Jordan, Minnesota to have a look at the “Mini Met.” First time visitor, but planning to go back and see the hometown baseball Brewers.

I give my wife a thumbs up for a planned trip to Athens, Georgia this fall. Her niece and husband will be hosting us for the Georgia-Auburn football game. I’ve always wanted to sample the hoopla of an SEC Conference football game and my day arrives on November 10.

I am excited to see the gameday atmosphere and the competition on the field between the Bulldogs and Tigers, two teams that could be in the chase for the national championship. And the anticipation of this trip also involves a stop in Atlanta to see the College Football Hall of Fame. I have visited the halls of fame for pro football, baseball, basketball and hockey but not the college shrine in Atlanta where there is sure to be some Golden Gophers memorabilia.

With inspiration from the Jay Buckley folks and my wife, I am listing below baseball, basketball, football, golf, hockey and tennis trips I am all in on—time, money and other priorities allowing.

Baseball

Cooperstown. I made a visit a long time ago and have always wanted to return. I could wander the halls of baseball’s shrine for days, and the town of Cooperstown is a charmer.

Fenway Park

Fenway Park. The quirky home of the Red Sox has beckoned for years but despite a couple of trips to Boston I have yet to experience Fenway. Great town, great food and the basketball hall of fame is only a few hours away. Sign me up now.

AT&T Park. I haven’t been to San Francisco since the Giants opened their beautiful waterfront stadium at 24 Willie Mays Plaza. Give me a couple of days at the park, and then on to the wine country a short drive away.

Basketball

I have seen games in Madison Square Garden and the old Boston Garden so I am happy to check those off my list. NBA teams change venues so fast that 28-year-old Target Center falls into the “grandpa” category. The league doesn’t have any venues that make my heart pound so I will stick with the college scene.

Phog Allen Field House. This isn’t where the first peach basket was hung, but Wilt Chamberlain played there for the Jayhawks and the address is 1651 Naismith Drive. A “Beware of the Phog” banner looms on the north end of the court. “Rock, chalk, Jayhawks!”

Cameron Indoor Stadium. Duke’s home arena would top most any poll of college fans for a “must-see” venue. You can count on my vote. It’s kind of crazy that this place doesn’t even seat 10,000 but is referred to as a stadium. Seems like the Dukies have almost that many championships.

Football

This is where the list could get unmanageable, but here is my Fab Five.

Bryant-Denny Stadium. The home of the Alabama Crimson Tide probably ranks No. 1 on any list of future trips. I hear part of the gameday presentation includes a video clip of Bear Bryant growling, “I ain’t nothin’ but a winner.”

Michie Stadium. It’s been a long time since I toured West Point and I’ve never seen the Black Knights of the Hudson play in their football home since 1924. That has my attention and needs to change.

Rose Bowl. I saw Minnesota defeat UCLA, 21-3, in the 1962 Rose Bowl. Very sad the Gophers haven’t been able to earn their way back to one of the most majestic venues in sports. I am ready to return to Pasadena without them.

Lambeau Field. I write this with embarrassment. Never been to Lambeau but I will change part of that in June when we visit the stadium—while wishing it was fall and the Packers were playing.

Husky Stadium. We covered this in paragraph two, but permit me to add how cool it would be to arrive at the stadium via boat on Lake Washington. Prefer by yacht, if not asking for too much.

Hockey

Bell Centre. This choice is a little tricky. Let me explain. Years ago I was at the Montreal Forum, referred to by many as the “most storied building in hockey history.” But the Forum has been in decline for a long while and the NHL Canadiens have made the Bell Centre their 21st century home. So while I feel no urgency to see the Bell, a trip to Montreal rekindles memories of the Forum. Then, too, Montreal is the closest you come to experiencing a European city while still in North America. My wife likes that.

Tennis

Wimbledon. I have been a tennis fan and player most of my life. My wife loves London. What else is there to say?

Golf

The Masters. No golf event gets me in front of the television with more passion and pleasure than the Masters. It’s not just the great tradition and the gorgeous golf course. The April tournament signals to Minnesotans the snow season will end soon.

Amen.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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