Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Sports Bucket List

(an incomplete list - but these are the most desired ones on the bucket list):

1. Hockey at Toronto Maple Leafs Gardens/ Montreal Canadiens Molson Centre As the deep south reveres high school and college football to a religious extent, Canada, the place where shinny was born, prays at the church of hockey. And Toronto and Montreal boast two of the most storied hockey franchises in the world. One of my favorite winter pastimes is watching Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday evenings, always wishing I could be sucking down a Labatt Blue in some warm Montreal or Toronto pub before venturing out into the frigid Canadian winter en route to that night's hockey game.

2. Every B1G Stadium (accomplished: Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State (by far the best experience of any I've visited thusfar), Ohio State, Notre Dame) (Left: Wisconsin (probably the best place to watch a game in the B1G), Nebraska, Northwestern, Indiana, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Purdue). A product of Michigan's auto-industry, I feel 100% a Midwestern boy at heart. What better way to explore your Midwestern roots than a roundabout of the Big Ten cities, taking you from the golden cornfields of Iowa and Nebraska to the great lake shores of Wisconsin and Northwestern through the rust belt of Indiana/Purdue and almost to Appalacia territory at Happy Valley?

3. Death Valley at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge Ironically, I would have had season tickets for this upcoming season, as well as the past two glorious seasons, at LSU if it hadn't been for the old college sweetheart. Oh, the funny places life takes you. As it is, for better or for worse, I've yet to experience the place they call Death Valley in the heart of football country - the deep south.

There are plenty of college football traditions I'd love to see: Chief Osceola riding out of the Florida State tunnel on the horse they call Renegade, Enter Sandman at Virginia Tech, or tailgating in the most famous tailgating spot in America - Ole Miss' "The Grove" - but none are quite as worthy of the sports bucket list as LSU's death valley is. Give me some southern bourbon on an autumn southern day, the ferocity of thousands of liquored up cajuns, and the glow of the lights underneath a Louisiana midnight sky - that's college football.

4. Ontatio Hockey League Tour Although I'm a Michigander through and through, I think there might be a little bit of Canadian blood in my system. Hockey holds a special place in my heart, particularly the junior OHL circuit. Last season, I crossed one off the sports bucket list as a couple of my buddy's and I ventured up north to the schoolhouse to see my London Knights play in the Ontario Hockey League Championship at the John Labatt Centre. It was one to remember.

Still, there are plenty of other venues left to see on the OHL circuit. With the NHL destined for a lockout, surely I'll get out to see plenty of the hometown Plymouth Whalers' games this season. But of course Plymouth cannot compare to those Canadian cities where hockey truly lives and breathes. Amongst the cities I'd most like to see in Ontario: Windsor, Niagara, Kitchener, Ottawa, Owen Sound, and Sault Ste Marie (MI). Along with the B1G cities, this is probably the most realistic check on the sports bucket list in the near future (i.e. this winter).

5. Texas High School Football The South boasts its own unique culture in Americana lore, but the high school football culture of Texas is a subculture within that Southern culture. How great would a Friday tailgate in some small Texas town be - sipping on some southern bourbon, cooking up some Texas chili, all whilst the Texas sun sets and the famed "Friday Night Lights" begin to glow?

6. Fishing on the Big Two-Hearted River I fashion myself somewhat of a Hemingway aficionado, and "Big Two Hearted River" is amongst my all-time favorite stories. Located in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, the river served as a safe-haven for Hemingway after he returned from war. While not a sports event per se, nothing sounds more relaxing than floating on the Big Two-Hearted, taking in Michigan's beautiful Up North scenery, and sipping on some beers around a campfire at night, watching carefully for the ghost of Hemingway somewhere in those woods.

7. Arsenal soccer game in North London. In the same vein as the previous one on this bucket list, this one stems from a literary source. Rarely there comes along a book you can relate so closely to that you feel as if the author and yourself would make good friends, but Fever Pitch struck that exact cord for me. I've never been a soccer fan, but one of my now all-time favorite novels has me dying to hit the fish-and-chip shop that Nick Hornby frequented in North London, the Arsenal stadium where so much of his story took place, and the Arsenal pub he spent so many hours in - whether it be sulking after a brutal loss or basking in the glory of a victory.

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