Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Revisiting my fields, rinks & courts of dreams
I’m looking forward to checking out the recently unveiled FENtennial exhibit celebrating the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park at the Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum in Cooperstown.
Although I’ve followed the Bronx Bombers since the summer of ’61 (that’s 1961, not 1861) and although the old Yankee Stadium (pre-1974 renovations) will always be my all-time favorite sporting venue, I love the Fens. The Green Monster ranks up there with the ornate façade that hung from the roof of the House That Ruth Built, the ivy that covers Wrigley Field’s brick outfield walls in Chicago and the Baltimore warehouse towering over Camden Yards as my favorite icons of sports architecture.
I always tell people making their inaugural visit to Fenway that they should enter on the first-base side and come up through those tunnels so they can experience the full impact of the Monster. From that perspective, you can appreciate how that tantalizingly close leftfield wall can play havoc with even the most skilled batters, pitchers and fielders.
The celebration of Fenway got me to thinking about how fortunate I’ve been to visit many of the truly iconic sports venues during my sportswriting career.
In addition to old Yankee Stadium and the Fens, I’ve been privileged to cover games at Green Bay’s Lambeau Field, the Boston Garden, Notre Dame’s football stadium, the L.A. Coliseum, Doubleday Field in Cooperstown, Camden Yards (still the best of the retro parks), the Rose Bowl and the Carrier Dome (when there are 34,000 orange-clad crazies for a Syracuse U. basketball game.)
I’ve also been privileged to be at some truly spectacular stadiums in Sydney, Australia, Athens, Greece, Lillehammer Norway and Beijing, China. The “Bird’s Nest” and “Water Cube” at the 2008 Olympics in China were truly unique, but perhaps the most distinctive venue I’ve ever reported from was the ice rink the Norwegians built in a cave for the 1996 Winter Olympics. Peering up at stalactites during breaks in the action from a hockey game was very cool.
The sports historian in me often fantasizes what it would have been like to visit some of the sporting venues that are long gone. I would have loved to have taken in a Brooklyn Dodgers game at Ebbets Field or a Giants or Mets game at the Polo Grounds.
I still kick myself for not taking a trip to the compact hockey barn in Lake Placid to watch the U.S. Olympic team in 1980. (I was working in Utica and could have made the trip in just two hours.) I also lament the fact I never saw the Canadiens play a game at the old Montreal Forum.
There remain several sports venues on my bucket list. I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve never seen a Cubs game at Wrigley. I’ve been pushing my wife for several years to go to that Iowa cornfield where they filmed Field of Dreams. (Yes, I am a sentimental sort who shed a tear at the end of the movie, and, yes, I will bring my glove with me and play a game of catch there in homage to Shoeless Joe, his dad and mine.) I also have a desire to attend a Duke basketball game at Cameron Indoor Stadium and a Butler University game at the old fieldhouse where they filmed Hoosiers.
I have a hankering, too, to take in a Pirates game at their new ballpark, and I’m sure there are several minor-league parks that have the type of history and vista that would stoke my soul. I’d also love to see a U.S. Open tennis match at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing Meadow.
I’m sure that there are other sites that will beckon me along the way. But I’m grateful for where I’ve been. In retrospect, I truly have been blessed to have visited so many fields and courts and rinks of dreams.