"SPORTS YEAR: 365 Games in 365 Days"
My parents think this is the worst idea I've ever had. Which is a good sign.
I’m going to get in the car and see a different athletic contest every day for one year, hitting all 50 states. During my journey, I'm going to treat Wounded Warriors to events that are on their Sports Bucket Lists, too.
What's on your Sports Bucket List? What are the big games/events and venues that you have to see over the course of your life?
I got a good refresher on mine this past November, when Notre Dame finished the regular season ranked number one.
First, some backstory: In December 1988, Mom and Dad offered to fly me to the Fiesta Bowl to watch ND play West Virginia for the national championship. Having just finished the first semester of my freshman year, I drove my friends back home insane with my constant chatter about the Irish and "our" first undefeated season in ages. So, my folks were understandably surprised when I declined their offer of a free trip to the title game.
"We're gonna go to plenty of national championships over the next ten years," I said. "I'd rather you pay for me to go on Spring Break to South Padre." Ever wanna fly back in time to your 18-year old self's dorm room and drop a case of Natty Light from the top bunk onto that idiot's skull? What upsets me most about this story is the fact that I could not do simple math: ZERO (number of national championship games to which Notre Dame was guaranteed to return) vs. THREE (the minimum number of spring breaks I was guaranteed to have over the rest of my college career).
Having blown that opportunity, I got on my high horse and pledged that I would not attend a national championship game unless the Irish were playing in it. As you undoubtedly know, I had a looooong wait.
Naturally, I flew to Miami this past January to watch the Irish in "our" first national title game since my freshman year. Sure, we got blown out, but simply being there reminded me just how thrilling it can be to attend a big game.
And I've been to some big ones. Two World Series games. Orange Bowl. Redskins-Cowboys in Texas Stadium. The first Bowden Bowl at Clemson in '99. The inaugural Opening Day at whatever-they-call-it-now-where-the-SF-Giants-play. I've been to eight of the past nine Kentucky Derbies. NYC Marathon. US Open tennis. Madison Square Garden (for hockey, not hoops). Games at the Rose Bowl and The Big House. Fenway and Wrigley. Pauley Pavilion. Soldier Field.
But I've still got some HUGE events on my List: Super Bowl, The Masters, Final Four, "World's Largest Cocktail Party," Daytona 500, Little League World Series, Army-Navy, World Cup, Friday Night Lights game in Texas, Spring Training, Boston Marathon, McKinley-Massillon in Ohio HS football, MLB All-Star game, any SEC rivalry, OU-UT, UM-OSU.
What about stadiums and arenas I've missed? Lambeau Field. Death Valley at LSU. Cameron Indoor Arena. Ohio Stadium. Camden Yards. Texas Memorial Stadium. Talladega. Mile High Stadium. Joe Louis Arena. Allen Fieldhouse. The Swamp. Rupp Arena.
There's plenty more of both games and venues I've overlooked, I'm sure.
Those lists bummed me out. But they also prompted questions, questions that dropped faster than ludicrous statements on sports radio. When the hell am I gonna find time to complete those lists?! Uh, never. Is it even possible for a non-sports writer to do all that in one lifetime?! Maybe. What are the biggest obstacles to completing those lists? Three big ones: Marriage, Kids, Job.
It occurred to me, then, that I'm not married. (This occurs to my mother more frequently.) I also don't have kids. (See: previous "mother" comment.) And, according to an ex-girlfriend, I don't have a "real job."
Which is when I got The Idea: hit ALL the major games/events and venues in one year, and see a game every day while I'm at it.
But an adventure like this needed a name, an inspiring moniker conveying all of its ambition and grandeur. So I brainstormed for weeks. Finally, drawing on every ounce of my authorial creativity, I dubbed this venture in which I'd see sports every day for a year... SPORTS YEAR.
I’ll constantly tweet about it - @Sports_Year - while blogging and uploading video of fun/cool/weird things I see and the fun/cool/weird people I meet.
Right now, you might be thinking, "Who the hell are you? And why the hell do I care if you do this?" Good questions, tough guy.
First things first: Jake Gyllenhaal played me in a movie. That information has nothing to do with this Kickstarter project, but it's an extremely enjoyable sentence to type.
To say I’m a big sports fan would be like saying Mike Trout has an okay future in baseball. I’m a Yankee fan, but I visit Fenway once per summer because it’s my favorite ballpark. I told my sister she has 51 weekends out of the year to get married, but if she picks the first Saturday in May I will be unable to attend unless she holds the ceremony at Churchill Downs. For two years, I booked my work travel around my coed flag football league's schedule.
I've been an Army officer and a Viagra peddler. I've even sold sand at the beach. (Scroll to the video in the middle of the webpage.)
Now I'm an author. My first book served as the basis for the film “Love and Other Drugs,” in which Jake Gyllenhaal played “Jamie.” My new book, “A Walk’s As Good As A Hit,” a collection of humorous and heartwarming essays about my father and me, was just published in early June.
For my next chapter, I want to be the ultimate sports road tripper.
Here's my plan:
I’ll hit “Tentpole” events both professional (Super Bowl, Daytona 500, The Masters) and amateur (Little League World Series, Army-Navy football; the "World's Biggest Cocktail Party," aka Florida-Georgia). I’m going to run the gamut from chi chi (pro tennis in Newport, RI to tacky (Lingerie Football League in Baltimore). And I'll watch midnight baseball in Alaska and surfing championships in Hawaii.
But I’ll mainly be catching smaller sports contests, from the collegiate levels down to youth leagues.
And what about the ladies?! The last time I saw a women's sport other than beach volleyball was 25 years ago, when my sister played Little League softball. Consequently, I'm eager to see what I've been missing.
My trip kicks off in Denver for the NFL's opening game between the Broncos and Ravens. I'll end the journey with the NFL opener in 2014. (Hopefully, the next Super Bowl champion's city can get its baseball team to play nice schedule-wise, though. #OriolesFail)
The key word is "tentative."
Wounded Warriors, let me know - @Sports_Year or firstname.lastname@example.org - if you want to join me at one of these events, or please invite me to one I haven't listed. Bowling? Roller derby? Curling?
Anybody else can spend the day with me, too. For a mere $500, not only will I pick you up at your house and bring you to the event of your choice (we'll go Dutch on tickets)... you can be my cameraman. Or you can jump in front of the camera and star in the videos that I will upload to my blog daily. Just picture your "Charlie bit me!" moment. Depending on the aggressiveness of our tailgating, there's even the possibility for Tosh 2.0 infamy. (Note: I'll pick you up, but we might take a taxi home.) You will definitely be a chapter in the book!
SPORTS YEAR itinerary
– Ravens v. Broncos in Denver
– So Miss v. Nebraska in Lincoln, NE
– Giants v. Cowboys in Dallas
– Air Force v. Boise St in Boise
– Tenn v. Oregon in Eugene
– 49ers v. Seahawks in Seattle
– Bass Master fishing Open in Muskogee, OK
– Auburn v. LSU football in Baton Rouge, LA
– Cardinals v. Saints in New Orleans
– Wisconsin v. Ohio State – Columbus, OH
– Bears v. Lions in Detroit (Possibly MLB Pit – Cin)
2 - D-III field hockey Stevens at Montclair State, NJ
– Regatta in Annapolis, MD
– Maryland v. North Carolina women’s soccer in Chapel Hill
– Ole Miss v. Texas A&M in Oxford, MI
– Notre Dame v. USC in South Bend, IN
– Broncos v. Colts in Indianapolis
– St. Joe’s Regional v. Paramus Catholic (NJ high school football)
– Bengals v. Dolphins in Miami
– “World’s Largest Cocktail Party” aka FLA v. UGA in Jacksonville
– BYU v. Wisconsin in Madison
– Eagles at Packers in Green Bay
– Oklahoma State v. Texas in Austin
– Cal v. Stanford in Palo Alto
– Titans v. Raiders in Oakland
– Dolphins v. Jets in NJ
– NCAA women’s soccer championship in NC
– Big Ten championship football game in Indy
– NCAA men’s soccer championships in Philly
– Army v. Navy in Philadelphia
– Seahawks v. Giants in NJ
– Bowl Game TBD
– NBA game TBD
– US Figure Skating championships in Boston
NHL and college sports
– Trailblazers v. Mavericks in Dallas
– Winter X-Games in Aspen, CO
– NY Rangers v. NY Islanders outdoor hockey at Yankee Stadium
– Super Bowl in NYC
– Michigan v. Iowa wrestling in Iowa City
– Daytona 500 in, uh, Daytona
– College Synchronized Swimming nat’l championships in Oxford, OH
- Women’s Hockey Final Four in Connecticut
spring training in FL and AZ
East men’s basketball tournament in NYC
MLB Opening Day
- Men’s NCAA Basketball Final Four in Dallas
- Women's NCAA basketball Final Four - Nashville, TN
– The Masters in Augusta, GA
Women’s lacrosse – Evanston, IL
– Boston Marathon
– Kentucky Derby
wrestling national championships
Jumping Championships in Calaveras County
– Indianapolis 500
Wild West Days (rodeo) – South Dakota
baseball World Series – Omaha
22 US Open Golf men’s and women’s Pinehurst, NC
baseball in Fairbanks, Alaska
Hall of Fame championships in Newport, RI
Football League game in Baltimore
League Lacrosse All-Star game
- MLB All Star Game in Minneapolis
Bowlers Association tournament
Ragbrai bike race across Iowa
– Frontier Days (rodeo) in Cheyenne, WY.
Tennis Association in Stanford, CA
WNBA TBD (But Sue Bird and Skylar Diggins will be involved.)
Amateur Golf Championship – Atlanta, GA
– Little League World Series, Williamsport, PA
The Solheim Cup
– Amgen Tour bicycle race in CO
AVP beach volleyball TBD
- Women's Longboard Surf Championships in Oahu
- NFL Kickoff Game
– 30: Sofa City
Why I Want to Do This: When asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, George Mallory famously responded, "Because it's there." I think we can all kinda relate to wanting a challenge like that. (I'd love to climb Everest someday. Only, I'm afraid of heights. And I get really cold when it's really cold. Oh, and I'm pretty lazy. Aside from those things, though, I'm all in.) One more motivator: my buddies told me I could never do it. Giddy. Up.
I want to do Sports Year because I’m an avid sports fan looking to chronicle an adventure that’s never before been undertaken. This story will sweat pure Americana: small towns, midlife crisis, road trip, sports. Additionally, I will be trying to answer some questions: what makes Americans so damn competitive? Are people in the south crazier about their teams than the rest of the country is? How many hot dogs will I eat this year?
I'm looking forward to strangers inviting me to their house for a home-cooked meal. That will be a life affirming experience. Or, those people might be certifiably insane. Either way, it'll be a great chapter in the book.
Most importantly, though, I want to use Sports Year as a way to give back to some of the servicemen and women who suffered injuries in Afghanistan and Iraq. I served in the Army as a personnel officer at a sleepy post during peacetime; my gravest danger came in the form of paper cuts. In honor of the sacrifices Wounded Warriors have made for our country, I want to bring some of them to the events on their sports Bucket Lists. It's the least I can do. I ask those heroes or people close to them to tweet at me (@Sports_Year) or email me (email@example.com) to let me know what contests they'd like to attend. Then we can compare schedules and see when and where we can link up. I can't wait to make that happen week in and week out.
Thank you for your time and consideration of this project. I hope to see you at a game during my Sports Year!