Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Fanatic: 10 Things All Sports Fans Should Do Before They Die

If you're a die-hard sports fan, at some point you've had to have watched the Super Bowl, Masters, Final Four, Wimbledon, or any other of the world's greatest sporting events on television and dreamt of seeing them in person to experience the spectacle, hear the roar of the crowd, and see the world's best athletes compete on the grandest stages in sports. Well, Jim Gorant, a senior editor and writer at Sports Illustrated, did just that over the course of one year, and he writes about his experiences in a new book, Fanatic: 10 Things All Sports Fans Should Do Before They Die. If you're looking for a good summer read, check it out.

In addition to the four events I mentioned at the top, Gorant's list of must-do sporting experiences includes the Daytona 500, Kentucky Derby, games at Wrigley Field and Lambeau Field, Ohio State-Michigan football, and Opening Day at Fenway Park (saving the best for last!). The Super Bowl is the first event on the list and comes across as a bit of a sterile experience as most of the focus is on the parties leading up to the game and the crowd is pretty corporate. Not that surprising since that's always been the rap on the Super Bowl. The crowd is anything but corporate at the second event, the Daytona 500, and the passion of the fans begins to come out in the book in that chapter in beyond.

I enjoyed the vivid picture that Gorant paints of his Wimbledon experience, wandering the grounds and sitting on the outside courts, along with his commentary on the British attitudes toward attending the event, in particular the long queues for day passes. He writes: "There's something you have to love about socialism. Unlike the scalpers...outside Augusta National, where it was every man for himself and the only criteria for success were money and bargaining skill, the Brits have instituted a scalping welfare system. If you're willing to wait in line and you've got your sixteen pounds, you've got as good a shot as anyone else. With all these people queued up, any self-respecting American would be tempted to take his day pass to the last guy in line and resell it for twenty-five pounds, but that doesn't seem to be happening here."

In particular, I liked reading about the final four events: Ohio State-Michigan and the games at Wrigley, Lambeau, and Fenway. The passion of the fans really comes out in those chapters since each of those events were tied to particular sports teams. In some ways, it seemed like these regular season games were more enjoyable than the championship games at the Super Bowl and Final Four.

The last chapter covers Opening Day at Fenway in 2006. (Let it be noted that each year I've gone to Opening Day (2004), the Red Sox have won the World Series. Now that I've written that, it doesn't bode well for the rest of this year, so if it holds true again, let that serve as an enticement to offer up some tix next year.) Gorant, although we should forgive him for copping to be a Yankees fan, covers all the bases of the Fenway experience right from the opening of the chapter as he shoves on the Green Line that comes rattling into Copley Station to his description of the rows of fans in the Monster seats ("looking like volunteers at a telethon.")

It would take a lot to make me deal with the airlines this summer, but Fanatic definitely has me pining to hit the road to soak in the sun in the Wrigley bleachers, bundle up in Green Bay, or sip a mint julep in Louisville. For now, I'll have to be content with my tickets to Fenway next week.

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