The Year In Visits – 2021

I’ve never taken sports traveling for granted as I’m lucky to have the means and ability to travel North America sampling different venues and game experiences. Getting that taken away in 2020 sucked and as we teeter into awfulness again with postponed games and sporadic venue restrictions, I’m at least very thankful for a return to the stadium in 2021. I was able to see 10 new venues and make 4 return visits. Here’s a recap on half a year of travel and a New Years wish for a successful 2022.

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FAVORITE NEW STADIUM: Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium…..This is only the 10th stadium to get a coveted 80+ ranking. The whole Navy Football experience is awesome as all of the game-day traditions are something worth witnessing in and of itself. The end zone military displays are are extensive and even the stadium is well designed and comfortable. A must-visit for college football fans.
……….Honorable Mention: Great American Ball Park

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WORST NEW STADIUM: FedEx Field…..Far and away, the worst stadium experience in the NFL and everyone knows it. Despicable owner who could care less about the current stadium as he positions himself to get someone to pay for a new one. There are limited team displays (the name change doesn’t help) and a dull design that includes such crap features like “The Cave” and fenced-off upper deck seats. The once proud fan base has understandably stayed away and led to the lowest attendance in the league.
……….Dishonorable Mention: City Stadium

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MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT: “I’m Back Baby”…..After 453 days without seeing a live sporting event, my return came at War Memorial Stadium in Hampton, VA for a summer-collegiate baseball league game. It was nervy because storms threatened to ruin the return, but the game was played and it was gloriously refreshing to sit in the stands once again.

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FAVORITE CITY: Annapolis…..This place has everything: history, architecture, restaurants, bars, cruises, museums and of course a Naval Academy (which you can tour on your own). I sound like Stefon from SNL.
………Honorable Mention: Indianapolis

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BEST RESTAURANT: Taste of Belgium…..In Cincinnati, Jean-Francois Flechet brought tastes of his homeland to the Queen City in 2007 and there are now eight of these restaurants around. The waffles are for real and if you don’t want to go with breakfast, make sure to get a Belgian beer with your dinner.
………Honorable Mention: Flatwater Restaurant in Indianapolis, Perly’s in Richmond

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BEST LOCAL DELICACY: Pork Tenderloin Sandwich …..Well it certainly wasn’t going to be the Cincinnati Chili. Mets announcer Gary Cohen described it best. What I did love on our trip to the Midwest, was Indiana’s state food, the Pork Tenderloin Sandwich. Breaded, deep fried and unable to fit between two buns, it is scrumptious. I had to scramble to find a place open that had a good one in Indianapolis because it was a Monday. Pawn City Pub had to do.
………Honorable Mention: Crabcakes in Annapolis (but I’m allergic to shellfish)

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BEST GAME: Saint Lawrence vs Union (2-3 SO)…..Messa Rink might have had the most responsive crowd (outside of WFT) for a sporting event that I went to all year and that was elevated by a pretty good game. The Dutchmen lost their goalie to injury and Saint Lawrence hit two posts while trying to build their lead. That came back to bite them as Gabriel Seger sniped one top shelf to tie the game with a minute left. The Saints won in a shootout, but that comeback is why I love going to sporting events.

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CHAMPIONSHIP TEAMS: Dartmouth Big Green and Princeton Tigers…..I revisited both Ivy League Stadiums this fall and these two ended up tied for the Ivy Football title. Though it is technically shared since they each went 6-1, Dartmouth beat the Tigers and in my eyes, they are the Ivy champ. These two teams also were tied when it comes to ranking the football stadium experience.

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BEST FANS: Lindner Family Tennis Center…..The ATP Masters event in Cincinnati (technically Mason, OH) is so well run and fan friendly that it is not surprising at all to see great crowds all week. Even though there were several of the sports biggest names missing this year, it still was well attended. It’s a great experience and worth going out of your way to visit.

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THE WEATHER: 6-3-5…..As in 6 wins (nice weather), 3 losses (bad weather) and 5 ties (eh weather). The best conditions undoubtedly came in Maryland for our football games as it was in the 60s with mostly cloudy skies. I prefer clouds to sun any day and this was ideal. Where I ran into weather trouble was: 1) Hampton, VA where a nasty t-storm delayed the start of the baseball game by 2 hours | 2) Cincinnati where it was 91 degrees during the afternoon, making for an absolute sweat bath (thank goodness we had shaded seats) | 3) Buffalo where some snow showers on the way from Rochester led to multiple slowdowns on the Thruway as we drove to the Sabres game.

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BEST SIDE ACTIVITY: Paddleboats in Indianapolis…..The Circle City is a great place and there is lots to do as we had plenty to keep us occupied during our three day visit. My favorite was riding the paddleboats down the Canal in the middle of downtown. We rented one for an hour and the family had a blast, especially the kids who had their chance at steering and pedaling.
………Honorable Mention: Walking the Roebling Bridge to Cincinnati, Visiting the Naval Academy

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