The Best Week in Sports - The Bucket List
I am well aware that we live in a region of the country that is dominated by football. I would even say that it is not just any football, but rather the king of football - SEC football. We all take pride in the fact that our brand of football is far superior to the football played in other parts of the country. The championships are certainly there to back up that claim. Since the inception of the BCS, no conference comes close to the championships claimed by the SEC. In fact, we (collectively speaking) brag about it so often, and with such fervor, that we usually end up offending people who have allegiances to other schools not located in the friendly confines of the Southeastern Conference. Those of you who know me well, know that I have a strong allegiance to my beloved Volunteers of the University of Tennessee. I frequently travel to watch them play and have had my heart broken by them many, many times. While I wholeheartedly believe that the brand of SEC football is, from top to bottom, the undisputed champ of all the conferences, I would like to serve up a different type of question for you to consider. What is your bucket list of sporting events? I wrote a similar post to this almost ten years ago. For me personally, this week is the best in all of sports (even better than SEC football!). You have the conclusion of my absolute favorite sporting event that really does drive us all mad - March Madness (how's your bracket look!?) combined with the beauty and pageantry that is The Masters, combined with opening day of Major League Baseball....and just for fun, both the NBA and NHL are in the final weeks of their regular seasons making both of them somewhat interesting. I would like to list my personal "bucket list" of 10 items that I would like to experience in my lifetime. I am happy to report that I have indeed crossed an item or two off of this list, but there is much work left to do. I would also love to hear about your items. I will most certainly see something that someone else listed and think "oh yeah, I want to do that too!". The great thing about post like this is that they are highly debatable. So without delay, here goes my list. Although not necessarily in order, I am weighing the bigger items near the top.
- Augusta National - I have had the joy of walking the hallowed grounds of this amazing place a couple of different times. I've been to both the actual tournament as well as a practice round. Although I'm not necessarily a huge fan of the PGA. I typically will watch all of the majors, and not much of any other tournament, unless my personal favorite, Phil Mickelson, happens to be leading on Sunday, which doesn't happen that often any more. That said, I find myself glued to coverage of the Masters. I can't explain it. I really think it is a combination of things from the incredible beauty of the course, the history of the tournament, the intense competition for the green jacket, and the painstaking attention to detail that is exhibited by the folks that put on the tournament each year. I remember being surprised by just how hilly (is that a word?) the course was. You do not realize it until you walk the course as TV just doesn't do it justice. I love everything about it. If you have never been, it should be high on your list.
- Watching a Red Sox/Yankees game in Fenway - I have a tendency to cheer for the underdog. I have been known to give people a hard time who seem to pick and pull their favorite teams from all over the country with seemingly no allegiance to anything. The worst fan for me is the fan that is considered the "bandwagon" fan and just happens to cheer for teams from all over the world that also happen to be really good! If my state has a team (sans Memphis, because no one in middle or eastern TN really even thinks about Memphis as a part of the state since it is six hours away!) I cheer for them. NFL - yep, I'm a Titans fan. NHL - you got it - LOVE the Preds (excited to be going to a play-off game soon!), I've already mentioned my love for all things University of Tennessee, but we do not have a MLB or NBA franchises in our state, so one must go elsewhere for a favorite team in those sports. As a child, almost EVERYONE I know pulled for the Braves. There proximity makes it easy and I flirted with them too. My parents took me to a couple of games in Atlanta and my favorite player was Dale Murphy (I just dated myself!). But the Braves were never any good during my childhood, and in fact, they were awful! I guess you could say their perennial losing never caused me to fall in love with them. When I was younger, and to a certain extent, still now, the New York Yankees were king of the world. They had fans everywhere, and were often just better than everyone else. The poor Red Sox just couldn't compete. I began pulling for the Red Sox largely just because it seemed like the rest of the world pulled for the Yanks. My years of cheering them for them during the lean years has been rewarded since 2004 with 3 world series rings in the last 15 years. I would LOVE to see them play the Yankees in Fenway. The intense hatred between the fans of these two teams will always have this high on my list.
- Duke - North Carolina game - Much like #2 on my list, the pure mutual hatred of these two rivals makes this a match up that I find compelling. I'm not necessarily a fan of either team, although I have a lot of respect for both programs. I think I would just like to witness firsthand the craziness of Cameron Indoor Stadium. I was able to watch the Vols play North Carolina this past season in Knoxville. I always appreciate a knowledgeable fan base and I certainly found that to be the case of the Tar Heel fans, and I would expect the same with Duke.
4. The Vols in the SEC Championship or College Football Playoff - For most of my life, this wasn't necessarily a "bucket item". I went to my first Tennessee Vols football game when I was 9 years old. I have been back countless times since then. I actually was at a SEC Championship game that the Vols played in early in the 2000's. I have seen some amazing games in my Vol fandom traveling to College Station, Nashville, Gainesville, Athens, and Atlanta to watch them play. My favorite memory (to date!) was the famous play I refer to as the "Dobb Nail Boot" in which Josh Dobbs completed a Hail Marry to beat UGA as time expired in 2016. I shared this miraculous comeback with my son and some friends, and we both still like to laugh about that night in Athens. Of course, he and I were on the receiving end of that type of loss this past season when we traveled to Gainesville and watched Florida complete a very similar pass to beat us. The Vols have suffered through their worse decade of football in their 120+ history. Having them being relevant again would be awesome. I would love to see them competing for championships again regularly like they did for so long when I was younger. I have often said that my boys have never seen Tennessee as a good program like they were pretty much the first 30 years of my life! I admit, this is a real fandom heart pick item.
5. Boston Celtics / LA Lakers Game - As I explained above, Tennessee doesn't have a NBA franchise (at least they didn't when I was growing up). As a child, I LOVED Larry Bird. I remember having his Converse shoes when I played on my elementary basketball team (we were pretty good I might add as we won the city championship!) I am fairly confident that it was Bird's shoes that propelled us to victory. Jordan mania was huge later in my childhood and into my teenage years and I certainly liked Michael Jordan, but for me personally, Larry Bird was the man! I loved the way the ugly, white dude from Frenchlick, Indiana just outworked everyone. I spent many a evening shooting basketball in my back yard trying to emulate #33. The Lakers/Celtics rivalry was pretty special back in the 1980s too. ESPN did a 30 for 30 on it and it was compelling. I HATED Magic Johnson and the Lakers. Although this rivalry isn't as strong as it was back in the day, I would still enjoy taking in a game between the two winningest franchises in NBA history.
6. Watching Team USA in a World Cup Game - Two thoughts - first, I realize that many of you are scratching your head on this selection. Why would a man from the south, have a soccer game on his bucket list? If you're thinking that, just admit that you don't get it and keep reading! Second, yes, I understand that just qualifying for the Cup seems to be an issue for the red, white and blue! That said, assuming we do actually make into the World Cup again, I think it would be a really, really cool experience to cheer on our boys. The sheer excitement of this type of game would be incredible. And since it is my bucket list, I would prefer to watch this game somewhere in Europe, where the soccer atmosphere rivals (or dare I say beats) SEC football.
7. Playing a Round at Pebble Beach - I will readily admit that I am not much of a golfer. In fact, I do not even remember the last time I played. It has been a minute or two! That said, I do enjoy golf, and hope to someday play a little more. When I do, high on my list is visiting this course. I have watched various tournaments on TV that have been held there for years and think the beauty is amazing. Those amazing ocean views and holes would have to be better in person! Who is ready to hit the links?
8. Attending Wimbledon - I have long been a fan of tennis. It is really the only sport that I've ever truly had a little success in. I did fairly well in high school with tennis and I enjoy playing, although like golf, I don't play as often as I should. Much like the Masters, I am enthralled by Wimbledon for several reasons. I love the history and beauty of the sport. The playing surface is pretty cool too. This bucket list would also require traveling to another country, which is always fun too!
9. Hiking a REALLY Big Mountain - I am smart enough to realize that I want to part in trying to summit Everest! That would be a death wish! About ten years ago, Katrina and I hiked a volcano (Cotapoxi) in Ecuador. Here's the thing though, we drove up to about 12,000 feet, and then walked to a camp that was at 15,000 feet. This wasn't even the summit, but it was AMAZING. I think it would be really cool to maybe hike Mt. Fuji, McKinley, Kilamanjaro, or some other really cool mountain that wouldn't necessarily kill me.
10. Running with Bulls - I realize some of you may be scratching your head on this one. I understand that this is not a traditional sporting event as well. That said, I think this would be really fun. It has several things that attract me to it. First, there is an element of danger to it. That always makes things a little more interesting. There is also the travel factor. Who doesn't want to travel to Spain!!!
There you have it. My personal 10 items that make up my "Bucket List" I am hoping to check these things off before my time on earth is done! What are yours.