Going to the Big Game

“Take me out to the ball game, Take me out with the crowd.”
— Jack Norworth, 1908

We have just lived through another Super Bowl. At the end of this week we will see the start of another sports and television extravaganza, the 2014 Winter Olympics. For anyone who follows a sport, these blockbuster events can be very appealing. Imagine being there, watching the world’s best in person! And yet in the run-up for each event we hear reports about concerns over cost and readiness of the venues, the huge numbers of spectators who will attend, and security – always security. Can it really be that much fun to attend these events?

It seems to me that the answer to that question lies in your answer to another question: What is it that you want from the experience? Do you want the ball game or the crowd?

If you want to be able to see the most compelling parts of THE event (a championship game) or of many events (Olympics) for a reasonable cost, then spending your money on a large high-definition television set would be the best idea. This way you can see replays of key moves, and see an edited and condensed broadcast of the moments “not to be missed.” When games are happening on the other side of the world, you do lose the suspense of seeing in real time who actually wins the challenge. You might read about the outcome before you can watch it during prime time. But you can enjoy the television set for years after the big event.

On the other hand, if what you really want is the experience of being in the milieu of that event, there is no substitute for being there. What does it sound and feel like to be in the stadium of a FIFA World Cup championship? What was the weather like on that day when (name your athlete) ran faster than he had ever run before? Just how big a deal is it for a city/region to host a world-class Game? Though the color commentators try to fill in the context of big sporting events, their chatter and selected pictures just are not the human experience.

Recently refurbished Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro will be the site of the FIFA World Cup final this year.  Photo by Alessandro Pires de Souza

Recently refurbished Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro will be the site of the FIFA World Cup final this year.
Photo by Alessandro Pires de Souza

Attending a world-class sporting event is expensive and should be coordinated with professional planners that do this sort of thing all the time. They will know what your package should include and see that you have it. The law of supply and demand (tweaked by hype) drives up the prices of tickets to the events AND the cost of commodities such as housing and transportation. The timeline of decisions for who will be appearing in such events often adds to the cost because no one knows until relatively late which teams might be playing. Even though we know there will be a US team in many Olympic events, the actual team member decisions for all but the front runners are made much later than I would have expected; family members who always follow Jennifer’s races will not know until just a few weeks before the event whether she will be going. But if you want to see the contest rather than root for a particular contestant, you can start planning as soon as the dates and venue are announced.

Horses finish a muddy race at Churchill Downs. Photo by Alexey Stiop

Horses finish a muddy race at Churchill Downs.
Photo by Alexey Stiop

For full disclosure I must confess that I am not much of a sports fan. The only event I follow is the Kentucky Derby – which lasts all of two minutes. Even though Churchill Downs offers a full afternoon of races on the first Saturday of May, the only one I would really want to see is late in the afternoon. Tailgating with the college crowd in the infield holds no attraction for me. Dressing to the nines, with a hat that might be judged to have more personality than I do, is not my idea of fun. I greatly prefer watching the horses walk to the post from the comfort of my own living room. I have made mint juleps in quantity and enjoyed the race in the select company of two dozen friends (not tens of thousands). The network even re-plays the entire race for me within a few minutes of the running. I don’t need more than that.

Clients who went to the Rose Bowl parade and game this January (because they have always wanted to do that) report that it was fun and worth doing once. What events have you been to, and how did it suit you? Or what have you always wanted to attend? Why haven’t you done it yet? Will you let me help when you do decide to go?

P.S. – In searching for pictures to illustrate this week’s post I was reminded of the excellent film Invictus starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon. This tells the story of Nelson Mandela using a traditionally white sport to unify his segregated country. It puts world-class sports into a whole new category of importance. I recommend it!

Boundaries divide. Travel unites.

6 February 2014

About Travel Unites

A travel agent since 1994, I want people to get together for greater understanding across boundaries.
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