Monday, 21 December 2015

2015 A Sporting Year - part one

With no more sport planned for 2015 this is a brief insight to a year of watching live sport. Firstly the numbers in regards to games and events watched...

48 - Football
9 - Basketball
8 - Rugby Union
3 - American Football and Horse Racing
2 - Ice Hockey and Rugby League
1 - Baseball

71 - Total

A trip of a lifetime to the United States in September saw my wife Angela and I spend five nights in both New York City and Chicago. As well as doing all the usual tourist stuff which included visiting the One World Observatory and Empire State Building, we watched three sporting events - two in NYC and one in Chicago.

The only football game of the trip fell on our arrival day (September 19th) in NYC, as New York City FC had a home game against the San Jose Sharks in the MLS @ Yankee Stadium. Tickets were sorted for us by NY based sports nut and all round top bloke Gary Herman for $25 apiece. After we checked in at our hotel (the Leon) on the edge of Chinatown, we had a few hours rest before catching the 'D' train from Grand Street direct to Yankee Stadium. The journey took around thirty five minutes and we met Gary outside of McDonalds. As expected Yankee Stadium is impressive with no expense spared in its construction. NYC FC had a few stalls selling merchandise and I purchased a pin badge for $10 and a beanie hat for $16, though a sales tax was added afterwards - this is common place in New York. It was interesting to see how a football pitch would be placed in the confines of a baseball stadium, and our seats were behind one of the goals. There was enough leg room and every seat had a cup holder - something British stadium should take note of. 

left to right - Angela, myself and Gary
The first half was a shocker even though NYC had Frank Lampard, David Villa and Andrea Pirlo in their starting line-up, and it was no surprise after the opening forty five minutes that there was no score. No food was purchased at the stadium, but at half time I purchased a large soft drink for around $7, though it came in a souvenir cup. The second half was a lot better with NYC racing into a three goal lead, but they nearly blew it as the Sharks got two goals back. 

With the game ended we said our goodbyes to Gary who headed home to Astoria, and ourselves back to Grand Street and our hotel for some much needed sleep. We would then meet up with Gary again in a couple of weeks with him visiting England for the NFL @ Wembley and the Rugby World Cup.

Our second sporting event of the holiday came just two days later (Monday 21st) at one of the most iconic venues in the world - Madison Square Garden. The New York Rangers NHL team had their opening pre-season game against local rivals the New Jersey Devils. Despite not being a huge (Ice) Hockey fan a chance to watch sport at MSG was too good an opportunity to turn down. Gary came up trumps again with the tickets, and he secured two at $50 each from a season ticket holding friend of his. The security at the venue was tight, and I had to empty my rucksack before being allowed to enter - this was not helped as Ange had dragged me around Macy's department store for several hours buying plenty of clothes in the process!!! Also no food or drink was allowed inside the venue - we bought a bottle of water and a bag of crips for around $6. 

seat view
The seats we had were quite high up and at times I did struggle to follow what was going on on the ice. The large video screen in the centre of the arena helped with this. The game saw the Rangers overcome their rivals 6-3, with all three periods being evenly spread in terms of goals.

the iconic sign at the main entrance
The final sporting event of the trip was in Chicago on Friday 25th September, a day after we arrived in the city after an internal flight from La Guardia, to watch the Chicago Cubs play the Pittsburgh Pirates in a National League Central Division encounter at Wrigley Field. MLB released the 2015 fixtures at the back end of 2014, and after consulting firstly Michigan based Paul Swaney (founder of Stadium Journey), and then latterly Gary (Herman) in regards to getting advice on where to sit etc etc, I purchased two tickets on the secondary market back in May through Stub Hub for the front row of section 420 for $50 each. With the game starting at 1.20pm and our hotel only a mile walk from Wrigley Field I also decided that we should do the stadium tour in the morning before the game. This cost $25 each and the only downside was that we could not visit every part of the stadium - despite this it was enjoyable and the guide gave us an insight to the history of the stadium and the team. 

entrance to the bleachers section

After the tour ended we had a walk round the stadium taking photographs and then did some shopping spending the around $160 from one of their official stores. Also opposite the stadium are two sports stores selling more Cubs gear and souvenirs. A few more items were purchased taking the spend to over $200. With time on our side we decided to walk back to our hotel to drop the bags off before heading back to the stadium. Wrigley Field is easy to navigate around as unless you are in the bleachers at the other end of the stadium, everyone enters at one point with the tickets being scanned and bags checked. From there you can walk around the whole concourse, even if your seat is on a different level and regardless of what section you are sitting in - something that is not allowed in any stadium in the UK. The different sections are clearly marked and we found our seats easily - again like @ Yankee Stadium there was enough leg room and every seat had a cup holder. 
seat view

The game was a tight one with a swirling wind around Wrigley not helping the batters and was a pitchers afternoon. Very few hits were had from either side and come the bottom of the ninth the Pirates were 3-1 up. The noise then cranked up as the Cubs pulled one run back, and despite having runners on two of the three bases they could not get home and the Pirates held on for the win. Both teams though made it to the post-season and the Cubs would get their revenge by beating the Pirates 4-0 in the wild card game. 

Baseball is one sport I never thought I could get into, but once I knew we were going I started learning about the terminology and rules as well as the Cubs themselves. Also it helped that BT Sport show a lot of baseball on their ESPN channel and I watched as much as I could, including several Cubs games. Now I will admit to being a fan not only of baseball but the Cubs themselves

An excellent time was had in both cities and we got lucky with the weather as well. Temperatures hit 27 degrees Celsius on several days and the only day it rained was our last of the holiday. We both agree that we would love to go back one day to both NYC and Chicago, though whether this materialises is another matter!!!

Photo links:

New York City
New York City FC
Chicago Cubs

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