Nearly a decade ago, I posted a list of the top 10 sporting events I’ve attended in-person. When discussing potential topics for an upcoming appearance on the Hustle and Pro podcast with Kelly Walker, we talked about updating it and revealing the new list on the show.
It was a fun exercise, adding in some of the great games and events I’ve experienced in the time since the original one was made. We enjoyed it so much that one episode turned into two! Kelly normally goes about 30 minutes each week, and we were already at that mark by the time we finished number six.
2015 CFP CHAMPIONSHIP (2014 postseason)
Oregon Ducks vs. Ohio State Buckeyes
AT&T Stadium – Arlington, Texas
Oregon faced Ohio State in the first championship game in the new four-team playoff format for the FBS. And it’s in Arlington, where my grandfather (Dr. Bernie Mycoskie) had been for 70 years since graduating from OHIO STATE.
I was going to go with my dad and my brothers, regardless of the teams. But a couple of days after Ohio State clinched a spot, I heard from my cousin Blake. He had the idea to bring all of my aunts, uncles, and cousins back to Arlington so everyone could go to the game with Grandpa.
By this age, he couldn’t see at all. So all of the cousins took turns sitting next to him, changing out every quarter if not more often. While I’ve called play-by-play for some big audiences, getting to do it for an audience of one that night was more special than any game I’ll ever call for ESPN.
Grandpa died a couple of years ago. The game ended up being one of the last big family get-togethers.
2017 WOMEN’S BASKETBALL FINAL FOUR
Mississippi State Bulldogs vs. UConn Huskies
American Airlines Center – Dallas, TX
The Bulldogs got out to a 16-point lead, only to see Huskies storm back. Mississippi State needed Morgan William to hit a jumper at the buzzer to capture the win and end UConn’s 111-game win streak.
I was photo marshall the basket next to UConn’s bench, so I was on the opposite baseline of William’s miracle shot.
Two nights later, South Carolina beat Mississippi State to capture the national title.
1995 MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL ALL-STAR GAME
The Ballpark in Arlington – Arlington, Texas
I had the ultimate summer job for a baseball-loving kid, working as a bat boy during the 1995 and 1996 seasons in the Texas Rangers’ visiting clubhouse.
There were a lot of awesome memories from that summer, but this topped them all. While it was incredible to be on the field during the midsummer classic, it was everything behind the scenes that made it especially great for me.
I showed up at the stadium hours before I had to that day. Where else would I want to be? As it turned out, the other bat boys and clubhouse attendants felt the same. We were all playing cars in the locker room, then Tony Gwynn walks in and says something to the effect of: “I was getting bored in my hotel room. I thought I’d come on in and BS with the bat boys.”
Just us and one of the greatest hitters of all-time, hanging out in the clubhouse. The game was secondary after that.
We’ve already mentioned Grandpa Mycoskie. He was there, of course. But my Granddad Sansing also made the trip up from San Antonio for the game. He and my mom sat on the home run porch in right field, where she snapped this long distance picture of me standing next to Greg Maddux during the national anthem.
2020 NHL WINTER CLASSIC
Nashville Predators vs. Dallas Stars
Cotton Bowl – Dallas, Texas
This only event on this list with my son Austin (so far).
I took a gamble. He was three-years-old and I knew he could meltdown at any minute. It’d be cold, loud, crowded at Fair Park. But I knew this would probably the only time we’d have a Winter Classic in Dallas and I wanted to share it with him.
We were having a great time walking around the fairgrounds and then just sitting in our seats and watching the pre-game festivities. It was perfect. That is, until the national anthem. LOUD fireworks went off very close to us. At that moment, he squeezed me hard and said in the sweetest little voice: “I’m ready to go home now!” The game hadn’t started yet!
Thankfully, he calmed down and lasted until the end of the first period. We went for a little walk around the stadium, hoping he’d get a second wind and want to see more. Didn’t happen.
So, we hopped back on the DART train and headed towards home. We didn’t see the Stars’ goals or get to celebrate the victory over Nashville. But it was still an awesome day.
And he talked about it for weeks. I’m already looking forward to our next big event together. I may wait a few more years before attempting something on this large of a scale again, though.
SUPER BOWL XXVII
Buffalo Bills vs. Dallas Cowboys
Rose Bowl – Pasadena, California
With the Cowboys not having made the Super Bowl since after the 1977 season, my dad said “they may not make it for another 15 or 20 years, so we better go this time.”
After winning the NFC championship, he found tickets, grabbed a hotel room in Fullerton, and booked roundtrip airfare to LAX. Everything about the game was larger than life, including the NFL Experience theme park outside the stadium, the halftime show (featuring Michael Jackson pre-pedophilia accusations), and the Cowboys’ blowout victory.
After the game, we headed back to LAX for the red-eye to DFW. At the time, I was writing a weekly column for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s “Class Acts” section, so I took care of that on the flight. We drove straight from the airport to Shackelford Junior High (yes, my dad made me go to school), where I wore my new Super Bowl sweatshirt and was the envy of every kid there.
GAMES OF THE XXVI OLYMPIAD
It is impossible to narrow the Olympic experience down to just one of the events. In fact, I don’t really remember any event in particular as being more spectacular than the others, but we took in a lot of great stuff.
Every event was part of a ticket lottery, and we got very lucky, getting to go to several Dream Team basketball games, some swimming and diving, plus a lot of sports we had never seen before.
One of those was field hockey between India and Pakistan. It is the national game of those countries, who are always on the brink of war, which made it especially interesting and kinda scary to be there.
We also visited Centennial Park a lot and were there just hours before the bombing. It was surreal waking up in the middle of the night and seeing the breaking news, then going to the events the next morning with everything under extra security.
2019 ARMY-NAVY GAME
Lincoln Financial Field – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
This was a bucket list item for my dad, my brothers, and me. We talked about going for years, but never made the effort needed to actually make it happen.
Finally, my dad just decided to stop talking about it.
He texted us, without asking if we had the date free and said “I GOT THE TICKETS – WE’RE GOING!”
It lived up to the billing. This is something every American should attend. From the moment we arrived in Philadelphia, it was clear how much the event means to the city.
We got into the stadium very early so we could see the march on. Every cadet and midshipman enters the field, covering it by the time it’s over. It’s a breathtaking sight.
Navy sang second after its 31-7 win.
NOLAN RYAN’S 7TH NO-HITTER
Toronto Blue Jays vs. Texas Rangers
Arlington Stadium – Arlington, Texas
This was the shortest experience of anything on this list.
This game was not scheduled for TV, but it was very rare that we did not keep up with a Rangers game in our house growing up. We had this one on the radio, and when it got to the end of the 7th inning, and Nolan still had the no-no going, my dad yelled “let’s go!”
We got in the car and sped to Arlington Stadium, listening to the radio as we drove, fully ready to turn around if Toronto got a hit. We got to the park, found a parking spot, and ran into the stadium in time for the 9th inning (nobody was guarding the entrances – everyone must have gone inside to see history).
We watched the final three outs, jumped and screamed as Nolan finished off the Blue Jays, and then sprinted back to the car and headed home.
Knowing what we know now about McGwire’s PED use (and the fact that the record was broken again just a couple of years later), some devalue this event. But nothing could change the excitement of those days for me.
I was going back and forth from Columbia to St. Louis every day, seeing something amazing. I’d like to think I am usually pretty neutral, and able to contain my emotions when I’m part of the working media, but I couldn’t help but have a huge smile on my face in the press box after each one of these homers.
Following the post-game press conference after number 62, I headed back to my car and turned on KMOX, where I heard the legendary Jack Buck say it was the most exciting sporting event he had ever witnessed. Having barely started my career, I thought it was all downhill from there.
2010 WORLD SERIES – GAME 3
San Francisco Giants vs. Texas Rangers
The Ballpark in Arlington – Arlington, Texas
My grandfather was the original team doctor for the Rangers in 1972 and was succeeded by my dad and uncle in 1985.
The team was a huge part of my life, and for so many years, the Rangers were just plain horrible. Still, that didn’t keep us from loving this ballclub. My dad, mom, brothers and I went to spring training every year, and up to 60 games a summer.
To see them finally reach the World Series was almost hard to believe. No matter what, I knew I had to get to Arlington to see the first game.
Everything about it was incredible, but the best part was experiencing it with my grandpa and dad. I don’t know anything could have lessened the experience, but the Rangers winning that night elevated it to an even higher level.