What was once only a dream became reality for college football fans Sept. 10 when Tennessee faced Virginia Tech at Bristol Motor Speedway. The enormity of the event was as much about the location as it was the competition, with fans flocking from all across the country to see both.
(This is where I do that terribly clichéd sports radio thing and say, "It got me thinking about" in order to segue into some crazy, hypothetical idea, or ideas, about local sports venues and/or teams that could likely never happen, but I figured we should talk about anyway because if they can play football at a NASCAR track, then is any idea really all that insane? I just wanted to prepare you for what's to come.)
The game at Bristol got me thinking about some ideas I've had for similar "larger than life" events that could involve some local teams or local sports venues. Admittedly, some of them are out there. But keep in mind, they just played college football at a speedway.
1. I'd really like to see a soccer match at Camden Yards. Or really anything else at all.
It's tough to admit jealousy toward Red Sox and Yankees fans, but I can't help but admit it when it comes to this. The new Yankee Stadium has hosted college football games (including a future game between Maryland and Rutgers), NHL games and is a regular location for soccer matches, including all of New York City Football Club's home games.
Not only has Fenway Park hosted college football (including last year's Boston College-Notre Dame game) and soccer, but this past winter it channeled something completely different by hosting a "Big Air" event for snowboarding and freeskiing.
At Camden Yards, we've had baseball and ... well ... once upon a time, the Pope. I realize there are practical hoops to jump through as far as facilities are concerned to make these things happen. Protecting the field is a concern, and field dimensions have to be just right. But this is one of the finest ballparks in history we're talking about. How quickly would you jump at the chance to see a Maryland or Navy football game there? Or a U.S. women's national team soccer match? Or ... anything at all?
2. This is cheating, because it wouldn't be here, but now that Arthur Ashe Stadium has a roof, wouldn't that be a cool place for Maryland basketball to play as they reach out to recruits in New York?
Maryland men's basketball head coach Mark Turgeon and the Terps have made New York a priority, likely for recruiting and marketing reasons. Including their trip this coming Thanksgiving weekend for the Barclays Classic, the team has played at least one game there in four of the last five seasons -- they were scheduled to play the other year as well, but ultimately backed out of a date against Villanova at Madison Square Garden.
Arthur Ashe Stadium has actually hosted basketball before -- the tennis stadium was the site of the first outdoor pro basketball game in 2008 when the WNBA's New York Liberty hosted the Indiana Fever. But with the roof officially opening during this year's U.S. Open, a Maryland-Villanova (or Kentucky, or UConn, or insert big-name opponent here) game could be scheduled to be played outdoors with the option to close the roof should weather not permit. I'm already booking my train ticket now.
3. OK, one more crazy concept. What if they played lacrosse at Pimlico in the spring?
It would be difficult to coordinate the date around the racing schedule and Preakness, but hear me out. Inside Lacrosse previously hosted stadium events featuring major programs from the area and all across the country. What if, in late April, someone brought back the concept but tried it at Old Hilltop?
They'd need to bring in temporary stands, although they'd be able to use some of the box seating currently at the facility. Perhaps some fans who didn't feel the need to get to the stadium events would be more compelled by a chance to see the sport played somewhere they've never seen it before? I mean, it couldn't rip apart the infield any more than 80,000 drunks will come the third weekend of May.
Again, these are crazy, ridiculous concepts. But so was playing college football at a racetrack and that turned out to be incredible. So when they announce the Crab Kickoff Classic at Camden Yards in 2022, I hope to receive at least a mention in the credits for having the stupid idea.
Issue 225: September 2016