Turns out it is an exhibition not a competition

When I started this journey to hit all FBS stadiums, it was a bet. It wasn’t even my idea. It was a couple of old lunch time buddies who included me, even though I had already moved to another office halfway across the country. It was a race between two teams of two guys to see who could get to them all first. It didn’t take long for the other team to basically give up. However, I was having so much fun, I figured I might as well make a run to hit them all myself.

That was about ten years ago and since then, I have learned that I am not alone. First, there was Pat Yarber, who I saw on an ESPN segment way back in 2013. He was just about to finish visiting all the stadiums which was 125 at the time. It was bittersweet as the poor guy had gone legally blind in the process. Kudos to him for finishing it up despite that challenge.

Since then, I would come across folks that were doing similar type things like hitting all the MLB stadiums, which was pretty common. There were others though. Like my colleague Jimmie James who hit all of Golf Digest’s top 100 courses in a year or another friend of mine who was hitting all the national parks. As I visit stadiums, it wouldn’t be uncommon to meet folks that were trying to get to all of a certain conference, often times following their local team. I met my buddy and Penn State alum Drew at the PSU vs Illinois game a few years back as he was working on his list. And occasionally, I would be at the second half of a double header weekend and see someone from an earlier game that weekend. As an example, I saw two guys at the USC game noon game, then on the metro over to Pasadena for UCLA game that night, then at a restaurant, and finally in the stands at the Rose Bowl.

This year, however, any thoughts of me being unique on this quest were completely eliminated. First, at another double header weekend, a guy game over to our tailgate at UTEP wearing the same shirt as me. He looked at my banner listing my teams and he said he had just come from New Mexico State. He was doing the same thing (and apparently collecting t-shirts like me) and his number was at 53. It made me feel pretty good that I was comfortably ahead of him at 94.  That confidence was short lived when multiple friends sent me articles on two other guys in the mix. One was done. Clark Humble hit all the stadiums in just over five years. To be fair he was retired, but I had to admit his effort was exceptional. I also found out about Frank Lipchick, who was very close to finishing up his quest. He was at 124 stadiums. As Frank is a Yinzer and I am a CMU grad, I felt compelled to get ahold of him.

It shouldn’t be a surprise, but we had a lot in common, from how we scheduled games to the experiences we have had. Frank has been retired for some time, but he is also a Pitt fan. As is such, he is committed to going to every home Pitt game and had to work his games around that constraint. Frank told me that he should be able to get all his games in this year, including JMU who is jumping to the FBS a year earlier than planned. The other teams he has left are Wyoming, Texas Tech, Florida State, Georgia, San Diego State and North Texas. I actually have both Wyoming and Texas Tech on my schedule this year as well, but it doesn’t look like we will be at the same games.

Frank told me that some times his wife joins him for the games and some times he is alone. He prefers to buy his tickets direct from the school, but has bought them from scalpers and online as well. And just like me, he’s always happy to get hooked with the occasional free ticket. Some of his favorite games include Louisiana Tech, where he got to sit in the Press Box. Oddly enough, I, too, was able to sit in the press box at La Tech when I was there. I attribute this to the considerable kindness of Louisiana fans, and not perhaps a lack of qualified writers to fill the press box on any given Saturday. Some his other favorite game memories include attending the grand opening of Baylor’s McLane Stadium and a raucous game at LSU where everything came together in mix of football and fandom. He, of course, has had the occasional dud like a cold and rainy game at Liberty. I can relate, having had my share wet and cold games, and near the Blue Ridge Mountains too. And like me, Frank doesn’t just collect memories but also souvenirs, his being shot glasses. In the end, though, we both agree it is really about the memories.

See you in the cheap seats,

Tree

2021 Year in Review

2021 is in the books. After the train wreck that was 2020, it was great to get back at it. I hit nine stadiums, but one, Texas A&M, was a repeat. I have to be honest, I don’t think I wore a mask at any game this year. It’s not that I am against mask wearing, but I was vaccinated and boosted. Plus, we were outside although it was pretty close quarters for a few of the games. I figured the occasional shot of whiskey at a tailgate would give the Corona a good run for its money. At the end of the day, I apologize to the immunocompromised (which is about 3% of the population) but as for the rest of the unvaccinated, eh. Honestly though, the impact of the virus was fairly muted until late in the season. It was not an issue anywhere I went.

I opened the season with a scintillating double header for Labor Day weekend. First stop was Ohio State at Minnesota for a rare Thursday Big 10 game. Before that though, was a stop at the state fair where I ate and drank too much. I also spent fifteen minutes on local Minneapolis sports radio at the fair. My buddy Doug joined me for the game where the Gophers hung with the Buckeyes until late in the 4th quarter. It was a great way to kick off the season. Friday was a travel day to Madison where we ended our evening looking over Lake Mendota and enjoying pitchers of Spotted Cow with our great friends Karen and Dan. Madison has a reputation as a great college town and it did not disappoint. Camp Randall was a great experience. The only downer was that Penn State pulled out the victory with an game ending end zone interception. Jump around indeed.

 

 

The following weekend was a short run up to College Station to see Texas A&M roll over New Mexico. This was more a practice tailgating run to make sure I worked out all the kinks than about the game. Luckily, I had Aggie Super Fan Kurt with me to refresh my memory of the A&M traditions of which there are many. This prep work paid dividends as the tailgating at OU the next week went off without a hitch. The game was a great one and again came down to the wire. The Sooners kicked a field goal as time expired to win it. Despite our planning, Que, another frequent somanystadiums participant, and I agreed that we botched the weekend timeline. We were both impressed with Oklahoma City enough that we regretted not arriving Friday night.

After the mad rush of games, a three weekend break wasn’t just welcomed, it was needed, especially because the next weekend was South Florida at SMU for the annual Nine O’clock Club get-together. While we weren’t willing to fork out a grand to get a tailgate spot on the Boulevard, we made the best of the weekend, partying with old and new friends. Speaking of new friends, as is the Wisconsin way, when Dane learned we were heading to ASU later in the season, he provided an immediate tailgating connection with the Sun Devils. We met Rocky and his tailgating crew in a prime spot right in front of Sun Devil Stadium. He filled us up with great food and drink and added in a ticket to boot. We had a great time watching the Sun Devils rout the Stanford Cardinal. The next day, perhaps a bit later than planned, we headed on down to Tucson to see UCLA thump Arizona. We probably didn’t give the Wildcats their full due, but it’s not like their reputation warranted it.

About a month later, I wrapped up the season with a surprise double header. I say surprise because when I scheduled a trip to El Paso to see the Miners host the Roadrunners, I knew there was also a game at New Mexico State just up the road. However, the preliminary schedule had the kickoffs only an hour apart and that wasn’t going to work. Thankfully, a red hot UTSA team made the game good enough to be switched to prime time. I was back in the double header business. Unfortunately, New Mexico State and UTEP were given the business by Utah State and UTSA respectively. What was more surprising was the level to which New Mexico exceeded expectations and UTEP did not.

 

 

 

Games and Teams

Total Games Attended: 9, up 1 from 2019

Best Team Seen: #5, Ohio State

Final AP Top Twenty-Five Teams Seen: 3  (Ohio State, Oklahoma #10, Utah State #24)

Worst Team: 1 -11 Arizona, (#4 in the Bottom 10). Also making the list: UTSA (for getting upset by North Texas State and losing a chance at a New Year’s Day bowl), South Florida and New Mexico State. I continue to excel at seeing some of the worst teams in the country.

Best Game Seen: PSU 16 – Wisconsin 10, 9/4/21. – Great finish in a great environment.

Worst Game Seen:  Texas A&M 34 – New Mexico 0 – ho-hum.

Bowl Game Teams Seen: 13 but some didn’t actual end up playing thanks to Covid.

The Players

College Award winners seen: One, Wuerffel Trophy (Community Service Leadership): Isaiah Sanders, Stanford.

All Americans: 10, with 3 being consensus.

The Stadiums (of 2020 visits)

Best Stadium: Huntington Bank Stadium – University of Minnesota, Saint Paul, Minnesota. At 50K capacity, it’s a Goldilocks stadium, just the right size for the Gophers. Makes for raucous good time.

Worst Stadium: Gerald J. Ford Stadium – Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX. Really not a bad stadium, just the worst of good bunch.

Best Game Day Experience: Camp Randall Stadium – University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin. The Badger experience is everything it is billed to be.

Easiest Stadium to Get To: Sun Devil Stadium – Arizona State University, Tempe AZ. Navigating the greater Phoenix metroplex is easy, there’s great hotels and bars right around the stadium and there’s even a public transportation option.

Hardest Stadium to Get To: The Sun Bowl – UTEP, El Paso, Tx. Unless you’re a drug running mule, hard to imagine a reason to be in El Paso.

Best Concessions: Aggie Memorial Stadium – New Mexico State, Las Cruces, NM. Hard to beat a Frito Pie and a sharp looking souvenir cup.

Worst Concessions: Arizona Stadium – University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ. Worst pretzel my wife has ever had. Enough said.

Best Souvenir: Wisconsin wins a tie-breaker over UTEP, as both had nice $9.99 T-shirts, but the Badger one was easier to get, right at the bookstore. The Miner one was a Wal-Mart special. (Note, I met another guy doing the stadium challenge, and he had bought the same UTEP shirt. We both marveled at a small school being in the Wally world supply chain)

Worst Souvenir: SMU, Everything, except for tickets, is expensive at SMU from tuition to tailgating to hats and t-shirts. Ended up buying something on ebay post trip.

Best Cup: SMU, but New Mexico State was not far behind.

Worst Cup: Oklahoma for giving out the cups from the previous week. At least they had a cup. Shame on you UTEP.

 

The Costs

Total Season Spend: $4,100 ($3,300 ex mileage) with some reduction for vacations tagged onto the back end at Minn/Wisc and the AZ trip; Ave per Game: ~$459 (ex mileage ~$363) down nearly $150.

Most Expensive Ticket: Ohio State vs Wisconsin – $69 actual (Stubhub) with a $135 face

Cheapest Ticket: Arizona State – Free! THANKS ROCKY!

Average Ticket Price Paid: $31 (up $6 over 2019)

Average Savings on Tickets over Face Value: $32 saved per ticket

Miscellaneous

Miles Driven: ~1,500  vs 2,300 in 2019

Miles Flown: ~5,640 (Minnesota / Wisconsin, Phoenix, El Paso)

Two Game Weeks: Three – Minnesota / Wisconsin, Arizona State / Arizona, New Mexico State / UTEP

Best Fans: New Mexico State. Really, just about everywhere, it was good. Maybe it’s because they don’t get a lot of visitors, but the Aggies aimed to please.

Worst Fans: UTEP. The folks I met were great but the tailgate scene in the big lots was a show.

Most Pleasant Surprise: New Mexico State. Free tailgating at New Mexico State – who does that?

Most Unpleasant Surprise: El Paso, even with a good friend guiding me around, way too many negatives. It was down hill after Chico’s.

Lesson Learned / Re-affirmed: Do your research. Absolutely should have done Friday night in Oklahoma City. Would have had good time on Friday night, saved money on the tailgate spot, and it would have been in a better location.

My Regular Season Pick Record: 31-23 Not too shabby. Bowl Games: 21-15

I am not alone:

As mentioned, I met a young guy at UTEP who was at, I think 56 stadiums. A friend then sent me a link to an article on Frank Lipchick, who’s number is 124. But, the real kicker was this guy, Clark Humble, who hit all 131 in five years. Apparently, my quest is more an exhibition rather than a competition. But with JMU, Jacksonville State and Houston State joining the fold. It’s not 131 anymore. First one to 134!

 

Gobble, Gobble!

The popular theme of Thanksgiving is that it is all about turkey and football. I mean, sure, there’s family and friends, but that’s a given for a holiday. Truth be told, the quality of the pro games on Thanksgiving is always a bit of gamble and if you aren’t a Lions or Cowboys fan, you are counting on the third game to deliver the goods. Thankfully on Friday and Saturday, the college game has far more intriguing and entertaining contests because it is Rivalry Week. The games are often much closer than they should be thanks to the familiarity of the teams and the emotions associated with the rivalries.

It does make the picking the games a bit dicey. Given last week’s results, 2-2, I am not exactly confident about this week. Last week started off well enough with Houston taking care of Memphis easily. I am glad that Cincinnati finally had a big game but not at my expense. Michigan waxed Maryland and put me ahead. UTSA came back to win in the last seconds of their game, but they just missed covering. It left me even for the weekend.

My other observations of Week 12:

  • Buckeyes had the most dominant win of the season, routing Michigan State, but all will be for naught if they lose to the Wolverines.
  • Utah – Oregon game was another one that was over at half-time. PAC-12 out of the playoff again.
  • Notre Dame will be on the outside looking in if Cincy keeps winning – Not the worst thing to happen to college football given their poor historical performance in the FBS.
  • Loved Missouri going for two and the win against Florida.
  • The Virginia Tech offense was stitched together on a wing and a prayer and they still almost came back to beat Miami. It was a very entertaining game.

I have tried to stay away from the rivalry games this week, but I couldn’t resist Ole Miss getting 2 points against Mississippi State. It was the only rivalry I went with for the weekend. Wake Forest can clinch the ACC Atlantic division with a win against Boston College. It should be incentive enough for them to cover. In a battle of possibly the two worst FBS teams in the country, I am taking New Mexico State over UMass. I saw the Aggies against Utah State and they didn’t look bad for a half. They should have enough to beat the lowly Minutemen. I am not sure why I am high on Memphis against Tulane. I am guessing because a win by the Tigers makes them bowl eligible.

Some other thoughts on a tasty weekend.

  • Ohio State vs Michigan is the game of the weekend. The way the Buckeyes dismantled the Spartans, I have to give the nod to Ohio State even if the game is in the Big House.
  • Bedlam isn’t too far behind in terms of significance, but the winner is still going to need some help given the SEC bias. I was tempted to take Oklahoma because they seem to always have the Pokes number. Again – avoid the rivalries.
  • Maybe Auburn has some magic for the Iron Bowl, but I doubt it. I think Bama’s biggest concern is avoiding any injuries.
  • Both Florida and Florida State have losing records. Given the amount of talent in that state, it is inexcusable for those teams to be that bad. Not sure their game could be any more insignificant.

That’s all I’ve got. Skip the shopping and enjoy the games this weekend.

 

Week 11 On second thought, our lot was much better

I was a little disappointed that we were in a quieter lot before the UTEP game. The tailgating was pretty chill. Turns out the other lot was nearly a riot. In hindsight, quite happy that we didn’t have to dodge flying bottles. And with that, my 2021 season is a wrap. I may still hit a couple of games before the season ends, but I don’t anticipate ticking the box. Nonetheless, it was great being back out there, mixing it up with fans all over the country. I am still have a few reviews to publish and those will come out in the following weeks. Other season traditions include my annual playoff rant, which gets kicked off later this month, and my year end summary. But, we aren’t there yet. So let’s summarize last week.

The two games I was most confident in were the ones I lost. I thought for sure Air Force had too much fire power for Army, but like I said last week, rivalry games are dicey. I am not looking forward to making those picks Thanksgiving weekend. Earlier in the season I was burned when I relied on the “Win one for the Coach” sentiment. Hence, I picked Baylor to beat a coach-less TCU which they did not. Things weren’t looking any better at halftime of the USU versus NMSU game. Utah State could not get out of their own way, and while I thought they would win, I did not see them covering. However, they roared back in the second half, getting me the win. UTSA against UTEP was not nearly as dramatic. The Roadrunners were pretty much in control from the first play. A 75 yard touchdown will do that.

Other observations from Week 10:

  • Cincinnati continues to win, just barely. To be fair, you could put ‘Bama in the same category after their sloppy win against a rudderless LSU.
  • I have been busting the Bearcats’ chops for not winning big, but they do keep winning. I have long had the contention that conference foes are tougher wins because they know your team inside and out. Notice Wake Forest falling, along with SMU dropping another game.
  • Amazing that Arizona finally got a win despite three turnovers.
  • Lastly, someone should tell UMass that you are supposed to beat the lower tier teams you schedule.

I feel good about this week’s picks so you might want to proceed with caution. I think Michigan State is going to be hungry after being upset by Purdue. It could be a bad weekend for the Terps. Virginia Tech should beat Duke, but they continue to slide. Things don’t look good for their coach Justin Fuente. I am taking Duke and the points in a bit of an emotional hedge. I know UTEP got spanked by UTSA, but they did have moments of brilliance against the Roadrunners. I think they will take care of business against the Mean Green. UL Monroe can score points in bunches, especially against a 1-8 Arkansas State.

Other notes for Week 11:

  • Cincinnati, please rout USF and don’t let the committee off the hook..
  • The worst game of the week: 1-8 New Mexico State against 8-1 Alabama. That game should not be on TV on principle alone.
  • It is about time for Michigan to choke. Lions in an upset. I have the same feeling about Oklahoma at Baylor. It’s the kind of game the Sooners lose.
  • I like Texas A&M to beat Ole’ Miss in the game of the week. I just don’t trust the Rebels, or Bears or Land Sharks – or whatever the Ole’ Miss mascot is these days.

That’s all got. Enjoy the games

Week 8 Average Slate

Yeah, let’s be honest. Week Eight doesn’t have the most intriguing slate of games. It may be the right time to refill the bank with the boss, if you know what I mean. It is fairly likely that I won’t be watching all day this Saturday. I will just check for winners on my phone. Did I mention that I went 3-1 last week? I don’t know if I am taking my picks more seriously or I am just luckier this year. In any case, it was another productive week. Only Arkansas let me down. In hindsight, their 4-0 start was a bit fraudulent. I should have known. UTEP took care of business. Texas A&M had their game in hand very early. Lastly La Monroe held up the state’s high standards by beating Liberty outright despite being a 32.5 point underdog. I have seen a lot of game in Louisiana – they have great athletes.

Some other notes from last week:

  • Beating Florida could not save LSU Coach Ed Orgeron’s job.
  • UConn not only won a game, it was televised.
  • Even though they beat Texas in a comeback, I am not sure I believe in Ok State. Feels like Gundy is the coach that always has a good team, but one that’s never good enough to win it all.
  • South Carolina stole that game from Vanderbilt
  • Late in the afternoon, I switched to Central Michigan vs Toledo. My reward? OT!
  • Don’t want to jinx my late season trip, but UTEP vs. UTSA is looking good.

This week’s picks coming soon.

 

I love the favorites this week. Correction, I like the favorites this week. I am going to ride SMU until they lose. They should certainly be able to beat a struggling 1-5 Tulane. Maryland may have the same record as Minnesota, but I think there’s a big difference in the level of competition. This is my least favorite pick of the bunch so tread lightly with your wagering. Western Michigan just scores points. I was very confident of this pick until I saw that WMU lost to Ball State, whom Toledo beat. So, this game is essentially a pick ’em. For my last pick, it is ‘Bama, as in “Roll Damn Tide.” I think Tennessee is in trouble in this one. Some other observations on a fairly pedestrian college football weekend:

  • Wake Forest is quietly 6-0. Army should be a pretty good test for the Demon Deacons.
  • Oklahoma State gets no respect. Undefeated underdogs at 4-2 Iowa State.
  • Game day is going to SoCal for Oregon versus UCLA. Hard to fault that pick this week. It may be the best game of the weekend, if not the best teams.
  • Clemson aren’t what they normally are, but it is still a big game for Pitt.
  • San Diego State is another undefeated team that will be tested this weekend, taking on a 6-1 Air Force.
  • The game to avoid. UMass at Florida State. Ugh that’s some bad football.

That’s all I got.

Tree