By Doug Halberstadt
Even the average fan knows there is a huge difference between attending a live event or game versus sitting at home or in a bar watching the same thing on television. There are pluses and minuses for both, and they vary depending on the sport and whether it’s a professional game or an amateur contest.
I’ve been to professional football, baseball, basketball and hockey games. I’ve attended NASCAR races and, most recently, I spent an afternoon in the Quad Cities taking in a PGA Tour event. As a spectator, the best of these had to be the golf tournament followed closely by the NASCAR race. I think that’s because I got the VIP treatment at both of those outings.
When I’ve gone to basketball, football, baseball and hockey games, I passed through the gates with my paid admission ticket and sat in my assigned seat among the tens of thousands of other commoners. It’s certainly fun and worth the experience, but it truly pales in comparison to the times I’ve been given the royal treatment.
It was in the spring of 2000 that I went to a NASCAR race at the Bristol Motor Speedway. Thanks to some pre-race arrangements made by my brother, I was able to procure a VIP pit pass and access to the infield.
I found myself standing among the stars and cars of the sport. I could walk right up to the cars of Mark Martin, Dale Jarrett, Rusty Wallace and Jeff Gordon, just to name a few. Throughout the day, I ran into Joe Gibbs, A.J. Foyt, Lee Greenwood and a host of other big-name celebrities who were wearing the exact same pass that I had around my neck. That was a race I’ll never forget.
I had a somewhat similar experience last Saturday, July 9, when I received a Championship Club pass to attend the third round of the PGA John Deere Classic in the Quad Cities. This special pass allowed me entrance into an exclusive luxury tent that was set up and located directly across from the water hazard on the 18th green.
For some unknown reason, there weren’t very many other people in the Championship Club Saturday. The tent was easily set up for at least 100 people. I counted eight other people besides the group I was with.
It was as if we had set up our own private tent at the best possible spot on the course.
We had a bartender and waitress at our disposal. The food and beverages were complimentary, served on tables covered in white linens. In addition to the culinary comforts, our seats were shaded and right next to the finishing green on moving day as some of the sport’s finest putted less than 20 yards away.
I highly recommend attending sporting events live if you have the opportunity. There is no better way to truly take part in the color and pageantry a live sporting event offers. Very few things are as exciting as sitting in a full stadium or arena with thousands of other like-minded fans cheering your favorite team to a victory. On the other hand, the phrase “misery loves company” never rings truer than when your team loses and you, and all of those around you, suddenly realize you’re still at a built-in party.
I will always contend that if you are more interested in actually watching and paying close attention to all the details of the game, you are better off at home sitting in front of your television. There, you have access to replays and multiple television camera angles of every play. That’s not normally the case at a live game. Some other benefits of watching at home are the ability to control the thermostat, menu and the concession prices.
But for the ultimate sports experience, I suggest trying to secure some type of VIP pass or hook up with one of the event’s major sponsors and spend the day or evening being treated like a fat cat. It truly does change the entire meaning of “taking in a game.”
From the July 13-19, 2011 issue