The Super Bowl, the World Series, and the NBA Finals. Nine words that would get almost any sports fan fired up. The three championships set the stage for the stars to shine and others watch the opportunity slip right through their hands. Each are different and unique in their own way. As a sports junkie who’s been lucky enough to attend all three, here’s what makes each one special:
Super Bowl XLIII- February 1st, 2009
Being lucky enough to go to one of the greatest Super Bowls of my generation almost seemed like destiny. As the story goes, back when I was in high school I asked my dad to attend my school’s winter sports meeting because I was trying out for the basketball team. Somehow he ended up in a different room at the fall sports meeting where they were raffling off 2 Super Bowl tickets plus $1,000 for the flight and hotel. My dad, being the avid gambler he is, bought 1 ticket for $100. That one ticket proved to be all we needed because we got a call a few weeks later that we were going to the freaking Super Bowl.
The Super Bowl was nothing short of the longest, biggest day party I will ever get the chance to go to. We were dropped off at 8am at a McDonalds a few blocks from the stadium and even that parking lot was rocking. Waves of spinning “Terrible Towels” were followed by Steeler chants with spots of Cardinal red throughout. I know the “Steelers fans travel well” narrative gets beaten to death but holy shit balls Batman, they were everywhere. We spent all day in Super Bowl city and still didn’t hit everything. There was shopping, music, food, games, autographs, and more. Yes, Super Bowl tickets are absurdly more expensive than World Series and Finals tickets but you are getting your money’s worth. We felt exhausted and the game hadn’t even started yet.
The atmosphere to a Super Bowl game is different compared to the other two major sports because there’s no home field advantage. Although the Steelers fans changed that somewhat, I felt that a lot of fans I saw were there because they loved the game of football and a Super Bowl is something most fans want to cross off their bucket list. The hype inside the stadium was also off the charts. Since it’s only one game, every first down or dropped pass resulted in the crowd erupting out of their seats.
It was a time before I had a smartphone so it was something I took in wholly and wasn’t posting on Snapchat or making sure to get a picture for Instagram (wow, I sound old). Before writing this article I went back and watched the entire game on YouTube and I wish I appreciated football as much as I do now. I was still a big football fan but far from the football fiend who didn’t miss a touchdown last year that I am today. What. A. Game. Words don’t really do it justice. The roller-coaster of emotions any and all fans experienced is almost unparalleled. It felt like the stadium was literally rocking on both Larry Fitzgerald’s late touchdown and the James Harrison pick-six.
By the time the game ended and we had filtered out of the stadium it was damn near midnight. Unlike the Finals and World Series, my dad and I logged in a 16 hour day and it was a day I’ll be forever grateful I had the opportunity to experience.
World Series- Game 2 of 2010 World Series October 28, 2010
Taking his kids to a World Series game had been a dream of my dad’s since I could remember. Although no game would match the experience he had at the 1989 World Series earthquake game, he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take us.
While there were extras to do outside the stadium before hand, it wasn’t anything compared to the Super Bowl. It felt like a pretty normal day up until the point where we left for the game. It wasn’t a whole ordeal where we spent sunup to sundown. It was the same old AT&T Park that I had grown to adore since I was a toddler. We went a few hours early and tried catching baseballs during batting practice but again, a ritual we do most regular season games.
Given the nature of the sport, the World Series was a completely different vibe than the other two major championships. During batting practice there was still a buzz throughout the stadium but it didn’t quite match the others. The excitement came in waves. The first huge wave was the rally towels right before the game started. The stadium is almost ear-splitting as thousands of towels created a sea of orange at AT&T Park. The game would then slow down for a little while and the elevated buzz would return. A great defensive play or a home run brought everyone out of their seats and once again the stadium felt like it was shaking.
There was also the fact that we finally had a horse in the race. My dad has been a Giants fan since he moved to California during the days of Willie Mays and passed on the love for the black and orange to my brother and I. Not being in a neutral stadium obviously changed the entirety of our time. We were high fiving strangers, cheersing our drinks to people who sat by us, and swapping stories with other people waiting in line for food. We were all excited because our team that we had watched all year had finally gotten the opportunity to play for a championship in our stadium. There was a sense of pride more so than excitement. “Let’s Go Giants” chants engulfed the entire stadium compared to those that would only take up a few sections at the Super Bowl. As a Giants fan I was 100 times more excited but as a sports fan I missed the excitement that every single play provided in the Super Bowl.
As the game ended, there wasn’t the same hysteria as the end of the Super Bowl either. If you don’t perform in a game in the World Series, there’s a chance you might later on in the series. If you don’t play well in a Super Bowl, that’s it, and you can feel that pressure on the players in the stands. Obviously the game would feel different in a clinching scenario but having a series made a huge difference. As we exited the stadium I could feel the passion from the win but also the realization that this thing wasn’t over.
NBA Finals- Game 1, June 1st, 2017
It’s not very often you get the chance to see one of the top 3 players in the history of their sport live and locked in. Don’t get me wrong, I was ecstatic that the Golden State Warriors were in the Finals but the sports fan in me felt truly lucky to be able to see LeBron James dominate in his playoff fashion. The guy is just unreal. When my girlfriend, who knows very little about basketball, and I went to the Warriors vs. Cavaliers game back in January, her first comment was “LeBron James is huge.” Even from the nosebleeds he looked huge. Despite being at the Super Bowl and the World Series games, I was most excited for this match-up.
Much like the World Series, the Finals didn’t have too much to do outside the stadium before hand. There were a few games, some shopping, but my friends and I skipped that and decided that we would rather watch the players warm up. As more and more fans filled up the stadium, the more the ambiance grew. Going to the first game was also somewhat unique because of all the coverage before hand. All the sports news cycles were talking about this series for over a week before it started. It added a little more flavor because it was the start of a highly anticipated series. Once the stadium went dark for player introductions, it was a non-stop party.
Everyone hardly sat down the entire game. The fast pace of basketball had us yelling for a made 3-pointer then for a great defensive play to another transition basket. The cheering was almost constant. I had pretty much lost my voice by the time the 3rd quarter rolled around. Being indoors made it seem like the stadium was going to explode with all the noise.
What took this game to a whole other level was the rivalry. The teams I watched in the Super Bowl and World Series didn’t have much history but the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers did and it was evident as soon as LeBron James stepped onto the court. I don’t think I’ve ever heard one single player be booed harder than James. Any mistake he made the crowd jumped on him. Of course, a few plays later he would drive to the rim or hit a 3 and the crowd would grown. There was a definite difference of attitude than I felt at the World Series. Where us Giants fans were proud protect our home field, the Warriors fans wanted to rub the game in the Cavaliers faces given what happened in the past.
Again like the World Series, there wasn’t much afterwards aside from some fireworks and fans celebrating. No matter how confident I was, I however wasn’t going to celebrate anything early when my team is playing James. The game was opposite of the Super Bowl as it felt like it went by in a blur and before we knew it we were back on the subway chanting along with all the other fans.