DURHAM, N.C. — Every Sunday something brings families
together across the country. Religion? Maybe, in a way. Instead, it is football
that has such a pull.
Football is just a segment of the bigger picture: Sports is
a religion that spans the globe.
Like any religion, die-hard sports fans have their own
destinations for pilgrimage, and it may seem strange, but those sanctuaries are
This may seem like a bit of a stretch, but imagine pulling
into church one Sunday morning to find out you will be worshipping in the
Cingular Sanctuary at Associated Bank Presbyterian Church.
"Blasphemy!" you probably would rightly say. Well, for
followers of the religion of sport that is exactly what has happened in the past
Nowadays, clubs sell off naming rights to their stadiums to
the highest bidder and those names typically — because of corporate bankruptcy,
merger or lease expiration — change about as often as Britney Spears plays with
her children, that is to say, about once a year.
But amid all that strife, the shrines of sport, the arenas
known by one word — Lambeau, Fenway and Wrigley — have managed to stay above
the fray and out of the name game.
It's not just the absence of a .com or airline name that
makes those signature stadiums rise above others and stand the test of time,
however. These places aren't always the most comfortable of spots to take in a
game, and most don't have the modern-day amenities that brand-new, sterile
When you walk into those stadiums, however, you know you are
walking into someplace truly special — a
historic site that, for sports fans, ranks right up there with the Supreme
Court or the national Capitol building. The first time I walked through the
tunnel and saw Lambeau Field in all its splendor, it was an awesome moment. I
felt honored to be there. Same for the other stadiums.
Head up to cheer on the Packers at Lambeau, and you had
better be ready to be squeezed on a bench with no seatback for four quarters
with thousands of new friends. It's a tight fit at the beginning of the season
when it’s warm, but once the Tundra freezes and the winter attire comes out,
you end up shifting your shoulders sideways and sucking in your stomach to get
everybody on the bench.
Not the most comfortable way to watch a game, but when you
end up next to a woman in her 60s who attended the Ice Bowl and sat in the very
same seat, it gives you an amazing appreciation for the moment and venue you
have the opportunity to watch a game in.
In a case like Fenway, there's the Green Monster standing
sentinel over the leftfielders — the very same Green Monster that Carlton Fisk
waved his home run over to win Game 6 of the 1977 World Series in extra innings
and Manny Ramirez held up a game to take care of some personal business in.
Go to a game at Fenway and your seat is tight, your legs
cramped and the concourses don't especially scream sterile. Sitting in the
first row of the right field corner, close enough to reach out and touch the
Pesky Pole, you can, for a moment, see Ted Williams rounding the bases as he
homers in his final at-bat ever.
Sure, you might run the risk of having a large chunk of
concrete fall on you (Wrigley), but it is tough to top taking in an afternoon
baseball game sitting behind the very same ivy that Babe Ruth hit his called
Walking into Cameron Indoor Stadium on the Duke University
campus is no different. Fittingly, when you approach the fabled arena, it looks
more like a church than any sort of athletic complex at all, with high arches
and stained-glass windows decorating the outside.
Inside, it is more of the same. The seating bowl looks like
a scene straight out of "Hoosiers," with high school-style wooden benches ringing
But once the ball is tipped, the atmosphere is simply
So if you are a sports fan — if you are reading this, you
likely are — make every effort to make pilgrimages to the few sports
sanctuaries left. You won't regret it.
Ben is a junior majoring in political science and
journalism. Interested in joining him on a pilgrimage to Yankee Stadium before
the park is shut down? E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.