Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Club 122

During 2013, I saw 91 events in 88 venues in 8 countries, including Indonesia, Taiwan, and Australia. I also got married, left Asia after 16 years, and finally completed the NFL Road Trip, seeing a game in all 32 venues in a single season. It's safe to say that 2014 won't see such variety as I am now living in New York and extended road trips are no longer the best option. I can fly pretty much anywhere in North America and enjoy a weekend jaunt, or a week-long trip at most. As such, my Quest for 400 is not as meaningful as it was when I was living overseas, so I have changed it to a more general venue count (480 and growing). All of us sports travellers are about numbers in one form or another. Mike "King Cougar" Casiano saw 450 games in 2013, helped by his retirement and an insatiable appetite for live sports. He may be the King, but there are several others who attend well over 300 events each year, seeing a game nearly ever day of their adult lives.

These guys are an increasing rarity though. With HDTV taking over most homes, fewer fans are going through the hassle of driving, security, overpriced tickets and concessions, and drunken louts and I can't blame them. Only one of this past weekend's NFL wild-card games truly sold out, the other three had some help to avoid a blackout. Such situations will become more common in the future unless teams, particularly perennial losers, can find new ways to attract fans.

Although I am living in New York, I too will abstain for the most part, likely seeing a game a week at the most, as well as those when the Leafs or Blue Jays come to town. I am more interested in the travel aspect for sports fans; getting to a different city to see another venue, preferably one that has not been visited before. Even better when you can schedule a string of games in nearby towns for a true sports roadtrip. Hence the name of this blog.

One of the aspects of sports road tripping is the aforementioned venue count. Most important to many fans are the 122 stadiums in the Big 4 leagues. Many are used by more than one team, but they offer a different experience depending on who is at home and are thus counted separately. With 30 teams each in the NHL, MLB, and NBA and 32 clubs in the NFL, the total number is 122. With the completion of my NFL Road Trip, I realized that I was very close to seeing a game in all 122. When I originally wrote this, I had only Boston and Carolina in the NHL, and Boston, Chicago, New Orleans, and Orlando in the NBA remaining. Now I'm down to one venue, the Amway Center, which I will visit for the Raptors at Magic game on March 30th. After that, I will be a member of Club 122.

Club 122 is a new term that was created by some fellow stadium travellers to credit those who have seen a game in every active venue. It would be nice to see it enter the vernacular so I am doing my part here with this post. The rules are simple. You must see a regular season or playoff game in each venue (and stay until the game is decided at least) to become a member of Club 122. When a venue closes down, you must visit the new stadium to keep your membership current. Which means I will be back to San Francisco and Minnesota during the 2014 NFL season.

I know of four friends who have done this, and I am sure there are hundreds of other sports fans who have accomplished the same feat without using the term or publicizing their effort. It is not difficult to achieve this, you just need time, money, and an understanding wife should you be married. But it is a lot of fun to plan for as you wait for schedules to be released, and it keeps you moving about the country, meeting new friends in the process. If you are a sports road tripper, consider starting your own journey towards Club 122, and let's try to get sports travel to be a more recognized element of fandom.


There is a similar club in England called The 92 Club which entails watching a football match in all stadiums comprising the top four divisions in English football. My goal is to get Club 122 the same sort of recognition here in North America as it is quite a bit tougher in terms of the number of venues and distance required.



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