Sunday, October 24, 2021

Wake Forest Demon Deacons 70 at Army Black Knights 56 (NCAA Football) - October 23, 2021

One of the most iconic college football stadiums is just 50 miles from New York City but not an easy place to visit. That would be Michie Stadium, home of Army West Point football. With only six home games per season, there are limited opportunities that sync with my schedule and are compelling match-ups. I finally found a game that was quite intriguing, as #15 Wake Forest was visiting on the weekend before Hallowe'en. I planned to take the Short Line bus from Port Authority to the West Point Visitor Center (it runs once each way on weekends in perfect conjunction with the football game's noon start), but when my buddy Eddie offered to drive, I accepted. He picked me up early Saturday and we drove through the Hudson Valley, arriving at the traffic jam on US-9W around 10 am.

The big problem with attending an Army football game is that there is limited access to West Point and when 15,000 cars descend en masse, the waiting can take a very long time. Cars jam up both lanes of the roadway as those in the left lane try to cut in at the front, slowing everybody down. The best thing to do is not buy a parking pass and enter via Washington Gate. We ended up in the wrong lane (stay in the left lane on US 9W all the way past Stony Lonesome Gate) and waited an extra 40 minutes before realizing our mistake. By the time we reached a parking lot, having to go through more waiting at Washington Gate, then more waiting to pay, then more waiting as we snaked through campus, it was just 15 minutes to kickoff. The only interesting part was that our IDs were not checked (usually, you need a form of US identification to enter the base).

I made it to the stadium just in time for kickoff, which means I missed paratroopers bringing the game ball to the field. There is also a pregame fan area along Mills Road that I did not have time to enjoy. The picture above is taken from the other side of the Lusk Reservoir after the game, with Mills Road in the foreground (you can see the Wake Forest buses waiting there).

I entered on the north side beneath the scoreboard and watched as Wake Forest scored a touchdown just 3 minutes into the game. That was a sign of things to come. Below is a shot of the west stand, which has two decks and the press box.

A view of the field from the northwest corner. As you can probably tell, it was a perfect fall football day.

Michie (pronounced Mikey, not Mi-Chi-Eh as I thought) was opened in 1924, and named for Dennis Michie, who organized and coached the first football team at West Point in 1890. He was killed in Cuba in 1898 during the Spanish–American War. In 1999, the field was named in honour of Earl "Red" Blaik, head coach from 1941 to 1958, who led Army to three straight national titles from 1944 to 1946.

Inside the east stand, there is a display that includes those national titles, Heisman winners, and other achievements, as well as their 2021 schedule. Note that 1914 and 1916 national championships are also listed here; these are not true titles as there was not a polling system back then, but are claimed as such by multiple schools.

Eddie picked up tickets while we were stuck in traffic and the seats were great, under the overhang at the 20-yard line. They were on the aisle and near the concession, so I had time to walk around during the breaks in the action. The only problem was that the scoreboard was partially blocked. Note the cadets are sitting on the left side of the stand across from us in the photo above, all wearing black.

When I went to the upper deck to snap some photos during a break, they had all taken their jackets off.

Looking at the south end zone, with the suites and a club area. There were tickets available on StubHub for the Kimsey Club, where you can enjoy a pre-game buffet. It might be weird hobnobbing with Army generals and other officials though.

A closer look reveals those three national championships as well as the three Heisman winners.

After the game, we spent some time walking around the stadium after it had mostly cleared out. Above is the east stand.

And then looking back at the west stand, with the press box high above.

There is "live" artillery on the field as well, and they are used every time Army scores and at other points during the game. Of course, there is no actual ammunition inside, but they are still very loud. At halftime, there was a competition called Knights on Target, where four paratroopers jumped from 5,000 feet and had to land standing up on a target at midfield. Two of them landed right on the target; the other two were not far off. Certainly more impressive than the typical marching band performance. 

After the game, while roaming the stadium, I found a credential that was a perfect finish to the afternoon. I had also picked up a hard ticket earlier, so together, they make a nice souvenir combination.

Overall, this was one of the most memorable stadium visits for me in a long time. I am a bit jaded with pro sports, especially after my visits to SoFi Stadium, so it was refreshing to be in a place that wasn't trying to gouge you at every turn. And the game we saw turned out to be very memorable too.

The Game

This one is impossible to recap, so let's just stick to some incredible stats. Wake Forest's drives ended like this: TD, TD, ToD, TD, TD, TD, TD, TD, TD, TD. That's nine touchdowns and one turnover on downs in 10 possessions. They also added a pick-6 to total 70 points on the afternoon. Amazingly, they only had the ball for 17:17, leading to an astounding 4.05 points per minute of possession, which has to be a record.

Army lost their starting quarterback, Christian Anderson, early, and he was replaced by two players: Tyhier Tyler, who ran the option and did not attempt a pass before he too was knocked out of the game; and Jabari Laws, who went 9 for 11 with 3 touchdown tosses of his own. Army scored five more times on the ground and finished with 56 points. The Army cheerleaders have to do pushups for the total number of points scored after every score; they totalled 252 of them by the end of the game.

Meanwhile, Demon Deacon QB Sam Hartman completed 23 of 29 for 453 yards and 5 touchdowns, and he ran the ball in for another. Wake brought their cheerleaders as well, and they were pretty tired by the end of the game I would guess.

What was so amazing about this game was the number of big plays by both teams. Just to cite two examples, the Deacons started on their own 3 and Hartman completed a 50-yard pass, shortly followed by a 41-yard touchdown heave to Jaqua Roberson. The five-play drive took just 1:19. Army's secondary was simply overmatched; on Wake's first drive of the second half, Hartman tossed a 75-yard TD to Roberson; this time the three-play drive covered 82 yards and lasted a mere 59 seconds. There was only one punt on the afternoon.

Army rushed for 416 yards, Wake just 180. Those numbers were reversed for passing: 179 to 458. It was very entertaining, though I would not call this a good game. I like to see some defense and ball control, but this matchup featured two teams who were able to exploit the other's weakness mercilessly. It was fun to watch, but I don't need to see a similar game in the near future.


After the game, you are allowed to roam West Point and you should definitely do so, if only to wait out the traffic. The shot below is from Mills Road in front of the stadium, looking across Lusk Reservoir.

With fall foliage and spectacular views of the Hudson, you should be able to spend a couple of hours wandering about.

Of course, there are other sports venues, such as Johnson Stadium at Doubleday Field, the ball diamond that includes has some cool reliefs (below). I will be back for a ball game. We also stepped onto the soccer field, which was to host a game that night. Unfortunately, the start time was 3 hours away and we could not stay that long.

There is also a lot of military history, most prominently on Trophy Point. Below is an Armstrong Gun that was captured in 1865 and has been at West Point ever since.

Most surprisingly was finding Shea Stadium, the old home of the Mets.

There is a lot more to see here but you will have to make the trip for yourself. Trust me, you will not regret it.

Next Up

I'm off to Canada for a couple of weeks to visit family for the first time in nearly two years. There will be some games in there of course, but only one new venue in Gatineau, where the Olympiques are now playing in Centre Slush Puppie. After that, college basketball season starts, and I have a trip to Atlanta to see two games in one day. Check back for recaps in a few weeks.



Saturday, October 16, 2021

Aramco Team Series New York (Ladies European Tournament) - October 15, 2021

Last week I saw an ad for a ladies golf tournament that piqued my interest because of two words: free tickets. Further research showed that the Ladies European Tour was holding four team events in four locales around the world. Sponsored by the Saudi Arabian Oil Company, the Aramco Team Series started in London in July, moved to Sotogrande, Spain in August, and was now holding the third event at Glen Oaks Club on Long Island. Just over an hour away and held from Thursday to Saturday, this was an ideal way for me to spend a few hours outside and get a new venue on my list as well.

On Friday, I took Long Island Rail Road out to Westbury and grabbed a rideshare, arriving at the course around 10:30 am, three hours after the first group had teed off. Following the sign above, I did Bring The Energy, screaming as the golfers were putting. Haha, of course I didn't; I just wanted to highlight what a stupid slogan this is for golf, the most sedate of spectator sports. 

I don't follow golf much, particularly the ladies tour, but there were some recognizable names such as world #1 and 2020 Olympic gold medalist Nelly Korda, her sister Jessica, Lexi Thompson, Anna Nordqvist, and Danielle Kang, who won the 2017 Women's PGA Championship. All were featured on posters along the roadway into the club.

The format of this tournament is unique. There are 28 captains, seeded based on the official world rankings. These captains, ordered randomly, then select a second team member in a draft. Each duo is then randomly assigned another professional from the remaining field and an amateur player. A number of nations were represented and those flags were on display outside the pro shop.

I should note that those first few pictures were taken as I was leaving the event. You actually arrive at the back side of the course and as you can see above, this was not a very popular happening in New York. Poor advertising and a weekday afternoon combined to limit attendance to perhaps 2,000 fans. There's a few below.

Upon entering, you are handed a map of the course and the tee times for each team, which was very helpful. This is because there was no scoreboard, or volunteers walking with updated scores for each group, or any information about the holes themselves such as distance or par. The only way to tell the players was through their caddies, who were wearing bibs with the player's name. Surprisingly, some of the players didn't even have caddies, so it was tough to figure out who they were.

The entrance leads to an area between the 7th green and 8th tee, and 12th green (above) and 13th tee. This was a great spot because it allowed me to see the early groups who were on the 12th, and some later groups who were on the 8th. You could rotate between the four spots to watch, so there was always something going on. That's Emily Kristine Pedersen below teeing off on the 13th. 

A few groups later, Nelly Korda was on the 12th green (putting below). Note the caddie's bib with Wikstrom, that is Ursula Wikstrom standing to the left. Remember that Korda is the number one player in the world; it is not often you can see the best in the world for free, especially from this close.

After spending an hour in that area, I wandered up to the clubhouse, where the 9th (below) and 18th greens are. There was a public viewing platform here that gave you an elevated look at the course.

This allowed me to see some of the first groups finishing up their rounds. That's Jessica Karlsson of Sweden putting on the 18th green below.

There was also a small area with food and drinks as well as a few picnic tables, but there was nothing worth purchasing. As you can tell, not a lot of fans were expected.

Many of the amateur players were older men, and I was surprised to see former NFL star and broadcaster Ahmad Rashad was one of them. He garnered more interest from the few spectators as he walked off the 18th green than any of his pro teammates. Interestingly, he was the only amateur to play without a handicap.

I then went over to the 10th tee viewing platform, which had a unique view from above the tee, as you can see below. With the clear blue sky, you could follow the tee shots all the way, something that can be troublesome on cloudy days.

I spent about three hours here, and saw perhaps half the golfers who were on the course, as well as one who was well off it (below). It was unseasonably hot and with little shade available, I decided to head home before turning into a lobster.

It was a memorable visit and one that I thoroughly enjoyed. Watching golf, time passes much more quickly than when attending other sports where you sit motionless as the action unfolds in front of you. Instead, you can wander the course and with 25 or more groups on the course, there is always something going on worth stopping for. With so few fans in attendance, it was the most relaxing event I have attended in some time. I look forward to more visits to golf in next year.


Charley Hull from England won the individual portion of the tournament, finishing at 12 under, a stroke in front of Nelly Korda. Jessica Korda's team won the team portion in a playoff that was played under the lights. 



Sunday, October 10, 2021

Las Vegas Raiders 14 at Los Angeles Chargers 28 - October 4, 2021

After watching two undefeated teams on Sunday, most of the group returned to SoFi Stadium Monday for that night's game featuring another 3-0 team, the Las Vegas Raiders, who were visiting the 2-1 Chargers. After spending the afternoon at the newly opened Academy Museum of Motion Pictures with some of the group, I arrived at the stadium with just an hour to spare. You can find free parking on the streets north of Manchester Avenue about 15 minutes walk away, but read the signs carefully. If you prefer to be closer, it will cost $70 to park at the Forum lot.

The first thing that I noticed was that the Rams logos had been replaced with those for the Chargers, which was essential because with all the Raider fans, you might have thought you were in Las Vegas.

The Chargers hashtag would have additional meaning on this night. More on that later.

I had applied for a credential for Stadium Journey, which not surprisingly had been rejected. This meant that I had to buy a ticket and boy, the Chargers were certainly charging on this night. Tickets were dynamically priced and idiots who waited like me were forced to pay through the nose to get in. In fact, it was the most I had paid to a team in my life, though of course, I had paid more on the secondary market in the past. In addition, if you recall from my previous post about the lack of ticket windows, that turned out to be a problem. Only two windows by Gate 5 were able to actually sell tickets and while morons in front of me debated their options and tried to find a credit card that would actually cover the exorbitant cost, I fumed. To make matters worse, it had begun to rain. The gentleman behind me urged these dummies to hurry up, and fellow traveler Mark, who was in line with me, started talking to him. Turns out John is a resident of Jersey City and was also there to continue his Club 123 visits. Despite all my efforts to publicize the club, there are those who are not on social media and just do their thing without broadcasting their travels whatsoever. Anyway, the idiots in front of us had finally moved on and so I bought my ticket. Do you think a hard ticket was available? Of course not. A link was sent to my phone, which took a while to download because so many people are using cellular service. There is a special place in hell for the person who invented mobile-only ticketing, which makes things harder for fans like me.

Anyway, we had no trouble getting in and followed mostly Raider fans into the stadium. I'm not going to describe the venue as I did that in detail in the previous post, but I will include a couple of pictures for comparison.

Unlike the Rams, the Chargers end zones are painted differently, so even without the midfield logo, you will know which side of the stadium you are on.

Below is one of the plaza areas on Level 6, where the 300 sections are located.

As I made my way to my seat in Section 512, I noticed that the rain had intensified. I took an escalator up to Level 8 and was shocked to see that the roof had a major leak. It was essentially pouring in this area, and the floor was very slippery. As I carefully navigated the puddles, the scoreboard suddenly went dark. Turned out that lightning had struck the stadium and caused some systems to temporarily go offline. This included the ticket scanning system, so fans were stuck outside for a few minutes. Everything came back online in a timely fashion but you still have to wonder how a stadium that cost $5.5 billion can have a leak and also not be able to handle a lightning strike.

I got to my seat only for the game to be delayed 40 minutes due to lightning in the area. There are parts of the stadium concourse that are not covered by the roof and I guess they wanted to keep fans away from there. Whatever the case, this was my first weather delay in a covered stadium.

I decided to make my way down to Level 4, where we had sat the day before. I knew I could stand behind the drink rails and as I prefer the end zone view, especially with binoculars, I spent the game here.

This was next to the Corona Beach House (below), another of the special areas that plebes like me are not going to see. Unlike the previous day's game, which saw few problems, there were many fights. In my area, I saw a lot of people ready to go to blows, only to be guided away by more sensible friends. Although most of these encounters were between fans of the two teams, I did see some Raiders fans scuffling with each other. There was an underlying tension throughout most of the game, with a few fans in my area seeming to look for any excuse to start something. Security guards were present and cops came by late in the game to escort someone out, but I didn't see any of the brawls that later appeared on the internet.

I was dressed in an inoffensive Hanshin Tigers jersey, which drew a few bemused looks but nothing else, so I was never worried about my safety. Instead, unlike these bozos who paid to yell at somebody, I actually watched the game, and it wasn't a bad one after all, at least in the second half.

The Game

The Chargers got the ball first and sophomore QB Justin Herbert immediately took the team on a 75-yard drive that took nearly seven minutes and ended with a 4-yard pass to Donald Parham. Things then got ugly, with seven punts and two turnovers on downs before the Chargers grabbed a second TD, this one on a 10-yard pass to Jared Cook. After the Raiders punted yet again, Los Angeles took up most of the rest of the half with a nine-play drive and another Herbert TD pass, this time 14 yards to running back Austin Ekeler.

It looked like a blowout, but the Raiders scored touchdowns on their first two possessions of the second half, with Derek Carr connecting with Hunter Renfrow for 10 yards and Darren Waller for 3 yards to get back within 7. After the Chargers punted, the Raiders had a chance to tie, but the drive stalled and Daniel Carlson missed a 52-yard field goal. The Chargers then marched the ball 58 yards over 10 plays, with Ekeler scoring again on an 11-yard romp. There were still over five minutes left in the game, but Carr was intercepted by Derwin James, the first non-down turnover of the game. 

Raider fans started streaming for the exit as the Chargers took the clock down to the two-minute warning before punting. I have seen crazy comebacks in the last two minutes of an NFL game, but the Raiders could not move the ball and turned it over with 1:11 to go. Herbert knelt twice to seal the victory, and the teams were tied at 3-1, leaving Arizona as the lone unbeaten club.


I saw Herbert play in Los Angeles previously, when he was a struggling freshman for Oregon taking on Sam Darnold's USC. With those two now in opposite conferences in the NFL, I predict a Charger-Carolina Super Bowl in 2024. 

I had also seen this same matchup when both franchises were located elsewhere. Just like this one, the Chargers (San Diego) doubled up the Raiders (Oakland).

Next Up

I've got a few games locally to keep busy and a trip to Ottawa is planned that should see me revisiting some old haunts, but my next big journey is to Vegas to see the Raiders in early December, followed by the Leafs in Vancouver and Seattle just before Christmas. That will complete all of my major quests, leaving just the CFL and AHL for 2022.