'A to Z' of the Toughest Places to Play in Sports
"There's no place like home."
Admit it, we all kind of hated sleepovers when we were growing up anyway. There was something special about being on your home turf, on familiar grounds. Your own house was always so much more comfortable than being away.
There's so many elements that play into climbing Everest to earn that sought-after victory. Some that a team can prepare for—diligent practicing, sharp-eyed coaching, well-researched player signings, and thoroughly scouting opponents can all aid in reaching sporting immortality.
Problem is, it's not that simple.
For everything you can ready yourself for, there's always those unforeseen factors—sudden injuries, bad referee/umpire calls, turned momentum or just simple sour luck can send a great team to hit the golf course in the offseason earlier than expected.
With so many elements out of a team's control, every attempt to secure even the slightest of advantages is taken. For many teams, custom-tailored million-dollar homes, specifically designed to give an upper hand, is just what the doctor ordered.
Exuberant crowds, jackhammer-on-a-city-street worthy noise levels, harsh weather conditions, and a unique geographical setting can work as a positive advantage for one team, and spell T-R-O-U-B-L-E for their unfortunate visiting opponent.
I now present a humorously closer look at some of the sporting world's most notorious and tough venues to perform...in A to Z form.
There's no place like home? You can bet Dorothy never had these places in mind.
Air Ball: Sports Authority Field at Mile High
Tenant: Denver Broncos
Location: Denver, Colorado
Intimidating because: If you can't breathe, there aren't many touchdowns to follow. The thin air at Denver's mile-high location is notoriously difficult for visiting teams to play in at full steam.
But...if pudgy Eric Cartman can breathe okay in Colorado, professional athletes really have no excuse.
Big Apple Bravado: Yankee Stadium
"I still get goose pimples walking inside it. Now I think it is about the prettiest ball park I ever saw." - Mickey Mantle (on the old Yankee Stadium)
Tenant: New York Yankees
Location: The Bronx, New York
Intimidating because: Everything in New York is high-profile and intense. If you're an opposing team, the hardened Bronx crowd is going to welcome you in their own special way. If you're a under-performing member of the Yankees squad, they'll let you know even louder.
But...there's a good chance Yankees radio voice John Sterling will botch a call, so you may just end up backing into a victory by accident.
Crammed College Capacity: Ohio Stadium
Tenant: THE Ohio State University Buckeyes
Location: Columbus, Ohio
Intimidating because: When a nervous college kid has a boisterous sea of over 100,000 diehard red-shirts cheering against them, already shaky nerves can become fried, faster than a carnival corndog.
But...one of those opposing fans is this guy. Still scared?
Deafening: La Bombonera
Tenant: Boca Juniors
Location: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Intimidating because: A spectacle that can only be experienced first-hand. The atmosphere inside this building has been referred to as a "pressure cooker."
Passionate soccer fans cheer at the top of their lungs and set off blue and gold fireworks to the soundtrack of blaring trumpets and rhythmic war-beat drums. Not a walk in the park by any means.
But...ahh, child's play! We all know this blue-and-gold fan is really the one to fear.
Ear Shattering: Arrowhead Stadium
Tenant: Kansas City Chiefs
Location: Kansas City, Missouri
Intimidating because: Old, classic stadium packed to the gills with ravenous pigskin fans cranking the decibel level to jet-liner proportions. The ultimate in home-field advantage.
But...there's a smell of delicious tailgate barbecue wafting in the air. Even if you lose, you win.
Frozen Fighters: Bell Centre
Tenant: Montreal Canadiens
Location: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Intimidating because: Notice how you can't see the fans in the top section? Those 24 Stanley Cup Championship banners are blocking them.
But...the last time the Habs hoisted up the Cup, the Spin Doctors were one of the most popular bands on the radio, Joey Buttafuoco was a household name and Steve Urkel was still relevant. Yes, that long ago.
Garden of Beatin': Eden Gardens
Tenant: Bengal Cricket Team/Kolkata Knight Riders
Location: Kolkata, India
Intimidating because: The '60s and '70s brought rioting to the venue, and in 1980, 16 football spectators died in a stampede. This old stadium's history is thick with crowd disturbance and tragedy.
But...look how effective the cricket bat was for self-defense in Shaun of the Dead. You'll be peachy.
Home Advantage: Estadio Centenario
Tenant: Uruguayan National Football Team
Location: Montevideo, Uruguay
Intimidating because: The Uruguayan National Team is a force to be reckoned with when playing at home. They've even held powerhouse Brazil to only three victories in 20 games inside the walls of the building.
But...Rod Stewart once played a concert there. Can you really justify losing on the same grounds that "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy" was sung on?
Intimidating: Ali Sami Yen Stadium
"Nobody can make me believe that there are only 25,000 people in this stadium." - Paolo Maldini, from UEFA.com
Tenant: Galatasaray SK
Location: Istanbul, Turkey
Intimidating because: Psychological pressure applied from rabid fans include torches, smoke, drums, flags and banners to intimidate opponents. No wonder the stadium was ominously nicknamed "Hell."
But...Ali Sami Yen Stadium is sadly no more. A newly constructed stadium, Türk Telekom Arena, with double the capacity, is now home to Galatasaray SK's games and all of your horrific soccer-crowd dreams.
Judd Power: Rupp Arena
Tenant: University of Kentucky Wildcats Basketball
Location: Lexington, Kentucky
Intimidating because: UK's successful history, lineage of great players and coaches and screaming student body all packed into the largest basketball arena in the nation all account for many sleepless nights for visiting teams.
But...talented freshmen only stay for one season before leaving Calipari-ville and going pro. You can just get 'em next year.
Kick It!: Estadio Azteca
Tenant: Mexico National Football Team/Club América
Location: Mexico City, Mexico
Intimidating because: Fifth largest stadium in the world..most popular sport in the world...do the math.
But...look at the size of that inflatable soccer ball in the photo—piece of cake to score!
Leading Links: Augusta National Golf Club
Tenant: Privately owned, host of The Masters Tournament
Location: Augusta, Georgia
Capacity: 35,000/day (est.)
Intimidating because: One of sports' most prestigious venues, extreme level of decorum, golf's most high-pressured stage. There may be tougher courses out there, but none that provide the pressure Augusta does.
But...Rickie Fowler and his Tropical Skittles wardrobe will draw all attention away from you, leaving time to relax and nail those fairways.
Massiveness in MI: Michigan Stadium
Tenant: University of Michigan Wolverines Football
Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan
Intimidating because: There's a good chance Eminem is one of those nearly 108,000 noisy fans inside the "Big House." If you defeat them, he may just write a diss song about you.
But...lemonade out of lemons—the more they score on you, the more you get to hear that awesome fight song.
Noise! Noise! Noise! Tiger Stadium
"Baton Rouge happens to be the worst place in the world for a visiting team. It's like being inside a drum." - Bear Bryant
Tenant: Louisiana State University Tigers Football
Location: Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Intimidating because: One of college football's perennial powerhouses, a stadium of bright colors, ear-piercing cheers and a defense who could beat the St. Louis Rams on their own. Visiting teams might be better off fighting a real tiger instead.
But...you shouldn't take it personally. The fans are really nice, they're just crabby because of heartburn from stubborn Cajun food.
Over-the-Top Sound: CenturyLink Field
Tenant: Seattle Seahawks
Location: Seattle, Washington
Intimidating because: Perfectly-placed seats aim the crowd noise to make a false-start marathon eight Sundays every fall. Add alleged piped-in sound on top of rows of disgruntled Mariners fans who need to take out their frustration on someone, and that will wreak havoc on a visiting team.
But...with these bright new Seahawks uniforms, opponents will spend too much time pointing and laughing to worry about volume.
Phearing Philly: Lincoln Financial Field
Tenant: Philadelphia Eagles
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Intimidating because: Well, it may always sunny in Philadelphia, but there's a perpetual storm brewin' in the crowd.
The "Linc" featured a jail for rowdy fans in its initial years, an idea carried over from the notorious days at Veterans Stadium.
But...if Michael Vick plays like he did in 2011, the fans will turn on him instead. Kick back, grab a cheesesteak and get out of the way of Philly fans.
Quite the Eyesore: Tropicana Field
Tenant: Tampa Bay Rays
Location: St. Petersburg, Florida
Intimidating because: Try playing in a drab domed stadium on a field that looks like it was made of the leftover velour fabric from the costume designers of "That 70's Show," and tell me it's easy to keep your concentration.
But...this season, it's Luke Scott's Wolverine-esque mutton chops that are the distraction instead of the Trop's shabby field.
Rousing Ruckus: EnergySolutions Arena
Tenant: Utah Jazz
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
Intimidating because: While jazz music may be low-key, it's a different tune for Utah Jazz fans, notoriously some of the rowdiest fans in the NBA.
But...Legally Blonde 2 was filmed there...not even the first one. No excuses for losing here, fellas.
Swampy: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
Tenant: University of Florida Gators Football
Location: Gainesville, Florida
Intimidating because: Chomp! "The Swamp" features loud crowds, uncomfortably humid weather, loyal attendance, a building built on a sinkhole and stands built that place intense Gator fans screaming right on top of visiting players. You thought Florida was just oranges and old folks, didn't you?
But...hold back the tears, Tebow's gone.
Temperature and Tom Brady Factor: Gillette Stadium
Tenant: New England Patriots
Location: Foxborough, Massachusetts
Intimidating because: Simply, the Pats don't lose much, especially in cold and difficult conditions. As long as Gisele's husband and "Mr. Gray Sweatshirt" are together, the only person who'll want to see "Gillette" less is bearded Brian Wilson.
But...if Rob Gronkowski continues his ridiculous "go everywhere shirtless" campaign into the cooler months, he may just catch cold and sit out a game. Strike while the iron's hot.
Up Close and Personal: Cameron Indoor Stadium
Tenant: Duke University Blue Devils Basketball
Location: Durham, North Carolina
Intimidating because: See that photo that looks right out of a zombie film? The mere 9,300 "Cameron Crazies" more than make up for their size, creating a a loud, energetic and electrifying atmosphere on the Duke University Campus.
But...Coach K, the epitome of class, will keep these devils on their best behavior.
Vocal Fans: Fenway Park
“When we lose Fenway, we lose the sense that somebody sat here and watched Ted Williams hit.” - Bob Costas, from Boston.com
Tenant: Boston Red Sox
Location: Boston, Massachusetts
Intimidating because: A century-old ballpark, accents right out of Good Will Hunting and a diehard city who use the word "Sawx" like it's their job.
But...don't worry too much, Dennis Drinkwater and Jeremy Kapstein have all the good seats anyway. Plus, when the eighth inning rolls around and we all start singing "Sweet Caroline," arms around one another, we're all good buddies.
Windy City Warriors: Soldier Field
Tenant: Chicago Bears
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Intimating because: Cold, brutal, smash-mouth NFC North football in a stadium of relatively small capacity and excessive crowd noise. Hope your games in Soldier Field are scheduled for September—it only gets tougher as nasty Mother Nature brings on the Chicago chill.
But...these guys won't be there. Bummer.
X-Tra Hot: Rangers Ballpark in Arlington
Tenant: Texas Rangers
Location: Arlington, Texas
Intimidating because: Well, first off you're facing the ferocious Texas Rangers bats. Unless they give Hamilton, Napoli, Kinsler, Beltre, Andrus, Young and Cruz all the night off, you're in hot water.
More importantly, Texas summer temperatures can skyrocket close to a brutally uncomfortable 110 degrees, causing a nightmare for all players, both home and away.
But...Nolan Ryan doesn't want to hear your whining. Big baby.
You Can't Hear Anything!: Neyland Stadium
Tenant: University of Tennessee Volunteers Football
Location: Knoxville, Tennessee
Intimidating because: While your taste buds will love the tailgating, your ear drums won't love the game's noise level. The cherry on top? The Vols have never lost more than four games in a row at Neyland.
But...there's an added bonus of playing a human game of checkers on the end zone. Well, if you score, of course.
Zero Temperature: Lambeau Field
Tenant: Green Bay Packers
Location: Green Bay, Wisconsin
Intimidating because: While Lambeau Field is one of sports' most historic and heralded venues, the name "The Frozen Tundra" doesn't sound so comfortable for opposing players or fans stuck to their icy seats.
As the season progresses, the blowing snow kicks in, the mercury drops like Justin Bieber's puberty-stricken voice and the cheese freeze becomes a force to be reckoned with.
But...wow, it's June, and that looks freezing.