15 Sports Fan Once-in-a-Lifetime Experiences

Nick Dimengo@@itsnickdimengoFeatured ColumnistApril 3, 2015

15 Sports Fan Once-in-a-Lifetime Experiences

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Let's face it, there are a lot of good things about being a sports fan.

    Between the heartbreaking losses by your favorite teams and the depressing news of a superstar splitting town for greener pastures, one of the best things about being a sports nut is actually experiencing events live.

    Whether it's just a regular season game or a championship bout between two prize fighters—looking at you Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao—these are once-in-a-lifetime sports fan experiences.

Catching a Game-Winning or Milestone Home Run Ball

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    When you're one of several thousands of fans in the stands, leaving with a souvenir that you caught is pretty rare and absolutely awesome.

    Foul balls happen hundreds of times during a baseball game, with each fan hoping that they are in a section where they get the opportunity to snag one for themselves and have a story for their buddies.

    If it happens, it's not only exhilarating but also a moment when you can brag about how you were able to snag it right out of the air with your bare hands.

    But, if you're one of those lucky enough to fight off the other hands grabbing for a game-winning or a milestone homer—like Christian Lopez did by catching Derek Jeter's 3,000th career hit and home run—the opportunities following are forever life-changing.

Being in the Infield at the Kentucky Derby

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Mint Juleps, "My Old Kentucky Home" and lots of roses are just a few things that make the Kentucky Derby one of the best places to see a sporting event each and every year.

    It doesn't hurt that it's the first of the Triple Crown races either, with the winner having a shot at achieving a feat that hasn't been done since Affirmed did in 1978.

    Oh, and it's pretty fun that guys get to dress in their best seersucker suits while ladies slip on their most fashionable hats, too, making the Derby something that you won't remember—but you won't forget.

    And while it would be amazing to sit in a suite with the sharks and whales who are betting big bucks, there's just something about being in the infield with thousands of drunk and rabid horse racing fans on the first Saturday in May, forgetting about rules for a day and just letting loose.

Touring Fenway Park

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    Elise Amendola/Associated Press

    It's the oldest stadium in the United States used for any of the four major sports, with a tradition that is unmatched by others. So, why wouldn't you want to treat yourself to a Fenway Park tour?

    Built in 1912, Fenway has had moments of happiness and heartache, with Hall of Famers like Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and Roger Clemens playing in the shadow of the "Green Monster."  

    From standing on the field to going to the bowels of stadium, you'll get a chance to see where players hang out before they take the field—so remember to bring your camera and post pictures all over social media because seeing all of the nooks and crannies of Fenway is something that you'll want to brag to friends about.

Going to Your First Victory Parade

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    As someone who has lived in Seattle for the past two years, one of my biggest regrets was the day of the Seattle Seahawks' Super Bowl parade—I couldn't make it downtown to see it live.

    Sure, I'm a converted Hawks fan since moving to the city—give me a break, I grew up in Cleveland—so it wasn't the same feeling as if one of my Northeastern Ohio teams had won a title, but still, it should have been an incredible day.

    Drinking, celebrating and staying on cloud nine with thousands of other big fans, the entire city ditches work or school to take part—as they should.

    Trust me, if it's one thing we should all know as fans, a championship isn't something that should be taken for granted, with no guarantee that we'll ever witness another before we bite the big one.

    For that reason, if your team wins a title, live it up as you should without apologies—or you'll regret it, like I still do.

Throwing out the First Pitch

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    Look, if you asked me how to actually be selected as the fan to throw out the first pitch prior to a baseball game, I would stare at you as if you were speaking a different language. If I knew, I would have done it a handful of times in my lifetime by now.

    Still, that doesn't mean you can't be the fan who shows off their arm to the rest of the people in the stands.

    Even with the fear of landing on a list of the most miserable first pitches ever, any fan should hope they're lucky enough to do something that warrants them the first toss from the mound—just make sure to get that arm loose, should it ever happen.

Attending a League Draft

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    Jason DeCrow/Associated Press

    There might be some sports fans who would rather post up on their couch to watch kids who are instant millionaires once their names are called in a draft, but I'm not one of them.

    While attending a league draft might not be as exciting as going to a game itself, the experience is one that is pretty dope, with the future stars of the league all under one roof and the fan reactions priceless.

    Seeing as how fans look forward to drafts each year months in advance, physically going to one is something that would be both entertaining and memorable.

Visiting the Little League World Series

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    There's just nothing like the innocence of playing baseball as a kid.

    Unlike the pressure that pro ballplayers have to stay in shape and win, youngsters are just out there having fun, hoping to win and avoid any injury.

    For those who want to see that joy, there isn't a better spot than at Howard J. Lamade Stadium in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, each summer for the Little League World Series. The joy on the faces of the players—even following a loss—reminds us all what is right about sports.

    Hosting the event since 1959—with an additional stadium built in 2001—Lamade regularly meets its 45,000-seat capacity anytime these young teens are on the diamond, playing with passion and zero expectations, rather than for a massive paycheck.

    Maybe even cooler, some of the kids on the field could end up in the majors some day, giving you a chance to look back and remember when you first saw them.

Watching the Indy 500 from the Stands

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    I'm not one to sit and watch an entire IndyCar race from my couch, but when I'm there watching it live from the stands? You better believe I'm not passing that up.

    And what better place than seeing the Indy 500 from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during Memorial Weekend to experience the best the sport has to offer?

    Honestly, there might not be anything more American than this—wearing a cut-off tee and drinking Bud heavy with your friends, listening to the roar from the engines of cars going over 200 mph and feeling the thrills with each turn keeping you on the edge of your seat, assuming you even sat down in the first place.

    Do it, live it, love it—just to say you have.

Seeing the Round Robin of the World Cup

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    There have been plenty of incredible moments in every single sport, but seriously, is there anything that sends chills down your spine like the World Cup?

    Actually, don't answer that because there isn't.

    Known as the beautiful game for its grace and simplicity, the 32 best soccer nations come together every four years to compete to become the champion of the world. Citizens in each country stop what they're doing to tune in for 90-plus minutes each match.

    Now, imagine planning a two-weeklong trip to watch your favorite team play in each of its three matches during group play, traveling through the host country and living the entire experience alongside the team.

    With edge-of-your-seat drama and anxiousness to see if the team will advance, it might not be a relaxing vacation, but it's certainly a fan's dream come true.

Watching Baseball's Midnight Sun Game

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    With no professional sports teams and the perception of being cold and gray, you might wonder how a baseball game in Alaska would make my list, right?

    Well, since 1906, Fairbanks has celebrated the Summer Solstice on June 21 each year with one of the coolest traditions in sports: the Midnight Sun Baseball Game. The game starts at 10:30 in the evening, takes an intermission at midnight and typically, goes past two in the morning.

    With the sun out for 24 hours straight that day, the game has never been called due to darkness and has never used artificial light, making this a baseball game that's pretty unique.

Participating in the Running of the Bulls

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    Hosted in Pamplona, Spain, for over 150 years, the Running of the Bulls is the most thrill-seeking event on this list, turning any regular Joe into a speedy athlete in the hope they don't get crushed by a two-ton beast.

    While running 903 yards might not appear to be too tough, the distance is a lot farther than you would want it to be when there are multiple wild bulls chasing you.

    With multiple injuries and even deaths from the event over the years, anyone taking part in this event better have their PF Flyers on to avoid a trip to the hospital.

    It may be crazy, but it's something that would be amazing to do—as long as you walk away unscathed.

Attending Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    For years, sports fans—not just boxing ones—have been anticipating a bout between the two best fighters on the planet right now, Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao.

    Finally, rather than talk the talk, the two decided this year that May 2 would be the date when fans will be treated to the hottest ticket in town. Ringside seats are reportedly going for as much as $87,000—seats that will be occupied by celebs who can drop the coin for a spot that close.

    Any prize fight might seem like an incredible event to attend, but this is one of those historic bouts that will go down as one of the greatest in the sport.

    You may not be close to ringside, but scoring a ticket to this will be worth it, as it's the most talked about fight since the Mike Tyson-Evander Holyfield rematch in 1997.

Playing a Round at Augusta National Golf Club

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    Augusta National Golf Club is one of the most pristine and historic golf courses on the planet—and it also happens to be one of the most exclusive—so good luck getting a round in.

    Unless you know someone who happens to be a member and they like you enough to invite you as a guest, there's no chance at teeing up on the same course where the Masters is played every year.

    For that reason, if there's even the sliver of a chance to bring your clubs and play a round, do it. Take pictures and imagine all of the past champions of the green jacket because you'll be on their hallowed ground.

Attending the Olympic Games

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    Ben Curtis/Associated Press

    Every four years, sports fans focus on one thing: the Olympics.

    Now, just take a second and think about what it would be like to drop the remote, get yourself off the couch and actually be there in person to take in the festivities.

    Yeah, it would be pretty cool.

    Not only is it the opportunity to experience another country's culture but watching the best athletes in the world compete against one another makes it that much better—even if you can "only" score tickets to smaller events, outside of basketball or track and field events.

    How often are you going to actually plan such a thorough trip? Oh, probably never. That's why it should be something to knock off a sports fan bucket list and take in the entire experience.

Attending Any Championship Game

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    I could sit here and give you different reasons why going to the Super Bowl is amazing...or the NCAA National Championship Game...or any of the semifinal or final games in the College Football Playoff. But, why would I discriminate against any title game?

    No matter what the sport is, every fan should experience what it's like to be in the stands while the confetti falls down onto the players who just won a title, embracing the moment and sharing it with fellow fans around them.

    Matching up the two best teams, championship games always have a little extra adrenaline from everyone—players, fans and yes, even coaches—with the tension from each enough to pop the top off the venue.

    There's a certain buzz in the air, as if it's the first day of summer vacation and no one knows what kind of craziness and drama lie ahead.


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