Monday August 10th, 2009

1. Dodger Stadium broadcast booth

The legends now broadcast from the booth in the sky: Mel Allen and Red Barber came and went long before my time; Harry Kalas recently passed and Ernie Harwell has long retired. Only Vin Scully remains, a lyrical constant between Jackie Robinson and Manny Ramirez. Others will rank exotic sports destinations at the top of their bucket list but my top pick involves working for a night. I'd like to serve as Scully's stat man for a night game in L.A., helping baseball's Mozart compose another symphony.

2. Permian High (Texas) School football game

My high school Friday nights mainly consisted of driving down Hempstead Turnpike in Long Island, zigzagging through an endless series of would-be Joey Buttafucos. What I missed is the kind of atmosphere author Buzz Bissinger examined in Friday Night Lights, his seminal look at Mojo Pride and what high school football meant to a Texas community. I'd prefer tickets to the Midland or Odessa game, but I'm not picky.

3. Wimbledon

Many moons ago, as a wayward 20-something with a Lonely Planet guide and a Eurorail pass, I made it to the All-England Club. One problem: It was March. I could only sample the museum (nice towels!) and vow to one day return as a ticketholder. Ivan Lendl may have never conquered Wimbledon, but I will make it to tennis' grandest stage before the change-over into the next life.

4. SEC football

I've sat in the Big House, the Rose and Cotton Bowls, but never have I experienced the Iron Bowl, The Battle for the Golden Egg or The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. If you pin me down to one SEC locale, give me the Grove at Ole Miss. You'll find me sitting under a free magnolia tree sampling the black-eyed pea corn bread and fried chicken. The women in sundresses won't hurt the cause either.

5. Duke-North Carolina at Cameron Indoor

It lacks the bloodthirstiness of Celtic-Rangers, but it's the best American sporting rivalry outside of Michigan-Ohio State. "Detestable people," UNC grad and former Esquire editor Will Blythe once called Dukies. I need to judge for myself, preferably among the Cameron Crazies.

My Favorite: The the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

It was my second of four Olympics and my first Summer Games. Along with the general madness of Athens, an intoxicating mix of history and sophistication, the Games marked the scene of the greatest sporting event I've ever witnessed: Standing outside an outdoor café on a tiny street in the Plaka, the oldest part of Athens, I quickly realized I was the lone American among 300 Greeks. All were glued to a 15-foot TV screen watching Greek tennis player Eleni Daniilidou, who played the entire final set against Magdalena Maleeva, of Bulgaria, with a torn thigh muscle. Daniilidou collapsed on the court twice, tears welling in her eyes, before somehow pulling out the victory. Upon winning, Daniilidou collapsed again, the crowd screamed, and I drank frappes free for the rest of the night.

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