In 1980, I was covering the Philadelphia Phillies for a newspaper in Allentown, Pa., when, in early August, I left to take a job at the now defunct Baltimore News-American. So I missed that team's memorable run to the 1980 championship. After a short time in Baltimore I left to become the baseball beat writer for the now defunct Philadelphia Bulletin -- I've worked for four newspapers and three of them are now dead; I hope there's no connection -- but never covered that 1981 team because I took a job at SI. So though I've come closer, I've never covered the granddaddy of America's professional sports pastimes.
2 of 16Al Tielemans/SI, Bob Rosato/SI (inset)
My Favorite Team In The Super Bowl
By some stroke of luck I got to attend the Super Bowl XL in 2006 as a "photo assistant" (meaning that I had to hand rolls of film to Walter Iooss Jr., who sat next to me, every several minutes). It was the Steelers versus the Seahawks. Ho hum. No complaints about the seats, which fell along the railing, front and center, of one end zone -- alas not the one where Ben Roethlisberger or Hines Ward scored. But I just couldn't get psyched about the sixth-seeded Steelers against the boooring Seahawks. And at halftime: The Rolling Stones. If I had to choose, I'd say I'm more of a Beatles guy, actually. Now, in a perfect world I'd have landed such a sweet seating assignment at a game involving the Bears (my favorite team) with a halftime by Prince (my favorite artist). Alas, there I was in 2006, one year early, yawning through Super Bowl XL. (Note: In Super Bowl XLI, the Indianapolis Colts defeated the Chicago Bears 29-17. Prince performed at halftime.)
3 of 16Bob Martin/SI
The French Open
I love tennis, but I've never covered it at the professional level. Why not start at a Grand Slam in my favorite city? I know the red clay at Roland Garros poses a grueling test for the world's best players, but it also provides what I consider one of the most pleasingly vivid visual backdrops in sports. Plus, it's late spring in Paris, there's tennis until 9 p.m. From what I hear, even the rain delays have their pluses, given all the nearby cafes one can cram into for cafés and sandwiches au jambon.
4 of 16Heinz Kluetmeier/SI
The British Open
Bone weary of a manicured lawn and you-da-man/in-the-hole galleries, and distinctly unmoved by the self-consciousness of Augusta, I yearn for golf au natural. A little rain. A lot of wind. Gore-Tex instead of Spandex. Bump and runs. Fescue up to Anthony Kim's belt buckle. Nirvana.
5 of 16Jim Rogash/Getty Images
I was once a good runner. Not Olympic/NCAA good, but better-than-most-road racers good. I ran 32:50 for 10K and 50:59 for 15K and several times tried training for a marathon, but on each occasion got injured. This was 25 years ago. Now I have arthritis in one knee and can't run much, so I ride a bike. I have covered many Boston Marathons, but never ran it. I wish I had. I wish I had just sucked it up, qualified, and run it once relatively slowly, even in the years long after my prime.
6 of 16Grant Halverson/Getty Images, Doug Benc/Getty Images
In the magazine I've described Duke and North Carolina in basketball as "the one rivalry all other rivalries secretly wish to be." But I don't stand by that comment quite as stoutly as I would if I'd seen the Tigers play the Tide, a feud I've been curious about ever since spotting my first AVOID THE RUSH -- HATE AUBURN EARLY bumper sticker.
7 of 16Tony Triolo/SI
I don't remember my first brush with Wimbledon, but my mom does. I was 3 years old in the summer of 1975 when Arthur Ashe defeated Jimmy Connors in the men's final, a moment that she celebrated by picking me up, holding me in front of the television and telling me, "He looks like you! He looks like you!" This was my mom's way of telling me that anything in life was possible -- that I, too, could grow up and do anything I wanted. She was right. I wonder what it would be like to sit at Centre Court and see the grass and watch Federer, Nadal and the Williams sisters. I'm sure I would think about Arthur Ashe. I'm sure my mom would, too.
8 of 16Al Tielemans/SI, Simon Bruty/SI
One Day, Two NFL Playoff Games
NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson had the ultimate "Man's Day" -- his term -- a few years back when he was on the sidelines for both the AFC and NFC championship games. (A bottle of Grey Goose also was involved.)
9 of 16Damian Strohmeyer/SI
The College World Series
I have never been to Omaha, but I imagine a baseball utopia smack in the heartland where for two weeks every June teams from the South and West Coast gather to eat grade-A steak and settle the one major college championship that is still relatively pure. I watch at least half-a-dozen games on television every year, and for some reason, it seems like the sun is always shining, the crowd is always tanned and the ninth inning goes on forever. Where else do aces who are future first-round draft picks beg their coaches for the chance to throw 100 pitches one day, another 100 two days later, and then close a game two days after that? Only in Omaha.
10 of 16AP
Mavericks, in Half Moon Bay, Calif., a half-hour south of San Francisco is one of the best large-size surf breaks in the world. As I can barely stand on two feet of warm Atlantic mush, the idea of surfing one of the most radical waves in all of wavedom is thrilling, and fantastical. I also think it would be an effective way to deal with one of my phobias: fear of death.
11 of 16Al Tielemans/SI
Short Season Rookie League Games
Not sure where, but in places like Billings, Mont., and Casper, Wyo., with the sun setting over the left-field fence, with purple mountains majesty above thy fruited plain. Preferably with a local microbrew in my right hand.
12 of 16Damien Meyer/Getty Images
Dakar Road Rally
I really wanted to do this when it was run on the purist Paris-Dakar route -- the ultimate marriage of wine and dust -- but instability in Africa the last few years has led the looniest road race on the planet to be cancelled or moved to South America. I'm willing to wait for its return, though; half the fun is the idea of running the tripwire between the West and the Mideast, between Christendom and the Muslim world, in a race run at spine-cracking, death-defying, or not, speed. It's an absolutely absurd construct, if you think about it, which is the point. Allez!
13 of 16David E. Klutho/SI
Stanley Cup Finals, Game Seven
Hockey, like baseball, is a game of anticipation. Except there's not much anticipation factor during a Vancouver-Columbus game in January. Ah, but the Stanley Cup playoffs are different. Every game is vital. Every rush up the ice you can feel the excitement swell. This is the time, this is the play something could actually happen! Maybe even a goal! Hockey fans are small in numbers, relative to other sports, but they may well be the most passionate. A Stanley Cup final in Detroit or Montreal or Boston, well, the atmosphere must be electric. With or without the octopi.
14 of 16Jon SooHoo/SI
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 game in L.A., helping baseball's Mozart compose another symphony.
15 of 16AP
The Palio Di Siena
When it comes to watching livestock race through the streets of an ancient European city, this turf writer remains partial to the 90-second spectacle of the Palio di Siena. Twice a year, every July and August, the cobblestones of this Tuscan hill town's Piazza del Campo are covered with a thick layer of dirt, and its stone walls are layered with mattresses, so that 10 mixed-breed horses and their saddleless riders can compete for the honor of their respective Contrade (districts). Known to the locals as simply Il Palio, the race was first run in 1656 to celebrate an apparition of the Virgin Mary. I'm not going to pretend that I totally get the whole extravaganza. A good many of the thousands who crowd the Piazza seem just a teensy bit overwrought about a race run merely for district bragging rights. And the event itself isn't without a moderate amount of equine-on-human mayhem. But the Palio's peculiarities make me think that the only way to truly understand it is to experience one for myself.
16 of 16Jon Brenneis/SI
Play In The Crosby Clambake
I grew up in the area and have attended the tournament since I was a kid, spellbound by the beauty of Pebble Beach and intoxicated by the commingling of golf and entertainment royalty. A 49ers fan is never going to get inside the huddle but every year 150 or so regular guys -- albeit well-connected and usually filthy rich -- get to tee it up alongside various PGA Tour stars in front of big crowds and a national TV audience. Someday I hope to be one the lucky few, with two simple goals: make the Sunday pro-am cut and not humiliate myself in front of the world.
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