How to upgrade your in-game experience
Splash image: Oriole Park at Camden Yards/Flickr
It is essential to have a plan when it comes to the in-game sports experience. Fortunately, I can serve as a very capable guide: as a Baltimore native and fan of the sport, I have been to over 30 Major League Baseball stadiums (yes, that includes erstwhile parks like Olympic Stadium in Montreal and the Kingdome in Seattle) and 28 NFL venues.
Frankly, the NBA and NHL experiences pale in comparison to attending MLB and NFL games. Football stands alone from a novelty standpoint, considering there are only eight home games per season for every team, and a guarantee that it will be loud, rowdy, and probably full of booze. Baseball takes a deeper appreciation of your surroundings, just in case you don't have the attention span to watch every pitch over nine full innings.
The prettiest parks aren't always in the most prestigious cities
No, it isn't always New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles that offer up the best places to watch a game. In baseball, many of the gems are in cities you wouldn't put at the top of your travel list. Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland are proof positive that nice ballparks aren't reserved for the ultimate tourist destinations. Camden Yards and PNC Park in particular are magnificent stadium, arguably the top two in baseball, with San Francisco's AT&T Park a close third. In football, the classic arenas are in Kansas City and frigid Green Bay.
Hydrate (but not too much!)
You've always got to drink plenty of water, especially if it's a hot summer day at a baseball game, but don't overdo it. This is very important in places like Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo, where the whole Bills' stadium already has the wafting aroma of an unclean bathroom. Using the loo means a horde of people standing around a trough, which isn't an experience for the faint of heart – or sober folks, for that matter. Stadium facilities are never pleasant, but crowded football arenas are especially uncomfortable. So if you can avoid pushing your bladder to the limit, take the necessary precautions.
See the stadium from every angle
If you don't plan to tailgate – and in baseball you don't really have the option – try and see what the stadium looks like from the outside, and get a panoramic view. If you take Rogers Centre, you know that the building looks quite exotic while walking up Blue Jays Way with those strange-looking, raised gold statues and the giant facade of the Renaissance Downtown Toronto. However, along Bremner Boulevard, the view is more basic, with a massive stairwell underneath a bevy of life-sized player banners. Getting a feel for how the stadium fits within the city is fulfilling, especially if you don't plan to visit again.
Take quality photos (with a real camera)
Sure, selfies of you and your bestie with a portion of the field in the background are great. But if you happen to have an actual camera and not just your cell phone, use it to take photos of the finest parts of the stadium or of game-action shots. If you are the nostalgic type like myself, these will feel very retro and valuable down the road when you're leafing through them.
If you want to stay invested, keep score
There isn't really a traditional way to do this in football, but it's okay to be the bookworm type keeping a scorecard at a baseball game. For starters, it can help you learn a little more about the game if you're not already an expert. It can also keep your attention span, which is admittedly quite difficult during pitching changes, mound visits, and stoppages of play for grounds crew maintenance. Plus, a filled-out scorecard makes for a great memento down the road.