Tuesday, July 7, 2009


In about a week, Major League Baseball will host its 80th All-Star Game at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, where the game’s biggest stars and young upstarts will take part in what some will call a glorified exhibition. While the ASG shouldn’t ‘count’ at all (another story for another day), it is a major boon to the host city every year for the three days of festivities.

Yet, for some reason, in the major sports, it appears that the same cities and towns hold these events year after year. So how about giving some different places a chance at these shows, however insignificant they may be in the scheme of entire seasons.

Keep in mind that while strong economic and logistical reasons can back up the claims for each of these cities, that wouldn’t be any fun to write up right now.

According to this list of last year each franchise hosted the ASG, you’d think that after Anaheim and Arizona have their turns, either the Tampa Bay Rays (never), Florida Marlins (never) or the New York Mets (1964) are soon to follow. The problem with both Florida franchises is that neither have a stadium deemed worthy to host the events (though truth be told, Fenway Park and Wrigley Field are being held by strings and faith). The replacement for Tropicana Field needs a new location in St. Petersburg and the Marlins’ proposed park in downtown Miami has been baseball’s “Bridge to Nowhere” since the team’s arrival in 1993.

As for the Mets, Citi Field is a very likely host in the start of the next decade in order to follow the trend of new buildings holding court. Yet, as the old Yankee Stadium had all the fun last summer, New York City doesn’t need another one, does it?

So based on the need to go new, I nominate Washington, DC as a deserving host.

Just because the Nationals aren’t a particularly good team, it doesn’t mean that Nationals Park isn’t worthy. While it does not have the charm of AT&T Park in San Francisco, the allure of Fenway Park and Wrigley Field or the kick-ass-ness of PNC Park in Pittsburgh, the people in the Beltway might want to know what a competitive baseball game – or three days of ridiculous batting practice – looks like in person.

If you have yet to check out the clips from Nationals Park from this past spring, take a gander. Baseball can take pride in hosting the event in a LEED-certified (green) ballpark for the first time and it’s been forty years since it has been held in the nation’s capital. Just as Pittsburgh, DC does a good job in paying homage to its Negro League past, something that should sweeten the deal to Bud Selig & Co. Most of all, Teddy Roosevelt may bring out his best performance for the world to see… or not, who really knows?

Recently, the NBA announced that Los Angeles will hold an ASG in 2011, the year after the Dallas Mavericks and NFL Cowboys co-host the gala in the ginormous Cowboys Stadium. The Association has kept the game in Western Conference locales thirteen of the last twenty seasons (exclude the lockout year of 1999). If you’re asking yourself if LA just had the game, you’re not off as the Lakers and Clippers welcomed the world in 2004 to start a string of what will be seven straight Western-based February Classics when the game returns in ‘11.

It’s obvious that the league favors warmer climates these days as the pre- and post-parties from celebrities are becoming significant events just by being attached to the NBA for a few days. With that said, the league has yet to do something truly emblematic of their culture, which is step outside of the States. Now, before you start thinking of ASGs in Beijing or the Mark Sanford-endorsed Buenos Aires, let’s keep things a bit closer to the league offices.

For reasons unbeknownst to me, the NBA has yet to host their affair in Toronto, home of the Raptors. According to Hedo Turkoglu, T.O. has an international flair that is familiar to many of the league’s European players. Beyond that, his new team, unlike the horrendous management of the former Vancouver Grizzles, has proven that Canada loves basketball. The Raptors may not have the following of the Maple Leafs, but they have made the Air Canada Centre a worthwhile investment of the city… when they were winning, that is.

The ACC looks like a fantastic facility and with the cosmopolitan feel of the city, it’s hard to believe that those celebrities won’t enjoy hosting their parties there.

Besides, it might be quite a while before we’re talking about Oklahoma City… though that would be hilarious to see close friends LeBron James and Jay-Z hopping on the Sooner Schooner en route to the Ford Center.


The NHL might want to concern itself with having the game back on NBC, considering the league’s momentum over the past three years to make the event more marketable. After that, it might want to take a look at how few cities have hosted the game. While the most coveted property the league has is the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day, the ASG can still draw a great crowd of hockey fans, provided that other cities are thrown in the mix besides Montreal and Toronto.

The league no longer has ASGs during Olympic years as a good chunk of its stars play for their home countries during those two-plus weeks. Tentatively, the Jobing.com Arena in Glendale, Arizona is still going to host the fun in 2011 as the Phoenix Coyotes are still in bankruptcy court after a failed purchase and relocation bid from Jim Basillie. Pittsburgh, Ottawa and Raleigh, North Carolina (Hurricanes) have expressed interest in future ASGs; seemingly good candidates with passionate fans and sparkling newer arenas.
There’s no apparent trend in the way that you see with MLB or the NBA where you can guess where the NHL might end up. Since 1996, the game has been in a mixed bag of cities: Boston, San Jose, Vancouver, Tampa, Toronto, Denver, Los Angeles, Miami (Florida), St. Paul (Minnesota), Dallas, Atlanta and Montreal. The Penguins, Senators and Hurricanes are going to have their turns in the next few years, but here are three suggestions:

  • Las Vegas: they seem to have a grand ol’ time having the NHL Player Awards at the end of the postseason. Except for the sheer stupidity of Adam Jones and a few random fools for the NBA’s ASG two years back, Sin City has the carnival-like atmosphere that the league can take advantage of. Vegas specializes in hosting big events, so the only question would be which hotel and casino can put out the most dazzling red carpet.

  • Newark, NJ: The New York Islanders hosted in 1983, but Nassau Coliseum is so outdated and barely accessible by public transportation that you might as well have been in Greenland. The New York Rangers held the contest in 1994 at Madison Square Garden and the folks who run the show won’t make another run for a game until the World’s Most Famous Arena finishes its long-awaited renovations in a few years. The Prudential Center is the next best thing, if not THE BEST thing. The New Jersey Devils had the game in 1984 at the now-named Izod Center shortly after moving from Colorado, but The Rock is a world-class facility that can bring out puckheads within the state as well as from surrounding cities.

  • Calgary or Edmonton: Western Canadians would be happy, right?

Next year, the NFL will have the Pro Bowl not only before the Super Bowl, but in the same city as Miami will have their tenth title game in the modern era. This is to obviously strum up interest and relevance to the NFL’s All-Star game, but it will also give a break to the mind-numbing monotony of Super Bowl media week.

Miami’s last show was Super Bowl XLI waaaaaaaaaaaay back in 2007; a rain-heavy, sloppy affair where the Indianapolis Colts bested the Chicago Bears. The three takeaway points of that game; Prince put on the greatest halftime show in the game’s history (yeah, I said it!), Rex Grossman can actually say he was a quarterback in the Super Bowl and all of the suits in the stands were drenched. Truthfully, considering how much of a grandiose production Super Bowls have become, the latter brought tears to my eyes and a joy to my heart.

For that reason, if the NFL’s idea for this coming Pro Bowl is a success, then I think the Super Bowl should be played in some of the coldest and maddening conditions possible. Green Bay comes to mind, for sure, but how about Soldier Field? Lake effect could be responsible for the first overtime game in its history: turnover-laden, sloppy 0-0 tie headed to sudden death and a botched snap in the end zone turns into a safety to clinch the Vince Lombardi trophy.

Or how about that wind tunnel at the Meadowlands, where kickers’ careers come to die.

Or Foxborough’s Gillette Stadium, where despite 30 inches of snow, you can get some good chowda’!

Or Buffalo’s Ralph Wilson Stadium, where despite 70 inches of snow… actually, that would really be wrong.

Or the asbestos-ridden Candlestick Park (trust me, I was there for the ‘Bush Bowl’) when one good huff and puff from Mother Nature to go with the league’s most uneven field can make for sheer comedy.

Would the games be any good? Probably not. It’s pretty rare to have a classic contest in brutal conditions, such as the 2008 NFC Championship game between the Giants and Packers. In fact, the worst the weather, the worst the game play. So for entertainment value, it’s much better to keep these games in domed stadiums or warm-weather climates. With that said, Miami will have held 593 Super Bowls (and 583 Pro Bowls) by the time the Marlins ballpark is built in the year 3000. It’s about time that another city has a chance to reap the economic benefits; preferably a cold-weather town that will make the superfluous halftime show acts break out Triple F.A.T. Goose coats.

In all seriousness, why not Kansas City? Considered the toughest place to play because of the acoustics and the rabid Chiefs fan base, Arrowhead Stadium always seemed like the perfect NFL atmosphere. Throw down some of that heralded Kansas City barbeque and another dogfight of a game and you couldn’t ask for anything more. Except more barbeque.

Arrowhead is undergoing renovations, but it is unfathomable to think that the distinct ambiance of the place will disappear. The NFL wants to put on the best possible show for the television audience, but for a town that absolutely loves football, letting them host one time not only adds to its coiffeurs and shakes up the establishment, but it would be a great opportunity to let the town in on the action.

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