Although he acknowledges it was a dump, Boomer Esiason nonetheless has a soft spot for the Cleveland Browns' former Municipal Stadium, which, to the horror of sentimental purists, was demolished in 1996. "Playing in the 'Mistake By The Lake' – that big, old, crusty building, where half of the field was dirt – it was what football was meant to be," Esiason laments. "It was meant to be played in mud and dirt and lousy weather in front of 85,000 lunatics."
Esiason knows from our country's varied roster of sporting venues as much as anyone in the world, thanks to his 14-years as a QB in the NFL and his second career in broadcasting, as a football commentator for CBS and host of a morning sports shows on New York's WFAN radio. Although he knows many spots from the decidedly elite on-field perspective, at heart Esiason is a sports fan's fan who misses the days when a stadium was more about the game on the field than the artisanal pickles, craft beer, and mega widescreen TVs. "I think the perversion started in the early seventies, when they built all the cookie-cutter stadiums: Cincinnati, Kansas City, St. Louis, Pittsburgh," he says. "Then came the mausoleums, the Yankee Stadiums of the world, the Dallas Cowboys Stadium, even the Meadowlands stadium now. I'm not a fan because it takes away from what I think is the real product – and that's the game." During a recent Leary Firefighter Foundation benefit in New York City, Esiason let us in on his short list for top spots to catch a touchdown, three-pointer, home run, or goal.
AT&T Park, San Francisco
Although he is a New York guy, Esiason says that baseball's most beautiful grounds are out west. In particular AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants, is where baseball lives on at its most classic and romantic, with the team's crisp and unadulterated white jerseys, similar to those worn when the team originated in New York. Opened in 2000, AT&T Park is nestled into San Francisco Bay, where powerful lefties can send home runs splashing into McCovey Cove. "The old stadium in San Francisco was a football stadium and it was a terrible spot to play baseball in," Esiason says of Candlestick Park, where the Giants played until 1999. "Now, they moved it into San Francisco proper, gave it beautiful sight lines, moved it out to the water, and gave it a very intimate feel."
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