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.
Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York
Although most traditional Knicks fans despise the Nets – a step-sibling purpose-built to compete for New York City's fan base – Esiason loves the new arena, which opened in 2012 for the teams's first season as a Brooklyn team. "The Barclays Center is beautiful and intimate, really intimate," Esiason says. "It's not an oval-shaped building – it's built on a square, a Brooklyn city block – and so everybody's closer." As Esiason points out, unlike the arch-rival Knicks and their Garden, the Nets' owners chose to black out the seated areas, which focuses the attention of fans on the illuminated on-court action – be that a Nets game or a Jay-Z performance. (Perhaps it also helped lessen the embarrassment of their losing in the first round of the 2013 NBA playoffs?)
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