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.
CenturyLink Field, Seattle
Despite the distractions offered at high-end restaurants, haute cuisine food stands, and gaming areas in newer stadiums, Esiason says that CenturyLink Field in Seattle, which opened in 2002, has elevated the fan experience. "They had that old, crusty Kingdome. That was awful!" Esiason says. "Now they've built this beautiful outside stadium." And with a reputation as the NFL's and MLS's loudest venue, the stadium fuels a rowdy fan base that absolutely tortures visiting opponents. "[It's] one of the most amazing buildings you could ever be in, because it's built on a very small piece of property and it's built straight up," Esiason says. "They swear they don't pump noise in there, but it has to be the loudest stadium to play in. The fans there truly appreciate their team. It's like a college atmosphere. That stadium is the best in the NFL."
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