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.
Fenway Park, Boston
Esiason cannot sit comfortably in the new Yankee Stadium knowing the franchise bulldozed its historic venue a few hundred feet away in favor of what he considers an overly commercialized monstrosity. As such, he much prefers baseball's oldest existing temple: Boston's Fenway Park. When comparing the two, Esiason gives an immediate edge to Fenway: "There's no sushi," he says, taking a shot at the Yankee's new, comically anti-working man menu items that cater to the team's often arriviste fan base.
"From a business perspective, I get that, I understand all that," he says of replacing old venues with new ones. "But from a true hardcore fan's standpoint, I hate it." Though it cost just $650,000 to build Fenway Park back in 1912, some $285 million has been spent over the past years renovating the stately stadium, which means it has maintained its original charm. For instance, the most recognizable alteration was the addition of 370 seats in 2003. But the owners chose to plant them atop the Green Monster – the notorious fly-ball eating left-field wall – instead of altering the dynamics of the field. "That's why Fenway Park is never going to change," Esiason says. "They're never going to allow it to change."
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