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.
TD Bank Garden, Boston
When he's not barking into a microphone about the most recent snafu by Mets ownership or Jets coach Rex Ryan, Esiason plays in a pickup hockey league, and he says the sport is his greatest passion, next to football. As a New York resident, he is, not surprisingly, a New York Rangers season ticket holder, but that doesn't mean his home turf (or ice, as the case may be) ranks as the top spot in his heart.
In fact, Esiason says that when it comes to picking a favorite venue to watch, he's torn. "Boston and Washington are two of the best venues I've ever been in for hockey," Esiason says of TD Bank Garden and Verizon Center, respectively. "They look like they were built for it – the ice fits perfectly right in the building and all the seats are great. It's almost as if those buildings should have been built in Canada. Fantastic atmosphere."
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