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.
Tiger Stadium, Baton Rouge
If Notre Dame Stadium is holy ground zero for college football fans (thanks no doubt to "Touchdown Jesus,") then Death Valley in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is a pleasure pit for die-hard football sadists. The LSU Tigers' 92,500 football fans are generally considered to be the most gleefully hostile in the sport, intimidating refs and overwhelming opposing players with creative vitriol on Friday and Saturday nights. As legendary coach Bear Bryant put it: "Baton Rouge happens to be the worst place in the world for a visiting team. It's like being inside a drum."
Built in 1924, Tiger Stadium has only been renovated three times. "In college, they still have the old venues to go to" Esiason enthuses. Despite being one of the rare stadiums Esiason hasn't actually visited in person, it tops his bucket list of hallowed sporting venues, and he says he plans to join the rabble with his son there some day. "It's got to be one of the top five places to watch a football game," he says
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