Where were you when Mark McGwire hit his 62nd home run? On the couch, probably, enjoying your coast-to-coast privileges, all for the price of basic cable. None of the inconveniences of space and time for you. You're in every gallery, every stadium, every field house. You're everywhere, on your couch.
That's a pretty good deal, and few would trade the advantages of virtual attendance for the nostalgia of actual occupancy (one word: parking). Still, there's something about the crispness of a Dodger Dog, the soft rumble of surf beyond the grandstand at Del Mar, the flash of gold nugget jewelry in the parking lot behind Caesars Palace that television can't digitize. There's something about being there.
And where exactly would you be if you weren't on your couch? Where would you go to register the click of the turnstile, the feel of wooden slats beneath you, the whiff of stale beer?
Wrigley, Wembley, Williamsport. Odd little cathedrals with strange rituals and sacraments (Dodger Dogs!). You'd be someplace that was engineered for sensory overload, not skybox revenue, the smell of peanuts on a summer breeze mingling with the roar of V-8s. You'd be someplace varnished in layers of history, the satiny armrest reminding you that somebody else sat here and saw Babe Ruth hit his 60th. You might be in some abomination of architecture, but you'd be someplace.
So here's where we'd be if we could just take in a game some afternoon. We'd be in one of these places, hunched in a time-polished bleacher, humoring the ghosts in the outfield, trying to remember where the hell we parked. Eating a Dodger Dog, probably.
Years later, when pressed to explain the unique drama of that afternoon—just smells and sights and sounds, really—we'd say, You had to be there.
1 Yankee Stadium
No sports arena in history, with the possible exception of the Roman Colosseum, has played host to a wider variety of memorable events. Two popes prayed here, Johnny Unitas threw here, Jim Brown ran here, Joe Louis fought here, and Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio played here. Ground can't get more hallowed than that.
2 Augusta National
Is it the $1.50 ham sandwiches or the peach cobbler? The Crow's Nest or the Champions Room? The pushover par-5s or the murderous par-3s? The soccer-field fairways or the M.C. Escher greens? Is it because there are no pro-ams, no billboards, no blimps? Is it because being inside the ropes actually means something? Is it because every complete player has painted on this same rolling canvas, or because no player is complete until he has?
3 Michie Stadium
Game day at West Point begins three hours before kickoff with the cadet parade on The Plain. It's a scene straight from The Long Gray Line, surpassed only by the view of the Hudson River from the west stands at Michie Stadium. The Corps of Cadets, seated together and dressed in gray and black, evokes memories of when Army was one of the most formidable of college football powers, and cannon blasts shake the 76-year-old edifice to its foundation every time the Black Knights score. It doesn't matter in the least that national championships are no longer decided here.
4 Cameron Indoor Stadium
The undergraduates who pack Duke's antiquated Cameron Indoor Stadium—those wiseacres with the 1,400 SAT scores—are as entertaining as the games. (Pity the visiting player who has been in the news for some malfeasance.) No wonder the Blue Devils are 133-17 at home over the last 10 years. It's easy to win when you're playing six-on-five.