The College World Series and My Sports Bucket List


Each year in mid-to-late June, I promise myself that one day — one day — I will get to Omaha for the College World Series.

The annual NCAA baseball championship may have moved from venerable Rosenblatt Stadium, but the history that comes with nearly seven decades followed the College World Series into TD AmeriTrade Park. Dave Winfield, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Robin Ventura: the College World Series is like a Western annex for Cooperstown.

Couple that history with its location in America’s Heartland, and the College World Series is the real-life Field of Dreams. And it’s a dream to one day attend, either as a journalist or fan.

I have been fortunate enough to cross a few bucket-list items off in recent years of my sports journalism career, covering my first Rose Bowl Game in January 2016; and my first Final Four three months later. They very much lived up to my expectations.

With two items crossed off, the following five rank along with the College World Series as my top sports bucket-list items.

Michigan-Ohio State

Whether at Michigan’s Big House or Ohio State’s Horseshoe, The Game ranks high on my list of must-attend sporting events. College football fans will vigorously debate whether Michigan-Ohio State is the sport’s most heated rivalry, with opinions mostly lining up along region or allegiances.

While I’d certainly love to take in the Iron Bowl, or mend fences between Texas and Texas A&M to restore their rivalry (R.I.P.), The Game ranks No. 1 on my list of college football feuds. I credit my childhood, as my exposure to the SEC in the 1990s was limited. Conversely, The Game was a central

One of my earliest college football memories came as a result of the Michigan-Ohio State matchup: Desmond Howard’s punt return in 1991. Charles Woodson replicated the feat six years later.

The 1996 installment fundamentally altered the national championship landscape, with a Michigan upset denying the Rose Bowl a de facto title tilt between Ohio State and Arizona State.

Duke-North Carolina in Cameron

If you’ve poked around The Open Man a little bit, you probably know I’m a wrestling fan. The Duke-North Carolina rivalry is college basketball’s answer to wrestling’s greatest feuds: Flair-Steamboat, Rock-Austin, Hogan-Savage.

Now, take that rivalry and lock it in the confines of a steel cage. That’s the energy that emanates from the TV whenever I watch a Duke-North Carolina game at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

North Carolina’s Dean Dome emits electricity for Blue Devil visits, don’t get me wrong. However, the band-box that is Cameron seemingly ups the frenetic energy.

Jan. 3 and 4 at the Tokyo Dome

I’d be remiss if my bucket list didn’t include a major, professional wrestling event. WrestleMania weekend beckons, though hitting San Antonio for NXT TakeOver and the Royal Rumble inside the Alamodome somewhat scratched that itch.

Besides, the whole point of a bucket list is to think big. It doesn’t get much bigger than traveling to the other side of the globe for the second-biggest wrestling show on the planet.

New Japan Pro-Wrestling’s Wrestle Kingdom shows, held every year on Jan. 4, has begun to rival WWE’s WrestleMania in scope. Every year for the last four, Tokyo Dome has hosted some of the world’s best matches. The entrances at Wrestle Kingdom are often quite special, too.

In preparation for Wrestle Kingdom, crew work feverishly to transform Tokyo Dome into a wrestling mecca, less than 24 hours after the venue hosts the biggest football game of the year in Japan. Every Jan. 3, Tokyo Dome hosts the Rice Bowl.

The Rice Bowl pits the national champion of Japan’s American football collegiate organization against the champion of the X-League; Japan’s top-level pro American football federation.

Football and wrestling as the centerpiece to visit a nation steeped in history? Definitely bucket-list worthy.

Maui Invitational

I would be lying if I suggested my interest in the Maui Invitational is tied exclusively to the event itself. Hawaii is one of the most beautiful places on Earth, and it’s especially fun to visit during the holiday season.

Before eating a Thanksgiving turkey on the beach, however, rest assured I would binge on basketball.

The Maui Invitational has successful maintained its place as one of the premier events on the college basketball calendar, even as new November tournaments surface every year.

2017 is no exception. The field is absolutely loaded: Wichita State, Michigan and Notre Dame should all be ranked in the Top 25 or better once Feast Week arrives. A fourth team, perhaps Marquette or VCU, could elevate into the rankings by then.

Countless All-Americans, numerous Final Four teams, national champions have all played in Lahaina Civic Center, making it one of college basketball’s hallowed grounds.

World Cup

I enjoy soccer, though admit I’m still a novice when it comes to some of the game’s nuances and history. Every four years, however, I am absolutely enthralled with the World Cup.

Part of the appeal of the College World Series is the intermingling of fans from eight different programs, typically representing all corners of the United States. The World Cup takes this approach to a global scale.

The World Cup combines the best players on the planet in the most intense competition, with an international party providing the backdrop.

I’ve had friends who attended the 2006 World Cup in Germany, and the 2014 edition in Brazil. Both raved about their experiences.