Some people take their summer vacations to exotic locations like the Caribbean. Others might take a family road trip to somewhere like Disney World. Many head toward the beach. Some go international.
I've come to Omaha, Nebraska.
Actually, I'm writing this from my hotel room in Council Bluff, Iowa. The exact opposite fof the Caribbean.
For years, I've wanted to attend the College World Series. I'm not really sure I can pinpoint why, other than it's always looked fun on TV, and that it's always just seemed that as a baseball fan, it's one of those things you need to experience.
My experience here has been awesome. We've attended two games already, with one more toady and another tomorrow before coming back Wednesday (in time for a 12:35 Reds start. Yes, there's something wrong with me). The baseball has been great, although rain interrupted yesterdays afternoon's Texas/Arkansas tilt, which we did not stick around to see the conclusion of in person. But better than the pure sporting aspect of this event is the feel of it.
The College World Series is one-part sporting event, one-part baseball convention, one-part party. It's a melting pot of people who make this pilgrimage every year, fans of the teams participating, and locals who seem to live for this event's arrival. There's large packs of bros, there's families on vacation, there's quartets of middle-aged men relieved to be away from their wives and kids for a few days. And everyone loves baseball. Seriously, everyone here ireally, really into baseball. If you fret about baseball dying, or the collective consciousness of the country moving away from baseball, spend a couple of days in mid-June here. The sport couldn't feel more alive or more relevant.
I've had friends ask me why the College World Series takes place in Omaha, where it's been held since 1950. I guess geography has something to do with it, given this city's central location on the US map. The real has to be that this town wraps its arms around this even unlike any town that's ever hosted any sporting event I've been to.
And it's a great town, at least the parts I've seen of it are. An eclectic mix of fun bars, interesting breweries, good restaurants, and quality steakhouses. (Every Uber driver has their preferred place to dine on some Nebraska-raised cow) There's casinos in Council Bluffs (and blackjack dealers that struggle with math), and in Omaha's old market, I found maybe the greatest cigar bar I've ever smoked in.
The games themselves are interesting. If you watch Major League Baseball on a daily basis and then watch some college ball, you'll notice the lack of crispness in the games played by amateurs, which is to be expected, of course. But you'll also enjoy watching players pour out of the dugout to celebrate a lone run being scored, or to greet their teammates as they come off the field when an inning ends. The crustiness of Major League Baseball is absent from these games, and no one here is talking about staid unwritten rules.
As someone that loves baseball but has his enthusiasm for the game waning because of the struggles of his favorite team, being here is invigorating.
And yes, they serve beer at the College World Series. It's reasonably priced ($6) too.
I'll stop short of saying that this is the best sporting event I've attended, mainly because I don't want to be guilty of recency bias, but I've been lucky enough to attend two Super Bowls, a Final Four, two BCS bowl games, a World Series game, playoff games in all the major sports, a US Open tennis tournament, baseball games in 23 big league parks, and NFL matches in 11 different stadiums.
This event holds up to everything else I've ever experienced, and in many respects, it's better.