In the span of just a few months, we’ve now seen iconic Fenway Park play host to an outdoor hockey game between Boston College and Boston University, a soccer game between Celtic FC and Sporting CP, and, of course, lots of Red Sox baseball. After Wednesday night's "Football at Fenway" friendly match concluded, NESN’s Tom Caron openly wondered "what’s next?" for sporting events hosted in America’s oldest MLB ballpark.
Here’s some ideas to help answer Caron's question, and what I think should be next at Fenway Park:
Boston College Football
Many years ago, in a simpler time of college football without the BCS, ESPN and a distinction between I-A and I-AA programs, Fenway Park played host to its fair share of local area college football games, including playing host to the Eagles. Why not bring college football back to Fenway?
College football played in baseball-only stadiums seems to be the new new thing. This recent phenomenon can be traced back to the early 2000s with the San Francisco Bowl played at the Giants’ AT&T Park and the Insight Bowl played at the Diamondback’s Chase Field from 2000-2005. Since then, we have seen college football bowl games played at the Trop (St. Petersburg Bowl) and at Skydome (International Bowl). Recently added to the college football baseball stadium lineup is the Pinstripes Bowl. You can guess which stadium that game will be played in ...
The college football fun isn’t limited to bowl season though, with other games cropping up at Yankee Stadium. Army hosts Notre Dame this year, followed by games with Air Force, Rutgers and Boston College in 2011, 2012 and 2014, respectively. Wrigley Field will host the Northwestern-Illinois matchup on Nov. 20, the first college football stadium at The Friendly Confines since 1938. The Cal football team will play its entire 2011 regular-season home schedule at AT&T Park while Cal’s on-campus stadium, California Memorial Stadium, undergoes some much-needed renovations.
Having attended two Emerald Bowls, I can report that watching a college football game in a baseball stadium is nothing special. But why should we let lesser stadiums have all the fun? Let’s bring college football back to Fenway.
College lacrosse is a sport growing in popularity, particularly in New England. Gillette Stadium recently did a great job hosting the 2008 and 2009 NCAA Men’s Lacrosse National Championship. Why not help raise the profile for the sport by playing in heart of the Hub?
Like practically every other college sport in Boston, why not host a college lacrosse Beanpot? Invite Harvard, UMass, Holy Cross and Dartmouth to play in an inaugural Men’s Lax College Lacrosse Beanpot. If those schools aren’t game, heck, invite the BC, BU and Northeastern club teams to face Harvard. That would probably be a Harvard beat-down, but at least it would be entertaining.
If college isn't up for this, I'm sure we could convince Major League Lacrosse's Boston Cannons to play at Fenway.
NBA Exhibition Game (Say, Celtics-Heat?)
Yes, I realize the sight lines at Fenway are terrible to watch an outdoor basketball game. But how cool would it be to use Fenway’s Green Monster as one of the baselines of the court?
And I’m not talking about a regulation court, either. I’m talking about a court with three hoops, including a 25-point and a 50-point hoop way above the regular rim tacked onto the Green Monster. That’s right. I want to see the Boston Celtics play the Miami Heat on a Rock ‘N Jock basketball court, Bricklayers vs. Violators style.
If the new South Beach Dream Team is trying going to live up to the hype, I want to see how they fare shooting at a 50-point hoop.
Rugby is another sport growing in popularity -- rugby sevens in particular. Rugby sevens is a variant of rugby union in which teams play with shorter matches with only seven players a side. The sport was recently recognized as an Olympic Sport and will make its debut in the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro. Additionally, NBC televised the first Rugby 7s Collegiate Championship Invitational earlier this summer, giving some Americans their first real exposure to the sport.
Having picked up playing rugby in grad school, I prefer rugby union to rugby sevens. Rugby sevens is for a bunch of ruggers that are in really good shape, as SB Nation's Spencer Hall quickly learned. To use a Nintendo's Ice Hockey analogy, rugby sevens is played with four skinny guys. Rugby union is played by one fat guy, two medium guys and a skinny guy.
In the spirit of having two European soccer clubs come to Fenway, and to satisfy the city's infatuation with all things that sound Irish (Boston Celtics, Celtic FC ...), why not host a rugby union match between the Ireland Rugby Union Team and the All Blacks of New Zealand?
Now, I'm not the biggest X-Games fan. But I also can't get the image of hosting skateboarding or BMX's Big Air or Vert events in Fenway Park out of my head. How cool would it be to set up the vert pipe against the Green Monster, watching skaters and BMXers float through the air with Fenway's famous Citgo sign in the background?
Plus, the seats on top of the Green Monster would be like luxury boxes for this event. Front-row seats.
Your thoughts? What sporting events would you want to see America's Most Beloved Ballpark host?