There are a handful of Gopher fans on my flight west, and all said they are headed to the Twins' game in Anaheim tonight, too. Which reminded me of my favorite part of covering a team: Traveling to other states, cities, and stadiums. I've seen World Series games, space-shuttle launches, a presidential speech and countless other sporting events or concerts while on road trips (but they're all business, if anyone asks). This year's Gopher schedule isn't particularly full of great side trips for sports fans, but there are a handful, and I thought I would share them as we prepare for the kickoff of the football season:
-- Minnesota at USC, Sept. 3: The Minnesota Twins are in Anaheim all weekend to play the Angels. Assuming you can extract yourself from Coliseum traffic, a Gopher fan could even see the Gophers and Twins play on the same day; the baseball games, about 45 minutes south of the Coliseum, are Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoon. If you want to see another ballpark, the Padres are home this weekend as well, taking on the Rockies. San Diego is between two and two and a half hours from L.A., depending on traffic, which usually isn't so terrible on weekends, and Petco Park is a little-known gem on the edge of downtown, just like Target Field.
-- Minnesota at Michigan, Oct. 1: Detroit is a little over an hour away from Ann Arbor, but there isn't much happening that weekend. If you like hockey, the Red Wings are home Friday and Sunday evenings, against Toronto and Pittsburgh, but they are just preseason games. The Lions are out of town, and the baseball season will be over. But there's one possibility that may make me a Tigers fan temporarily: If Detroit somehow catches Texas (or Anaheim if the Angels win the A.L. West), the Tigers would host ALDS games against the wild card team, either the Red Sox or Yankees, on Friday and Saturday. Now THAT would be fun.
-- Minnesota at Purdue, Oct. 8: If you fly through Indianapolis, you can catch Peyton Manning, too. The Colts host the Chiefs on Sunday afternoon. If you fly through Chicago and hurry back after the game, you could catch the Blackhawks and Stars on Saturday night. And this is a million-to-one shot, but if the White Sox somehow rally to win the Central Division AND reach the ALCS against the wild-card winner, games 1 and 2 would be in U.S. Cellular Park on Saturday and Sunday.
-- Minnesota at Michigan State, Nov. 5: The Red Wings play the Ducks in Detroit on Saturday night, and the Pistons are scheduled to play the Knicks on Sunday, though the lockout figures to wipe out that possibility.
-- Minnesota at Northwestern, Nov. 19 -- The Bulls and Blackhawks are both out of town, the annual "circus trip" -- but maybe that's good news if you're bringing kids along to the season's last road game, because Ringling Bros. stages two or three shows each day. Even better: The Bears are home Sunday afternoon, taking on the Chargers at 3:15 p.m. Not a bad football weekend.
Got any other ideas? I'd love to hear them at firstname.lastname@example.org.