I already posted about the Capital One Mascot Challenge and how much fun it was to be a part of the crowning of the champion (Wolfie Jr. of University of Nevada for those of you who didn’t click the link above or already read my post). But the festivities didn’t end there, of course.
There was still the Capital One FanFest activities, the Capital One Cup, and the game itself.
I’ve been going to sporting events since I was a little kid, and the experience has changed greatly over the years.
In the ‘80s, when I first began attending Cincinnati Reds games with my parents, the game was the main – and sometimes only – attraction. Which was great, but it made the hour-plus drive from the suburbs north of Dayton, Ohio to Cincinnati and back a little tedious if the game was a dud.
Back then I could usually talk my dad into letting me throw on the speed pitch machine. I would attempt to show all the bystanders that I was the next Nolan Ryan by throwing heat and then knowing that on my third pitch I could dial it up an extra 2 mph and win a plastic batting helmet. That was the extent of extra activities afforded to fans back then.
Now, in addition to innovations in game presentation, state of the art venues and massive amounts of interactive online content, there are many options for fun outside the game itself when attending an event.
Capital One’s FanFest at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando encapsulated what makes sports fun in the first place.
Several interactive athletic games were set up, representing college sports included in the Capital One Cup, a competition between universities that combines sports on the men’s and women’s sides with academic achievement to crown an annual champion athletic department. The winning school receives a huge scholarship prize from Capital One and the pride of being the most complete school athletically in the nation.
Check out the Capital One Cup standings and see how your favorite program stacks up in all sports on both the men’s and women’s sides.
Among the games available for fans to play were the football toss, football obstacle course, soccer, lacrosse, speed pitch (my old favorite!) and home run derby (the most popular attraction).
Thousands of fans played the FanFest games before the Capital One Bowl started, and it added a great warm-up to the on-field action.
Capital One Cup Advisor Doug Flutie was also in attendance, and he addressed the crowd, signed autographs, and participated in some of the FanFest games himself. He managed to drill a deep homer in the Wiffle ball home run derby game, despite a strong wind blowing in.
I spent a few minutes talking with Doug, and I can tell you that he thinks Andrew Luck is a sure thing (and that Matt Barkley will be a sure thing next year), Robert Griffin III – and other dual-threat quarterbacks – will succeed based on NFL teams slowly copying the Panthers’ success with Cam Newton, and he is very intense and immensely intelligent about the game of football. He was a very gracious participant in the events as well as allowing me to pick his brain with nerdy football questions.
In addition to the fun and games provided by Capital One, there were alumni sections for fans to gather, eat and drink, and plenty of merchandise and vendor booths.
I know that crystal-clear televisions and the price of attending games are keeping some fans away from the action, but I must recommend getting out the park/stadium/arena every now and again. The experience is so much more than just watching a game now. The entire practice field area at the Citrus Bowl was filled with things to do, unlike those barren concourses at Riverfront Stadium that I was subjected to as a youngster.
As for the game between Nebraska and South Carolina, the Gamecocks came out with a noticeable chip on their shoulder, and after allowing a quick touchdown to open the game they blocked the extra point and returned it for a safety. Nebraska never was able to put it together from that point, and South Carolina ended up rolling to a 30-13 victory behind a swarming defense that sacked Taylor Martinez 6 times.
So in 2012, go to a game and take in not just the game, but also the environment, the attractions and the ever-expanding fan experience.
Also, check out the Capital One Cup. It is a great program that brings some attention to the non-revenue generating sports that don’t get as much coverage as they should.
I love football and men’s basketball as much as anyone, but I also take time to appreciate what all collegiate athletes do for their universities.