Nothing should make a sports fan prouder than being told their team "travels well." It is as legitimate a compliment as one could possibly hope to receive.
Wednesday night, Scott Powers of ESPN Chicago reported that the Nashville Predators have instituted a new ticket policy for their games against the Chicago Blackhawks this season. Fans will not be allowed to buy single-game tickets for the three games the Predators will host the Blackhawks this year; they'll have to buy tickets to another game in addition to that one. Also, for presale, only certain zip codes will be allowed to buy tickets to those games. Why? Because every Predators home game against the Blackhawks turns into a Blackhawks home game. Blackhawks fans take the place over. The only way the Predators fans can keep control of their own building is to make it as difficult as possible for Blackhawks fans to get in, and even then they probably can't do it.
This is fantastic. If I were a Blackhawks fan, I'd be doing backflips. The fanbase for that team is so avid, so much more devoted than most other teams', that people are afraid of them. It's not just Nashville either. Chicago hockey fans took over a ton of arenas last season, and will surely hit even more this year now that the Western and Eastern Conferences get to play each other again. (Winning the Stanley Cup again probably didn't hurt either.) This is what happens when a rabid fanbase has a dominant team to cheer for: We are at Peak Blackhawk.
Nashville fans shouldn't feel bad, or humiliated. This happens to tons of teams, in all sports. Certain fanbases can just take over. The Arizona Cardinals, particularly when they were playing in Sun Devil Stadium, always had this problem. When the Dallas Cowboys visited -- which was every year back when the teams were inexplicably in the NFC East together -- the place was 60 percent Cowboys fans, at least. Fans of popular teams like that overwhelm teams with fewer fans, and there really isn't much you can do about it.
And the fans descend like locusts. In 2015, Illinois football -- which has a hard time filling Memorial Stadium when the team is halfway decent, a rarity -- will be infested with Nebraska football fans, perhaps the most lunatic traveling road show in college football. Since the Cornhuskers joined the Big Ten, the conference (save your Ohio States, Michigans and Penn States) has learned what Big 12 fans already knew: All Nebraska games are sort of home games no matter where they're played. This will happen when your actual home games have been sold out for 51 years. (Seriously, every Nebraska home game has been a sellout since November 3, 1962.) It's no wonder Nebraska fans go to so many road games: It's the only way you can get tickets. I'll be surprised if that game in '15 -- the 'Huskers' first trip to Champaign since joining the conference -- isn't 75 percent red in the stands. Look what they did to Notre Dame.
In college football, any school that doesn't sell out its games (like Illinois) is susceptible to a takeover. Nebraska's the most famous example, but Ohio State, Penn State, Texas, West Virginia and pretty much every SEC school that isn't Kentucky or Missouri do the same thing. In pro sports, you can peg predators -- not Predators -- and prey a little more easily.
Best I can tell, here are your takeover candidates, from both sides, in baseball, the NFL and the NBA. Realize too that there's a tourism aspect to this. Even if you wanted to take over games at Comerica Park (and you can't), a lot of fans might not necessarily want to make the trip. Also, and perhaps most key ... sometimes it's actually cheaper to travel and see your team play on the road than to buy a ticket to an actual home game.
Major League Baseball
Boston Red Sox
New York Yankees
St. Louis Cardinals
Texas Rangers (every time I've seen the Rangers play on the road, there are a ton of Rangers fans there)
Chase Field, Phoenix
Marlins Park, Miami
Minute Maid Park, Houston
Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg
Green Bay Packers
Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis
EverBank Field, Jacksonville
University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale (less so in recent years)
Los Angeles Lakers
New York Knicks
Philips Arena, Atlanta
New Orleans Arena, New Orleans
Time Warner Cable Arena, Charlotte
That's an incomplete list: I'm sure I'm missing fanbases on both sides. But nothing can beat that feeling of being in an opposing teams' stadium or arena, and looking around and seeing that everyone is dressed like you are. It feels like a successful invasion. It can feel like home.
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