Caple: Best NFL travel trips of 2009
A sports tourist's itinerary of tilts well worth buttering up your spouse
with gifts and compliments now so you can be at the stadium on time
- Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesThe champion Steelers begin their 2009-2010 campaign against the Titans at Heinz.What will be the NFL's most exciting, meaningful matchups next fall? If we (or anyone else) really knew that, we'd be "investing" our money at Vegas sports books. Get real.
We not only didn't expect the Cardinals to reach the Super Bowl at this point last year, we still didn't expect it when they finished the regular season as NFC West champions.
The beauty of the season is that we don't know what will happen and which teams will surprise us. The beauty of this list of games (one for each month of the regular season), however, is that the trip should be worthwhile, regardless of the point spread.
Sept. 10: Titans at Steelers
Years removed from its Steel Town image, Pittsburgh is one of the country's most underrated cities. It's a town of rivers, green hills, magnificent museums and that most stupendous of civic institutions: the beef, cheese and French fry-stuffed Primanti Bros. sandwich mmmmmm. And as fan experiences go, watching Big Ben, Troy Polamalu and the Terrible Towel-waving Super Bowl champion fans open the season at night is hard to beat. Plus, if you go a day early you can catch a Pirates game! Better yet, just tour PNC Park before the Steelers game and you won't have to see the Pirates.
Buy Steelers tix | Buy Titans tix
Oct. 25: Patriots vs. Buccaneers in London
If you've ever considered a trip across the pond, now is the time. London is one of the world's most expensive cities, but it's significantly cheaper now because the dollar is far stronger against the pound (about $1.50 to a pound) than it was last year (when it was as high as $2). Sample a few pints in a 300-year-old pub, and after debating which league -- the NFL or the English Premier League -- has real football, catch the Brit version of football at a Premier League game. (Bone up on English soccer before your travels by reading Nick Hornby's "Fever Pitch" and Bill Buford's "Among the Thugs.") And hang around outside Claridge's or one of the other high-end hotels in hopes of catching a glimpse of Gisele Bundchen. Buy Buccaneers tix | Buy Patriots tix
Nov. 1: Seahawks at Cowboys
Admit it, you might be appalled at the thought of a $1.3 billion football stadium. But it's like the latest story on Octomom: You can't help yourself because deep down you really want to see it. What's inside Jerry World? A Starbucks at the end of every aisle? A 100-yard-wide hi-def scoreboard showing the Cowboys cheerleaders? Actual DNA-regenerated dinosaurs? Starbucks served at the end of every aisle by Cowboys cheerleaders riding actual DNA-regenerated dinosaurs? Find out for yourself at the end of a fabulous Texas football weekend, beginning with real-life Friday night lights at a local high school game, followed by TCU's homecoming game against UNLV on Halloween Saturday.
Buy Cowboys tix | Buy Seahawks tix
Dec. 3: Jets vs. Bills in Toronto
Toronto is one of North America's great cities, even when winter descends. Venture to the Bills-Jets tilt Thursday evening, preceded that afternoon or followed Friday by a visit to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Get dinner and drinks on Yonge Street. Then drive back to the States, being sure to pass through Niagara-on-the-Lake, a lovely town that was the location for one of the great underrated Christmas movies of all time, "The Ref." Finally, stop in Buffalo at the Anchor Bar, the tavern that introduced buffalo wings to the world.
Buy Bills tix | Buy Jets tix
Jan. 3: Packers at Cardinals
Will this game have any bearing on the playoffs? Hopefully. But who cares? No matter what's at stake, come January, doesn't a weekend in Phoenix sound a little more enticing than a weekend in, say, Cleveland? Golf at one of the many courses in the Valley of the Sun on Saturday, watch Green Bay and the Cards on Sunday, then stay an extra day and take in the Fiesta Bowl the next night. When you get back to the office you can show off your tan. Buy Cardinals tix | Buy Packers tix
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Send in your comments and travel questions to Jim,
aka The Road Warrior.
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