25 things I still like about sports

Sectional/state championship games. This correlates to the atmosphere of a Friday night football game, except that the stakes are much higher and everyone's emotions are ratcheted up 10 levels. The players push themselves to performances that can sometimes border on legendary status. Coaches can become so demonstrative that you actually fear their heads will explode if one more call goes against their teams. Fans react to every play like the fate of their world hinges on what happens next. You just can't beat that, at least at the local level.

Saratoga Race Course. Honestly, is there a better place to be in the Capital District on an August afternoon than the oldest thoroughbred track in the United States? Great racing, great weather (usually) and a great atmosphere. And you don't even have to be trackside to have a good time. Just pack a cooler and hang out in the picnic area behind the grandstand all day. You'll get a better view of the horses as they're led through the paddock than if you stood in the pack along the rail near the finish line, and you might make some friends with the group next to you.

Seeing a local player/team make it on the national stage. In other regions of the United States, this wouldn't be a big deal because so many athletes and/or teams from their cities and towns play on the national stage. But when Niskayuna's AndrE Davis returns a kickoff 97 yards for a Houston Texans touchdown or the University at Albany men's basketball team beats Vermont for the America East title on national television (two years in a row, I might add), it's a big deal around here. Seriously, is there a Capital District resident who doesn't remember where they were the day Siena upset Stanford at the 1989 NCAA Tournament? I remember where I was " in the family room of my parents' house thinking this was the greatest thing to ever happen to the town of Colonie.

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