Throwback Football on the Hudson River

This site has been a little football heavy lately, thanks to my weekly NFL picks (75% accurate, thank you very much). I like keeping sports in the mix, which is why I added “& Other Diversions” to the description on the upper right. This entry is as much about excursion as it is spectator sport.

One area where baseball has football beat is the minor league circuit. Almost anywhere in America, you can find a local ballpark with a farm team, and pay a fraction of the amount on tickets, food, beer, and parking that you would at Yankee Stadium or Wrigley Field. (Bonus for Cubs fans is you’ll also see professional baseball being played.) Football, on the other hand, has the Arena League and the ever-shrinking UFL as alternatives to the monolithic NFL or major college conferences. I suppose there are high school games, but if you want a scaled-down college atmosphere, I suggest finding a small Division I or lower school in your area.

Living in New York City, college football is almost a non-entity. Local stations cover Rutgers (NJ) when the team is playing well. Otherwise, it’s easy to forget that the Ivy League* school in town, Columbia, has not only a team, but a stadium off the subway line in Manhattan. Lawrence A. Wien Stadium is just a few blocks from the A train’s 207 Street Station, and even closer to the 1 stop at 215 Street. It’s about as far north in Manhattan as you can get, and the park offers one of the finest views of a football game you’ll find anywhere, with Inwood Hill Park to the southwest, and the Henry Hudson Bridge in the western background.

(*I find it funny that the term “Ivy League,” with its connotation of elite, expensive, Eastern education, is really just the name of an athletic conference. How many people know this? Probably one in five. In fact I’d bet that one in five Ivy League students knows this. Then there’s the largely pathetic [but kind of endearing] attempts for other acclaimed schools to have bestowed unto them, or bestow onto themselves, the vapid and arbitrary label “New Ivy.” I’m looking in your direction, Duke, Carnegie-Mellon, and NYU. It’s an athletic league!! But nice try.)

We bought two $25 premium chairback tickets for the homecoming game versus Penn. (Regular bleacher seats were $15 for homecoming but are normally $10.) Outside the stadium there was a small town festival atmosphere, with students and alumni in powder blue partying mildly in tents and snapping photos. A grill was set up selling cheeseburgers for $6. A small Penn contingency also showed up to watch their Quakers beat the Lions, 27-20, handing Columbia its fifth loss in as many games this Fall. Chins up, old chaps! In this case, the game itself was secondary (for us, anyway) to the old-time atmosphere of an Ivy League game in a 17,000-seat stadium on the Hudson River.

Robert K. Kraft Field at Lawrence K. Wien Stadium is located at 5101 Broadway in New York. Take the A to 207 Street or the 1 to 215 Street. Tickets can be purchased on the Columbia University Athletics web site.

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