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Artvoice’s Farrell and Kulyk mark a USRT anniversary

This weekend marks the tenth anniversary of a momentous event in the history and tale of the Ultimate Sports Road Trip.

On December 15, 2002, the Farrell family and the Kulyk family traveled en masse to Detroit’s Ford Field, home of the NFL Detroit Lions. The occasion? It was the final stop, team 121, of our quest to visit and attend a home game of each of the franchises in the four major sports. So we took our families along to celebrate the achievement.

This was an idea that we had concocted over beer and wings in a sports bar in the Tampa Bay area back in 1999. We were down there following the Buffalo Sabres on their swing through Tampa and Florida, then it was NHL All Star time down in Tampa. We had been friends for less than a year, and that night we started comparing which ballparks and other sporting venues we had each been to. Can’t remember how the conversation started, but one of us must have said, “how about we go visit all 30 NHL arenas?” Had the beer not continued flowing in abundance that night, all this might never have happened. By the end of the evening, we had those restaurant paper place mats flipped over, scrawled with the names of teams, and notes like “Utah Jazz, Delta Center” and “estimated Kingdome demo date?”

Back then this wasn’t even called “The Ultimate Sports Road Trip”. It would probably have been better to name it “Two Idiots Who Need A Life”. The cool moniker and web site would come later, but we started hitting the road. We combined multiple visits and games on most swings, kept prodding along, the scope of the project and what we were attempting to do just grew and grew. In less than five years we hit the finish line, achieving what we believed to be a singularly unique accomplishment in the annals of sports travel.

That final visit to Detroit was a joyous celebration. Some controversy and hilarity ensued when we tried to carry that specially crafted banner that you see in the picture above, made just for that occasion, into the stadium. Today it’s a great story to tell.

But what happened next we were totally unprepared for.

Our friend and now colleague at the Buffalo News, Mike Harrington, did a feature story on the USRT in the News. However it happened, the story made it onto the Associated Press news wires. Then all hell broke loose.

We started getting calls from all over the USA and Canada, even a radio station in the UK, asking for interview requests. We were on the phone, and on the air, for like two weeks straight sharing our story to listeners on sports radio stations and in print publications. Sports Illustrated called, and we ended up being showcased with a small article on their pages. And then… The Holy Grail of media, NBC’s The Today Show, contacted us and asked if we’d be interested in doing an appearance on their program.

Wow! We were astounded and of course jumped all over this opportunity. We initially thought they’d be flying us to New York, putting us up at the Waldorf, limo rides, kicking with celebrities, meeting the “common folk” who line up each morning on the sidewalk outside their studios at Rockefeller Center.

Nope. NBC wanted us to stay put in Buffalo and do the interview via satellite feed. The Sabres (and props to former Exec VP Ron Bertovich and Public Relations Director Mike Gilbert), were gracious enough to provide the arena as a host venue and back drop for the interview, and offer their TV crew for technical support. The Today Show flew in a producer, a camera man, and an engineer to put the production on. For us… For US!

Show day had a couple hitches. .. When we arrived downtown we learned that Matt Lauer was out sick that day, so Lester Holt would be doing the interview. Then we found out that there was some big terrorist explosion or something in Jakarta or Manila, and that breaking story would cut into our time, which was initially planned to be 7-8 minutes. We were prepped, yes they applied make up, earpieces provided, and presto… There we were live from coast to coast on NBC.

Looking at the video now (embedded below), yeah ten years later and I’m still dealing with those pesky 40 pounds. Never until the End of Days will you ever again see Peter sporting that nice a haircut. And despite all the experience we had gleaned doing interviews, many in the three weeks preceding this appearance, we were both nervous. Ver-r-r-r-y nervous! But it all went off OK, and as long as we live we can claim bragging rights that our 15 minutes of fame culminated with a live national broadcast.

 

So what since? Well, in these past ten years we have gone back 29 times to visit teams which have either relocated to a different city, or replaced their venue, or both. The NBA since added the Charlotte Bobcats as an expansion franchise so that became the 122nd 4-sport team. In a few weeks we travel to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, the new home of the NBA Brooklyn Nets, and that will bring our ongoing quest to up-to-date status once again.

We have also expanded the geographic footprint… In 2004 we attended the NFL Pro Bowl in Honolulu; in 2010 to the United Kingdom to see the NFL at Wembley and an introduction to the English Premier League and soccer at its finest. Last year we followed the Sabres on the Europe swing to Mannheim, Berlin and Helsinki.

2013 will be a busy one for the USRT…A return trip to Europe, city hopping by rail through Germany, Switzerland and England and catching soccer and hockey along the way. March Madness will have us going to Lexington and Dayton for a smorgasbord of college hoops. MLB trips to Baltimore, Atlanta and Denver are on tap, with minor league baseball side trips set for all three journeys.

We joined Artvoice in 2004 to cover Buffalo Bisons baseball, and following the last NHL lockout, took on the Sabres beat. We are proud to represent this publication as accredited members of the sports media, as well as holding membership in the Professional Hockey Writers Association. We now are also affiliated as contributing correspondents with Stadium Journey.

We are… The Ultimate Sports Road Trip. And as along as our health, our finances, and our life circumstances permit, we will continue doing what we do. Thank you to our readers for following along and for all your support, and thank you to our families, our friends, and all those remarkable people who we have built such strong fellowships with along the way. It’s been a great ride!

Special thanks to Marc Odien at WNYMedia for transcribing the video and uploading to You Tube

Follow the Ultimate Sports Road Trip on Twitter:
@akulykUSRT
@pfarrellUSRT