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Before the pandemic, I actually had a vision of a beautiful way to spend the first fall of my retired life. I wanted to visit every NFL stadium in one season.
It all started with the question of whether or not it was actually possible to visit every stadium in one year.
My Dad used to take me on trips to see different Major League Baseball parks. I think it stemmed from Field of Dreams and trying to connect with his sons, who knows, but I knew I got to go on vacations and that was cool with me.
On a trip with my brother we flew to Toronto and stayed in the hotel inside the stadium. We then visited multiple California parks. Then my mom joined in and we went to Boston.
My best memory is when it was just me and my Dad and we flew out to a Mets game in old Shea stadium.
I distinctly remember the smell of the city.
We had box seat tickets that he forgot at the hotel and we had to buy some from scalpers at the game. It ended up raining, so it worked out.
I’ve seen 16 MLB stadiums now. My son does not enjoy baseball however, he enjoys the NFL. As for my daughter… she would enjoy not being in school.
Is It Even Possible?
The next step was to start doing some analysis. Was it actually possible for a human to see a game in every stadium in one season?
An NFL regular season has 17 weeks of games, with 32 teams across the entire United States. Thankfully there are only 30 stadiums as two sets of two teams share a stadium (LA Rams & LA Chargers, New York Giants & New York Jets). However, the NFL also usually plays games outside of the U.S. in London and Mexico. Ideally, you would squeeze those in too.
Games are usually played on Sunday, but a game is played on Thursday and Monday night as well. Meaning in theory you could see three stadiums in one week of games. Now there are 3 different times for games on Sunday, meaning you could see one in the morning and one at night, but the Sunday night games can vary unpredicitably later in the season as the network has the rights to swap game times. I planned for one a day.
If you’re rich you can just plan on going to the Super Bowl and exclude that stadium, but you can’t predict which teams will have home playoff games and those tickets are also more expensive.
Even though playoff games are out, preseason games are in. These are warm-up games for the teams, but it would allow you to see the actual stadium and give you a couple of extra weeks to play with. These games can be more scattered throughout the week as well.
I had every intention of figuring out this problem mathematically. There had to be a way for me to be able to determine scientifically if this was possible. After investigating I realized that this a classic traveling salesman problem.
In short, it was not going to be simple to write the code to attempt to solve the perfect solution, but using brute force I could find a solution.
I got the addresses of all the stadiums and then used the Google API to determine the travel time between each stadium. Then I identified clumps of stadiums that were near each other. Then I looked at the schedule and tried to find games close to each other on both the calendar and in real life. It worked.
I started on the east coast and worked my way across the country and was able to make it to every stadium, including London and Mexico.
After realizing that it was actually possible to do, it was time to start planning. I looked into stadium facts and things to do nearby. I even created fictional posts about how the trip was going. The site has slowly turned into a hypothetical travel site.