Ramblin' Fan
From World Cup to Wimbledon, hit the road for a sports-filled summer.
by Reed Tucker, FORTUNE Magazine

(FORTUNE Magazine) - It happens every year. That smug bastard in the next office scores amazing seats to some exotic sporting event, then spends months regaling everyone with tales from his adrenaline-fueled travels.

This summer--with the sports calendar packed with everything from the World Cup to the X Games to an all-star tennis and golf lineup--there's still time to grab tickets to the best events. To help, we've assembled a guide to the most hotly anticipated matchups. Which leaves just one question: This year, why shouldn't that smug bastard be you?

World Cup

It comes around only every four years, and this time soccer's World Cup convenes in a true football-loving nation, Germany. And while the crazed passion the rest of the world feels for the mother of all futbol tournaments may be a bit tough to grasp, just imagine if Katie Holmes had given birth to Tom Cruise's baby live at the Super Bowl. Now you're starting to understand.

Getting in: This year Americans will be competing with the entire world ... for tickets. FIFA, which runs the tournament, has been doling out seats ($45--$750) in waves to fans who applied, and a final block of tickets will be awarded beginning May 1. Go to fifaworldcup.com to submit an application.

If money is no object: Scoring tickets through a broker isn't hard, especially if you're flexible about location. For the best seats, says Mike Janes, senior vice president for ticket reseller StubHub, skip games in Frankfurt (where tickets are going for around $1,065 each) and head to Berlin, where the soccer's just as good but prices start at $348.

Local flavor: Seeing your favorite players on the field is one thing; stalking them for autographs at their hotel is even better. The Americans will be bunking at the Park Hyatt Hamburg, the Germans and English at Schlosshotel in Berlin. If you can't land game tickets, each of the 12 host cities will throw gigantic open-air parties where revelers can watch the games on big TV screens. In Berlin, the Brandenburg Gate is the place to be. (Also opening in Berlin just in time for the tournament: a sparkling new legal brothel just down the street from the stadium).

U.S. Open

Golf nuts love drama, so the prospect of a Tiger Woods comeback (he's been caring for his ailing father) at New York's Winged Foot (one of the toughest courses in the U.S.) makes for a don't-miss event.

Getting in: Some 30,000 passes for each day were sold long ago via lottery. Your only option is to head to a ticket broker. A rep from golftickets.net says tickets are selling for $120--$270, but as the event nears, prices will rise. One tip: Buy from an agency licensed by the National Association of Ticket Brokers. Should play be rained out, you'll be entitled to a refund, which may not be the case if you buy from some regular Joe on eBay.

Local flavor: Free shuttles are being offered from the Metro North train station in Mamaroneck, N.Y. For the perfect viewing spot, Winged Foot's 2004 club champion Jim Graham recommends setting up behind the 12th green on the West course. From there you can simultaneously watch the 12th, 13th, and 16th holes.

Wimbledon

There are only three things you can be certain of at Wimbledon: It will rain, the Russian women will have names longer than their rackets, and tickets will be tougher to locate than someone with whom a Williams sister has never feuded.

Getting in: Wimbledon is already technically sold out, but 500 tickets to center court are sold every day of the tournament (except the last four) at the gate. That line is hellaciously long, so another option is to try for a grounds pass instead, which will allow you access to the outer courts where lesser-known (but no less exciting) players are competing. Some 6,000 are also sold each morning. "You see more good matches on the field courts than you do on the stadium courts," says Tony Trabert, 1955 Wimbledon champ and president of the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Trabert also suggests hanging around on the middle Sunday, when no matches are scheduled but are often played due to rainouts earlier in the week. Tickets are first come, first served.

If money is no object: Britain's Westminster Events (www.westminsterevents.com) can get you into nearly any match.

Local flavor: Don't miss strawberries and cream (practically the official food of Wimbledon), available on the grounds for £2. Polo Ralph Lauren is the official designer of the tournament (and the umps' threads), and you can look the part with their All-England-inspired white pants, blue blazers, and striped ties for gentlemen (www.polo.com). And while you may never have Andy Roddick's serve, you can have your racket serviced by a pro: Visit Sam Chan, a nine-time official stringer for Wimbledon, who works out of West London (www.protourstringer.co.uk).

Last resort: Can't swing any more vacation time this year? Make your Wimbledon getaway a business trip by attending London Calling 2006, a conference of music and tech executives who'll discuss the future of music (June 29--30). Your boss--and the smug bastard in the next office--need never know.

June

June 9-July 9, World Cup (soccer), various venues in Germany. Fans around the world are sleepless in anticipation of this massive tournament to end all tournaments, which happens only once every four years. See it before you die. fifaworldcup.com

June 15-18, U.S. Open (golf), Mamaroneck, N.Y. The 106th Open, played at historic Winged Foot, not far from New York City, is likely to provide some of the best golf (will Tiger show?) and most respectful clapping of the summer. usopen.com

June 21-24, The Arctic Open (golf), Akureyri, Iceland Pros and amateurs alike attend this Iceland tourney, where the sun doesn't set

for days. arcticopen.is

June 23-25, Grand Prix du Canada, Montreal It's your chance to explore Montreal, check out the seemingly supersonic Formula One action, and actually enjoy the exchange rate for once. grandprix.ca

July

July 1-23, Tour de France Lance is finally giving someone else a chance. letour.fr

June 26-July 9, Wimbledon Watch as the world's best players battle for awkward congrats from a stiff royal. wimbledon.org

July 12-22, Billabong Pro, South Africa Tan as you watch surfing legends try to tame the supertubes off Jeffreys Bay. aspworldtour.com

August

Aug. 3-6, X Games 12, Los Angeles If your kids veto spending their summer break watching grown men play golf, head to California to watch brave, possibly demented athletes compete in BMX Freestyle, Moto X, Wakeboard, and other things you didn't know were officially sports. expn.com

Aug. 18-Aug. 27, Little League World Series, Williamsport, Pa. The world's best (and we hope, steroid free) 11- and 12-year-olds liven up the dog days of summer, taking the field for some of the most emotional, nerve-racking, and just plain entertaining hardball anywhere. littleleague.org

July 26-Sept. 4, Horseracing, Saratoga, N.Y. It may not have the cachet of the Kentucky Derby, but there's still something special about watching thoroughbreds run in this quaint Victorian town. nyra.com/saratoga

Aug. 28-Sept. 10, U.S. Open (tennis), New York The final grand slam of the season is home to some of the hardest-hitting action on the tour, as well as the most famous fans in the stands. usopen.org Top of page

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