A Day At Tourney Town – An Experience Your Kids Just May Never Forget

You don’t need game tickets to make a lasting memory for your family

By Tony Fay

Ok, this is all true.

I first came into sports consciousness at the age of nine. That’s late, I think. By the time my daughter was that age, she was already a grizzled veteran of the North Texas youth soccer scene. For me, it wasn’t until a Saturday afternoon showing of Gary Cooper as Lou Gehrig in “Pride of the Yankees” that my sports mojo activated.

But when it did…

I can still remember every last cadence of Howard Cosell’s call of Reggie Jackson’s third homerun in Game 6 of the 1977 World Series.  I had a 1973 ABPA Major League Baseball game handed down from a cousin. I’d sit there and play that card and dice game for hours upon hours upon hours. Until I’d played a full 162 game schedule for all teams. Then I’d start again. Not many dates back then.

So, what does this have to do with the upcoming Women’s Final Four? Bear with me.

Although I was born in St. Louis and my family migrated to my father’s hometown of Weymouth, Mass. A few years later, sports finally hit me like a ton of Wilson basketballs, we were living in the small Northern Alabama outpost of Florence. No big time sports for hundreds of miles in either direction. My basketball jones had to settle for the historic (to me) run of Otis Boddie and the University of North Alabama to the 1979 NCAA Division II National Championship.

It wasn’t until I was 12 that we moved to Dallas, dropping lasting roots in Plano. When we arrived here that November all I wanted was to go see a game. I begged my parents. Pleaded. But there was a sad truth. The Cowboys season was drawing to a close, and no tickets could be had (sorry, no Internet secondary market in 1979). The Rangers were out of season. The Mavericks were a year away from birth. The Stars were still in Minnesota.

That left the Cotton Bowl Classic as the next big thing on the local sports horizon. But alas, it too was a sellout, with fans from Nebraska and Houston eager for the Jan. 1 kickoff.


What we could attend was the Cotton Bowl Parade. This annual Dallas tradition of the era served as a rival of sorts to the Tournament of Roses. It offered pageantry, marching bands, a route that cut through the heart of downtown and a nationwide TV audience on CBS. Awesome.

I still recall the folding chairs we took to the parade that day. The sunny skies and crisp weather. I was part of the Cotton Bowl experience – even if it meant watching the actual game on television. It was my first big time sports memory, and it’s still one of my most enduring.

Today, most big time championships have “ancillary fan events” meant to attract those who don’t have tickets and provide an extra layer of revelry for those who do. In and of themselves, they are easy to take for granted – a side garnish to the real meal, THE GAMES.  But think again. Tourney Town, like the Cotton Bowl Parade before it, is a chance to make a lasting memory.

Tourney Town presented by Capital One, is a FREE fan festival that will exist in the lots outside of the AAC. There will be celebrity appearances, an Autograph Zone, interactive games, youth clinics, mascot hijinks, and what should be a highly spirited and entertaining 3 v 3 tournament. And the fun isn’t limited to hoops – kids of all ages can test their skills in sports as varied as softball, soccer and lacrosse.

And if you’ve ever dreamed of soaring past the AAC, here’s your shot. A 180-foot, two-person zip line will catch speeds up to 20 mph.

For the younger fans, there’s even a nine-hole miniature golf course, face painting, a giant game of Jenga and a 15-foot Women’s Final Four logo that’s just daring children to color it with chalk.

(A complete schedule of up to the minute Tourney Town activities can be found at http://www.ncaa.com/womens-final-four/tourney-town)

The point is, for just the simple investment of time, a memory can be forged.  Make a day out of Tourney Town – your kids will have big eyes, wide grins and will probably fall to sleep quicker and easier that night. A win all the way around.

And who knows? They might even feel compelled to write about the experience 40 years later.





National Semifinal Games: Friday, March 31 at 6:30 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. CT

National Championship Game: Sunday, April 2 at 5:00 p.m. CT