'I call it dating kryptonite,' says man who's been to 46 football games this season
Meet Michael Barker, who likes college football more than you do.
EUGENE — Section 22, Row 54, Seat 1 of Autzen Stadium is obstructed by a suite that slices the view of the turf in half hotdog style. It’s not Michael Barker’s seat. He saw it while walking along the concourse of Autzen Stadium on Saturday during Oregon’s loss to Washington and found it to be, well, unique. It’s not an ideal spot, however a gaggle of Husky fans who snagged the seats after Barker posed in the photo below had a pretty great view of Taj Davis’ 62-yard dash to the end zone up the sideline in the fourth quarter.
“I’m not trying to be negative, I just like to point everything out about a college football stadium,” Barker said, who posted the picture to his twitter account @CFBCampusTour. “I like to point out everything you can’t see on TV.”
At this point, it’s safe to qualify Barker as an expert. Saturday was Barker’s 10th college football game in 12 days and his 46th this season. While you’re reading this, he’s probably on a jet out to Louisiana to start another streak. All of this would be impressive if he hadn’t done 81 games last year, or been to all 130 FBS stadiums since 2017. He finished that goal last season in Utah, and is now taking a victory lap around the country while also adding to his growing list of FCS stadiums. On the Friday before Autzen, Barker took in FCS stadium No. 60: Hillsboro Stadium for Portland State’s loss to Sacramento State.
“Going on Friday night and being under that overhang with fans with little Vikings helmets and people drinking hot chocolate? Yeah, I enjoyed it,” Barker said.
This whole thing started because Barker made a trip out to Colorado in 2017 to stay at the Stanley Hotel — the inspiration for Stephen King’s The Shining. On his drive out to the hotel in Estes Park, he stopped in Boulder to check out the CU campus. Barker’s dad played football at University of the Pacific, and touring around Colorado’s facility was a great enough afternoon that he made sure to stop at Colorado State in Fort Collins as he continued his trip. Things started to snowball when he realized Wyoming and Air Force were within driving distance.
“I just really enjoyed looking at stadiums and figured this thing would be fun to try and do,” Barker said.
He’s a real estate appraiser in the Bay Area and able to afford a lifestyle where he grinds in the offseason in order to spend his falls in stadiums. It can be lonely at times, Barker said before quoting Mr. Burns from The Simpsons.
“Family, Religion and Friendships: These are the three demons you have to slay to succeed in business,” he said. “Pretty much applies to this, too.
“I call college football travel dating kryptonite.”
Maybe there is someone out there who eagerly anticipates the schedule releases in the spring like Barker does and starts assembling itineraries around multiple-game weekends, someone who is willing to see Michigan in Ann Arbor to start the day then hurry over to Columbus to see the Buckeyes by sunset.
But mostly, Barker travels alone — though he’s rarely short on interaction. It’s not hard to jump into conversation with a guy when you can literally ask, “Hey have you ever been to this one?” and the answer is yes every time.
I messaged Barker this week after seeing a few of his photos of Autzen come across my Twitter. We swapped numbers and within a few minutes of our conversation I was already trying to get him to talk about Montana’s Washington-Grizzly Stadium.
“So, what’s your favorite FCS stadium?”
“Well, Montana is hard to beat.”
“Going to be honest, that’s what I was fishing for.”
“I went to the brawl of the wild last year and it was a spiritual experience.”
He’s had a few of those the last few years and still a few left on the schedule for 2022: This week he’s in Louisiana before finishing up the regular season next week at the Iron Bowl in Tuscaloosa.
He’s grown a Twitter account with roughly 10,000 people who follow his travels and figures a book may come of it some day. He might just have to see how the market plays out.
“It’s really hard for loan officers to make phone calls to convince people to refinance right now, so I’m stuck in a bit of a holding pattern,” he said. “On one hand, I’m going through my savings right now.
“At the same time, I’m able to focus in and grow my account.”
— Tyson Alger
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