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    Swanson: Two lifelong friends tackle one amazing sports bucket list
    • July 6, 2023

    Sports can be more than a game. Also, just a game. And then there are the games within the games. But best might be the games we make up for ourselves, in the backyard or on the playground or over cocktails with a lifelong friend: Like, what if we conquered the world?

    Not in an aggressive way, not in a Risky way, but in an epic frolic from one field of play to another.

    That’s one way to look at George Ross and David Carter’s ambitious and ingenious personal pastime, their “Global Sports Bucket List.” They’ve made the world their game board, themselves the pieces, and since 2016, they’ve been moving according to rules they devised.

    Here’s how it works: They’ve got to land on 25 of the world’s most iconic sporting events or experiences before they turn 75.

    A few parameters: They want to get to at least one per year. They can’t hit the same sport twice, or the same country – outside of the United States. But only half of their stops can be domestic, and none of those can be in the same state.

    And there’s one important overriding principle: Ditch the guidebook and the tour guide. Stick only to the itinerary that their hearts desire, whether it’s what they’re eating, drinking, watching or running away from – as much as the budget will permit, anyway. (A sponsorship to become global ambassadors for Bucket List Events, a sports tourism company, has offered a boost.)

    This is no lark. In a few days, these 58-year-old pals, who have known each other since their days at Ridgecrest Intermediate School in Palos Verdes, will be leaving for London. They’ll cross the pond to cross Wimbledon off the list, with plans to be at Centre Court for the men’s final on July 16.

    If you’re keeping score, that’ll be their 10th point on the board. Which is to say, since kicking this thing off on July 1, 2016, in Pamplona, Spain, they’re in the lead and on schedule despite having had to navigate the pandemic and Carter’s cancer scare.

    They went big out of the gate, going running with the bulls. Learning, in the process, how exhausting a 100-yard dash is when you’re sprinting for your life. “Like running a marathon,” said Ross, who works in commercial real estate. Carter is the executive director of USC’s Sports Business Institute and an associate professor at the university. (He benefits professionally too from these excursions, he said.)

    In March 2017, he and Ross were in Alaska, tracking the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in temperatures that dropped as low as minus-31 degrees.

    AND THEY’RE OFF: The 2017 Iditarod race gets underway in Anchorage, Alaska

    — ABC News (@ABC) March 4, 2017

    And then it was Monday Night Football at Lambeau Field in November 2017, with Carter – who was battling cancer – eschewing medical advice to make that game: “My radiologist … he was saying, ‘You can’t be flying. It’s nuts. Take a break.’”

    But Carter determined that neither the flight to Milwaukee nor the drive to Green Bay was all that far, so he went anyway. And he ended up, he said, with a “raging case of blood clots” that landed him in the hospital when he returned.

    Nonetheless, he insists that experience hasn’t changed his perspective on this bucket-list adventure. It didn’t give it any more heft or poignancy, and it certainly wasn’t going to make him take his eye off the ball.

    “They say, ‘Well, it’s a bucket list, you’re supposed to do it before something happens to you,’” Carter said. “And I’m like, yeah, not really. It’s just part of the inconvenience of if we have to push a trip back or not … it’s not really a part of the calculus of what we’re doing.

    Longtime friends George Ross, left, and David Carter have been around the world as part of their “Global Sports Bucket List” adventure, including to the 2018 World Cup final in Moscow. (Photo courtesy of David Carter)

    “Going wildly over budget in Moscow?” Carter continued, a twinkle in his eye at the thought of the 2018 France-Croatia World Cup final in Russia, where he and Ross had little choice but to splurge on caviar. “Or if George had been gored (by a bull)? That would have been really on point. That would have been fantastic.

    “But, ‘How does your philosophy of the bucket list change after you got sick?’ It only affected potential trip planning, and even that was a rounding error compared to the workarounds for COVID.”

    In 2020 – after their 2019 Panamanian sport fishing trip with some buddies – Carter and Ross had to press pause on their conquest, idling for those months along with the rest of us.

    But they revved right back up in 2021, doing double time with a series of U.S.-based events. That February, they made a trip with their spouses to Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, where they worked as volunteers for the Ironman World Championship before hopscotching to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby in May.

    David Carter, left, and George Ross, friends since their days at Ridgecrest Intermediate School in Palos Verdes, are on a quest to experience 25 of the world’s best sporting events before they turn 75. Their trip to Wimbledon this month will be No. 10 on a list that also included the Kentucky Derby in 2021. (Photo courtesy of David Carter)

    In April 2022, they soaked up the grandeur of the Augusta National grounds for the final round of The Masters, and then got swept along with 100,000 Southerners for the Auburn-Alabama Iron Bowl in November.

    On tap now: Wimbledon, followed next year by the Olympics in Paris and then, likely, by the Tour de France (during a stage when it ventures into a bordering country – you read the instructions!)

    After that? Carter votes for the Monaco Grand Prix. And curling. Ross thinks Oktoberfest and Carnival in Rio de Janeiro should count. Who’s to tell them otherwise? The rule is they make the rules!

    And No. 1: “It’s all about the experience,” Ross said. “For me, travel has always been one of the most important things outside of family and health and career, and so to be able to travel places that David and I have, it’s just been fantastic.”

    “We sort of bumble through some of it,” Carter said. “We’re kind of exploring, and having a good time and trying to uncover stuff that maybe you don’t really read about or that is not part of brochures …”

    Then he asks: “Does this sound totally insane to you?”

    Insane? No.

    Insanely awesome? Yes.

    Now if I could just write a column that would persuade my bosses to sponsor me in a version of this great new Global Sports Bucket List game …

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    ​ Orange County Register