You might play fantasy football, but what if your fantasy is to really play football with the stars? If you've got some time and a little bit (okay, usually a lot) of cash, you can get the experience of really being on the field through a sports fantasy camp. You might not even have the requisite skills to be traded for a conditional seventh-round draft pick, but once your check clears, you can get in the game at any of these fantasy camps:
1. HOT SHOTS CURLING CAMP
Imagine curling alongside Glenn Howard. It sounds almost too good to be true, right? Wait, who's Glenn Howard? If you're one of curling's legion of passionate fans, you know. Howard, a three-time world curling champ, is just one of the celebrity instructors who can give leads, seconds, thirds, and fourths pointers on how to elevate their games at this camp. Clinic topics covered at the weekend-long camp include "Effective Brushing," "Reading the Ice," and "Matching Stones." The curling camp is offering three dates in Oakville, ON, Ottawa and Utica, NY, throughout the late summer and early fall, so you, too, can learn the finer points of curling in time for the 2010 Olympics.
2. USA LUGE LAKE PLACID FANTASY CAMP
Curling's not the only Winter Olympic sport you can brush up on before the torch lights up in Vancouver. USA Luge is offering a fantasy camp at Lake Placid, the site of both the 1932 and 1980 Winter Games, and for $2000, you can learn how to slide down an icy run on your own. Since flying down the chute with no experience is probably incredibly dangerous, the camp breaks newbies in on start ramps in a refrigerated facility before taking on the big drops. Although it sounds a bit pricey, how many chances do you get to race down a world-class luge run? Instead of watching the Olympic luge and saying, "Wow, that looks like a lot of fun!" you'll be able to just nod your head knowingly like an ice-tested veteran.
3. MICHAEL JORDAN FLIGHT SCHOOLS
Want to shoot hoops with His Airness? Are you at least 35 years old? Do you have $17,500 you're just dying to spend? If so, you can hit up MJ's senior camp at the Mirage Hotel in Vegas from August 15-18. For all that dough, you get to run with a team of other camp contestants in scrimmages. That might not sound all that cool, but each team gets two "elite coaches," and Jordan's not throwing the term around loosely. Last year's event boasted a coaching staff that was a veritable checklist of coaching royalty, including Dean Smith, Larry Brown, Chuck Daley, and Hubie Brown. (I counted at least dozen NCAA championship rings and a handful of NBA titles to the staff's credit.) If everything breaks just right, you might even get to take on Jordan in a game of one-on-one, and you might just beat him. In 2003, Ariel Investments CEO John Rogers pulled off the rare feat, and he's got the YouTube video to prove it.
4. NOTRE DAME FOOTBALL FANTASY CAMP
Scores of Golden Domers have dreamed about slipping on the blue and gold to take the field in South Bend, and if you've got the cash, you can make it happen from June 17-21. Participants get four non-contact practice sessions with Notre Dame coaches, sit-downs with the coaching staff to talk about strategy and recruiting, and tours of Irish football facilities that generally aren't open to the public. The price is steep, though; a ticker in will set you back at least $5140, more if you're not a Notre Dame alum. Still, for some people it's a small price to pay to be a part of Notre Dame's glorious football tradition. (I'm assuming this camp focuses on Notre Dame's glory days, not the more recent Charlie Weis-led campaigns, if only because "Making Excuses," "Deflecting Media Questions About Your Coach's Competence," and "Wishing You'd Gone to Ohio State Instead" aren't listed as camp activities.) [Image credit: Michael & Susan Bennett.]
5. PRO WRESTLING FANTASY CAMP
It's easy to mock pro wrestling for being fake, but even if the outcomes of the bouts are scripted, the moves look like they take quite a bit of skill to pull off safely. The wrestling coaches at Toronto's Squared Circle Training can apparently turn any Joe off the street into, at the very least, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, though. In November 2008 the trainers ran a weekend fantasy camp that promised to teach attendees holds, rope running, match pacing, and how to cut a killer promo, all for just $150. Let's hope they also taught campers how to come up with an unstoppable gimmick to win over fans everywhere. (If not, I'll offer one can't-miss suggestion for any aspiring grapplers: a cowboy/Frankenstein hybrid.)
6. IDITAROD DOG MUSHING TRIP
The Iditarod is one of the truly unique events in all of sports, and it's also nearly impossible for a casual fan to replicate. After all, very few of us have our own teams of sled dogs. Alaska Dog Sledding offers weeklong sled dog mushing tours for $2500, and for an extra grand you can time your trip to overlap with the Iditarod in March, which gives you the chance to see the end of the race, meet the racers and their dogs, and generally soak in the chilly Iditarod vibe. Sure, the trip isn't cheap, but compared to buying your own sled and team of dogs, it's a steal.
7. WAYNE GRETZKY'S FANTASY CAMP
The Great One definitely gets the award for cleverest pricing plan; an admission to Gretzky's six-day camp costs $9999, a play on the 99 he always had stitched on the back of his sweaters. Like Jordan's camp, Gretzky's offers teams of weekend warriors the opportunity to take the ice with their hero, get pointers, and play some hotly contested scrimmages. Members of the camp's winning teams get their names engraved on the Gretzky Cup, which Wayne displays at his restaurant in Toronto. (Any former champion who makes a pilgrimage to see the cup gets a free lunch.) Last year's camp included appearances from NHL stalwarts like Lindy Ruff and Bobby Hull, with all the proceeds going to Gretzky's charitable foundation, which helps provide hockey equipment for underprivileged children. For added realism, sign up for a stint at Gretzky's hockey camp while sending your wife to a fantasy sports gambling camp.