Thursday, December 18, 2014

When I Was 44, It Was a Very Bad Year


When he was 49, Frank Sinatra recorded "It Was a Very Good Year." In it, he sang words not written by or for him, telling of the "very good years" when he was 17, 21 and 35, and how they compared to now, when "I'm in the autumn of the year."

In his case, since, like me, he was born in a December, those years would have been 1933, 1937 and 1951. In 1933, he left high school in Hoboken, New Jersey without graduating. In 1937, he was a singing waiter; whatever he learned on that job, it would be 2 more years before he was any kind of success. And in 1951, after having been one of the biggest stars in music on planet Earth in the preceding 10 years, his career was in a downturn. Like Elvis Presley for most of the 1960s, he was in a rut where his teenage fans had grown up and moved on, and he hadn't been able to bring them back with more mature recordings; nor had he yet hooked a new generation of fans. Like Elvis, he would eventually solve these problems (with, like Elvis, significant help from his Las Vegas performances). His personal life was also a mess: He divorced his first wife Nancy Barbato, and married actress Ava Gardner; while many say she was the true love of his life, and she of his, it was a disaster.

But then, he was a great actor as well as a great singer: Listening to him sing that song, it's easy to believe that, for him, they actually were very good years.

*

As for myself?

When I was 17, it was a very good year -- for 11 months. I won't get into it here, but the last month of that year contained events that sent my life into a tailspin, and are still having repercussions for me.

When I was 21, it was a very bad year. It had its good moments, but, for the most part, I felt completely lost and absolutely miserable.

When I was 35, it was a pretty good year -- again, toward the end. I was probably better off then than I've ever been.

You'll notice that I haven't mentioned sports yet, in any overt form. The truth is, some years that were good for me in sports were bad for me in life, and vice versa.

This year was bad for both.

The Yankees missed the Playoffs, going through another injury-wracked season and losing the retiring Derek Jeter. The Devils missed the Playoffs in the 2013-14 season, not lifting a finger to keep Martin Brodeur, and look even worse in the 2014-15 season now underway. Indeed, most of the New York Tri-State Area teams stink now. The Giants and Jets are horrible, and both look like they're about to fire their head coaches, and their general managers are on hot seats as well. The Knicks and Nets are also bad; a combined New York team might make the Playoffs only because the NBA Eastern Conference is currently so weak. The Islanders have become a Playoff team again, but anybody who thinks they're a genuine Stanley Cup contender is rather premature.

The only Tri-State Area team that did well is the one I absolutely despise, the Rangers, which, for me, counts as a serious rubbing-in. And even they, once they got to their sport's Finals, got embarrassed, in a way no area team has been embarrassed in its Finals since the then-New Jersey Nets got swept by the Los Angeles Lakers in 2002.

Rutgers finished with a winning record and a bowl berth, but, victims of their own "success" in the Greg Schiano years, those achievements are no longer enough; and their first season in the Big Ten Conference was rough.

East Brunswick High School, my alma mater, had one of its best years in boys basketball, and continued to do well in both boys and girls soccer, and even (in the calendar year) made the State Playoffs in football -- on a technicality, because the Sayreville hazing sandal forced that school to cancel its season, resulting in the forfeiture of all remaining games, including one against E.B. We made the Playoffs with a 4-4 record, lost in the first round (the quarterfinals), and got our usual Thanksgiving Day pounding from our arch-rivals, Old Bridge.

*

And that was just the sports stuff. Real life was harder.

Late last year, I lost my job of 7 years. Most likely, things would have come to a head between myself and my boss between then and now anyway. You've no doubt seen signs saying, "Rule #1: The Boss is always right. Rule #2: If the Boss is wrong, see Rule #1." Well, where I worked, the boss was getting more and more wrong all the time.

It would have been very, very easy for him to solve the immediate problem between us. He chose to ignore it. And the next time we saw each other -- it had gotten to the point where he was rarely in he office where I worked, which was one of the main problems -- he decided to let me have it. He accused me of something which wasn't true, and threatened to prove it to me. I knew I had him: I called his bluff, and told him to go ahead and prove it, because I knew he couldn't.

And faster than the Bush Administration pivoted from focusing on Osama bin Laden to focusing on Saddam Hussein, he went from a look of "Uh-oh, he's got me" to changing the subject. He told me that I was showing him tremendous disrespect. I told him he deserved it, because he had no respect for his employees, whom he grossly underpaid and piled on ridiculous assignments that never got finished because of the new things he assigned us. So he wrote out a check and paid me the money he owed me since he last paid me, and sent me home. I've never spoken to him again, even on the phone. Nor do I wish to.

And I've been unemployed ever since. Over a year. I've gotten plenty of job interviews, but they've almost all been from companies whose human resources managers have misread my resume, thinking that I'm a marketing person. I am not. By far, my best experience has been clerical work. My sales experience, from trying to sell magazine subscriptions door-to-door to houses in the suburbs when I was in elementary school to trying to sell energy subscriptions door-to-door to businesses in New York City when I was in my 30s, have been complete disasters. I will never take another sales job.

This past April, shortly before my unemployment insurance ran out, I got a job. A place in Queens told me they needed someone for data entry. The location was good. The pay was good. Everything seemed great. I was so relieved.

When I showed up for work on the first day, I was shown my desk. There was no computer. There wasn't even a telephone. What was there was a headset, a telemarketer's script, and post-it notes prefabricated answers to customers' objections.

I was flat-out lied to, and the manager continued to lie right to my face, saying it was never a data entry job. I wouldn't have taken the job if I'd known it was telemarketing -- a word that she never used when she interviewed me. I think the only thing stopping me from calling her a lying bitch right to her duplicitous face was the knowledge that I would now surely be unemployed after my unemployment insurance ran out, which was now scaring the hell out of me.

So my unemployment insurance ran out. Ever since, I've been living in my parents' house, off their money, doing "odd jobs" to "earn my keep."

This is not encouraging for a 44-year-old man.

And then, my father died. There was no warning: Although he was well overweight, and had looked noticeably older in the last couple of years, he wasn't sick. Everyone who knew him was shocked.

And it was up to me to call my sister and tell her. I would have died myself to not have to make that call.

To make matters worse, her 7-year-old twin daughters had their birthday between his death and the funeral. And they'd lost their other grandfather only a year and a half earlier. And they'd lost an elderly family friend who was like a third grandfather. That's too much for a small child to bear.

And then I had to help my mother plan a funeral. And I had to write and deliver a eulogy. And it occurred to me just how little I knew of his life before I came along. Which wasn't helped by the fact that a lot of the people he knew at the time are dead now (some dying much younger than he lived to be) -- and many of those who were still alive were unable to come, due to the ailments of old age, so there wasn't much they could tell me.

My eulogy was well-received, even more so than the one I wrote and delivered for my grandmother 8 years earlier. Those 8 minutes were probably the calmest I'd been all week.

We did have a birthday celebration for the girls -- about 2 weeks later. But since the funeral was on July 3, we didn't do our usual 4th of July celebration.

Needless to say, I didn't add "master eulogist" to my resume. But I did alter it to read, "No sales or marketing jobs." Apparently, reading comprehension still isn't a requirement for being a human resources director, because the vast majority of the calls I've gotten since are still for sales and/or marketing.

At this writing, I am still unemployed.

"So, Mike," you may be thinking, "why don't you find a way to make money through your blog?" I did think of that. I followed Blogger.com's instructions on how to do that. All that did was put ads on my blog, mainly for companies I've never heard of, selling things I would never use. I haven't seen a penny as a result of this.

And, as I write this, I've got an infected tooth. For 3 nights, I was in miserable pain, before I could finally get an appointment. I was told the infection had to be reduced before it came out. So the tooth is still in. It will (presumably) come out on Monday, so, while I've still got it on my birthday, it will be out before Christmas Eve.

And, of course, since I can't afford insurance -- don't get me started on the irony of my support for Obamacare when I can't even afford that, I am a firm believer in national health insurance, and conservatives can go to hell for standing in its way -- my mother is paying for the extensive dental work I need. (Fortunately, she sold my father's SUV, so that's an extra $500 a month she now has, and she's now getting his pension, which was greater than her own.)

*

So what good things happened in my 45th year on Earth? Well, at the end of it, I finally got a workable plan for getting my teeth fixed. That, alone, should help me in my job search: At least, once I get a particular tooth fixed, I won't be reluctant to smile anymore.

The family did get to have one last nice trip together before my father died, a day-trip to Philadelphia: Myself, my parents, my sister and her husband, and her girls.

Thanksgiving was expected to be difficult, since my sister was going to go to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, leaving my mother and me as the only family left. Although our relationship has improved, it would still have been incredibly awkward. My sister suggested that the two of us also go down. I visited Myrtle Beach in 1993. It's not like a Jersey Shore town. It's like Ocean City, Maryland, only tackier and redneckier. And when I told Mom how far it was, and that Amtrak doesn't go there, and she'd have to drive all the way down and all the way back (since I can't drive), she put the kibosh on it.

So a nearby family with whom we've become new friends (because they have kids about my nieces' age) suggested an alternative: Thanksgiving weekend at a nice hotel on the beach in Cape May, at the southern tip of New Jersey. This would be a two-and-a-half-hour drive, instead of 10-and-a-half-hours (not counting rest stops). And Mom already loved Cape May, and I at least liked it. We went down there, and while we couldn't quite put all the stress of the year behind us, but I hadn't felt so relaxed since I last had my own place. And Mom and I didn't argue once over the 3 days -- that's got to be a record.

As a segue from the personal to sports, this was the year I was finally able to cement the bond with the girls over the Yankees. They were now 7, the same age I was when I first watched the Yankees TV. We watched real games together, we watched "Yankees Classics" on YES, and we watched my DVDs. They got to see that Babe Ruth wasn't just a cartoonish-looking guy in a book, he was a real person who actually did all those amazing things. They now know about Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Phil Rizzuto, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Mickey Mantle, Reggie Jackson and Derek Jeter. We even watched Joe Torre's Monument Park ceremony together.

I also showed them footage of important non-Yankee stuff, like Jackie Robinson on the basepaths and Bobby Thomson's home run and Willie Mays' catch. They know that the Dodgers and Giants used to be in New York City, but they're in California now. And they know that the Mets didn't always stink.

For me, aside from EBHS making it into the State football Playoffs through the backest of back doors, the highlight was London soccer team Arsenal finally winning another trophy after 8 years, the first since I became an Arsenal fan: The Football Association Cup, England's national tournament. It's like the NCAA Tournament, a.k.a. "March Madness": Everybody is eligible, and, theoretically, anybody can win it. Its history is full of upsets, referred to as "cup shocks" and "the magic of the FA Cup."

The difference is, the FA Cup runs all season long, concurrent with the League season. Plus, there's the League Cup, and, for some teams (including Arsenal, in the UEFA Champions League every season since 1998-99), European competition. It's possible to be going for 4 trophies at once, but Arsenal hadn't won one since the 2005 FA Cup, for various reasons.

Arsenal beat their fellow North Londoners, arch-rival Tottenham Hotspur, to begin their "cup run," then beat lower-division Coventry City, then beat both of the Merseyside teams, Liverpool and Everton. It seemed rather easy. A Semifinal against defending Champions Wigan Athletic (their win the year before was one of those legendary cup shocks) looked bad, but they came from behind and won on penalties. Finally, on May 17, at the new Wembley Stadium -- Arsenal hadn't won a Wembley Final since 1998, at the old stadium -- they came back from an early 2-0 deficit against Hull City to win in extra time (read: "overtime"), on a goal by Aaron Ramsey, 3-2.

And then, The Arsenal came to, as they would say over there, my manor. The players on their roster who had competed in the World Cup (won by German) weren't ready to play again, and were left behind; but those who hadn't, like Ramsey from Wales which didn't qualify, or who weren't selected for their national teams, like Santi Cazorla from Spain, came, took in the sights of New York, and played Arsenal's first match in North America since a 1989 trip to Miami. It was at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, against the New York Red Bulls, featuring Arsenal legend Thierry Henry.

Incredibly -- because the tickets went on sale before my unemployment insurance ran out -- I got in. Naturally, I rooted for Arsenal, as did the vast majority of the 25,000 people on hand. (It cold have been moved to the 82,000-seat MetLife Stadium at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, and it would still have been a mostly Arsenal crowd.) After all, I hadn't been a Red Bulls fan for most of their existence. It was Arsenal who led me to my local team, not the other way around.

And, naturally, Arsenal got screwed: The Red Bulls won 1-0, partly because a perfectly legitimate goal was disallowed for offside -- a goal scored, incredibly, by Abou Diaby, the Afro-French midfielder most famous for kicking Chelsea's odious captain John Terry in the face in the 2007 League Cup Final (accidentally, of course; he's not good enough to have succeeded in doing that on purpose), and for always being injured. He's made exactly 1 appearance in the 2014-15 season, 1 the season before, and just 23 senior-level games in the last 4 seasons -- for Arsenal and France combined.

Still, if the Gooner cannot go to The Arsenal, The Arsenal finally figured out that The Arsenal must come to the Gooner. Nobody can ever again say, "You're not a real fan, you've never even seen them play in person." Now, they say, "Preseason friendlies don't count." These people are idiots. I can now say, even for the team that plays 3,500 miles from home, I've seen every team I love live.

So the year wasn't completely bad.

And it wasn't the worst year of my life. I've had much harder ones. I won't get into specifics, but my late teens, my early 20s, and my early 30s had years that made me feel as though living longer had no point to it.

But I got through them. And I got through this one.

Now, as I turn 45, I know full well that things can get worse -- or better.

I have to say, though, that things need to get much better, soon.

Because -- and the irony in my saying this is now gone -- I'm too old for this shit.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

How to Go to an Islanders Game at the Nassau Coliseum -- One Last Time


Tomorrow night, the New Jersey Devils will make their last regular-season trip to the Nassau County Veterans Memorial Coliseum to face the New York Islanders.

It is possible that these 2 teams could face each other in the Playoffs, but it doesn't look like it will happen -- for once (since 1993, anyway) because the Devils look like the ones who can't hold up their half of the bargain. At any rate, they've only faced each other in the Playoffs once, in 1988, as the Devils were on their way up and the Islander dynasty was on its way down, and the Devils won.

Next season, 2015-16, the Islanders will move into the Barclays Center in downtown Brooklyn, once again sharing an arena with the Nets, as they did the Coliseum from 1972 to 1977. The name "Islanders" is still appropriate, however: While most people mean Nassau and Suffolk Counties when they use the words "Long Island," geologically, the island includes the New York City Boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens.

Indeed, the Barclays Center was built right across Atlantic Avenue from the the terminal of the Long Island Rail Road (as the new home of the Brooklyn Dodgers was supposed to be); Long Island University has its main campus a short walk away; and the Battle of Long Island, in the War of the American Revolution, was fought in what is now Brooklyn Heights. So the Islanders won't have to change either their name or their logo. (I hope they don't change their uniforms, especially back to those "Gorton's Fisherman" togs of the mid-1990s.)

Due to its suburban nature, and Brooklynites taking advantage of the G.I. Bill after World War II, "Lawn Giland" became Dodger territory, and, after they moved, Met territory. Long Islanders also stuck to the Jets, with their team offices and training camp, Weeb Ewbank Hall, being on the campus of Hofstra University, across from the Nassau Coliseum. And, of course, the Nets rose to success on Long Island, and the Islanders were subsequently established there.

Now, the Isles will be gone, leaving the new version of soccer's New York Cosmos, playing on the Hofstra campus, as, for the moment, the closest thing The Island will have to a major league team, while the "independent" minor-league Long Island Ducks play in Central Islip.

These days, however, in newspaper articles charting fandom by "Facebook Likes," the Yankees (by a 2-to-1 margin), Giants (slightly) and Knicks (by an insane margin over the Nets, which may change once they win something as "Brooklyn") dominate even The Island -- of the "New Breed" teams, only the Islanders still have a majority there. And even they sometimes get their arena "taken over" by opposing fans, especially the Rangers and Devils.

Before You Go. This "roadtrip" will be in the same metropolitan area, so the weather and the time zone will be the same. The weather is predicted to be dry and in the low 30s, so bring a winter jacket, but you almost certainly won't get rained or snowed on.

Tickets. You would think that, with this being the last season of Islander hockey at the Nassau Coliseum, and with the team playing better than it has in almost 20 years, tickets would be hard to come by. Nope: They're averaging just 14,024 fans per home game, about 86 percent of the hockey capacity of 16,234. You can probably show up at the Coliseum the night of the game and get just about any ticket you can afford.

In the lower level, in the 100 and 200 sections, seats are $151 between the goals and $89 behind them. In the upper level, in the 300 sections, they're $63 between the goals and $43 behind them. StubHub has seats in the upper level for under $20.

Getting There. The best way to get to the Nassau Coliseum is to drive. I'm not going to kid you about that: Getting there by public transportation, but it's a pain in the ass -- especially for a night game, for reasons that I will explain after I list the driving directions.

From southern Queens or Brooklyn, take the Belt Parkway to the Southern State Parkway. Take Exit 19S for Peninsula Blvd. South. Take Peninsula Blvd. to Fulton Avenue, until it becomes the Hempstead Turnpike. The Coliseum will be on your left, between Earle Ovington Blvd. and James Doolittle Blvd.

From Staten Island or Central Jersey, get into Staten Island, and take the Verrazano Bridge into Brooklyn, and then follow the preceding directions.

From anywhere else, get to the Long Island Expressway, and take Exit 38 for the Northern State Parkway. Take Exit 31A for the Meadowbrook State Parkway South. Take Exit M4 for Charles Lindbergh Blvd. Take a left on Ovington Blvd., and the Coliseum will be on your left.

Now, here's the troublesome directions by public transportation. It's one of the quirks of Long Island that it is dominated by the Long Island Rail Road, but that the LIRR doesn't go to many of the most prominent points on The Island: The Coliseum, Roosevelt Field, Jones Beach, Fire Island, Theodore Roosevelt's place in Oyster Bay.

So you get to Penn Station, and buy a round-trip ticket for Hempstead. That will cost $22. When you arrive at the Hempstead Terminal, walk across the street to the Hempstead Transit Center, and take the N72 bus to the Hempstead Turnpike and Ovington. It should take about 15 minutes. As on the New York Subway and buses, a single ride is $2.50, and you can use your MetroCard.

Getting back will be harder. Make sure you walk across the parking lot toward the southeast corner, to the bus shelter on the Turnpike at Glenn Curtiss Blvd. At 9:45 PM, the N72 bus should arrive, and it should take about 10 minutes. But if it takes longer, you might be sort of screwed: The next train from Hempstead leaves at 9:56. The next one leaves at 11:09, and you'll be about as happy to stick around downtown Hempstead for over an hour as you would be to stand on line for the Coliseum bathrooms for that length of time (which could happen).

So, yeah, despite the proximity to Midtown Manhattan (about 25 miles), the public transportation situation stinks, and you're going to prefer driving.

Once In the "City." Long Island is home to about 2.8 million people, about half of that in each County. The Town of Hempstead has about 760,000, while the "hamlet" of Uniondale, the "census-designated place" within Hempstead that includes the Coliseum, has about 25,000 permanent residents.

Aside from the Coliseum and the Hofstra campus, there isn't much in Uniondale. Essentially, you'll want to get from home to the Coliseum, see a game, and get out.

Going In. The official address of the Nassau Coliseum is 1255 Hempstead Turnpike, Hempstead, NY 11553. There are entrances on the north, east and west sides, but not the south -- which, of course, is the side you'll be facing if you came in by train and bus (and maybe even by car). This arena, built in 1972, wasn't the most convenient of sports venues then, and is even less so now. At least parking is cheap: $8.00. The ticket office, and thus the main entrance, is on the east side.

The rink is laid out north-to-south. The Islanders attack twice toward the north end.

A plan is in place to redevelop the Coliseum, to downsize its seating area, and make it home for a new minor-league hockey team, while the Nets and Islanders would return to play preseason games.

Food. Those of you who've been with the Devils since the Meadowlands days, you know that one level of concourse for two levels of seats simply doesn't work. Unfortunately, the Coliseum appears to be the arena on which the Meadowlands was based, so those of you who've been trying to put those cramped quarters out of your minds may have flashbacks.

The north side of the arena has 2 "Brew Houses," 2 Carvel ice cream stands, The Savor Market (which includes pizza), Greek Isles (pitas, gyros, stuff like that), Lettuce Serve You (salad stand), and a stand serving French Dip sandwiches.

The east side has Doolin's Pub, a Sabrett hot dog stand, Knuckleheads East, The Works, another Brew House, the Bavarian Hut (the Bavaria region of southern Germany is known for old castles, not huts like the South Pacific, but it has sausages and beer), pretzels and a Beers of the World stand.

The south side has a place named Goalie (I don't remember it being there on my last visit, so I don't know what's sold there), a Pig N Pickle stand, a Subway, 2 more Brew Houses, a Glass Kosher stand, another Savor Market and another Carvel.

The west side has another The Works and a place named simply The Grill -- a lot of the west side is taken up by the team store.

Team History Displays. The Islanders have won 4 Stanley Cups in 42 years -- and, as they continue to remind us, they were won as 4 in a row, 1980 through 1983. In other words, they won as many Stanley Cups in 4 years as the Rangers have won in 88 years -- 1 more than the Devils have in 32 years.

Those 4 Stanley Cup banners are hung from the rafters in the northwest corner of the Coliseum, a reminder of the days when the building was nicknamed "Fort Neverlose." At the south end, the Isles hang banners for finishing 1st overall in the Prince of Wales Conference in 1978, 1979 and 1981 (before realignment meat that a "conference championship" meant the postseason, not the regular season); for winning the Wales Conference title in 1982, 1983 and 1984; and winning what was then known as the Lester Patrick Division in 1978, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1984, 1988 and 1993. (That 1988 "division title" is for the regular season -- as I said, the Devils beat them in the Division Semifinals, before beating the Washington Capitals to become 1988 Patrick Division Playoff Champions, a banner that now hangs at the Prudential Center).

In the northeast corner, the Isles feature their retired number banners. All of them are from their Stanley Cup wins: 5, defenseman and Captain Denis Potvin (who, it should be pointed out, did not suck); 9, left wing Clark Gillies; 19, center Bryan Trottier; 22, right wing Mike Bossy; 23, right wing Bob Nystrom; and 31, goaltender Billy Smith. Gillies, Trottier and Bossy formed "the Trio Grande Line."

The Isles also honor coach Al Arbour and general manager Bill Torrey with banners. Torrey's banner has a bowtie, which he always wore, and the words "The Architect." Arbour, a good defenseman who usually wore Number 3 in his playing days, had been represented by a banner with the number 739 on it, for his coaching wins. In 2007, when it was noticed that he had coached 1,499 games in the NHL, coach Ted Nolan asked the Isles and the League to allow him to step aside for 1 game, so that Arbour could be a head man for a 1,500th time. It was set up, and the Isles won. A new banner went up with Arbour's name and the number 1500. It made him the oldest man to coach in the NHL, and only Scotty Bowman has coached, or won, more games.

All of these men, except Nystrom, scorer of the goal that clinched the 1st Cup in 1980, are in the Hockey Hall of Fame. So is Pat LaFontaine, whose number has not been retired, but he has been elected to the Islanders' Hall of Fame. So have Bob Bourne, Ken Morrow, Patrick Flatley and Kenny Jonsson. Unfortunately, the plaques for the Islanders' Hall of Fame are next to the team's locker room, and are not accessible to the general public. Hopefully, this will be rectified at the Barclays Center.

All of these honorees are still alive, although it has been reported that Arbour has begun to suffer from dementia -- not a great surprise considering his age (82) and the fact that he played hockey in an era before helmets.

The New York Nets played at the Coliseum from 1972 to 1977, 5 seasons, first in the American Basketball Association, where they won a Division Title in 1972 and the Championship in 1974 and 1976; then, in the last season, in the NBA, before moving to New Jersey. However, there is no official indication at the Coliseum that the Nets played there, let alone won anything there (and won it all before the Islanders earned so much as a single banner to raise). The Nets took their banners (titles, and eventually retired numbers) with them to Rutgers, then to the Meadowlands, then to the Prudential Center, and now to Brooklyn.

Elvis Presley sang at the Nassau Coliseum on June 22, 23, and 24, 1973, and on July 19, 1975. The 1st concert on his Fall 1977 tour was supposed to be there, but it was not to be. It's also hosted many other renowned concerts, including major ones by Long Island native Billy Joel and a recent 2-night show by Miley Cyrus' BANGERZ World Tour. (Perspective: The last time the Isles reached the NHL's last 4, Miley was 6 months old.) However, there's no official indication that any of this happened, either.

Stuff. Due to the cramped quarters, the Islanders don't have a very big team store -- indeed, it's a wonder that they have one at all. It's on the west side of the building. There are smaller souvenir stands all around.

But you won't be able to find books or DVDs about the Islanders there. Maybe that will change at the Barclays Center, but not yet.

In 2012, to commemorate the team's 40th Anniversary, Greg Prato wrote Dynasty: The Oral History of the New York Islanders, 1972-1984. In 2005, Peter Botte of the Daily News and Alan Hahn of MSG Network picked up the story from the end of the dynasty with Fish Sticks: The Fall and Rise of the New York Islanders.

To celebrate their 15th Anniversary in 1987, the team released Pride of the Island: The New York Islanders Story, which is available on Amazon.com, but only in VHS form. So is Never Say Die: The Story of the New York Islanders, released in 1996.

In 2009, the NHL released the DVD New York Islanders: 10 Greatest Games, but Amazon says it is currently not available. It includes all 4 Cup clinchers, the 1982 Game 5 comeback against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the overtime Playoff clincher against the Rangers in 1984, the 4-overtime Game 7 "Easter Epic" against the Washington Capitals in 1987, the 1993 overtime winner against the Penguins in 1993, a 2002 Playoff win over the Toronto Maple Leafs that featured a penalty shot by Shawn Bates, and Arbour's 1,500th game in 2007 (also against the Penguins). It doesn't, however, include the Game 7 overtime winner against the Capitals by Pierre Turgeon (and his subsequent clobbering by Dale Hunter), the Islanders' most consequential win of the last 30 years.

During the Game. Islander fans hate the Rangers. They also don't like the Devils -- but their jealousy of our 3 Stanley Cups since 1995 leads them to say we are jealous of them for their 4 Cups, now long ago. Riiiight. At any rate, they don't especially hate us any more than Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington or Boston. They certainly don't hate us as much as they hate the Rangers. A Ranger fan, wearing a Ranger jersey, takes his life into his hands in and around the Nassau Coliseum. A Devils fan, wearing Scarlet & Black, should be fine, as long as he doesn't provoke Islander fans.

Make sure you go to the bathroom and get your food before the pregame ceremonies, or else you might miss half a period on line -- for each of those. It's not just the single, narrow concourse, it's the fact that there simply aren't enough bathrooms, and that the ones they do have are small. It never occurred to the architect in the late 1960s that, in a crowd of over 16,000 people, during the course of a 3-hour sporting event, there's a pretty good chance that each and every one of them will have to relieve themselves during the course of a game. So they didn't build enough bathrooms, or bathrooms that were big enough. This will not be a problem next season at the Barclays Center.

The Islanders' goal song is "Crowd Chant" by Joe Satriani. The fans have a deep attachment to their cheerleaders/cleanup crew, the Ice Girls. At least once every period, the whistle to which we have all become accustomed at the Prudential Center, and before that at the Meadowlands, will ring out in the arena where it originated, followed by the chant: "RANGERS SUCK!" (Which... they do.) Islander fans do not, however, add what we add, because they simply don't hate the Flyers as much as we do.

Inevitably, at some people, the Coliseum organist will play "The Chicken Dance," and at the point where most people would do the 4 claps, Islander fans shout, "The Rangers suck!" (Which, as I said, they do.)

After the Game. Having just the one concourse, getting out isn't easy. And, if you didn't drive, the distance from the exit to the bus shelter on the Hempstead Turnpike -- especially at night, and especially if it's cold, or wet -- can seem interminable. And the wait for a bus can be just as bad. But, at the least, you'll probably be safe. And if there's someone who looks like he's getting a little unruly, just tell him that the Rangers suck. That should turn him around -- or, at least, redirect his anger.

Looking for a good place to have a postgame meal, or just a pint? A 5-minute walk east of the Coliseum is the Long Island Marriott, which has a sports bar called Champions. If that's not your idea of the right place, you may be out of luck. Across the Turnpike, there's a McDonald's, a Starbucks and a Dunkin Donuts, but if it's beer you want, you may have to drive (in which case, you shouldn't be drinking). If you came by train & bus, and you miss your connection to the train back to The City, there are delis and Chinese restaurants open late in Hempstead. But I wouldn't recommend trying the bars.

Sidelights. This is where I discuss other sports-related sites in the metropolitan area in question, and then move on to tourist attractions that have no (or little) connection to sports. Since the Islanders are still, for another 4 months (possibly including Playoffs), in the only home they've ever known, I'll limit this to their upcoming new home and other Long Island sports sites.

* Hofstra University. The campus of Long Island's best-known institution of higher learning has its campus to the south of the Coliseum, across the Hempstead Turnpike; and to the west of it, across Earl Ovington Blvd.. To the west is Weeb Ewbank Hall, the former offices and practice facility of the New York Jets.

To the south is most of the school's athletic facilities, James M. Shuart Stadium. Hofstra -- originally the Flying Dutchmen, and now, in a weird nod to political correctness (I don't recall any Dutch-American groups getting upset at the name), the Pride -- no longer plays football. But they do play other sports there, and the new version of the New York Cosmos, as the original version did for a time in the early 1970s, plays their home games there while they look for a stadium closer to The City.

* Long Island Arena. Also known as the Commack Arena, this 4,000-seat barn opened in 1956, and from 1959 until 1973 -- forced into irrelevancy and dissolution by the arrival of the Islanders -- it was home to the Long Island Ducks of the Eastern Hockey League. (There is now an independent minor-league team with that name playing in Central Islip, Suffolk County.)

The ABA team in the New York market arrived, after spending the 1st season of 1967-68 as the New Jersey Americans at the Teaneck Armory, and, to rhyme with the Mets and the Jets, changed their name to the New York Nets -- admittedly, a dumb name with a dumb reason. They were terrible in that 1968-69 season, and found the floor unacceptable, full of pits and gouges, and with condensation from the ice beneath coming up, making it slick. After 1 season, the Nets moved again, for reasons that had little to do with poor attendance or performance.

John F. Kennedy made campaign stops at both the Teaneck Armory and the Long Island Arena on November 6, 1960, 2 days before he was elected President. Part of Peter Frampton's album Frampton Comes Alive! was recorded there. It housed an indoor flea market before being closed and demolished in 1996. A shopping center is now on the site. 88 Veterans Memorial Highway at Sunken Meadow Parkway. Not really reachable by public transportation.

* Island Garden. Built across the street from the original Island Garden, which hosted rock concerts from 1957 to 1968, the Nets managed to stay here for 3 seasons, from 1969 to 1972, including Rick Barry's ABA scoring leader season in 1971 and their 1st Division title in 1972.

The opening of the Nassau Coliseum made the Island Garden's 8,500 seats obsolete. (Yes, kids, the "Mausoleum" made another arena obsolete.) It was partly demolished in 1973, and, as with the Long Island/Commack Arena, a shopping center is on the site today. But so is a part of the original arena, and youth basketball is still played there. 45 Cherry Valley Avenue at Terminal Road, West Hempstead. LIRR Hempstead Branch to Queens Village, then transfer to MTA N6 bus.

* Bethpage Ballpark. This 6,002-seat stadium, about 45 miles east of Midtown Manhattan and 20 miles east of the Nassau Coliseum, opened in 2000, and had 4 different names in just 10 years (now 15 seasons of play). Bethpage Federal Credit Union bought the naming rights in 2010, so it has the name of that Suffolk County town, even though it's not in that town.

The Ballpark is home to the Long Island Ducks, named for the old minor-league hockey team, which was named for the many duck farms in Suffolk County. The Ducks have won the Atlantic League Pennant in 2004, 2012 and 2013, and have usually led the League in attendance. Former Met shortstop Bud Harrelson is a part-owner, was their first manager, and is now the 3rd base coach (as he was for the last Met title in 1986), and Gary Carter managed them to a Playoff berth in 2010.

3 Court House Drive, Central Islip. Not really reachable by public transportation: The closest LIRR station is in Central Islip, over 2 miles away.

* Barclays Center. Home of the Nets since the fall of 2012, and the home of the Islanders starting next October, it seats 17,732 for basketball and 15,795 for hockey -- the latter figure being a few hundred less than the Nassau Coliseum, but it's a much more modern arena, comparable to the Prudential Center, and even better than the renovated Madison Square Garden. It's also a lot easier to get to. 620 Atlantic Avenue at Flastbush Avenue. 2, 3, 4, 5, B, N, Q or R train to Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center station. Whether the move will help the Islanders competitively remains to be seen, but it hasn't really helped the Nets much yet.

*

Barring a Playoff matchup (don't count on it), this will be the last time the New Jersey Devils play the New York Islanders in a competitive game at the Nassau Coliseum. There's usually 3 trips a year out there, so, figuring in the labor-strife-shortened seasons of 1994-95 and 2013-14, the canceled season of 2004-05, and the Playoff matchup of 1988, and it's probably been a little less than 100 games that counted (not counting preseason exhibitions).

Many Islander fans -- especially those particularly proud to be from Nassau County, and not happy about having to go into Brooklyn, and upset that Long Island's last real major league team is giving up that particular identity -- are not happy about this being the last Islanders-Devils game at the Coliseum. But, for most Devils fans, old enough to remember when the Islanders used to pound them, and still dealing with the aggravation of getting in and out of the place, will probably find going to the Barclays Center next year a relief.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Society Hasn't Changed, Our Means of Being Social Have


This morning, someone on Twitter asked me if society has changed to the point where we no longer have the patience to wait a proper amount of time for things: Success, championships, contention, economic results, political results, satisfaction of any other kind. And this person used the Internet as an example of why he thinks that's the case.

This idea is understandable. But it's erroneous.

The development of Internet message boards in the 1990s, and of social media in the 2000s and 2010s, has not led to the reduction of patience, to the point where, if I don't get something now, you have "failed" me -- or, perhaps, if the accuser thinks he is making an even broader point, you have failed some hard-to-define "us." (And that "us" is millions of people, not just myself and a few of my friends.)

I also don't believe the ability to post nasty messages and racy pictures and video clips online has led to a more coarse society, any more than Nixon speechwriter turned New York Times columnist William Safire was right in 1977, when he said that the telephone had ruined good conversation and good speaking manners.

True, Internet "leetspeak" can be rather juvenile, amirite? But people like that were always around. They just didn't have a method of expressing their desire to be that kind of jerk. kthxbai.

Society hasn't changed. What has is the means for, and the speed of, expressing one's thoughts and feelings.

Once, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson or Abraham Lincoln -- or their supporters, or their opponents -- would take half an hour to write a letter, and then wait hours for a postman to come and pick it up, and then wait days or even weeks for a response. That response might appear in a return letter, or in a newspaper, either supportive or opposing. If you think the media is nasty now, you should have seen some of the things those Presidents dealt with -- and, all too frequently, the supporters of these great men were no more refined or polite in their "journalistic" fusillades than were their opponents.

Whereas such an exchange could take days, today, a politician, a sports personality, an entertainer, or someone paid to observe and comment on such people can say something glib (good or bad) on TV in 5 seconds, or post in on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or YouTube within a minute. And, within minutes, anybody can have his response up on the Internet, and, within hours, someone you never would have heard of had he or she not made that statement becomes world-famous, if only for a day, or for a few days.

*

Let me offer the following hypothetical example:

I am not particularly famous. A few people read this blog. I have about 100 "Facebook friends." And I have nearly 1,000 followers on Twitter. And, no, this is not a request for more. I'm just using the numbers to show how well-known I am: Not very. Which makes my coming point all the more.

Those who know me, and those who read me online, know that I am a fan of the New York Yankees. They also know that I don't like the Boston Red Sox, especially David Ortiz, who, since arriving in Boston in 2003, has used whatever natural talent he has, and pharmaceutical enhancements, to become one of the biggest stars in the game, and to help the Red Sox beat the Yankees in many key games, and to help the Red Sox win 3 World Series.

If I were to say, "David Ortiz is a good hitter," that's something that most baseball fans already accept, so it wouldn't get much attention, except from Yankee Fans wondering why I'm praising the man who could be fairly called the biggest Yankee-Killer of all time. It would probably be commented on by one or two people who "know" me through the Internet, and then forgotten within a few hours.

On occasion, I have said, "David Ortiz used steroids. He cheated, he lied about it, he got caught, he's still lying about it, and the Red Sox still haven't won the World Series without cheating since 1918." It's true. It's established. But many people -- including, it seems, the Major League Baseball establishment and the TV networks that broadcast MLB games, ESPN and Fox Sports. A statement like that usually gets a few Red Sox fans (and other Yankee Haters) on the Internet riled up. A few Sox fans will fire off some comments, most of them nasty. But, again, it would be quickly forgotten.

But suppose I said that Ortiz's ethnicity had something to do with his cheating. Of the baseball players who've been caught using performance-enhancing drugs, a large percentage (though I don't think it's a majority) have been Latino, and a big chunk of those have been Dominican. Including, let's be honest here, the Yankees' own New York-born, Miami-raised, Dominican-parentage Alex Rodriguez. (Disclaimer: My ancestry is mixed, but mostly Eastern European, with, as far as I know, no Spanish or Caribbean heritage at all.)

It doesn't matter that there are some facts to back up that statement, though it is far from conclusively proven. The accusation, in this hypothetical case, would be not that Ortiz, who is Dominican, cheated; it would be that he cheated because he's Dominican and that's what they do.

Even most Yankee Fans (including many Dominican-Americans) who would see that statement would be outraged, and rightly so.

I wouldn't say that Ortiz cheated because he's Hispanic/Latino/Caribbean/Dominican -- nor would I use the words of his former teammate, Pedro Martinez, who defended his presence at a cockfight in the Dominican Republic, where cockfighting is legal, by saying, "It's part of our culture."

It's fair to say that over 99 percent of Dominicans, and Americans of Dominican descent, are, and would like to continue to be, law-abiding people. To say, "Cheating is part of the Dominican culture" would be just as bigoted and ignorant as saying, "Of course Big Papi cheated. He's a Dominican, what did you expect?" I wouldn't say those things (except for the sake of this demonstration), because I don't believe them to be true. It would be dishonest, stupid and cruel for me to say something like that. And I don't want to be any of those things.

But if I were that dishonest, or that stupid, or that cruel, or any combination thereof, and did say something like that -- playing to the stereotypes of ethnicity, language, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, handicap, or whatever other category you can some up with, anything that is not a choice, such as the sports teams you support -- most likely, someone on the Internet would discover it, and expose me to all of his or her friends and followers. This would likely be seen by someone who has the "ear" (for want of a better word in this social-media age) of Latino advocacy groups. Pretty soon, there would be calls for Facebook and Twitter to ban me, and shame me throughout the world. And I would be inundated with people calling me a bigot and a racist, probably in both English and Spanish.

And, in this hypothetical situation, I would totally deserve it. And since I don't want to deserve it, and I don't believe it's true anyway, I won't say it.

(About my use of the term "handicap": As someone who, due to both a birth defect on one leg and an unrelated injury on another, has reduced capacity in his legs, the term "handicap" makes more sense to me than "disability": My ability is reduced enough to be noticed and measured, but not enough to be considered eliminated. I am not fast, and I frequently have pain, but I can still walk, and sometimes even run. So I make no apologies for my description of my condition as a "handicap.")

*

We have seen this, just in the last year, with people making comments about race, religion, rape victims, and now about yesterday's Congressional release of "the torture report": They have gone from completely anonymous, or generally approved of, to being attacked for their attacks by people who had never heard of them the day before.

Even someone as beloved as Bill Cosby would likely never have been exposed as someone accused of sex crimes if it wasn't for social media. He probably would have gone to his grave with such things only being whispered, and it would only have come out after his death, as was the case with British entertainer Jimmy Savile.

(Is Cosby guilty? I don't know, and whether he is or not, he has the right to be presumed innocent unless and until his guilt is proven beyond a reasonable doubt. But it doesn't look good for him.)

Dr. Sam Sheppard, the basis for the TV show The Fugitive, almost certainly didn't really kill his wife. But the media's presumption in 1954 that he did embittered him to the point where he became nearly as bad a person as he would have been if he had. To borrow the words of a 1939 film, "They Made Me a Criminal."

Now look at how advocates for the memories of Trayvon Martin in Florida, Michael Brown in the St. Louis area, and 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland have used social media for their causes -- but also at how racists have used it to support the "men" who murdered them. At least, in New York, there aren't many people standing up and saying that Eric Garner deserved to die. But #ICantBreathe has spread, to the point where Kobe Bryant and LeBron James have worn T-shirts with that hashtag on it during pregame warmups.

(A side note: In this regard, LeBron has surpassed Michael Jordan, who refused to take social and political stands during his playing days. You don't see Kobe and LeBron saying, "Racists buy sneakers, too," as Jordan once said of Republicans.)

The world learned the names of Martin, Brown, Rice and Garner a lot faster than it learned the names of Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and James Chaney half a century ago, when those workers for Mississippi Freedom Summer were murdered by members of the Ku Klux Klan.

When Hattie Carroll was murdered by William Zantzinger on February 9, 1963, it took 11 months for Bob Dylan to write a song about it, record that song, and get Columbia Records to release it. It wasn't that Columbia didn't want to release it, it's that, at the time, that's how long the process tended to take. After all, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, though already recorded, hadn't been released yet, let alone The Times They Are A-Changin', on which "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" would appear.

In those 11 months, the world changed: John F. Kennedy and Medgar Evers were assassinated, water cannons and police dogs were unleashed on civil rights demonstrators in Birmingham, George Wallace personally tried and failed to prevent the integration of the University of Alabama, the bill that became the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was submitted to Congress, Martin Luther King spoke at the March On Washington, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was proposed and signed, Project Mercury came to its scheduled close, the Polo Grounds closed, Shea Stadium neared completion, Sandy Koufax went from very good pitcher to baseball legend, Stan Musial played his last major league game, Pete Rose played his first, Paul Hornung and Alex Karras were suspended from the NFL for a year for gambling, Gordie Howe surpassed Maurice Richard as the NHL's all-time leading goalscorer, instant replay was invented, Leave It to Beaver was canceled, The Fugitive premiered, Sidney Poitier was nominated for an Oscar for Lilies of the Field (the ceremony at which he won occurred after the song was released), the Beatles rose to fame first in their homeland and then here, and Dylan himself wrote several more legendary songs and hooked up with Joan Baez, both onstage and in bed. All that happened in the time it took for Dylan to hear about "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" and get his song with that title out to the general public.

In each case, within hours of the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner, people all over the world, including celebrities, were connecting with each other, to cry out for justice as they saw it -- including both those who wanted the murders punished, and those whose concept of justice is completely warped. And, aside from the people directly involved, there wasn't time for "the world to change."

*

Half a century ago, there weren't many people who were "famous for being famous." True, there was all the fuss over Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton -- but, before they hooked up, Liz had already won an Oscar, and Dick was already one of the most admired actors in the world. They were famous for their talent before their celebrity itself became the biggest reason for their fame.

If the Kardashian sisters had been around then, with the methods of exposure to fame then available, they might only have become as famous as Mamie Van Doren. And if you're asking, "Who?" my best response would be, "Exactly." The actress, one of many to try to copy the look and acting style of Marilyn Monroe -- and none of them did, although Jayne Mansfield came close -- became better known in the late 1950s and early 1960s for her partying, such as with Bo Belinsky, whose 1962 no-hitter with the Los Angeles Angels, then actually playing in Los Angeles and thus giving him access to the attention of a major media market, made him pop culture's flavor of the month.

(Considering what I've said in this paragraph, I must now note the irony that Mamie, now 83 years old, is on Twitter, although she hasn't tweeted since March 2 of this year. And, yes, I'm well aware that, in the photo on that page, she looks like an elderly Lady Gaga -- unintentionally, since Gaga wasn't yet famous.)

Would Mamie, or Marilyn, or Jayne have posed for the kind of pictures that Kim Kardashian recently did? Maybe. Would they have been all over the world within hours? Certainly not. They might have been included only in Playboy, or in a coffee-table book -- the kind then available only in a certain kind of store -- and, even then, it would have taken months.

*

We live in a time when the Ku Klux Klan, the Hell's Angels, Hamas and ISIS are on Twitter -- but so are the FBI, the CIA, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Israeli Defense Forces. Each of the branches of America's armed forces have their own feeds, and so does every major political figure (and everyone who wants to become one). You want to find someone who agrees with you on something, so you can say, "Amen, brother"? That's easy. You want to find someone who disagrees with you, so you can tell him off? That's equally easy.

Whatever your cause is, trying to spread love or hate, justice or mayhem, harmony or discord, we are more connected than ever.

I think that's a good thing -- even if, at times, those connections manifest themselves in repulsive ways.

Society hasn't changed. Our means of being social have. So have our means of gaining and sharing information.

Harry Truman once said, "Men don't change. Only the names we give to things do. The only new thing in the world is the history you don't know." And that's equally true of current events. You might live in New York, or (like me) at least within range of its local TV stations, and know of an injustice here, because you saw it on WABC's Eyewitness News. But, unlike in eras past, you can also, very quickly, find out about something that happened in Los Angeles, which, previously, might only have been shown on KABC's version of Eyewitness News. (The L.A. station, like its New York counterpart, is on Channel 7.) And you don't have to wait for "Film at 11." Or even videotape at 6.

Our ability to know things is better than ever before. If you're reading this on a desktop computer, you've got a library on your desk. If you're reading this on a laptop computer, you've got a library on your lap. And if you're reading this on a smartphone, you've got an entire blessed library in your freakin' hand! Which is also a TV station, a stereo, a camera, a map, a calculator, a notepad, a calendar, and, uh, a telephone.

That's a good thing.

And yet, we still have libraries. And that's a good thing. And we still need them. And that's a good thing.

It won't always make sense. Life doesn't always make sense. But that keeps things interesting.

In the words of the great American philosopher Yogi Berra, "If the world were perfect, it wouldn't be."

*

Hours until the Devils play again: 4, tonight, away to the Philadelphia Flyers.

Days until the Devils play another local rival: See the previous answer. On Monday night, they will make their final regular-season trip to the Nassau Coliseum. For the rest of this season, all their games against the Islanders will be at home. They could face the Isles in the Playoffs, but, first, both teams have to get there -- and, for the moment, that's a lot more likely for the Isles than for a team coached by Peter DeBoer. Failing a matchup with the Isles in this season's Playoffs, the next game away to the Isles will be in Brooklyn. Though there is a rumor going around that the Isles will continue to play preseason games at the Coliseum, and the Devils could be the opponent for one of them, as they've been the opponent for preseason Isles "home games" at the Barclays Center already.

Days until Arsenal play again: 2, this Saturday, 12:30 in the afternoon our time, home to Newcastle United. Arsenal beat Istanbul, Turkey club Galatasaray 4-1, in the Champions League on Tuesday, finishing 2nd in their group, and qualifying for the knockout stage of the competition.

Days until Rutgers plays football again: 15, on Friday afternoon, December 26, the day after Christmas, at 4:30 PM against the University of North Carolina, in the Quick Lane Bowl at Ford Field in Detroit. Quick Lane is an auto shop owned by the Ford Motor Company, who owns the naming rights to the Detroit Lions' indoor stadium. RU goes into the game at 7-5, finishing 3-5 in its 1st season in the Big Ten Conference (I'm spelling out "Ten" because that's the brand, knowing full well that there are now 14 teams in it), having beaten Washington State, Howard University, the Naval Academy, Tulane, and Big Ten opponents Michigan (26-24 at home, not much of an accomplishment this season), Indiana and Maryland, while losing to Big Ten opponents Penn State (a crushing 13-10, 4th-quarter-lead-blowing home loss to the Paternoscum), Ohio State (56-17), Nebraska (42-24), Wisconsin (37-0) and Michigan State (45-3). For daring to come into the Big Ten, and finishing in the bottom half, RU is getting punished by not having their bowl game in a nice warm-weather city, but in cold, poverty-stricken, crime-ridden Detroit. Carolina comes in at 6-6, 4-4 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, having gotten pounded by both their big rivals, Duke and North Carolina State.

Days until the Semifinals of the 1st-ever College Football Playoff: 21. Just 3 weeks. Two of the traditional New Year's Day bowl games are serving as the Semifinals, so the major bowls do not, as was long feared, lose their importance with a Playoff in place. At 4:30 PM Eastern Time on January 1, the Rose Bowl outside Los Angeles will host Oregon (which makes historical sense, as they're the Champions of the league now known as the Pacific-12) and Florida State (the ACC Champions taking the place of the Big 10 Champions). At 8:30, the Sugar Bowl at the Superdome in New Orleans will host Alabama (which makes historical sense, as they're the Champions of the Southeastern Conference) and Ohio State (the Big Ten Champions). The winners will play in the Championship Game.

Days until the 1st-ever College Football Championship Game: 32. Just a little over a month. The Oregon-FSU winner and the 'Bama-OSU winner will face each other 8:30 PM Eastern Time on January 12, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, the new home of the Dallas Cowboys and the Cotton Bowl game. (The Cotton Bowl will still be played there on New Year's Day, while the Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium outside Miami and the Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium in Arizona will both be played on New Year's Eve.)

Days until the U.S. national soccer team plays again: 48, against Chile (featuring new Arsenal star Alexis Sanchez!) on January 28, 2015. Under 7 weeks. The location hasn't yet been chosen, but it will be in the U.S. We will also be playing Panama and arch-rival Mexico at home and Switzerland and World Cup holders Germany away, in preparation for the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup, which we will host.

Days until the next North London Derby between Arsenal and Tottenham: 58, on Saturday, February 7, 2015, at White Hart Lane -- unless the teams are paired in the FA Cup before then, as they were in the 3rd Round last season. Under 2 months.

Days until the Red Bulls play again, and New York City FC make their Major League Soccer debut: Unknown, but a new MLS season usually begins on the 2nd Saturday in March, which would be March 14, 2015. That's 93 days. A little over 3 months. Whether NYCFC's competitive-match debut will be a home game, and thus at the new Yankee Stadium, is yet to be determined. And, of course, it's entirely possible that the teams' season debuts will not be on the same day.

Days until the Red Bulls next play a "derby": Unknown, but it's unlikely that their 1st game of the 2015 season will be against any derby opponent, D.C. United, the Philadelphia Union, the New England Revolution, or the new NYCFC. "Metro" beat D.C. in the MLS Cup Quarterfinals, but lost to New England in the Semifinals. New England then lost the MLS Cup Final in extra time to the Los Angeles Galaxy, who won their 5th title. The Revs are now 0-5 in MLS Cup Finals, with 4 of those losses being in extra time or on penalties.

Days until the Opening Day, when the Yankees play again, and Alex Rodriguez is eligible to play for the Yankees again: 116, on April 6, 2015. Under 4 months.

Days until the next Yankees-Red Sox series begins: 120, on Friday, April 10, 2015, at 7:00 PM, at the new Yankee Stadium.

Days until the New York Islanders' last game at the Nassau Coliseum: 121, on April 11, 2015, at 7:00 PM, against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Days until the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup begins on U.S. soil: 208, on July 7, 2015.

Days until East Brunswick High School plays football again: Unknown, as the schedule has not been released yet. Probably, it will be on the 2nd Friday in September, which, in 2015, will be on the foreboding date of September 11. That's 274 days, exactly 9 months. EBHS finished the 2014 season 4-6, an improvement over last season's 1-9, getting into the Central Jersey Group V Playoffs because of the game they won without playing, when Sayreville canceled the rest of their season in their Penn State-style hazing scandal. We lost in the Quarterfinals to Marlboro, then, of course, got clobbered on Thanksgiving by Old Bridge.

Days until the Islanders' first home game at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn: Unknown, but an NHL regular season usually begins on the 1st Friday in October, which would be October 2, 2015. That's 296 days. That's under 10 months. Or, to put it another way, "296 Sleeps Till Brooklyn." Until then, even with their 4 straight long-ago Stanley Cups, they're just a Small Club In Hempstead.
Days until the next East Brunswick vs. Old Bridge Thanksgiving game: 350, on Thursday morning, November 26, at 10:00 AM, at EB. A little under 1 year. Yeah, the Big Green not only lost to the Purple Bastards on T-Day, but we got clobbered. Again.

Days until the Copa América Centenario begins on U.S. soil: 541, on June 3, 2016. A little under a year and a half. The tournament will be between teams from the North American, Central American and Caribbean region (CONCACAF) and South America (CONMEBOL, which is celebrating its 100th Anniversary). Although it's a member of CONCACAF rather than CONMEBOL, the U.S. is the host nation, and thus qualifies automatically, as it does for the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Days until Euro 2016 begins in France: 548, on Friday, June 10.

Days until the next Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: 605, on Friday, August 5, 2016. A little over 20 months.

Days until Alex Rodriguez's Yankee contract runs out: Officially, at the end of the 2017 season. Game 7 of that year's World Series could turn out to be on Halloween, so, for the sake of this entry, let's say October 31, 2017, which would be 1,056 days -- under 3 years. Of course, the Yankees could release him before then, but I don't think the House of Steinbrenner wants to take the financial hit from buying him out.

Days until the next World Cup begins in Russia: 1,278, on Friday June 8, 2018. A little over 3 1/2 years.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

How to Be a New York Basketball Fan In Boston -- 2014-15 Edition


This Friday night will feature the first roadtrip to Boston for either of the New York basketball teams this season -- in this case, the Knicks.

The New York Knickerbockers and the Boston Celtics are the only 2 teams left from the 1st NBA season of 1946-47 still playing in their original cities -- and, until 1995, the Celtics were the only one of those still playing in their original arena. Between them, they've won 19 NBA Championships -- although only 2 of those by the Knicks -- and reached the NBA Finals 29 times (the Celtics 21, the Knicks 8).

Yet these 2 historic franchises are both in trouble at the moment: They've only won 11 games between them this season. So the Celtics might seem like easy pickings -- but not by this year's Knicks.

Some of you are Yankee Fans who hate the Red Sox. Some of you are Jet fans who hate the Patriots. Some of you are Red Bulls fans who hate the Revolution. Some of you are Devils, Rangers or Islanders fans who hate the Bruins.

This is a reminder for those of you whose memory doesn't go back any further than the late 1990s, when Pedro Martinez was the first true bastard of New England sports that you can remember, and for whom the Celtics of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen were admirable: Once upon a time, the Celtics were a spectacular combination of greatness and evil.

You may have heard it said that the early 1970s Knicks were the ultimate in team play in basketball. That's a load of malarkey: The Celtics, as assembled by head coach and general manager Arnold "Red" Auerbach were the ultimate in team play. It's why, in Bill Russell's 13 seasons as a player, the Celtics got to the Eastern Conference Finals all 13 times, won the Conference title 12 times, and won the NBA title 11 times. (In all of sports, only Henri Richard of the Montreal Canadiens can match those 11 titles. Yogi Berra leads baseball with 10 World Series rings.)

It's why Russell could face Wilt Chamberlain, the most dominating player the game has ever known -- in Philadelphia with the Warriors, in San Francisco with the Warriors, in Philadelphia again with the 76ers, in Los Angeles with the Lakers, and of course in Boston itself -- 9 times in postseason play and win 8 times. (Only with the 1967 76ers did Wilt beat Russ in the Playoffs, and went on to win his 1st title.) It's why Wilt could set an NBA record of 55 rebounds, which still stands, against Russell, the greatest defensive player of the era except for Wilt, and the Celtics still won the ballgame. Wilt always had good teams around him (with guys like Tom Gola, Guy Rodgers, Nate Thurmond, Hal Greer, Chet Walker, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor and Gail Goodrich, Hall-of-Famers all), but the Celtics had the best team.

And they were dirty. Wilt hardly ever lost his cool, but there was a time when he started walking toward Sam Jones with a menacing look in his eye, and Jones picked up a chair; seeing that Sam was ready to throw it if need be, Wilt backed off. Russell, Sam Jones, K.C. Jones, Tom Heinsohn, and especially Jungle Jim Loscutoff could be dirty as hell. Overseeing it all (figuratively and literally) was broadcaster Johnny Most. To this day, there are people who swear he once said, across the Celtics' New England radio network, "Chamberlain stuck his eye in Russell's elbow!" And these are Boston fans, bragging about it. Most was the ultimate homer: He made Mel Allen, Phil Rizzuto and John Sterling sound like dispassionate observers.

(Ironically, Auerbach, Most, Bob Cousy and Tom "Satch" Sanders were all born and raised in New York City. And Tommy Heinsohn is from Jersey City. That's a lot of New York Tri-State Area involved in the building the greatest of all Boston sports teams.)

The Celtics got less dirty in the 1970s, as a new crop of players came up, and Auerbach's influence was limited to the front office. But as the stars of the 1980s came up, they were at it again, turning off the air conditioning in the visiting locker room (yes, the Boston Garden had air conditioning), so their opponents got overheated -- the defining image being Kareem Abdul-Jabbar of the Lakers needing an oxygen tank on the bench during Game 5 of the 1984 NBA Finals. (Most people will tell you it was Game 7, probably because they like the sound of "Game 7," but they've got it mixed up.)

The Celtics won 8 straight titles from 1959 to 1966, topping the 5 straight of the 1949-53 Yankees and the 1956-60 Montreal Canadiens. They won 16 titles in 30 seasons from 1957 to 1986, a run of dominance that actually tops the Yankees' 20 titles in 40 seasons from 1923 to 1962, if not the Canadiens' 15 titles in 24 seasons seasons from 1956 to 1979.

Once the Larry Bird generation got old, the Boston Garden became a desolate place, and, unlike the Yankees in the 1st season of the new Yankee Stadium, it took them until the 13th season of the new Garden before they won that 17th title. (The Canadiens, however, opened their new arena the same season, and are now in their 20th season there, and still haven't won a Stanley Cup there.)

While the Red Sox have used steroids, the Patriots "Spygate," the Bruins letting the ice melt a little in the 2011 Finals, the Revolution diving and hacking (though they're now 0-5 in MLS Cup Finals), and the University of Connecticut's basketball program recruiting violations (the men have been caught and punished, we're still waiting for word on the women), the Celtics' 1 recent title seems unblemished -- but, given the team's history, you never know.

The Celtics are a New England team, and, for a New York Tri-State Area fan, that means that they must go down.

But, as they're a Boston team, you need to be on your guard.

Before You Go. Boston weather is a little different from ours, being a little bit further north. Mark Twain, who lived the last few years of his life in nearby Hartford, said, “If you don’t like the weather in New England, wait a minute.”

You should check the websites of the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald before you leave. Usually, the temperatures will be a little lower than what we're used to in New York and New Jersey at the same time. At least, being indoors, wind will not be the issue that it sometimes is inside Fenway Park. For the moment, they're predicting low 40s for Friday and Saturday afternoon and low 30s at night. However, if you are considering staying over Friday into Saturday, they are also predicting snow for Saturday -- not enough to paralyze the city, but perhaps enough to make your ride home problematic.

Do not want to wear is the kind of T-shirt you see sold at the souvenir stands on River Avenue across from Yankee Stadium, with messages like “BAHSTON SAWKS CACK” or “There never was a curse, the Sox just sucked for 86 years!” If you have one (or more) of these, leave them at home. The Chowdaheads are already antagonized by our mere presence in their city, and there's no reason to make it that much worse. Bald Vinny will thank you for your patronage, but he's smart enough to remind you that there is a time and a place where his product is inappropriate.

Boston is in the Eastern Time Zone, so adjusting your watch and your smartphone clock is not necessary. And, of course, despite the silliness of the concept of “Red Sox Nation,” you do not need a passport to cross the New Haven City Line, or to change your money.

Tickets. In the 1960s, when the Bruins stunk and the Celtics were winning title after title, it was the Bruins who hit the Boston Garden's official capacity of 13,909 every game (with standing room not reported due to fire laws, but some people have suggested there was really more than 20,000 inside), while the Celtics found it only half-full. (Gee, could it have been because the Bruins were all-white and the Celtics half-black?) Throughout my youth, with both teams in the Playoffs just about every season, the Bruins always hit the listed capacity of 14,448 and the Celtics 14,890.

Opened in 1995, the building now named the TD Garden (TD is a bank, Toronto-Dominion) seats 17,565 for hockey, slightly less than the Prudential Center, and 18,624 for basketball. The Celtics are averaging 17,301 fans per home game, about 93 percent of capacity. So, for the moment, tickets will be easier to get than for the Red Sox, Patriots and Bruins.

As with Fenway Park, tickets at TD Garden cost a bundle -- law of supply & demand. In the lower level, the Loge, seats are $206 to $247 between the baskets and $80 to $112 behind them. In the upper level, the Balcony, they're $59 to $81 between the baskets and $30 to $58 behind them.

Getting There. Getting to Boston is fairly easy. However, I do not recommend driving, especially if you have Yankee paraphernalia on your car (bumper sticker, license-plate holder, decals, etc.). Chances are, it won’t get vandalized... but you never know.

If you must drive, it’s 214 miles by road from Times Square to Boston’s Downtown Crossing, and less than another mile to the TD Garden.

If you're coming from Manhattan or The Bronx, get up to the Cross Bronx Expressway. If you're coming from New Jersey, get to the George Washington Bridge to the Cross Bronx. Then, after turning north and moving outside The City, the New England Thruway (or the New England Extension of the New York State Thruway). If you're coming from Brooklyn, Queens or Long Island, get to the Grand Central Parkway and take the Bronx-Whitestone or Throgs Neck Bridge, and follow the signs for Interstate 95 North. 

Continue on I-95 North into Connecticut to Exit 48 in New Haven, and take Interstate 91 North toward Hartford. When you reach Hartford, take Exit 29 to Interstate 84, which you will take into Massachusetts, all the way to its end, where it merges with Interstate 90, the Massachusetts Turnpike. (And the locals call it “the Mass Pike” – never “the Turnpike” like we do in New Jersey.)

Theoretically, you could take I-95 all the way, but that will take you though downtown Providence, Rhode Island, up to the Boston suburbs. I like Providence as a city, but that route is longer by both miles and time than the route described above.

Fenway Park, or at least its light towers, will be visible from the Mass Pike. The last exit on the Pike is Exit 24B. Follow the signs for " Head Concord NH"/"Interstate 93 N." I-93 becomes the Tip O'Neill Tunnel, then get off at Exit 23 (this is for I-93, not I-95), keep right at the fork, and follow the signs for the North End and North Station, which is under the arena, just as New York's Penn Station is under Madison Square Garden. (In fact, the old Boston Garden/North Station complex may have been the inspiration for the "new" MSG/Penn Station.) 

If all goes well, and you make one rest stop (preferably around Hartford, roughly the halfway point), and you don’t get seriously delayed by traffic within the city limits of either New York or Boston (either of which is very possible), you should be able to make the trip in under 5 hours.

But, please, do yourself a favor and get a hotel outside the city. It's not just that hotels in Boston proper are expensive, unless you want to try one of the thousands of bed-and-breakfasts with their communal bathrooms. It's also that Boston drivers are said to come in 2 classes, depending on how big their car is: Homicidal and suicidal. If you're just going for the one game, then find a park-and-ride for the subway. For example, Exit 14 will take you to Riverside Station in Newton, the terminal for the Green Line D Train. From there, it's a 40-minute ride to the Garden.

Boston, like Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, is too close to fly from New York, and once you factor in fooling around with everything you gotta do at each airport, it doesn’t really save you much time compared to driving, the bus or the train. It certainly won't save you any money.

The train is a very good option. Boston’s South Station is at 700 Atlantic Avenue, corner of Summer Street, at Dewey Square. (Named for Admiral George Dewey, naval hero of the Spanish-American War, not New York Governor and 1944 & ’48 Presidential candidate Thomas E. Dewey, and not for former Red Sox right fielder Dwight “Dewey” Evans, either.) It’ll be $181 round-trip between New York's Penn Station and South Station, and the trip should take less than 5 hours.

South Station also has a bus terminal attached, and it may be the best bus station in the country – even better than New York’s Port Authority. If you take Greyhound, you’ll leave from Port Authority’s Gate 84, and it will take about 4½ hours, most likely making one stop, at Hartford’s Union Station complex, or in the Boston suburbs of Framingham, Worcester or Newton. New York to Boston and back is tremendously cheaper on the bus than on the train, usually $93 round-trip (dropping to nearly half that, $56, with advanced purchase), and is probably Greyhound’s best run. On the way back, you’ll board at South Station’s Gate 3.

Once In the City. Named for the town of the same name (a shortened version of "St. Botolph's Stone") in Lincolnshire, in England's East Midlands, Boston is home to about 650,000 people, with a metropolitan area (including the areas of Hartford, Providence, and Manchester, New Hampshire) of about 7.6 million, making it the largest metro area in the country with only 1 MLB team (trailing only the 2-team areas of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and the San Francisco Bay Area).

Boston is easily the largest city not just in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, but in all of New England. The next-largest are Worcester, Massachusetts and Providence, Rhode Island, each with around 180,000. The largest in Connecticut is Bridgeport with 145,000; New Hampshire's largest is Manchester with 110,000; Maine's is Portland with 66,000, and Vermont's is Burlington with a mere 42,000. Of New England's 100 largest cities and towns, 53 are in Massachusetts, 30 in Connecticut, 9 in Rhode Island, 4 in New Hampshire, 3 in Maine and 1, Burlington, in Vermont; only 2 of the top 17 are outside Massachusetts and Connecticut.

Counting New England as a whole -- except for the southwestern part of Connecticut, which tilts toward New York -- there are about 13.5 million people in "Red Sox Nation." This isn't even close to the top, when "markets" are viewed this liberally -- the Yankees have close to 20 million in theirs, and the Atlanta Braves lead with over 36 million -- but it does rank 7th out of 30 MLB markets, and aside from the Yankees none of the pre-expansion teams has as big a market.

Boston is also one of the oldest cities in America, founded in 1630, and the earliest to have been truly developed. (New York is actually older, 1626, but until City Hall was built and the grid laid out in 1811 it was pretty much limited to the 20 or so blocks from the Battery to Chambers Street.) It's got the history: The colonial era, the Revolutionary period its citizens did so much to make possible, the abolitionist movement prior to the Civil War, Massachusetts' role in that conflict, the Industrial Revolution. Aside from New York, it was the only city on the Eastern Seaboard to have grasped the concept of the skyscraper until the 1980s.

It also has America's first college, Harvard University, across the Charles River in Cambridge, and a few other institutions of higher learning of some renown in or near the city: Boston College, Boston University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Northeastern University, Tufts University, College of the Holy Cross, and so on. The particular instance of Harvard, funded by Boston's founding families, resulted in Boston and the surrounding area having a lot of "old money." And then there's all those Massachusetts-based writers.

All this gives Boston an importance, and a self-importance, well beyond its interior population. One of those aforementioned writers, Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. (grandfather of the great Supreme Court Justice of the same name), named the city "the Hub of the Solar System"; somehow, this became "the Hub of the Universe" or just "The Hub." Early 19th Century journalist William Tudor called Boston "the Athens of America" -- but, as a Harvard man, he would have studied ancient Greece and realized that, while contributing greatly to the political and literary arts, Athens could be pretty dictatorial, warmongering, and slavery-tolerating at times. Later sportswriters have called the Sox-Yanks (in that order) rivalry "Athens and Sparta." (Remember, if not for Sparta, all of Greece would have fallen to the Persian Empire.)

Well, to hell with that: We are New York/New Jersey Fans. We are based in, or around, the greatest city in the world, and we don't even have to capitalize that.

The sales tax in Massachusetts is 6.25 percent, less than New Jersey’s 7 percent and New York City’s 8.875 percent. However, aside from that, pretty much everything in Boston and neighboring cities like Cambridge, Brookline and Quincy costs about as much as it does in New York City, and more than in the NYC suburbs. In other words, a bundle. So don't get sticker-shock.

When you get to South Station, if you haven't already read The Boston Globe on your laptop or smartphone, pick it up. It's a great paper with one of the country’s best sports sections. There’s probably no paper that covers its local baseball team better, although the columns of Dan Shaughnessy (who did not coin but certainly popularized the phrase “The Curse of the Bambino” and wrote a book with the title) and Tony Massarotti (who started at the rival Herald and whose style is more in line with theirs) can be a bit acerbic.

You will also be able to pick up the New York papers at South Station, if you want any of them. If you must, you can also buy the Boston Herald, but it’s a tabloid, previously owned by William Randolph Hearst and Rupert Murdoch. Although neither’s man's company still owns it, it carries all the hallmarks of the papers that they have owned (Murdoch still owns the New York Post, the Hearst Corporation owned the New York Journal and its successor, the New York Journal-American, which went out of business in 1966). In other words, the Herald is a right-wing pack of sensationalism, frequently sloppy journalism, and sometimes outright lies, but at least it does sports well (sometimes).

Once you have your newspapers, take the escalator down to the subway. Boston had the nation’s first subway service, in 1897, along Boston Common on what’s now named the Green Line. Formerly known as the Metropolitan Transit Authority, leading to the folk song “MTA,” in 1965 it became the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), or “the T,” symbolized by the big T signs where many cities, including New York, would have M’s instead.

(Here's a link to the most familiar version of the song, done by the Kingston Trio in 1959. Keep in mind that Scollay Square station is now named Government Center, and that the reason Mrs. Charlie doesn't give him the extra nickel along with the sandwich isn't that she keeps forgetting, but that they're acting on principle, protesting the 5-cent exit fare -- my, how times have changed.)

Boston was one of the last cities to turn from subway tokens to farecards, in 2006, a decade after New York's switch was in progress. A ride costs $2.50 with cash, the same as New York's subway, and if you're there for the entire series, it may be cheaper to get a 7-day pass for $18. (The MBTA 1-day pass is $11, so the 7-day pass is a better option.)

There are 4 lines: Red, Green, Orange and Blue. Don't worry about the Silver Line: That's basically an underground bus service designed to get people to Logan International Airport. (General Edward L. Logan was a South Bostonian who became a hero of World War I and then the commander of the Massachusetts National Guard. Boston kept the name on their airport in spite of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, leaving New York to name an airport after that great Bostonian.) Chances are, you won’t be using the Blue Line at all on your trip, and the Orange Line might not be used, either.

It's important to remember that Boston doesn't have an "Uptown" and "Downtown" like Manhattan, or a "North Side," "East Side," "South Side" or "West Side" like many other cities. It does have a North End and a South End (which should not be confused with the neighborhood of South Boston); and it has an East Boston, although the West End was mostly torn down in the late 1950s to make way for the sprawling complex of the new Massachusetts General Hospital. Note also that Boston doesn't have a "centerpoint," where all the street addresses start at 1 and move out in 100-segments for each block. It doesn't even remotely have a north-south, east-west street grid like New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Chicago, and so on.

So for subway directions, remember this: Any train heading toward Downtown Crossing (where the Red and Orange Lines intersect), Park Street (Red and Green Lines), State Street (Blue and Orange Lines) or Government Center (Blue and Green Lines), is "Inbound." Any train going away from those 4 downtown stations is "Outbound." This led to a joke that certain Red Sox pitchers who give up a lot of home runs have "been taken downtown more than the Inbound Red Line."

I should point out that Government Center station is closed for renovations until late 2016, which is a major pain since it's a key interchange. For anything that could be reached by that station, such as City Hall of Faneuil Hall, use State station.

South Station is on the Red Line. If you’re coming by Amtrak or Greyhound, and are up only for the one game and are going directly to Fenway, take the Red Line to Park Street – known locally as “Change at Park Street Under” (or “Change at Pahk Street Undah” in the local dialect) – and then take the Green Line toward Lechmere. Although not labeled as such, this could be the "A train," as the ones going outbound are the B (terminating at Boston College and having that on its marquee), C (Cleveland Circle), D (Riverside)  or E (Huntington Avenue) trains. If you’re starting your Garden voyage from a hotel, take any train that gets you to a transfer point to a Green Line train. It can also be reached from the Orange Line.

Going In. The building was originally named the Shawmut Center, named for a bank, which in turn was named for the original Native American name for the land on which Boston now sits. Before it could open, Fleet Bank bought out Shawmut, and the building opened in 1995 as the FleetCenter (1 word). In 2005, TD bought out Fleet, and it became the TD Banknorth Garden, before becoming simply the TD Garden in 2009.

The station for the Garden is "North Station" -- the Boston Garden name is no longer part of it. With the old Garden, the Orange Line was underground while the Green Line was elevated. In a 1986 Sports Illustrated article, Boston native Leigh Montville said the spot underneath the Green Line in front of the Garden was the wettest spot on Earth. Now, both lines are underground.

The address of the old Boston Garden was 150 Causeway Street. The address of the new TD Garden is 100 Legends Way. It's roughly the same spot, but the old Garden was on Causeway, while the new Garden was built behind it, and the old one was demolished for a parking lot for the new one.

The entrances to North Station are on the east and west sides, and escalators will take you from the Station to the Garden. The court is laid out east-to-west, and, while they kept using the famed parquet floor from the old Garden until 1998, they then replaced it with the current one. If you visited the old Garden but not yet the new one, you'll be happy to know the new one has no obstructing support poles, the upper deck doesn't block the view of people sitting in the last few rows of the lower level, and the only rats are the men wearing Celtic uniforms -- and a few of the people cheering them on. No actual rodents are running around the place.

In addition to the Celtics, the Garden hosts an annual Coaches vs. Cancer basketball tripleheader, featuring all Bay State schools: Last month, it was Northeastern vs. Boston University, Boston College vs. the University of Massachusetts (UMass), and Harvard vs. Holy Cross.

The Beatles played the old Garden on September 12, 1964. Elvis Presley played it on November 10, 1971. It's also hosted the 2004 Democratic Convention.

Food. Dunkin Donuts started in the Boston suburbs, and has stands inside the TD Garden. What else do you need to know?

Okay, okay. The Frank House serves customized hot dogs (behind Sections 3, 10, 14, 21, 302, 308, 310, 315, 317, 324 and 327). The Links Grill offers "Old World Italian Sausage with peppers and onions and a Jumbo All Beef Dog with your favorite toppings" (17, 310, 322, 330). They have a Back Bay Carvery with roast beef and turkey sandwiches (8 and 323). They have Sal's Pizza (6, 307 and 325), a Kosher Café (4), and West End Brew, with "Crispy Chicken Tenders, a bucket of Spicy Cheese Fries, and a soon-to-be Garden favorite – Lobster Rangoon" (8 and 19). For dessert, Sweet Spot is behind 309.

Team History Displays. Like the Yankees, the only team title notations that the Celtics have on display are for their World Championships. While the Bruins hang 6 Stanley Cup banners, they also hang a banner each for their 25 Division Championships, their 17 Prince of Wales Trophies, their 4 Conference Championships (post-1982 realignment) and their 2 President's Trophies, plus 10 banners, for each of their retired numbers.


The Celtics' banner display, the parquet floor, and that winking leprechaun at center court were all cited as intimidating factors for opposing teams. But they don't hang banners for their 21 Atlantic Division titles, or even for the years they won the Division but failed to win the Eastern Conference: 1972, 1973, 1975, 1980, 1982, 1988, 1991, 1992, 2005, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. Nor do they hang banners for their 21 Conference Titles, or even for the years they won the Conference but lost the NBA Finals: 1958, 1985, 1987 and 2010. (There are photos from the 1960s which show Conference and Division title banners, green with white lettering, but those are long gone.)

Instead, their banners, white with green bordering and lettering, are all for their NBA Championships, 17 of them: 1957, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1969, 1974, 1976, 1981, 1984, 1986 and 2008. (The Lakers have won 16, but "only" 9 since they moved to L.A., so a 17th title wouldn't really match the Celtics' record.)

To put the Celtics' glory in perspective: From May 1941 to January 2002, in their sports' finals, the Celtics went 16-3, while all other Boston sports teams were 2-17. The Bruins were 2-10, the Red Sox 0-4, the Patriots 0-2 (0-3 if you count the AFL) and the Braves 0-1. Even if you count the New England Whalers in their World Hockey Association days, that 2-17 only rises to 3-18. However, from February 2002 onward, the Red Sox are 3-0, the Patriots 3-2, and the Celtics and Bruins both 1-1; total, 8-4; overall total, from the Red Sox' win in the 1st World Series of 1903 to today, Boston is 38-25 in finals. (Though that drops to 38-30 if you count the New England Revolution of MLS.)

There are 39 men with some sort of connection to the Celtics in the Basketball Hall of Fame, but some of these connections are stronger than others. For example, John Thompson played for the Celtics during their 1960s title dynasty, but is in the Hall for his coaching at Georgetown University. There are 18 players who were with the Celtics for at least 4 seasons and are in the Hall. Two of these have not had their uniform numbers retired: Nate "Tiny" Archibald (7, his 10 is retired by the Sacramento Kings for his time with them as the Kansas City Kings -- and he's another New Yorker who starred for the Celtics) and Bailey Howell (18, probably better known as a Detroit Piston, although they haven't retired his number).

The Celtics have 21 retired-number honorees, more than any team in sports, even the Yankees. Unlike the Bruins, who have individual banners with full names for their honorees (Number 4 is listed as "Robert G. Orr" instead of "Bobby Orr"), the Celtics have 3 banners with room for 8 numbers each, and only the numbers.

1st banner: 22, 14, 23, 15, 21, 25, 24, 6.
2nd banner: 1, 16, 19, LOSCY, 17, 18, 10, 2.
3rd banner: 3, 33, 32, 35, 00, 31, with room for 2 more.

The numbers are listed in order of their retirement, with all the numbers on the 1st banner having been retired in a 2-year stretch prior to Brown's death in 1965.

The only player honored from before they started winning titles is Number 22, center Ed Macauley -- and it's been joked that, since he was the trade bait for Bill Russell, that's reason enough. Actually, Macauley is in the Hall of Fame, and helped beat the Celtics for the St. Louis Hawks in 1958, to give the franchise now in Atlanta its only title.

From their late 1950s and early 1960s titles: 1, Walter Brown, owner of the company that ran the Garden, and thus the owner of both the Celtics and the Bruins, and thus in both the Basketball and Hockey Halls of Fame; 2, Red Auerbach, head coach 1950-66, general manager 1950-84, president 1984-2006 (when he died); 14, guard Bob Cousy; 15, forward Tommy Heinsohn; 16, forward Tom "Satch" Sanders; 18, forward Jim Loscutoff (who, by his request, is honored instead with the letters "LOSCY"); 21, guard Bill Sharman; 23, forward Frank Ramsey; 24, guard Sam Jones; and 25, guard K.C. Jones. Also a microphone for radio announcer Johnny Most. Cousy and Heinsohn have also broadcast for the Celtics.

From their late 1960s titles: Auerbach, Russell, Sanders, both Joneses and Most; 17, forward John Havlicek; 19, forward Don Nelson (who is in the Hall of Fame, but for what he achieved as a coach).

From their 1970s titles: Auerbach, Havlicek, Nelson and Most, plus Heinsohn as head coach; 10, guard Jo Jo White; and 18, center Dave Cowens.

From their 1980s titles: Auerbach, K.C. Jones as head coach, and Most; 00, center Robert Parish; 3, guard Dennis Johnson; 31, forward Cedric "Cornbread" Maxwell; 32, forward Kevin McHale; 33, forward Larry Bird. K.C. coached their 1984 and 1986 titles. Bill Fitch coached their 1981 title, making him, along with Doc Rivers, the only title-winning Celtic coach not yet honored. Also not yet retired is the 44 of guard Danny Ainge, now the general manager and the architect of the 2008 title.

Since their 1986 title, the only honoree has been Number 35, forward Reggie Lewis, who died while still an active player. He, Loscutoff and Maxwell are the only Celtic honorees who are not yet in the Hall of Fame.

From the 2008 title, Kevin Garnett (5), Ray Allen (20) and Paul Pierce (34) are still active players, and Rajon Rondo (9) is still with the Celtics. I suspect they will be honored when they retire, as well Rivers. Most likely, his notation will be "DOC," since he never played for the Celtics; he played for 4 teams, including the Knicks, and always wore Number 25, which the Celtics have already retired for K.C. Jones. Perhaps they'll also add Ainge's 44. Either way, after retiring 2 of these, they'll have to move on to a 4th such banner. If all of those are retired, then the only numbers below 35 still available will be 0, 4, 7, 8, 11, 12, 13, 26, 27, 28, 29 and 30.

(Interestingly, while it is one of the most common nicknames in sports, according to Basketball-Reference.com, Glenn Anton Rivers is the only NBA player or coach generally known as "Doc," although such men as Jack Ramsay, who have doctorates, have been known as "Doctor (name)," and, of course, Julius Erving was "Doctor J," but rarely shortened to "Doc.")

The Garden is also home to The Sports Museum of New England, encompassing all sports in the 6-State area; and a statue commemorating the overtime goal that Orr scored to win the 1970 Cup. There are statues of Celtics legends Red Auerbach and Bill Russell, but they're elsewhere.


Stuff. The Bruins Pro Shop reminds you that, even though the Celtics are by far the more successful team, the Bruins have always been the owners of the Garden (old and new). Anything black and gold takes precedence inside over anything green and white. Nevertheless, both Bruin and Celtic items are available.

Books about the Red Sox are plentiful; the other Boston-area teams, less so. But the Celtics, as one might guess from their storied (in more ways than one) history, have their contributions to good sports literature.

Peter May wrote the definitive story of what was, for a long time, the last Celtic title: The Last Banner: The Story of the 1985-86 Celtics and the NBA's Greatest Team of All Time. That's a title that longtime Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan, who's been watching the Celtics close-up since he got to Boston College half a century ago, publicly agreed with on a 1996 ESPN Classic special designed to debate that question. When the Celtics finally made the title of May's book obsolete, he wrote the definitive story of that championship: Top of the World: The Inside Story of the Boston Celtics' Amazing One-Year Turnaround to Become NBA Champions.

Ryan's books include a record of the 1974 Celtic title, Celtics Pride: The Rebuilding of Boston's World Championship Basketball Team (1975); and an overall history of the team, published in 1990, Boston Celtics: The History, Legends, and Images of America's Most Celebrated Team. He also collaborated on the autobiographies of the 2 greatest Celtic forwards, Havlicek's Hondo: Celtic Man in Motion and Bird's Drive: The Story of My Life; and with Cousy on a 1988 book about the team, Cousy on the Celtic Mystique.

DVD collections have been put together for the Celtics' 1986 and 2008 titles, and in 2004, as part of their Dynasty Series, the NBA released Boston Celtics: The Complete History. (With the late-2000s revival, it is now woefully incomplete.) They've also released The Essentials: Five All-Time Great Games of the Boston Celtics. These 5 games are: Game 7 of the 1984 East Semifinals against the Knicks (Bird & Co. taking on Bernard King), the 1986 title clincher against the Houston Rockes, Game 7 of the 1988 East Semifinals against the Atlanta Hawks, Game 7 of the 2008 East Semifinals against the Cleveland Cavaliers (the game that essentially meant that LeBron James would have to leave Cleveland to win a title), and the 2008 title clincher against the Lakers (also known as Kobe Bryant's ultimate on-court humiliation -- not to be confused with his in-court humiliation).

The Globe staff put together, and sat for interviews for, Boston's Greatest Sports Stories: Behind the Headlines. I have this DVD, and it's fantastic, even if you don't like the teams involved. It has Ryan, Dan Shaughnessy, Leigh Montville, Bud Collins, Jackie MacMullan and others telling it like it was about the C's, the B's, the Sox, the Pats, and other local sports moments, ranging from the joyous (the 2004 Sox triumph had just happened when it was made) to the sorrowful (the deaths of Len Bias and Reggie Lewis), from the sublime (the steals of Havlicek, Bird and Gerald Henderson, and the great moments of Orr, Carl Yastrzemski and Tom Brady) to the ridiculous (Rosie Ruiz, that blackout at the old Garden during the 1988 Stanley Cup Finals).

During the Game. I only saw one sporting event at the old Garden; and, to date, have only seen one at the new Garden. Both were hockey games, Devils vs. Bruins. I have never seen a Celtics game, home or away. But there was a game I saw at the Meadowlands in 1986, when the Lakers came in as defending NBA Champions, and there was this guy behind the basket that kept standing up and holding up a sign that said "CELTIC POWER" with Bird's Number 33 on it. Did he know the Celtics weren't in the building? Was he trying to send a message to Magic Johnson, with whom Bird essentially alternated titles and MVP awards with in the 1980s?

Am I saying that Celtic fans are dumb? No -- only that that particular Celtic fan was dumb. However, there is an innate insularity among people in "Greater Boston," and whether they take kindly to visitors on a given day is a crapshoot. And, unlike the old Garden, with its cramped quarters, obstructed views, and decades of Celtic arrogance, the new Garden doesn't exactly ooze menace. The parquet floor has no dead spots. The center court leprechaun's wink is more whimsical than foreboding. There are no rats. Why, even the air-conditioning in the visitors' locker room works just fine. The greatest home-court advantage in the NBA no longer rests atop North Station.

With both the Celtics and the Knicks currently resident in Stankonia, and a season's glory depending in no way on the result of this game, the locals may not be inclined to compromise their safety, or yours. If a fan near you wants to engage in civil discussion, by all means, engage back. If not, get a feel for those around you, to see if they're going to be okay, before you start talking to any of them. Most likely, if you behave yourself, so will they. If you simply support your team, and lay off theirs, you should be all right.

Because, let’s face it, like any other group of people, there’s always a 1 percent (or less) who ruin it for the other 99 percent. The type of people parodied in the Saturday Night Live sketch “The Boston Teens” (featuring Jimmy Fallon before he played a Sox fan in the U.S. version of Fever Pitch) were, in the Pedro Martinez era (1998-2004), too young to remember 1986, let alone 1978, 1975, 1967, or Boston’s agonizing close calls of the late 1940s -- or the Bruin titles of the 1970s and the close calls of the 1980s, or the Celtics' down period around the time of the arena changeover, or the Pats' Victor Kiam era before Bill Parcells revived them.

These fans, these Townies, the British would call them “chavs” (and no American city is chavvier than Boston, at least not that I know of), really didn’t deserve the Sox victories of 2004, 2007 or 2013; the Pats victories of 2002, 2004, and 2005; the Celtics title of 2008; or the Bruins title of 2011 and near-title of 2013 -- and yet they’re the first to brag about them.

So if the Celtic fans around you just want to talk, by all means, talk with them. But keep it on a civil level. If they don’t want to antagonize you, why antagonize them? These are not the Townies: They’re basketball fans first and Celtic fans second. So be a basketball fan first and a Knick (or Net) fan second. It’s worth it.

John Kiley was the long-time organist at the Garden and Fenway Park, and thus the answer to the trivia question, "Who played for the Red Sox, Celtics and Bruins?" But he's gone, now, and so is Johnny Most. I don't know if Celtic fans have a noted chant or song that they sing during games, unless you count, "Let's go, Celtics!" Though I have it on some authority (how authoritative, I'm not sure) that Bon Jovi's "Livin' On a Prayer" is popular there. Which is another reason for me not to like the Celtics: I can't stand Bon Jovi.

The leprechaun's name, as you might guess, is Lucky. But the Celtics do not have a live-action mascot. Nor do they have a postgame victory song, although, I suppose, they could dig out "Dirty Water" by the Standells, like the Red Sox and Bruins use.

After the Game. Win or lose, get out of the arena and back to your hotel (or to South Station or the park-and-ride you parked at, if you came up just for the day) as quickly and as quietly as possible. This will require you to be on the streets of Boston, and, unless you can get a taxi (don’t count on it), to take the Green Line in one direction or the other.

You’ll have to take some verbal on the streets and especially on the subway. Respond as little as possible. This is a good time to observe the advice of the great football coach Paul Brown: “When you win, say little; and when you lose, say less.”

Chances are, no one will try to pick a fight with you, or damage your Knicks/Nets gear (by spilling a drink on it, or worse). Most Bruins fans, regardless of how much they’ve had to drink, will not fight. And if they see New York/Brooklyn fans ready to defend each other, they could very well back off entirely.

Perhaps the best way to avoid a confrontation is to stay at your seat for as long as the Garden ushers will let you. This is a tactic used in European and Latin American soccer, with stadium stewards keeping the visiting fans in their section until the entire rest of the stadium is emptied of home supporters, to minimize the chance of hooliganism. This will also allow the crowd to thin out a little and make it easier to leave the park, regardless of the level of aggression.

Another way to avoid any unpleasantness is to find a bar where New Yorkers not only hang out, but are left alone. Easier said than done, right? Well, just as the Riviera Café off Sheridan Square in the West Village and Professor Thom’s on 2nd Avenue in the East Village are New Englander-friendly bars in New York, there are places in Boston that welcome New Yorkers and New Jerseyans.

The following establishments were mentioned in a Boston Globe profile during the 2009 World Series: Champions, at the Marriott Copley Place hotel at 110 Huntington Avenue (Green Line to Copley); The Sports Grille, at 132 Canal Street (across from North Station and the Garden, Green Line to North Station); and, right across from Fenway itself, Game On! at 82 Lansdowne Street. I’ve also heard that Jillian’s, across from Fenway at 145 Ipswich Street, takes in Yankee Fans, but I’ve only seen it rammed with Chowdaheads, so I would advise against it.

The local Giants fan club meets at The Greatest Bar – a name, if not an apt description – is at 262 Friend Street off Canal, a block from the Garden. The Green Briar Pub, at 304 Washington Street in the Brighton section of town, is the local home of Jets fans. (Green Line to Kenmore, then switch to Number 57 bus toward Watertown Yard, get off at Washington Street at Waldo Terrace.) However, there's so little overlap between the MLB and NFL seasons that showing up at either place with a Yankee cap on a non-NFL gameday may not be a good idea.

Several noted drinking emporiums are near TD Garden. Perhaps the most famous, and once rated the best sports bar in America by Sports Illustrated, is The Fours, at 166 Canal Street. It’s named for “the Miracle of the Fours”: 1970 Stanley Cup Finals, Game 4, overtime (therefore the 4th period), winning goal scored by Number 4, Bobby Orr, while tripped up by Noel Picard, Number 4 of the St. Louis Blues, to clinch the Bruins’ 4th Stanley Cup. (Some people like to point out that it was Orr's 4th goal of the Finals, but this is incorrect: It was his 1st.) McGann’s isn't exactly New York Tri-State Area-friendly, but it is close to the Garden, at 197 Portland Street.

But the 2 most famous Boston sports-related bars will be unavailable to you: The Eliot Lounge, in the Eliot Hotel at the convenient intersection of Massachusetts & Commonwealth Avenues, closed in 1996; while Daisy Buchanan's, postgame home to many a Boston and visiting athlete, closes today -- at its original location, anyway: 240 Newbury Street at Fairfield. It's a development issue, and the owner says he's going to try to reopen the bar, named for The Great Gatsby's lost love, elsewhere. Bruins star turned broadcaster Derek Sanderson was one of the original 1969 owners.

Sidelights. Boston is probably America’s best sports city, per-capita, and the number of sports-themed sites you might want to check out is large:

* Solomon Court at Cabot Center. This is part of Northeastern University’s athletic complex, and was the site of the Huntington Avenue Grounds, the only other home the Boston Red Sox have ever known, from their founding in 1901 to 1911. When the Sox won the first World Series in 1903, it was clinched here. At roughly the spot where the pitcher’s mound was, there is a statue of Cy Young, who pitched for the Sox in their 1903 and 1904 World Championship seasons. Huntington Avenue at Forsyth Street. Green Line E train to Northeastern.

* South End Grounds. This is still the most successful baseball location in Boston history. It was home to 3 ballparks, all named the Sound End Grounds. In 1871, the first such park was built there, and was home to the Boston Red Stockings of the first professional baseball league, the National Association. This team featured half the members of the first openly professional team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings (hence the name), and also had a young pitcher named Al Spalding, who would later co-found the team now known as the Chicago Cubs and the sporting-goods empire that still bears his name. Those Boston Red Stockings team won Pennants in 1872, ’73, ’74 and ’75, and its strength (domination, really) was one of the reasons the NA collapsed.

When the National League was founded in 1876, the Red Stockings were a charter member. They won Pennants in 1877 and ’78, and by the time they won the 1883 Pennant, they were popularly known as the “Boston Beaneaters.” No, I'm not making that name up. Building a new park on the site in 1888, they won Pennants in 1891, ’92 and ’93. But on May 15, 1894, in a game against the NL version of the Baltimore Orioles, a fight broke out, and no one noticed that some kids had started a fire in the right-field seats. (Or maybe it was the ashes of a grown man’s cigar. Both have been suggested, probably nobody knew for sure.) It became known as the Great Roxbury Fire, and the story goes that the park and 117 (or 170, or 200) buildings burned to the ground, and 1,900 people were left homeless – but nobody died. (I don’t buy that last part at all.)

A new park was hastily built on the site, while the Beaneaters temporarily played at the home of the city’s team in the 1890 Players’ League. This last South End Grounds hosted the Braves' 1897 and '98 Pennant winners, and lasted until 1914, when, with the team now called the Braves (owner James Gaffney had been a “Brave,” or officer, in New York’s Tammany Hall political organization), decided it was too small for the crowds the team was now attracting. So he moved the team to Fenway, and played their 1914 World Series games there, and opened Braves Field the next season. Overall, 12 Pennants were won here, in a 44-year span -- one more than the Red Sox have won at Fenway Park in 102 seasons.

Parking for Northeastern University is now on the site -- and save your Joni Mitchell jokes. Columbus Avenue at Hammond Street. Orange Line to Ruggles.

* Third Base Saloon. There’s some question as to what was the first “sports bar”: St. Louis Brown Stockings (the team now known as the Cardinals) owner Chris von der Ahe’s place on the grounds of Sportsman’s Park, or Michael T. McGreevy’s establishment that opened just outside the South End Grounds, both in the 1880s. “I call it Third Base because it’s the last place you go before home,” McGreevy would tell people. “Enough said.” McGreevy used that phrase to settle any and all arguments to the point where not only did “Nuf Ced” become his nickname, but he had it (spelled that way) laid in mosaic tile on the bar’s floor.

Third Base Saloon became the headquarters of the Royal Rooters, a Beaneaters’ booster club, founded in 1897. In 1901, when the American League and the team that became the Red Sox was formed, Beaneaters founder-owner Arthur Soden made one of the dumbest mistakes in sports history: Despite competition practically next-door to his team, he raised ticket prices. This infuriated the working-class Irish fan base of the NL club, and they immediately accepted Nuf Ced’s suggestion of switching to the AL outfit. (I wonder if they built their park near Nuf Ced's place for just that reason, to get his customers?)

Nuf Ced and the Rooters stayed with the Sox after their 1912 move to Fenway, until 1920 when Prohibition closed him down. He died in 1930, and to this day, no Boston baseball team has ever won a World Series without him being present at all home games. (Not legitimately, anyway.) A park with a bike trail is now on the site, so the address, 940 Columbus Avenue, is no longer in use. As with the site of South End Grounds, take the Orange Line to Ruggles.

A new version, named McGreevy’s 3rd Base Saloon, was founded by Dropkick Murphys member Ken Casey, with “an exact replica of McGreevy’s original barroom.” 911 Boylston Street. Green Line B, C or D train to Hynes-Convention Center.

* Matthews Arena. Built in 1910 as the Boston Arena -- in fact, today is the anniversary, April 16 -- this is the oldest currently-used multi-purpose athletic building in use in the world. Northeastern still uses it, while BC, BU, Harvard, MIT and Tufts all once played home games here. It was the Bruins' first home, from 1924 to 1928, and the Celtics played the occasional home game here from 1946 to 1955, on occasions when there was a scheduling conflict with the Garden. In 1985, the Celtics played an alumni game here, with the opposing teams coached by Red Auerbach (his players wearing the white home jerseys) and Bill Russell (who didn't play, his players wearing the road green).

A gift from NU alumnus George J. Matthews led the school to rename the arena for him. In spite of its age, the building is fronted by a modern archway. Massachusetts Avenue at St. Botolph Street. Green Line E train to Symphony. Symphony Hall, Boston's answer to Carnegie Hall, is a block away at Massachusetts and Huntington Avenues.

* Site of Braves Field/Nickerson Field. Although Boston University no longer has a football team, it still plays other sports at Nickerson Field, which opened in 1957. Its home stand is the surviving right field pavilion of Braves Field, where the Braves played from 1915 until they left town. In return for being allowed to play their 1914 World Series games at Fenway, the Braves invited the Sox to play their Series games at Braves Field, which seated 40,000, a record until the first Yankee Stadium was built. The Sox played their home Series games there in 1915, ’16 and ’18.

The Braves themselves only played one World Series here, in 1948, losing to the Indians, who had just beaten the Sox in a one-game Playoff for the AL Pennant at Fenway, negating the closest call there ever was for an all-Boston World Series.

The Braves’ top farm team was the Triple-A version of the Milwaukee Brewers, and, with their team in decline after the ’48 Pennant and the Sox having the far larger attendance, they gave up the ghost and moved just before the start of the 1953 season, and then in 1966 to Atlanta. But they already had Warren Spahn and Eddie Mathews, and, ironically, if they’d just hung on a little longer, they would have had Hank Aaron (they’d already integrated with Sam Jethroe in 1948, 11 years before the Sox finally caved in to the post-1865 world and added Pumpsie Green). They could have played the 1957 and '58 World Series in Boston instead of Milwaukee. If this had happened, once Ted Williams retired in 1960, interest in the declining Sox would have faded to the point that Tom Yawkey, not a Bostonian, could have gotten frustrated, and the Red Sox could have moved with the Braves staying.

If so, while the 1967, ’75, ’86, 2004, ’07 and '13 World Series would have been played somewhere else, Boston would have gained the 1957, ’58, ’91, ’92, ’95, ’96 and ’99 World Series, and, because of the proximity, there would be a big New York-Boston rivalry in baseball, but it would be Mets-Braves. (Of course, this would have meant the Yankees' main rivals would be the Baltimore Orioles -- who are, after all, the closest AL team to them, closer than the Red Sox.)

Instead, the Braves moved, and BU bought the grounds and converted it into Nickerson Field. The NFL’s Boston Redskins (named for the Braves) played their first season, 1932, at Braves Field, before playing 1933-36 at Fenway and then moving to Washington. The AFL’s Boston Patriots played at Nickerson 1960-62, and then at Fenway 1963-68. The former Braves Field ticket office still stands, converted into the BU Police headquarters. Unfortunately, the field is now artificial.

Commonwealth Avenue at Babcock Street and Harry Agganis Way. (Agganis was a BU quarterback who briefly played for the Red Sox before getting sick and dying at age 24 in 1955.) Green Line B train at Pleasant Street.

* Fenway Park. If you can stomach being around so much Soxness -- or if you're a Mets fan and thus a fellow Yankee-Hater -- the Auld Enemy offers tours of their Back Bay bandbox on the hour between 10:00 AM and 5:00 PM for $17, accessing the warning track (but not the field), the Green Monster, the Monster Seats, the press box, and the Red Sox Hall of Fame. 4 Yawkey Way (formerly Jersey Street) at Brookline Avenue. Green Line B, C or D (not E) to Kenmore.

Across Lansdowne Street/Ted Williams Way is the Cask 'n' Flagon. This legendary bar is definitely not to be visited by a New York/New Jersey fan while a Boston sporting event is in progress, but one to try at other times. And if you look to your right as you come out of the Kenmore station, you'll see a Barnes & Noble that serves as the Boston University bookstore. If you look up, you'll see that the famous CITGO sign so often shown in shots of Fenway is on top of this building.

NCAA basketball tournament games have been held at the TD Garden, the Hartford Civic Center (now the XL Center), the Providence Civic Center (now the Dunkin Donuts Center), the Worcester Centrum (now the DCU Center), and the University of Rhode Island's Keaney Gymnasium in Kingston. But no New England building has ever hosted a Final Four, and none ever will, due to attendance requirements, unless the Patriots put a dome on Gillette Stadium, or the Sox ever do build a New Fenway, with a dome.

No school within the city limits of Boston has ever reached the Final Four. One Massachusetts school has: Holy Cross, in Worcester, winning the National Championship in 1947 with George Kaftan, "the Golden Greek," and reaching the Final Four again in '48 with Bob Cousy (a freshman in '47 and ineligible under the rules of the time).

The University of Massachusetts, with its main campus in Amherst, made the Final Four in 1996, under coach John Calipari, but had to vacate the appearance when later Knick Marcus Camby admitted he'd accepted money and gifts from agents.

The University of Connecticut (UConn, in Storrs, closer to Boston than to Manhattan) has made it 5 times, winning it all in 1999, 2004, 2011 and 2014, and losing in the Semifinal in 2009. The only New Hampshire school to make it is Dartmouth, in Hanover, in 1942 and 1944, losing in the Final both times. The only Rhode Island school to make it is Providence, in 1973 and 1987 (coached by future Big East Commissioner Dave Gavitt and future preening schmo Rick Pitino, respectively). No school from Maine or Vermont has ever reached the Final Four.

* Alumni Stadium. Boston College has played football here since 1957, and the Patriots played their 1969 home games here. Prior to 1957, BC played at several sites, including Fenway and Braves Field. Beacon Street at Chestnut Hill Drive. Green Line B train to Boston College.

* Harvard Stadium. The oldest continually-used football stadium in America – the University of Pennsylvania’s Franklin Field is on the oldest continually-used football site – this stadium was built in 1903, and renovations (funded by those wealthy Harvard alums) have kept it in tip-top condition, if not turned it into a modern sports palace.

This stadium is responsible for the legalization of the forward pass in football. When the organization that became the NCAA was founded in 1906, rules changes were demanded to make the game safer. One suggestion was widening the field, but Harvard – at the time, having as much pull as Notre Dame, Michigan and Alabama now do, all rolled into one – insisted that they’d just spent all this money on a new stadium, and didn’t want to alter it to suit a rule change. Much as Notre Dame has sometimes been a tail wagging college football’s dog, the Crimson were accommodated, and someone suggested the alternative of legalizing the forward pass, which had occasionally been illegally done.

Today, the stadium is best known as the site of the 1968 Harvard-Yale game, where the two ancient rivals both came into the game undefeated, and a furious late comeback from 29-13 down led to the famous Harvard Crimson (school newspaper) headline “HARVARD BEATS YALE 29-29” and a tie for the Ivy League Championship. (Actor Tommy Lee Jones, then listed as "Tom Jones," started at guard for Harvard in that game. His roommate at Harvard was future Vice President Al Gore.) The Patriots played 1970, their first season in the NFL and last under the name “Boston Patriots,” at Harvard Stadium.

Although its mailing address is 65 North Harvard Street in “Allston, MA,” and the University is in Cambridge, the stadium is actually on the south, Boston side of the Charles River. Harvard Street at Soldiers Field Road. Unfortunately, it’s not that close to public transportation: Your best bet is to take the Red Line to Harvard Square, and walk across the Anderson Memorial Bridge.

* Gillette Stadium. The NFL’s New England Patriots and MLS’ New England Revolution have played here since 2002. It was built next-door to the facility known as Schaefer Stadium, Sullivan Stadium and Foxboro Stadium, which was torn down and replaced by the Patriot Place mall.

The Pats played at the old stadium from 1971 to 2001 (their last game, a Playoff in January 2002, being the Snow Bowl or Tuck Game against the Oakland Raiders). It was home to the New England Tea Men of the North American Soccer League and, from 1996 to 2001, of MLS’ Revs. Before the Tea Men, the NASL's Boston Minutemen played there, including Mozambicuan-Portuguese legend Eusebio da Silva Ferreira (like many Portuguese and Brazilian players, usually known by just his first name). Because of this, and because of New England's large Portuguese community, a statue of Eusebio stands at Gillette, possibly puzzling people who don't know soccer and only go for Patriots games. The statue was there at least as far back as 2010, well before his recent death.

The U.S. national soccer team played 10 games at Foxboro Stadium, winning 7. They've now played 10 at Gillette as well, winning 6. BC played a couple of football games at the old stadium in the early 1980s, thanks to the popularity of quarterback Doug Flutie. The old stadium was basically an oversized version of a high school stadium, complete with aluminum benches for fans, and it was terrible. The new stadium is so much better.

It has one problem: The location is awful. It’s just off U.S. Route 1, not a freeway such as I-95, and except for Pats’ gamedays, when an MBTA commuter rail train will take you right there, the only way to get there without a car is to take the MBTA Forge Park-495 Line from South Station to Walpole, and then get a taxi. That’ll cost you $18 each way, as I found out when I went to see the New York Red Bulls play the Revs in June 2010.

60 Washington Street (Route 1) – or “1 Patriot Place,” Foxboro. It’s actually closer to downtown Providence, Rhode Island than to downtown Boston. Adjoining is the Patriot Place mall.

* Suffolk Downs. Opened in 1935, this is New England's premier horse-racing track.  On their last tour, on August 18, 1966, the Beatles played here. However, as horse racing has declined, so has the track, to the point that New England's best known race, the Massachusetts Handicap (or the Mass Cap) hasn't been run since 2008. Previously, it had been won by such legendary horses as Seabiscuit, Whirlaway, Riva Ridge and Cigar.

So, unless you really loved the film Seabiscuit or are a huge Beatlemaniac, I'd say that if you don't have the time to see everything on this list, this is the first item you should cross off. 525 McClellan Highway, at Waldemar Avenue, in the East Boston neighborhood, near Logan Airport. Blue Line to Suffolk Downs station.

* Basketball Hall of Fame. New York and Boston fans can debate which of their cities is "the home of basketball" or "the best basketball city," but the birthplace of basketball cannot be questioned: It is Springfield, Massachusetts, 90 miles west of downtown Boston. Dr. James Naismith invented the sport at the Springfield YMCA on December 21, 1891, because the Y needed an indoor sport for those months when it was too cold to play baseball or football outside. The Springfield Y became Springfield College, and the "Hoophall," founded in 1959, opened its first building on the SC campus in 1968. It quickly outgrew the facility, and a new one opened on the Connecticut River in 1985. That one, too, was outgrown, and a 3rd one opened adjacent to the 2nd one in 2002.

1000 Hall of Fame Avenue. It might not be a bad idea to see the Knicks-Celtics game on Friday night, stay over in Boston, and then on Saturday head west to see the Hoophall before heading south again to go home. Take the Mass Pike/I-90 West to Exit 6, to Interstate 291, then take Exit 1 onto Interstate 91, then take that highway's Exit 6, and the Hoophall will be on your right. If you'd prefer to take a separate trip from New York, it's 138 miles. Follow the directions to Boston: I-95 North to New Haven, then I-91 North, except pass Hartford, and stay on I-91, and, once in Massachusetts, take Exit 6. Hartford and Springfield are only 25 miles apart.

* Museum of Fine Arts. This is Boston’s equivalent to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I’m not saying you have to visit, but you should see one major Boston tourist site that doesn’t involve sports, and it’s a 10-minute walk from Fenway and a 5-minute walk from the sites of the Huntington Avenue and South End Grounds. 465 Huntington Avenue at Parker Street. Green Line E train to Museum of Fine Arts station.

* Freedom Trail. Boston’s most familiar tourist trap is actually several, marked by a red brick sidewalk and red paint on streets. Historic sites include Boston’s old and new City Halls, Massachusetts’ old and new State Houses (old: Built 1711, with the State Street subway station somehow built into it; “new”: 1798), the Old North Church (where Paul Revere saw the two lanterns hung) and the Old South Meeting House (where Samuel Adams started the Boston Tea Party and would be horrified at the right-wing bastards using the “Tea Party” name today), Revere’s house, the Boston Tea Party Ship, the U.S.S. Constitution, and the Bunker Hill Monument.

The Trail starts at Boston Common, at Park and Tremont Streets. Green or Red Line to Park Street.

* Cambridge. Home to Harvard and MIT, it is not so much “Boston’s Brooklyn” (that wouldn’t be Brookline, either, but would be South Boston or “Southie” and neighboring Dorchester) as “Boston’s Greenwich Village,” particularly since Harvard Square was the center of Boston’s alternative music scene in the Fifties and Sixties, where performers like Joan Baez and the aforementioned Kingston Trio became stars. Later, it would be rock acts like Aerosmith and the J. Geils Band that would make their names in Cambridge.

The city is also home to the Longfellow House, home of the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. And while it is worth a visit, no, you cannot, as the old saying demonstrating the Boston accent goes, “Pahk yuh cah in Hahvuhd Yahd.” Harvard Yard does not allow motorized vehicles. Centered around Harvard Square at 1400 Massachusetts Avenue. Red Line to Harvard Square.

* John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. Unlike the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, which is a 2-hour drive north of Midtown Manhattan in Hyde Park, closer to Albany, the JFK Library is much more accessible – not just to drivers and non-drivers alike, but to anyone. Maybe it’s because it’s more interactive, but maybe it’s also because FDR is a figure of black-and-white film and scratchy radio recordings, while JFK is someone whose television images and color films make him more familiar to us, even though he’s been dead for over 50 years now. (Incredibly, he’s now been dead longer than he was alive.)

Sometimes it seems as though his Library is less about his time than it is about our time, and the time beyond. While I love the FDR Library, there’s no doubt in my mind that this is the best Presidential Library or Museum there is. Columbia Point, on the Boston campus of the University of Massachusetts. Red Line to JFK/UMass, plus a shuttle bus.

Other Massachusetts Presidential sites include the JFK Tour at Harvard, JFK’s birthplace at 83 Beals Street in Brookline (Green Line B train to Babcock Street), those involving John and John Quincy Adams in Quincy (Red Line to Quincy Center – not to “Quincy Adams”), the house at 173 Adams Street in Milton where George H.W. Bush was born (Red Line to Milton, now has a historical marker although the house itself is privately owned and not available for tours), and the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Library and Museum, in Northampton where he was Mayor before becoming the State’s Governor and then President (20 West Street, 100 miles west of Boston, although Greyhound goes there). Closer than Northampton are sites relating to Franklin Pierce in Concord and Hillsboro, New Hampshire.

Salem, home to the witch trials, is to the north: MBTA Commuter Rail Newburyport/Rockport Line out of North Station to Salem. Plymouth, where the Pilgrims landed and set up the Massachusetts Bay Colony, is to the south: MBTA Kingston/Plymouth Line out of South Station to Kingston, then switch to FreedomLink bus.

Lexington & Concord? Lexington: Red Line north to its terminal at Alewife, then switch to the 62 or 76 bus. Concord: MBTA Fitchburg/South Acton Line out of North Station to Concord. Bunker Hill? 93 bus on Washington Street, downtown, to Bunker Hill & Monument Streets, across the river in the Charlestown neighborhood, then 2 blocks down Monument.

The Bull & Finch Pub, which was used for the exterior shot and the basis for the interior shot of Cheers, was at 84 Beacon Street at Brimmer Street, across from Boston Common and near the State House. It's since been bought and turned into an official Cheers, with the upstairs Hampshire House (the basis for the show's Melville's) also part of the establishment. Green Line to Arlington.  A version designed to look more like the one on the show, complete with an "island bar" instead of a "wall bar," is at Faneuil Hall. Congress & Market Streets. Orange or Blue Line to State, since Government Center is closed for renovations.

The Suffolk County Court House, recognizable from David E. Kelley's legal dramas Ally McBeal, The Practice and Boston Legal, is at the Scollay Square/Government Center complex.  The official address is 3 Pemberton Street, at Somerset Street. Again, use State, due to the closure of Government Center.

The Prudential Tower, a.k.a. the Prudential Center, at 749 feet the tallest building in the world outside New York when it opened in 1964, contains a major mall. 800 Boylston Street. The finish line of the Boston Marathon, and the site of the bombing, is at 755 Boylston at Ring Road. Green Line B, C or D to Copley, or E to Prudential.

There are two John Hancock Buildings in Boston. The older one, at 197 Clarendon Street at St. James Avenue, went up in 1947 and is better known as the Berkeley Building. It is 495 feet high counting a spire that lights up, and is a weather beacon, complete with poem:

Steady blue, clear view.
Flashing blue, clouds due.
Steady red, rain ahead.
Flashing red, snow instead.

If it's flashing red during baseball season, when snow is not expected (except maybe in April), that means that day's Red Sox game has been postponed. When the Sox won the Series * in 2004, '07 and '13, it flashed red and blue.

The glass-facaded newer building, at 200 Clarendon across from the old one, was completed in 1976 and is 790 feet tall, making it not just the tallest in Boston, in Massachusetts, or in New England, but the tallest in North America east of Manhattan.  Green Line to Copley

*

Boston may be, per capita, America's best sports city. Certainly, it's the nuttiest. Games played there, in any of their venues, are not for the faint of heart. But it is a truly great experience to see a game there.

Good luck, and remember: Safety first. Despite Boston's reputation of having several fine medical centers, if given a choice, it's better to be an uninjured coward than a hospitalized tough guy.