Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Judge vs. Executioners

Aaron Judge returns to the Yankee lineup tonight, after having been activated only for defensive duty last week, following his injury.

The Yankees have not done well without him. They have fallen from being serious challengers to the Boston Red Sox in the American League Eastern Division to being 1 game away from Division title elimination, and the brink of losing home-field advantage in the Wild Card Game, and possibly being knocked out of it entirely.

Judge was one of the few players on this team that had any guts. You need guts, especially with the Red Sox coming in, needing to take only 1 of these 3 games to clinch -- on our field.

Guts is more important than talent. And Brian Cashman's Baby Bombers, his Precious Prospects, have come up with some big hits, but not when it's counted the most.

The same is true for his big off-season acquisition. I would trade Giancarlo Stanton, right now, even-up, for a 1941 Tommy Henrich, a 1955 Moose Skowron, a 1976 Lou Piniella, a 1996 Paul O'Neill, or even a 2009 Nick Swisher.

Brian Cashman wouldn't. Yet he is the Yankee general manager, and I don't have a job in baseball.

And even if the Yankees do win the Wild Card Game, they'd face the Red Sox in the AL Division Series.

So now, Judge faces the men who are likely to be the 2018 Yankees' executioners.

And we, the jury, need to find Cashman guilty, and sentence him to life away from the Yankees, without chance of parole.


This countdown required some corrections, and they have been made.

Days until the next Yankees-Red Sox series begins: 0. It's mere minutes away as I type this.

Days until Arsenal play again: 2, this Thursday, at 3:00 PM New York time, home to Vorskla Poltava of Ukraine, in their 1st match of the Group Stage of the 2018-19 UEFA Europa League. After opening the season with losses to Manchester City and Chelsea, Arsenal have now won 3 straight Premier League games, 2 of them on the road.

Days until East Brunswick High School plays football again: 3, this Friday night, home to Somerset County team Ridge. They opened the season getting clobbered by Piscataway and fumbling away a game to J.P. Stevens of Edison. It could be yet another long year for Bob Molarz' Green-White Army.

Days until Rutgers University plays football again: 4, this coming Saturday, at 12:00 noon, home to the University of Buffalo. After a season-opening win over Texas State, they have been bombed in away games against Ohio State and Kansas.

Days until the New York Red Bulls play again: 4, this Saturday afternoon, at 5:00 PM, home to defending MLS Champions, but now struggling, Toronto FC.

Days until the next Yankee game that matters, the American League Wild Card Game: 15, on Wednesday night, October 3, at Yankee Stadium II, probably against the Oakland Athletics. And if you believe the Yankees will win that game, then you're a hell of a lot more optimistic than I am.

Days until the New Jersey Devils play another competitive game: 18, on Saturday, October 6, against the Edmonton Oilers, at... Scandinavium, an arena in Göteborg (Gothenburg), Sweden, part of the NHL Global Series. Under 3 weeks. The Mulberry Street Marauders will warm up for it on October 1, with an exhibition game in Berne, Switzerland; while the Oilers will visit Cologne, Germany on October 3.

Days until the New Jersey Devils' home opener: 23, on Thursday night, October 11, against the Stanley Cup holders, the Washington Capitals. Boy, there's words you never thought you'd read!

Days until the U.S. national soccer team plays again: 23, on Thursday, October 11, a friendly against Colombia, at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. Earlier this month, they lost 2-0 to Brazil at the Meadowlands, but then beat Mexico 1-0 in Nashville.

Days until the New Jersey Devils next play a local rival: 32, on Saturday afternoon, October 20, against the Philadelphia Flyers, a.k.a. The Philth, at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. The 1st game against the New York Islanders, a.k.a. the Fish Sticks, will be on Saturday night, November 3, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The 1st game against the New York Rangers, a.k.a. The Scum, will be on Thursday night, January 31, 2019, at the Prudential Center.

Days until the Red Bulls next play a "derby": 33, against the Philadelphia Union at Chester on Sunday, October 21. They do not play DCU, New York City FC or the New England Revolution again in the regular season. A meeting with Philly or New York City is possible in the MLS Cup Playoffs, while D.C. United and the New England Revolution are almost certainly out.

Days until the next Congressional election, when we can elect a Democratic Congress that can impeach and remove Donald Trump from the Presidency: 49on November 6. Exactly 7 weeks.

Days until the next Rutgers-Penn State game: 60, on Saturday, November 17, at High Point Solutions Stadium in Piscataway, New Jersey. Exactly 2 months.

Days until the next East Brunswick-Old Bridge Thanksgiving high school football game: 65, on Thursday, November 22. A little over 9 weeks.

Days until the next North London Derby: 74on Sunday, December 2, at the Emirates Stadium. It had been set for December 1, but was moved due to Arsenal once again being stuck playing Europa League games on Thursday nights. No more "Thursday is Spursday" jokes for us Gooners.

Days until a Democratic Congress can convene, and the impeachment process can begin: 107on Thursday, January 3, 2019. A little over 4 months.

Days until the Baseball Hall of Fame vote is announced, electing Mariano Rivera: 127
, on January 23, 2019. A little over 4 months.

Days until the next Women's World Cup kicks off: 262, on June 7, 2019, in France. A little over 8 months. The U.S. team, as 3-time and defending Champions, has, as usual, a better chance than the men's team would have had in 2018 anyway.

Days until the Yankees and Red Sox play each other in London: 284, on June 29, 2019. A little over 9 months.

Days until my 50th Birthday, at which point I can join AARP and get discounts for travel and game tickets: 456
, on December 18, 2019. A little over a year, or exactly 15 months.

Days until the Baseball Hall of Fame vote is announced, electing Derek Jeter: 491
on January 22, 2020. A little under a year, or a little over 16 months.

Days until the next Summer Olympics begins in Tokyo, Japan: 665on July 24, 2020. Under 2 years, or a little under 22 months.

Days until the next Presidential election, when we can dump the Trump-Pence regime and elect a real Administration: 777
on November 3, 2020. A little over 2 years, or a little over 25 months.

Days until Liberation Day: 855at noon on January 20, 2021. A little over 2 years, or a little over 28 months. Note that this is liberation from the Republican Party, not just from Donald Trump. Having Mike Pence as President wouldn't be better, just differently bad, mixing theocracy with plutocracy, rather than mixing kleptocracy with plutocracy.

Days until the next Winter Olympics begins in Beijing, China: 1,235on February 4, 2022. A little over 3 1/2 years, or a little over 40 months.

Days until the next World Cup for which the American team will be eligible is scheduled to kick off: 1,525, on November 21, 2022, in Qatar. A little over 4 years, or a little over 50 months. The charges of corruption against Qatar may yet mean that they will lose the tournament, in which case it will be moved to a nation where it would not be too hot to play it in June and July.

Monday, September 17, 2018

How to Be a New York Football Fan In Houston -- 2018 Edition

Having looked very bad in their 1st 2 games of the season, the New York Giants will try to get into the win column this coming Sunday, as they visit the Houston Texans.

Before You Go. Most Americans hear "bayou" and think "Louisiana." But Houston is known as, among other things, the Bayou City. It can get hot, it can get humid, and it gets a lot of rain. Why do you think the world's 1st indoor stadium designed for baseball and football was built there? So while the Texans play in a stadium with a retractable roof, the weather could still be a factor.

The Houston Chronicle is predicting daytime temperatures in the high 80s, and nighttime temperatures in the mid-70s, plus rain. This is not going to be fun.

Houston is in the Central Time Zone, so you'll be an hour behind New York time. Although Texas is a former Confederate State, you will not need your passport, and you won't need to change your money.

Tickets. The Texans averaged 71,774 fans per game last season, a sellout. Being the NFL's newest team (whether you count moved teams as "new" or not), they don't having much of a tradition. But getting tickets may still be tough.

Seats in the lower level, the 100 sections, are $190 on the sidelines and $100 in the end zone. Seats in the upper level, the 600 sections, are $78 and $49. Every level in between is club seating, and prohibitively expensive.

Getting There. It's 1,665 miles from Times Square in New York to downtown Houston, and 1,668 miles from MetLife Stadium to NRG Stadium. You're probably thinking that you should be flying.

Flying nonstop to Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport (That's named for the father, not the son) can be done for as little as $470. Considering how far it is, that is a bargain. Bus 102 will get you from the airport to downtown in an hour and 20 minutes.

There are 2 ways to get there by train. One is to change trains in Chicago, and then change to a bus in Longview, Texas. The other is to change trains twice, in Washington and New Orleans, and then stay overnight in New Orleans. No, I'm not making that up. You don't want that -- and don't be fooled by the fact that Houston's Union Station and the ballpark are next-door to each other, because Amtrak uses a different station a mile away, at 902 Washington Street. Round-trip fare is $511, and that could be more than by flying. Maybe we should just forget Amtrak, and move on.

Greyhound has 8 runs a day from Port Authority Bus Terminal to Houston, averaging 42 hours, and requiring you to change buses in Atlanta and New Orleans. It's $566 round-trip, but it can drop to $402 with advanced purchase -- in other words, flying could be less. The Houston Greyhound station is at 2121 Main Street, a mile from the arena.

If you actually think it's worth it to drive, get someone to go with you so you'll have someone to talk to and one of you can drive while the other sleeps. You'll be taking Interstate 78 across New Jersey and into Pennsylvania to Harrisburg, where you'll pick up Interstate 81 and take that through the narrow panhandles of Maryland and West Virginia, down the Appalachian spine of Virginia and into Tennessee, where you'll pick up Interstate 40, stay on that briefly until you reach Interstate 75, and take that until you reach Interstate 59, which will take you into Georgia briefly and then across Alabama and Mississippi, and into Louisiana, where you take Interstate 12 west outside New Orleans. Take that until you reach Interstate 10. Once in Texas, Exit 770 will get you to downtown Houston.

If you do it right, you should spend about an hour and a half in New Jersey, 3 hours in Pennsylvania, 15 minutes in Maryland, half an hour in West Virginia, 5 and a half hours in Virginia, 3 hours and 45 minutes in Tennessee, half an hour in Georgia, 4 hours in Alabama, 2 hours and 45 minutes in Mississippi, 4 hours and 30 minutes in Louisiana and 2 hours in Texas. Including rest stops, and accounting for traffic, we're talking about a 40-hour trip.

Even if you're only going for one game, no matter how you got there, get a hotel and spend a night. You'll be exhausted otherwise. Trust me, I know: Trains and buses are not good ways to get sleep.

Once In the City. Houston was founded in 1836 as Allen's Landing, and was renamed for Sam Houston, "the Father of Texas." There are 2.2 million people in the city proper, making it the 4th-largest in America, and 6.3 million in the metropolitan area, making it 5th. But with multiple teams, it's only the 10th-largest market in the NBA, and the 7th-largest in MLB and the NFL.

The weather in Houston is so bad! (How bad is it?) A "bayou" (BYE-yoo) is a body of water, typically found in a flat, low-lying area, and can be either an extremely slow-moving stream or river, often with a poorly-defined shoreline, or a marshy lake or wetland. And Houston is known as the Bayou City.

When people talk about "the bayou," they usually mean Louisiana. But Southeast Texas is also bayou country, and it frequently leaves Houston hot, humid and muggy. It's a breeding ground for mosquitoes. The Astrodome had to be built not just to promote Houston, or to protect people from the heat, but to protect them from the bugs. Sandy Koufax of the Los Angeles Dodgers said, "Some of those mosquitoes are twin-engine jobs."

Fortunately, just as there's an overhead walkway system in Minneapolis, and an "Underground City" in Montreal, in their cases to protect pedestrians from their cities' notoriously cold Winter, there is a "Houston Tunnel System," begun in the 1930s, and inspired by New York itself, by the system under Rockefeller Center. Regardless of how much this may help, remember to stay hydrated.

The sales tax in the State of Texas is 6.25 percent, but in the City of Houston it goes up to 8.25 percent. The city doesn't appear to have a "centerpoint," where the address numbers start at 1, but there is a Main Street, running northeast/southwest. ZIP Codes in the Houston area start with the digits 77. The Area Codes are 713, with 281, 346 and 832 as overlays.

Houston has not 1, not 2, but 3 beltways: Interstate 610, a.k.a. the Inner Loop; Beltway 8, a.k.a. the Sam Houston Tollway; and State Highway 99, a.k.a. the Grand Parkway.

Like most Texas cities now, Houston has a Hispanic plurality, if not yet a majority: 44 percent. It's about 26 percent white, 24 percent black, and 6 percent Asian. It's mostly white on the west side; mostly black on the south, northwest and northeast sides; and mostly Hispanic on the north, east and southeast sides.

There is a light rail system, called METRORail, but you probably won't need it to get from a downtown hotel to the arena. One zone is $1.25, and the price rises to $4.50 for 4 zones, so a daypass is a better bargain at $3.00.
Going In. In 1965, the Astrodome opened, and was nicknamed "The Eighth Wonder of the World." It sure didn't seem like an exaggeration: The first roofed sports stadium in the world. (Supposedly, the Romans built stadia with canvas roofs, but that's hardly the same thing.) The Astros played there until 1999, and then moved into Enron Field/Minute Maid Park for the 2000 season. The AFL/NFL's Oilers played at the Astrodome from 1968 to 1996, when, with the "Luv Ya Blue" days long over and the "House of Pain" era already concluded, they moved to Tennessee to become the Titans. And the USFL's Gamblers played there in 1984 and 1985.

In 2002, the new NFL team, the Houston Texans, began play next-door to the Astrodome, just to the west, at Reliant Stadium, renamed NRG Stadium for the Houston-based energy company in 2014. Like Minute Maid Park, it has a retractable roof. Suddenly, the mostly-vacant Astrodome seemed, as one writer put it, like a relic of a future that never came to be. (This same writer said the same thing of Shea Stadium and, across Roosevelt Avenue, the surviving structures of the 1964 World's Fair.)
Photo taken in the leadup to Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004.
As you can see, the new stadium dwarfs the old one.

The NRG complex, including the Astrodome, is at 8400 Kirby Drive at Reliant Parkway -- about 9 miles southwest of downtown -- although the stadium's official address is One NRG Parkway. Reliant Park station on METRORail.

Once, the Astrodome was flashy enough to be the site of movies like The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training and Murder at the World Series. (Both were released in 1977. In the latter, the Astros, who had never yet gotten close to a Pennant, played the Series against the Oakland Athletics, who had just gotten fire-sold by owner Charlie Finley.)

The Astrodome also hosted the legendary 1968 college basketball game between Number 1 UCLA (with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, then still Lew Alcindor) and Number 2 University of Houston (whose Elvin Hayes led them to victory, before UCLA got revenge in that year's Final Four); the 1971 NCAA Final Four, with UCLA defeating Villanova in the Final; and the cheese-tastic 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, the "Battle of the Sexes."

The Astrodome hosted 3 fights for the Heavyweight Champion of the World, with the defending Champion winning all 3 by knockout: Muhammad Ali over Cleveland Williams on November 14, 1966; Ali over Ernie Terrell on February 6, 1967; and Larry Holmes over Randall "Tex" Cobb on November 26, 1982.

Elvis Presley sang there on February 27, 28 and March 1, 1970 and on March 3, 1974. It hosted Selena's last big concert before her murder in 1995, and when Jennifer Lopez starred in the film Selena, it was used for the re-creation. In 2004, the same year NRG (then Reliant) Stadium hosted the Super Bowl (which was won by... Janet Jackson, I think), the Astrodome was used to film a high school football playoff for the film version of Friday Night Lights; the old Astros division title banners can be clearly seen.

Today, though, the Astrodome seems, like the Republican Party that held a ridiculously bigoted Convention there in 1992, stuck in the past, and not just because they renominated failed President George H.W. Bush. The former Eighth Wonder of the World is now nicknamed the Lonely Landmark, and while it served as a shelter for people displaced from New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, since 2008, when it was hit with numerous code violations, only maintenance workers and security guards had been allowed to enter.

On February 13, 2018, the Harris County Commissioners, the Dome's overseers, approved the Astrodome Revitalization Project, which will raise the stadium's floor and use the space underneath as a huge parking garage. Construction is expected to be completed sometime in 2020.

NRG Stadium was built roughly on the site of Colt Stadium, which was the baseball team's home in their first 3 seasons, 1962, '63 and '64, when they were known as the Houston Colt .45's (spelled with the apostrophe), before moving into the dome and changing the name of the team. Astrohall, built in 1971, was torn down in 2002 to make way for parking for the new stadium (which, after all, was built on Astrodome parking).

The climate-controlled Astrodome was necessary because of not just the heat and the humidity, but because of the mosquitoes. Later, seeing the artificial turf that was laid in the Astrodome for 1966 after the grass died in the first season, due to the skylights in the dome having to be painted due to the players losing the ball in the sun, Koufax, he of the mosquito quip, said, "I was one of those guys who pitched without a cup. I wouldn't do it on this stuff." And Dick Allen of the Philadelphia Phillies, looking at the first artificial field in baseball history, said, "If a horse can't eat it, I don't want to play on it."

The Astrodome hosted a 1988 match between the national soccer teams of the U.S. and Ecuador, which Ecuador won. NRG Stadium has hosted 2 such matches, a 2008 draw with Mexico and a 2011 win over Panama. The Mexico team has made it a home-away-from-home, playing 10 matches there between 2003 and 2013. The stadium hosted the 2010 MLS All-Star Game, in which a team of MLS players lost to Manchester United.

NRG Stadium hosts the annual Texas Bowl, which more or less replaced the Bluebonnet Bowl, formerly an Astrodome fixture. It hosted the Final Four in 2011, when Connecticut beat Butler in the Final. It will hosted the Final Four again in 2016, with Villanova beating North Carolina in a thriller of a Final.

It hosted Super Bowl LI in 2017, the 1st and only Super Bowl ever to go to overtime, with the New England Patriots putting together the greatest comeback -- or, if you prefer, the Atlanta Falcons putting together the greatest choke -- in the history of the NFL Championship Game, under any name. It will host the 2023-24 College Football National Championship Game.

Since the Astrodome is to the east of NRG Stadium, that's the side of the stadium on which you are least likely to enter. If you come in from METRORail, you will have a half-mile walk west on Reliant Parkway, and you will most likely enter from the north gate. And I recommend METRORail, because parking is a whopping $33. Tailgating is permitted, within the rules as spelled out on the Texans' website.
The field has always been artificial, despite the retractable roof, and is laid out north-to-south, like most football fields, even though closing the roof makes this due-to-the-sun setup unnecessary.
On September 12, 2017, Thrillist had an article ranking all 31 NFL stadiums. NRG Stadium ranked 14th, in the top half:

Built to function as an intimate indoor arena but have the feel of the open air, the stadium rocks open-to-the-field concourses... Two colossal, 50-feet-by-277-feet HD screens sit pretty above each end zone, pumping up a crowd that admittedly plays home to a mixed bag of NFL fans (is anyone actually from Houston?). You’ll find the loudest home-team crew in the "Bull Pen," a raucous bleacher section behind the north end zone.

Food. Being a "Wild West" city, you might expect Houston to have Western-themed stands with "real American food" at its stadium. Being a Southern State, you might also expect to have barbecue. And you would be right on both counts.

Unfortunately, a major feature of NRG Stadium concessions is Papa John's Pizza. I understand Texas not caring that Papa John is a racist, and a bastard to his employees, but they should at least care enough not to promote Peyton Manning, an AFC South Division rival quarterback!

They also have several stands each for Quizno Subs, Menchie's Frozen Yogurt, 5 Star Dogs (hot dogs), and a few other chains whose logos I can't quite make out on their map.

Team History Displays. The Texans were founded in 2002. Barring a move in the next few years, they will remain, by any way you measure it, the NFL's newest team. So there isn't much history to display. They have won the AFC South Division 4 times in a 6-year span: 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2016.
So far, though, they haven't had any players good enough to get their uniform numbers retired or be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, nor named to the NFL Network's 2010 broadcast of its 100 Greatest Players -- not even a washed-up star returning home to close out his career. Maybe J.J. Watt, Number 99, will be the 1st. But they did establish a Ring of Honor in 2017, and their 1st honoree was 2003-14 wide receiver Andre Johnson, though his Number 80 remains in circulation.
Most of Houston's pro football history is wrapped up in the Oilers. George Blanda, Charlie Hennigan, George Webster, Miller Farr and Bob Talamini were named to the AFL's All-Time Team. Ken Houston and Billy "White Shoes" Johnson were named to the NFL's 75th Anniversary Team in 1994. Blanda, Ken Houston and Earl Campbell were named to The Sporting News' 100 Greatest Football Players in 1999. Campbell and Bruce Matthews were named to the aforementioned NFL Network's 100 Greatest Players.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame includes Oilers Blanda, Ken Houston, Campbell, 1970s defensive end Elvin Bethea, early 1970s receiver Charlie Joiner (later to star with the San Diego Chargers), 1970s defensive tackler Curley Culp, late 1970s and early '80s linebacker Robert Brazile, early 1980s tight end Dave Casper (better remembered as a Raider), 1980s guard Mike Munchak, 1980s and early '90s offensive lineman Bruce Matthews, and late '80s and early '90s quarterback Warren Moon. And Jim Kelly, later to reach the Hall of Fame as the quarterback for the Buffalo Bills, starred for the USFL's Houston Gamblers. But there is no display at NRG Stadium honoring ex-Oilers or ex-Gamblers.

There is no trophy for the winner of the Texans-Cowboys game. The Cowboys lead the regular season series 3-1. There was a Governor's Cup for the winner of the Oilers-Cowboys game. Counting games against the Oilers, the count is 21-14 in Dallas' favor.

Stuff. The Go Texans Store is in the southeastern corner of the stadium. The usual NFL fan gear can be found there. Since this is Texas, you might find cowboy hats, boots or belt buckles with the Texans logo on them.

As the NFL's newest team, books about the Texans are few and far between. Museum of Fine Harts Houston curator Anne Wilkes Tucker and legendary Houston sportswriter (first for the defunct Houston Post, now for the Chronicle) Mickey Herskowitz collaborated on First Down, Houston: The Birth of an NFL Franchise in 2002 and '03. Other than that, probably the best you can get is The Story of the Houston Texans by Gordon Pueschner, which came out in time for the 2009 season, thus missing the closest thing the Texans have yet had to "glory days."

As far team videos, you're out of luck: No Super Bowl win means no commemorative highlight video of either the game or the season; and, being a franchise whose last anniversary was their 10th, and whose greatest moment to date is a pair of wins in the Wild Card round of the Playoffs, an anniversary DVD would, for the moment, be a bit silly.

During the Game. A recent Thrillist article on "The Most Obnoxious Fans In the NFL" ranked Texans fans 27th -- that is, the 6th-least obnoxious. I guess when you've only been around for 14 seasons, and the closest opposing team (the Dallas Cowboys) isn't a Division opponent, and you haven't had a shocking Playoff moment (in your favor or not), it doesn't bring up much nastiness.

From September 1 to 7, 2017, at the beginning of the NFL National Anthem protest controversy,
FiveThirtyEight.com polled fans of the 32 NFL teams, to see where they leaned politically. Texans fans were said to be 5 percent more conservative than liberal, 2nd only to Tampa Bay.

If you were wearing Dallas Cowboy gear, or gear of the ex-Oilers, now the Tennessee Titans (who are an AFC South opponent), to a Houston Texans game, you might be in trouble. But Texans fans aren't especially hostile to New Yorkers, so safety won't be an issue.

The Texans' mascot is Toro the Bull. The Texans hold auditions instead of having a regular National Anthem singer. Their pregame introduction song is "Thunderstruck" by AC/DC. Their theme song is "It's Football Time In Houston" by country-signing native Clay Walker, their fight song is "Battle Red," their defense's theme song is "Bulls On Parade" by Rage Against the Machine (I'll bet that leftist band goes over really well in rural Texas), and an unofficial rap song titled "Houston" was recorded by locals Slim Thug, Paul Wall and ZRo, getting over 1 million YouTube views. But the team does not appear to have a postgame victory song.
The north end zone is the home of the Bull Pen, an attempt to mimic student sections at college football games. (I'd suggest soccer "ultras," but, in spite of back-to-back MLS Cups by the Dynamo, Houstonians might not get the reference.) They shout their players' last names during team introductions, shout, "Houston... Texans!" after each first down, and even have their own Pep Band. I guess, when (to borrow a saying from English soccer) "You ain't got no history," you come up with your own traditions.

After the Game. Houston is a comparatively low-crime city, and as long as you behave yourself, the home fans will probably behave themselves, win or lose.

There's a Starbucks at NRG Center, the convention center, to the northeast of the stadium. Other than that, the closest restaurants are a Denny's at Main Street and South Loop West Freeway (the service road for Houston's beltway, Interstate 610), and, where Old Spanish Trail splits from Main Street, an Olive Garden, a Chipotle and a Sonic.

Lucky's Pub appears to be the go-to bar for New Yorkers living in the Houston area. It is at 801 St. Emanuel Street at Rusk Street, a 12-minute walk from the United Center, adjacent to BBVA Compass Stadium, the new home of MLS' Houston Dynamo. I've also heard that Twin Peaks is a Giant fans' bar, at 4527 Lomitas Avenue, about 4 miles southwest of downtown, Bus 041; and that Stadia Sports Grill is a Jet fans' bar, at 11200 Broadway Street in Pearland, 16 miles south of downtown, and unreachable by public transportation.

If your visit to Houston is during the European soccer season (which we are now in), and you want to watch your favorite club play, the best place to do so, because of its early opening, is BarMunich, 2616 Louisiana Street at Dennis Street, just south of downtown. Light Rail to McGowen.

Sidelights. Houston's sports history is pretty much wrapped up in the decaying corpse of the Astrodome, whose history I've already discussed. But there are other sites worth mentioning.

On February 3, 2017, Thrillist made a list ranking the 30 NFL cities (New York and Los Angeles each having 2 teams), and Houston came in 16th, just on the bottom side of the halfway mark. They wrote: 

If you're going to eat meat, be it steak or ribs or burgers or kolaches filled with sausage, there is nary a better city in this country to get down in. If you're going to sit in traffic in the worst humidity I've ever experienced outside of a rainforest (I went to a rainforest once, NBD) in a city that would give LA a run for its money in sprawl, Houston is also very good at that. 

* Minute Maid Park. The new home of the Astros opened in 2000, at 501 Crawford Street, attached to Union Station. The Astros were able to play on God's own grass for the 1st time since 1965, and under God's own sky for the 1st time since 1964. They have now reached the postseason there 4 times: The 2001 National League Division Series, the 2004 NL Championship Series, the 2005 World Series, and the 2015 American League Division Series. Preston Station on METRORail.

* Site of Sam Houston Coliseum. The Houston Aeros, with Gordie Howe and his sons Mark and Marty, won the World Hockey Association championships of 1974 and 1975, while playing here, before moving into the Summit in 1975 and folding in 1978. Elvis sang there on October 13, 1956, and the Beatles played there on August 19, 1965. It was built in 1937 and demolished in 1998.

It replaced Sam Houston Hall, where the 1928 Democratic Convention nominated Governor Alfred E. Smith of New York, who thus became the 1st Catholic nominated for President by a major party.

The Hobby Center for the Performing Arts is now on the site. 801 Bagby Street, at Rusk Street, downtown.

With even the minor-league Aeros gone, the closest NHL team to Houston is the Dallas Stars, 242 miles away, although some Houstonians would rather vote for a gay black Democrat than root for a Dallas team. If Houston ever did get an NHL team, it would rank 11th in population among NHL markets.

* TDECU Stadium and site of Jeppesen/Robertson Stadium. The Houston Oilers played at Jeppesen Stadium from 1960 to 1964. They won the 1960 AFL Championship Game there, won the 1961 title game on the road, and lost the 1962 title game there -- and, as the Oilers and the Tennessee Titans, haven't gone as far as the rules allowed them to since 1961.
Built in 1942, it became Robertson Stadium, and was the former home of the University of Houston football team and the former home of MLS' Houston Dynamo, who won the 2006 and 2007 MLS Cups while playing there. The new John O'Quinn Field at TDECU Stadium (named for Texas Dow Employees Credit Union) has been built at the site. 3874 Holman Street at Cullen Blvd., 4 miles southeast of downtown. Number 52 bus.
* BBVA Compass Stadium. The new home of the Dynamo and the National Women's Soccer League's Houston Dash opened in 2012 at 2200 Texas Avenue at Dowling Street, within walking distance of downtown. It is also the home field of the football team at Texas Southern University. On January 29, 2013, it hosted its first U.S. national team match, a draw with Canada. The U.S. women's team beat Mexico 6-2 there on April 8, 2018.

* Rice Stadium. Home of Rice University football since 1950, the Oilers played the 1965, '66 and '67 seasons here. Although probably already obsolete by the 1973 season, it seated a lot more people than did the Astrodome, and so Super Bowl VIII was played there, and the Miami Dolphins won it -- and haven't won a Super Bowl since.
It has been significantly renovated, and now seats 47,000, down from the 71,882 that crammed in for the Super Bowl on January 13, 1974. University Blvd. at Greenbriar Street, although the mailing address is 6100 S. Main Street, 5 miles southwest of downtown. METRORail to Dryden/TMC, then walk or Number 084 bus.

* Site of Buffalo Stadium. Before there were the Astros, or even the Colt .45's, there were the Houston Buffaloes. The Buffs played at Buffalo Stadium, a.k.a. Buff Stadium, for most of their history, from 1928 to 1961, when the Colt .45's made them obsolete.

They were a farm team of the St. Louis Cardinals, and as a result in its last years Buff Stadium was renamed Busch Stadium. The Cardinal teams of the 1930s that would be known as the "Gashouse Gang" came together in Houston, with Dizzy and Daffy Dean, Joe Medwick, Pepper Martin and Enos Slaughter. Later Buff stars included Cleveland Indians 3rd baseman Al Rosen, Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Wilmer "Vinegar Bend" Mizell, Negro League legend Willard Brown, Cardinal MVP Ken Boyer, and Phillies shortstop Ruben Amaro Sr.

Wanting to lure in more customers but also to beat the infamous Houston heat, lights were installed in 1930, 5 years before any major league park had them. The Buffs won 8 Texas League Pennants: 1928, 1931, 1940, 1947, 1951, 1954, 1956 and 1957. The stadium was at the southwest corner of Leeland Street & Cullen Blvd., about 2 1/2 miles southeast of downtown. A furniture store is on the site now. Number 20 bus.

* Toyota Center. The new home of the NBA's Rockets replaced the Summit. It took 8 years from Rockets owner Les Alexander's demand for a new arena until first tipoff, in which time NBA Commissioner David Stern announced that the Rockets would have to move without a new arena (not that there was anything wrong with the Summit, aside from a low number of luxury boxes), and NHL Comissioner Gary Bettman announced that Houston would not get an NHL team. But tip off the Rockets did, on October 30, 2003.

It's hosted the Rockets ever since, the WNBA's Houston Comets from 2003 until they folded after the 2007 season, and the Houston Aeros of the American Hockey League (not the old WHA team of the same name) from 2003 until 2013, when their parent club, the Minnesota Wild, moved them to Des Moines, where they became the Iowa Wild. It's also hosted wrestling, Ultimate Fighting, concerts (including by Houston native Beyonce, both with and without the rest of Destiny's Child) and the Latin Grammys.

1510 Polk Street, also bounded by Jackson, Bell and La Branch Streets. It's downtown, 5 blocks east of Main Street and the light rail, with Bell Street the closest station.

* The Summit. Before the Toyota Center, the Rockets played at The Summit, later known as the Compaq Center, from 1975 to 2003, and the Comets from 1997 to 2003. Elvis sang at The Summit on August 28, 1976. It's been converted into the Lakewood Church Central Campus, a megachurch presided over by Dr. Joel Osteen. 3700 Southwest Freeway at Timmons Lane. Number 53 bus.

Before that, between their 1971 move from San Diego and the 1975 opening of The Summit, they played some home games at the Astrodome, some at the Astrohall, some at the Sam Houston Coliseum, and some at the Hofheinz Pavilion.

There's another notable sports site in Houston: The U.S. Military Entry Processing Station, in the Customs House, where Muhammad Ali, then living and training in Houston, had to report to fulfill his draft obligation. He did report there, on April 28, 1967, and refused to be drafted. (To be fair, they did call his birth name, Cassius Clay, not his legal name, Muhammad Ali.) Ali was convicted of draft evasion and stripped of the Heavyweight Title. He stayed out of prison on appeal, and case went all the way to the Supreme Court, which overturned the conviction.

The Customs House is still standing, and still used in part by the U.S. Department of Defense. 701 San Jacinto Street. Central Station on METRORail.

In addition to the preceding, Elvis sang at Hofheinz Pavilion on November 12, 1971; and June 4 and 5, 1975. He also sang at the City Auditorium on October 8, 1955 and April 21, 1956. It's better known as the venue where R&B singer Johnny Ace mistakenly shot himself before a show on Christmas Day, December 25, 1955. The Jones Hall for the Performing Arts replaced it in 1966. 615 Louisiana Street at Capitol Street, downtown.

Also, early in his career, Elvis sang in Houston at the Paladium Club (8100 S. Main Street, near the Astrocomplex) on November 26, 27 and 28, 1954; Cook's Hoedown (603 Capitol Street, around the corner from Jones Hall) on November 27 and December 28, 1954, and April 24 and August 7, 1955; Magnolia Gardens (12044 Riverside Street, no public transit) on April 24, May 22, June 19 and August 7, 1955; and Eagles Hall at 2204 Louisiana Street on January 1 and March 19, 1955 (2204 Louisiana Street, downtown). All of these have since been demolished.

Elvis sang near the University of Texas campus in Austin, 160 miles to the northwest, at Dessau Hall on March 17, 1955, the Sportscenter on August 25, 1955, the Skyline Club on January 18, 1956, and the Municipal Auditorium on March 28, 1977. And he sang near the Texas A&M campus, 100 miles to the northwest, at the Rodeo Grounds in Bryan on August 23, 1955 and the G. Rolle White Coliseum in College Station on October 3, 1955;

Elvis also sang in South Texas at the City Auditorium in Beaumont, 85 miles to the northeast, on June 20 and 21, 1955 and January 17, 1956; at the football stadium at Conroe High School, 40 miles to the north, on August 24, 1955; in Corpus Christi, 200 miles to the southwest, at the Hoedown Club on July 3, 1955 and the Memorial Coliseum on April 16, 1956; in Galveston, 50 miles to the southeast, at the City Auditorium on January 16, 1956; at the baseball field in Gonzales, 130 miles to the west, on August 26, 1955; at Woodrow Wilson High School in Port Arthur, 90 miles to the east on November 25, 1955; and at Southwest Texas State University (LBJ's alma mater, now "Texas State"), 165 miles to the west, on October 6, 1955.

There are other places that might be considered "South Texas" where he sang, but I'll include them with "West Texas" when I do this for the San Antonio Spurs.

The tallest building in Houston, and in all of Texas, is the JPMorgan Chase Tower, formerly the Texas Commerce Tower. It was built in 1982 at 600 Travis Street at Texas Avenue, downtown, and stands 1,002 feet tall, rising 75 stories above the concrete over the bayou. It is the tallest 5-sided building in the world.

Houston's version of New York's American Museum of Natural History is the Houston Museum of Natural Science, in Hermann Park, at Main Street and Hermann Park Drive. The Sam Houston Monument is a few steps away. The Houston Museum of Fine Arts is at 1001 Bissonnet Street, just 5 blocks away. Both can be reached by the Number 700 bus.

Of course, the name "Houston" is most connected with two things: Its namesake, the legendary Senator, Governor and war hero Sam Houston; and the Johnson Space Center, the NASA control center named after President Lyndon B. Johnson, who, as Senate Majority Leader, wrote the bill creating NASA and the Space Center, because he thought it would bring a lot of jobs and money to Houston (and he was right).

Aside from his Monument, most historic sites relating to Sam are not in the city that bears his name. As for reaching the Johnson Space Center, it's at 1601 NASA Parkway and Saturn Lane. The Number 249 bus goes there, so if you don't have a car, Houston, you won't have a problem.

Although Houston is the post-Presidential home for George H.W. Bush, his Presidential Library is at Texas A&M University, 100 miles away in College Station. I don't know the Bushes' address, and, in the interest of privacy, I wouldn't print it here if I did. Former First Lady Barbara Bush died on April 17, 2018. She was buried at the Library at TAMU. When George dies, he will be buried alongside her.

The Alley Theatre, downtown at 615 Texas Avenue, opened in 1968, and in 1976 hosted the Vice Presidential debate between Senators Walter Mondale and Bob Dole. This is where Dole named World War I, World War II, and the Korean and Vietnam Wars as "all Democrat wars" -- forgetting that the Republicans wanted America to get into all but World War II, and didn't want that one because they liked the Nazis' anti-union status; and that it was actually the Republicans who got us into Vietnam.

There have been a few TV shows set in Houston, but the only one that lasted was Reba, starring country singer Reba McIntire. But it was filmed in Los Angeles, so if you're a fan, you won't find the house in Houston. Films set in Houston, in addition to the sports-themed ones, include Brewster McCloud (which also used the Astrodome), Logan's Run (which used the Houston Hyatt Regency for some scenes), Telefon (set there but filmed in California), Terms of EndearmentReality Bites, and, perhaps most iconically, Urban Cowboy.


Houston can be hot, but it's a good sports town, and, best of all, it's not Dallas. So there can be a good old time in the hot town tonight.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Corporate Names on Stadiums and Arenas

Note: Includes Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Football League (NFL), the National Basketball Association (NBA), the National Hockey League (NHL), and Major League Soccer (MLS).

Banks, 36: Banc of California, Bankers Life, Bank of America, Barclays (2), BB&T, BBVA Compass, BMO, Capital One (2), Chase, CitiBank, Citizens Bank, Comerica, Fiserv, Golden 1, Great American, Investors Group, KeyBank, M&T Bank, PNC Bank (in 2 cities), Quicken Loans, Raymond James, Scotiabank (in 2 cities), ScotTrade, SunTrust, TCF Bank, TD Bank (2 in 1 city, 1 in another), TIAA Bank, U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo (2)

Food, 17: Busch, Coors, Hard Rock, Heinz, Little Caesars (2 in 1 city), Miller, Minute Maid, Molson, Pepsi (2 in 1 city), Red Bull, Saputo, Smoothie King, Tim Hortons, Tropicana, Wrigley (gum counts as "food")

Insurance, 13: Globe Life, Guaranteed Rate, Lincoln Financial, Mapfre, MetLife (2 in 1 city), Moda, Nationwide, Progressive, Prudential, Safeco, State Farm (in 2 cities)

Communications, 12: AT&T (in 3 cities), Avaya, Bell Canada (in 2 cities), CenturyLink (2 in 1 city), Rogers (in 3 cities), Spectrum

Automotive, 11: Audi, Bridgestone, Canadian Tire, Ford, Honda, Mercedes-Benz (in 2 cities), Nissan, Toyota (in 3 cities)

Retail, 11: Amway, Dick's Sporting Goods, Petco, Staples (3 in 1 city), StubHub (2 in 1 city), Target (2 in 1 city), The Brick

Energy, 8: Amalie, Cheseapeake Energy, First Energy, Lucas Oil, Mosaic, NRG, Rio Tinto, Xcel Energy

Geography, 7: BC Place, Camden Yards, Fenway, Los Angeles, Madison Square (2), Orlando City

Team, 7: Angel, Broncos, Dodger, Marlins, Nationals, Yankee (2). Apparently, "Yankee Stadium," "Madison Square Garden," "Dodger Stadium" and "Fenway Park" are "name brands" all by themselves, but the Dallas Cowboys didn't think "Cowboys" was enough of one. As for the others, they're probably just waiting to sell naming rights; indeed, the Angels and Broncos already have.

People, 5: Kauffman, Lambeau, McMahon, Paul Brown, Soldier Field

Airlines, 4: American Airlines (in 2 cities), United (2 in 1 city)

Health products, 4: Children's Mercy, Gillette (2 in 1 city), Providence

Clothing, 2: Levi's, New Era

Computing, 2: Oracle, SAP

Delivery, 2: FedEx (in 2 cities)

Resorts, 2: Gila River Casinos, Talking Stick Resort

Home improvement, 1: PPG Paints

Security, 1: Vivint Smart Home

Other, 1: Arrowhead

Saturday, September 15, 2018

How to Be a New York Football Fan In Cleveland -- 2018 Edition

This past Sunday, the New York Jets opened their season, and the Sam Darnold era, with a stunning 48-17 demolition of the Detroit Lions, on the road.

This coming Sunday, they will play their 1st home game of the season, against the Miami Dolphins. And the following Thursday, they will visit Cleveland to take on the Browns. The successes of the Cavaliers (an NBA Championship and 3 other trips to the Finals in the last 4 seasons) and the Indians (an American League record 22-game winning streak and a Division title last season, to follow the previous season's Pennant) have not rubbed off on what is, historically, the most successful Northern Ohio team.

The Browns have 28 Playoff appearances (but none since 2002), 13 Division titles (but none since 1989), 17 Conference Championship Game appearances (but, again, none since 1989), 15 trips to their league's championship game (but none since 1969), and 8 league titles (but none since 1964).

They opened the 2018 season with a 21-21 tie against their arch-rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers. They lost all 16 games in 2017, becoming only the 2nd NFL team ever to do so, and only the 3rd to go winless in a season of at least 14 games. In 2016, they were 1-15, including losing to both the Jets and the Giants in Cleveland. In 2015, they were 3-13. Going back to 2014, they have won only 4 of their last 50 games: 4-45-1, for a "winning" percentage of .090.

To put that in perspective: In their 1st 10 seasons of existence, 1946 to 1955, they were 105-17-4, for .869. From 1963 to 1969, they were 69-27-2, for .714. And in their most recent strong period, 1986 to 1989, they were 41-21-1, for .659.

Maybe this is not a good game for the Jets to show what they can really do, but it is a good chance to look very good again.

As for the Browns, well...

Before You Go. You've no doubt heard the legends of wind blasting off Lake Erie and "lake-effect snow." Well, this will be mid-September, so cold won't be an issue, although wind could be.

Cleveland.com, the website connected with the city's main newspaper, The Plain Dealer, is predicting temperatures in the low 80s by day, the low 70s by night. Thursday is not predicted to have rain, but Friday is, so if you're staying overnight (a good idea, since the game is an 8:20 kickoff and will end close to midnight), you should prepare for this.

Cleveland is in the Eastern Time Zone, so you won't have to change your timepieces.

Tickets. The 3 years away from the NFL, and the losing ever since the 1999 return, including their current 4-45-1 run, has rendered the Browns' support deep, but not very wide. They averaged only 63,882 fans per home game last season, about 86 percent of capacity. Tickets may be easier to get than you would have thought.

Browns tickets are among the cheapest in the NFL. Seats in the lower level, the 100 sections, are $138 along the sidelines, $80 in the end zones. Seats in the middle level, the 300 sections, are $63 Seats in the upper level, the 500 sections, are $40 and $35.

Do not order tickets in the east end zone. That's the Dawg Pound. You will be surrounded by, dare I say it, rabid Browns fans.

Getting There. Cleveland is 500 land miles from New York. Well, not quite: Specifically, it is 465 miles from Times Square to Public Square; and 459 miles from MetLife Stadium to FirstEnergy Stadium. Knowing this, your first reaction is going to be to fly out there.

This may be a good idea if you can afford it: Like New York, Boston and Chicago, but unlike most of the American League cities, Cleveland has good rapid transit from the airport to downtown. In fact, with the extension of the RTA Rapid Transit's Red Line in 1968, Cleveland became the 1st city in the Western Hemisphere to have rapid transit direct from downtown to its major airport.

But it's going to be expensive: A a nonstop flight would be a round-trip fare of over $1,100. You could get a flight for under $900, but you'd need to change planes at Dulles outside Washington. The heck with that!

Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, named for William R. Hopkins, a City Manager in the 1920s and an early pilot, is about 12 miles southwest of downtown, and the Red Line takes 24 minutes, 9 stops, to get from Hopkins to Tower City.

Train? Bad idea. Not because of the price, just $168 round-trip -- cheaper than Greyhound, for once -- but because of the schedule. Amtrak's Lake Shore Limited (formerly known as the Twentieth Century Limited when the old New York Central Railroad ran it from Grand Central Terminal to Chicago's LaSalle Street Station) leaves New York's Penn Station at 3:40 every afternoon, and arrives at Cleveland's Lakefront Station at 3:33 in the morning. In reverse, the train leaves Lakefront Station at 5:50 AM and arrives back at Penn Station at 6:23 PM. Time-wise, this is incredibly inconvenient.

And, unlike the Cleveland Union Terminal, now known as Tower City Center but hasn't had long-distance passenger rail traffic since 1977, Lakefront Station, at 200 Cleveland Memorial Shoreway, is not exactly one of the great rail terminals of this country. To make matters worse, while the RTA Green Line and Blue Line both serve Lakefront Station, the RTA doesn't run overnight, and thus any Amtrak train that comes into the station will not be serviced by it.

How about Greyhound? There are 9 buses leaving Port Authority every day with connections to Cleveland, but only 2 of these are nonstop: The rest require you to change buses in Pittsburgh or Buffalo. The ride, including the changeover, takes about 13 hours. Round-trip fare is $126, although it can be as little as $110 with advanced purchase.

The terminal, at 1465 Chester Avenue, adjacent to the Cleveland State University campus east of downtown, was a hideously filthy hole on my first visit in 1999, but apparently they got the message and cleaned it up, and it's tolerable again. At least on the inside; on the outside, it's a magnet for panhandlers. It's a 7-block walk from the terminal to Public Square, but it's better to take a cab, or to walk 3 blocks to the corner of 13th Street & Superior Avenue and take the Number 3 bus in.

If you decide to drive, the directions are rather simple, down to (almost literally) the last mile. You'll need to get into New Jersey, and take Interstate 80 West. You'll be on I-80 for the vast majority of the trip, through New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio. In Ohio, in the western suburbs of Cleveland, I-80 will merge with Interstate 90. I point this out merely to help you avoid confusion, not because I-90 will become important. You'll take I-80's Exit 173, and get onto Interstate 77 North. Take Exit 163 toward E. 9th St. This will take you into downtown. If you're driving, I would definitely recommend getting a hotel, and there are several downtown, including some near the ballpark.

If you do it right, you should spend about an hour and a half in New Jersey, 5 hours and 15 minutes in Pennsylvania, and a little over an hour in Ohio. Counting rest stops, preferably at either end of Pennsylvania, and accounting for traffic in both New York and Cleveland, it should be no more than 10 hours.

Once In the City. Cleveland, which once had a city population of over 900,000, but is now under 400,000 with a metro area population of 3.5 million, was founded in 1796 by Moses Cleaveland, a hero of the War of the American Revolution, a General in the Connecticut militia, and a shareholder in the Connecticut Land Company. When the Northwest Ordinance was passed in 1787, a lot of New Englanders moved to what's now the Great Lakes States, and many "original" Ohio families can trace their roots back to Connecticut and Moses' expedition to what was known as the Western Reserve.

Supposedly, the reason for the difference in spelling is that, in 1830, the city's 1st newspaper was established, but the editor found "Cleaveland Advertiser" was too long to fit on the incorporation form, so he dropped an A.

The city doesn't really have a highway "beltway" as we understand that term. It is centered on Public Square, at the intersection of Ontario Street and Superior Avenue (U.S. Route 6), with Euclid Avenue (U.S. Route 20) flowing into it. The Terminal Tower, a 708-foot Art Deco masterpiece, is at the southwest corner of Public Square, and includes the Tower City rail hub and shopping mall. It opened in 1930 and, until 1964, was the tallest building in North America outside New York.

At the southeast corner is the Soldiers & Sailors Monument, probably the best memorial to the American Civil War outside of that war's preserved battlefields. And at the northeast corner is the Key Tower, at 948 feet now the tallest building in the State of Ohio; Richard Jacobs, who owned the Indians for a time, also owned the real estate development company that built the Key Tower (named for Key Bank) in 1991.
Cuyahoga County Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument,
at Public Square

The sales tax in Ohio is 5.75 percent, and in Cuyahoga County (which includes Cleveland), it's 8 percent. ZIP Codes in Cleveland begin with the digits 441, and the Area Code is 216. Cleveland is one of the cities that had a major race riot -- in their case, on the East Side in 1966 -- which led to "white flight": The city's population was 83 percent white in 1950, but just 33 percent white now, along with 53 percent black, 10 percent Hispanic and 2 percent Asian.

The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) runs a heavy rail Red Line, similar to New York's Subway, and light rail Blue and Green Lines. They converge at the Tower City, and all 3 run together from there to East 55th Street. The Blue and Green Lines both start at South Harbor, and run together to Shaker Square before diverging. The fare is $2.25, and is the same for RTA buses.
An RTA train at Tower City

Going In. Built in 1999 on the site of the old Cleveland Municipal Stadium, and known until 2013 as Cleveland Browns Stadium, FirstEnergy Stadium seats 67,431, down from 73,200 when it opened, and from 86,288 at the old stadium.

The Akron-based energy company also holds naming rights to minor-league ballparks in Lakewood, New Jersey and Reading, Pennsylvania. It's a subsidiary of Ohio Edison, which runs electricity for the Cleveland area, but not the Columbus and Cincinnati areas. Yankee broadcaster Bill White, who grew up in Cleveland, mentioned on the air once that, like Consolidated Edison in New York, "Ohio Ed" sponsored a program to take inner-city kids to Indians games.
The official address is 100 Alfred Lerner Way (formerly Erieside Avenue), named for the 1st owner of the revived Browns franchise. It is across from Lakefront Station, and adjacent to the Great Lakes Science Center and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Parking is $21. The West 3rd Street station of the light rail system serves it. The field is aligned northeast-to-southwest, and is natural grass. The Browns have never played a home game on artificial turf.
The stadium has also hosted college games, including "home games" for Ohio State, Bowling Green State and Kent State, and Playoff games for the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA).

It has also hosted U.S. soccer games. The men's team won a friendly 2-0 over Venezuela on May 26, 2006; lost a friendly 4-2 to Belgium on May 29, 2013; and won a CONCACAF Gold Cup Group Stage game 3-0 over Nicaragua on July 15, 2017. The women's team has played 3 friendlies there, winning them all: 4-0 over Germany on May 22, 2010; 2-0 over Japan on June 5, 2016; and 2-1 over China on June 12, 2018.

Last year, Thrillist had an article ranking all 31 NFL stadiums. FirstEnergy Stadium only came in 20th: 

Welcome to Cleveland! Titletown USA! Home of Champi... oh, wait. Yeah, they're still the Browns. But, hey, at least the stadium is nice, assuming you aren't too bothered by the words "thirty-five below." Because the stadium was the cornerstone of the Browns' return to Cleveland after they moved to Baltimore and immediately won a Super Bowl, it's pretty nice -- a sight better than the team. Wide concourses, great food, big scoreboards, and all the things that make for a modern NFL palace. Tailgating here is great not only because of the knowledgeable fans, but because the city embraces and encourages it, unlike in other places. And while the surrounding neighborhood doesn't offer much beyond the Great Lakes Science Center and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, they still make a great indoor diversion when the bitter cold off Lake Erie renders the stadium uninhabitable.

Note: The Ravens didn't immediately win a Super Bowl after moving. It took them 5 seasons. It wasn't quite a Quebec Nordiques-to-Colorado Avalanche situation. Of course, the Browns are still looking for their 1st appearance in a world championship game since the 1964 season.

Food. Ohio -- much more than New Jersey and Maryland -- is part of Big Ten Country, where college football tailgate parties are practically a sacrament. Aramark, the successor company to Harry M. Stevens, runs the concessions.

First Down Favorites are behind Sections 104, 121, 504 and 528; B Spot (barbecue) at 115 and 540; Grill Portables at 122, 146 and 344; and Great Lakes Cheesesteaks at 139 and 420.

There was a restaurant called the New York Spaghetti House on East 9th Street, just a few steps from Progressive Field, but it went out of business in 2001. Original owner Mario Brigotti, who died in 1998 at age 99, was a friend of another Italian Clevelander, Mario Boiardi – a.k.a. Chef Boyardee.

Team History Displays. The Browns have won 8 league championships: 1946, 1947, 1948 and 1949 in the All-America Football Conference (every season that league played); and 1950, 1954, 1955 and 1964 in the NFL.

However, they have not won a World Championship since 1964, and have not played an NFL Championship Game, under any name, since 1969 -- which means they have never played in a Super Bowl. The only other teams for which this is true are the Detroit Lions, the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Houston Texans -- and the Jags and Texans are far newer franchises than the Lions and Browns.

Their titles are shown on the facing of the upper deck, and are the only achievements they mention. They do not mention the Division Championships of 1951, 1952, 1953, 1957, 1965, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1971, 1980, 1985, 1986, 1987 or 1989; or the Wild Card berths of 1958, 1972, 1982, 1988, 1994 and (the only one they've won since their return) 2002.
On the other side of the stadium, the Browns have a Ring of Honor, which includes 16 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame who are identified mainly with the Browns. In addition there are 44 other players in a program called Cleveland Browns Legends. Among those still living, they serve as "ambassadors" for the team:

* From the 1950 NFL Champions: Ring of Honor: Head coach Paul Brown, quarterback Otto Graham, running back Marion Motley, offensive tackle and placekicker Lou Groza, guard Bill Willis, center Frank Gatski, receiver Dante Lavelli and defensive end Len Ford. Legends: Receivers Mac Speedie and Dub Jones (father of later Colts quarterback Bert Jones), guard Abe Gibron, defensive backs Tommy James and Warren Lahr, and end Horace "Big Horse" Gillom.

* From the 1954 and 1955 NFL Champions: Ring of Honor: Paul Brown, Graham, Groza, Lavelli, Ford, Gatski, and offensive tackle Mike McCormack. Guard and linebacker Chuck Noll was also a member of this team, but was elected to the Hall for coaching the Pittsburgh Steelers to 4 Super Bowl wins. Legends: Jones, Gibron, James, Lahr, Gillom; receiver Ray Renfro, defensive tackles Bob Gain and Don Colo, and linebacker Walt Michaels, who later coached the Jets to the 1982 AFC Championship Game, and also coached the New Jersey Generals of the USFL.

* Between the 1955 and 1964 titles: Ring of Honor: Receiver Bobby Mitchell, better known for his later tenure with the Washington Redskins. Legends: Offensive tackle Jim Ray Smith.

* From the 1964 NFL Champions: Ring of Honor: Groza, running backs Jim Brown and Leroy Kelly, receiver Paul Warfield (better known for his later tenure with the Miami Dolphins), and guard Gene Hickerson. Legends: Gain, quarterback Frank Ryan, running back Ernie Green, receiver Gary Collins (no relation to the game show host of the same name), guard John Wooten, offensive tackle Dick Schafrath, defensive ends Paul Wiggin and Bill Glass, and linebackers Galen Fiss, Vince Costello and Jim Houston.

Ryan, now 82 years old and the only living human being to have quarterbacked the Browns to an NFL Championship (Graham died in 2003), is usually referred to as "Dr. Frank Ryan," as he gained a doctorate in mathematics while still an active player. New York Times sports columnist Red Smith wrote, "The Browns' offense consists of a quarterback who understands Einstein's theory of relativity, and ten teammates who don't know that there is one."

* From the teams that advanced to the 1968 and 1969 NFL Championship Games, and the 1971 AFC Central Division Champions: Tight end Milt Morin, defensive tackle Walter Johnson, and kicker Don Cockroft.

* From the 1980 AFC Central Champions: Ring of Honor: Tight end Ozzie Newsome and guard Joe DeLamielleure. Legends: Cockroft, quarterback Brian Sipe, running backs Greg Pruitt and Mike Pruitt, center Tom DeLeone, guard Robert Jackson, offensive tackles Doug Dieken and Cody Risien, defensive tackles Walter Johnson and Jerry Sherk, linebackers Dick Ambrose and Clay Matthews Jr. (brother of Oilers Hall of Fame offensive lineman Bruce and father of Packers linebacker Clay III), and safeties Clarence Scott and Thom Darden.

Dieken is now a Browns broadcaster. The Pruitts are not related, though Greg's wearing of Number 34 and Mike's of 43 helped to confuse this. Greg is also known for wearing a "tearaway" jersey, which he had made famous on the University of Oklahoma team that almost won the 1971 National Championship, but the NFL banned them, and that's known as the Greg Pruitt Rule.

* From the 1986, 1987 and 1989 teams that won the AFC Central Division, but lost the AFC Championship Game all 3 times: Ring of Honor: None. Legends: Matthews, Risien, quarterback Bernie Kosar, running backs Earnest Byner and Kevin Mack, defensive tackle Bob Golic, and cornerbacks Hanford Dixon and Frank Minnifield. Running back Eric Metcalf (son of Cardinals running back Terry) and defensive end Michael Dean Perry (brother of Bears defensive tackle William "the Refrigerator") arrived in 1989, and were also members of the old Browns' last Playoff team in 1994.
Graham (14), Jim Brown (32), and Groza (76) have had their uniform numbers retired. So have 2 other players, both of whom died before the 1963 season began: Running back Ernie Davis (45), the 1st black Heisman Trophy winner (in 1961 with Syracuse University), whose leukemia prevented him from ever playing a down of pro football; and safety Don Fleming (46), who, in those days before players got salaries large enough to not have to take an off-season job, was electrocuted along with a co-worker on a construction site.

Jim Brown was recently honored with a statue outside FirstEnergy Stadium. So was Al Lerner, the owner who helped bring the Browns back. They honored Paul Brown with a statue at their training facility in suburban Berea.
Jim and his wife Monique Brown at the unveiling

Graham, Motley and Jim Brown were named to the NFL's 75th Anniversary team in 1999. They, Groza and Warfield were named to The Sporting News' 100 Greatest Football Players in 1999 -- as was an earlier football star of the Cleveland area, Jim Thorpe of the Canton Bulldogs. They and Ozzie Newsome were named to the NFL Network's 100 Greatest Players in 2010.

In the TSN 100 poll, Brown ranked Number 1, chosen as the greatest football player ever, ahead of Jerry Rice at Number 2. In the NFL Network 100, Brown ranked Number 2 behind Jerry Rice.

The nasty Browns-Steelers rivalry is known as the Turnpike War, since the Pennsylvania and Ohio Turnpikes are used to get between the cities. Last week's tie, the 1st ever between the series, means that the Steelers lead, 74-58-1. The Browns' last win was on October 12, 2014, at FirstEnergy Stadium. Between that and the tie, the Steelers had won 6 in a row.

In the Battle of Ohio with the Cincinnati Bengals, the team founded by Paul Brown after Art Modell fired him, the Bengals lead 50-39, including having won the last 7 straight. The Browns' last win was on November 6, 2014, at Paul Brown Stadium.

And an artificial rivalry, created when the old Browns became the Baltimore Ravens, is led 15-7 by the Ravens, including the last 5. The Browns' last win as on October 11, 2015, in overtime at M&T Bank Stadium. There is no trophy given to the winner of any of these rivalries.

Stuff. The Cleveland Browns Pro Shop is located on the Main Concourse, across from Section 112. There, you can get the usual team-themed items. You might even be able to buy an orange Browns hard hat or a rubber dog mask, as seen in the Dawg Pound.

There are several good books about the Browns. When the Browns returned in 1999, Bob Moon published a comprehensive history, The Cleveland Browns: The Great Tradition, and Scott Huler published On Being Brown: What It Means to Be a Cleveland Browns Fan.

Terry Pluto, the Plain Dealer columnist who is the poet laureate of Cleveland sports, wrote Browns Town 1964 and Things I've Learned from Watching the Browns. Jonathan Knight (not the New Kid On The Block) wrote Kardiac Kids: The Story of the 1980 Cleveland Browns and Sundays In the Pound: The Heroics and Heartbreak of the 1985-89 Cleveland Browns. And, in a 2014 book that is now somewhat out of date, Scott Kevin O'Brien wrote Why Is Daddy Sad on Sunday?: A Coloring Book Depicting the Most Disappointing Moments in Cleveland Sports. (The "Daddy" on the cover is wearing a Number 19 Browns jersey, presumably in honor of Bernie Kosar.)

The NFL has released 1964 WORLD CHAMPION CLEVELAND BROWNS: Three Restored Vintage Films on One DVD (season highlights, NFL Championship Game preparations, and the game itself in color); The History of the Cleveland Browns in 2008 (so far, not much reason for an update), and Cleveland Browns: NFL Greatest Games (featuring entire network broadcasts of a 1980 win over Green Bay known as the Dave Logan Game, a 1989 51-0 season-opener over Pittsburgh, and  2002 win over Atlanta that clinched what's still the only Playoff berth of the reborn Browns).

During the Game. According to a 2015 Thrillist article on the NFL's Most Obnoxious Fans, the Browns ranked 25th -- in the bottom quarter, among the least obnoxious. But that only applies when they're not facing a fellow AFC Northern Division team.

From September 1 to 7, 2017, early in the NFL National Anthem protest controversy, FiveThirtyEight.com polled fans of the 32 NFL teams, to see where they leaned politically. Browns fans were found to be 4.8 percent more liberal than conservative, about right in the middle of the NFL.

Cleveland fans really hate the cross-State Cincinnati Bengals (254 miles away); they really, really hate the former Browns, now the Baltimore Ravens (375 miles); and they really, really really hate the closest NFL team, the Pittsburgh Steelers (135 miles). Oddly, despite the closeness (171 miles) and a historical rivalry (the 1952, '53, '54 and '57 NFL Championship Games), they don't particularly hate the Detroit Lions; and, despite the closeness (183 miles), they don't particularly hate the Buffalo Bills. I guess it's a Divisional thing.

So, unless you bring up those other teams, or remind anyone that the late Yankee Boss George Steinbrenner was from Cleveland, or tell the classic "Cleveland Jokes" (like about the city going broke in 1969, the Cuyahoga River catching fire the same year, or Russian comedian Yakov Smirnoff's line, "They made me feel at home in Cleveland, so I had to escape again"), you shouldn't have any problem wearing your Jets gear in the city.

The Browns hold auditions for National Anthem singers, instead of having a regular. Their fight song, one of the NFL's oldest, is "Hi-O-Hi-O for Cleveland." They have as mascots both a man in a dog suit named Chomps, and a live bull mastiff named Swagger, who kind of looks like Hooch from Turner & Hooch.
Both are in reference to "The Dawg Pound," the old bleachers at the east end of Municipal Stadium. In 1985, cornerback Hanford Dixon said, "We had the idea of the quarterback being the cat, and the defensive line being the dog. Whenever the defense would get a sack, the defensive linemen and linebackers would bark." Soon, the fans watching training camp would bark along with the players. 

When the season began, much as Washington Redskin fans wore pig masks (or just plastic pig snouts) in honor of their offensive line, nicknamed The Hogs, fans in the Municipal Stadium bleachers would wear dog masks, and yell, "Woof, woof, woof!" Or, in competition with a similar chant for the hated Steelers, "Here we go, Brownies, here we go! Woof, woof!"

It got a little crazy, as the fans, led by 400-pound John "Big Dawg" Thompson (he has BIG DAWG on the back of a Number 98 Browns jersey, and even made "Big Dawg" his legal middle name), began throwing dog biscuits onto the field. Sometimes, they'd throw eggs, or even batteries.
Big Dawg is one of the few NFL fans
famous enough to get autograph requests.

When Cleveland-area native Arsenio Hall got his talk show in 1989, he put a little bleacher section behind the band, and called it The Dawg Pound, and pumped his fist while they yelled, "Woof, woof, woof!"

On December 10, 1989, across the State, when Cincinnati Bengals fans began throwing stuff onto the field, Bengals coach Sam Wyche got a microphone, and told the fans, "Will the next person that sees anybody throw anything onto this field point 'em out? And get 'em outta here! You don't live in Cleveland! You live in Cincinnati!" and got a standing ovation. (Cincinnati doesn't like Cleveland any more than vice versa. The Bengals lost that game to the Seattle Seahawks, 24-17.)

After the Game. Cleveland has some rough areas, but you should be safe downtown. There are a number of places you could go after the game, with names like the Greenhouse (2038 East 4th Street at Prospect Avenue) and the Winking Lizard (811 Huron Road East at Prospect). A House of Blues is at 308 Euclid Avenue.

The Winking Lizard, a.k.a. Winks, is the home of the local Jet fans' club. The local Giant fans meet at Anthony's, 10703 W. Pleasant Valley Rd. at York Rd., 18 miles southwest of downtown. Bus 45.

If your visit to Cleveland is during the European soccer season, the best place to watch your club is probably The Old Angle Tavern, at 1848 West 25th Street in the Ohio City neighborhood, acros the Cuyahoga, west of downtown. Red Line to West 25th-Ohio City.

Sidelights. Cleveland has a losing reputation. The Indians (for the moment) haven't won a World Series since 1948, the Browns haven't won an NFL Championship sine 1964 (Super Bowl –II, if you prefer), and the Cavaliers have played since 1970 and took until 2015 just to win their 1st NBA Finals game, before finally winning a title this past June. But Cleveland is still a great sports city.

On February 3, 2017, Thrillist made a list ranking the 30 NFL cities (New York and Los Angeles each having 2 teams), and Cleveland came in 20th, in the bottom half. They praised Cleveland's restaurant and beer scenes, saying, "It's still Cleveland, but it's better than you probably thought."

The new stadium was built on the site of Municipal Stadium, which was also the Indians' part-time home from 1932 to 1946, and their full-time home from 1947 to 1993. An NFL team named the Indians played at the Stadium in its 1st season, 1931.

The stadium opened on July 3, 1931, with a Heavyweight Championship fight. Max Schmeling, quite popular in America before the rise of Nazism in his native Germany, delivered the only knockout of William "Young" Stribling's career.

The NFL's Rams played there from 1936 to 1945, winning the 1945 NFL Championship Game there, but moved to Los Angeles due to lousy attendance. The Browns, founded with the All-America Football Conference in 1946 and moving into the NFL in 1950, played there until 1995, before being moved to Baltimore to become the Ravens and being reborn in 1999.
The Browns won the AAFC Championship in all 4 seasons of that league's existence, then won NFL Championships in 1950, 1954, 1955 and 1964. In fact, the Browns played in a league championship game every season they played, from their 1946 debut until 1955. The 1950 NFL Championship Game, won by a Lou Groza field goal in the last 30 seconds of a chilly Christmas Eve encounter over, ironically, the Rams, is regarded as one of the greatest games in pro football history, although the Rams got revenge in the 1951 title game in Los Angeles.

The Browns lost the 1952 Title Game at home to the Detroit Lions, lost to the Lions in Detroit in 1953, beat the Lions at home in 1954, and beat the Rams in Los Angeles in 1955. A new generation of Browns won the 1964 NFL Championship Game at home against the Baltimore Colts – though it's hard to argue that Baltimore taking the Browns in 1995 was revenge. Still, that '64 Title remains the Browns' last World Championship -- and, until the Cavs won the NBA title in 2016, the city's last. No city with at least 3 major league sports teams has ever had to wait longer.

Most Clevelanders who watch college football are Ohio State University fans, even though Ohio Stadium is 145 miles away in Columbus, which is further from the Browns' Stadium than the Steelers' Heinz Field, 135 miles. Still, while O-State has won many Big Ten titles and some National Championships over the years, including since 1964, they are a team for the entire State, not Cleveland-specific, and have played very few home-away-from-home games in Cleveland.  And Cleveland State only restarted their football program in 2010. So while Cleveland is a great pro football city and a great high school football city, it is not a good college football city.

Municipal Stadium hosted a Beatles concert on August 14, 1966. The Beatles also played Cleveland's Public Auditorium on September 15, 1964. That building, which opened in 1922, not only still stands, it now hosts the annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Elvis Presley sang there on November 6, 1971 and June 21, 1974.

It also hosted the Republican Conventions of 1924 (nominating Calvin Coolidge) and 1936 (Alf Landon). And it hosted the only Presidential Debate of 1980, when Ronald Reagan hit Jimmy Carter with the lines, "There you go again," and, "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" 500 Lakeside Avenue East, a 6-block walk from Public Square and across from City Hall.

The downtown Cleveland sports complex, known as the Gateway Complex, opened both of its venues in 1994. The Indians played at Jacobs Field, now Progressive Field ("the Jake" is now known as "the Prog"), next-door to the Cavaliers' Gateway Arena, later known as the Gund Arena, and now the Quicken Loans Arena ("the Q"). 2401 Ontario Street, downtown.

There were 2 different ballparks known as League Park, constructed at East 66th Street and Lexington Avenue on the city's East Side. The 1st was built in 1891, and was the home of the National League's Cleveland Spiders until 1899 and the American League team that became the Indians from 1901 to 1909. A 2nd park built there in 1910 was the Indians' home until 1946. A pro football team called the Cleveland Indians played there from 1916 to 1921.

League Park was also the home of the Cleveland Buckeyes, who played in the Negro Leagues from 1943 to 1950, and won the Negro World Series in 1945.

Unlike most parks of the pre-World War I era (or even before the 1960s), something remains of this park: The ticket office that stood in the right-field corner still stands. And there is a baseball field, a public park, on the site today, although it is currently undergoing renovations. However, this is a poverty-stricken neighborhood – it has never really recovered from the 1966 riot – so do not visit at night.

The Number 3 bus will take you up Superior Avenue to 66th, and it's a 6-block walk; a bus called "The HealthLine," which can be picked up on Euclid Avenue across from the Soldiers & Sailors Monument at Public Square, will take you up Euclid Avenue to 66th, and it's a 7-block walk.

There is a Baseball Heritage Museum, inside the 5th Street Arcades shopping center at 530 Euclid Avenue.  It began as a private collection of Negro League memorabilia, and it grew to include stuff from the Indians and all kinds of baseball, including amateur, industrial/semi-pro, women's and international leagues.

The Cleveland Arena was home to one of the great minor-league hockey teams, the Cleveland Barons, from 1937 to 1974 and the World Hockey Association's Cleveland Crusaders from 1972 to 1974. It was home to the Cleveland Rebels in the 1st NBA season of 1946-47, and the Cavaliers from their 1970 debut until 1974.

It was here, on March 21, 1952, that local disc jockey Alan Freed hosted the Moondog Coronation Ball, which is often called the first rock and roll concert (which is why Cleveland is the home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame). The place held about 10,000, but about twice that tried to get into Freed's show, launching him on a career that would take him to his pioneering job on New York's WINS and then WABC.

Elvis sang at the Arena on November 23, 1956. While the 1988 film Heartbreak Hotel shows him, played by David Keith, in concert at the Cleveland Arena in 1972, that film is fiction, and the website elvisconcerts.com clearly states that he gave only 1 concert in the State of Ohio that year, at the University of Dayton Arena.

The Arena was demolished in 1977. The HealthLine bus will drop you off at 36th Street; but, again, this is an uneasy neighborhood, so be aware of your surroundings.

From 1974 to 1994, between the Cleveland Arena and the Gund/Quicken Loans Arena, the Cavs played at The Coliseum at Richfield, a.k.a. the Richfield Coliseum. This was also the home of the minor-league Barons in the 1974-75 and 1975-76 seasons, and the NHL version of the Barons (who had been the California Golden Seals) in the 1976-77 and 1977-78 seasons, before money problems forced them to be merged with the Minnesota North Stars.

On March 24, 1975, in his first fight after regaining the heavyweight title from George Foreman, Muhammad Ali fought a journeyman fighter from North Jersey, Chuck Wepner, a.k.a. the Bayonne Bleeder. Wepner actually knocked Ali down in the 9th round, and that pissed Ali off: He clobbered Wepner, but the Marine veteran refused to go down, until he had nothing left and fell to an Ali punch with 19 seconds left in the 15th and final round. Supposedly, seeing this fight on TV led Sylvester Stallone to create the character of Rocky Balboa. Wepner is still alive at age 74, and recently retired from running a liquor store in Carlstadt, Bergen County.

Like the Meadowlands Arena and the Nassau Coliseum, the Richfield Coliseum had two levels of seats and one level of concourse – and, when a full house of 20,000 showed up, this was a mess. The location was also bad, picked because it was halfway between downtown Cleveland and downtown Akron, but it didn't exactly help people of either city. When the Cavs moved out, its days were numbered, and it was demolished in 1999. The site is now a wildlife sanctuary. 2923 W. Streetsboro Road, and don't expect to take public transportation: The closest bus, the 77F, drops you off almost 6 miles away.

Elvis sang at the Coliseum on July 10 and 18, 1975; and on March 21 and October 23, 1976. Elvis actually gave concerts in Cleveland before becoming nationally famous. On February 26, 1955, nearly a year before "Heartbreak Hotel" hit the charts as his first national hit single, he did 2 shows at the Circle Theater, at 105th & Euclid (built 1920, demolished 1959 for the expansion of the Cleveland Clinic, hence the bus is called the "HealthLine," and this area is a bit safer). On October 19, 1955, he again played 2 shows at the venue.

The next day, he did a matinee at Brooklyn High School (9200 Biddulph Road, Number 45 bus to Biddulph and walk a mile west) and an evening show at St. Michael's Hall (Mill Road & Wallings Road, 77F bus to Wallings, walk a mile west and a couple of blocks south on Mill).

No NCAA Final Four has ever been held in the State of Ohio. Ohio State won it in 1960, and lost Finals in 1939, 1961, 1962 and 2007, but they're in the State capital of Columbus, 142 miles from Public Square, and considerably closer to Cincinnati. The most notable college in the area is Cleveland State University, whose Vikings notably reached the Sweet Sixteen as a 14th seed in 1986, upsetting Indiana and St. Joseph's of Philadelphia before David Robinson and Navy beat them by 1 point to keep them out of the Elite Eight, but that's as close as any Northern Ohio team has come to the Final Four. Their campus is headquartered on Euclid Avenue between 17th and 26th Streets.

With the demise of the Barons, minor-league hockey has been played at the Coliseum and The Q, but the closest NHL team is the Pittsburgh Penguins, 134 miles away. It's not clear how much of the fandom of the Columbus Blue Jackets, 143 miles away, comes from Cleveland, but with Cleveland being a big boost to Ohio State's fandom, I can easily imagine Clevelanders preferring a team from Ohio's capital, however much they might dislike the State government, over the team from Steeler Town. If Cleveland ever did get another hockey team, it would rank 17th in population in NHL markets.

Cleveland's highest-ranked soccer team is Cleveland SC, which plays in the National Premier Soccer League, the 4th tier of American soccer. Their home field is the 5,416-seat Don Shula Stadium, formerly Wasmer Field, at John Carroll University, a Jesuit school in NCAA Division III, that nonetheless includes among its alumni Shula and All-Pro linebacker London Fletcher.

20700 N. Park Blvd., in the University Heights section of Cleveland, 9 miles east of Public Square. Blue-Green Waterfront Line to Belvoir Station, then a mile's walk north.

I once asked Drew Carey, through Twitter, if he loves soccer so much, why didn't he try to get a Major League Soccer franchise for Cleveland, instead of buying into the group that owns the Seattle Sounders? Especially since Cleveland had done so well in the Major Indoor Soccer League. He said there was no suitable playing facility, unless they wanted to play before 50,000 empty seats at the new Browns stadium. This made sense, which is why the nearest MLS team is the Columbus Crew, 138 miles away. Presuming the plan to move the Crew to Austin next season goes through, the next-closest is Toronto FC, 289 miles away.

There is a Cleveland Museum of Art, but it's way out on the East Side of the city, at 11150 East Boulevard at Wade Oval Drive, near the campus of Case Western Reserve University. It's a 15-minute walk from the Euclid-East 120th Street Station on the Red Line, or a 35-minute ride on the HealthLine bus. As I said, near the Browns' stadium are the Great Lakes Science Center, at 601 Erieside Avenue; and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, at 1100 East 9th Street.

Cleveland was home to a President, James Garfield, elected in 1880 but assassinated just a few months into his Presidency. Although he died near us, at his "Summer White House" in Long Branch, New Jersey, on September 19, 1881, he was born in the Cleveland suburb of Orange (now Moreland Hills, and he was the last President to be born in a log cabin), and his home, Lawnfield, stands at 8095 Mentor Avenue in Mentor, northeast of the city. It takes 4 buses to get there: The 3, the 28, the R2 and the R1, but it is possible to get there without a car or an expensive taxi.

William McKinley, elected in 1896 and 1900, was from Canton, 60 miles away, and there are some historic sites there relating to him. We Yankee Fans also know Canton as the home town of Captain Thurman Munson. But most sports fans know it as the home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, selected because it was the location of the NFL's founding meeting on September 17, 1920, at the Hupmobile showroom of Ralph Hay, also the owner of the Canton Bulldogs. The Frank T. Bow Federal Building is now on the site. 201 Cleveland Avenue SW.

The Hall of Fame itself is 3 miles to the northwest, at 2121 George Halas Drive NW, off Exit 107 on Interstate 77. Just to the south is Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, named for the owner of the New Orleans Saints, who made a big donation to renovate the Hall and the adjoining Fawcett Stadium, which was renamed for him. Originally built in in 1938 for McKinley High School, just to the south, it replaced the old 8,000-seat League Field. It now seats 22,375, and annually hosts the NFL's exhibition season-opening Hall of Fame Game.

The Canton Bulldogs played at League Field from 1905 to 1926, winning Ohio League titles in 1915, 1916, 1917 and 1919, and NFL Championships in 1922 (10-0-2), 1923 (11-0-1) and 1924 (7-1-1 -- that's 28-1-4 in 3 seasons). They featured eventual Pro Football Hall-of-Famers Jim Thorpe, Joe Guyon, Guy Chamberlin, Pete Henry, Link Lyman and Greasy Neale, though not all at the same time.

But starpower meant big salaries, and their owners couldn't afford them. After the 1926 season, the NFL cast off several weaker franchise, and the Bulldogs were among them. Thus passed the 1st great professional football team.

The Akron-Canton Regional Airport, where Thurman Munson died on August 2, 1979, is at 5400 Lauby Road in North Canton. He is laid to rest at Sunset Hills Burial Park and Memory Gardens, 5001 Everhard Road NW. Thurman Munson Memorial Stadium is a 5,700-seat minor-league ballpark at 2501 Allen Avenue SE. It was built in 1989, before Camden Yards in Baltimore revolutionized ballpark construction in both the majors and the minors, so it is an all-aluminum stadium, and the Canton-Akron Indians left after the 1996 season to become the Akron Aeros.

It is possible to get from Cleveland to Canton via public transportation, via GoBus, but it takes 2 hours and 20 minutes. Each way.

Akron is about 30 miles south of Cleveland on I-77, a little more than halfway to Canton. There is a Bus C that goes there, taking a little under an hour and costing $10, each way. Since 1997, the Double-A Eastern League team known as the Akron Aeros, and now the Akron RubberDucks (1 word), has played at Canal Park, 300 S. Main Street at Exchange Street.

The 1st NFL Champions were the Akron Pros, in 1920. Their coach was also their best player, two-way back Frederick Douglass "Fritz" Pollard -- the 1st black head coach in any major league sport. (Well, sort of: He was, unquestionably, the head coach; it's the NFL's status as "major league" up until 1933 or so, or even until after World War II, that's questionable.) Another great black football player of the era, the 1917 and '18 All-America end at Rutgers and later actor and singer Paul Robeson, played for them in the 1921 season. (He also played for the Milwaukee Badgers in 1922.)

The Pros played under various names, in various leagues, from 1908 to 1926, but financial problems made them part of the NFL's post-1926 purge, and they folded. They played at League Park, at the southeast corner of Carroll and Beaver Streets, a mile and a half east of downtown. The area is industrial now.

Also associated with Ohio are Presidents William Henry Harrison, Ulysses S. Grant, Benjamin Harrison and William Howard Taft, but they were from the Cincinnati side; Rutherford B. Hayes, whose hometown of Fremont was closer to Toledo; and Warren G. Harding, whose birthplace of Blooming Grove and adult hometown of Marion are closer to Columbus.

The Armstrong Air & Space Museum was built to honor Neil Armstrong, the 1st man to walk on the Moon, in his hometown of Wapakoneta, Ohio. The building is, naturally, shaped like a crescent moon. 500 Apollo Drive, 185 miles southwest of Cleveland, 93 miles southwest of Toledo, and 88 miles northwest of Columbus.

If you're a fan of The Drew Carey Show, and you remember the cast's hangout, the Warsaw Tavern, you should know that there is a real-life bar with that name, in Brooklyn (a separate city) south of downtown, on West 22nd Street at Calgary Avenue. Take the Number 35 bus.

The house from the film A Christmas Story, in which Cleveland stands in for Chicago and author Jean Shepherd's hometown of Hammond, Indiana, is at 3159 West 11th Street at Rowley Avenue, and was restored by a fan to its exact appearance in the movie, made in 1983 but set around 1939 or so. Take the Number 81 bus.

The Higbee's store was also real, but was most likely based on Chicago's real-life Marshall Field's chain. Higbee's still stands on Public Square, and the sign visible in the movie is still there, but the store moved out years ago, and the building is now home to the Cleveland Convention & Visitors Bureau and Horseshoe Casino Cleveland.

Toledo is 115 miles west of Cleveland, where the Maumee River flows into Lake Erie. Megabus can get you there in 2½ hours. In fact, it's closer to Detroit: 60 miles. For this reason, their Triple-A baseball team, the Toledo Mud Hens, has been a farm club of the Detroit Tigers for much of their history, including continuously since 1987.

What's a "mud hen"? It's a bird that flocked near Bay View Park, where the team played from 1886 to 1896. It's also known as an American coot. The team left the next season, but the name stuck. The stadium remained in place, and was used as the site of the Heavyweight Championship fight of July 4, 1919, when Jack Dempsey won the title by destroying Jess Willard. It's all parkland now, except for the clubhouse of the Bay View Yacht Club. 3900 Summit Street, 3½ miles northeast of downtown.

Originally known as the Toledo Blue Stockings, they played at League Park from 1883 to 1885, before moving to Bay View Park. It was here, in the 1884 season, that they fielded catcher Moses Fleetwood "Fleet" Walker and his brother, outfielder Weldy Wilbeforce "Welday" Walker, the 1st 2 black players in what we would now call Major League Baseball, but were forced by the baseball establishment to let them go.

The Taylor Body Shop is now on the site of this important, but shunted-aside, piece of baseball history. 1400 Monroe Street, just west of downtown. 

The Mud Hens moved to Armory Park, playing there from 1897 to 1909. This was the home of an early pro football team, the Toledo Maroons, from 1902 onward. In 1922, they entered the NFL, but it became too expensive for them, and they folded after the 1923 season. Armory Park was demolished in 1934, and the site is now part of the Civic Center Mall, on Jackson Street between Spielbusch Avenue and Erie Street.

Swayne Field opened in 1909, and was the home of the Mud Hens until 1955. This stadium, eventually reaching 14,800 seats after a 1928 expansion, would have been "home" to the M*A*S*H
character Max Klinger, played by Toledo native Jamie Farr, who made the Hens' jersey and block-T cap nationally famous. For this reason, the modern version of the team retired Number 1, which Farr wore in character as Klinger, for him.

In 1927, the Mud Hens won their 1st Pennant at Swayne Field. But they were never prosperous, and in 1955, they moved, and the ballpark was soon demolished. A shopping center, including a McDonald's, is on the site now. 3000 Monroe Street, at Detroit Avenue (U.S. Route 24), 2 miles west of downtown, and a mile and a half's walk down Monroe from the site of League Park.

The team was revived in 1965, when the 10,197-seat Lucas County Stadium opened, thanks to the efforts of County Commissioner Ned Skeldon. They won the Pennant in 1968. In 1988, when it was learned Skeldon was dying, the County government renamed the stadium for him. He lived long enough to see it, dying 3 months later.

Ned Skeldon Stadium remains a home for amateur baseball, as part of the Lucas County Recreation Center. 2901 Key Street in suburban Maumee, 8 miles southwest of downtown.

In 2002, the Mud Hens moved back downtown, to the 10,300-seat Fifth Third Field, named for an Ohio-based bank (which also holds naming rights to Dayton's ballpark and the University of Cincinnati's arena). They won Pennants there in 2005 and 2006. 406 Washington Street at Huron Street, downtown.

And while Adam's Ribs, the Chicago barbecue joint mentioned in one of the better M*A*S*H 
episodes, isn't real (though many places with the name have popped up since that 1974 episode), Klinger's beloved sausage emporium, Tony Packo's Café, is absolutely real. The original is at 1902 Front Street at Consaul Street, 2 miles across the river from downtown, and they have another across from the ballpark at 7 S. Superior Street.

Elvis sang at the 5,230-seat Toledo Sports Arena on November 22, 1956, and at the University of Toledo's 8,300-seat John F. Savage Arena on April 23, 1977. The old Sports Arena stood at 1 Main Street at Riverside Drive, a mile across the river from downtown, from 1947 to 2007, hosting concerts and minor-league hockey. It was replaced by the 5,000-seat Huntington Center, at 500 Jefferson Avenue at Huron Street, downtown. It is home to minor-league hockey's Toledo Walleyes. The Savage Arena is at 2025 Douglas Road, on campus, 4 miles west of downtown.

Bowling Green State University, of the Mid-American Conference, is 112 miles west of Public Square, and 22 miles south of downtown Toledo. They won hockey's National Championship in 1984. The 5,000-seat Slater Family Ice Arena is at 417 N. Mercer Road.

The 24,000-seat Doyt Perry Stadium, built in 1966 and named for their former football coach, who from 1955 to 1964 won 5 of the school's 12 MAC Championships, is next-door, at Stadium Drive & Alumni Drive. Perry once served on Woody Hayes' staff at Ohio State, as did Michigan coach Bo Schembechler, and the 3 would often (not during football season or recruiting season) meet at Doyt's house, as it was halfway. (Not really: Bowling Green is 69 miles from Ann Arbor and 118 miles from Columbus.)

Cleveland likes to call itself "America's North Coast," but, in spite of its infamous Winter, it does have beach resorts. Headlands Beach State Park attracts 2 million visitors a year from America and Canada (presumably, mostly from nearby Ontario). 9601 Headlands Rd., in Mentor, 29 miles northeast of Public Square. Unreachable by public transit.

And there's a beach at Cedar Point, the lakeshore town that also includes an amusement park that serves as Ohio's answer to Great Adventure. (Six Flags has nothing to do with it.) They call themselves the Roller Coaster Capital of the World. Cedar Point Road, in Sandusky. 61 miles east of Public Square. Again, no public transit, but Sandusky can be reached by Greyhound.


A visit to Cleveland can be a fun experience. These people love football. They don't like the Yankees, but they don't much mind the Jets, and their city should be able to show you a good time. Again, don't mention that George Steinbrenner was a Clevelander. And, for your own sake, don't mention the name of Art Modell.