Thursday, November 23, 2017

How to Be a Devils Fan In Detroit -- 2017-18 Edition

Next Tuesday night, the New Jersey Devils will play the Detroit Red Wings, making their 1st visit to the new Little Caesars Arena.

Since 1995, the Wings have won 4 Stanley Cups, the Devils 3. The Chicago Blackhawks also have 4. The Colorado Avalanche and Los Angeles Kings have 2. All the other teams have 1 or none -- including the big squadoosh carried since 1994 by the New York Rangers.

Detroit calls itself "Hockeytown." Maybe in America -- and, being right across the river from Canada, they do get a lot of Canadians coming through the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel and over the Ambassador Bridge -- but Montreal and Toronto probably think of the term as a joke.

By American standards, no other city comes close. Not New York. Not Boston. Not Chicago. Not the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Before You Go. The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press (or "Freep") websites should be consulted before you decide whether to go. While the game will be indoors, you will be spending some time outdoors. On Tuesday afternoon, it's forecast to be in the mid-50s, while at night, it should be in the low 40s. Most likely, you'll be staying overnight if you go, so let me add that Wednesday's weather is set to be a little cooler. But there shouldn't be any precipitation until some rain on Thursday, by which point you should be back home.

Since the July 1967 race riot, Detroit has become known as a city of poverty, crime, decay, and poor city services, the kind of place where even Batman would fear to tread. The legendary comedian Red Skelton once said, "In Detroit, you can go 10 miles and never leave the scene of the crime." It's no wonder the RoboCop film series was set there.

There was a Nike commercial a few years back, in which young basketball players were seated, yoga-style, in front of a TV screen, on which their "master," a fat black man with a turban and sunglasses who looked nothing like an athlete, was dispensing wisdom. At the end, after the Swoosh logo was shown, the camera went back to one of the students, who asked, "But, Master, what if we behave badly?" And the Master lowered his shades, looked over them, and said, "You go to Detroit." This was in the early 1990s, when the Pistons had begun to fall from their 1989-90 "Bad Boys" championship teams, and going to Detroit was not a good option in any sport -- indeed, the only Detroit team doing well at the time was, strangely, the Lions, who were then a perennial Playoff team thanks largely to Barry Sanders.

I once saw a T-shirt that read, "I'm so bad, I vacation in Detroit." I have. I'm not saying I'm "bad," or a "hard man," just that I went. I wanted to see a game at Tiger Stadium before it closed, and I did. Newark had a race riot 2 weeks before Detroit's. In May 1999, I saw Detroit, and I realized just how far back Newark had come, by seeing how far Detroit had not.

In the 1950 Census, Detroit was the 4th-largest city in America, after New York, Chicago and Philadelphia, with over 2 million people just within the city limits. "White flight" after the '67 riot has led to the Detroit metropolitan area having roughly the same number of people it had then, about 5.3 million, but within the city limits the number has dropped from over 2 million to just 680,000. The suburbs are beautiful, but the city itself is a hole, and good men (and a few bad ones) have busted their humps trying to get it back on its feet.

One of the good men who tried was Mike Ilitch, probably the most famous American of Macedonian descent, who ran Little Caesar's Pizza, and ownedthe Tigers and Red Wings. He rebuilt the city's historic Fox Theater, put Little Caesar's headquarters in the building above it, and had Comerica Park built across the street. He died earlier this year, before the new arena could be completed.

Many others, including Pistons Hall-of-Famer turned major area businessman Dave Bing, who served a term as Mayor, are trying, they really are. But Governor Rick Snyder, a Tea Party Republican, has ordered a State takeover of Detroit's finances. Apparently, he didn't learn the lesson of Hugh Carey, New York's Governor in 1975, who found another way to get New York City's finances back on their feet. In Detroit's case, as in every other place in which it's tried, austerity hasn't worked.

As for you, the potential visitor, the fear of crime should not keep you away. As with Yankee Stadium during the depth of New York's crime wave from the late 1970s to the early '90s, the arena is probably the safest, best-protected place in town.

I should also note that Detroit is a border city. The Detroit River, connecting Lakes Huron and Erie, is one of the few places where you can cross from north to south and go from America to Canada. Windsor, Ontario -- the closest thing to a "South Detroit," making that line in the Journey song "Don't Stop Believin'" problematic -- is considerably safer, and, like Detroit itself, has a gambling casino.

If you want to visit, you'll need to bring your passport. You can use either the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel or the Ambassador Bridge. And the exchange rate, for the moment, is as follows: US$1.00 = C$1.27, and C$1.00 = US 79 cents.

Tickets. In spite of Detroit's reputation for crime and poverty, and the team's reputation for ineptitude, the Red Wings routinely sold the Joe Louis Arena out. The novelty of the new arena should maintain that. Getting tickets will be difficult, and you may have to go to a ticket exchange.

The Wings can afford to have tickets that are not nearly as expensive as some other big clubs charge. Seats in the lower level, the 100 sections, are $305 between the goals and $108 behind them. In the upper level, the 200 sections, seats go for $85 between the goals and $80 behind them.

Getting There. Detroit is 616 land miles from New York, and it's 604 miles from the Prudential Center in Newark to the Joe Louis Arena. Knowing this, your first reaction is going to be to fly out there.

Except... Wayne County Metropolitan Airport is 22 miles southwest of downtown. A taxi to downtown will set you back a bundle. There is a bus, SMART (Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation) bus Number 125, that goes directly from the airport to downtown, but it will take an hour and 20 minutes.

Also, do you remember the Seinfeld episode where George Costanza had a girlfriend, played by a pre-Will & Grace Megan Mullaly (using her real voice, you'd never recognize her as W&G's Karen), and he had to accompany her to a funeral in her hometown of Detroit? "It's kind of an expensive flight," George said. This was not just George being his usual cheap self: At the time, over 20 years ago (wow, it's been that long), it was expensive, more expensive from New York to Detroit than it was to the further-away Chicago.

It's actually cheaper now: United Airlines can get you there and back, nonstop, for under $664 round-trip.

But if you're afraid to fly, then the news gets bad: There is no good way to get to Detroit, and that's got nothing to do with the city's reputation. Forget the train. The only Amtrak route in and out of Detroit is to and from Chicago, which in the opposite direction.

To make matters worse, you'll have to go to New York's Penn Station instead of Newark's. The most direct route is the 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. It leaves New York's Penn Station at 3:40 every afternoon, and arrives at Union Terminal in Toledo at 5:55 every morning. From there, you have to wait until 6:30 to get on a bus to Detroit's Amtrak station, arriving at 7:35. The station is at 11 W. Baltimore Avenue, at Woodward Avenue, 2 1/2 miles north of Comerica, so walking there is not a good option; the number 16 or 53 bus would take you down Woodward.

In reverse, the bus leaves Detroit at 9:30 PM, arrives in Toledo at 10:35, and then you have to hang around there until the Lake Shore Limited comes back at 3:20 AM, arriving back in New York at 6:23 PM. Total cost: $215. A lot cheaper than flying, but a tremendous inflammation in the posterior.

How about Greyhound? Yeah, ride a bus for 14 hours to Detroit, there's a great idea. (Rolleyes.) Actually, having done it, I can tell you that it's not that bad. Two Greyhound buses leave Port Authority every day with connections to Detroit. One is at 5:15 PM, and arrives at 7:20 AM, with a 1 hour and 35 minute stopover in Cleveland in the middle of the night (but you won't have to change buses, in case you want to stay on the bus and sleep). The other leaves Port Authority at 10:15 PM, and you will have to change buses in Cleveland, arriving 6:50 AM and leaving 7:50, arriving at 11:25 AM. Despite having to change buses, this one is actually faster, taking 13 hours and 10 minutes, as opposed to the single through bus ride, taking 14 hours and 5 minutes.

Compared to most of Detroit, the bus terminal, at 1001 Howard Street, is relatively new and quite clean. It was just about within walking distance of Tiger Stadium, which really helped me in 1999. It's also not a long walk to Ford Field, but I wouldn't recommend this. Better to take a cab, especially if you're getting a hotel. Round-trip fare: $120 if you make an advanced purchase, $306 if you're buying at Port Authority. So Greyhound is also far cheaper than flying, possibly cheaper (and definitely not much more expensive) than Amtrak, and less of a pain than Amtrak.

If you decide to drive, the directions are rather simple, down to (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 -- though it is for "How to Be a Yankee Fan in Chicago" and some other cities.

In Ohio, you'll take I-80's Exit 64, and get onto Interstate 75 North, known as the Fisher Freeway in Detroit. This will take you into Michigan. Take Exit 50 onto Fisher Service Drive, turn left on Cass Avenue, and then turn right on Sproat Street. The Arena will be on your right.

If you do it right, you should spend about an hour in New Jersey, 5 hours and 15 minutes in Pennsylvania, 3 hours in Ohio and an hour in Michigan. That's 10 hours and 15 minutes. Counting rest stops, preferably halfway through Pennsylvania and in the Cleveland suburbs, and accounting for traffic in both New York and Detroit, it should be about 12 hours.

I strongly recommend finding a hotel with a good, secure parking garage, even if you're only staying for 1 game.

Once In the City. The city, and its river, were founded in 1701 as Fort Ponchartrain du Detroit du Lac Erie (Day-TWAH, strait of Lake Erie), by Antonie de La Mothe Cadillac, for whom the downtown Cadillac Square and the brand of car was named.

Detroit's centerpoint, in culture and in terms of address numbers, is the Woodward Fountain, where Woodward, Michigan and Gratiot Avenues come together, with Cadillac Square just off to the east. Woodward is the East-West divider.

Once having over 2 million people, making it the 4th-largest city in America, Detroit now has just 680,000 people within its limits. But the metropolitan area has over 5.6 million. The suburbs are nearly all-white; the city itself, nearly all-black. If there is another city on the planet that is so segregated, I'm not aware of it. The sales tax in the State of Michigan is 6 percent, and does not go up in either the County of Wayne or the City of Detroit.

Detroit is a weird city in some ways. It often seems like a cross between a past that was once glorious but now impossible to reach, and a future that never quite happened. (That observation was once made about the remaining structures from New York's 1964-65 World's Fair and the Astrodome in Houston.) Art Deco structures of the 1920s and '30s, such as the Penobscot Building (the tallest building outside New York and Chicago when it opened in 1928, the tallest in Michigan until 1977) stand alongside abandoned, boarded-up or chained-up stores.

But alongside or across from them, there are glassy, modern structures such as the Renaissance Center, shown in the photo above: A 5-tower complex that includes, at its center, the 750-foot tallest building in Michigan (the tallest all-hotel skyscraper in the Western Hemisphere), and, in one of its 4 outer towers, the headquarters of General Motors (although the RenCen was originally financed by Ford).

Downtown also has the Detroit People Mover, a monorail system that is part of the suggestion of Detroit trying to get from 1928 to 2028 while jumping over the difficult years in between. Like the Washington and Montreal Metro (subway) systems, the company running it prides itself on the artwork in its stations. It has a stop called Times Square, but it won't look anything like the one in New York. It has a stop called Bricktown, but it won't look anything like Brick Township, the sprawling Jersey Shore suburb off Exits 88 to 91 on the Garden State Parkway. The Grand Circus Park and Broadway Street stations are both 3 blocks from Comerica Park.
It's cheap, only 75 cents, and it still uses tokens, although it also accepts cash. Be advised, though, that it stops running at midnight, except on Fridays and Saturdays, when it runs until 2:00 AM. Bus fare is $1.50.

ZIP Codes in the Detroit area start with the digits 480, 481, 482 and 483, and the Area Code is 313, with 248 (overlaid by 947), 586 and 734 serving the suburbs.

Going In. The official address of the new Little Caesars Arena is 2645 Woodward Avenue, at Henry Street, across Interstate 75 from Comerica Park and Ford Field, and about a mile north of downtown. The arena, originally known as the Detroit Events Center, was, surprising no one, renamed for Mike Ilitch's pizza company.
"Pizza, pizza."

Take Bus 053. If you drive in, parking is $24. This is more than for a Devils home game, but it's a lot better than parking at Tiger Stadium, which usually had people boxed in, resulting in tremendous traffic jams both before and after the game (and, every bit as much as the crime and the condition of the stadium, was why the Lions wanted to get out and built the Silverdome). It also involved local kids being willing to "Watch your car, Mister?" for a small fee. Translation: "If you pay me $5.00, I'll make sure nobody damages your car. If you don't pay me, I'll make sure somebody, namely myself, does."
Seating 19,515 for hockey and 20,491 for basketball -- slightly less than Joe Louis Arena -- it is 1 of 11 arenas currently hosting an NHL team and an NBA team. The Pistons' arrival means that not only are all 4 Detroit-area teams be playing in the city for the 1st time since 1974, but that both of the teams that moved out to the suburbs have moved back: The Lions after 27 seasons, 1975 to 2001; and the Pistons after 39 seasons, 1978 to 2017. So "Dee-troit bas-ket-ball" is again being played in
Detroit, not just sort-of near it.

The rink is laid out east-to-west. The Wings attack twice toward the east goal. "The Baddest Bowl" is also, even more so that Boston's TD Garden with its Beanpot Tournament, the capital of American college hockey. Like its predecessors the Olympia from 1965 to 1978, and the Joe Louis Arena from 1979 to 2016, in the week between Christmas and New Year's, it hosts the Great Lakes Invitational, with the University of Michigan, Michigan State and Upper Peninsula-based Michigan Tech participating every season.

The 4-team selection has been rounded out by nearby schools such as Western Michigan, Northern Michigan and Lake Superior State; Midwestern powers like Wisconsin and North Dakota (but never, as yet, Minnesota); and even New Jersey's Princeton. Michigan, the defending champion, has won it 17 times, Michigan State 12, and Michigan Tech 10. It also alternates hosting the Big Ten hockey tournament with the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, home of the Minnesota Wild.

In addition, it is set to rotate with the Xcel Energy Center as host of the Big Ten hockey tournament, and has already been lined up to host 2018 NCAA Tournament basketball games.

The 1st event was on September 12, a concert, by a Detroit area native. Unfortunately, it was by millionaire kid turned Trumpian U.S. Senate candidate Robert Ritchie, a.k.a. slob rocker Kid Rock. Paul McCartney, The Eagles (without the late Michigan native Glenn Frey), Janet Jackson, Jay-Z, Lady Gaga and New Jersey native Halsey have also already given concerts there. Katy Perry will do so next month, and Lana Del Rey, Shakira, R. Kelly (if he can stay out of jail), a double bill of Demi Lovato and DJ Khaled, Pink, Lord, Shania Twain, and former One Direction singer Harry Styles are already lined up for the 1st half of 2018.

Food. When I visited Tiger Stadium in its final season, 1999, it had great food, including the very best ballpark hot dog I've ever had. Since they were owned by Little Caesars mogul Ilitch, and before that were owned by Domino's Pizza boss Tom Monaghan, food was, and remains, taken very seriously by the club. This is, after all, Big Ten Country, where college football tailgate parties are practically a sacrament. One would hope that the same would be true of the Red Wings.

They are. As you would expect, there are Little Caesars stands, but there's also Mike's Pizza Bar, named for Ilitch. There's also Bell's Brewery, the Dearborn Sasuage Haus, the Via Sports Bar, and the 313 Grill Co. (named for Detroit's Area Code).

Team History Displays. The Red Wings display more banners than any other NHL team. Their Stanley Cup banners are at the Arena's east end, the other championship banners in the middle, and the retired number banners at the west end.

While the Montreal Canadiens (24) and the Toronto Maple Leafs (13) only display their Stanley Cup banners, the Wings also display Conference and Divisional Championships and President's Trophy wins:

Stanley Cup, 11: 1936, 1937, 1943, 1950, 1952, 1954, 1955, 1997, 1998, 2002 and 2008.

Campbell/Western Conference, 6: 1995, 1997, 1998, 2002, 2008 and 2009. (Their Finals appearances prior to the Cup's semifinal round being renamed the Conference Finals in 1982 aren't counted as such, and they have not yet won their Conference since being moved to the Eastern.)

Division, 19 (either finishing 1st overall in the NHL regular season or 1st in the Divisional Play era), 19: 1934, 1936, 1937, 1988, 1989, 1992, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011.

President's Trophy (for best record in the NHL regular season), 6: 1995, 1996, 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2008.
The Cup banners are white with red lettering, while the others are red with white lettering.

Officially, the Wings have retired 7 uniform numbers. From their 1950s Cups, they retired the Number 1 of goaltender Terry Sawchuk, and the numbers of all 3 members of "The Production Line": Right wing Gordie Howe, 9 (who, as I said, has a statue outside the west entrance); left wing Ted Lindsay, 7; and center Sid Abel, 12. When Abel retired in 1952, their main center became Alex Delvecchio, and this new member of the Production Line eventually had his Number 10 retired.

From their 1990s-2000s Cups, they've retired the Number 19 of center Steve Yzerman and the Number 5 of defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom. These banners are red with white lettering. Yzerman's Number 19 banner has a Captain's C on it.
Not officially retired is the Number 6 of 1930s right wing Larry Aurie, supposedly retired when he hung up his skates in 1939. The current argument is that it's because he's not in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Well, then explain why Number 4 hasn't been retired for 1950s defenseman Red Kelly, the 1st-ever winner of the Norris Trophy for best defenseman, in 1954. Or Number 2, worn by 1940s defenseman Jack Stewart and 1990s defenseman Viacheslav Fetisov. Or Number 3, worn by 1950s defenseman Marcel Pronovost (a former Devils scout). Or Number 8, worn by 1930s center Syd Howe (no relation to Gordie). Or Number 14, for our old pal Brendan Shanahan.

Also not officially retired is the Number 16 of Vladimir Konstantinov, who was paralyzed in a car crash in the aftermath of the 1997 Stanley Cup win. Neither 6 (with 1 exception, for Aurie's cousin Cumming "Cummy" Burton) or 16 has ever been given out to another Wings player.

As I said, the west entrance is named for Gordie Howe, and has a statue of him inside. A new cable-stay bridge over the Detroit River, connecting Detroit and Windsor, is under construction, probably opening in 2020. It has been named the Gordie Howe International Bridge.

Red Wings in the Hockey Hall of Fame include:

* From the team's early days: George Hay and Reg Noble.

* From the 1936 and 1937 Stanley Cup winners: Owners James E. and James D. Norris, head coach and general manager Jack Adams, Herbie Lewis, Ebbie Goodfellow, Syd Howe and Marty Barry. Sort-of retired number honoree Larry Aurie has not been elected.

* From the 1943 Stanley Cup winners: Both James Norrises, Adams, Goodfellow, Syd Howe, Jack Stewart, Sid Abel, Harry Watson and Bill Quackenbush.

* From the 1950 Stanley Cup winners: Both James Norrises, Adams (now just GM), head coach Tommy Ivan, Stewart, Abel, Harry Lumley, Ted Lindsay, Gordie Howe, Red Kelly and Terry Sawchuk.

* From the 1952 Stanley Cup winners: Both James Norrises, Adams, Ivan, Abel, Lindsay, Howe, Kelly, Sawchuk, Alex Delvecchio and Marcel Pronovost.

* From the 1954 and 1955 Stanley Cup winners: James D. Norris, Adams, Ivan (coach for the '54 win only), Lindsay, Howe, Kelly, Sawchuk, Delvecchio, Pronovost and Glenn Hall. Jimmy Skinner, who coached the '55 win, is not in the Hall of Fame.

* From the 1961, 1963, 1964 and 1966 Stanley Cup Finalists: James D. and Bruce Norris, Adams, Abel as head coach and as GM after Adams retired in '62, Howe, Sawchuk (through '64), Delvecchio, Pronovost, Norm Ullman. Team executive John Ziegler was elected, but mainly due to his subsequent tenure as NHL President.

* Marcel Dionne played for the Wings from 1971 to 1975, and is in the Hall of Fame, but didn't win anything there.

* From the 1995 Stanley Cup Finalists, but not the later Cup wins: Mark Howe, Dino Ciccarelli and Paul Coffey.

* From the 1997 and 1998 Stanley Cups: Owner Mike Ilitch, GM Jim Devellano, head coach Scotty Bowman, Steve Yzerman, Sergei Fedorov, Nicklas Lidstrom, Igor Larionov, Viacheslav Fetisov, Brendan Shanahan and (on the '98 win only) Larry Murphy.

* From the 2002 Stanley Cup: Ilitch, Devellano, Bowman, Yzerman, Fedorov, Lidstrom, Larionov, Shanahan, Chris Chelios, Dominik Hasek, Brett Hull and Luc Robitaille. Ilitch, Devellano, Lidstrom, Chelios and Hasek were also on the 2008 Stanley Cup winners. GM Ken Holland and 2008 head coach Mike Babcock have not yet been elected to the Hall.

In 1998, The Hockey News' 100 Greatest Players included Howe, Abel, Lindsay, Sawchuk, Kelly, Delvecchio, Stewart, Yzerman, Bill Gadsby, Ullman, and 3 players running out the string by helping the Wings win the 2002 Cup: Brett Hull, Hasek and Chelios, a Detroit native and, aside from Howe, the oldest player in NHL history. Abel, Lindsay, Gordie Howe (but not Syd Howe), Kelly, Sawchuk, Delvecchio, Dionne, Coffey, Yzerman, Fedorov, Lidstrom, Shanahan, Chelios, Hull and Hasek were named to the NHL's 100th Anniversary 100 Greatest Players in 2017.

Aurie and left wing Lewis were chosen for an All-Star Team to oppose the host Toronto Maple Leafs in the Ace Bailey Benefit Game in 1934. Goalie Normie Smith, defenseman Goodfellow, and center Barry were chosen for the team that opposed a combined Canadiens-Maroons team at the Montreal Forum in the Howie Morenz Memorial Game in 1937. Goodfellow and Syd Howe were chosen for the team that opposed the Canadiens at the Forum in the Babe Siebert Memorial Game in 1939. Lindsay, and defensemen Stewart and Quackenbush were chosen for the 1st official NHL All-Star Game in 1947, as the rest of the NHL took on the defending Champion Leafs in Toronto.

Defenseman Gary Bergman, left wing Red Berenson and right wing Mickey Redmond were chosen for Team Canada against the Soviet Union in the 1972 "Summit Series." So was former Red Wing Paul Henderson, by then with the Toronto Maple Leafs. As such, they were named to Canada's Walk of Fame. For their overall contributions to the sport, so were Gordie Howe and Bowman. From the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team, Mike Ramsey and Dave Silk went on to play for the Wings. Henderson, Yzerman, Fetisov, Fedorov, Larionov, Lidstrom and Hasek have been elected to the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Hall of Fame.

The Lester Patrick Trophy, for contributions to hockey in America, has been awarded to many figures in Wings history: Players Gordie Howe, Lindsay, Sawchuk, Delvecchio, Yzerman, Dionne, Mark Howe, Red Berenson and Reed Larson; head coaches Adams, Ivan and Bowman; general managers Adams and Devellano; and owners James E. Norris, Bruce Norris and Mike Ilitch. (It should be noted that Berenson, Dionne, Larson were honored for contributions elsewhere.)

The following Wings are members of the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame, located at Cobo Hall next to The Joe: James E. Norris (but not James D. or Bruce), Adams, Goodfellow, Stewart, Abel, Gordie and Mark Howe (but not Syd), Kelly, Lindsay, Sawchuck, Delvecchio, Pronovost, Gadsby, Ullman, Mike and Marian Ilitch, Bowman, Devellano, Yzerman, Fedorov, Lidstrom, Shanahan, Lynch, Martyn, and 1990s goaltender Chris Osgood. Detroit area native Mike Modano has also been elected, but only played his last season, 2010-11, with the Wings.

The statues of Gordie Howe, Alex Delvecchio and Joe Louis that had been dedicated at the Joe Louis Arena were moved to the Little Caesars Arena. As yet, the Arena has no statues honoring Pistons greats.
The late Mr. Hockey and his statue

Stuff. Not enough entrances/exits, not enough bathrooms, not enough concession stands... The Joe doesn't have much in the way of souvenir stands, either. You may be better off going to a suburban mall, or to Hockeytown Authentics, a store owned by Olympia Entertainment. 1845 E. Big Beaver Road in Troy, next to the Troy Sports Center, 19 miles north of downtown. Car only.

One item sold at The Joe that may be of interest is a funny hat: The Wingnut, a foam red wingnut, with its "tails" marked "left wing" and "right wing." Not as cute as the Green Bay Packers' Cheeseheads, but every bit as manly as those Giants and Jets hard hats.

DVD collections for the 1997, 1998, 2002 and 2008 Cup wins are available, as is Detroit Red Wings: A Celebration of Champions -- NHL Original Six Series. As yet, though, no "Greatest Games" series for them.

Dr. John Finley and Wings legend Gordie Howe wrote Hockeytown Doc: A Half-Century of Red Wings Stories from Howe to Yzerman. Specifically about their 1950s team that won 4 Cups in 6 seasons, New York's own "Hockey Maven," Stan Fischler, wrote Motor City Muscle: Gordie Howe, Terry Sawchuk and the Championship Detroit Red Wings -- published in 1995, after the Devils beat the Wings in the Finals, leaving Wings fans with what one of them called "The 40-Year Itch." About the 1995-2009 Wings Dynasty, Darren McCarty published My Last Fight: The True Story of a Hockey Rock Star.

Charles C. Avison wrote Detroit: City of Champions, telling of how the city produced champion after champion in the Great Depression and World War II: The Tigers winning Pennants in 1934, '35, '40 and '45; the Lions debuting in 1934 and winning the NFL Championship in 1935; the Red Wings winning the Stanley Cup in 1936, '37 and '43; and Joe Louis winning the Heavyweight Championship of the World in 1937 and keeping it until his first retirement in 1948. Back then, Detroit was a city where anything was possible.

The 1930s was also the era when Detroit radio station WXYZ debuted 3 legendary fictional characters: The Lone Ranger, the Green Hornet (said to be related), and Sergeant Preston of the Yukon. Now WXYT, SportsRadio 1270, it celebrated its 90th Anniversary this past October.

During the Game. The Red Wings have nasty rivalries with the Chicago Blackhawks and the Colorado Avalanche, but you do not have to worry about wearing Devils gear in Joe Louis Arena. Wings fans may have long memories, but they're over 1995, having won 4 Cups since.

Tuesday's game will not feature a promotion. Karen Newman sings the National Anthem. The Wings' goal song is "Hey Hey Hockey Town" by Kid Rock.

When the visiting team's players are announced, Wings fans will shout, "Who cares?" When I first heard this on TV before Game 1 of the 1995 Finals, I thought they were, instead of booing and/or hissing, shouting, "Boo, hiss!" I chuckled. My respect for them went way down when I found out it was the far less witty, "Who cares?" Still, though, it beats following a player's name with, "!"

During Playoff games only, hanging from the roof is a big purple balloon shaped like an octopus, named Al the Octopus, after Al Sobotka, the arena's building operations manager, who drives the Zamboni, and whose job it is to pick up any octopi that fans throw onto the ice, a reflection of a tradition that began in 1952, since there were then only 2 Playoff rounds, 8 wins to win the Cup, 8 legs on an octopus. Since it now takes 16 wins, there are 2 Als hanging from the rafters.
This one, obviously, is not hanging from the rafters.

Although, officially, you can be thrown out of the arena for doing it, if the Wings are winning late, Sobotka will pick the octopus up off the ice by hand, and swing it around by the legs over his head, driving the crowd wild. In other words, if the Wings beat the Devils, you'll still walk away having seen a piece of tradition.

After the Game. With Detroit's rough reputation, I would recommend not hanging around downtown after a night game. If you want a postgame drink or meal, you're better off sticking to your hotel.

But when you come out of the arena, at the northeast corner, at Woodward and Sproat, there's District Market, which calls itself "restaurants within a restaurant." There's Sugar and Brew (a Midwestern mini-Starbucks), Mex n Co, and Moroccan Lamb & Fig.

Left over from Joe Louis Arena are some recommendations from local fan websites. The Anchor Bar at 450 W. Fort Street (not to be confused with the Buffalo bar of the same name, which invented Buffalo wings 50 years ago this week), Cobo Joe's at 422 W. Congress Street, and Post Bar at 408 W. Congress Street. Post Bar is described as the best post-game Red Wings bar, and a place where the players sometimes drink. Cobo Joe's is said to be the local home of expatriate Jet fans.

Giants gather at the Town Pump Tavern, 100 W. Montcalm Street at Park Avenue, 2 blocks from Comerica Park. Harry's Detroit Bar is also said to be a Giants' fan haven. It's right over the Fisher Freeway overpass from Comerica and the Town Pump, at 2482 Clifford Street, near the famous Cass Tech High School. Be warned, though, that over the freeway is not an area to traverse at night. Cheli's Chili Bar is owned by Chelios, at 47 E. Adams Avenue, across Witherell from Comerica and thus a short walk from Ford Field.

If your visit to Detroit is during the European soccer season, which is now in full gear, most of the better choices to watch games are in the suburbs. Thomas Magee's Sporting House Whiskey Bar is the home pub of the Detroit branch of the U.S. national team fan group, the American Outlaws. 1408 East Fisher Service Drive, in the Lafayette Park neighborhood, a 5-minute walk from Comerica Park and Ford Field. SMART Bus 34 to Gratiot and Russell.

Another possibility is the Red Fox English Pub. Definitely not to be confused with the now-defunct Machus Red Fox restaurant, where Jimmy Hoffa was last publicly seen. This one is at 100 S. Main Street in Royal Oak, about 14 miles northwest of downtown. Bus 498 to Woodward & 11 Mile.

Sidelights. For all its problems, Detroit is a great city, not just a great baseball city or even a great sports city. Check out the following – but do it in daylight:

* Cobo Hall and Joe Louis Arena. From 1979 to 2017, the Red Wings played at the riverfront arena named for the Alabama-born, Detroit-raised-and-trained Heavyweight Champion of the World from 1937 to 1949. While there, they reached 6 Stanley Cup Finals, winning 4, and became what the Boston Bruins used to be, and what the New York Rangers only dream they are: The signature team of American hockey.
It hosted the NCAA Frozen Four in 1985, 1987 and 1990. The Joe was home to the Detroit Drive of Arena Football from 1988 to 1993. They won as many league championships in 5 seasons as the Lions have won in over 80: 4, in 1988, 1989, 1990 and 1992. In fact, they made the ArenaBowl every season of their existence. The Joe also hosted the ArenaBowl in 1989, 1990, 1991 and 1993. So what happened? Mike Ilitch, who also owned the Red Wings, sold the Drive so that he could buy the Tigers. The Drive were moved to Worcester, Massachusetts, played 1 more season, and folded.

The Joe also hosted the 1980 Republican Convention, which nominated Ronald Reagan for President. Think about it: An arena named for a black heavyweight champion who knocked out a symbol (however unwillingly) of fascism, in a mostly-black city, with heavy union presence in the metropolitan area (it was, after all the hometown of the United Auto Workers and Jimmy Hoffa), hosting the Republican Convention.

Many people complained that the stairs at the entrances were very steep, and at certain areas on the outside of the arena, were breaking apart. To make matters worse, the arena was the same model as the Meadowlands Arena and the Nassau Coliseum: One level of concourse for two levels of seats. There also wasn't enough bathrooms, resulting in very long lines, and a drop in atmosphere at the starts of the 2nd and 3rd periods, as many fans didn't make it back in time. So the Wings decided to build a new arena. Demolition is scheduled to begin within days.

The Joe was built next-door to Cobo Center, which was named for Albert E. Cobo, Mayor from 1950 to 1957. Its centerpiece, a building originally known as Cobo Hall, has been Detroit's major convention center since its opening in 1960, and, following the rejection of a plan to demolish it and put a new Pistons-Red Wings arena on the site, it recently underwent a renovation and expansion.
It includes a 12,000-seat arena that was home to the Pistons from 1961 to 1978, the Michigan Stags of the World Hockey Association in the 1974-75 season, and a convention complex that includes the city's famed annual auto show. It is known for some legendary rock concerts, including the KISS album Alive! and area native Bob Seger's Live Bullet. Unfortunately, it may be best known for the January 6, 1994 attack on Nancy Kerrigan during a practice session for the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

The address of the Cobo Center is 600 Civic Center Drive, at Jefferson Avenue; and of Joe Louis Arena, 19 Steve Yzerman Drive. Each arena has its own station on the Detroit People Mover.

* Comerica Park and Ford Field. Home to the Tigers since 2000, the team has seen the good (Pennants in 2006 and '12), the bad (a nosedive that cost them the American League Central Division title in 2008), and the ugly (losing an AL record 119 games in 2003) at Comerica Park. The official address is 2100 Woodward Avenue, but Woodward does not border the park; Witherell, Montcalm and Brush Streets, and Adams Avenue, do. The Lions have mostly been terrible at Ford Field, whose address is 2000 Brush Street.

The area around Comerica Park (named for a Midwest-based bank) and Ford Field (named for the automaker), at the northern edge of downtown Detroit, is called Foxtown, after the Fox Theater, which, as I said, Tigers/Wings/Little Caesars owner Mike Ilitch had restored.

Ford Field hosted Super Bowl XL in 2006, won by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the final game of Detroit native Jerome Bettis; the 2010 NCAA Frozen Four; and the 2009 NCAA Final Four, the only one ever held in the State of Michigan, won by North Carolina, overcoming a "home-court advantage" for Michigan State in the Final. Appropriately, for a city on the U.S.-Canadian border, it hosted a match between the U.S. and Canada soccer teams on June 7, 2011. The U.S. won.

* Site of Tiger Stadium. The first ballpark on the site was called Bennett Park, after Charlie Bennett, a catcher for the NL's Detroit Wolverines, who didn't play there. Bennett Park opened in 1896, for the Detroit team in the Western League, which became the American League in 1901. However, the team we know as the Tigers (so named because the orange stripes on their socks evoked not just tigers but the teams at New Jersey's Princeton University, also called the Tigers) are officially dated from 1901.

After the 1911 season, the wooden Bennett Park was demolished, and replaced with a concrete and steel structure, opening on April 20, 1912 (the same day as Fenway Park in Boston) and named Navin Field, after Tiger owner Frank Navin. He died in 1935, and his co-owner, Walter Briggs, expanded the place to its more familiar configuration in 1938, renaming it Briggs Stadium. In 1961, new owner John Fetzer renamed it Tiger Stadium.

The Tigers played there from 1912 to 1999, and the NFL's Lions did so from 1938 to 1974. The Tigers won the World Series while playing there in 1935, 1945, 1968 and 1984; the Lions won the NFL Championship while playing there in 1952, 1953 and 1957. (The '52 Championship Game was played in Cleveland against the Browns; the '53 and '57 editions, also against the Browns, at Tiger Stadum.) In addition, early NFL teams the Detroit Heralds played there in 1920 and '21, and the Detroit Panthers in 1926.

A youth baseball field is on the site now. Northwest corner of Michigan Avenue and Trumbull Street, 1 mile west of Cadillac Square down Michigan Avenue (U.S. Route 12). Number 29 bus from downtown.

* Site of Olympia Stadium. From the outside, it looked more like a big brick movie theater, complete with the Art Deco marquee out front. But "The Old Red Barn" was home to the Red Wings from 1927 to 1979, during which time they won the Stanley Cup in 1936, '37, '43, '50, '52, '54 and '55.
In 1950, they hosted Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, and Pete Babando's overtime winner defeated the Rangers. In '54, they had another overtime Game 7 winner, as "Tough Tony" Leswick hit a shot that deflected off Doug Harvey, the great defenseman of the Montreal Canadiens. (In hockey, the shooter is still credited; in soccer, this would have been officially listed as an "own goal" on Harvey.)
A rare color photo of a Wings game at the Olympia

The Olympia was also home to the Pistons from 1957 to 1961; the Falcons in the NBA's inaugural season of 1946-47; the NCAA Frozen Four in 1977 and 1979; and the site of some great prizefights, including Jake LaMotta's 1942 win over Sugar Ray Robinson – the only fight Robinson would lose in his career until 1952, and the only one of the 6 fights he had with LaMotta that LaMotta won.

Elvis Presley did 2 shows there early in his career, an afternoon and an evening show on March 31, 1957. (If you think that's a lot for one day, he did 3 shows at the Fox Theater on May 25, 1956.) He returned to the Olympia on September 11, 1970; April 6, 1972; September 29 and October 4, 1974; and April 22, 1977.

The Beatles played there on September 6, 1964 and August 13, 1966. (However, it was in the Detroit area -- specifically, on the University of Michigan's radio station in Ann Arbor -- that a disc jockey started the 1969 rumor that Paul McCartney was dead. In a 1989 interview, Paul said, "'Paul is dead'? I didn't believe that one for a minute.")

It was the neighborhood, not the building, that was falling apart: Lincoln Cavalieri, its general manager in its last years, once said, "If an atom bomb landed, I'd want to be in Olympia." It was not a nuclear attack, but an ordinary demolition crew, that took it down in 1987. The Olympia Armory, home of the Michigan National Guard, is now on the site. 5920 Grand River Avenue, corner of McGraw Street, on the Northwest Side. Number 21 bus. If you're a hockey fan, by all means, visit – but do it in daylight.

* University of Detroit Stadium. Also known as Titan Stadium, this was the Lions' first home, from 1934 to 1937, until what became Tiger Stadium was double-decked. The Lions played and won the 1935 NFL Championship Game there, beating the Giants.

The previous NFL team in the city, the Detroit Wolverines, play there in their lone season, 1928. Built in 1922 and seating 25,000, the University's suspension of its football program in 1964 doomed it, and it was demolished in 1971. The school, now known as the University of Detroit Mercy (it's a Catholic school), has since put a new, multipurpose, artificial turf field on the site. 3801 McNichols Road at Birchcrest Drive. 016 Bus.

* Silverdome. Originally Pontiac Metropolitan Stadium, this stadium was home to the Lions from 1975 to 2001 (after which they moved back downtown to Ford Field), and very nearly became home to the Tigers as well, before owner John Fetzer decided to commit himself to Tiger Stadium. Heisman-winning running backs Billy Sims and Barry Sanders ran wild for the Lions here, but the closest they got to a Super Bowl was reaching the NFC Championship Game in January 1992 – unless you count hosting Super Bowl XVI, 10 years earlier, the beginning of the San Francisco 49er dynasty led by Bill Walsh and Joe Montana.

The Pistons, playing here from 1978 to 1988, had a little more luck, reaching the NBA Finals in their last year there. It seated 80,000 for football, set an NBA attendance record (since broken) of 61,983 between the Pistons and Boston Celtics in 1988, and 93,682 for a Mass by Pope John Paul II in 1987.

In 1994, it hosted 4 World Cup matches, including 1 by the U.S. and 1 by eventual winner Brazil. It hosted 2 games by the U.S. national soccer team, in 1992 win over Russia and the 1994 World Cup draw against Switzerland. Elvis had his biggest crowd ever at the Silverdome, 60,500, on New Year's Eve, December 31, 1975.

It hosted a Don King-promoted boxing card in January 2011, and in August 2010 hosted a friendly between Italian soccer giant A.C. Milan and leading Greek club Panathinaikos – appropriate, considering the area's ethnic makeup. In 2013, the roof was deflated as an energy-saving measure, and it was decided that, if a new tenant is found, a new roof will be put in as part of renovations.

In March of this year, the owners announced that they would be auctioning off the contents of the facility, including seats and fixtures. In October, it was announced that the building would be demolished over the winter, and that the land would be turned over to Oakland County, Michigan for mixed-use development.

1200 Featherstone Road, Pontiac. Getting there by public transportation is a pain: The Number 465 bus takes an hour and 25 minutes, and then you gotta walk a mile down Featherstone from Oakland Community College. So if you didn't drive in (or rent a car at the airport), unless you have to see everything on this list, or if you're a Lions fan living in New York who has to see it one more time, or if you're a soccer nut on a pilgrimage to all World Cup sites, I'd suggest skipping it.

* The Palace. Home to the Pistons from 1988 to 2017, they won the 1989, 1990 and 2004 NBA Championships here, and almost won another in 2005. The Detroit Shock won 3 WNBA Championships here, and, as a result, every time a title was won, the address changed: Currently, it's "Six Championship Drive, Auburn Hills, MI 48326." However, the Shock moved to Tulsa in 2010, so unless the arena stays open and becomes the home of a new WNBA team, the address will never change to "Seven Championship Drive."

Unfortunately, the 22,000-seat building's best-known event isn't a Pistons title or a rock concert, but the November 19, 2004 fight between the Pistons and the Indiana Pacers that spilled into the stands, becoming known as "the Malice at the Palace." Even the WNBA had a rare brawl there, between the Shock and the Los Angeles Sparks in 2008.

Lapeer Road and Harmon Road, Auburn Hills, off I-75. Don't even think about trying to reach it by public transportation: You'd need 2 buses and then a half-hour walk. So unless you've got a car, or you're a big sucker for NBA history, I'd suggest skipping it.

* Mack Park. The Negro Leagues' Detroit Stars played here from 1920 to 1929, featuring center fielder Norman "Turkey" Stearnes and pitcher Andy Cooper, who would both be posthumously elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. A senior citizens' complex, the Fairview Apartments, is on the site now. 3568 Fairview Street at Mack Avenue, about 5 miles east of downtown. Bus 7 will get you within a 15-minute walk.

* Hamtramck Stadium. After Mack Park burned down in 1929, they moved into this nearby facility for the 1930 season. Pronounced "Ham-TRAM-ick," this city is actually completely surrounded by Detroit. But between the Mack Park fire and the start of the Great Depression at the end of the year, the Stars' fate was sealed.

New teams with the name would occasionally be revived. At its peak, Hamtramck Stadium seated over 8,000 people. However, the decline of the Negro Leagues and the "industrial leagues" in the 1950s doomed it to high school use, it hasn't been used at all since 2012, and its sideline wings have been removed, reducing its capacity to 1,500. Nevertheless, it is 1 of 12 Negro League ballparks still standing. 3201 Dan Street.

When the Dodge Brothers (who later sold the car company bearing their name to Chrysler) opened an auto plant in Hamtramck in 1914, it became a hub for Polish immigration. However, the Polish population of the city has dropped from 90 percent in 1970 to 22 percent today. And Arabs and South Asians have moved in, making it Michigan’s most internationally diverse city.

Nevertheless, if you want the best kielbasa, kapusta, golumpkis and paczkis this side of the Oder, this is the place to go. Hamtramck Town Shopping Center, Joseph Campau Street and Hewitt Street.

Detroit City FC plays in the 4th tier of American soccer, at Keyworth Stadium in Hamtramck, a 7,000-seat high school football stadium, 5 1/2 miles north of downtown. All of these Hamtramck locations can be reached via the Number 10 bus.

Detroit is the largest metropolitan area in North America without a Major League Soccer team, although there is a drive to get an expansion team. The closest MLS team to Detroit is the Columbus Crew, 204 miles away. However, the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry may complicate that.

* Motown Historical Museum. As always, I'm going to include some non-sports items. Detroit is generally known for 3 good things: Sports, music and cars. The Motown Historical Museum is the former Motown Records studio, which company founder Berry Gordy Jr. labeled "Hitsville, U.S.A." His sister, Esther Gordy Edwards, now runs it, and it features records and costumes of performers such as the Supremes, the Temptations and the Four Tops. 2648 W. Grand Blvd., on the North Side. Number 16 bus.

* Henry Ford Museum. The centerpiece of the nation's foremost automotive-themed museum is a replica of Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Henry Ford himself established the museum: "I am collecting the history of our people as written into things their hands made and used... When we are through, we shall have reproduced American life as lived, and that, I think, is the best way of preserving at least a part of our history and tradition."

It contains the fascinating, including early cars and bicycles, Henry Ford's 1st car (his 1896 "Quadricycle"), Igor Sikorsky's prototype for the helicopter, the bus Rosa Parks was riding in when she refused to give up her seat to start the 1955-56 Montgomery Bus Boycott, and a Buckminster Fuller "Dymaxion house." It also contains the macabre, with the chair Abraham Lincoln was supposedly sitting in when he was assassinated at Ford's Theater in Washington (the theater owner was no relation to Henry); and the chair, and the rest of the car as well, that John F. Kennedy was definitely sitting in when he was assassinated, the back seat of in the 1961 Lincoln Continental convertible limousine he was riding in through downtown Dallas.

Next door to the museum is Greenfield Village, which Ford imagined as a kind of historical park, a more modern version of Colonial Williamsburg – that is, celebrating what was, in 1929 when it opened, considered modern American life, including a reconstruction of the Menlo Park, New Jersey laboratory of his good friend Thomas Edison. Ford and Edison were both friends of rubber magnate Henry Firestone (whose tires certainly made Ford's cars easier to make), and Firestone's family farm is reconstructed on the site.

Please note that I am not excusing Henry Ford's control-freak attitude toward his employees' private lives, nor his despicable anti-Semitism, nor his failed union-busting in the 1930s. To be fair, he did give his black auto workers the same pay and benefits as his white ones. But I am recommending the museum. It's a tribute to the role of technology, including the automobile, in American life, not to the man himself. Oakwood Blvd. and Village Road. Number 200 bus to Michigan Avenue and Oakwood Blvd., then a short walk down Oakwood.

* Greektown Historic District. Although Detroit is famed for its Irish (Corktown, including the site of Tiger Stadium) and Italian communities, and has the largest Arab-American community of any major city, its best-known ethnic neighborhoods are Greektown and the Polish community of Hamtramck. New York's Astoria, Queens has nothing on Detroit's Greektown, which not only has some of the country's finest Greek restaurants, but also the Greektown Casino, which is at 555 E. Lafayette Street, at Beaubien Street. Greektown Station on the People Mover.

* Mariners' Church. On my 1999 visit to Detroit, I discovered this church by accident, walking past it without realizing it was there until I saw the historical marker. Every March, it holds a Blessing of the Fleet for every person and ship going to sea. Every November, it holds a Great Lakes Memorial Service for those who have lost their lives at sea within the past year.

The most famous of these ceremonies was for the 29 men lost on the iron ore freighter SS Edmund Fitzgerald in Lake Superior on November 10, 1975. Built and homeported in Detroit, the Big Fitz was commemorated by Gordon Lightfoot, whose 1976 song "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" mistakenly, but poetically, called the church "The Maritime Sailors' Cathedral." (Edmund Fitzgerald himself was the president of Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company, which invested in the ship's construction, because it was heavily invested in the ore industry.)

170 E. Jefferson Avenue, at Randolph Street, across from the Renaissance Center. If you're going to visit the church, be careful, because Randolph Street empties into the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel.

* Spirit of Detroit. In front of the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center, the city hall named for the 1974-93 Mayor, stands a marble monument with a bronze statue of a kneeling man, the seals of the City of Detroit and Wayne County, and a Biblical inscription, from 2nd Corinthians 3:17: "Now the Lord is that spirit, and where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty."

In his left hand, the 26-foot-high kneeling figure holds a gilt bronze sphere emanating rays, to symbolize God. The people in the figure's right hand are a family group.

The statue was dedicated in 1958, 4 years after the Municipal Center opened. In recent years, a large jersey has been placed over it when the Tigers, Pistons or Wings have been in their sport's finals. (As yet, this has never been done for the Lions, who haven't been to an NFL Championship Game since 1957, 9 seasons before they started calling it the Super Bowl.) 2 Woodward Avenue at Jefferson Avenue.
The Spirit of Detroit, wearing a Red Wings jersey
in honor of the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals

* Monument to Joe Louis. Erected in 1986, on a traffic island at the intersection of Woodward & Jefferson, it is a 24-foot-long arm with a fisted hand suspended by a 24-foot-high pyramidal framework. Since it is a monument to Louis, the great black heavyweight champion, the arm and fist are black bronze.
The Louis Monument, with the Spirit of Detroit behind it

* Colleges. The University of Michigan is 44 miles west of downtown Detroit, in Ann Arbor.  It is possible to reach it from Detroit by bus, but it will take 2 hours: You can take the 851 bus to the airport, and transfer there to the 787.

Gerald Ford was President from August 9, 1974 to January 20, 1977, and was a graduate of (and an All-American football player at) Michigan in the 1930s. His Presidential Library, and a School of Public Policy named for him, are on the Ann Arbor campus, at 1000 Beal Avenue. However, he is the only President whose Library and Museum are separated, and his Presidential Museum is in his hometown of Grand Rapids, at 303 Pearl Street NW, 158 miles northwest of Detroit. You'll need Greyhound if you want to visit Grand Rapids.

Michigan Stadium is at 1201 S. Main Street at Stadium Blvd. "The Big House" has hosted UM football since 1927. Its peak attendance is 115,109 for Michigan's 2013 win over Notre Dame. This past year, it set new records for highest U.S. attendance for soccer (109,318 for Manchester United beating Real Madrid in the International Champions Cup), and for highest attendance anywhere on the planet for hockey (105,491 for the NHL Winter Classic, the Toronto Maple Leafs beating the Detroit Red Wings).

Adjacent is Crisler Arena, named for Herbert "Fritz" Crisler, the UM football coach from 1938 to 1947, who, in another connection between Princeton University sports and the State of Michigan, had previously coached Princeton's Tigers, and brought his "winged" helmet design with him, making Michigan's "maize and blue" helmets among the most famous in college football. Elvis sang at Crisler Arena on April 24, 1977. The other sports facilities, including Yost Arena (hockey) and Fisher Stadium (named for Ray Fisher, who pitched for the Yankees in the 1910s before they got good and then coached at Michigan, including Charlie Gehringer), are adjacent.

Michigan State University is 88 miles northwest of Detroit, in East Lansing, adjacent to Lansing, the State capital.  Greyhound runs 4 buses a day from Detroit to East Lansing, at 8:00 AM, 12:10 PM, 2:20 PM and 7:40 PM, and it takes about 2 hours. Two buses go back to Detroit, at 3:40 and 5:55 PM. $38 round-trip.

Spartan Stadium, formerly Macklin Field, is at 325 W. Shaw Lane at Red Cedar Road, which is named for the river that bisects the MSU campus. Jenison Field House (the old basketball arena, where Magic Johnson starred on their 1979 National Champions), Breslin Events Center (their new arena), and Munn Arena (hockey) are a short walk away, at Kalamazoo Street & Birch Road.

According to an October 3, 2014 article in The New York Times, UM has a decided, though not overwhelming, advantage in fans in the Detroit area. Only around the State capital of Lansing do you get an edge for MSU.

In addition to the preceding, Elvis sang in Michigan at Wings Stadium (a minor-league hockey arena, now named Wings Event Center) in Kalamazoo on October 21, 1976 and April 26, 1977; and the Saginaw County Event Center (now the Dow Event Center) in Saginaw on April 25 and May 3, 1977.

* Jimmy Hoffa. No, I don't know where Hoffa is buried. All I know for sure is that, when they demolished Giants Stadium in 2010, they found no human remains. Hoffa, who was born in Indiana but lived most of his life in and around Detroit, was last seen alive on July 30, 1975, sitting in his car in the parking lot of Machus' Red Fox.

A fine-dining establishment open from 1965 to 1996, the building is still there, occupied by an Italian restaurant named Andiamo's. 6676 Telegraph Road (U.S. Route 24) at Country Club Drive, Bloomfield, 22 miles northwest of Cadillac Square. As with most sites in Detroit's outer suburbs, getting there by public transportation is a hassle: In this case, you'd need 3 buses.

* Windsor. Across the Detroit River is Windsor, Ontario. Most Americans know it for Caesar's Windsor, one of 4 casinos in the area.  Like its namesakes in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, it has a Roman theme. It may be only 2 miles from downtown Detroit, but because it's in Canada, where they have things like sensible gun laws and national health care, it may feel like the other side of the world (if not Rome itself). And, because it's in Canada, you'll need a passport.

377 Riverside Drive East. There is bus service available -- less for Michiganders wanting to gamble, more for Windsorites wanting to go to Red Wings games and concerts -- and you can contact Transit Windsor at

The Wings' first home was actually in Windsor: They played their first season, 1926-27, at the Border Cities Arena, which still stands, and is now named Windsor Arena. Like a lot of old arenas (this one was built in 1924), it looks like a barn, and so is nicknamed The Barn. It seats only 4,400 people in its current configuration.

Its long-term tenants, the University of Windsor hockey team and the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League, now play elsewhere. The City of Windsor has approved a plan to tear it down and build the new building for Catholic Central High School on the site. 334 Wyandotte Street East, at McDougall Street.
The University of Windsor Lancers haven't been very successful in sports. Their greatest achievement is their football team winning the Yates Cup, for the championship of Ontario University Athletics, in 1975. The Yates Cup was founded in 1898, and is the oldest football trophy in North America.

Since 2008, the Spitfires have played at the WFCU Centre. No, that's not named for a radio station: Canadian radio stations' call letters always been with a C. The naming rights are held by the Windsor Family Credit Union. The Spitfires won the Memorial Cup, the championship of Canadian junior hockey, while playing there, in 2009 and '10, and one of the streets bordering is named Memorial Cu Way.
The Lancers also play hockey and basketball there. The Windsor Express play in the National Basketball League of Canada there. 8787 McHugh Street, 8 miles from downtown Detroit and 7 miles east of downtown Windsor. Bus 2 from there.

Home Improvement.  The 1991-99 ABC sitcom is easily the best-known TV show to have been set in Detroit, with Tool Time's studio being in the city and the Taylors' house in the suburbs, possibly in Bloomfield Hills. But, as far as I know, there were no location shots, not even in the episode in which the Taylors got to see the Lions' annual Thanksgiving game from a Silverdome skybox. So if you're looking for the Taylors' house, you're not going to find it -- if there was ever a house, not just a studio set, it was likely in or around Los Angeles. Other shows set in or around Detroit have included Martin, Freaks and Geeks, Sister, Sister, and 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter.

Several films have been set, but not necessarily filmed, in Detroit. Axel Foley, Eddie Murphy's character in the Beverly Hills Cop films, was a Detroit police detective, but most of the film, including the Detroit scenes, was shot in Los Angeles. While RoboCop was set in Detroit, it was filmed in Dallas. (And you thought "Dallas sucks" was just a sports chant.)

Billy Crystal's movie about the 1961 home run record chase, 61*, used Tiger Stadium as a stand-in (with computer-generated help) for the original Yankee Stadium (since the 1973-76 renovation left it looking very little like it did in 1961). Other recent movies set in Detroit include Eminem's Roman à clef, 8 Mile; and Clint Eastwood's retired autoworker vs. gangs film Gran Torino.


A visit to Detroit does not have to be a scary experience. These people love hockey. And, while they don't necessarily like the Yankees, they don't have a problem with Devils fans. They love hockey more than most Americans do, and their city should be able to show you a good time.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

How to Be a New York Basketball Fan In Memphis -- 2017-18 Edition

This coming Sunday, the Brooklyn Nets will visit Memphis to play the Grizzlies. The New York Knicks will do the same on January 17.

Before You Go. Memphis is in the South. Not the Deep South, but the Mid-South. In fact, their old arena was named the Mid-South Coliseum. However, Tennessee rejoined the Union a long time ago, and you won't need to bring a passport or change your money.

If you were going to a baseball game, or an early-season football game, the heat might be an issue. But this will be in late November, so even outside the arena, heat won't be a factor. Cold might be: For Sunday, the website of Memphis' main newspaper, The Commercial Appeal, is predicting the temperatures to be in the high 50s in daylight, but will drop to the low 30s at night. No rain, though.

Memphis, like most (but not all) of Tennessee, is in the Central Time Zone, an hour behind us. Adjust your timepieces accordingly.

Tickets. The Grizzlies averaged 16,519 fans per home game last season, just over 91 percent of capacity, a little low considering that they're the only major league sports team in town. Tickets could well be available.

Seats in the lower level, the 100 sections, go for $80 between the baskets and $60 behind them. Seats in the upper level, the 200 sections, are among the cheapest in the NBA, going for $30 and $10.

Getting There. This will be Sunday of Thanksgiving Weekend, so the usual travel guidelines will not apply. Seats could be scarce, and tickets expensive.

It's 1,100 miles from Midtown Manhattan to Memphis. So your first instinct would be to fly. A a round-trip nonstop flight could cost $938 on United Airlines. Memphis International Airport is 10 miles south of downtown, and the Number 20 bus can get you to downtown in under 40 minutes.

Greyhound can get you from New York to Memphis in a little under 30 hours, for $458 round-trip, $329 with advanced purchase, although you'd have to change buses in Richmond. The Greyhound station is at 203 Union Avenue.

Amtrak is a bit more complicated: There's no direct route from New York. You'd have to take the Lake Shore Limited out of Penn Station at 3:40 PM on Friday afternoon, arrive in Chicago at 9:45 AM on Saturday, stay over there until 8:05 PM, and take the City of New Orleans (the current version replaces the Illinois Central Railroad's Panama Limited "Night Train," instead of the old version made famous by the Steve Goodman/Arlo Guthrie song), arriving in Memphis at 6:27 AM on Sunday, the morning of the game. And, because of the holiday, it would be a whopping $1,132. At any rate (if you'll pardon the pun), the address for Memphis Central Station is 545 S. Main Street.

If you do drive, it's far enough that you should get someone to go with you, to trade off, especially if one can sleep while the other drives. Get into New Jersey, take Interstate 78 West into Pennsylvania. At Harrisburg, get on Interstate 81 South, and take that down through Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia, into Tennessee, where it flows into Interstate 40 West. Take that all the way across Tennessee. Exit 1 is for downtown.

If all goes well, you should spend a little over an hour in New Jersey, 2 hours and 45 minutes in Pennsylvania, 15 minutes in Maryland, half an hour in West Virginia, 6 and a half hours in Virginia, and 8 hours and 15 minutes in Tennessee, for a total of 19 hours and 15 minutes. Given rest stops in Pennsylvania, one at each end of Virginia, and 3 in Tennessee, and we're talking about a trip of at least 26 hours -- each way.

Once In the City. Founded in 1819, and named for the ancient capital city of Egypt, Memphis is in the southwestern corner of Tennessee, across the Mississippi River from Arkansas. Downtown is 13 miles from the Mississippi State Line. So, like New York, it has a "Tri-State Area." These States led to one of the names of its ABA team, the Tams: TAM, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi.

Memphis is the largest city in Tennessee, with over 650,000 people, and a metropolitan area of over 1.3 million. That sounds like a lot, but it's actually the 3rd-smallest market in the NBA, ahead of only Oklahoma City and Salt Lake City. It would be easily the smallest in MLB, the smallest in the NFL except for Buffalo, and would rank ahead of only 4 NHL cities, all of them in Canada: Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg.

The sales tax in Tennessee is 7 percent, and within Shelby County, including Memphis, 9.25 percent, even higher than New York's. ZIP Codes for Memphis start with the digits 380 to 383. The Area Code is 901.

Address numbers on east-west streets increase away from the River, and Madison Avenue separates north from south. The Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA) runs buses and light-rail "trolleys," with a base fare of $1.75, plus 80 cents for each additional zone.
Going In. Federal Express was founded in Memphis, and aside from music companies is the corporation most associated with the city, which has certainly been helped by having bought the naming rights to the main sports arena. The official address of the FedEx Forum is 191 Beale Street, at S. 4th Street.

If you're driving, parking is to the southwest of the arena, at B.B. King Blvd. and Dr. Martin Luther King Avenue, and can be had for as little as $10.  If you're walking in from a downtown hotel, you'll most likely be going in from the north or the west.
The arena opened in 2004, and has been home to the Grizzlies and the University of Memphis (formerly Memphis State University) Tigers basketball team ever since. The Nashville Predators hosted a preseason game there in 2006, and it hosts concerts, boxing and wrestling. The court is laid out east-to-west.
Food. Memphis has a reputation as a city of fine Southern food, particularly barbecue. However, the Grizzlies' focus seems to be on Club Level restaurants, for the well-heeled customer: The Horseshoe Lounge, the Bud Light Bar, the Draft Room and the Blue Note Lounge. You may well be better off eating before and after the game.

Team History Displays. The Vancouver Grizzlies began as an NBA expansion team in 1995 -- only the Charlotte Bobcats/new Hornets are a newer team -- and moved to Memphis in 2001, not making the Playoffs until 2004.

So there isn't much history there. They've never won a title even at the Division level (although they've finished 2nd in 4 out of the last 5 seasons, and won a Playoff series in 3 of the last 6), and have no banners for such titles, don't hang a banner for their 1 visit to the Western Conference Finals (in 2013, where they got swept by San Antonio).

So far, only 2 people associated with the team have been elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame: Hubie Brown, former Knicks head coach, who held the same post with the Grizzlies from 2002 to 2005; and Allen Iverson, who briefly played for them in 2009. However, the Grizzlies have announced that, during the 2017-18 season, they will retire uniform numbers for the 1st time, and dates yet to be announced: 50, forward Zach Randolph, 2009-17; and 9, guard Tony Allen, 2010-17.

The only banners in the arena belong to the University of Memphis basketball team, winning the old Metro Conference in 1982, '84, '85 and '87; winning Conference USA in 2006, '07, '08, '09, '11, '12 and '13; and reaching the NCAA Final Four in 1973, '85 and 2008. However, their 1985 Final Four berth and their 2008 C-USA title and Final Four berth were vacated by NCAA sanctions.

The Memphis Tigers also have 9 retired numbers: From the 1950s, 13, Forest Arnold, and 22, Win Wilfong; from the 1970s, 21, Larry Finch, 33, Ronnie Robinson, 35, Larry Kenon, and 44, John Gunn; from the 1980s, 24, Keith Lee, and 34, Elliott Perry; and from the 1990s, 25, Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway.

Not mentioned in the rafters is the American Basketball Association team known as the Memphis Pros in 1970-71 and 1971-72, the Memphis Tams (For the 3 States in the Memphis metro area: Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi) in 1972-73 and 1973-74, and the Memphis Sounds in 1974-75. They made the Playoffs only in their first and last seasons, and their stars included future New York Nets stars Wendell Ladner and Larry Kenon, future broadcaster Steve "Snapper" Jones, and Darel Carrier, who was named to the ABA All-Time Team (but mainly for what he'd done with the Louisville-based Kentucky Colonels).

Stuff. The Grizzlies Den is located in the arena's Grand Lobby. Whether they sell hats with bear ears on them, I don't know. Smaller souvenir stands are located all around the arena.

As one of the NBA's newer teams, there are no NBA Finals DVD packages for the Grizzlies, and books about them are few and far between. A year ago, Samantha Mugent and Sam Moussavi wrote the Grizzlies' edition for the Inside the NBA series.

During the Game. Memphis people don't like Nashville people. That's about as far as rivalries go there. So as long as you don't make any wiseguy remarks about this being a North vs. South game, you shouldn't face anything beyond the usual nonviolent "My team rocks, your team sucks" talk.

A November 13, 2014 article on DailyRotoHelp ranked the NBA teams' fan bases, and listed the Grizzlies' fans as 22nd. The team has only been around for 16 years, and has reached the Conference Finals exactly once. Their number of Hall of Fame players is exactly none. So there's been little about which for them to get excited about, or for which to generate any atmosphere.

This Sunday's game against the Nets is Kids Day, with a drawstring backpack to the 1st 3,000 fans. The January 17 game against the Knicks will not feature a promotion.

The Grizzlies' mascot is Grizz the Bear, and he won NBA Mascot of the Year in 2011. They don't have a regular National Anthem singer, instead holding auditions. As you might guess in a great music city like Memphis, the Grizzlies have been renowned for their in-game music. DJ Paul, with the town's "Bluff City" nickname in mind, recorded "We Don't Bluff (Memphis Grizzlies Theme)," while another rapper, calling himself Al Kapone, recorded "Whoop That Trick (Grizz Grindhouse Version)."
After the Game. If there was an NBA team in Nashville, Memphis fans wouldn't like them. But they're fine with pretty much everybody else, including their putative geographic rivals in Atlanta, New Orleans and Dallas. Knicks and Nets fans shouldn't get any hassling, as long as they didn't bring it on.

Beale Street, the "capital" of the blues, is not only home to the FedEx Forum but several places to go after the game, including The Hard Rock Cafe at 126, the Blues City Cafe at 138, B.B. King's at 143 (you may be familiar with the New York version on 42nd Street), Rum Boogie Cafe at 182, Silky O'Sullivan's at 183, Coyote Ugly at 326. But I can find no reference

I can find no notations of any bars where fans of New York sports teams are known to gather.

If your game in Memphis is during the European soccer season (which this one is), the likeliest place to watch your favorite club is The Brass Door, 152 Madison Avenue, downtown.

Sidelights. Memphis has its problems, including crime and racial resentments. But, in spite of having only an NBA team, never an MLB team, and never an NFL team except for 1 season, there's still plenty to see there, from the sacred to the gloriously profane.

* Memphis Pyramid. The first arena to lure a major league team to Memphis played on the theme of the origin of the city's name, designed in the shape of an Egyptian-style pyramid. The 20,142-seat arena opened in 1991, and its troubles began immediately: The arena flooded because of poorly-designed drainage.

The Memphis Tigers moved right in for the 1991-92 season, and the arena attracted the moving Vancouver Grizzlies in 2001. It also hosted the 2002 fight in which Lennox Lewis ended the legend of Mike Tyson.

But, even though it was designed with basketball in mind, they apparently hadn't lived up to the NBA's standards, and the Grizzlies only intended to use it as a stopgap arena. At the age of just 13, both the Grizzlies and the Tigers moved to the new FedEx Forum, and the Pyramid's future was in doubt.

This past April, Bass Pro Shops moved into a renovated Pyramid, and opened a megastore there. 1 Bass Pro Drive, at Front Street & Willis Avenue, a mile and a half north of downtown (so the location also wasn't very good). Number 20 bus from downtown.

* Memphis' sports complex. For many years, this location included the Mid-South Fairgrounds, a minor-league ballpark, a football stadium and a sports arena, with Christian Brothers University just to the north. The Fairgrounds and the ballpark are gone, and the arena is closed, but the stadium is still in operation.

Built in 1963 and seating 10,085 people, the Mid-South Coliseum was best known as the home of the city's American Basketball Association franchise, known as the Memphis Pros in their 1st season in town, 1971-72; the Memphis Tams after being bought by Oakland A's owner Charlie Finley, 1972-74; and the Memphis Sounds in their last season, 1974-75, after Finley sold them. They moved to Baltimore to become the Claws, but, still feeling the effects of Finley's mismanagement, folded before ever playing a game in Charm City. The closest they got to a title was 1975 East Division Finals.
Memphis never again got close to attracting an NBA team until after the Pyramid was built, which rendered the Coliseum pretty much obsolete, with half as many seats and no modern amenities.

The Beatles played 2 shows there on August 19, 1966, but the evening show was marred by a firecracker being thrown onstage, leading the bandmembers, concerned over threats due to John Lennon's controversial "We're more popular than Jesus" comment, to think it was a gunshot. (This was 2 years before Martin Luther King was killed in the city, but 3 years after John F. Kennedy was killed in Dallas, and the Beatles really didn't want to go to Dallas.)

Elvis sang at the Coliseum, on March 16 and 20, 1974 and March 20, 1976. In 1997, 20 years after his death, his old band and backup singers (nearly all of them still alive at that point) reunited for the first time at the Coliseum, and presented "Elvis In Concert," with them playing and singing in front of a huge screen showing him from performances such as the 1973 Hawaii concert and from the documentaries Elvis: That's the Way It Is (1970) and Elvis On Tour (1972). A 25th Anniversary show was done at the Pyramid in 2002, and, despite the deaths of some bandmembers, these shows continue to be put together.

The Mid-South Coliseum continued to hold concerts, and remained the South's premier pro wrestling venue (as it had been since the mid-1960s), until, operating at a loss of $1 million a year, it was closed in 2006, but it still stands.

Memphis has never had an NHL or a WHA team. The closest current NHL team is the Nashville Predators, 212 miles away, but the Memphis-Nashville rivalry may complicate rooting interests. The next-closest team is the St. Louis Blues, 283 miles away.

The Liberty Bowl game was played in Philadelphia from 1959 to 1963, and indoors at what's now Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City in 1964, before moving to the brand-new Memphis Memorial Stadium in 1965. The stadium was renamed Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in 1976.
Currently seating 59,308 people, with a slope down to small end-zone seating sections similar to what the old Tampa Stadium "Big Sombrero" had, it's hosted the University of Memphis football team since it opened. It's also briefly been home to several pro football teams: The Memphis Southmen of the World Football League in 1974 and '75, the Memphis Showboats of the USFL in 1984 and '85, the Memphis Mad Dogs of the CFL's ill-advised American experiment in 1995, and the Memphis Maniax of the XFL in 2001. It also hosted the Memphis Rogues of the old North American Soccer League in 1978, '79 and '80.

Most notably, when the Houston Oilers moved in 1996, they intended to play the 1997 and 1998 seasons at the Liberty Bowl, as the Tennessee Oilers, before moving to their new stadium in Nashville, 215 miles to the east, in 1999 as the Tennessee Titans.

But, despite having beaten Nashville to hosting regular-season NFL games, the people of Memphis were not willing to see a team they saw as both a lame duck and belonging to the despised Nashville, which inspired jealousy both as a State capital and as a competitor for the title of Music City, U.S.A. (a name Nashville actually calls itself). Despite going a respectable 8-8 (a fine 6-2 at home), they ended up getting the NFL's smallest crowds -- aside from the 1987 "Scab Bowls" -- since the 1950s. They averaged only 28,028 fans per home game, bottoming out at 17,071 for an October 12 win over Cincinnati. In contrast, they averaged 57,376 on the road. In other words, their road average would nearly have filled the Liberty Bowl, but their home average wouldn't have filled the Pyramid.

So team owner Bud Adams got the message, and figured, if he was going to get less than 40,000 fans to come out anyway, he might as well move to Nashville a year early, and put the team in Vanderbilt University's 41,000-seat stadium for a year until what's now named Nissan Stadium opened. 

American Legion Field opened in 1963, seating 8,800 people, and the new Memphis Blues minor-league baseball team moved in for the 1968 season, and the name was changed to Blues Stadium. The Blues moved out, and the park was dark for 1977, but in 1978 a new version of the Memphis Chicks moved in, and were replaced by the Memphis Redbirds in 1998.

Both the Blues and the Chicks were Class AA teams, while the Redbirds have been a Class AAA team since they arrived. The Blues won Texas League Pennants in 1969 and 1973, just like their parent club at the time did in the National League, the Mets. Those were the only Pennants won at this ballpark.

After the 1977 season, the name of the ballpark was changed to Tim McCarver Stadium, after the native son catcher, then still active. Wanting a more modern facility, the Redbirds opened a new park in 2000, and McCarver Stadium was demolished in 2005. So not only did McCarver have the oddity of having a sports facility named after him while he was not only still alive, but still playing, but, like actress Helen Hayes and the 1st Broadway theater named for her, he actually outlived (and is still outliving at this writing) the ballpark named for him! A park with youth fields is now on the site.
Real grass in the outfield, artificial turf in the infield.

The complex is 5 miles southeast of downtown. The address for the Coliseum is 996 Early Maxwell Blvd., and that of the Bowl is 335 S. Hollywood Street. McCarver Stadium was at Early Maxwell Blvd. and Raymond Skinner Drive. Number 2 or 5 bus.

* AutoZone Park. Seating 14,384 people, this is one of the largest ballparks in the minor leagues. The Memphis Redbirds, a St. Louis Cardinals farm team, have played here since 2000. It also hosted the 1st 2 MLB Civil Rights Games, in 2007 and '08.
As part of the powerful Cardinal system, the Redbirds have won Pennants here in 2000 and 2009, making 12 Pennants for Memphis minor-league teams. 200 Union Street at S. B.B. King Blvd. (formerly 3rd Street), downtown.

* Site of Russwood Park. Memphis' 1st professional ballpark was built in 1896, and, still made mostly of wood, burned down on April 17, 1960, mere hours after a preseason exhibition game between the Chicago White Sox and Cleveland Indians.
The Memphis Chickasaws (or Chicks for short) won Pennants in the Class AA Southern Association in 1903, 1904, 1921, 1924, 1930, 1933, 1953 and 1955. Elvis sang there on the 4th of July 1956, and it hosted professional wrestling crowds of up to 18,000.
The bleachers after the fire

A post office is now on the site, adjacent to the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. 910 Madison Avenue at Pauline Street, about a mile and a half east of downtown. Number 102 bus.

* Martin Park. The Negro Leagues' Memphis Red Sox had a benefactor, black businessman J.B. Martin, so they were one of the few black teams that had their own ballpark. They played at Martin Park from 1923 to 1943, surviving the Great Depression, but not the manpower shortage of World War II.

A hardware store is on the site now. 494 East E.H. Crump Blvd., about 2 miles south of downtown. Bus 4.

According to an April 2014 article in The New York Times, the Yankees are actually the most popular MLB team in Memphis and the immediate environs, while the closest team, the Cardinals (283 miles to the north) are right behind; but the further you get from central Memphis, the more the Cardinals are preferred.

According to an article in the September 2014 edition of The Atlantic, alone among Tennessee's Counties, Shelby County's favorite NFL team is not the closest team, the Nashville-based Tennessee Titans, 212 miles away, reflecting the anti-State capital bias, but the Dallas Cowboys. This is also true for the northwestern corner of Mississippi, close to Memphis, as the rest of the State sides with the New Orleans Saints. Arkansas, however, goes for the Cowboys almost in their entirety, except for the southernmost part, bordering Louisiana, where the Saints are preferred.

Don't count on Memphis ever getting an MLB team, or another NFL team in spite of the built-in rivalry with the Titans. Population-wise, they'd rank 31st in baseball; and 33rd in the NFL, in each case dead last, just as they are in the NBA (30th).

Memphis City FC began play this year, in the National Premier Soccer League, the 4th tier of American soccer. They play at the 2,500-seat Mike Rose Soccer Complex. 9000 E. Shelby Drive, 20 miles southeast of downtown. Public transit doesn't go there.
When Atlanta United takes the field for the start of the 2017 Major League Soccer season, they will be the closest MLS team to Memphis, 383 miles away. Until then, the closest will be Sporting Kansas City, 452 miles, slightly closer than FC Dallas, 454 miles.

* Museums. The FedEx Forum includes the Memphis Rock and Soul Museum. Beale Street, itself, is practically a living museum of music, especially the blues. The Sun Records studio, where Elvis, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins all became stars, has been turned into a museum. 706 Union Street at Marshall Avenue, at the eastern edge of downtown. Also in a former studio, and before that a movie theater, the Stax Museum of American Soul Music is at 910 East Mclemore Avenue, 2 miles southeast of downtown. Number 4 bus.

But Memphis', and perhaps the entire South's, most important museum is The National Civil Rights Museum. It was established at the former Lorraine Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King was shot and killed on April 4, 1968, while visiting Memphis to help striking black sanitation workers. 450 Mulberry Street, a couple of blocks from Memphis Central Station. Number 100 bus. The Mason Temple, where Dr. King gave his last speech -- "I may not get there with you, but I want you to know, tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land!" -- is at 930 Mason Street, a mile and a half south of downtown. Number 57 bus.

The 3 Presidents with connections to Tennessee are all well to the east of Memphis: Andrew Jackson and James Polk in Nashville, and Andrew Johnson in Greenville.

* Elvis sites. Memphis', and indeed Tennessee's, most famous structure isn't the FedEx Forum, or the Lorraine Motel, or Nashville's Ryman Auditorium/original Grand Ole Opry House, or the State House, or Andrew Jackson's Hermitage, or Neyland Stadium or the Thompson-Boling Center on the University of Tennessee campus in Knoxville. It's Elvis Presley's home, open to tours since his ex-wife and executor, Priscilla Presley, ordered it to fund the virtually bankrupt Elvis Presley Enterprises in 1982. (She had to wait until Elvis' father Vernon died, as he was still living there.)

Standing 8 miles south of downtown, a stone's throw from the airport and almost within walking distance of the Mississippi State Line, the name of the property was originally Graceland Farms. The site includes a house built in 1939, by Dr. Thomas Moore, whose wife Ruth was the niece of the farm's namesake, Grace Toof, who inherited it in 1894 from her father, Stephen C. Toof, who ran a commercial printing firm.

The Presley family's 1st home after Elvis got famous is at 1034 Audubon Avenue, but his fans soon visited in large enough numbers that it disturbed the neighbors. Elvis chose Graceland as his new home because it had enough land, nearly 14 acres, to isolate it from the street and its other houses, so his fans wouldn't bother the neighbors. He bought it in March 1957 for $102,500 (about $882,000 in today's money), and, over the next 20 years, sank over $500,000 into building it to his tastes. (Save your jokes.)

3764 Elvis Presley Blvd., which U.S. Route 51 south of downtown had already been named while he was still alive. Take any bus from downtown east to Madison Avenue, then the Number 42 bus. The trip takes a little under an hour. The house at 1034 Audubon is 9 miles southeast of downtown, but it's still a private residence, so don't bother anyone. Number 57 bus.

Elvis Aaron Presley died at Graceland on August 16, 1977 -- and anyone who says he's still alive is either referring to the legacy rather than the man, or is engaging in wishful thinking. (He'd be 83 years old, so he'd probably be dead by now anyway.) He was born on January 8, 1935, in Tupelo, Mississippi, a little over 100 miles to the southeast of Memphis. The city of Tupelo maintains the small house where he was born as a museum. 306 Elvis Presley Drive.

The Presley family first moved to Memphis in 1948. They lived in a rental house at 572 Poplar Avenue, now a vacant lot, just north of downtown. A year later, they moved to the Lauderdale Courts, essentially garden apartments, at 185 Winchester Avenue, Apartment 328. They stayed there until he got his big break in the Summer of 1954. Just north of downtown, near the bridge. Bus 56.

For a few months in late 1954 and early 1955, they rented a house at 2414 Lamar Avenue, on the southeast side of town. Again, Bus 56, but in the opposite direction. They spent early 1956 at another rental, a few blocks away (also via Bus 56) at 1414 Getwell Road. But he was on tour so much, he hardly saw this residence. By May 1956, it was Audubon Avenue; in March 1957, it was Graceland.

Aside from the preceding, Elvis sang in many places in and around Memphis. His first concerts, on July 17, 24 and 31, 1954, were at the Bon Air Club, at 4862 Summer Avenue. (Demolished. Bus 19) His first paid concert is said to have been at the Overton Park Shell (now the Levitt Shell) on July 30, 1954. He played it again on August 10, 1954 and August 5, 1955. 1928 Poplar Avenue. (Bus 50.)

He sang at the Eagle's Nest several times in 1954: August 7 and 27; September 4, 10, 11, 18, 24 and 25; October 1, 6, 9, 13, 15, 29 and 30; November 17 and December 10. Lamar Avenue (U.S. Route 78) and Winchester Road. (Demolished. Now a commercial area near the airport, hence the name. Bus 56 to 69)

He played the Goodwyn Institute on August 14, 1954. (127 Madison Avenue, downtown.) He played Bellevue Park on August 18, 1954. (Now Jesse Turner Park. 1310 S. Bellevue Blvd., or U.S. Route 51 -- which becomes Elvis Presley Blvd. Bus 56 to 42.) He played the VFW Club at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 684 on August 20, 1954. (3709 E. Raines Rd. Bus 36 to 7.) He played the Hippodrome on August 28, 1954. (500 Beale Street, downtown.) He played on a flatbed truck at the opening of the Lamar-Airways Shopping Center on September 9, 1954. The truck's not still there, but the shopping center is. 2268 Lamar Avenue (Route 78) at Park Avenue. (Bus 56.)

He played the James M. Kennedy Veterans Hospital on September 21, 1954. (Now the Memphis VA Medical Center. 1030 Jefferson Avenue, downtown.) He played Memphis State University's auditorium on November 3, 1954. (Now the Michael D. Rose Theatre Lecture Hall at the University of Memphis. 507 University Street. Bus 5.) He played the auditorium at Bethel Springs High School on January 31, 1955. (The school is now defunct, possibly also demolished, and I can't find an address for it.) He played the Chickasaw Ballroom at the Hotel Chisca on March 9, 1956. (272 S. Main Street, downtown.)

The Ellis Auditorium was the scene of Elvis' graduation ceremony from Humes High School in 1953, and many shows he attended as a fan. He performed there on November 13 and December 19, 1955; February 6 and May 15, 1956; and February 25, 1961 -- aside from a benefit for Pearl Harbor survivors in Hawaii the next month, his last shows until the taping of his "1968 Comeback Special." Built in 1926, it was demolished in 1997, and replaced by the Memphis Cook Convention Center. 255 N. Main Street at Exchange Avenue, downtown.

He also played across the river, in West Memphis, Arkansas, at a place called "P and G," on December 8, 1954. I can find no further information about it. This is one of many concerts he gave in Arkansas in his early days, but the rest were considerably farther from Memphis. West Memphis can be reached from downtown by taking the Main Street Trolley from Main at G.E. Patterson to the William Hudson Transit Center, then transferring to Bus 78, the West Memphis Express.

The tallest building in Memphis has little imagination to its name, and, like many other buildings of the 1960s and '70s (in this case, 1965), not much imagination to its style, either. It's named simply 100 North Main, for its address. It's 433 feet tall: Never mind New York City, there are currently 21 buildings in New Jersey that are taller.

Before his daughter Miley became famous, I once joked that Billy Ray Cyrus should revive his career by starring in CSI: Memphis. After My Name Is Earl (not set in Memphis) ran its course, Jason Lee played a cop on Memphis Beat.

Many music-themed movies have used Memphis as both a setting and a film location, including the Johnny Cash story Walk the Line, the Jerry Lee Lewis story Great Balls of Fire, and the pimp-turned-rapper film Hustle and Flow. John Grisham used Memphis as a setting for some of his novels, and The Client, The Firm and The Rainmaker have been filmed there.


Memphis is more than history and music, as important as those things are. It's also the home of an NBA team that, while not yet very successful, has developed quite a following, and is now another good reason to visit this legendary city.