Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Wild Card Game Is the Nightmare Scenario

Last night, the Yankees completed a sweep of the Minnesota Twins, the team they will likely end up facing in the American League Wild Card Game. But the Baltimore Orioles once again rolled over and played dead against the Boston Red Sox.

In spite of their hot streak, the Yankees are 3 games behind the Red Sox with 10 games to play. It is looking more and more as if their appearing in the Wild Card Game is an inevitability, rather than winning the AL Eastern Division.

This is the great fear, the nightmare scenario: That we will go into that game with Joe Girardi as our manager.

Can you trust him to manage that game, and not screw it up? After he's already thrown away 22 games, this season alone, with stupid pitching decisions?

You know as well as I do that no matter how well the starter pitches, Joe will take him out no later than at the conclusion of the 6th inning. And then, who will Joe put in there? Chad Green? No, that would make sense. Tommy Kahnle? David Robertson? I could live with those choices. Chasen Shreve? Giovanny Gallegos? Jonathan Holder? Bryan Mitchell? Dellin Betances, a little too soon -- especially if Joe removes the starter in, rather than after, the 6th?

We're not going to get to the closer -- whether that's Robertson, Betances or Aroldis Chapman -- because Joe is going to screw things up. The bullpen is going to throw gasoline all over the place and light a match, because Joe doesn't know how to handle a pitching staff.

We could go into the 9th inning up 5-0, and I wouldn't trust it, because the guy Joe should have saved for that inning would probably have gotten used before that, and the best Yankees season in at least 5 years (we haven't won a postseason round since 2012) will go down the drain, because we couldn't win between 1 and 7 games earlier in the season that we should have, because Joe can't handle a bullpen.

But he could have handled it a little better, if he had Andrew Miller available to him, instead of the guy we got for him in that dumb trade with the Cleveland Indians last season, Clint Frazier.

Don't tell me Can't Miss Clint can't miss: He has been found out already, and he can't hit major league pitching yet.

Don't tell me Miller is now injured. A, That doesn't mean he would have gotten hurt if he'd stayed a Yankee. B, Even if he did, he still could have made a difference in 4 games before that, and the Yankees would now be 1 game up on The Scum, instead of 3 games back.

So this failure to have the AL East lead with 10 (and no less than 8) games to go is on Girardi, and it is on Cashman.

Because of them, we are, at best, going into the Wild Card Game, which Girardi is going to futz up. I know it. You know it. He knows it. And his players know it. They may tell you they have faith in him, but they're just covering for him.

We are not going to win the World Series this season.

And that is unacceptable.

We need a new field manager. We need a new general manager. And we need them before Opening Day of next season. We need them as soon as this season is over, which should be sometime between 11:00 PM and midnight on October 3, as the Twins celebrate advancing to the AL Division Series.

Because the Yankees are not going to win that game.

If they do, feel free to tell me I was wrong. I would rather be wrong. I would rather have the Yankees be 11 games from winning the World Series on October 4, 2017, than have them be 90 to 100 games from winning the Division, and 9 years without a Pennant, on March 29, 2018.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

How to Be a Giants Fan In Philadelphia -- 2017 Edition

This Sunday afternoon at 1:00, the New York Giants travel down to Philadelphia to play the Eagles in a big NFC East matchup.

Eagle fans, given the choice between beating the Giants or the Dallas Cowboys, but not both, might choose the Cowboys. It really doesn't make much sense, given the geography: The Giants and Eagles are closer than any other Divisional rivals in the NFL. But then, Eagles fans are, well, different.

I attended 17 baseball games at Veterans Stadium, including 2 against the Mets, and an Interleague game against the Yankees. I never had a serious problem at any of them.

I attended 1 football game at The Vet. It was a Giants-Eagles game. It was, in more ways than one, a whole different ballgame. While I wasn't abused myself, I saw some things that sickened me.

Things are a bit better at Lincoln Financial Field, partly because the place hasn't yet developed the kind of sinister atmosphere that The Vet did. Well, maybe I should say, "Give it time."

Before You Go. Philadelphia is just down the road, so it's in the Eastern Time Zone, and you don't have to worry about fiddling with various timepieces. And the weather will be almost identical to what you'd have on the same day in New York. Still, check the combined website for the Philadelphia newspapers, the Inquirer and the Daily News, before you head out.

For the moment, it looks like, for next thursday, temperatures in Philly will be in the high 80s in the afternoon, and the high 60s at night, with no threat of rain. That will be hot. Stay hydrated -- and not with beer.

Tickets. The Eagles averaged 69,596 fans per home game last season. That's over official capacity. Indeed, the Eagles have sold out every home game in the 21st Century. The last one they didn't sell out was on September 12, 1999, the 1st game for both head coach Andy Reid and quarterback Donovan McNabb. So, yes, order your tickets ahead of time.

Seats in the lower level, the 100 sections, are $156 on the sidelines and $138 in the end zone. In the upper level, the 200 sections, they're $76 on the sidelines and $73 in the end zone.

Getting There. It's 99 miles from Times Square in Manhattan to City Hall in Center City Philadelphia, and 96 miles from MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford to Lincoln Financial Field in South Philadelphia.

This is close enough that a typical Giants fan could leave his house, drive to the Meadowlands, pick up some friends, head down to The Linc, watch a game, head back, drop his friends off, and drive home, all within 9 hours. But it's also close enough that you could spend an entire day in Philadelphia, and, hopefully, you've already done this. Having done so many times myself, I can tell you that it's well worth it.

If you are driving, you'll need to get on the New Jersey Turnpike. If you're not "doing the city," but just going to the game, take the Turnpike's Exit 3 to NJ Route 168, which forms part of the Black Horse Pike, to Interstate 295. (The Black Horse Pike later becomes NJ Route 42, US Route 322 and US Route 40, going into Atlantic City. Not to be confused with the White Horse Pike, US Route 30, which also terminates in A.C.)

Take I-295 to Exit 26, which will get you onto Interstate 76 and the Walt Whitman Bridge into Philly. Signs for the sports complex will soon follow, and the park is at 11th Street and Pattison Avenue (though the mailing address is "1 Lincoln Financial Field Way").

From anywhere in New York City, allow 2½ hours for the actual drive, though from North Jersey you might need only 2, and from Central Jersey an hour and a half might suffice. But you'll need at least another half-hour to negotiate the last mile or so, including the parking lot itself.

If you don't want to drive, there are other options, but the best one is the train. Philadelphia is too close to fly, just as flying from New York (from JFK, LaGuardia or Newark) to Boston, Baltimore and Washington, once you factor in fooling around with everything you gotta do at each airport, doesn't really save you much time compared to driving, the bus or the train.

And I strongly recommend not taking the bus. If you do, once you see Philadelphia's Greyhound terminal, at 10th & Filbert Streets in Center City, the nation's 2nd-busiest behind New York's Port Authority Bus Terminal, you'll say to yourself, "I never thought I'd say this, but thank God for Port Authority!"
The Philly terminal is a disgrace. I don't know how many people are in Atlantic City on an average summer day, when both the beaches and the casinos are full (I'm guessing about half a million, or one-third the size of Philly), but it has a permanent population of 40,000 people, compared to the 1.6 million of Philadelphia, and it has a bus station of roughly equal size and far greater cleanliness than Philly's. Besides, Greyhound service out of Newark's Penn Station is very limited, and do you really want to go out of New Jersey into Manhattan just to get across New Jersey into Philadelphia? If you do still want to take it, it's $39, but can drop to $32 with advanced purchase.

If you can afford Amtrak, and that will be $147 round-trip between New York and Philly, it takes about 2 hours to get from Penn Station to the 30th Street Station at 30th & Market Streets, just across the Schuylkill River from Center City.
West front of 30th Street Station, with Center City in background

Unlike the dull post-1963 Penn Station, this building is an Art Deco masterpiece from 1933, and is the former corporate headquarters of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Ironically, it never had the official name "Pennsylvania Station" or the nickname "Penn Station." You might recognize its interior from the Eddie Murphy film Trading Places. (If you can't afford Amtrak, or if you can but you'd rather save money, I'll get to what to do in a minute.)
Interior of 30th Street Station

If you do want to go for it, from 30th Street Station, you can take a cab that will go down I-76, the Schuylkill Expressway, to I-95, the Delaware Expressway, to South Broad Street to the Sports Complex. I would advise against this, though: When I did this for a Yankees-Phillies Interleague game at the Vet in 1999, it was $15. It's probably $25 now.

Instead, you'll need to take the subway, which, like Philly's commuter-rail and bus systems, is run by SEPTA, the SouthEastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority. You might recognize their "S" logo from Trading Places, and the bus that hits Tommy Morrison at the end of Rocky V. You'll have to exit 30th Street Station and cross 30th Street itself to get into the 30th St. station on the Market-Frankford Line.

Philadelphia and Toronto are the only 2 cities left on the North American continent, as far as I know, that still use tokens rather than farecards (or "MetroCards" as New York's MTA calls them) or tickets for their subways. But this past February, they began an experiment with "KeyCards," and will probably phase the tokens out.

One ride on a SEPTA subway train is $2.25, cheaper than New York's, but they don't sell single tokens at booths. They come in packs of 2, 5 and 10, and these packs are damn hard to open. Two cost $3.60; five are $9.00, and a ten-pack costs $18.00. They are also available for bulk purchase.

From 30th Street, take the Market-Frankford Line to 15th Street (that's just one stop), where you'll transfer to the Broad Street Line at City Hall Station. Being a Met fan, you'll notice that the MFL's standard color is blue, while the BSL's is orange. Blue and orange. Don't think that means they want to make Met, Knick or Islander fans feel at home, though.

From City Hall, if you're lucky, you'll get an express train that will make just 2 stops, Walnut-Locust and AT&T (formerly "Pattison" -- yes, they sold naming rights to one of their most important subway stations). But you'll want to save your luck for the game itself, so don't be too disappointed if you get a local, which will make 7 stops: Walnut-Locust, Lombard-South, Ellsworth-Federal, Tasker-Morris, Oregon, Snyder and AT&T. The local should take about 10 minutes, the express perhaps 7 minutes.

If you don't want to take Amtrak, your other rail option is local. At Newark Penn, you can buy a combined New Jersey Transit/SEPTA ticket to get to Center City Philadelphia. Take NJT's Northeast Corridor Line out of Penn Station to the Trenton Transit Center. This station recently completed a renovation that has already turned it from an absolute hole (it was so bad, it made Philly's bus station look like Grand Central) into a modern multimodal transport facility. At Trenton, transfer to the SEPTA commuter rail train that will terminate at Chestnut Hill East, and get off at Suburban Station, at 17th Street & John F. Kennedy Blvd. (which is what Filbert Street is called west of Broad Street). Getting off there, a pedestrian concourse will lead you to the City Hall station on the Broad Street Line, and then just take that to Pattison.
A SEPTA train at 30th Street Station

Because there will be a lot more stops than there are on Amtrak (especially the SEPTA part), it will take 2 hours and 10 minutes, but you'll spend $52 round-trip, about what you'd spend on a same-day purchase on Greyhound, and less than half of what you'd be likely to spend on Amtrak. However, again, time will be an issue: The last SEPTA Trenton Line train of the night that will connect to an NJT train leaves Suburban Station at 11:57 PM (and the NJT train it will connect to won't get to Penn Station until 2:46 AM), so this might not be an option for you this time, either.

The subway's cars are fairly recent, and don't rattle much, although they can be unpleasant on the way back from the game, especially if it's a football game and they're rammed with about 100 Eagles fans who've spent the game sweating and boozing and are still loaded for bear for anyone from outside the Delaware Valley.

SEPTA is now becoming the last major transit authority in America to phase out tokens, although the switch to KeyCards (as they're calling them) is still in progress, so if you have any tokens left over from your last visit, you can (and should) use them.
Once In the City. Philadelphia is a Greek word meaning "brotherly love," a name given to it by its founder, William Penn, in 1683. So the city is nicknamed "The City of Brotherly Love." The actions and words of its sports fans suggest that this is ridiculous.

Giants coach Bill Parcells was once caught on an NFL Films production, during a game with the Eagles at the Vet, saying to Lawrence Taylor, "You know, Lawrence, they call this 'the City of Brotherly Love,' but it's really a banana republic." And Emmitt Smith, who played for that other team Eagles fans love to hate, the Dallas Cowboys, also questioned the name: "They don't got no love for no brothers."
Center City, with the Ben Franklin Bridge in the foreground

On a map, it might look like Penn Square, surrounding City Hall, is the city's centerpoint, but this is just geographic, and only half-refers to addresses. Market Street is the difference between the north-south numbering on the numbered Streets. But the Delaware River is the start for the east-west streets, with Front Street taking the place of 1st Street. Broad Street, which intersects with Market at City Hall/Penn Square, takes the place of 14th Street.
The William Penn statue atop City Hall

In the Colonial and Revolutionary periods, Philadelphia was the largest city in America, before being overtaken by New York. As recently as 1970, it had about 2 million people. But "white flight" after the 1964 North Philadelphia riot led to the population dropping to just over 1.5 million in 2000. It has inched back upward since then. The metro area as a whole -- southeastern Pennsylvania, South Jersey and most of Delaware -- is about 7 million, making it the 6th-largest in the country, behind New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and Boston.

The sales tax is 6 percent in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (Massachusetts, Virginia and Kentucky are also "commonwealths" in their official State names), 8 percent within the City of Philadelphia.

ZIP Codes in Philadelphia start with the digits 191. In the suburbs, it's 189, 190, 193 and 194. The Area Code for the city is 215, and the suburbs 610, with 267 overlaying both, and 445 being added in 2018.

Going In. It's highly unlikely anyone will give you anything more than a little bit of verbal on the subway ride into the Sports Complex, while they might give a little more gusto to the verbal on the ride back. But despite Philly sports fans' reputation, this will not be the equivalent of the London Underground on a Saturday afternoon in the 1980s: They might tell you that your team sucks (even if your team is ahead of theirs in the standings), but that's about the worst you'll get.

The Philadelphia sports complex is at Broad Street and Pattison Avenue, 36 blocks -- 7 miles -- south of City Hall. It once included Sesquicentennial/Municipal/John F. Kennedy Stadium (1926-1992), The Spectrum (1967-2009), and Veterans Stadium (1971-2004). The arena now known as the Wells Fargo Center was built on the site of JFK Stadium. Citizens Bank Park, the new home of the Phillies, was built to the east of The Vet. And Lincoln Financial Field was built south of the new ballpark, and east of the Spectrum.
The old version of the Philly sports complex, on a 1980s postcard.
Top to bottom: The Vet, The Spectrum, JFK Stadium.

There is plenty of parking in the complex, including a lot on the site of  The Vet. But you'll be a lot better off if you take the subway. Not really because of the price of parking, but because traffic is going to be awful.

The first time I went to a sporting event in Philadelphia, it was a 4th of July celebration at the Vet, and 58,000 people showed up to see the Phils face the Houston Astros, with Nolan Ryan pitching. The game and the fireworks combined did not last as long as it took to get out of the parking lot and onto the Walt Whitman Bridge: 2 hours and 40 minutes. Trust me: Take the freakin' subway.

Coming out of the AT&T subway station, you'll walk down Pattison Avenue, with a parking lot on the former site of Veterans Stadium to your left, and the site of the Spectrum to your right. Further to your right is the successor to the Spectrum, the Wells Fargo Center, named for the banking and insurance company. Further to your right is Lincoln Financial Field. You'll be likely to enter either at the north end zone or the west sideline.
The Philly sports complex, prior to The Spectrum's demolition in 2010.
The site of the Vet is now a parking lot, and JFK Stadium has been replaced
by the Wells Fargo Center. On the right, Citizens Bank Park and Lincoln Financial Field.

If you drove in, parking is $35 (nearly double what it is for Phillies games), and the lot on the site of The Vet is among those available. Tailgating is permitted.

The new home of the Eagles has seen them make the Playoffs more often than not, and reach the Super Bowl in the 2004 season. And fan behavior, while still rowdy, is not as criminal as it was at The Vet: No more municipal court under the stands is necessary.
"The Linc" has hosted the Army-Navy Game every year since it opened, except for 2007, 2011 and 2014 and 2016. It's hosted 4 games of the U.S. National Soccer Team, most recently a 1-0 win over Paraguay in the 2016 Copa America; games of the 2003 Women's World Cup, an MLS All-Star Game, and several games by touring European teams such as Manchester United, Glasgow Celtic and A.C. Milan.
It looks a lot taller from the inside, because the field is well below street level.

Inside the stadium, concourses are wide and well-lit, a big departure from The Vet. Escalators are safe and nearly always work, as opposed to the Vet, which did not have escalators, only seemingly-endless ramps. Getting to your seat should be easy.

Sometimes, instead of their usual home green jerseys, they'll wear white ones, especially against the Dallas Cowboys, since there is a myth that the Cowboys don't do well in their blue ones. (Notable in Eagles lore, the Eagles wore white, forcing the Cowboys to wear blue, in the 1980-81 NFC Championship Game and the "4th & 1, twice" game in 1995.) Sometimes, they will wear all-black jerseys, as they did for last year's home game against the Giants.

Food. From the famed Old Original Bookbinder's (125 Walnut Street at 2nd, now closed) and Le Bec Fin (1523 Walnut at 16th) to the Reading Terminal Market (Philly's version of  the South Street Seaport, at 51 N. 12th St at Filbert) to the South Philly cheesesteak giants Pat's, Geno's and Tony Luke's, Philly is a great food city and don't you ever forget it.

The variety of food available at The Linc. Little of it is healthy (no surprise there), but all of it is good. Tony Luke's has a stand (as it also does at the ballpark and the arena). So does Chickie's & Pete's, to sell their fish and their "crab fries" -- French fries with Old Bay seasoning mix, not fries with crabmeat. Also at The Linc are outlets of Bassett's Original Burgers & Fresh Cut Fries, Seasons Pizza, and Melt Down grilled cheese stands.

When The Linc opened, the Eagles instituted a policy that the City had previously allowed at The Vet, which it, not the team, owned: No longer would fans be allowed to bring hoagies (hero/sub sandwiches) into the stadium. The fans revolted, and the old policy was restored, making The Linc one of the few sports venues in North America where you can bring in your own food -- but only hoagies.

Team History Displays. The Eagles' history is pretty bleak for a team over 80 seasons old. They won NFL Championships in 1948, 1949 and 1960 -- and that's it. Their last title was on December 26, 1960 -- nearly 57 years ago. Or, if you prefer, Super Bowl -VI. If you're a fan of an English soccer team, think of it this way: By 4 months, Tottenham Hotspur have won the League more recently than have the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Frankford Yellow Jackets, based in Northeast Philly, won the title in 1926, but although Eagles founders Bert Bell and Lud Wray bought the territorial rights to the NFL in Philly, hardly any players from the last Jackets team of 1931 were on the debut Eagles team of 1933, and the Eagles are officially not considered a continuation of the Jackets. (Even if they were, it doesn't help much: 4 titles in 92 sesaons of play is 1 every 23, while 3 titles in 84 years is 1 every 28.)

But the Eagles do have an outward display, along the roof on the west stand, for those 3 NFL titles, for the 1980 and 2004 NFC Championships, and for their NFL and NFC Eastern Division titles of 1947, 1948, 1949, 1960, 1980, 1988, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2010 and 2013. They do not hang banners for their Wild Card berths of 1978, 1979, 1981, 1989, 1990, 1992, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2008 and 2009.
The Eagles have 9 retired numbers, and they hang banners for them under the roof along the east stand: 5, Donovan McNabb, quarterback, 1999-2009; 15, Steve Van Buren, running back & defensive back, 1944-51; 20, Brian Dawkins, safety, 1996-2008; 40, Tom Brookshier, safety, 1953-61; 44, Pete Retzlaff, running back, 1956-66; 60, Chuck Bednarik, center & linebacker, 1949-62; 70, Al Wistert, two-way tackle, 1943-51; 92, Reggie White, defensive end, 1985-92; and 99, Jerome Brown, defensive tackle, 1987-91. While it is not officially retired, no one has worn the Number 12 of Randall Cunningham, quarterback, 1985-95, since he left the team.
While not on display in the playing area, the team does have an Eagles Hall of Fame (originally named the Eagles Honor Roll) and a 75th Anniversary Team (1933-2008), on display on the stadium concourse. The Honor Roll was founded in 1987, and the initial inductees were every Eagle already in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The 41 inductees are:

* From the Eagles' founding era, 1933-47, but not making it to their title teams immediately thereafter:  Founder-owner Bert Bell, later NFL Commissioner; two-way end Bill Hewitt (better known as a Chicago Bear).

* From the 1948 & 1949 NFL Champions: Bednarik, Van Buren, Wistert, coach Earle "Greasy" Neale, two-way end Pete Pihos, center & defensive tackle Alex Wojciechowicz,

* From the 1960 NFL Champions: Bednarik, Brookshier, Retzlaff, team executive Jim Gallagher, quarterbacks Norm Van Brocklin and Sonny Jurgensen, running back Timmy Brown, receiver Tommy McDonald, linebacker Maxie Baughan and ticket manager Leo Carlin.

* From the 20-year interregnum (not on either the '60 or the '80 team): Running back Ollie Matson, center Jim Ringo, offensive tackle Bob Brown, safety & punter Bill Bradley (no relation to the basketball player turned Senator). From these teams, guard Wade Key and receiver/special teams player Vince Papale (played by Mark Wahlberg in the film Invincible) made the 75th Anniversary Team, but not yet the Honor Roll.

* From the 1980 NFC Champions: Gallagher, Carlin, head coach Dick Vermeil, quarterback Ron Jaworski, running back Wilbert Montgomery, receiver Harold Carmichael, offensive tackles Stan Walters and Jerry Sisemore, linebacker Bill Bergey, trainer Otho Davis, and broadcaster Merrill Reese. From this team, defensive tackle Charlie Johnson made the 75th Anniversary Team.

* From the 1988 NFC East Champions: Gallagher, Davis, Reese, Carlin, Cunningham, White, Brown, receiver Mike Quick, cornerback Eric Allen. From this team, running back Keith Byars, defensive end Clyde Simmons, linebacker Seth Joyner and safety Andre Waters made the 75th Anniversary Team.

* From the teams that reached 4 straight NFC Championship Games, losing in 2001, '02 and '03, and winning in '04: Carlin, Reese, McNabb, Dawkins, defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, linebacker Jeremiah Trotter and cornerback Troy Vincent. From these teams, head coach Andy Reid, running back Bryan Westbrook, guard Shawn Andrews, offensive tackles Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan, kicker David Akers and punter Sean Landeta made the 75th Anniversary Team.

(Landeta also played in Philadelphia for the USFL Champion Stars, on the Giants' Super Bowl XXI and XXV winners, and the St. Louis Rams' Super Bowl XXXIV winners, making the Rams' 10th Anniversary Team for their St. Louis edition.)

Van Buren and White were named to the NFL's 75th Anniversary Team in 1994. They and Bednarik were named to The Sporting News' 100 Greatest Football Players in 1999. White was still active (though no longer an Eagle) for both honors, and all were alive at the time; they're all dead now. Those 3 and Van Brocklin (also dead) were named to the NFL Network's 100 Greatest Players in 2010.

The Eagles are the only one of the 4 teams in the Philly sports complex that don't have any statues honoring players. The obvious choice would be Bednarik: "Concrete Charlie," a World War II air gunner who went to the University of Pennsylvania on the G.I. Bill, and was the only playing link between the Eagles' 1949 (his rookie season) and 1960 titles. He was the last of the "sixty-minute men," playing both offense and defense, including in the '60 season.

If he's not the greatest player in Eagle history, he's a convenient symbol for a Philadelphia team: A son of immigrants, from the tough steel-mill town of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania who beat the Ivy Leaguers at their own game (figuratively and literally), helped win The War, and starred for (for all intents and purposes) the home team. They may have been waiting until his death to commission a statue, but now that he's gone, now's a good time. He did, however, live to see one of him unveiled at Franklin Field.

Stuff. The Linc has a Pro Shop, and there are also outlets in the Market Place at Garden State Park (built on the site of the old horse racing track in Cherry Hill) and in Lancaster (way out in Pennsylvania Dutch Country).

You might be able to buy DVDs and books about the Eagles in said stores. The NFL released Philadelphia Eagles: The Complete History in 2004 (so it's no longer complete, and it came out just before their most recent trip to the Super Bowl). I have this DVD, and it's got some great special features, including a look inside the mind of the Eagle fan (a potentially scary place), NFL Films' productions about the 1948-49 and 1960 title teams, a piece on Dick Vermeil, and a look at Veterans Stadium from its debut as a modern sports palace to its last few years as a symbol of an age of dreams that turned into a nightmare.

The NFL has also released Philadelphia Eagles: 10 Greatest Games. The selection is not comprehensive: None of their NFL Championships are included, and the earliest game is from 1978 -- and, since you're a Giants fan, let me warn you: It's "The Miracle of the Meadowlands." It also includes their 1980 and 2004 NFC Championship Game wins, "The Body Bag Game" against Washington in 1990, the "4th & 26" Playoff win over Green Bay in 2004, a 1995 win over Detroit that remains the highest-scoring game in NFL postseason history (58-37), and notable wins over the Cowboys (beyond that January 11, 1981 conference title clincher) in 2006 and 2008.

Although football isn't the most literary of sports, and Philadelphia not one you would ordinarily consider among America's most intellectually-friendly cities, there are some good books about the Eagles. Bob Gordon wrote The 1960 Philadelphia Eagles: The Team They Said Had Nothing But a Championship. Books about the late Forties' Eagle champs are hard to come by, but there are 2 good bios of Bednarik, who bridged the title teams: Sports Illustrated writer Jack McCallum's 1977 epic Bednarik: Last of the Sixty-Minute Men, and Concrete Charlie: An Oral History of Philadelphia's Greatest Football Legend, Chuck Bednarik, a 2009 piece by Ken Safarowic and Eli Kowalski. (The nickname comes not from his legendary toughness, but from the fact that, in those days when an athlete needed an off-season job to make ends meet, Bednarik sold concrete.

If you really want to get a feel for Philly sports, not just the Eagles, get these 3, all co-written by WIP host Glen Macnow with one of his colleagues: The Great Philadelphia Fan Book with Anthony Gargano, The Great Philadelphia Sports Debate with Angelo Cataldi (who is Philly's answer to Mike & the Mad Dog, all in one guy), and The Great Book of Philadelphia Sports Lists, with Ed Gudonis, a.k.a. Big Daddy Graham, also a Philly and Jersey Shore-based standup comic and a great guy who writes a regular column for Philadelphia magazine. And Jere Longman, writing from the perspective of a long-suffering Eagle fan, published If Football Is a Religion, Why Don't We Have a Prayer? in 2009.

During the Game. Unlike most venues in North American sports, an Eagles home game -- and a Flyers home game, but not so much the Phillies and 76ers -- carries with it the specter of fan violence. In fact, with the possible exception of the Oakland Raiders, no NFL fan base is more renowned for being threatening.

A recent Thrillist article named Eagles fans as the 5th most obnoxious in the NFL -- ahead of the Giants at 8th, but behind New England, Oakland, Dallas and, believe it or not, in 4th, the Jets. The article cites the jail cell and municipal court that were set up in the basement of The Vet, and says, "Eagles fans are the people who get into fights at an 8-year-old girls' T-ball game, possibly with an 8-year-old girl. They just enjoy spite and hatefulness for the sake of spite and hatefulness."

Chances are, you won't get anything more than some verbal abuse. But if even only 1 fan out of every 1,000 is willing to fight, you're still talking about nearly 70 people -- and a few of them might be together.
This is one time I would recommend not wearing your hometown team's gear on the road -- unless it's one of those blue Giants hard hats.
Then again, the Giants hard hat might not help.

The Eagles hold auditions for National Anthem singers, instead of having a regular. The chant of "E-A-G-L-E-S, Eagles!" will go up about 100 times during the game. When the Eagles score, they play their fight song, "Fly, Eagles, Fly." It's not a great recording, and it's not great lyrics, but it's at least as memorable as "Bear Down, Chicago Bears," if not "Hail to the Redskins."
Swoop leading the team onto the field

The Eagles' mascot is Swoop, a guy in an Eagle suit. They also have an unofficial mascot, a guy who comes to Eagles games wearing an Eagles jersey, an Eagles helmet, a cape, a black Lone Ranger-style mask, and a beak mask over his nose. He calls himself "Birdman," and he squawks and shrieks like a bird of prey.

Unlike the character played by the actor played by Michael Keaton in the recent film Birdman, he's not really a superhero. Fortunately, he's not a supervillain, either. He won't hurt you. In fact, he carries spare beak masks, and gives a Beak of the Week out to a selected fan at every home game.

"I call myself a 'fanscot,'" says the man behind the masks, Joseph Ripley, a contractor living in nearby Gloucester County, New Jersey, "because I'm not an official mascot, but I'm more than an average fan." He's been coming in costume since 1997.
The Eagles also have Sign Man. Unlike Birdman, I can't find a real name for him, but he's been quoted as calling himself a season-ticketholder for over 40 years, which means he might go all the way back to the Franklin Field years.

He operates with signs much bigger than the late Carl Ehrhardt, the Mets' Sign Man of the 1960s and '70s. His signs used to drape the facing of an entire section at The Vet, but the way The Linc is built, it's a little harder to have signs that long. He still gets his message across: All through 2012, he made signs telling coach Andy Reid to quit, or telling the team to fire him. (He got his wish: Reid was fired at the end of the season.)
After the Game. Philadelphia is a big city, with all the difficulties of big cities as well as many of the perks of them. Especially at night, the risk of Eagle fans getting rough increases, as they've had time to drink, but not by much. Again, don't antagonize them, especially if the Giants win, and you'll probably be okay.

What you should do at the end of the game depends on what time it is and how you got there. If it's a regular Sunday afternoon game (a 1:00 or 4:00 start) and you took the train(s) down, you shouldn't have too much trouble getting back onto the subway, and to Suburban Station, in time to catch a SEPTA Trenton Line train, and then an NJT train at Trenton back to New Jersey or New York City. If it's a Sunday or Monday night game, then you may have problems, as I outlined above.

However, this game is set for an 8:25 PM kickoff. It will probably end after 11:30 PM, and you won't get back to Suburban Station in time for the last SEPTA train. And since it's a Thursday night, as I've already advised you, public transit really isn't an option this time. So, if you've followed my suggestions, you've driven down, and can just drive right home.

If you drove down, and you want to stop off for a late dinner and/or drinks (except, of course, for the designated driver), the nearby Holiday Inn at 9th Street & Packer Avenue has a bar that is co-owned by former Eagles quarterback, now ESPN pundit, Ron Jaworski. As I mentioned earlier, the original outlet of Chickie's & Pete's is at 15th & Packer. Right next to it is a celebrated joint, named, appropriately enough, Celebre Pizzeria.

The legendary Pat's and Geno's Steaks, arch-rivals as intense as any local sports opponents, are across 9th Street from each other at Passyunk Avenue in the Italian Market area. My preference is Pat's, but Geno's is also very good. Be advised, though, that the lines at both are of Shake Shack length, because people know they're that good.
Also, Pat's was the original "Soup Nazi": You have to have your cash ready, and you have to quickly order your topping, your style of cheese, and either "wit" or "widdout" -- with or without onions. I haven't been there in a while, but I've been there often enough that I have a "usual": "Mushroom, whiz, wit."

Both Pat's and Geno's are open 24 hours, but, because of the length of the line, unless you drove down to the game, I would recommend not going there after the game, only before (if you can make time for it). Broad Street Line to Ellsworth-Federal, then 5 blocks east on Federal, and 1 block south on 9th.
Yes, Pat's and Geno's are both open 24 hours a day.

The Tavern on Broad, at 200 S. Broad Street at Walnut, seems to be the headquarters of the local Giants fan club. Another supposed Giant fan spot is the Fox & Hound, at 1501 Spruce in Center City. Revolution House, in Old City at 200 Market Street, is supposedly Jets country. A particular favorite Philly restaurant of mine is the New Deck Tavern, at 3408 Sansom Street in University City, on the Penn campus.

You can also pick up a sandwich, a snack or a drink at any of several Wawa stores in and around the city. If you came in via Suburban Station, there's one at 1707 Arch, a 5-minute walk away; if the game lasts 3 hours or less, you have a shot at getting in, getting your order, getting out, and getting back to the station in time to catch your train.

If your visit to Philly is during the European soccer season (which is in progress), you can probably watch your favorite club at Fadó Irish Pub, at 1500 Locust Street in Center City. Be advised that this is home to supporters' groups for Manchester United, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Celtic FC; so if you're not particularly fond of any of those teams, you might want to stay away.

Sidelights. The Philadelphia sports complex once included 3 buildings that have all been replaced and demolished: From north to south, the Vet, the Spectrum and JFK Stadium. The arena now known as the Wells Fargo Center was built on the site of JFK Stadium. Citizens Bank Park, the new home of the Phillies, was built to the east of The Vet. And Lincoln Financial Field was built south of the new ballpark, and east of the Spectrum.

UPDATE: On February 3, 2017, Thrillist made a list ranking the 30 NFL cities (New York and Los Angeles each having 2 teams), and Philadelphia came in 13th, in the top half. They said:

As a nation, we have a tendency to reduce Philadelphia to this caricature composed solely of cheesesteak- and Yuengling-scented WIP callers engaging in some casual afternoon drive-time racism before heading out to prepare for their nightly bar fights. This criminally overlooks the fact that Philly has a restaurant scene few cities can touch, an abundance of delicious and affordably priced pretzels, and a bunch of super-friendly people who will happily take your picture next to the ROCKY statue even though you're acting like a damn tourist. Only thing is, well, those aforementioned people still exist, too.

Here are some of Philly's highlights, sports and otherwise:

* Sesquicentennial/Municipal/JFK Stadium. Built in 1926 for a 150th Anniversary (Sesquicentennial of American independence) world's fair in Philadelphia, this 105,000-seat horseshoe (open at the north end) was designed for football, but one of its earliest events was a fight for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. For the 1st time, that title changed hands on a decision, rather than on a knockout. But Gene Tunney so decisively outfought champion Jack Dempsey that no one disputed it. (When they had their rematch a year later, at Soldier Field in Chicago, that was another story.)

The stadium was renamed Municipal Stadium in 1931 (sometimes it was called simply Philadelphia Stadium), and, due to being (roughly) halfway between the service academies, became the site of the Army-Navy Game from 1936 to 1941, and again from 1945 to 1979, before it was moved to The Vet.

The Eagles played home games there from 1936 to 1939, and select games thereafter, including the 1950 season opener that was, as soccer fans would call it, a "Charity Shield" game: The 2-time defending NFL Champion Eagles vs. the Cleveland Browns, 4-time titlists in the All-America Football Conference. The Browns were 47-4-3 over the AAFC's 4-season history; the Eagles, 22-3-1 over the last 2 years, thanks to a 5-2 alignment that was the 1st defensive unit to have a memorable nickname: Before San Diego and Los Angeles had a Fearsome Foursome, Philly had a Suicide Seven.

Some people then called it "The Game of the Century," and some now think of as an unofficial "first Super Bowl" -- ironic, since neither team has won an NFL Championship in the Super Bowl era, and the Browns haven't even been to a Super Bowl yet. Playing on a Saturday night -- making it, sort of, not just "the 1st Super Bowl" but "the 1st Monday Night Football game" -- in front of 71,237 fans, still the largest crowd ever to watch a football game in Philadelphia (and nearly double the capacity of Shibe Park, which really limited the Eagles' attendance), the Browns beat the Eagles 35-10, stunning football fans all over the nation. The Eagles never recovered, while the Browns won the NFL title that year, and appeared in 7 title games in 8 years, winning 3.

In 1964, Municipal Stadium was renamed John F. Kennedy Stadium. On August 16, 1966, the Beatles played there. On July 13, 1985, it hosted the American end of Live Aid. But that show exposed to the world that it already falling apart. The Rolling Stones, who had packed the place on their 1981 Tattoo You tour, chose the considerably smaller Vet for Steel Wheels in 1989. It was demolished in 1992, and the new arena opened on the site in 1996.

* The Spectrum. This modern (for its time) arena opened in 1967, and 2 teams at the opposite ends of the competitive, uh, spectrum moved in: The 76ers, the NBA's defending Champions; and the Flyers, an NHL expansion team. Although the Flyers won inspirational (and confrontational) Stanley Cups in 1974 and '75, they also lost in the Finals in 1976, '80, '85 and '87. And while the Sixers won the 1983 NBA title in a dominating season-long performance, they also lost in the Finals in 1977, '80 and '82, and were lost after a couple of puzzling Draft Day trades in 1986.

The Spectrum hosted the NCAA Final Four in 1976 and 1981, both times won by Bobby Knight's Indiana. Since 1976 was the Bicentennial year, it also hosted the NBA and NHL All-Star Games. The Vet also hosted baseball's All-Star Game that year. And the Spectrum was the site of both fights between Philly native Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed, the former in the first Rocky, on New Year's Day 1976, and the latter in Rocky II, on Thanksgiving of that year. (All the movies' fights were actually filmed at the Los Angeles Sports Arena, due to its proximity to Hollywood.)

The Spectrum was also a big arena for college basketball: Villanova used it for home games that were too big for its on-campus Pavilion, the Atlantic 10 Conference used it for its tournament, and it hosted NCAA Tournament games at the sub-Final Four level, including the 1992 thriller that put Duke into the Final Four at Kentucky's expense, thanks to the last-second shot of Christian Laettner. The first rock concert there was by Cream, on their 1968 farewell tour. The last, and the last public event there, was by Pearl Jam in 2009.

Elvis Presley sang at The Spectrum on November 8, 1971; June 23, 1974 (2 shows), June 28, 1976; and May 28 1977.

The Spectrum became, in the words of its promoters, "America's Showplace" and the most-used sports arena in the world. This was a blessing and a curse: They could make a lot of money off of it, but it was limited. So Spectacor, the company that owned the Spectrum and the Sixers, built Spectrum II -- which, in a series of naming-rights changes due to bigger banks swallowing old ones, became the CoreStates Center, the First Union Center (Flyer fans loved calling it "the F.U. Center"), the Wachovia Center and now the Wells Fargo Center.

From 1996 to 2009, the arenas stood side-by-side. The main Spectrum tenants said goodbye as follows: The Flyers with an exhibition game on September 27, 2008, with all their former Captains on hand, as the Fly Guys beat the Carolina Hurricanes 4-2; Villanova with the building's last college basketball game on January 28, 2009, a win over the University of Pittsburgh; and on March 13, 2009, the Sixers beat the Chicago Bulls 104-101 in a special regular-season game.

The Spectrum was demolished the next year, and replaced in part with a live concert venue called "Xfinity Live!" (Yes, the exclamation point is included in the official name.) This structure now hosts the statues that were outside the Spectrum. A hotel is planned for the rest of the Spectrum site.

* Veterans Stadium. When it opened on April 10, 1971, it was considered state of the art and wonderful. And, as the Phillies had a great team from 1976 to 1983, reaching 6 postseasons in 8 years, winning 2 Pennants and the 1980 World Series, it became beloved by Phils fans. The Eagles, too, had a resurgence in the late 1970s, and hosted and won the 1980 NFC Championship Game. The Vet was seen as everything that Connie Mack Stadium was not: New instead of old, in good shape instead of falling apart, in a safe place (unless you were a New York Giants or Dallas Cowboys fan) instead of a ghetto, and representative of victory instead of defeat.
The Vet set up for baseball in the 1970s

The Eagles had a down period in the mid-1980s, but rebounded toward the end of the decade. But the Phils had collapsed, and the Vet's faults began to be seen: It was ugly, the sight lines were bad for baseball, and the turf was bad for everything, from eyes to knees. By the time the Phils won the Pennant in 1993, Camden Yards had opened just down the road in Baltimore, and suddenly everyone wanted a "retro park," and no one wanted a "cookie-cutter stadium."
The Vet set up for football in the 1990s

It took a few more years, and a lot of complaints from opposing NFL players that the stadium was deteriorating and the turf was dangerous, for a new stadium to be approved. The Eagles closed the Vet out with a shocking and devastating loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2002 NFC Championship Game, and the Phils did so with a loss to the Atlanta Braves on September 28, 2003. The Eagles had already moved into their new stadium by that point, and the Phils moved into theirs the next April, a few days after the Vet's demolition. The baseball and football sculptures that were outside have been placed on Pattison Avenue, in front of the parking lot where the Vet once stood.

The Vet hosted the Army-Navy Game every year from 1980 to 2001, except for 1983, 1989, 1993, 1997 and 2000. (The 1983 game was played at the Rose Bowl, the 2000 game at the new Ravens' stadium in Baltimore, and the rest, as well as the 2002 game, at the Meadowlands.) Various pro soccer teams, including the North American Soccer League's Philadelphia Atoms, also played there.

* Citizens Bank Park. It opened in 2004, and the Phils were in the Playoff race until September that year. In 2005 and '06, they were in it until the last weekend. In 2007, they won the Division. In 2008, they won the World Series. In 2009, they won another Pennant. In 2010 and '11, they won the Division -- 5 straight Playoff berths, and 8 seasons in the ballpark with all good-to-great seasons. Only in 2012, when injuries flurried in and the team suddenly seemed to get old all at once, did the bad times return, and it doesn't look like they're going away anytime soon.

Baker Bowl was a dump. Shibe Park/Connie Mack Stadium was already neglected due to Mack's strapped finances by the time the Phils arrived, and by the time they left the neighborhood was a ghastly ghetto. The Vet was a football stadium. CBP is a ballpark, and a great one. (Okay, on January 2, 2012, it was a hockey rink. To make matters worse, the Flyers lost to the one team I would want them to beat, the Rangers.)

"The Bank" has statues of Phils greats like Richie Ashburn and Mike Schmidt, great food like Greg Luzinski's Bull's Barbecue, and lots and lots of souvenirs, some of which don't involve the Phillie Phanatic. And, with the Phils now being terrible, tickets are easier to get.

* Wells Fargo Center. Home to the 76ers and Flyers since 1996, it's a very modern arena, and if you're a Devils fan you'll notice that it seems to have been the one on whose design the Prudential Center is based.

This building is 19 years old, and is now under its 5th name. It was built on the site of John F. Kennedy Stadium, formerly Municipal Stadium, a 105,000-seat structure that hosted all kinds of events, from the Army-Navy Game to heavyweight title fights (Gene Tunney taking the title away from Jack Dempsey in 1926 and Rocky Marciano doing the same to Jersey Joe Walcott in 1952), from the occasional Eagles game that was too big for Shibe Park in the 1940s and '50s to the U.S. half of Live Aid in 1985. And it hosted the Phils' victory celebration in 1980, with its huge capacity coming in handy. By that point, it was crumbling, and it surprised no one when it was demolished to make way for the new arena.

The Wells Fargo Center hosts some Villanova University basketball home games, and it hosted the NCAA's hockey version of the Final Four, the Frozen Four, in 2014. The Republican Party nominated George W. Bush for President at their Convention there in 2000. The Democratic Party nominated Hillary Clinton there this past Summer.

* Site of Shibe Park/Connie Mack Stadium. The A's played at 33,608-seat Shibe Park from 1909 to 1954, the Phils from 1938 to 1970, and the Eagles in 1940, and from 1944 to 1957. The name was changed to Connie Mack Stadium in 1952. The A's played World Series there in 1910, '11, '12, '13, '14, '29, '30 and '31, and the Phils (against the Yanks) in '50.

The Eagles played and won the 1948 NFL Championship Game there, beating the Chicago Cardinals 7-0 in a snowstorm, and also won the NFL title in '49 (though the title game was played in Los Angeles against the Rams). The Frankford Yellow Jackets sometimes used it in the 1920s, winning the 1926 NFL Championship. On October 14, 1948, shortly after Israel declared its independence, its national soccer team faced the U.S. at Shibe Park, shortly after doing so at Yankee Stadium. These were Israel's 1st 2 matches, and the U.S. won them both.
The 1948 NFL Championship Game at Shibe Park.
The Eagles wore white, the Cardinals red.

A fire gutted the place in 1971, and it was demolished in 1976. It remained an empty lot until Deliverance Evangelistic Church was built on the site in 1991. Across the street is Dobbins Tech, a high school known for its great basketball program. (Remember the story of Hank Gathers and Bo Kimble? They went to Dobbins. So did Dawn Staley.)

Be advised, though, that this is North Philly, and the church is easily the nicest building for several blocks around. 21st Street & Lehigh Avenue. By subway, use the North Philadelphia station on the Broad Street Line, and walk 7 blocks west on Lehigh.

* Site of Baker Bowl. This was where the Phils played from 1887 to 1938, and the Eagles from 1933 to 1943 (though sometimes moving to Municipal Stadium, the one renamed for JFK). It was also the Eagles' 1st home, in the 1933, '34 and '35 seasons; and their predecessor franchise, the Frankford Yellow Jackets, played their last season there, 1931.
It was the last 19th Century ballpark still in use, and the last wooden one, too. On August 6, 1894, the original version, named the Huntingdon Avenue Grounds, burned down, fortunately while the Phils were on the road. After a quick build of makeshift stands, and 6 games at the University of Pennsylvania's field at 39th & Spruce Streets, the Phils moved back in on August 18. After the season, it was rebuilt for 1895, with 2 cantilevered steel decks, seating 18,800 -- big for the time, but woefully inadequate following the ballpark building boom of the Taft and Wilson years. It was named for team owner William F. Baker.

On August 8, 1903, a balcony collapsed at Baker Bowl, killing 12 people -- the closest North American sports has ever come to the kind of stadium disasters that have fallen soccer stadiums in Britain and continental Europe. The Phillies then played 16 home games at Columbia Park while Baker Bowl was being repaired.

On May 14, 1927, rotting timbers, weakened further by rainfall, caused a section of Baker Bowl's right field upper deck to collapse. Incredibly, no one was killed, but the resulting stampede injured 50 people, and 1 man died of a heart attack. Again, the Phils groundshared with the A's on a temporary basis, before moving in permanently during the 1938 season.

Because of the shape of the land, the right-field foul pole was just 280 feet from home plate, and so a high fence was erected. The fence was tall enough for a giant soap ad, reading, "The Phillies use LIFEBUOY." The joke was, "And they still stink!"

It was not kept up well, and the Reading Railroad tunnel gave center field a bit of a rise. Baker Bowl became known as The Dump By the Hump. The team was just as bad: In the site's 52 seasons of use, only once did the Phils win a Pennant, and only 1 World Series was played there. That was in 1915, and the Phils lost to the Boston Red Sox. But Game 2 was attended by President Woodrow Wilson, making Baker Bowl the 1st ballpark to host both a World Series and a President of the United States at the same time.

It was used for "midget auto" racing until it was finally demolished in 1950 -- ironically, the year the "Whiz Kids" Phils won the Pennant 7 blocks away at Shibe Park. Retail now occupies the site. Southwest corner of Broad Street and Lehigh Avenue. Same subway stop as Shibe/Connie Mack.

* Site of Columbia Park. The A's original home was in a section of North Philly called Brewerytown, on Columbia Avenue at 29th Street. It was a 13,600-seat wooden structure with a right field fence that, like Baker Bowl's, was only 280 feet from home plate. Here, the A's won the Pennant in 1902 and 1905.

When the A's built Shibe Park in 1908-09, the sod was transplanted from Columbia Park. After lying vacant for a few years, it was torn down, and the familiar Philly-style row houses were built on the site. Columbia Avenue, and its stop on the Broad Street Line, were renamed for Philadelphia civil rights leader and City Councilman Cecil B. Moore Avenue following his death in 1979. 2900 Cecil B. Moore Avenue.

* Recreation Park. Perhaps the 1st home of baseball in Philadelphia, the site was used at least as far back as 1860. It was the 1st home of the Phillies, from 1883 to 1886. By 1890, the 6,500-seat wooden grandstand was gone. Row houses and 2 churches now occupy the site. 2400 Ridge Avenue.

* Jefferson Street Grounds. The 1st home of openly professional baseball in Philadelphia, the original Philadelphia Athletics played there in the National Association from 1871 to 1875, and in the National League in 1876, before being kicked out of the League. From 1883 (a Pennant year for them) until 1890 (when they folded), it was the home of the American Association's version of the Philadelphia Athletics. (Neither of these Athletics have any connection but name to the American League team now based in Oakland.)

The 1st game in NL history was played at this 5,000-seat wooden facility, on April 22, 1876, and the Athletics lost 6-5 to the Boston Red Stockings (forerunners of the Atlanta Braves.) It was demolished sometime after 1890, and a school named Camelot Academy, including, appropriately enough, athletic fields, is now on the site. 1435 N. 26th Street, also in Brewerytown. The sites of Columbia Park, Recreation Park, and the Jefferson Street Grounds all can be reached by Bus 3, 7 or 48 from Cecil B. Moore stop on the Broad Street Line.

If you're going to any of these old ballpark sites, do it in daylight.

* The Palestra. Built in 1927, this is the arena aptly nicknamed the Cathedral of Basketball. It even has stained-glass windows. (I swear, I am not making that up.) The home gymnasium of the University of Pennsylvania (or just "Penn"), it also hosts some games of Philly's informal "Big 5" basketball programs when they play each other: Penn, Temple, La Salle, St. Joseph's and Villanova.
Penn, a member of the Ivy League, has one of the nicest college campuses anywhere, but do not be fooled by its Ivyness: In Philadelphia, even the Ivy Leaguers are tough. 235 South 33rd Street, a mile and a half west of City Hall. Take the "Subway-Surface Line" trolley, either the Number 11, 13, 34 or 36, to the 33rd Street stop.
As I said, Philadelphia has hosted 2 NCAA Final Fours, both at the Spectrum. 'Nova has made it 4 times: 1939, 1971, 1985 and 2009. La Salle made it in back-to-back years, 1954 and 1955. Temple made it in 1956 and 1958, although never under legendary coach John Chaney. St. Joe's made it in 1961, and just missed in 2004. Penn made it in 1979, under future Detroit Pistons coach Chuck Daly. Temple won the NIT in 1938, but the only Philly-based National Champions under the NCAA banner (which began in 1939) are La Salle in 1954 and 'Nova in 1985.

* Franklin Field, right next to the Palestra. The oldest continuously-used college football site, Penn has played here since 1895 (which is also when the Penn Relay Carnival, the nation's premier track-and-field event, began), and in the current stadium since 1922. That year, it supposedly hosted the first football game ever broadcast on radio (a claim the University of Pittsburgh disputes), and in 1939 it supposedly hosted the first football game ever televised (a claim New York's Columbia University disputes). The amazing building in the west end zone is the University administration building.

The original Franklin Field was the 1st midpoint/neutral site game for Army vs. Navy: 1899 to 1904, 1906 to 1912, and 1914. The current structure hosted it in 1922, and 1932 to 1935, before it was moved to Municipal/JFK Stadium.
The Eagles played here from 1958 to 1970, including their last NFL Championship, December 26, 1960, beating the Green Bay Packers in a thriller, 17-13. Half a century. Penn's football team has been considerably more successful, having won 14 Ivy League titles since the league was formally founded in 1955.
The stadium is in surprisingly good shape (must be all those Penn/Wharton Business School grads donating for its upkeep), although the playing field has been artificial turf since 1969. Same trolley stop as the Palestra.

* Site of the Philadelphia Civic Center. This complex included the Convention Hall, where Franklin D. Roosevelt was nominated for President by the Democrats in 1936, Wendell Willkie by the Republicans in 1940 and both Harry Truman and Thomas E. Dewey were nominated in 1948 – that year's Republican Convention being the first televised convention. It was built on the site of the Exposition Auditorium, where the Republicans renominated William McKinley in 1900.

(The Democrats met in Atlantic City at the Convention Hall, now named Boardwalk Hall, in 1964, nominating Lyndon Johnson. 2301 Boardwalk at Mississippi Avenue. New Jersey Transit Atlantic City Line from 30th Street Station. The Beatles played there a few days before.)

The Beatles played here on September 2, 1964. Pope John Paul II said Mass here. The Philadelphia Warriors played here from 1952 to 1962, when they moved to San Francisco (and now the "Golden State Warriors" play in Oakland), and the 76ers from 1963 until the Spectrum opened in 1967. Titles were won here by the 1956 Warriors and the 1967 76ers. The Philadelphia Blazers played the 1st World Hockey Association season here, 1972-73, but were terrible, and with the Flyers on the way up, nobody wanted to see the WHA team. They moved to Vancouver the next season.

So many Philly area greats played here, in high school, college and the pros, but you need know one name -- pardon the pun -- above all others: Wilt Chamberlain. I saw a concert here in 1989, and the acoustics were phenomenal, with a horseshoe of seats and a stage at one end, much like Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City and the building once known as the Baltimore Civic Center.

Built in 1931, it was demolished in 2005 to make way for the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine. an addition to the University of Pennsylvania Hospital. 34th Street & Civic Center Boulevard. Same stop as the Palestra and Franklin Field, which are a block away.

* Site of Philadelphia Arena. Built in 1920, this was the first home of the NBA's Warriors from 1946 to 1952, and site of some 76ers home games as well. It seated only 6,500 at its peak, so the Civic Center and later the Spectrum were preferable.

The Arena made its name hosting college hockey: Penn playing there was understandable, but, at the time, Princeton and even faraway Yale did not have their own rinks, and used the Arena as home ice.

The worst team in NHL history played there: The 1930-31 Philadelphia Quakers. After 5 seasons as the Pittsburgh Pirates, they clowned their way to a record of 4 wins, 40 losses and 4 ties, making them about as bad as the worst team in NBA history, the 1972-73 76ers (9-73). They were strapped during this 2nd indoor sports season of the Great Depression, and went out of business thereafter. Although several minor-league teams would play at the Arena -- the Arrows, the Comets, the Ramblers, the Falcons and the Rockets -- it would not be until 1967, with the opening of the Spectrum and the beginning of the Flyers, that Philly would have another NHL team.

Baseball pitcher-turned-evangelist Billy Sunday delivered sermons there in the 1920s,, and Charles Lindbergh used it for an America First speech in 1940. Early in his career, Elvis sang at the Arena on back-to-back days, doing 2 shows each on April 5 and 6, 1957.

Philly's ABC affiliate, Channel 6, formerly WFIL and now WPVI, built its studio next-door. It still stands. The Arena does not: It caught fire on August 24, 1983, and had to be demolished. A housing project is on the site today. 4530 Market Street. Market Street Line to 46th Street.

* Talen Energy Stadium. Built in 2010 for the expansion Philadelphia Union of Major League Soccer, and named PPL Park until last year when PPL was bought by Talen Energy, it seats 18,500 people, on the bank of the Delaware River in Chester, under the Commodore Barry Bridge (U.S. Route 222), linking it with Gloucester County, New Jersey.

The main supporters' section is called the River End, and is home to The Sons of Ben. The group named themselves after Benjamin Franklin, and they created an alternate logo for the team, showing a skull, with a Liberty Bell-style crack in it, wearing Franklin's hairstyle and bifocals, on a kite-shaped background. Of course, fans of the rival New York Red Bulls and D.C. United tend to call them The Daughters of Betsy -- after Ross. The U.S. national team played Colombia there on October 12, 2010, but lost.

1 Stadium Drive, in Chester. SEPTA Wilmington/Newark Line train to the Chester Transportation Center, then shuttle buses will leave for the stadium every 20 minutes. If you're only going for a visit, not a game when there would be plenty of police protection, do not visit at night: Chester can be a dangerous city.

* Site of Frankford Stadium. Philadelphia's 1st pro football team was the Frankford Yellow Jackets, who played at Frankford Stadium in Northeast Philly from 1924 to 1930, winning the 1926 NFL Championship, before a fire on the eve of the 1931 season forced them into Baker Bowl and then into folding. 
This is the only picture I could find of the place.
The NFL wasn't exactly "major league" in the 1920s.

The stadium was on a plot bounded by Frankford Avenue, Devereaux Avenue, Hawthorne Street and Benner Street. An AutoZone (at 6137 Frankford) and rowhouses are on the site now. Market-Frankford Line to Frankford Transportation Center, then transfer to SEPTA Bus 66 Frankford & Harbison Avenues.

In addition to the Yellow Jackets, another ill-fated team played in Eastern Pennsylvania in the NFL's early days. The Pottsville Maroons played at the 5,000-seat Minersville Park, at the intersection of Sunbury Road and Prison Road, 106 miles northwest of Philly, from 1920 to 1928. They claimed the 1925 NFL Championship, but may have been "robbed" of the title.

* Site of Broadwood Hotel. From 1924 to 1991, this hotel stood at the intersection of Broad and Wood Streets, just north of Center City. From 1924 to 1946, its ballroom was the home of the Philadelphia SPHAs -- a basketball team run by the South Philadelphia Hebrew Association, even though it wasn't in South Philly. This team would evolve into the Warriors. A parking deck for Hahnemann University Hospital is on the site now. Broad Street Line to Race-Vine.

* Site of Cherry Hill Arena. Before the Devils, the 1st hockey team with major league pretensions to call New Jersey home was actually in South Jersey. In the 1973-74 World Hockey Association season, the former New York Raiders set up shop at the Cherry Hill Arena in Bergen County, and renamed themselves the Jersey Knights.

The building went up in 1959 as the Ice House, and was later renamed the Delaware Valley Gardens before assuming its most familiar name, but no one was confusing it with Madison Square Garden (old or new), the Boston Garden or Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto. Sports Illustrated called it "perhaps the worst facility" used by any WHA team, noting that it lacked showers in the dressing room for visiting teams, who had to dress at a Holiday Inn 2 miles away, and that the ice surface was not even level, giving the home team a distinct advantage, as, 2 periods out of every 3, the visitors would have to skate uphill to the opponent's goal.

The Eastern Hockey League placed 2 teams there: The Jersey Larks in 1960-61, and the Jersey Devils (the 1st pro hockey team with the name) from 1964 until 1973, when the arrival of the Knights forced their move. The Philadelphia Warriors played an occasional "home game" there.

The Knights left for San Diego after the 1973-74 season. In 1978, the Arena was renamed The Centrum, and the Northeastern Hockey League placed the Jersey Aces there, but they only lasted a few games. The Arena was demolished in 1981. 

The site is now a parking lot for a shopping center that includes a Burger King and a Retro Fitness. 1447 Brace Road, at Haddonfield-Berlin Road. Not easy to reach by public transit: PATCO train to Haddonfield, then almost a half-hour walk.

* Temple University. Straddling the border between Center City and the mostly-black North Philadelphia ghetto, Temple has given thousands of poor urban kids a chance to make something of themselves, including comedian Bill Cosby, who ran track for the school, including in the Penn Relays at Franklin Field.

Temple now plays basketball at the Liacouras Center, at 1776 N. Broad Street, across from its former arena, McGonigle Hall, at 1800. Broad Street Line to Cecil B. Moore station.

The Owls have played football at the South Philly complex since 1978, first at The Vet and now at the Linc. From 1928 to 1977, they played at Temple Stadium, a 20,000-seat facility on the city's northern edge. On September 25, 1968, the U.S. soccer team played Israel to a draw there. It was demolished in 1996, and, like Shibe Park/Connie Mack Stadium, the site is now home to a church. 2800 Pickering Avenue at Vernon Road. Broad Street Line to Olney Transportation Center, then transfer to the Number 18 bus toward Cedarbook Mall.

* LaSalle University. All of Philly's Big 5 basketball universities are private; unlike Penn and Temple, La Salle, St. Joe's and 'Nova are Catholic. LaSalle is in the northernmost reaches of the city, its bookstore at 1900 W. Olney Avenue, and the Explorers' new Tom Gola Arena, named for their late 1950s superstar and 1960s coach, and 2100 W. Olney. Broad Street Line to Olney Transportation Center.

* St. Joseph's University. St. Joe's straddles the western edge of the city, on a hill bisected by City Line Avenue. They are known for their Hawk mascot flapping his wings throughout the game, never stopping, thus leading to the chant, "The Hawk will never die!" This, of course, leads their Big 5 opponents to chant, "The Hawk must die!" and, if victorious, "The Hawk is dead!"

Their fieldhouse, now named the Michael J. Hagan Arena, is at 2450 N. 54th Street, and features a plaque commemorating a 1967 speech delivered there by Martin Luther King. Number 44 bus from Center City.

* Villanova University. The Wildcats just won their 2nd National Championship, defeating North Carolina in a thriller in Houston, 31 years after their even more amazing upset of Georgetown in Lexington, Kentucky.

Famously (well, famous within the Philadelphia area, anyway), they played a Big 5 game against St. Joe's at the Palestra a few years back, having beaten each of the other Big 5 schools, and, pulling away, their fans chanted, "We own Philly!" The St. Joe's fans, no fools, reminded them of their location, in the town of Villanova, 18 miles northwest of Center City: "You ain't Philly!"

Jake Nevin Field House, their home at the time of their 1985 National Championship, and The Pavilion, which that success allowed them to build, are next to each other, along with their bookstore, at 800 E. Lancaster Avenue. They also have a 12,500-seat stadium for their Division I-AA football team. SEPTA Lansdale/Doylestown Line commuter rail to Villanova Station.

Of the Big 5, only Temple plays Division I-A football: Temple, 'Nova and LaSalle play I-AA, and while St. Joseph's Prep has one of the better programs in Philly-area high school football, their collegiate namesake doesn't play football at all.

* Spike's Trophies. When the Philadelphia Athletics Historical Society closed its facility in the northern suburb of Hatboro, they moved their operations, and the plaques honoring A's greats that used to be on the concourse wall at the Vet, to this store near Northeast Philadelphia Airport. 2701 Grant Avenue at Ashton Road. Market-Frankford Line to Frankford Transportation Center, then transfer to Number 50 Bus.

* Laurel Hill Cemetery. This is the final resting place of Flyers founding owner Ed Snider; former Phillies manager Harry Wright, who founded the 1st professional team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, in 1869; and of longtime broadcaster Harry Kalas. 215 Belmont Avenue in Bala Cynwyd, not far from the St. Joe's campus. Use the Number 44 bus to get to both.

* Gladwyne Methodist Church. Kalas' longtime broadcast partner, the Hall of Fame center fielder Richie "Whitey" Ashburn, is laid to rest here. 316 Righters Mill Road in Gladwyne. The Number 44 bus can also be used for this.

* Holy Sepulchre Cemetery. This is the final resting place of Connie Mack. 3301 W. Cheltenham Avenue. Broad Street Line to Olney Transportation Center, then Number 22 bus.

Philadelphia is home to Independence National Historic Park, including Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. The Visitor's Center is at 6th & Market Streets: At this complex, there will be people there to advise you on what to do. 5th Street on the Market Street Line.

The President's House -- that's as formal a name as it had -- was where George Washington (1790-97) and John Adams (1797-1800) lived while Philadelphia was the national capital before Washington, D.C.. It was demolished in 1832. When digging to build the new Liberty Bell Center, the house's foundation was found, and somebody must've asked, "Why didn't anybody think of this before?" So, an exhibit has been set up, at 530 Market Street at 6th. The new Liberty Bell Center is between it and Independence Hall (Chestnut Street between 5th and 6th). Be advised that since 9/11 -- and since the movie National Treasure -- they're understandably a bit finicky about security there.

The oldest surviving Presidential residence (chosen specifically for the President, not counting homes like Mount Vernon or Monticello) is the Germantown White House, which still stands at 5442 Germantown Avenue. George Washington and John Adams used it to escape the heat and, more importantly, the yellow fever epidemics of what's now Center City Philadelphia, making it less "the first Summer White House" and more "the first Camp David." SEPTA Chestnut Hill West Line to Germantown, then 3 blocks down Armat Street and a left on Germantown Avenue. Definitely not safe at night.

Speaking of George Washington, Valley Forge National Historical Park is just an hour's bus ride from Suburban Station. On JFK Blvd. at 17th Street, board the SEPTA 125 bus. Valley Forge Casino Resort and the King of Prussia Mall are a short drive (or a moderate walk) away. The fare is $4.75 each way ($9.50 total).

Only one President has ever come from Pennsylvania, and he might be the worst one of all: James Buchanan, whose Administration began with the Panic of 1857 and ended with the secession of several Southern States. (Whether Buchanan was gay has been debated since even before he became President, but the evidence is flimsy.) His home, Wheatland, still stands at 1120 Marietta Avenue in Lancaster, and he's buried about a mile away in Greenwood Cemetery. But Lancaster, the heart of "Pennsylvania Dutch Country," is 80 miles west of Philly. It's a cheap trip by Amtrak standards, but unless you've always wanted to visit the area, or you're a big history buff, I'd suggest forgetting about it if you're pressed for time.

The Musical Fund Hall hosted the 1st Republican National Convention in 1856, nominating John C. Fremont for President. (He lost to Buchanan.) It was one of many historical meetings at this building, which has stood since 1824. 808 Locust Street, Center City. The Academy of Music hosted their 1872 Convention, renominating President Ulysses S. Grant. It opened in 1857, and hosted the Philadelphia Orchestra from 1900 to 2001, when the Kimmel Center opened across Locust Street. 240 S. Broad Street, Center City.

And the Walnut Street Theatre, which opened in 1809 and is the oldest continuously operating theater in America, hosted the 1st Presidential Debate of the 1976 campaign, between Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. 825 Walnut Street, Center City.

Philadelphia's answer to the Museum of Natural History is the University of Pennsylvania Museum, at 33rd & South Streets, across from Franklin Field. (Same trolley stop.) Their answer to the Hayden Planetarium -- and a better one -- is the Franklin Institute, which is also the national memorial to Big Ben, the man who, more than any man made any city in the Western Hemisphere, made Philadelphia. 20th Street & Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Number 76 bus. 76, get it? The bus is nicknamed "The Ben FrankLine."

At the other end of the Parkway, at 25th and Spring Garden Streets, is Philly's answer to the Metropolitan, the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The Rocky Balboa statue is here, and it doesn't cost anything except sweat to run up the steps.

The chocolate city of Hershey, Pennsylvania is 95 miles west of Center City, and only 15 miles east of the State Capitol in Harrisburg. The smell of chocolate wafts over the city, and is the source of the nickname "The Sweetest Place On Earth." Amtrak goes from 30th Street station to Harrisburg and nearby Middletown (the home of the infamous Three Mile Island nuclear power plant, which is still in operation and hasn't had an incident since the one in 1979), but if you want to go to any prominent place in Hersey, you'll have to rely on local bus service.

There are 4 prominent places in Hershey. There's the Hershey's chocolate factory. There's Hersheypark amusement park. There's Hersheypark Stadium is a 15,641-seat high school football stadium, opened in 1939. On May 9, 1990, the U.S. soccer team beat Poland there. Most notably, Hersheypark Arena, formerly Hershey Sports Arena, which now seats 7,286 people. The Warriors and 76ers played a few home games here, including the March 2, 1962 contest between the Warriors and the Knicks, when Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points.

The minor-league Hershey Bears used it from its opening in 1936 until 2002, when the 10,500-seat Giant Center opened next-door. It still hosts college hockey and concerts. Appropriately, the address of the Arena is 100 W. Hershey Park Drive.

No college football rivalry has been played more than Lafayette College and Lehigh University, separated by 17 miles of U.S. Route 22 in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Lafayette is in Easton, 69 miles north of Center City; Lehigh is in Bethlehem, 56 miles north. On occasion, they've played each other twice and, during World War II, even 3 times a season. Now, they limit themselves to 1. In 2014, on the occasion of their 150th meeting, they played each other at the new Yankee Stadium, with Lafayette winning. Lehigh won last year, but Lafayette leads the series, 78-68-5.

Lehigh's Goodman Stadium hosted a U.S. soccer game on October 23, 1993, a draw vs. Ukraine -- although I doubt too many people in the Delaware Valley were paying attention, as that was the day of Game 6 of the World Series, which the Phillies lost to the Toronto Blue Jays on the Joe Carter home run.

Bednarik came from that area, and is buried at St. Joseph Calvary Cemetery, 5050 St. Joseph's Road, in Limeport.

Believe it or not, it's easier to reach both Easton and Bethlehem without a car from New York than it is from Philadelphia: Transbridge Lines runs buses from Port Authority into the Lehigh Valley, and Susquehanna Trailways runs them from Philly's Greyhound Terminal at 1001 N. Filbert Street, across from the Market East Station.

Also in the Lehigh Valley is the former town of Mauch Chunk, in Carbon County, which made a deal with the widow of Jim Thorpe, the greatest football player of the 1910s and early '20s, to have his remains buried there, and they renamed the town "Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania." It was totally based on money, which the Thorpe family always needed, and Jim himself had never visited Mauch Chunk. Jim's children and grandchildren have tried and failed to have his remains repatriated to his hometown of Shawnee, Oklahoma. But with the U.S. Supreme Court refusing in 2015 to hear their case, it looks like the legal process is over.

The Jim Thorpe Memorial is at 103 East 10th Street, adjacent to the Carbon Career & Technical Institute. It can't be reached by public transportation, and it's 115 miles west of Midtown Manhattan.

Not surprisingly for a city of its size, Philadelphia has had a few TV shows set there, but not many actually filmed there. Boy Meets World was filmed entirely at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank. (Its sequel series, Girl Meets World, featuring Cory & Topanga Matthews and their kids, is set in New York.) Neither does It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia film in Philly -- and it is not always sunny there. Nor did Thirtysomething film there. Nor did Body of Proof. And, being a cartoon, Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids didn't have to "film" anywhere.

The 1960s flashback series American Dreams did some filming under the Market Street Elevated Line, but most of it was filmed in L.A. The films PhiladelphiaThe Philadelphia Story and The Philadelphia Experiment had a few Philly locations put in, but all filming was done in Southern California. For chronological reasons, the film version of the musical 1776 couldn't be filmed on the streets of Philadelphia, or even inside Independence Hall -- although National Treasure used the Hall, and the Franklin Institute, and the Reading Terminal Market.

Probably the best-known film set in the city is Trading Places -- except a lot of it was filmed in and around New York! The New York Chamber of Commerce Building (65 Liberty Street) and the Seventh Regiment Armory (643 Park Avenue) stood in for the Heritage Club. Mill Neck Manor for the Deaf on Long Island stood in for the Duke Brothers' estate. And, of course, the climactic scene was set at the New York Mercantile Exchange, at 4 World Trade Center, which was at destroyed in the 9/11 attacks. Locations in the film that were absolutely in Philly were: 30th Street Station; Duke & Duke, at Fidelity Bank at 135 S. Broad Street, 2 blocks south of City Hall; and Lewis Winthorpe's residence, with exterior shots at 2014 Delancey Place at 20th Street, near Rittenhouse Square, which is where Eddie Murphy pretended to be a blind, legless Vietnam veteran. (This is a private residence: Walk down there if you like, but leave the residents alone.)

*

So, to sum up, I would definitely recommend to Giant fans to take the trip to Philadelphia to face the Eagles. It's practically a test of your devotion to Big Blue.

I'd tell you to have fun, but, since you're facing Philly fans, I'll say, instead, "Try not to get yourself or anybody else killed." And, on this occasion, that's no joke.