Thursday, October 2, 2014

How to Be a New York Football Fan In San Diego -- 2014 Edition

Between things happening in the real world, I neglected to do this one until it was nearly too late: The Jets' game away to the San Diego Chargers is this Sunday afternoon.

Before You Go. Unlike the Seattle and San Francisco Bay Areas, but like the Los Angeles area, the San Diego area has very consistent weather. It’s a nice place to visit, and there's little threat of earthquakes, mudslides and smog -- but there have been wildfires, including one that led to a Chargers home game being moved to Phoenix a few years ago.

The website of the San Diego Union-Tribune (yet another paper that, not that long ago, used to be two separate papers), is predicting low 80s by day, mid-60s by night, and, as you might expect for San Diego, no precipitation for the entire weekend. A short-sleeve shirt should be enough, no jacket necessary. Just in case, you may want to bring sunscreen.

San Diego is in the Pacific Time Zone, 3 hours behind New York. Adjust your timepieces accordingly.

If you're planning on making a side trip to Tijuana, Mexico, 25 miles south of downtown San Diego, be sure to bring your passport. If you don't have a passport, it's too late to get one for this trip, so if you're going to San Diego, do not attempt to cross the Border.

The bright-red San Diego Trolley runs between its namesake city and the San Ysidro stop, which sits adjacent to the pedestrian bridge leading to the Tijuana border-crossing station. Tourists also can drive down to the border on I-5 south and park their cars in one of the long-term lots on the U.S. side before walking across the bridge into Mexico and returning the same way.

Myriad companies also offer bus tours from San Diego to Tijuana and back if you're looking for a guided experience. Frommer's recommends Baja California Tours as well as Gray Line San Diego and Five Star Tours for such services.

Alternatively, you can drive to Tijuana after passing through the highway inspection gate at the border. However, I've been informed that if you drive into Mexico, you must get Mexican auto insurance first. They don't accept U.S. insurance, and if you get into an accident in Mexico without insurance, they can put you in jail. Also, the border crossing, especially on the way back into the U.S., might have as big a traffic backup as the George Washington Bridge at rush hour. Make sure you have enough gas before you leave San Diego -- or buy gas in Tijuana.

Tickets. The Chargers averaged 64,205 fans per home game last season, about 90 percent of capacity. There were 10 NFL teams with lower attendance, but only 6 with a lower percentage. This is one of the reasons the team is in danger of having to move. But it will make getting tickets easier than for most teams. (Indeed, of the Chargers' 6 remaining home games, only the one against the New England Patriots is sold out at this writing.)

Field Level seats are $120-130, Plaza Level $98-130, Loge Level $98, Lower View Level & View Sideline $79, View Level Endzone West $65, and View Level Endzone East $52.

Getting There. It’s 2,803 miles from Times Square in New York to downtown San Diego. In other words, if you’re going, you’re flying. And not just because I waited too long to post this to make driving, Amtrak or Greyhound possible.

After all, even if you get someone to go with you, and you take turns, one drives while the other one sleeps, and you pack 2 days’ worth of food, and you use the side of the Interstate as a toilet, and you don’t get pulled over for speeding, you’ll still need over 2 full days. Each way.

But, if you really, really want to, well, in order to get there in time for this series, you're too late to see the whole thing. So, for future reference... You’ll need to get on the New Jersey Turnpike. Take it to Exit 14, to Interstate 78. Follow I-78 west all the way through New Jersey, to Phillipsburg, and across the Delaware River into Easton, Pennsylvania. Continue west on I-78 until reaching Harrisburg. There, you will merge onto I-81. Take Exit 52 to U.S. Route 11, which will soon take you onto I-76. This is the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the nation’s first superhighway, opening in 1940.

The Turnpike will eventually be a joint run between I-76 and Interstate 70. Once that happens, you’ll stay on I-70, all the way past Pittsburgh, across the little northern panhandle of West Virginia, and then across Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, into Missouri.

At St. Louis, take Exit 40C onto Interstate 44 West, which will take you southwest across Missouri into Oklahoma.  Upon reaching Oklahoma City, take Interstate 40 West, through the rest of the State, across the Texas Panhandle and New Mexico, into Arizona.  At Flagstaff, take Interstate 17 South, which will take you into Phoenix.  Take Interstate 10 West to Exit 112 for Arizona Route 85 South, to Gila Bend, right on Arizona route 238 West, which will flow into Interstate 8 West. This will take you across Arizona and California to San Diego.

If you do it right, you should spend about an hour and 15 minutes in New Jersey, 5 hours and 30 minutes in Pennsylvania, 15 minutes in West Virginia, 3 hours and 45 minutes in Ohio, 2 hours and 45 minutes in Indiana, another 2 hours and 45 minutes in Illinois, 5 hours in Missouri, 6 hours in Oklahoma, 3 hours in Texas, 6 hours and 15 minutes in New Mexico, 6 hours in Arizona, and 3 hours in California.  That’s about 45 hours and 30 minutes. Counting rest stops, you're probably talking about 57 hours.

That’s still faster than Greyhound (about 70 hours, changing buses anywhere from 2 to 4 times, $570 round-trip, station at 1313 National Avenue at Commercial Street -- 3 blocks from the ballpark!) and Amtrak (71 hours, 40 minutes, $776 round-trip, Santa Fe Depot at 1050 Kettner Blvd. at Broadway). But flights to San Diego International Airport, also known as Lindbergh Field, will be a lot more expensive, and will usually involve changing planes in Chicago.

Public transportation in San Diego is pretty good, with buses, trolleys and light rail readily available. Petco Park is accessible on the Orange Line at Gaslamp Quarter station, and on the Orange and Blue Lines at 12th & Imperial Transit Center station. The fare is $2.50.

Once In the City. San Diego was founded by Spain as a mission, San Diego of Alcalá (Saint Didacus in Latin), in 1769, and well into the 19th Century was larger than San Francisco, and even at the dawn of the 20th Century was larger than Los Angeles. Being (just about literally) tucked away in a corner of the country, it was pretty much bypassed, but World War II led to the U.S. Navy base being built there, and its population took off again, to where it was major-league capable by the 1960s.

Today, 1.35 million people live within the city limits, and 3.1 million in the metro area. Front Street is the delineator between streets with East and West as prefixes, while Broadway is that for those running North and South.

Sales tax is a minimum 7.5 percent in the State of California, and 8 percent in San Diego County, which includes, but is not contiguous with, the City of San Diego. ZIP Codes in the San Diego area start with the digits 919, 920 and 921, and the Area Codes are 619, 760 and 858.

Going In. Qualcomm Stadium -- naming rights are owned by the locally-headquartered semiconductor company -- is about 7 miles northeast of downtown. Take the Green Line trolley from the 12th & Imperial Transit Center downtown, to Qualcomm Stadium Station. The ride is 31 minutes, and costs $2.50 each way.
Jack Murphy Stadium, before its 1990s expansion

If you're driving in from downtown (say, from your hotel), take 11th Street north until it becomes the Cabrillo Freeway (California Route 163), to Exit 3B for Friars Road. The stadium will be 2 1/2 miles ahead on the right. It should take about 15 minutes to get from downtown into the parking lot. The address is 9449 Friars Road, near the intersection of Interstates 8 and 15.
Qualcomm Stadium, after the expansion

On their website, the Chargers say that the parking lot opens 4 hours prior to kickoff, and recommends that driving fans arrive at least 2 hours before, because the lot can be expected to reach capacity and close an hour before kickoff. Following this instruction should give you time to tailgate, should you desire to do so. Parking in the Inner Ring is $45, and $25 in the Outer Ring. Tailgate parties in San Diego frequently include Mexican food, including the dreaded fish tacos.

Built in 1967 as San Diego Stadium, and from 1980 to 1996 named Jack Murphy Stadium, for the San Diego Union sportswriter (and brother of Mets broadcaster Bob Murphy) who so long lobbied, finally successfully, for San Diego to get MLB and pro football teams, The Q has circular ramps at its corners, much like Giants Stadium did. What can I say: Stadium and arena architecture, unlike sports itself, seemed to have been influenced by the drug culture of the late 1960s and the '70s. Capacity is 70,561.

Being in the California sunshine, the field has nearly always looked good. Unlike most football stadiums, the field is (more or less) aligned east-to-west. However, the stadium is tall enough that the upper reaches make sunlight less of an issue than it would ordinarily be.
Despite being the 3rd-oldest stadium in the NFL (only Green Bay's Lambeau Field and the Oakland Coliseum are older), Qualcomm Stadium is in decent shape. However, it doesn't have the revenue-driving modern luxury boxes that team owners want, and Chargers owner Alex Spanos wants a new stadium very badly. And San Diego City and San Diego County voters, generally conservative, don't seem to want to have their tax dollars spent to build it. So it now seems less like if the Chargers will move, probably up the coast to Los Angeles from whence they came in 1961, and more like when.

Food. Being just 15 miles from the Mexican border, you might expect Qualcomm Stadium to feature Mexican and Southwestern-style food. Your expectations would be somewhat fulfilled, as there are nacho stands all over the place, a Tortilla Junction stand is at Plaza Level Section 34, and a Margarita Beach Bar at Plaza Level Section 28.

Wannaburger and San Diego Smokehouse stands are all over the stadium. Oggi's Pizza and Juma's Café (featuring ice cream and Starbucks-style drinks) have multiple stands. And, while San Diego is not known for barbecue (unlike, say, Kansas City, or Texas, or Memphis, or the Carolinas), a Sweet Baby Ray's stand is at Plaza Level Section 20.

Team History Displays. There are no displays in the seating area at Qualcomm for the Chargers' 1963 American Football League Championship, their 1994 AFC Championship, or for their Division Championships of 1960 (spending their 1st season in Los Angeles), 1961, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1992, 1994, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. Nor is there any viewable display for their 3 retired numbers: Dan Fouts' 14, Lance Alworth's 19 and Junior Seau's 55. (UPDATE: They have since added LaDainian Tomlinson's 21.)

However, the members of the San Diego Chargers Hall of Fame can now be viewed in a Ring of Honor, on the press level on the visiting team's side. There are currently 37 members, as follows:

* From their 1960 and '61 Division titles (but not their 1963 AFL title): Linebacker Bob Laraba, Number 53.

* From their 1963 AFL Championship, the only time any San Diego major league team has gone as far as the rules of the time allowed them to go: Team founder-owner Barron Hilton; minority owner George Pernicano; head coach Sid Gillman; quarterback John Hadl, Number 21; running backs Paul Lowe, Number 23, and Keith Lincoln, Number 27; receiver Lance Alworth, Number 19; tight end Jacque MacKinnon, Number 38; guard Walt Sweeney, Number 78; offensive tackle Ron Mix, Number 74; defensive tackle Ernie Ladd, Number 77; defensive end Earl Faison, Number 86; linebackers Chuck Allen, Number 50, Frank Buncom, Number 55, and Emil Karas, Number 56. The 1963 team as a whole has also been inducted.

(William Barron Hilton named the team after the credit card he founded, Carte Blanche. He's also the son of hotel magnate Conrad Hilton, the brother of Elizabeth Taylor's 1st husband Conrad Nicholson Hilton Jr. a.k.a. Nicky Hilton, and the grandfather of Paris and Nicky Hilton. He is about to turn 87 years old, and, although he no longer has anything to do with the team, he is the last surviving member of "The Foolish Club," the 8 original AFL owners, following the recent deaths of Ralph Wilson of the Buffalo Bills and Bud Adams of the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans.)

* From their 1964 and '65 Division titles (but not their 1963 AFL title): Cornerback Leslie "Speedy" Duncan, Number 45.

* From the dark days between their 1965 and 1978 Playoff berths: Receiver Gary "the Ghost" Garrison, Number 27.

* From their 1978, '79, '80 and '81 Playoff teams: Head coach Don Coryell; quarterback Dan Fouts, Number 14; receivers Charlie Joiner, Number 18, and Wes Chandler, Number 89; tight end Kellen Winslow, Number 80; center Don Macek, Number 62; guards Doug Wilkerson, Number 63, and Ed White, Number 67; offensive tackle Russ Washington, Number 70; defensive tacklers Louie Kelcher, Number 74, and Gary "Big Hands" Johnson, Number 79; defensive end "Mean" Fred Dean, Number 71; and placekicker Rolf Benirschke, Number 6. Gene Klein, the car-dealership, movie theater and insurance mogul who owned the team in this period, has not yet been inducted.

* From their 1992 Division title (but not their 1994 AFC title): Cornerback Gill Byrd, Number 22.

* From their 1994 AFC Championship, leading to their only Super Bowl berth to date: Head coach Bobby Ross, the former Georgia Tech coach who beat Barry Switzer of Oklahoma and Dallas by 1 year to becoming the first coach to win a college National Championship and coach in a Super Bowl (though Switzer topped him by winning both); quarterback Stan Humphries, Number 12; linebacker Junior Seau, Number 55; and defensive end Leslie O'Neal, Number 91, who just became the newest member of this Ring of Honor.

* From their 1995 Playoff appearance (but not 1994): Punter Darren Bennett, Number 2.

As yet, no one has been inducted from their 2000s AFC West titles. But several players from their 2007 team that reached the AFC Championship Game were named in 2010 to their 50th Anniversary team, including 4 players still with the club: Quarterback Philip Rivers, center Nick Hardwick, tight end Antonio Gates and punter Mike Schifres. Running back LaDainian Tomlinson, who finished his career with the Jets, also made that 50th Anniversary Team, but not yet their team Hall of Fame/Ring of Honor.

Alworth and Winslow were named to the NFL's 75th Anniversary Team in 1994. They, Fouts and Joiner were named to The Sporting News' 100 Greatest Football Players in 1999. Alworth, Winslow and LaDainian Tomlinson were named to the NFL Network's 100 Greatest Players in 2010. Alworth, Mix, Lowe, Sweeney, running back Bob Scarpitto, tight end Dave Kocourek, cornerback Miller Farr and safety Kenny Graham were named to the AFL All-Time Team.

Outside the stadium is a statue of Jack Murphy, with his dog Abe immortalized along with him. While Qualcomm retains naming rights through 2017, officially, the playing surface has been named Jack Murphy Field, and many locals still call the stadium The Murph.
The Q has hosted 3 Super Bowls: XXII, 1988, Washington over Denver; XXXII, 1998, Denver over Green Bay; and XXXVII, 2003, Tampa Bay over Oakland. Without sufficient luxury suites, it will never hold another; if San Diego is ever to host another Super Bowl, it will have to be in a new stadium.

There is no mention at The Q of the 7 games played there by the U.S. national soccer team. The most recent was on July 5, 2013, a win over Guatemala.

Stuff. The Chargers Team Store is located at Gate G, and is open year-round. On game days, a game ticket is required to enter, and it closes one hour after the game ends.

The Chargers arrived in San Diego in 1961, predating any other major-league (or "major-league") team in the city, including the major-league version of the Padres by 8 years. They have surpassed their 50th Anniversary, so they do have some history, however spotty. The NFL has released a History of the San Diego Chargers DVD, going up to their 50th Anniversary season of 2010, so there will be some current players on it.

There aren't many books about the team, and the best is probably the rather unimaginatively titled The Story of the San Diego Chargers, by Jim Whiting, which takes you up through the 2012 season.

UPDATE: In 2015, Dave Steidel, who previously wrote Remember the AFL, published The Uncrowned Champs: How the 1963 San Diego Chargers Would Have Won the Super Bowl. Lance Alworth wrote the forward. Steidel had someone run a computer simulation showing how a game against the 1963 NFL Champion Chicago Bears -- "Super Bowl -III," if you will -- would have gone. It's not exactly a spoiler to tell you the result: Like Death of a Salesman, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and Kill Bill, the ending is in the title.

During the Game. The Chargers' greatest rivals, as you might guess, are the closest AFC team, the Oakland Raiders. The rivalry was especially intense from 1982 to 1994, when the Raiders were in Los Angeles. But you are not Raider fans, so the locals should fit the reputation of the laid-back Southern Californian: No one is going to fight you.

Although the team was named for Barron Hilton's Carte Blanche credit card, the logo frequently combined 2 other meanings of "charger": A lightning bolt and a horse. Only the lightning bolt has ever been on the team's helmets, although in their AFL days the player's uniform number was underneath it. While a horse mascot might make sense, instead, the "Bolts" have "Boltman," a lightning bolt caricature wearing a blue jersey.

Ted Giannoulas, known in costume as The Famous Chicken, began as the KGB Chicken. No, he wasn't a Russian spy. He was a student at San Diego State University, working for a San Diego radio station, KGB-FM. San Diego State has also used San Diego Stadium/the Murph/Q since it opened. Ted can be seen in his original costume on NFL Films' production of the 1978 Charger-Raider "Holy Roller" game, feigning passing out at the successful result of the Raiders' blatant cheating. Following a contract dispute with the station, he got a new costume (one not copyrighted by the station) and was reborn, or rather hatched out of a giant egg, on the field at San Diego Stadium before a Padres game in June 1979 as "the San Diego Chicken."

Starting in 1981, he was part of the cast of NBC's Saturday pregame show The Baseball Bunch, starring Johnny Bench, where he was referred to as simply "The Chicken." He became so much in demand that he could no longer belong only to his hometown, and began going everywhere. He and the Phillie Phanatic have done more to elevate the sports mascot to icon status than anyone, including Mr. Met and college sports mascots. But don't expect to see him at a Chargers game these days. (According to his website, he has no activity listed for this weekend.)

The theme song "San Diego Super Chargers," recorded in 1979 in the closing days of disco and the opening days of their "Air Coryell" attack, has a very disco feel, but even in 2014 is played after every Chargers score and every Chargers win.

After the Game. San Diego has had its crime issues, but The Q isn't in a bad neighborhood -- it's an island in a sea of parking, so it's not in any neighborhood. That might help.

What won't help is that it's pretty far from downtown. If you want to get a postgame meal or drink, your best bet is probably to head downtown. San Diego's Gaslamp District has plenty of nightspots, so finding a good place for a postgame meal or drink shouldn't be too hard. And although the city has a reputation for gang violence -- as Met fans, you may have heard San Diegan Kevin Mitchell tell horror stories about it -- downtown is very safe.

If you're looking for New Yorker-friendly establishments, Henry's Pub, at 618 5th Avenue between G & Market Streets, is the home of the local Jets fan club. It is 6 blocks from Petco Park, home of the Padres. I have heard of 2 separate bars as being home of local Giants fan clubs. The Knotty Barrel is at 844 Market Street at 9th Avenue, 5 blocks from Petco. And the U-31 Cocktail Lounge is at 3112 University Avenue at 31st Street, however, it is 6 miles northeast of the ballpark -- a bit closer to Qualcomm.

I have heard that Slater's 50/50 is a Yankee Fan hangout. 2750 Dewey Road at Historic Decatur Road, just off NTC Park. Green Line to Old Town Transit Center, transfer to Bus 28. 

If you visit San Diego during the European soccer season, which is currently underway, the main "football pub" in town is Shakespare Pub & Grill. 3701 India Street and Winder Street, in the Five Points area, about 3 miles northwest of downtown. Green Line to Washington Street.

Sidelights. San Diego has produced more native sons (and daughters) who were great athletes than its teams have. As a result, there isn't a lot of glory associated with these teams. Some have suggested that there's a curse on the city, with the most common story being the selling of the city's first great major league star, Chargers receiver Lance Alworth, to the Dallas Cowboys. Alworth, a.k.a. Bambi, won Super Bowl VI with the Cowboys, but no San Diego major league team has gone as far as the rules allowed them to do since Alworth and the 1963 Chargers, AFL Champions, who did not get to play that year's NFL Champions, the Chicago Bears, in a Super Bowl.

* Lane Field. Home to the PCL Padres from 1936 to 1957, including the 1937 PCL Pennant that featured a 19-year-old San Diego kid named Ted Williams. By the time the Padres won another Pennant in 1954, the 8,000-seat pitcher's park, on the waterfront, with a Spanish-style entrance and faraway fences except at the right field pole, was termite-ridden and had to be abandoned.

Broadway, Harbor Drive and Pacific Highway. The Santa Fe Depot and the USS Midway Museum (a retired WWII-era aircraft carrier) are adjacent to the site.  Number 7 bus.  The Maritime Museum of San Diego is 3 blocks to the north.

* Westgate Park.  The PCL Padres' next home was in Mission Valley, at (appropriately enough) Friars Road and the Cabrillo Freeway. This park seated only a few more than Lane Field, but unlike its predecessor, which had no roof to protect fans from the hot, nearly-Mexican sun, Westgate had a roof covering the entire seating area.

Supposedly, it was expandable to 40,000, in the event that San Diego could do what Los Angeles and San Francisco had done, and bring in a major league team, through move or expansion. But the Chargers wanted a modern stadium, too, so one stadium was built for both teams. The Padres won Pennants at Westgate in 1962, 1964 and 1967, their last season there. The Fashion Valley Mall is now on the site. Fashion Valley Transit Center station on the Green Line.

* Petco Park. After playing at San Diego/Jack Murphy/Qualcomm Stadium from their 1969 debut through 2003, including National League Pennants in 1984 and 1998 and an NL Western Division title in 1996, the Padres moved to this 42,000-seat downtown retro ballpark in 2004. They've reached the postseason there in 2005 and 2006, and lost a play-in game for the National League Wild Card in 2007. 100 Park Blvd., between 7th and 10th Avenues and K Street, with 7th being renamed Tony Gwynn Drive.

* Balboa Park and the San Diego Zoo. After starting in the AFL at the Los Angeles Coliseum in 1960, the Chargers moved to San Diego for 1961. The existing Balboa Stadium, built in 1914 in Balboa Park (named for the Spanish explorer who was the first European to see the Pacific Ocean), was expanded to 34,000 seats for the Chargers. While it had a lot of atmosphere, including a columned front gate, and was home to the Chargers' 1963 AFL Championship team, it was too small for the proposed AFL-NFL merger, so what's now Qualcomm Stadium was built.
In 1965, at Balboa Stadium, Jim Ryun became the first American high schooler to break the 4-minute mile. On August 28, 1965, the Beatles played there. The old stadium was demolished and replaced in 1978, and now hosts high school football and track. Russ Blvd. & 16th Street.
Balboa Park is also home to the famed San Diego Zoo. My mother says her favorite day in her life was the day she spent at the Zoo. Park Road & Zoo Place. The Park is also home to the Timken Museum of Art, and the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center. The Number 7 bus takes you to the Park and places you within a short walk of all its sites.

Adjacent is the Federal Building, which hosts the San Diego Hall of Champions, honoring area natives such as Ted Williams, Bill Walton and 1970s Yankee star Graig Nettles, as well as stars from area teams. Padres honored are Nettles, Jones, Winfield, Fingers, Gwynn, Bavasi and Gossage. Of additional interest to Yankee Fans might be Don Larsen, and the father-and-son combo of Ray and Bob Boone -- grandfather and father, respectively, of Aaron (and Bret).  But not, as yet, Larsen's fellow graduate of nearby Point Loma High School, and fellow pitcher of a perfect game for the Yankees, David Wells.

* San Diego Sports Arena. Built in 1966, this was the home of the NBA's San Diego Rockets from 1967 to 1971, until they moved to Houston; the NBA's San Diego Clippers from 1978 to 1984, until they moved to Los Angeles; and the World Hockey Association's San Diego Mariners from 1974 to 1977. The Mariners made the Playoffs all 3 seasons, and their Andre Lacroix was named to the WHA All-Time Team. San Diego native Walton played for the Clippers (although he was injured most of that time), and was named to the NBA's 50th Anniversary 50 Greatest Players.

It hosted the 1975 NCAA Final Four, which included John Wooden's last 2 games as head coach at UCLA, winning his 10th and final National Championship. Elvis Presley sang here on November 9, 1970; April 26, 1973; and April 24, 1976.

The Arena was recently renamed the Valley View Casino Center, although it is not a casino. 3500 Sports Arena Blvd. at Kemper Street. Blue Line light rail to Old Town, then transfer to the Number 9 bus, which drops off outside.

Elvis had previously sung in San Diego on April 4 and 5, and June 6, 1956, at the San Diego Arena, a.k.a. the Glacier Gardens, home of the San Diego Skyhawks, 1949 Pacific Coast Hockey League Champions. Built in 1939, the Sports Arena made it obsolete, and it was torn down in 1966. 8th Street and Harbor Drive, adjacent to the site of the Convention Center, and across Harbor Drive and the railroad from where Petco Park went up. 

San Diego seems not to have forgiven the Clippers for leaving, and after 30 years of the Lakers nearly always the better team, they are easily the most popular NBA team in town. According to a May 12, 2014 article in the New York Times, the Lakers take about 40 percent of the San Diego area's NBA fandom. The Los Angeles teams, playing in the Staples Center, remain the closest NBA teams, 123 miles from downtown San Diego, while the Anaheim Ducks are the closest NHL team, 93 miles away, and are more popular in the San Diego area than the Los Angeles Kings (also in the Staples Center).

Until San Diego builds a new arena -- unlikely, since they appear unwilling to build a new stadium to save the Chargers -- don't count on the city getting a new team for an arena. But, population-wise, they could probably support it: They'd rank 20th among NBA markets and 19th in the NHL.

* Devore Stadium. This facility, on the campus of Southwestern College, hosted a U.S. soccer team match, a draw with Iceland on April 24, 1994. Only 3,017 fans attended. To show you how much progress has been made by the team since: In the last match at The Q, the attendance was 50,234. 900 Otay Lakes Road, Chula Vista. Blue Line Trolly to H Street station, transfer to Number 709 bus.

The closest Major League Soccer team to San Diego is the Los Angeles Galaxy, 117 miles away.

San Diego isn't known for its skyscrapers, not for height (as is L.A.) nor for style (as is San Francisco). The tallest building in town, and then just barely (2 others are within 3 feet of it) is One America Plaza, 500 feet even, at 600 West Broadway at Keltner Blvd. downtown.

There haven't been a lot of TV shows set in San Diego. Most notable is probably Veronica Mars, unless you're a big Simon & Simon fan. Because of the naval base and the Marines' Camp Pendleton in not really all that near Oceanside, San Diego has been the closest major city to Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. and Major Dad (which, like Simon & Simon, had Gerald McRaney, but it transferred to Quantico, Virginia after just 1 season). Fox tried to copy the success of the Wisconsin-based That '70s Show by setting That '80s Show in San Diego in 1984, the year the Padres first won the Pennant, but it bombed, worse than the Padres did in the World Series.

San Diego has been much more successful as a location for movie settings, especially military-themed ones: Sands of Iwo Jima (John Wayne's troops train at Pendleton), Hellcats of the Navy (the one and only film that Ronald Reagan and his wife, still billed as "Nancy Davis," ever made together), Top Gun and its parody Hot Shots!Flight of the Intruder and Antwone Fisher. But the movie most associated with the city is Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, with Will Ferrell's signoff: "Stay classy, San Diego!"

If the Zoo wasn't enough for you, San Diego, like Orlando and San Antonio, has a Sea World. 500 Sea World Drive at Mission Bay Drive. Green Line to Old Town Transit Center, then transfer to the Number 9 bus.

San Diego hasn't had a lot of history, good or bad, happen within its limits. No President has come from the area, so there's no Presidential Birthplace or Library nearby. The closest you can come is Richard Nixon's La Casa Pacifica, a.k.a. the Western White House, 57 miles up the coast in San Clemente. It's still a private residence, and not open to tours, so if you're interested, just take a glance (and/or a picture), and leave them alone.

There are 3 Presidential connections to the city, and they all came in 1996. Sort of: Pete Wilson, Governor of California, former Senator, and the city's former Mayor, launched his campaign in 1995, but he barely made it into 1996. The Republican Convention nominated Senator Bob Dole for President, and former pro quarterback, former Congressman from Buffalo, and former Secretary of Housing & Urban Development Jack Kemp for Vice President. That Convention was at the San Diego Convention Center, at 111 W. Harbor Drive, across the railroad and Harbor Drive from the ballpark. And Dole had his 2nd and last debate with President Bill Clinton at the Shiley Theatre on the campus of the University of San Diego. 5998 Alcala Park Way at Marian Way. Green Line to Morena Vista station.


So, if you can afford it, go on out and join your fellow Jet fans in going coast-to-coast, and enjoy the matchup with the Chargers, and enjoy the sights and sounds of what Pete Wilson, while he was Mayor, called "America's Finest City." Even if the game isn't good, the weather will be. 

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