Friday, April 29, 2016

How to Be a New York Soccer Fan In Dallas -- 2016 Edition

"I'm in hell!" – Morgan Freeman
"Worse: You're in Texas!" – Chris Rock
-- Nurse Betty

On Friday, April 29, the New York Red Bulls host FC Dallas. Due to this year's Major League Soccer schedule, FCD is the only team in the League that will host neither the Red Bulls nor New York City FC.

Nevertheless, I feel it's important to give you a complete picture of the League, so I'm going to treat this home game as if it were an away game. (With the necessary adjustments in Italics.)

The Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex is in what Texas native Molly Ivins – frequently sarcastically – called The Great State.

An example of her writing: "In the Great State, you can get 5 years for murder, and 99 for pot possession." (I once sent the late, great newspaper columnist an e-mail asking if it could be knocked down to 98 years if you didn’t inhale. Sadly, she never responded.)

Before You Go. It's not just The South, it's Texas. This is the State that elected George W. Bush, Rick Perry, Greg Abbott and Bill Clements Governor; Dick Armey, Tom DeLay, Ron Paul and Louie Gohmert to the House of Representatives; and Phil Gramm and Ted Cruz to the Senate -- and thinks the rest of the country isn't conservative enough. This is the State where, in political terms, somebody like Long Island's conservative Congressman Peter King is considered a sissy. This is a State that thinks that poor nonwhites don't matter at all, and that poor whites only matter if you can convince them that, no matter how bad their life is, they're still better than the (slur on blacks) and the (slur on Hispanics).

So if you go to Texas for this series, it would be best to avoid political discussions. And, for crying out loud, don't mention that, now over half a century ago, a liberal Democratic President was killed in Dallas. They might say JFK had it comin' 'cause he was a (N-word)-lovin' Communist.

No. I'm not kidding. There are millions of Texans who think like this -- and, among their own people, they will be less likely to hold back. So don't ask them what they think. About anything.

At any rate, before we go any further, enjoy Lewis Black's R-rated smackdown of Rick Perry and the State of Texas as a whole. Perry is so stupid and myopic, he makes Dubya look like Pat Moynihan.

Also within the realm of "It's not just The South, it's Texas," you should be prepared for hot weather. It's not just the heat that's so bad, it's the humidity. And the mosquitoes. You think it was only the heat that made the Houston Astros build the Astrodome? Sandy Koufax said, "Some of the bugs they've got down there are twin-engine jobs." And, unlike Houston (then as now), the Dallas-area team does not have a dome, or even a roof over the stands. It's hot, it's humid, it's muggy and it's buggy, and they have that shit all the time.

So, before you go, check the websites of the Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (the "Startle-gram") for the weather. Of course, in this case, since you're not actually going, the current forecast is irrelevant.

Fortunately, despite the State's Southernness and Confederate past, you don't need a passport to visit, and you don't need to change your money.

Texas (except for the southwestern corner, with El Paso) is in the Central Time Zone, 1 hour behind New York. Adjust your timepieces accordingly.

Tickets. FC Dallas averaged 15,981 fans last season. That's about 78 percent of official seating capacity. Getting tickets should not be a problem.

Away fans are seated in Section 132, at the northeast corner of the stadium. Tickets are $36.

Getting There. It is 1,551 miles from Midtown Manhattan to downtown Dallas, and 1,542 miles from Red Bull Arena to Toyota Stadium. So unless you want to be cooped up for 24-30 hours, you... are... flying.

Nonstop flights from Newark, Kennedy or LaGuardia airports to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport will set you back close to $1,500 (round-trip). That's a bit expensive and if that’s too much, you may have to wait until next season, in the hopes that it'll be cheaper (or you get a raise). Or find alternate transportation. Which is the best idea, especially if you can go with a supporters group from your club -- especially since getting from Dallas proper to Frisco without a car is damn near impossible.

So, if it’s a choice between being cooped up or spending that much dough, what is being cooped up going to be like? Amtrak offers the Lake Shore Limited (a variation on the old New York Central Railroad’s 20th Century Limited), leaving Penn Station at 3:40 PM Eastern Time and arriving at Chicago’s Union Station at 9:45 AM Central Time. Then switch to the Texas Eagle at 1:45 PM, and arrive at Dallas’ Union Station (400 S. Houston Street at Wood Street) the following morning at 11:30. It would be $501 round-trip, and that’s with sleeping in a coach seat, before buying a room with a bed on each train.

Dallas is actually Greyhound’s hometown, or at least the location of its corporate headquarters: 205 S. Lamar Street at Commerce Street, which is also the address of their Dallas station. (The city is also the corporate HQ of American Airlines.) If you look at Greyhound buses, you’ll notice they all have Texas license plates. So how bad can the bus be?

Well, it is a lot cheaper: $338 round-trip, and advanced purchase can get it down to $278. But it won’t be much shorter. It's a 40-hour trip, and you'll have to change buses at least twice, in Richmond, Virginia (and I don't like the Richmond station) and either Atlanta or Memphis.

Oh... kay. So what about driving? As I said, over 1,500 miles. I would definitely recommend bringing a friend and sharing the driving. The fastest way from New York to Dallas is to get into New Jersey, take Interstate 78 West across the State and into Pennsylvania, then turn to Interstate 81 South, across Pennsylvania, the "panhandles" of Maryland and West Virginia, and across the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia into Tennessee, where I-81 will flow into Interstate 40. Take I-40 into Arkansas, and switch to Interstate 30 in Little Rock, taking it into the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area, a.k.a. "The Metroplex." Between the East and West branches of Interstate 35, I-30 is named the Tom Landry Freeway, after the legendary Dallas Cowboys coach.

If you're driving not into Dallas proper, but right to the game -- or if you've got a hotel in or around Frisco -- take I-30 to Exit 94 in Greenville, to U.S. Route 380 West. At Prosper, take the Dallas North Tollway South, to Main Street, and turn left.

Once you get across the Hudson River into New Jersey, you should be in New Jersey for about an hour, Pennsylvania for 3 hours, Maryland for 15 minutes, West Virginia for half an hour, Virginia for 5 and a half hours (more than the entire trip will be before you get to Virginia), 8 hours and 15 minutes in Tennessee, 3 hours in Arkansas, and about 3 hours and 45 minutes in Texas.

Taking 45-minute rest stops in or around (my recommendations) Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Charlottesville, Virginia; Bristol, on the Virginia/Tennessee State Line; Nashville and Memphis, Tennessee; Little Rock and Texarkana, Arkansas; and accounting for overruns there and for traffic at each end of the journey, and we’re talking 31 hours. So, leaving New York at around 10:00 on Sunday morning (thus avoiding rush-hour traffic), you should be able to reach the Metroplex at around 4:00 on Monday afternoon (again, allowing you to avoid rush-hour traffic, and giving you time to get to your hotel).

And you really should get a hotel. Fortunately, there are hotels available nearby, particularly around the intersection of the Dallas North Tollway and the Sam Rayburn Tollway, near the Stonebriar Centre Mall, about 4 miles south of Toyota Stadium. They’re likely to be cheaper than the ones in downtown Dallas.

Once In the City. Dallas (population about 1,250,000, founded in 1856) was named after George Mifflin Dallas, a Mayor of Philadelphia and Senator from Pennsylvania who was James K. Polk's Vice President (1845-49). Fort Worth (about 800,000, founded in 1849) was named for William Jenkins Worth, a General in the War of 1812 and the Mexican-American War. Arlington (375,000, founded in 1876) was named for the Virginia city across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., as a tribute to Confederate General Robert E. Lee. And Frisco (150,000 and rising fast)

The population of the entire Metroplex is about 7.2 million and climbing, although when you throw in Oklahoma, southern Arkansas and northern Louisiana, the total population of the Rangers' "market" is about 19 million -- a little less than the New York Tri-State Area, and soon it will surpass us.

Commerce Street divides Dallas street addresses into North and South. Beckley Avenue, across the Trinity River from downtown, appears to divide them into East and West. The sales tax in the State of Texas is 6.25 percent, in Dallas County 8.25 percent, and in Tarrant County (including Arlington and Fort Worth) 8 percent even.

ZIP Codes for the Dallas side of the Metroplex start with the digits 75; and for the Fort Worth side, 76. The Area Codes are 214, 469, 940 and 972 for Dallas; and 817 for Fort Worth and Arlington.

Public transportation is a relatively new idea in Texas. While Dallas has built a subway and light rail system, and it has a bus service (get a Day Pass for $5.00), until recently, Arlington was the largest city in the country with no public transportation at all.
A Green Line light rail train, just outside of downtown

Going In. The Major League Soccer club FC Dallas (formerly the Dallas Burn) play at Toyota Stadium, at 9200 World Cup Way in the suburb of Frisco. It's actually at the intersection of Main Street and Coleman Blvd., across Main from the new Frisco Square retail complex. (World Cup Way is a block to the west.) I can find no reference to the cost of parking.

It's 28 miles up the Dallas North Tollway from downtown, so forget about any way of getting there except driving. See if you can sign on with a RBNY or NYCFC fan group that's going.
Toyota Stadium opened in 2004, and FCD have played there since 2005, including a 2010 match with Milan's Internazionale. It was known as the Frisco Soccer & Entertainment Complex from 2004 to 2005, Pizza Hut Park until 2012, and FC Dallas Stadium briefly until 2013, when Japanese automaker Toyota bought the naming rights. It also holds the rights to the Chicago Fire's stadium (Toyota Park) and the arena of the NBA's Houston Rockets (the Toyota Center).
The field is natural grass, and is aligned north-to-south, with the north end being the open end of the horseshoe. The south end has been blocked off for the 2016 season.

The stadium seats 20,500. It is surrounded by 17 practice fields (for local youth soccer as well as the MLS club), known as the Toyota Soccer Center. A National Soccer Hall of Fame is planned for the grounds. The U.S. soccer team has played there twice, both against Guatemala, a win and a loss. It also hosts high school football games, and the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision title game -- what used to be known as Division I-AA.

Frisco is also home to Dr. Pepper Ballpark, the 10,600-seat home of the Frisco RoughRiders of the Class AA Texas League; the Dr. Pepper Arena, home of the Texas Legends of the NBA Development League, the Texas Tornado of the North American Hockey League, and the Dallas Stars' practice facility; the Dallas Cowboys' new corporate headquarters and training facilities (I guess Jerry Jones simply can't stop building); and the headquarters of the Southland Conference (NCAA FCS).

Unlike Toyota Stadium, Dr. Pepper Ballpark, which is 5 miles closer to downtown Dallas, can be reached by public transit -- but it would require 3 buses and take an hour and a half.

Food. In Texas, you can expect Tex-Mex, barbecue, and lots and lots of beer, including the hometown brand, Lone Star Beer. FCD is sensitive to the locals' wishes. According to the team website:

Legends took over operations for Toyota Stadium in March 2012. FC Dallas charged Legends with delivering innovation, increasing per capita revenue, improving food quality and changing the fan experience.

To deliver against each of these goals, Legends put a plan in place that included:
  •     The addition of Legends signature brands including Bent Buckle Barbecue, and Los Vaqueros Cantina
  •     The addition of performance cooking in Clubs
  •     A change in the food preparation philosophy by introducing the signature “made from scratch” approach in all areas
Team History Displays. Although FC Dallas (the Dallas Burn until moving to Frisco in 2005) were a charter MLS franchise in 1996, and are (like the Red Bulls) celebrating their 20th Anniversary in 2016, their history is about as bleak as ours. (Though still better than yours, if you are a fan of the Small Club In Da Bronx.) They won the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in 1997 (America's version of England's FA Cup), and also reached the Final in 2005 and 2007. They were runners-up for the MLS Supporters' Shield in 2006 and (to us) in 2015; and for the MLS Cup in 2010. (UPDATE: They went on to win the 2016 FA Cup, beating the New England Revolution 4-2 in the Final.)

There is no display in the stadium's fan areas honoring the 1997 U.S. Open Cup win or the 2010 MLS Western Conference title. And there are no retired numbers, and no team hall of fame.

A statue of Lamar Hunt stands outside Toyota Stadium. Hunt, a Dallas native and the son of oil baron (and funder of right-wing extremism, making him a proto-Tea Partier) H.L. Hunt, wanted to bring professional football to Dallas -- and, by "football," he didn't meant soccer. At first. He wanted an expansion franchise. When the NFL wouldn't give him one, he found out that the Chicago Cardinals were losing money, and offered to buy them and move them to the Cotton Bowl. The NFL wouldn't let him do that, either, and allowed the Cards to move to St. Louis (and later Arizona).

Frustrated, Hunt founded the American Football League and its Dallas Texans, to begin play in 1960. In 1963, knowing he couldn't compete for publicity and fans with the team the NFL did allow, the Cowboys, he moved his team, and it became the Kansas City Chiefs. He was also a founding part-owner of the NBA's Chicago Bulls. Eventually, he made peace with the NFL, got the AFL merged into it, and the AFC Championship trophy is named for him.

So is the American equivalent of the FA Cup, the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Why? In 1962, Hunt and his eventual wife Norman went to Dublin, Ireland, and watched a Shamrock Rovers match. In 1966, he went to England and attended the World Cup -- and was hooked: Over the last 40 years of his life, he attended matches of every World Cup except one.

In 1967, he founded one of the leagues that would, the next year, merge into the original North American Soccer League. His Dallas Tornado won the NASL title in 1971, and nearly did so again in 1973. But the team never made money, and in 1981 he and his partner Bill McNutt merged them with the Tampa Bay Rowdies's owners. They sold the Rowdies in 1983, and the loss of Hunt's prestige, combined with Giorgio Chinaglia's dimwittery killing the League's New York franchise, killed the old NASL.

But Hunt didn't give up on U.S. soccer, and worked to bring the World Cup to the U.S. in 1994, and then found Major League Soccer in 1996. He was a founding owner of the teams now known as Sporting Kansas City and the Columbus Crew, financed the building of what's now Mapfre Stadium in Columbus, and bought the Dallas Burn in 2003, building what's now Toyota Stadium and moving them there.

For his contributions to the game, he was elected to the National Soccer Hall of Fame (as well as the Pro football, Tennis, and Texas Sports Halls of Fame) in 1992, and in 1999, the U.S. Soccer Federation renamed the U.S. Open Cup after him. He died in 2006, and his son Clark Hunt now owns FC Dallas and the Kansas City Chiefs.
Stuff. The FC Dallas Team Shop is in the northeast corner of the stadium. It is open on non-game days, and on gamedays opens with the stadium gates. Naturally, they also sell cowboy hats and foam 10-gallon hats with the club logo on them.

Despite having 20 years of history, there is no team history DVD of the team. Nor is there an official book history. However, in 2014, Nathan Nipper published Dallas 'Til I Cry: Learning to Love Major League Soccer.

During the Game. FC Dallas fans consider their rivals to be Houston, Kansas City and Los Angeles -- not New York. Keep politics and religion out of it, and you'll probably be fine. And, this being a stadium, you're gonna get searched, and so is everyone else, so Texas' infamously lenient gun laws will be rendered useless. You're not going to get shot. Even J.R. Ewing wouldn't have gotten shot.

The club holds hold auditions for National Anthem singers, instead of having a regular singer. Their mascot is Tex Hooper, a longhorn bull, named for the State and for the "hoops" (vertical stripes) on the club's jerseys. As with London's blue-striped Queens Park Rangers and Glasgow's green-striped Celtic, a common shout at FCD games is, "C'mon The Hoops!"
There are 5 main supporters groups for FCD. The Dallas Football Elite (DFE) and Red Shamrock both sit in Section 101, a.k.a. The Snake Pit. The Budweiser Beer Garden in the stadium's north end is home to the Dallas Beer Guardians (DBG) and the Lone Star Legion (LSL). Section 117 is home to El Matador.
The Beer Guardians were originally named FC Drunk. FCD management told them that Budweiser liked the idea of a beer-themed fan group, but that "FC Drunk" wasn't family-friendly. So they played off "Beer Garden" to become the "Beer Guardians."

The groups tend to adapt the chants they inherited from the English clubs that, frequently (including in my own case) led them to their local team, rather than the other way around. "We love ya, we love ya, we love ya, and where you go we'll follow... " will be familiar to RBNY fans. Familiar to almost everyone will be "Oh when the Hoops! Go marching in!" The LSL also adapts chants from continental Europe and Latin America. El Matador does chants in both English and Spanish.

Red Shamrock, unlike the others, goes out of its way to be family-friendly, keeping their language kid-appropriate. Example: "FCD ain't nothin' to mess with!" instead of the more familiar and profane version often heard in the Red Bulls' South Ward. Another: "FCD! We are here! To sing our songs and drink some beer!" instead of the more familiar, "(name of group)! We are here! Shag your women and drink your beer!" And, "Can you hear the (opponent) sing? I can't hear a freakin' thing!" as opposed to using the other F-word.

FC Dallas fans hate Houston and the Dynamo the way Metro fans hate D.C. United. To the tune of, "My Darling Clementine":

Build a bonfire! Build a bonfire!
Put Houston at the top!
Put (today's opponent) in the middle!
And we'll burn the freakin' lot!

And to "You Are My Sunshine," which English fans adapted for Liverpool, as in, "You are a Scouser... ":

You are from Houston
From friggin' Houston
You're only happy
on Welfare Day
Your mom's a hooker,
Your dad’s a dealer
Please don’t take my hubcaps away!

After the Game. Dallas has a bit of a bad reputation when it comes to crime, but you'll be pretty far from it. The stadium is deep into Dallas' well-off northern suburbs, far from any bad neighborhood, it’s one of those ballparks that’s not in any neighborhood. As long as you don’t make any snide remarks about the Cowboys, Texas in general, or religion, safety will not be an issue.

Just across Main Street from the south end of the stadium is the Frisco Square shopping center, which has eateries Jake's Uptown, Mattito's Tex-Mex and Nola Grill Frisco. A block away, at Simpson Plaza, is Pizzeria Testa. To the west, at Main Street and Dallas Parkway (which flanks the Dallas North Tollway), are The British Lion (an obvious attempt to cash in on the soccer vibe) and Fruitealicious. A little further up Dallas Parkway are Icream Cafe and the Blue Goose Cantina. A Panera, a Smoothie King and an IHOP are across the Tollway on the other side of the Parkway.

The only bars I could find that have been mentioned as catering to New Yorkers are Buffalo Joe's at 3636 Frankford Road, home of the local Giants fan club, about halfway between the stadium and downtown Dallas; and Humperdinks at 6050 Greenville Avenue, home of Metroplex Jets fans, a little closer to downtown. The Cape Buffalo Grille, in the northern suburb of Addison, was once described as a home for local Giants fans, and as "a lifesaver for people from New York and New Jersey"; however, it has been permanently closed.

If, on a later trip to Dallas, you want to watch your favorite European team, you can do so at the following locations:

* Arsenal, Liverpool, Everton: The Londoner, 14930 Midway Road, Addison. From Union Station, DART Red Line to Forest Lane Station, then transfer to Bus 488.

* Manchester United: Vickery Park, 2810 N. Henderson Avenue. Blue Line to Mockingbird Station, then transfer to Bus 24.

* Manchester City: The British Lion, 5454 Main Street, Frisco, 2 blocks west of Toyota Stadium. Not reachable by public transit.

* Tottenham, Celtic and Bayern Munich: Trinity Hall, 5321 E. Mockingbird Lane, just off the SMU campus. Blue Line to Mockingbird Station.

* Chelsea: British Beverage Company, 2800 Routh Street. Bus 183 to Pearl & McKinney, then a 12- minute walk.

* Newcastle: The Dubliner, 2818 Greenville Avenue. Possible to get within a half-hour walk of it by public transportation, better to drive.

* West Ham: McSwiggan's Irish Pub, 6910 Windhaven Pkwy., The Colony. Possible to get within a half-hour walk of it by public transportation, better to drive.

* Barcelona: Rugby House Pub, 8604 Preston Road, Plano. Possible to get within a half-hour walk of it by public transportation, better to drive.

* Real Madrid: Si Tapas Restaurant, 2207 Allen Street. Blue Line to City Place/Uptown West, then transfer to Bus 36 to Woodall Rogers at Allen.

If you don't see your favorite club mentioned, your best bet is probably Trinity Hall -- but, as I said, it's the local Tottenham fans' pub, and do you really want to be around those cunts?

Sidelights. Despite their new rapid-rail system, Dallas is almost entirely a car-friendly, everything-else-unfriendly city. Actually, it's not that friendly at all. It's a city for oil companies, for banks, for insurance companies, things normal Americans tend to hate. As one Houston native once put it, "Dallas is not in Texas."

In fact, most Texans, especially people from Fort Worth (and, to a slightly lesser extent, those from Houston) seem to think of Dallas the way the rest of America thinks of New York: They hate it, and they think that it represents all that is bad about their homeland. Until, that is, they need a win. Or money. But there are some sites that may be worth visiting.

Globe Life Park, home of the Texas Rangers baseball team, is 17 miles west of downtown in Dallas, and 18 miles east of downtown Fort Worth, about halfway between. Arlington is in Fort Worth's Tarrant County, not Dallas County. The official address is 1000 Ballpark Way, off Exit 29 on the Landry Freeway. It sits right between Six Flags and the new Cowboys stadium (now named AT&T Stadium).
Globe Life Park, with Jerry Jones' Death Star in the background

Across Legends Way from the ballpark is a parking lot where the original home of the Rangers, Arlington Stadium, stood from 1965 to 1993. It was a minor-league park called Turnpike Stadium, built in 1965 for the Texas League's Dallas-Fort Worth Spurs, before the announcement of the move of the team led to its expansion for the 1972 season.

Dallas won Texas League (Double-A) Pennants in 1926, 1929, 1941, 1946 and 1953. They played at Burnett Field, which opened in 1924, and was abandoned after the Dallas Rangers and the Fort Worth Cats merged to become the Spurs in 1965. Currently, it's a vacant lot. 1500 E. Jefferson Blvd. at Colorado Blvd. Bus 011.

The Cats won TL Pennants in 1895, 1905, 1906, 1920, 1921, 1922, 1923, 1924, 1925, 1930, 1937, 1939 and 1948. Those 6 straight Pennants in the Twenties became a pipeline of stars for the St. Louis Cardinals, and the 1930 Pennant featured Dizzy Dean and a few other future members of the Cards' 1930s "Gashouse Gang."

The Cats played at LaGrave Field, the first version of which opened in 1900, and was replaced in 1926, again after a fire in 1949, and one more time in 2002, as a new Fort Worth Cats team began play in an independent league. 301 NE 6th Street. Trinity Railway Express to Fort Worth Intermodal Transit Center, then Number 1 bus.

One more baseball-themed place in Texas that might interest a Yankee Fan: Due to his cancer treatments and liver transplant, Mickey Mantle, who lived in Dallas during the off-seasons and after his baseball career, spent the end of his life at the Baylor University Medical Center. 3501 Junius Street at Gaston Avenue. Bus 019.

Merlyn Mantle died in 2009, and while it can be presumed that Mickey's surviving sons, Danny and David, inherited his memorabilia, I don't know what happened to their house, which (I've been led to believe) was in a gated community and probably not accessible to the public anyway; so even if I could find the address, I wouldn't list it here. (For all I know, one or both sons may live there, and I've heard that one of them -- Danny, I think -- is a Tea Party flake, and even if he wasn't, the family shouldn't be disturbed just because you're a Yankee Fan and their father was one of the Yankees.)

If you truly wish to pay your respects to this baseball legend: Mickey, Merlyn, and their sons Mickey Jr. and Billy are laid to rest at Sparkman-Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery. Also buried there are Tom Landry, tennis star Maureen Connolly, oil baron H.L. Hunt, Senator John Tower, Governor and Senator W. Lee "Pappy" O'Daniel, bluesman Freddie King, actress Greer Garson and Mary Kay Cosmetics founder Mary Kay Ash. 7405 West Northwest Highway at Durham Street. Red Line to Park Lane station, then 428 Bus to the cemetery.

AT&T Stadium, the new home of the Cowboys (opening in 2009), is close to Globe Life Park; in fact, it’s 7/10ths of a mile. You could walk between them. If you don't mind losing 5 pounds of water weight in the Texas heat. The official address is 925 N. Collins Street, and the Cowboys offer tours of this Texas-sized facility, which will make the new Yankee Stadium seem sensible by comparison.

It has now hosted a Super Bowl, an NCAA Final Four (in 2014, Connecticut over Kentucky), some major prizefights and concerts (including Texas native George Strait opening the stadium with Reba McIntire, and recently holding the final show of his "farewell tour" there), and the biggest crowd ever to attend a basketball game, 108,713, at the 2010 NBA All-Star Game. While the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City hosted a larger regular-season crowd, the biggest crowd ever to see an NFL game on American soil was the first regular-season game there, the Cowboys and the Giants (Lawrence Tynes winning it for the G-Men with a last-second field goal), 105,121.

It hosts several special college football games: The annual Cotton Bowl Classic, the annual Cowboys Classic, the annual Arkansas-Texas A&M game, the Big 12 Championship, and, on January 12 of next year, it will host the first National Championship game in college football's playoff era.

Mexico's national soccer team has now played there 5 times -- the U.S. team, only once (a CONCACAF Gold Cup win over Honduras in 2013). Mexican clubs Club America and San Luis, and European giants Chelsea and Barcelona have also played there.

Don't bother looking for the former home of the Cowboys, Texas Stadium, because "the Hole Bowl" was demolished in 2010. If you must, the address was 2401 E. Airport Freeway, in Irving. The U.S. soccer team played there once, a 1991 loss to Costa Rica. The North American Soccer League's Dallas Tornado played most of its home games there, featuring native son Kyle Rote Jr., son of the SMU grad who played for the Giants in the 1950s.

The Cowboys' 1st home, from 1960 to 1970, was the Cotton Bowl, which also hosted the Cotton Bowl game from 1937 to 2009, after which it was moved to AT&T Stadium. It also hosted the original NFL version of the Dallas Texans in 1952; the AFL's Dallas Texans from 1960 to 1962, before they moved and became the Kansas City Chiefs; and some (but not all) home games of Southern Methodist University between 1932 and 2000.
The Cotton Bowl in its best-remembered configuration

As for soccer it was home to the Tornado in their 1967 and 1968 seasons; the Burn from 1996 to 2002 and again in 2004 and early 2005; some games of soccer's 1994 World Cup; and 7 U.S. soccer games, most recently a draw to Mexico in 2004.

It was also the site of an Elvis concert on October 11, 1956, the 20,000 fans being his biggest crowd until he resumed touring in 1970.
The Cotton Bowl, after its recent modernization

But it's old, opening in 1930, and the only thing that's still held there is the annual "Red River Rivalry" game between the Universities of Texas and Oklahoma, every 1st Saturday in October, and that's only because that’s the weekend when the Texas State Fair is held, as the stadium is in Fair Park. (Just look for the statue of "Big Tex" -- you can't miss him.) While it doesn't seem fair that Oklahoma's visit to play Texas should be called a "neutral site" if it’s in the State of Texas, the fact remains that each school gets half the tickets, and it's actually slightly closer to OU's campus in Norman, 191 miles, than it is from UT's in Austin, 197 miles. The address is 3750 The Midway.

Next-door is the African-American Museum of Dallas. 1300 Robert B. Cullum Blvd., in the Fair Park section of south Dallas. Bus 012 or 026, or Green Line light rail to Fair Park station. Be advised that this is generally considered to be a high-crime area of Dallas.

The Burn/FCD played their 2003 home games at Dragon Stadium, an 11,000-seat high school facility. 1085 S. Kimball Avenue, in Southlake, 23 miles northwest of downtown Dallas. No public transit.
The NBA's Dallas Mavericks and the NHL's Dallas Stars play at the American Airlines Center, or the AAC. Not to be confused with the American Airlines Arena in Miami (which was really confusing when the Mavs played the Heat in the 2006 and 2011 NBA Finals), it looks like a cross between a rodeo barn and an airplane hangar. 2500 Victory Avenue in the Victory Park neighborhood, north of downtown. Bus 052 or Green Line to Victory station.

Before the AAC opened in 2001, both teams played at the Reunion Arena. This building hosted the 1984 Republican Convention, where Ronald Reagan was nominated for a 2nd term as President. To New York Tri-State Area fans, it is probably best remembered as the place where Jason Arnott's double-overtime goal won Game 6 and gave the New Jersey Devils the 2000 Stanley Cup over the defending Champion Stars. The 1986 NCAA Final Four, won by Louisville over Duke, was held there.

It was demolished in November 2009, 5 months before Texas Stadium was imploded. The arena didn't even get to celebrate a 30th Anniversary. 777 Sports Street at Houston Viaduct, downtown, a 10-minute walk from Union Station.

The Dallas Sportatorium was built in 1935 to host professional wrestling, burned down in 1953 (legend has it that it was arson by a rival promoter), was rebuilt as a 4,500-seat venue, and continued to host wrestling even as it was replaced by larger arenas and fell into a rat-infested, crumbling decline, before a 2001 fire (this one was likely the result of the neglect, rather than arson) finally led to its 2003 demolition. Elvis Presley sang there early in his career, on April 16, May 29, June 18 and September 3, 1955. The site is now vacant. 1000 S. Industrial Blvd. at Cadiz Street, just south of downtown.

The Dallas Memorial Auditorium opened in 1957, and hosted some games of the ABA's Dallas Chaparrals games. The Beatles played there on September 18, 1964. Elvis sang there on November 13, 1971; June 6, 1975; and December 28, 1976. It is now part of the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, named for Texas' 1st female U.S. Senator. 650 S. Griffin Street, downtown.

Elvis also sang in Fort Worth, at the Tarrant County Convention Center, now the Fort Worth Convention Center, on June 18, 1972; June 15 and 16, 1974; and June 3 and July 3, 1976. 1201 Houston Street. A short walk from the Fort Worth Intermodal Transportation Center.

If there's 2 non-sports things the average American knows about Dallas, it's that the city is where U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963, and where Ewing Oil President J.R. Ewing was shot on March 21, 1980. Elm, Main and Commerce Streets merge to go over railroad tracks near Union Station, and then go under Interstate 35E, the Stemmons Freeway – that’s the "triple underpass" so often mentioned in accounts of the JFK assassination.

The former Texas School Book Depository, now named The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, is at the northwest corner of Elm & Houston Streets, while the "grassy knoll" is to the north of Elm, and the west of the Depository. Like Ford’s Theater, where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865, and the area surrounding it in Washington, the area around Dealey Plaza is, structurally speaking, all but unchanged from the time the President in question was gunned down, an oddity in Dallas, where newer construction always seems to be happening.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy was shot in downtown Dallas and died, while John Ross Ewing Jr. was shot in downtown Dallas and lived. Where’s the justice in that? J.R. was shot in his office at Ewing Oil's headquarters, which, in the memorable opening sequence of Dallas, was in the real-life Renaissance Tower, at 1201 Elm Street, Dallas' tallest building from 1974 to 1985. In real life, it's the headquarters for Neiman Marcus. Bank of America Plaza, on Elm at Griffith Street, is now the tallest building in Dallas, at 921 feet, although not the tallest in Texas (there's 2 in Houston that are taller).

The real Southfork Ranch is at 3700 Hogge Drive (that’s pronounced "Hoag") in Parker, 28 miles northeast of the city. (Again, you’ll need a car.) It’s not nearly as old as the Ewing family's fictional history would suggest: It was built in 1970. It’s now a conference center, and like the replica of the Ponderosa Ranch that Lorne Greene had built to look like his TV home on Bonanza, it is designed to resemble the Ewing family home as seen on both the original 1978-91 series and the 2012-present revival. It is open to tours, for an admission fee of $9.50.

Dallas values bigness, but unless you count Southfork and Dealey Plaza, it isn't big on museums. The best known is the Dallas Museum of Art, downtown at 1717 N. Harwood Street at Flora Street. Nearby is the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, named for ol' H. Ross himself, at 2201 N. Field Street at Broom Street.

The Dallas area is also home to 2 major football-playing colleges: Southern Methodist University in north Dallas, which, as alma mater of Laura Bush, was chosen as the site of the George W. Bush Presidential Library (now open); and Texas Christian University in Fort Worth.

SMU played at Ownby Stadium (when not playing at the Cotton Bowl) from 1926 to 1998. The Dallas Tornado of the old North American Soccer League also played there from 1976 to 1979. It was demolished, and replaced with the 32,000-seat Gerald F. Ford stadium. (No relation to the 1974-77 President who'd been a star center on the University of Michigan football team, this Gerald Ford is a billionaire banker who gave $42 million of his own money to build it.) 5800 Ownby Drive.

The Bush Library is at 2943 SMU Blvd. & North Central Expressway, a 5-minute walk from Ford Stadium, Moody Coliseum, and the university bookstore, which, like so many university bookstores, is a Barnes & Noble (not named for Dallas character Cliff Barnes).

SMU is also home to Moody Coliseum, home court of their basketball team. The Dallas Chaparrals played ABA games there from 1967 until 1973, when they became the San Antonio Spurs. 6024 Airline Road. All SMU locations can be accessed by the Blue or Red Line to Mockingbird Station.

SMU has produced players like Doak Walker, Forrest Gregg, Dandy Don Meredith, and the "Pony Express" backfield of Eric Dickerson and Craig James (both now TV-network studio analysts), while TCU has produced Slingin' Sammy Baugh, Jim Swink and Bob Lilly. Both schools have had their highs and their lows, and following their 1987 "death penalty" (for committing recruiting violations while already on probation), and their return to play in 1989 under Gregg as coach, SMU are now what college basketball fans would call a "mid-major" school. Ironically, TCU, normally the less lucky of the schools, seriously challenged for the 2009 and 2010 National Championships, but their own "mid-major" schedule doomed them in that regard. TCU's Amon G. Carter Stadium hosted the U.S. soccer team's 1988 loss to Ecuador.

In addition to the preceding locations, Elvis sang in North Texas:

* At the Carthage Milling Company in Carthage, 160 miles southeast of downtown Dallas, on November 12, 1955 (the night of the dance in Back to the Future).

* At the high school gymnasium in DeKalb, 150 miles northeast, on March 4, 1955.

* At Owl Park in Gainesville, 70 miles north, on Apirl 14, 1955.

* In Gilmer, 125 miles east, at the Rural Electrification Administration Building on January 26, 1955, and at Trinity High School on September 26, 1955.

* In Gladewater, 120 miles east, at the Mint Club on November 23 and Dcember 24, 1954, the high school gym on April 30 and November 19, 1955, and at the baseball park on August 10, 1955.

* The City Auditorium in Greenville, 50 miles northeast, on October 5, 1955.

* In Hawkins, 110 miles east, at the high school on December 20, 1954 and the Humble Oil Company Camp on January 24, 1955.

* In Henderson, 140 miles southeast, at the Rodeo Arena on August 9, 1955.

* In Joinerville, 130 miles southeast, at Gaston High School on January 28, 1955.

* At Driller Park in Kilgore, 120 miles east, on August 12, 1955.

* At the Reo Palm Isle Club in Longview, 130 miles east, on January 27, March 31, August 11 and November 18, 1955.

* At the American Legion Hall in Mount Pleasant, 120 miles northeast, on December 31, 1954.

* In New Boston, 150 miles northeast, at the Red River Arsenal on December 31, 1954, and at the high school, first at the gym on January 11, 1955, and then at the football stadium on June 6, 1955.

* At the Boys Club Gymnasium in Paris, 100 miles northeast, on October 4, 1955.

* At the Recreation Hall in Stephenville, 100 miles southwest, on July 4, 1955.

* At the Mayfair Building in Tyler, 100 miles southeast, on January 25, May 23 and August 8, 1955.

* At the Heart O Texas Coliseum (now the Extraco Events Center) in Waco, 100 miles south, on April 23, 1955, and April 17 and October 12, 1956.

* And in Wichita Falls, 140 miles northwest, at the M-B Corral on April 25, 1955, at Spudder Park on August 22, 1956, and at the Memorial Auditorium on January 19 and April 9, 1956.

Aside from Dallas, TV shows that have shot in, or been set in, the Dallas area include Walker, Texas Ranger, Prison Break, the new series Queen of the South (based on a Mexican telenovela), and the ridiculous, short-lived ABC nighttime soap GCB (which stood for "Good Christian Bitches").

Movies about, or involving, the JFK assassination usually have to shoot in Dallas: The 1983 NBC miniseries Kennedy with Martin Sheen, JFK, Love Field, Ruby, Watchmen, LBJ (with Bryan Cranston as the Texan who succeeded him), and the Hulu series 11/22/63, based on Stephen King's fantasy novel.

Other movies shot in the city include the 1962 version of State Fair, Bonnie and Clyde, Mars Needs Women, Logan's Run, The Lathe of Heaven, Silkwood, Tender Mercies, Places in the Heart, The Trip to Bountiful, Born on the Fourth of July, Problem Child, My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys (not about the football team), The Apostle, Boys Don't Cry, Dallas Buyers Club, the football films Necessary Roughness and Any Given Sunday, and, of course, the porno classic Debbie Does Dallas. However, it might surprise you to know that RoboCop, which was set in a Detroit that was purported to be in a near future when the city was even worse than it then was in real life, was filmed in Dallas. What does that say about Dallas? (To me, it says, "This is another reason why Dallas sucks.")


Texas is a weird place, and the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex is no exception. But it's a pretty good area for sports, and it even seems to have embraced this other kind of "football" between seasons of the football they know.

If you can afford it, and can find a way to get from downtown Dallas to Frisco, go, and help your fellow Metro fans make FC Dallas feel like they’re in New York, or New Jersey. But remember to avoid using the oft-heard phrase "Dallas sucks." In this case, keep the truth to yourself!

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