A true Red Bulls fan, not accepting that a New York Tri-State Area team's arch-rival is either New England, or Philadelphia, or another Tri-State Area team, not Washington, would say that this is perfect: Going into RFK Stadium on a Friday the 13th.
Before You Go. D.C. can get really hot in summer, but this will be mid-May, so you shouldn't have to worry about the heat. The Washington Post is predicting low 80s for Friday afternoon, and high 50s for the evening. They do not mention a chance of rain, so it should be dry.
Washington is in the Eastern Time Zone, so you won't have to fiddle with your clocks, digital or otherwise.
Tickets. While Redskins tickets are notoriously difficult to get, D.C. United have serious attendance issues: They averaged only 16,244 fans per home game last season. It's not because RFK Stadium is outdated, or because it's in a bad neighborhood. Actually, the neighborhood isn't any worse than the Ironbound section of Newark that a Red Bulls fan might go through on his pub crawl before going over the Jackson Street Bridge to the Arena. And RFK is a great stadium for soccer, which is why it's hosted more U.S. national team games than any other facility.
Visiting supporters sit in Section 318, at the back of the lower level. When baseball was played at RFK, this would have put you right behind home plate. But, for soccer, it puts you high above the southwest corner flag. Forget it: For the 2013 U.S.-Germany game, I sat across, in the upper deck behind the opposite corner (in what would have been deep center field), and the view was still good. Tickets for Section 318 are just $20. However, no tickets for this section are sold on the day of the match. Instead, visiting fans must purchase the tickets from the club's supporters group.
Getting There. Getting to Washington is fairly easy. Ordinarily, if you have a car, I recommend using it, and getting a hotel either downtown or inside the Capital Beltway, because driving in Washington is roughly (good choice of words there) as bad as driving in New York. However, since FedExField is not in the District, I would recommend driving, especially if you're only going down for the game, and not "seeing the city."
It's 229 miles by road from Times Square to downtown Washington, and 216 miles from Red Bull Arena to RFK Stadium. If you're not "doing the city," but just going to the game, take the New Jersey Turnpike all the way down to the Delaware Memorial Bridge (a.k.a. the Twin Span), across the Delaware River into the State of, well, Delaware. This should take about 2 hours, not counting a rest stop.
Speaking of which, the temptation to take an alternate route (such as Exit 7A to I-195 to I-295 to the Ben Franklin Bridge) or a side trip (Exit 4, eventually leading to the Ben Franklin Bridge) to get into Pennsylvania and stop off at Pat's Steaks in South Philly can be strong, but if you want to get from New York to Washington with making only 1 rest stop, you're better off using the Delaware House Service Area in Christiana, between Exits 3 and 1 on the Delaware Turnpike. It's almost exactly the halfway point between New York and Washington.
Once you get over the Twin Span – the New Jersey-bound span opened in 1951, the Delaware-bound one was added in 1968 – follow the signs carefully, as you'll be faced with multiple ramp signs for Interstates 95, 295 and 495, as well as for US Routes 13 and 40 and State Route 9. You want I-95 South, and its signs will say "Delaware Turnpike" and "Baltimore." You'll pay tolls at both its eastern and western ends, and unless there' a traffic jam, you should only be in Delaware for a maximum of 15 minutes before hitting the Maryland State Line.
At said State Line, I-95 changes from the Delaware Turnpike to the John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway, and you'l be on it for about an hour (unless you want to make another rest stop, either the Chesapeake House or the Maryland House) and passing through Baltimore, before seeing signs for I-895 and the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel, Exit 62.
From here, you'll pass through the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel. Take I-895 to Exit 4, and you'll be on Maryland Route 295 South, the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. BWP exits are not numbered, but that won't be an issue here, as you'll just take it all the way to East Capitol Street. From there, it's just 1 mile, including over the Whitney Young Memorial Bridge over the Anacostia River, to the stadium.
If all goes well -- getting out of New York City and through downtown Baltimore okay, reasonable traffic, just the one rest stop, no trouble with your car -- the whole trip should take about 3½ hours. However, being that this is a Friday night, and that you could be hitting the D.C. area at the height of rush hour, it could be 4½. Best to leave around lunchtime.
Washington is too close to fly, just as flying from New York to Boston, Philadelphia and Baltimore, 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. So forget about flying from JFK, LaGuardia or Newark to Reagan National or Dulles International Airport. (John Foster Dulles was President Eisenhower's Secretary of State.)
The train is a very good option, if you can afford it. Washington's Union Station is at 50 Massachusetts Avenue NE, within sight of the Capitol Building. But Amtrak is expensive. They figure, "You hate to fly, you don't want to deal with airports, and Greyhound sucks, so we can charge whatever we want."
Union Station, outside
New York to Washington will run you $157 round-trip on a standard Northeast Regional, and $3226 on Acela Express (formerly the Metroliner). And that's before you add anything like Business Class or, God forbid, Amtrak's overmicrowaved food. Still, it's less than 3 hours if you take the Acela Express, and 3 hours and 40 minutes if you take a regular Northeast Regional train.
Union Station, inside
Another option is to buy a ticket for the New Carrollton, Maryland station, head out to Bus Bay C, and take the F14 bus to Hill Oaks Drive & Michele Drive. From there, it's a 10-minute walk to the stadium. The Amtrak price won't be any different, although the price for the bus may be, compared to the Metro.
Greyhound has rectified a longtime problem. They now use the parking deck behind Union Station as their Washington terminal, instead of the one they built 6 blocks away (and thus 6 blocks from the nearest Metro station), in the ghetto, back in the late 1960s. So neither safety nor aesthetics will be an issue any longer. Round-trip fare on Greyhound can be as high as $84, but you can get it for as little as just $16 on advanced purchase. It takes about 4 1/2 hours, and usually includes a rest stop about halfway, either on the New Jersey Turnpike in South Jersey or on the Delaware Turnpike.
Once In the City. Founded in 1800, and usually referred to as "The National City" in its early days, and "Washington City" in the 19th Century, the city was named, of course, for George Washington, although its "Georgetown" neighborhood was named for our previous commander-in-chief, King George III of England.
Like a lot of cities, Washington suffered from "white flight," so that, while the population within the city limits has seriously shrunk, from 800,000 in 1950 to 650,000 today; the metro area went from 2.9 million to double that, 5.9 million. As a result, the roads leading into the District, and the one going around it, the Capital Beltway, Interstate 495, are rammed with cars. Finally, someone wised up and said, "Let's build a subway," and in 1976, the Metro opened.
That metropolitan growth was boosted by the Maryland and Virginia suburbs building housing and shopping areas for federal-government workers. And, perhaps more than any other metro area, the poor blacks who once lived in the city have reached the middle-class and built their own communities (especially to the east, in Maryland's Prince Georges County, which includes Landover). The metro area now has about 6 million residents -- and that's not including the metro area of nearby Baltimore, which would boost it to nearly 8.5 million and make it the 4th-largest "market" in the country, behind New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, slightly ahead of the San Francisco Bay Area.
Lots of people from the District and its Maryland and Virginia suburbs went up the Parkway to Baltimore to see the Orioles during the District's 1972-2004 baseball interregnum. However, during the NFL interregnum between Robert Irsay's theft of the Colts in 1984 and the arrival of the Ravens in 1996, Baltimore never accepted the Redskins as their team, despite 2 Super Bowl wins in that period. (So from March 1984 to August 1996, if you lived in the BaltWash Corridor, you had to take the Orioles for baseball and the Washington teams for the other sports. Since April 2005, you've had options for MLB and the NFL. But if you live closer to Baltimore, you still have to go to D.C. for the NBA, the NHL or MLS.)
When you get to Union Station, pick up copies of the Washington Post and the Baltimore Sun. The Post is a great paper with a very good sports section, and in just 6 seasons (now into a 7th) has covered the Nats very well, despite the 1972-2004 era when D.C. had no MLB team of its own. As a holdover from that era, it still covers the Orioles well. The Sun is only an okay paper, but its sports section is nearly as good as the Post's, and their coverage of their town's hometown baseball team rivals that of any paper in the country -- including the great coverage that The New York Times and
Daily News give to the Yankees and Mets.
Do not buy The Washington Times. It was founded by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon in 1982 as a replacement for the bankrupt Washington Star as the area's conservative equivalent to the "liberal" Post. (That's a laugh: The Post has George Will, Charles Krauthammer, Michael Gerson and Kathleen Parker as columnists!) Under editor-in-chief Wesley Pruden, the Times was viciously right-wing, "reporting" every rumor about Democrats as if they were established, proven fact, and giving Republicans a free pass. Moon's "Unification Church" sold the paper in 2009, and Pruden retired the year before. But it has cut about 40 percent of its employees, and has dropped not only its Sunday edition but also its sports section.
And now, there's another paper, the Washington Examiner, owned by the same company as the conservative magazine The Weekly Standard, and it is so far to the right it makes The Washington Times look like the Daily Kos. It is a truly loony publication, where Michael Barone of the American Enterprise Institute and Byron York of National Review are considered moderates. So avoid the loonies and the Moonies, and stick with the Post. Even if you don't agree with my politics, you're going down to D.C. for baseball, and the Post's sports section kicks ass.
The sales tax in the District, once as high as 9 percent, is now just 6 percent. Unfortunately, not being a State, the city government has to do everything that a city government does and every thing that a State government does. Which also means that the Mayor, currently Muriel Bowser, has to do everything that the State's Governor would do.
The John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW,
D.C.'s City Hall, and, effectively, also its State Capitol Building
Remember: On street signs, 1st Street is written out as FIRST, and I Street is written out as EYE, so as to avoid confusion. And for the same reason, since I and J were virtually indistinguishable in written script when D.C. was founded in 1800, there is no J Street. Once the letters are expended, they go to to 2- and then 3-syllable words beginning with the sequential letters: Adams, Bryant, Clifton, etc.
ZIP Codes for D.C. start with the digits 20, with 202 through 205 serving the federal government, and 201 serving Dulles Airport, even though it's in Virginia. For the Maryland suburbs, it's 206 through 209 and 215. For the Virginia suburbs, it's 220 to 223. The Area Code for D.C. is 202, with 301 serving the Maryland suburbs, overlaid by 240; and 70 serving the Virginia suburbs, overlaid by 571.
Washington's subway, the Metro, was not in place until 1976, but, thereafter, it was a relatively easy ride to Redskins games at RFK Stadium, and later D.C. United and (for 3 seasons) Nationals games.
If you drive in, parking is $20. If not, take the Metro's Orange Line or Blue Line to Stadium-Armory. Unfortunately, it's about a 10-minute walk from the station, at 19th & C Streets SE, to the stadium. The D.C. Armory, headquarters of the District of Columbia National Guard, is that big brown arena-like thing across the parking lot.
The Stadium, with the Armory behind and to the left
The NFL's Washington Redskins played there from 1961 to 1996. Baseball's "new" Washington Senators opened there in 1962, and JFK threw out the first ball at the stadium that would be renamed for his brother and Attorney General. (There was a JFK Stadium in Philadelphia, formerly Municipal Stadium, where the new arena, the Wells Fargo Center, now stands.)
The new Senators played at RFK Stadium until 1971, and at the last game, against the Yankees, the Senators were up 7-5 with one out to go, when angry fans stormed the field, and the game was forfeited to the Yankees. The 'Skins moved to their new suburban stadium in 1997, after closing the '96 campaign without the Playoffs, but the final regular-season game was a thrashing of the hated Cowboys, with over 100 Redskin greats in attendance. Baseball's Washington Nationals Nats played the 2005, '06 and '07 seasons at RFK. The USFL's Washington Federals played there in 1983 and '84. And the Beatles played there on their final tour, on August 15, 1966.
D.C. United, once the most successful franchise in Major League Soccer, have played there since MLS was founded in 1996, winning the league title, the MLS Cup, 4 times, including 3 of the 1st 4. The MLS Cup Final was played there in 1997 (DCU over the Colorado Rapids), 2000 (the team now known as Sporting Kansas City over the Chicago Fire) and 2007 (the Houston Dynamo over the New England Revolution).
DC/RFK Stadium was the 1st U.S. stadium specifically designed to host both baseball and football, and anything else willing to pay the rent. But I forgive it. It was a great football stadium, and it's not a bad soccer stadium, but for baseball, let's just say Nationals Park is a huge improvement. And what is with that whacked-out roof?
On June 2, 2013, I was in attendance at RFK Stadium for the 100th Anniversary match for the U.S. Soccer Federation. It was a 4-3 win over Germany, but this was not indicative of their true strength: They were operating at half-power, because their players from Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund had so recently played the UEFA Champions League Final. Only 4 players who played in this game went on to play and win for Die Mannschaft in the 2014 World Cup Final: Centreback Per Mertesacker (of Arsenal), left back Benedikt Howedes, and forwards Miroslav Klose and Andre Schurrle (you can't be serious). At least U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann, a German, took it seriously and tried to win. Then again, he's great in friendlies; in competitive matches, not so much.
RFK hosted 5 games in the 1994 World Cup, 9 games of the 1996 Olympic soccer tournament (6 men's and 3 women's, with the main portion of the games being played in Atlanta), and 6 games of the 2003 Women's World Cup.
With the Nats and 'Skins gone, United are the only team still playing there, and plans for a new stadium for them, near Nationals Park, are moving slowly, so it will still be possible to see a sporting event at RFK Stadium for the next few years.
Even if you drive in, most likely, you'll be entering the stadium from its west side. The field is natural grass, and is laid out east-to-west.
Food. In 1992, I attended a preseason baseball game at RFK Stadium, between the Orioles and the Red Sox. The food was horrible, including the worst hot dog I've ever had at a sporting event. Worse even that the terrible tube steaks at Sayreville High School football games (and those things are foul). The next day, right before the O's were to open the brand-new Camden Yards, it was reported that several of their players (but none of the Red Sox) had come down with food poisoning. I wasn't surprised. (They won the Camden Yards opener anyway.) I would later attend 2 Nationals games and the 2013 U.S.-Germany soccer match at RFK, and the food, while not great, had substantially improved.
Hopefully, it is better now. They've got quesadillas at stands behind Sections 205 and 227, cheesesteaks at 206 and 324, burgers at 207, pizza at 208 and 228, Dippin Dots at 211 and 313, barbecue at 212, pretzels at 212 and 230, Peruvian chicken at 214, popcorn at 235 and 313, smoked beef brisket at 236, funnel cake at 309, Italian sausage at 324, and stands for hot dogs, fries and drinks all over the place.
Team History Displays. Wanting to be synonymous with success, the Washington team named itself after Manchester United. As they never cease to remind us, DCU have won 4 MLS Cups, including 3 of the 1st 4: 1996, 1997, 1999 and 2004. Their displays thereof is on the wall at the lower level of the east end (formerly center field).
It is because of their early success, and their arrogance about it, that most MetroStars/Red Bulls fans, ever since those early days, have considered DCU, not the New England Revolution, or the newer but closer Philadelphia Union and now NYCFC, to be their main rivals. It doesn't work out this way in any other sport. Ranger fans consider their biggest rivals to be the Islanders, while fans of both the Islanders and the Devils consider the Rangers theirs. The Mets and the Giants have Philly teams as their biggest rivals, and the Tri-State Area hockey teams all have rivalries with the Flyers. The Yankees, Jets, Knicks, and, to a lesser extent, the Rangers all consider Boston/New England to be major rivals.
Washington? Surely, Met fans don't like the Nationals, Giant fans don't like the Redskins, and the hockey teams don't like the Capitals, but there isn't really hatred there. And the Knicks and the Nets barely even notice the Wizards. But in MLS? Metro fans call them "the D.C. Scum." Their fans call the Red Bulls "the Pink Cows."
There is also the Atlantic Cup. Metro and DCU play for this trophy, awarded to whoever wins the most points in their games against each other at the end of the season. DC leads the all-time series, 43-30-14. The Red Bulls have won it in 2000, 2001, 2010, 2011 and 2015. It was a tie in 2008. DCU have won it all other times.
DCU have a Hall of Tradition, on the wall at the lower level of the east end (what used to be the right field wall). It honors 8 players: Forwards Raul Diaz Arce and Jaime Moreno; midfielders John Harkes (native of Kearny, New Jersey), Marco Etcheverry, Richie Williams (native of Middletown, New Jersey) and Ben Olsen (now the team's manager); and defenders Jeff Agoos and Eddie Pope. (Moreno, Williams, Agoos and Pope were briefly MetroStars.) In addition, they've honored executives Kevin Payne, Betty D'Anjolell, and broadcaster Danilo Noel Diron.
Harkes (the 1st inductee), Etcheverry, Agoos, Diaz Arce, Pope, Williams and Moreno were charter players for DCU, and thus were all members of the 1996 MLS Cup winners -- and the '97 winners. Etcheverry, Agoos, Pope, Williams and Olsen played on the '99 win. Olsen and Moreno played on the 2004 win.
Stuff. The official D.C. United Team Store is located at Main Gate behind section 317, at the southwest corner (what used to be the home plate entrance).
I looked up "D.C. United," and then "DC United" without the periods, on Amazon.com, and found no books and no DVDs about the team.
During the Game. The "Atlantic Cup" rivalry between RBNY and DCU might be the nastiest in the League. This is one roadtrip where your safety might be an issue, especially since one of their supporters' groups named itself a Barra Brava, after Argentine ultras groups, which tend to get violent. The best thing you can do is listen to the instructions of cops and stewards, and make sure your ticket is in Section 318, no matter how many empty seats are elsewhere in the stadium.
One thing you will not have to be afraid of is the condition of the stadium. I've been to RFK several times, 4 times since 2005, and I can tell you it's not the crumbling relic that some Metro fans suggest it is (including in song: "RFK is falling down, falling down, falling down... "). The fact that DCU are building a new stadium is due to RFK's insufficient ability to generate gameday revenue, nothing more.
DCU hold auditions for singing the National Anthem, instead of having a regular. Their mascot, like those of the Washington Nationals and Washington Capitals, is an eagle, in this case named Talon. This Friday's game will be Star Wars Night. Well, when the Red Bulls come in, D.C.'s going to have a bad feeling about this!
Talon and the Nats' Screech
There are 4 main supporters groups, all hosting pregame tailgate parties in the RFK Stadium parking lot. La Barra Brava (Spanish for "The Brave Fans") was the original MLS supporters' group, founded by South Americans living in The District, in support of original DCU players Marco Etcheverry and Jaime Moreno, both from Bolivia. With the passage of time, however, they are no longer a Latino majority. Unlike the notorious barras bravas of Argentina, they avoid violence whenever they can. They sit in Sections 135, 136, 137 and 138, just to the east of midfield on the north side of the stadium, and in 233, 234 and 235 above.
The Screaming Eagles, also founded before the team actually began play, sit in Sections 132, 133 and 134 (collectively, The Nest) and above that in 230, 231 and 232 (The Perch), just to the west of midfield on the north side, across the midfield line from La Barra Brava. Despite the ethnic and linguistic differences, they are allies, and have never fought with each other. (Fights between supporters' groups at a single club does, occasionally, happen at some soccer teams, although never, as far as I know, in the U.S.) They also serve as a supporters' group for the U.S. national team, particularly when they play in the Northeastern U.S. (not just in the D.C. area).
The other main Latino group is La Norte (The North), who were founded in 2001 as a breakaway group from La Barra Brava. They were evicted from their former section when RFK Stadium was reconfigured to return it to baseball use, and now sit in 118 -- in a twofold irony, on the stadium's south side (the southwest corner) and underneath the visiting supporters in 318. The other main Anglophone group is the District Ultras, founded in 2010. They sit in 127, at the northwest corner.
Like so many MLS teams, including ours, they use the "Vamos" song: "Vamos, vamos United, esta noche, tenemos que ganar... " (Let's go, let's go United, this night, we have to win... ) And, like the Yankees, they proudly proclaim themselves "The Evil Empire."
After the Game. Especially at night (which this game will be), safety could be an issue. The stewards will probably keep you in your section until the rest of the stadium empties out, then guide you out. Let them do this. Then follow your fellow fans, and the directions of the D.C. Metro Police, back to your car or the subway.
Another reason to go directly to the subway is the lack of decent places to eat and drink around RFK Stadium. The bar 51st State is a known hangout for Yankees, Mets, Giants, Jets, Knicks and Rangers fans. (No mention of the Nets, Islanders or Devils, though.) 2512 L St. NW at Pennsylvania Avenue. Metro: Blue or Orange to Foggy Bottom. Nanny O'Brien's is also said to be a Giants fan bar. 3319 Connecticut Ave NW. Metro: Red to Cleveland Park.
If you visit D.C. during the European soccer season, supporters of the following clubs meet at the following places:
* Arsenal and Manchester City: Lucky Bar, 1221 Connecticut Ave. NW. Red Line to Farragut North. If you don't see your club listed here, and their game is on TV, chances are, Lucky Bar will show it. (I once watched matches by Arsenal, Newcastle, Real Madrid and Internazionale there, all at the same time.)
* Manchester United: Public Bar, 1214 18th Street, around the corner from Lucky Bar. (Apparently, they pissed fans of other teams off so much, they had to find a new place.) They also gather at Ri Ra, 3125 M Street in Georgetown. DCWE Bus.
* Tottenham Hotspur: The Irish Channel, inside the Fairfield Inn, 500 H Street NW in Chinatown, a block down H Street from Fado.
* Chelsea, Newcastle United, AS Roma, and a secondary meeting place for Arsenal and Tottenham fans (but never at the same time): Ireland's Four Courts, 2052 Wilson Blvd. in Arlington. Blue or Orange Line to Courthouse.
* Norwich City: Walter's, 3632 Georgia Avenue NW. Named for Washington baseball legend Walter Johnson, they show soccer as well. Green Line to Georgia Avenue-Petworth.
* Celtic: Flanagan's Harp & Fiddle, 4844 Cordell Avenue, Bethesda, Maryland. Red Line to Bethesda, then it's a bit of a walk.
* Barcelona: Elephant & Castle, 900 19th Street NW. Blue or Orange Line to Farragut West. There's a Barcelona Wine Bar at 1622 14th Street NW off Corcoran Street, but it has no connection to the team.
* Real Madrid: The other Elephant & Castle, 1201 Pennsylvania Avenue NW. Red Line to Metro Center.
* Bayern Munich: Summer's, 1520 N. Courthouse Rd., Arlington, across from Ireland's Four Courts. It also shows English games, although some fans don't like it, calling it "Scummer's" or "Slummer's."
* Borussia Dortmund, Hamburger SV, or any other German club: Biergarten Haus, 1355 H Street NE. (Remember, that's Northeast.) Bus X2.
* Juventus: Laughing Man Sports Tavern, 1306 G Street NW. Red Line to Metro Center. This is also a major bar for the U.S. National Team.
There is an AC Milan supporters club in D.C., but I can find no reference as to where they meet. As I said, if you can't find a listing for your favorite team, Lucky Bar will probably show their game if you ask.
* Nationals Park and new D.C. United stadium. The Nats' new home opened in 2008, at 1500 South Capitol Street at N Street. It's not flashy, but it looks nice. They've won National League Eastern Division titles there in 2012 and 2014, but, due to Playoff collapses, no Washington baseball team has won a Pennant since 1933, and none has won a postseason round since the only World Series win in city history, the 1924 Washington Senators.
The plan for a new D.C. United stadium is for one at Buzzard Point, on land bounded by R, 2nd, T & Half Streets SW, 3 blocks from Nationals Park. The land has finally been acquired, but not yet cleared, and construction may not begin until the spring. For the moment, the plan is for DCU to begin play there in March of 2018, meaning 2 more seasons at RFK.
Prince Georges County had a proposal for a new stadium near FedExField, and Baltimore offered to build one, leading fans of DCU's arch-rivals, the New York Red Bulls, to mock the club as "Baltimore United." But ground has finally been broken for the Buzzard Point stadium.
* Site of Griffith Stadium. There were 2 ballparks on this site. Boundary Park was built in 1892 and burned down in 1911, within weeks of New York's Polo Grounds. Just as the Polo Grounds was rebuilt on the same site, the Senators rebuilt their home exactly where it was. Originally called League Park and National Park (no S on the end) before former pitching star Clark Griffith bought the team, this stadium was home to the old Senators from 1911 to 1960, and the new Senators only in 1961.
The Redskins played there from 1937 to 1960, and won the NFL Championship there in 1937 and 1942, although only the '42 title game was played there. There was another NFL title game played there, in 1940, but the Redskins were beaten by the Chicago Bears – 73-0. (Nope, that's not a typo: Seventy-three to nothing. Most points by one team in one game in NFL history, slightly ahead of the 'Skins' 72-41 victory over the Giants at RFK in 1966.)
A pro football team called the Washington Senators played there from 1921 until 1941 (when the manpower shortage of World War II forced them out of business), but only in that 1st season, 1921, did they play in the NFL.
The Negro Leagues' Homestead Grays also played a lot of home games at Griffith, although they divided their "home games" between Washington and Pittsburgh. Think of the Grays as the original Harlem Globetrotters, who called themselves "Harlem" to identify themselves as a black team even though their original home base was Chicago (and later moved their offices to Los Angeles, and are now based in Phoenix). It's also worth noting that the University of Maryland played its home football games at Griffith in 1948 and 1949.
By the time Clark Griffith died in 1955, passing the team to his nephew and adopted son Calvin, the area around Griffith Stadium had become nearly all-black. While Clark, despite having grown up in segregated Missouri during the 19th Century, followed Branch Rickey's path and integrated his team sooner than most (in particular going for Cubans, white and black alike), Calvin was a bigot who wanted to move the team to mostly-white Minnesota. When the new stadium was built, it was too late to save the original team, and the "New Senators" were born.
Griffith Stadium was demolished in 1965, and, as I said earlier, Howard University Hospital is there now. 2041 Georgia Avenue NW at V Street. Green Line to Shaw-Howard University Station, 3 blocks up 7th Street, which becomes Georgia Avenue when you cross Florida Avenue.
* FedEx Field. Originally Jack Kent Cooke Stadium, the old Redskins owner built it in suburban Landover, Maryland, across the Capital Beltway from the Capital Centre. The official address is 1600 FedEx Way.
The move from RFK in the District, where the fans had to walk down hard city streets from the Metro (hazardous even if you weren't wearing enemy colors), to FedEx (originally named Jack Kent Cooke Stadium in memory of the team's former owner, before new owner Daniel Snyder sold the naming rights to Federal Express) in the comfortable suburbs, meant that the 'Skins could no longer play in a stadium where the upper deck was right on top of the field, and where the aluminum stand that retracted to fit in a baseball field could no longer be jumped on to create noise like an oversized high school football game.
The Redskins went from having the smallest stadium in the NFL, and possibly the best atmosphere and the best home-field advantage, to having the largest stadium (now the 2nd-largest, behind Dallas), with the worst atmosphere, and hardly any home-field advantage.
The Army-Navy Game was played at FedExField in 2011. So far, the U.S. soccer team has played just 1 match at the stadium, a draw with Brazil on May 30, 2012. There were 4 matches played there in the 1999 Women's World Cup. European soccer clubs Real Madrid, Barcelona, Internazionale Milano , Manchester United and Chelsea have plays summer tour games there. It's hosted concerts by Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, U2 and Metallica.
The Coliseum was last used for sports in 1970 by the Washington Caps (not "Capitols," not "Capitals," just "Caps")of the ABA. It was the site of the first Beatles concert in the U.S. (aside from their appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show 2 nights before), on February 11, 1964.
It still stands, and its interior and grounds are used as a parking lot, particularly for people using nearby Union Station. Unfortunately, it's in a rotten neighborhood, and I wouldn't recommend visiting at night. In fact, unless you're a student of NBA history or a Beatlemaniac, I'd say don't go at all. 1140 3rd Street NE, at M Street. Red Line to Union Station, and then it's a bit of a walk.
* Site of Capital Centre. From 1973 to 1997, this was the home of the NBA's Washington Bullets, who became the Wizards when they moved downtown. From 1974 to 1997, it was the home of the NHL's Washington Capitals. The Bullets played in the 1975, '78 and '79 NBA Finals there, although they've only won in 1978, and clinched that title at the Seattle Kingdome.
The Cap Centre was also the home for Georgetown University basketball, in its glory years of Coach John Thompson (father of the current coach, John Thompson III), Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo and Allen Iverson. Remember those 1980s battles with the St. John's teams of Louie Carnesecca, Chris Mullin and Walter Berry?
Elvis Presley sang there on June 27, 1976 and on May 22 and 29, 1977. (He never gave a concert in the District.) It was demolished in 2002, and a shopping mall, The Boulevard at the Capital Centre, was built on the site. 1 Harry S Truman Drive, Landover, Prince George's County, Maryland, just outside the Capital Beltway. Blue Line to Largo Town Center station.
* Verizon Center. Opened in 1997 as the MCI Center, the NBA's Wizards, the NHL's Capitals, the WNBA's Washington Mystics, and the Georgetown basketball team have played here ever since.
Unless you count the NCAA holding the hockey version of the Final Four, the Frozen Four, here in 2009, only 1 Finals has been held here, the Caps' 1998 sweep at the hands of the Detroit Red Wings. (Georgetown has reached a Final Four since it opened, but those are held at neutral sites.) But it's a very good arena. 601 F Street NW, at 6th Street. Red, Green or Yellow Line to Gallery Place-Chinatown Station.
* Maryland SoccerPlex. This suburban facility opened in 2000, with 22 soccer fields, 3 of them artificial. The main stadium, seating 4,000, is named Maureen Hendricks Field, after the wife of John Hendricks, founder of Discovery Communications. Together, they founded the Washington Freedom, who now play in the National Women's Soccer League.
18031 Central Park Circle, in Boyds, Montgomery County, 30 miles northwest of downtown Washington. You want to get there without a car? Good luck: You'd have to take MARC (MAryland Commuter Rail, which doesn't run on weekends) to Metropolitan Grove, transfer to Bus 78, take that to Richter Farm Road & Schaffer Road, and then walk a mile.
* The Smithsonian Institution. Includes the National Museum of American History, which contains several sports-themed items. 1400 Constitution Avenue NW. Blue or Orange Line to Federal Triangle. (You could, of course, take the same lines to Smithsonian Station, but Fed Triangle is actually a shorter walk.)
If you're into looking up "real" TV locations, the Jeffersonian Institute on Bones is almost certainly based on the Smithsonian. The real NCIS headquarters used to be a short walk from Nationals Park, on Sicard Street between Patterson and Paulding Streets. Whether civilians will be allowed on the Navy Yard grounds, I don't know; I've never tried it. I don't want to get stopped by a guard. I also don't want to get "Gibbs-slapped" -- and neither do you. However, they have since moved to the Marine base at Quantico, Virginia, and that's a bit of a trek.
Of course, The West Wing was based at the White House, at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW. The best-known D.C.-based show that didn't directly deal with government officials was Murphy Brown. The FYI studio was said to be across the street from Phil's, whose address was given as 1195 15th St. NW. Neither the bar nor the address actually exists, but if the address did, it would be at 15th & M Streets. This would put it, rather conveniently, right down the block from 1150 15th Street, the headquarters of The Washington Post.
The University of Maryland, inside the Beltway at College Park, can be accessed by the Green Line to College Park and then a shuttle bus. (I tried that for the 2009 Rutgers-Maryland game, and it works very well.) Maryland Stadium (formerly Byrd Stadium) is one of the nation's best college football stadiums, but I wouldn't recommend sitting in the upper deck if you're afraid of heights: I think it's higher than Shea's was.
Across from the stadium is Cole Field House, where UMd played its basketball games from 1955 to 2002. The 1966 and 1970 NCAA Championship basketball games were played there, the 1966 one being significant because Texas Western (now Texas-El Paso) played an all-black starting five against Kentucky's all-white starters (including future Laker, Knick and Heat coach Pat Riley and Denver Nuggets star Dan Issel). In the 1970 Finals, it was UCLA over the University of Jacksonville.
Elvis sang there on September 27 and 28, 1974. The Terrapins won the National Championship in their final season at Cole, and moved to the adjacent Xfinity Center thereafter.
Remember that Final Four run by George Mason University? They're across the Potomac River in Fairfax, Virginia. Orange Line to Virginia Square-GMU.
The U.S. Naval Academy is 30 miles east in Annapolis, Maryland; the University of Virginia, 117 miles southwest in Charlottesville; and Virginia Tech, 270 miles southwest in Blacksburg.
I also recommend visiting the capital's museums, including the Smithsonian complex, whose most popular buildings are the National Archives, hosting the originals of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution; and the National Air and Space Museum, which includes the Wright Brothers' Flyer, Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis, Chuck Yeager's Glamorous Glennis (the 1st plane to break the sound barrier), and several space capsules including Apollo 11. The Smithsonian also has an annex at Dulles International Airport out in Virginia, including a Concorde, the space shuttle Discovery, and the Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the 1st atomic bomb.
One of the 1960 Presidential Debates between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon was held in Washington -- still the only Presidential Debate held in the capital. On October 7, it was hosted not in a sports arena, a theater or a college auditorium, but in front of no live audience other than the panelists and the TV crew, at the studios of the NBC affiliate, WRC, Channel 4, 4001 Nebraska Avenue NW. Red Line to Tenleytown-AU.
In spite of what some movies have suggested, you won't see a lot of tall buildings in the District. The Washington Monument is 555 feet high, but, other than that, no building is allowed to be taller than the Capitol. Exceptions were made for two churches, the Washington National Cathedral and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, and the Old Post Office Pavilion was built before the "unwritten law" went into effect. In contrast, there are a few office buildings taller than most D.C. buildings across the Potomac River in Arlington, Virginia, and in the neighboring Maryland cities of Silver Spring and New Carrollton.
For Red Bulls fans, RFK Stadium is the belly of the beast, the home of "The D.C. Scum." Be careful when you go to Washington to watch the footy. We want you to live long enough to once again sing, "D.C. United went to Rome to see the Pope, and this is what he said... "