Thursday, October 6, 2016

How to Be a Devils Fan In South Florida -- 2016-17 Edition

On Thursday, October 13, the New Jersey Devils travel to play the Florida Panthers, who are the only Miami-area team without a World Championship -- and, with the Islanders settled in Brooklyn and the Arizona Coyotes having their ownership situation settled, the Panthers now seem like the NHL most likely to be the next to move, since few people seem to care about them.

This may be the only NHL arena that Devils fans can "take over," meaning have more fans than the locals. If you'd like to be one of them, take heed.

Before You Go. It's South Florida, but in late March -- and it just so happens to be in spring break: While it may not be hot, presume that it will be humid and possibly rainy. Check the Miami Herald and Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel websites for their local forecast before you go.

Currently, they're saying that Thursday will have a 60 percent chance of rain, including scattered thunderstorms, and that the temperatures will be in the mid-80s during the day, the mid-70s at night. That won't delay or postpone the game, since (except for an annual New Year's Day and a few other occasions) hockey is played indoors. But you still want to be comfortable. If you've already switched to winter clothes, you should pack at least 2 days' worth of summer clothes.

Florida is a former Confederate State, and parts of Miami sure seem like a foreign country. But you won't need to bring your passport or change your money. And it's in the Eastern Time Zone, so you won't have to fool with your timepieces.

Tickets. Last season, the Panthers averaged 15,042 fans per home game, up nearly 4,000 from the previous season, when their 11,265 was last in all 5 North American major sports leagues, including Major League Soccer. Still, that 15,042 was 25th in the NHL, ahead of only the Devils, the Islanders, Columbus, Arizona and Carolina. Their 88.3 percent of capacity filled ranks 26th, ahead of the Islanders, Arizona, Columbus and Carolina. (The Devils are 25th, at 90.6.)

Beyond the Panthers' big improvement last season after years of struggling on the ice, their improvement at the gate, but not by much, might also have something to do with the fact that the BB&T Center -- the 5th name the building has had in its 186 years of existence, mirroring the Philadelphia Flyers in a way that does not suggest success -- is 20 miles west of downtown Fort Lauderdale, and 35 miles northwest of downtown Miami.

Apparently, the Panthers' organization did not learn the lesson of the Richfield Coliseum. The Cleveland Cavaliers thought that people would no longer go into the city to watch their awful team, so they should move it to the suburbs, where their fan base (read: White people who would pay to watch basketball played by black men, as long as they didn't have huge Afros or bad attitudes but did have some white teammates) lived. So the Coliseum was built in the middle of farmland, 20 miles south of downtown Cleveland and 20 miles northwest of downtown Akron, and their attendance sucked for 20 years until they moved to downtown Cleveland. The Panthers made the same mistake.

Therefore, ordinarily, tickets should be easy to get. You can probably show up 5 minutes before puck drop and buy any ticket you can afford. But this is the season opener, so it might be tougher.

The normal prices: Center Ice Seating, $80; Goalzone Area Seating, $60; Lower Bowl Side Seating, $25; and Lower Bowl Endzone Seating, $15.

Getting There. It's 1,253 miles from the Prudential Center in Newark to the BB&T Center in Sunrise. Knowing this distance, your first reaction is going to be to fly down there. This is not a horrible idea, as the flight is just 3 hours.

Fort Lauderdale does have an international airport, and you could fly round-trip, non-stop, on United Airlines for as little as $322 -- if you don't mind both your flight down and your flight back being early in the morning. If you want either to be later in the day, it will cost more, as will flying in and out of Miami, which would be twice as much.

The train is not a very good idea, because you'll have to leave Newark's Penn Station on Amtrak's Silver Star at 11:22 AM and arrive in Fort Lauderdale at 5:17 the next day's afternoon, a 30-hour ride. The return trip will leave at 8:50 AM and return to Newark at 10:46 AM, "only" 26 hours – no, as I said earlier, there's no time-zone change involved. Round-trip, it'll cost $234. And the station isn't all that close, at 200 SW 21st Terrace. Fortunately, the Number 22 bus will take you to a short walk from the arena. Unfortunately, that sounds a lot like trying to get a bus to and from the Nassau Coliseum, which is not fun.

How about Greyhound? There are 7 buses leaving Port Authority every day with connections to Miami, only one of them nonstop, the 10:30 PM to 3:30 AM (2 days later) version. The rest require you to change buses in Richmond and Orlando. (I don't know about changing buses in Orlando, but I have changed buses in Richmond, and I can tell you: It is not fun.) The ride, including the changeovers, takes about 30 hours. Round-trip fare is $260, but you can get it for $184 on advanced-purchase. The station is at 515 NE 3rd Street. You'll need to take the Number 50 bus to the Number 72 bus to get to the arena.

If you want to drive, it'll help to get someone to go down with you, and take turns driving. You’ll be going down Interstate 95 (or its New Jersey equivalent, the Turnpike) almost the whole way. It’ll be about 2 hours from the Lincoln Tunnel to the Delaware Memorial Bridge, 20 minutes in Delaware, and an hour and a half in Maryland, before crossing the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, at the southern tip of the District of Columbia, into Virginia. Then it will be 3 hours or so in Virginia, another 3 hours in North Carolina, about 3 hours and 15 minutes in South Carolina, a little under 2 hours in Georgia, and about 5 hours and 45 minutes in Florida before you reach Fort Lauderdale.

Given rest stops, preferably in one in each State from Maryland to Georgia, and 2 in Florida, you’re talking about a 28-hour trip.

Once In the City. Naming a Florida town "Sunrise" makes some sense. The U.S. Army established a stockade named Fort Lauderdale in 1836, named for the commander of the detachment of soldiers who built the first fort, Major William Lauderdale. The town was incorporated in 1911, at the beginning of the first building boom in Florida. The Miami-Fort Lauderdale metropolitan area is a big market, with about 6.4 million people. But while Miami has about 453,000 people within the city limits, Fort Lauderdale has just 178,000, and Sunrise only 94,000.

Because Florida is so hot, and air-conditioning didn't become common until the mid-20th Century, Miami was founded rather late by the standards of the East coast, in 1825, and wasn't incorporated as a city until 1896. The name is derived from the Mayaimi tribe of Native Americans. Miami Avenue is the east-west divider, Flagler Street the north-south.

The Miami Herald, Fort Lauderdale's Sun-Sentinel, and the Palm Beach Post are the major newspapers in the area. And, considering how many ex-New Yorkers are around, you might also be able to get the Times, the Daily News, or, if you're really desperate (or really conservative), the Post.

Numbered Streets go east-west in Fort Lauderdale, while numbered Avenues and Terraces go north-south. The east-west divider is Andrews Avenue, and the north-south divider is Broward Blvd.

The sales tax in Florida is 6 percent, and it doesn't rise further in Broward County, which includes Fort Lauderdale and Sunrise. But it's 7 percent within Miami-Dade County. ZIP Codes in Miami start with the digits 330, 331 and 332; in the Fort Lauderdale area, 333; and in the Palm Beach area, 334 and 349.

Since 1984, South Florida has had a rapid-transit rail service, Metrorail. However, the arena can't be reached from it. You will need to take the Number 7 bus from downtown. The fare for the Metrorail and the Metrobus is $2.25.
Metrorail above, and the smaller Metromover below

Tri-Rail has run commuter rail service since 1989, linking 3 Counties: Dade (Miami), Broward (Fort Lauderdale) and Palm Beach.
A Tri-Rail train

Going In. The BB&T Center, named for a bank, has been the home of the NHL's Florida Panthers since 1998, and there's a reason the team is called "Florida" instead of "Miami": The arena is 34 miles northwest of downtown Miami, and 14 miles west of downtown Fort Lauderdale, in a town called Sunrise. It's 22 miles from Hard Rock Stadium, home of the Dolphins; 34 miles northwest of downtown Miami, and 35 miles each from the homes of the Marlins and the Heat.

The official address is 1 Panther Parkway, at NW 136th. If you don’t have a car, you’d have to take the 195 Bus to Fort Lauderdale, and then the 22 Bus out to the arena.

The arena's official address is 1 Panther Parkway, Sunrise, FL 33323. As near a I can tell, "Panther Parkway" is NW 136th Street. To get there from I-95 South, take Exit 129 onto Florida Route 70/Okeechobee Road. Take that to Florida's Turnpike South. Get off at Exit 71, for FL-869 S/Sawgrass Expressway. Take Exit 3 for FL-816/Oakland Park Blvd. Turn right from Oakland Park Blvd. onto N. Flamingo Road. The 2nd right is NW 136th Street.
To get there from downtown Fort Lauderdale, take U.S. Route 1/Federal Highway South to Interstate 595/Port Everglades Expressway West, to the Sawgrass Expressway. Take Exit 1B to Pat Salerno Drive, and the arena and its parking lot will be on your right.

To get there from downtown Miami, take I-95 North to Exit 12A onto Florida's Turnpike. Take Exit 54 to the Port Everglades Expressway, and then follow the directions from Fort Lauderdale.

For general parking, enter through Gate 1, 2, 3 or 7. Parking costs $20.

The rink runs east-to-west -- well, northeast-to-southwest. The Panthers attack twice toward the west (southwest) end of the arena.
Food. With a great Hispanic, and especially Cuban, heritage, and also being in Southeastern Conference country (hello, tailgating), you would expect the hockey team in South Florida to have great food at their arena. But it looks like food is just about an afterthought at the BB&T Center.

It has restaurants accessible through their premium seating, such as the Penalty Box, the BB&T Chairman's Club and the Legends Lounge. There are also several bars that any fan at least age 21 and with money can use.

There are 3 food courts on each of the Plaza and Mezzanine Levels that include a wide selection of items on the menu. Guests also have an opportunity to enjoy dining on the two Party City Patios outside the Plaza Level food courts.

Team History Displays. Not much. The Panthers won the Eastern Conference in 1996 and the Southeast Division in 2012, and hang banners for those titles. But they have only 1 retired number: 93, for the year of their founding, for Bill Torrey, the former Islander boss who was their 1st general manager and built their conference title.
There are 8 individuals with a Panther connection who are in the Hockey Hall of Fame, but only 1, Pavel Bure, played more than 2 seasons for them (in his case, 3: 1999-2002). The other players are Dino Ciccarelli, Igor Larionov, Joe Nieuwendyk and Ed Belfour. In the "Builders" category, there's Torrey and 1st head coach Roger Neilson, for whom their press box is named. Torrey has received the Lester Patrick Trophy for contributions to hockey in America. Bure has been elected to the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Hall of Fame.

They don't have a team Hall of Fame, but they do have a "Den Of Honor," located on the Plaza Level between Sections 115 and 121. It's a museum, featuring photos, jersey and other equipment, and other items connected to the franchise's 23-year history. According to their website, "It also honors the people and organizations that continue to help South Florida grow as a hotbed for youth and high school hockey." (Hockey hotbed? South Florida? I think someone's been out in the sun for too long.)

The Florida Sports Hall of Fame is located at Lake Myrtle Sports Park in Auburndale, 232 miles northwest of downtown Miami, and 213 miles northwest of the BB&T Center. As yet, there are no Panthers players inducted.

UPDATE: Bure was named to the NHL's 100th Anniversary 100 Greatest Players in 2017.

Stuff. The Panthers have Pantherland, a team store, on the south (southeast) side of the building; and both a CCM Heritage Store at Section 122 and an Old Time Hockey Store at Section 112, paying tribute to early hockey (which, by this point, means anything prior to the team's establishment in 1993). There's also a Panthers IceDen in the nearby town of Coral Springs.

Since the Panthers don't have much history -- in those 22 years, they've made the Playoffs exactly 4 times -- don't expect to find too many books and DVDs about them. After their 1996 Conference Championship, Dave Rosenbaum wrote Miami Ice: Winning the NHL Rat Race With the Florida Panthers. (I'll explain the "rat" reference shortly.)

When the team began in 1993, they released a Florida Panthers Video Hockey Guide. The next year, an Inaugural Year tape, Heart & Soul. That's right, tape. Videotape. Amazingly, these 2 VHS releases and Miami Ice are available on Amazon.com. But that's about it.

During the Game. A November 19,2014 article on The Hockey News' website ranked the NHL teams' fan bases, and listed the Panthers' fans at 25th out of 30, pointing out that "They'll watch a winner." Maybe, but the arena being far from the downtowns of either Miami or Fort Lauderdale doesn't help. Nor does Florida's skewing toward a higher age.

Safety should not be an issue. The arena is an island in a sea of parking, and is nowhere near the ghettos of Miami.

South Florida is loaded with people who came from elsewhere, including ex-New Yorkers. The stereotype is that, when a New Yorker gets old, if he has enough money to do so, he moves to Miami. Especially if he’s Jewish. Or Italian. As a result, you may see a lot of people who used to go to Ranger or Islander games, some of whom maintain their old allegiances, get the MSG Network on their cable system, and have adopted the Panthers as their “second team.”

Be advised that, this past January, the arena had a problem with the plumbing. The toilets clogged up and overflowed. You'd expect this at the Meadowlands or the Nassau Coliseum. But this is not an old arena. I'm not saying it will happen again, just that it has happened within the last few weeks, and that it could happen again.

The Panthers' mascot is Stanley C. Panther, obviously named for the Stanley Cup (which, of course, hasn't yet been won by the team). He used to wear Number 93, in honor of the team's founding, until the number was retired for Torrey. Now, like so many other sports mascots, including our own N.J. Devil, he wears Number 00. Information about Stanley can be found at Stanley’s Den.
Maybe Stanley C. Panther should've been named Tom Cat instead.

Ghaleb Emachah, a Venezuelan-born tenor of Arab descent who came to the U.S. at age 21 and settled in Fort Lauderdale, is the Panthers' regular National Anthem singer. Their goal song is "Out of Our Heads" by the Dropkick Murphys, adding a panther growl sound effect. But their biggest chant is the generic, "Let's go, Panthers!"

During the 1996 season, the Panthers' Scott Mellanby saw a rat in the locker room, and whacked it with his stick. He then used the same stick to score 2 goals in that night's game. John Vanbiesbrouck, the former Ranger goalie by then with the Panthers, called it not a hat trick, but a "rat trick." Thereafter, instead of fans throwing hats onto the ice when a players scored 3 goals in a game, they threw plastic or rubber rats when a player scored 2.

By the time they reached the Conference Finals, and knocked off the Philadelphia Flyers to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals, they were throwing the rats after every goal. Even when Uwe Krupp scored the triple-overtime winner to give the Colorado Avalanche the Cup in Game 4 of the Finals, the fans used that last opportunity of the season to throw all their rats onto the ice, making it difficult to award the Cup. This resulted in an off-season rule change by the NHL that allowed for referees to penalize the home team if fans disrupt the game by throwing objects onto the ice. Nevertheless, on occasion, the fans still throw the plastic and rubber rats onto the ice, after 18 years.

After the Game. As I said, the arena isn't in a neighborhood. There's a mall with chain restaurants across 136th Avenue, but if that's not your cup of tea (or mug of beer), you may have to head back to Fort Lauderdale or Miami.

I checked for area bars where New Yorkers gather, and found one for each of the city’s NFL teams. The South Florida Jets Fan Club meets at Hammerjack’s, at 5325 S. University Drive in Davie, 11 miles southeast of the arena. American Social is the home of the local Giants fan club, and also caters to fans of the Yankees and Knicks, at 721 East Las Olas Blvd., 18 miles east in downtown Fort Lauderdale. Bokamper's, a bar chain run by former Miami Dolphin linebacker Kim Bokamper, has several outlets nearby.

Don't bother looking for Dan Marino's restaurants: They've all closed. He's had financial setbacks, partly due to paying his extramarital baby mama millions of dollars in hush money.

If you visit Miami during the European soccer season (now drawing to a close but starting again in mid-August), the Fado Irish Pub chain has an outlet downtown, at 900 S. Miami Avenue. Brickell on Metrorail, Tenth Street Promenade on Metromover. Another possibility, especially if you're a Liverpool fan, is Churchill's Pub, at 5501 NE 2nd Avenue, 4 miles north of downtown, in Little Haiti. Bus 9.

Sidelights. The Miami-Fort Lauderdale area's sports history is long, but aside from football, it's not all that involved. I'll get the Fort Lauderdale ones out of the way first.

* Fort Lauderdale Stadium and Lockhart Stadium. Built in 1962, the Yankees moved their spring training headquarters to the 8,340-seat Fort Lauderdale Stadium after being assured that, unlike their spring home of St. Petersburg at the time, their black players could stay in the same hotel as their white players. The Yankees remained there until 1995, by which point Tampa was not only long since integrated, but was willing to do pretty much anything city resident George Steinbrenner wanted, including build him a new spring home for the Yankees.
The Yankees' Class A team in the Florida State League also used it as a home field. After the Yankees left, the Orioles used it from 1996 to 2009. Although it no longer has a permanent tenant, or even a spring training tenant, it still stands, and the Fort Lauderdale Strikers use it as a practice facility. 1401 NW 55th Street.

Built in 1959, Lockhart is a 17,417-seat high school football stadium, across 55th Street from Fort Lauderdale Stadium, along 12th Avenue. It's been home to 4 different teams called the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, including the original NASL's version from 1977 to 1983, and the new NASL's version from 2011 to 2016. It hosted MLS' Miami Fusion from 1998 to 2001.

It's hosted 3 games of the U.S. national soccer team, including the November 23, 1980 2-1 victory that was the 1st time the U.S. ever defeated Mexico on home soil, the 1st time anywhere since the countries' 1st meeting, in the 1934 World Cup. It also hosted Florida Atlantic University's football team from 2003 to 2010, after which their on-campus stadium opened. 1350 NW 55th Street, at 12th Avenue.
It's the only stadium I know with more seats
in the end zones than along the sidelines.

For both stadiums, take Bus 14 from downtown Fort Lauderdale to Powerline Road & 56th Street, then walk 2 blocks west.

The current plan for the Major League Soccer team that retired English soccer star David Beckham wants to bring to Miami is for a 25,000-seat stadium in the Overtown section, bordered by 6th and 8th Streets and 6th and 7th Avenues, all NW. That's about a mile northwest of downtown. Bus 77. They still have to clear land-purchase and rezoning hurdles, but it looks like they have the proper ownership lined up. It looks like they will begin play in 2019, although it may take until 2020 for the stadium to open, in which case they may have to play their 1st (or even 2nd) season at Marlins Park.

Florida International University is at 11200 SW 8th Street, 16 miles west of downtown. Its Riccardo Silva Stadium, formerly FIU Stadium, opened in 1995 and seating 23,500, is at 11310 SW 17th Street. Bus 8. It is home to Miami FC, the largest team in the area until the Beckham team finally takes the field, if it ever does.
FIU should not be confused with Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. Its 29,419-seat FAU Stadium, which opened in 2011, is at 777 Glades Road, or FAU Blvd. & N. University Drive. Tri-Rail to Boca Raton station. On October 14, 2014, the U.S. soccer team had a 1-1 draw with Honduras at FAU Stadium.
* Marlins Park and site of Orange Bowl. The home of the team that became known as the Miami Marlins when they moved in for the 2012 season was built at the site of the stadium known as the Miami Orange Bowl. It will be a long time before it builds up anything of  history, but it will never match the history of the classic horseshoe with the palm trees at the open east end.

Opening in 1937, and known as Burdine Stadium until 1959, it hosted the Orange Bowl game on (or close to) every New Year’s Day from 1938 to 1995, and once more in 1999 when the Dolphins made the Playoffs to make their new stadium unavailable.

It also hosted the University of Miami football team from 1937 to 2007 (famed for its fake-smoke entrances out of the tunnel); the Miami Seahawks of the All-America Football Conference in 1946 (they moved to become the Baltimore Colts after just 1 season, but this was arguably the 1st "major league" team in any of the former Confederate States); the Bert Bell Benefit Bowl (a game involving the 2nd-place teams in each of the NFL's divisions from 1960 to 1969, also known as the Playoff Bowl, a game so lame that Vince Lombardi once called it "the only game I never want to win" – and he didn't); the Dolphins from 1966 to 1986; the Miami Toros of the North American Soccer League from 1972 to 1976; and 5 Super Bowls.

Most notably (from a New York perspective), the Orange Bowl hosted Super Bowl III, when the Jets beat the Colts in one of the greatest upsets in sports history, on January 12, 1969. It also hosted Super Bowl II in 1968, the Green Bay Packers over the Oakland Raiders; Super Bowl V in 1971, the Colts redeeming themselves by beating the Dallas Cowboys on a last-play field goal by Jim O'Brien; and Super Bowls X and XIII, in 1976 and 1979, respectively, the Pittsburgh Steelers beating the Cowboys in both.

The Orange Bowl was where the Dolphins put together what remains the NFL's only true undefeated season, in 1972. The Canton Bulldogs had gone undefeated and untied in 1922, but there was no NFL Championship Game in those days. The Chicago Bears lost NFL Championship Games after going undefeated and untied in the regular seasons of 1932 and '42. And the Cleveland Browns went undefeated and untied in the 1948 AAFC season, but that’s not the NFL.

The Dolphins capped their perfect season by winning Super Bowl VII over the Washington Redskins, and then Super Bowl VIII over the Minnesota Vikings. And yet, despite having reached the Super Bowl 5 times, and Miami having hosted 10 of them, the Dolphins have never played in a Super Bowl in their home region. (They've done so in Los Angeles twice, and once each in New Orleans, Houston and San Francisco.) They also haven't been to one in 31 seasons, including all of their history in their new stadium. "The Curse of Joe Robbie," anyone?

North London soccer club Arsenal played their 1st game in North America at the Orange Bowl, on May 31, 1972. Because it was Miami on Memorial Day Weekend and thus really hot, only 4,725 fans came out to see the Gunners beat the Miami Gatos 3-2.

1501 NW 3rd Street, between 7th Street, 14th and 16th Avenues. Number 11 Bus west on Flagler Street from downtown, then 3 blocks north on 15th Avenue. Be careful: This is in Little Havana, a high-crime neighborhood.

* Hard Rock Stadium. Probably best known under its original name, Joe Robbie Stadium, the Dolphins' home was named for their longtime owner, who had it built for them and for a hypothetical MLB team that became the Marlins. It's 15 miles north of downtown Miami, in a location that's been called, at various times, Miami, Miami Lakes, Miami Gardens, Carol City and Opa-Locka. Sounds like a bad variety show sketch.

The Stadium is between 199th and 203rd, and between the Turnpike and 27th Avenue, across 203rd and Snake Creek from Calder Race Course. The exact mailing address is 347 Don Shula Drive, for the coach who won the Dolphins' 2 titles and the record number of NFL coaching wins he has.

Public transportation there is a bit tricky. You'd have to take Metrorail from downtown to M.L. King Rail Station, then transfer to the Number 27 bus, riding that to NW 199th Street & NW 27th Court. And then you'd have to walk down 199th for about 15 minutes and turn into the parking lot. Not exactly ideal. (Somehow, I don't think a situation like this, especially with a transit station with his name on it, was part of Martin Luther King's dream. But he certainly would have approved of a racially mixed crowd watching racially mixed teams playing each other.)

The stadium has been home to the Dolphins since 1987; the Orange Bowl game in 1996, 1997, 1998 and since 2000; the University of Miami football team since 2008 (their games were the last thing the Orange Bowl stadium hosted before its demolition to make way for Marlins Park); the Marlins from 1993 to 2011; and the Champs Sports Bowl from 1990 to 2000.

It's hosted 5 Super Bowls: XXIII (1989, San Francisco 49ers over Cincinnati Bengals), XXIX (1995, 49ers over San Diego Chargers), XXXIII (1999, Denver Broncos over Atlanta Falcons), XLI (2007, Indianapolis Colts over Chicago Bears, and the only Super Bowl that's yet been rained on) and XLIV (2011, Packers over Steelers). It's been awarded Super Bowl LIV, currently scheduled for February 2, 2020.

It's also hosted 2 World Series: 1997, Marlins over Cleveland; and 2003, Marlins over, uh, let's move on. It hosted 4 BCS National Championship Games: 2001 (Oklahoma over Florida State), 2005 (USC over Oklahoma), 2009 (Florida over Oklahoma) and 2013 (Alabama over Notre Dame).

The stadium is also a premier U.S. soccer venue. On August 4, 1989, Arsenal returned to Miami, playing Argentine club Independiente at Joe Robbie, each team coming off winning its national league title. Arsenal won, 2-1, but only 10,042 fans came out to see it in the oppressive August Florida heat. (Perhaps this is why Arsenal did not play in North America again for 25 years, coming to Red Bull Arena in 2014 and visiting the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas this past Summer.) Other major club teams to play there include Mexico's Chivas of Guadalajara; England's Chelsea of London, Everton of Liverpool and Manchester United; Spain's Real Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia; and Italy's AC Milan, Internazionale and Juventus.

The U.S. national team has played there 4 times: A 1-0 loss to Colombia on April 22, 1990; a 1-1 draw with Bolivia on February 18, 1994; a 3-1 loss to Sweden on February 20, 1994; and a 1-0 win over Honduras on October 8, 2011.

* Comfort Inn. This hotel, across 36th Street from the airport, was the site of the Playhouse, once considered one of South Florida's finest banquet halls. It was here, on January 9, 3 days before the Super Bowl, at a dinner organized by the Miami Touchdown Club, that Joe Namath of the Jets was speaking, and some drunken Colts fan yelled out, "Hey, Namath! We're gonna kick your ass on Sunday!" And Joe said, "Let me tell you something: We got a good team. And we're gonna win. I guarantee it!" He was right.

NW 36th Street between Curtiss Parkway and Deer Run. MetroRail toward Palmetto, to Allapattah Station, then transfer to the 36 Bus.

* Site of Miami Stadium. Also known as Bobby Maduro Stadium, this was the home of the original Miami Marlins, of the Florida State League. Seating 13,000, it was known for its Art Deco entrance and a roof that shielded nearly the entire seating area, to protect fans from the intense Miami weather.

The FSL team that played here was known as the Sun Sox from 1949 to 1954, the Marlins from 1956 to 1960, the Marlins again 1962 to 1970, the Miami Orioles 1971 to 1981, and the Marlins again from 1982 to 1988. These teams won FSL Pennants in 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972 and 1978 -- giving Miami 7 Pennants, counting those won by the NL Marlins.

Miami Stadium was the spring training home of the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1950 to 1957, the Dodgers in their first season in Los Angeles in 1958 (it can be said that "the Los Angeles Dodgers" played their 1st game here, not in California), and the Baltimore Orioles from 1959 to 1990.

It was demolished in 2001, and The Miami Stadium Apartments were built on the site. 2301 NW 10th Avenue, off 23rd Street. It's just off I-95, and 8 blocks north and east from the Santa Clara MetroRail station.

* American Airlines Arena. The "Triple-A" has been the home of the NBA's Miami Heat since 2000, including their 2006, 2012 and 2013 NBA Championship seasons. 601 Biscayne Blvd. (U.S. Routes 1 & 41), between NE 6th and 8th Streets, across Port Blvd. from the Bayside Marketplace shopping center (not exactly their version of the South Street Seaport) and the Miami outlets of Hooters, the Hard Rock Café and Bubba Gump Shrimp. The closest rapid-rail station is Overtown, the same stop for the previous sports arena…

* Site of Miami Arena. This was the home of the Heat from 1988 to 1999, the NHL’s Florida Panthers from 1993 to 1998, and the University of Miami basketball team from 1988 to 2003. When the Overtown race riot happened in January 16 to 18, 1989, in the week before Super Bowl XXIII, area residents took great pains to protect this arena from damage, and succeeded.

This building was demolished in 2008. Only 20 years? Apparently, like the multipurpose stadiums of the 1960s and '70s, and the Meadowlands Arena and the Nassau Coliseum, it served its purpose – getting teams to come in – and then quickly became inadequate. Grand Central Park, a public park, was built on the site. 701 Arena Blvd., between Miami Avenue, NW 1st Avenue, and 6th and 8th Streets. Overtown/Arena rail station.

* Sports Immortals Museum. This museum is in Boca Raton, at 6830 N. Federal Highway (Route 1), 50 miles north of downtown Miami. It's got a statue of Babe Ruth, and some memorabilia on display.  However, some people have reported that much of the memorabilia they sell has been judged to be fake by authenticators, so buyer beware. Theoretically, it's reachable by public transportation from Miami, but you'd need to take a bus to a train to a bus to a bus (32 to Tri-Rail to 70 to 1), and it would take about 3 hours. If you don't have the time to make for this, by car or otherwise, skip it.

* Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital. For the last 30 or so years of his life, the Yankee Clipper lived in South Florida, and while he pretty much ignored his one and only child, son Joe Jr., he adored his grandchildren and children in general. He was a heavy donor to local hospitals, and the Children's Hospital named for him was established in 1992. There is now a statue of him there. 1005 Joe DiMaggio Drive, Hollywood. about 20 miles north of downtown Miami. 22 bus to Hollywood Tri-Rail station, then a mile's walk.

* Miami Beach Convention Center. Opened in 1957, it seats 15,000 people. The American Basketball Association's Miami Floridians played here from 1968 to 1972. The 1968 Republican Convention, and both major parties' Conventions in 1972, were held here. (The Republicans nominated Richard Nixon each time, and the Democrats nominated George McGovern.) Why? Simple: They wanted to be away from any city's downtown, putting water between themselves and wherever the hippies and another antiwar demonstrators were staying.

This building hosted the heavyweight title fights of 1961 (Floyd Patterson-Ingemar Johansson III, Floyd won) and 1964 (Cassius Clay-Sonny Liston I, Clay winning and then changing his name to Muhammad Ali). Just 9 days before Ali forced his "total eclipse of the Sonny," on February 16, 1964, the Beatles played their 2nd full-length U.S. concert here. They visited Ali at his Miami training center, and a famous photo was taken. Elvis Presley gave a pair of concerts here on September 12, 1970.
"Float like a butterfly, sing like a Beatle!"

Convention Center Drive between 17th Street and Dade Blvd. The Jackie Gleason Theater, where "The Great One" taped his 1960s version of The Jackie Gleason Show (including a now rarely-seen revival of The Honeymooners) is next-door. This, and any other Miami Beach location, can be reached via the 103, 113 or 119 Bus, or a car, over the MacArthur Causeway.

* Site of Coconut Grove Convention Center. This former Pan Am hangar, attached to the Dinner Key Marina in 1930, was used as a Naval Air Station, a convention center, a concert hall, a 6,900-seat sports arena (the Floridians played a few home games here), and as the indoor-scenes studio for the USA Network show Burn Notice.

It’s also been known as the Dinner Key Auditorium. Under that name, on March 1, 1969, The Doors gave a concert here, and lead singer Jim Morrison supposedly committed an indecent act there. (Yeah, he told the crowd, "I'm from Florida! I went to Florida State! Then I got smart and moved to California!")

It was demolished in 2013, and a park is being built on the site. 2700 S. Bayshore Drive, at Pan American Drive & 27th Avenue, in the Coconut Grove section of town. Number 102 Bus to Number 48.

* Gusman Center for the Performing Arts. Formerly the Olympic Theater, Elvis sang here on August 3 and 4, 1956. 174 E. Flagler Street, downtown.

On March 26, 1960, Elvis taped a segment for The Frank Sinatra Timex Show, subtitled Welcome Home Elvis, in the ballroom of the Fontainebleau Hotel. It was his 1st TV appearance since his discharge from the Army 3 weeks earlier.

Frank was not initially a fan of Elvis, but his 2-year peacetime-but-Cold-War hitch for Uncle Sam -- further emphasized by the fact that an ear condition left Frank himself 4-F, meaning he didn't serve in World War II -- convinced a lot of grownups that he was all right after all, and Frank and his fellow Rat Packers were now happy to go along -- down to Frank's daughter, 15-year-old Nancy (6 years from becoming a star in her own right), being the first "name" he saw when he got off the plane.

Elvis sang both sides of his 1st post-service single, "Fame and Fortune" and the soon-to-be-Number 1 hit "Stuck On You." Then he sang Frank's "Witchcraft," and Frank sang his "Love Me Tender," and they closed the latter song together. They remained friends for the rest of Elvis' life.

The Fontainebleau, then as now, was the most famous hotel in Miami, in Florida, indeed in the entire Southern U.S. 4441 Collins Avenue in Miami Beach.

In addition to the preceding, Elvis sang in South Florida in Fort Myers at the City Auditorium on May 9 and July 25, 1955; in West Palm Beach at the Palms Theater on February 20, 1956 and the West Palm Beach Auditorium on February 13, 1977; and in Hollywood at the Sportatorium on February 12, 1977.

* Museums. Miami isn't a big museum city. There's the Miami Science Museum, at 3280 S. Miami Avenue (Vizcaya Station on Tri-Rail); the Miami Art Museum, at 101 W. Flagler Street (downtown); the Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), at 1103 Biscayne Blvd., Museum Park station on Metromover; and the Patricia and Philip Frost Museum of Science, at 3280 S. Miami Avenue, Vizcaya station on Metrorail.

* Colleges. The largest college in the area is, as you might have guessed, the University of Miami. Its new Donna E. Shalala Student Center, named for the former University President and U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services under President Bill Clinton, is at 1330 Miller Drive, about 7 miles southwest of downtown. University Station on Metrorail.

Florida International University is at 11200 SW 8th Street, 16 miles west of downtown. Its FIU Stadium, seating 23,500, is at 11310 SW 17th Street. Bus 8. It should not be confused with Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. Its 30,000 FAU Stadium is at FAU Blvd. & N. University Drive. Tri-Rail to Boca Raton station. On October 14, 2014, the U.S. soccer team had a 1-1 draw with Honduras at FAU Stadium.

No President has ever been born in Florida, or grew up there, or even had his permanent residence there. Two men who served as Governor ran for the Democratic Party's nomination for the office, but neither came particularly close to the nomination: Reubin Askew dropped out after the 1984 New Hampshire Primary, and Bob Graham didn't even make it to calendar year 2004, much less the Iowa Caucuses.

Nevertheless, Miami has a key role in Presidential history. On February 15, 1933, President-elect Franklin Roosevelt and Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak were at a rally in Bayfront Park, when Giuseppe Zangara started shooting. FDR was not hit, but Cermak was, and he died on March 6, just 2 days after FDR was inaugurated. Bayfront Park station on Metromover.

More recently, the building where the votes for Dade County were supposed to be counted in the 2000 election was besieged by protesters, hired by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, so Miami was ground zero for the theft of the election by the George W. Bush campaign. The Stephen P. Clark Government Center, 111 NW 1st Street, downtown. Government Center station.

The Watsco Center, formerly the University of Miami Convocation Center, hosted a Presidential Debate between Bush and John Kerry in 2004. 1245 Dauer Drive, in Coral Gables. Tri-Rail to University. And Lynn University in Boca Raton hosted a Presidential Debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in 2012. 3601 N. Military Trail. Tri-Rail to Boca Raton, then Bus 2.

The Kennedy family had a compound in Palm Beach, but sold it in 1995. It's still in private hands, and not open to the public. There was a "Little White House" in Key West (111 Front Street), used by Harry Truman (and, to a lesser extent, his immediate successors Dwight D. Eisenhower and Kennedy), and it's open to tours. But that's a long way from Miami: 160 miles, with no public transportation between the 2 cities, and Greyhound charges $110 round-trip for a 4 1/2-hour ride.

* Movies & TV. Several TV shows have been set in Miami. A restaurant called Jimbo’s Place was used to film scenes from Flipper and Miami Vice, and more recently CSI: Miami and Burn Notice. It’s at 4201 Rickenbacker Causeway in Key Biscayne, accessible by the Causeway (by car) and the 102 Bus (by public transportation).

Greenwich Studios has been used to film Miami Vice, True Lies, There's Something About Mary and The Birdcage. It’s at 16th Avenue between 121st and 123rd Streets, in North Miami, and often stands in for Miami Beach for the TV shows and movies for which it’s used. 93 Bus.

If you're a fan of The Golden Girls, you won’t find the house used for the exterior shots. It's actually in Los Angeles. The address mentioned on the show was 6151 Richmond Street, but that address doesn't exist in Miami. If you're a fan of those not-quite-golden girls, the Kardashian sisters, the penthouse they use to tape the Miami edition of their "reality show" is on Ocean Drive between 1st and 2nd Streets in Miami Beach. But I don’t think they use it anymore, especially since Kourtney and Kim have since "taken New York."

At 789 feet, the tallest building in the State of Florida since 2003 has been the Four Seasons Hotel Miami, at 1435 Brickell Avenue downtown. Financial District station on Metromover. Indeed, Miami has seen a building boom, with the waterfront becoming home to a series of skyscrapers known as the Biscayne Wall.

The tallest of Miami's older buildings is the Freedom Tower, built in 1925 as the home of the now-defunct Miami News. It now houses Miami-Dade College and a Museum. 600 Biscayne Blvd., downtown, across from the American Airlines Arena. Freedom Tower station on Metromover.

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You don't have to be old to be a New Yorker or a New Jerseyan in South Florida -- but it helps to be a sports fan. You should be able to enjoy yourself, especially since the Florida Panthers are a team the Devils should be able to beat.

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