Saturday, April 30, 2016

Yanks Let Big Fat Lying Cheating B@$+@rd Beat Them Again

Nothing in sports angers me more than the media's knowledge that David Ortiz was caught cheating and still denies it, and their acting like it was all okay, and then their castigation of the Yankees for what they've admitted to.

It's called "cognitive dissonance."

Ortiz should have been banned from baseball for life years ago.

If the price for that had also been the same punishment for Alex Rodriguez? I would have gladly lived with that.

Anyway, last night, in the opener of the 1st Yankees vs. Red Sox game of the season, at Fenway Park, things were going so well. Masahiro Tanaka had a 3-hit shutout going for 6 innings, and the Yankees had a 2-0 lead, thanks to a home run by A-Rod in the 2nd inning (his 4th of the season) and an RBI single by Brett Gardner in the 5th.

But, for once, Joe Girardi made a mistake not by taking out a pitcher going strong after 6, but leaving him in for the 7th. Tanaka allowed a pair of 1-out singles, then got a strikeout, and then allowed a double by Jackie Bradley, tying the game.

Then Girardi brought Dellin Betances in to pitch the 8th. Suffice it to say, he has not turned out to be the new Mariano Rivera of 1997 to 2013 -- or even the new Mariano Rivera of 1996 (unbeatable 8th inning guy).

It wasn't all Betances' fault: Xander Bogaerts lined a shot that deflected off Starlin Castro's glove, not really a makeable play, so I don't blame Castro, either. But, of course, Ortiz was the next batter; and, of course, he hit a home run.

If you're not going to plunk him in that situation, at least walk him intentionally. True, it puts the potential winning run on 2nd base with only 1 out. But it sends a message: No, you big fat lying cheating bastard, we are not letting you beat us this time.

Red Sox 4, Yankees 2. WP: Koji Uehara (1-1). SV: Craig Kimbrel (7). LP: Betances (0-2).

The series continues tonight. Michael Pineda starts against Rick Porcello.

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Red Sox Are the REAL "Evil Empire"

As Christmas approached in 2002, the Yankees signed 2 big foreign stars: Japanese outfielder Hideki Matsui, and Cuban pitcher Jose Contreras.

The Red Sox wanted Contreras badly, but owner George Steinbrenner told Brian Cashman to get him or else, and Cashman got him.

Red Sox team president Larry Lucchino did not take this lying down. When the New York Times reached him for comment on the signing, he said, "The evil empire extends its tentacles even into Latin America." 

People have called the Yankees "the Evil Empire" ever since.

This is stupid.

The most obvious reason that it's stupid is that most of us first heard the expression "evil empire" on March 8, 1983, when President Ronald Reagan delivered a speech at a hotel on the grounds of Walt Disney World outside Orlando, Florida, to a bunch of evangelicals whose Jesus was the one who said to smite single mothers and gays, not the one who said to love thy neighbor as thyself and to give your possessions to the poor:

In your discussions of the nuclear freeze proposals, I urge you to beware the temptation of pride, the temptation of blithely, uh, declaring yourselves above it all, and label both sides equally at fault, to ignore the facts of history, and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire, to simply call the arms race a giant misunderstanding, and thereby remove yourself from the struggle between right and wrong, and good and evil.

Reagan was calling the Soviet Union an evil empire. The Soviet Union was opposed to capitalism, opposed to obscene wealth, opposed to private property.

The New York Yankees, at least since Jacob Ruppert began to build the team that would dominate baseball in the 1920s, have been the most capitalist of all teams, have been obscenely wealthy, and own the greatest private property in all of sports on this planet, Yankee Stadium. (If you're a soccer fan, don't tell me Real Madrid's Bernabeu, Barcelona's Camp Nou, or Manchester United's Old Trafford is greater. What do they host besides their home teams?)

So comparing the Yankees to the Soviet Union, "the evil empire," really is stupid. If Reagan had never made that speech, maybe it would make sense.

*

But it goes beyond that. The comparison is also made to the Galactic Empire, the antagonists in the Star Wars films. Some Yankee Fans get a kick out of this, making it backfire on Sox fans, by showing Darth Vader as a representation of the Yankees, turning, "May the Force be with you" into, "May the Curse be with you" prior to the Sox cheating the Curse of the Bambino to death in 2004.

And, just before the Sox did that, Pedro Martinez made his "call the Yankees my Daddy" remark, and a banner at Yankee Stadium showed Vader saying, "Pedro: I am your father!"

But the media, particularly ESPN and Fox, the duopoly of baseball coverage on national TV, have fed the myth that the Red Sox are the Light Side of the Force, and the Yankees are the Dark Side.

Bullshit. We are the Light Side, while the Red Sox are the Dark Side.

You want to use Star Wars as the template? Okay, let's take the 1st 6 films into context. From 1921 to 2003 was the Republic, then came its downfall.

The 1999 American League Championship Series was Episode I: The Phantom Menace: The Yankees were challenged by a resurgent enemy that we thought was no longer a threat, but we got the message: Take them seriously.

The 2003 season was Episode II: Attack of the Clones: They were really gunning for us now, and we knew we had a war on our hands, but it still looked like we would prevail in the end.

2004 was Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. No explanation necessary.

Time passed. The 2009 season, when it was revealed that the Sox were steroid cheats, and we lost to them for most of the season but began pounding them in early August, and clinched the Division against them in late September, on the way to winning the World Series again, was Episode IV: A New Hope.

2013, when we missed Derek Jeter for most of the season, we said goodbye to Mariano Rivera, and the Sox won the Series for the 1st time since they were outed as cheaters, and nobody seemed to give a damn that they had cheated, was Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. The movie that many Star Wars fans say is the best one, but these people need to be slapped: How can it be the best, if it ends with the bad guys winning? These people are ESPN and Fox, celebrating the Sox and David Ortiz, when they know goddamned well how evil they are.

Hopefully, 2016 will be Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.

If you still doubt that it's the Red Sox who are the Dark Side, remember that their pitchers have consistently tried to injure our players with pitched balls.

Bronson Arroyo drilled Alex Rodriguez in the back, A-Rod cursed him out, and Jason Varitek, leaving his mask on like the bitch that he is, shoved his mitt in A-Rod's face. This was a far cry from 1976, when Bill Lee, after a brawl that led to his shoulder injury, "The Yankees fought like hookers swinging their purses." How would he know? And what did it say about his team that they lost the fight anyway?

Want more proof? Pedro tried to "execute Order 66" on Don Zimmer. For the last few years of his life, Zim's uniform number as a coach was the number of years he'd been in professional baseball. When he died, still on the staff of the Tampa Bay Rays, the Rays retired the last number that he wore. It was 66.

You want to say that you hate the Yankees? Go ahead. I like to use the line from ancient Rome: Oderint dum metuant. Meaning, "Let them hate, as long as they fear."

But don't insult the evidence by saying that the Yankees are evil. When the Red Sox have been war criminals at least since Pedro the Punk arrived in 1998, and still are long after he's been gone.

Not a Good Way to Hit Going Into a Boston Series

The Yankees closed their series in Texas by doing what they've done most of April 2016: Failing to score enough runs.

Don't blame CC Sabathia: The Big Fella pitched decently, allowing 3 runs on 5 hits, 3 walks and a hit batsman over 6 innings. He only threw 90 pitches, so he could have gone longer.

But don't blame the bullpen, either. Between them, the slumping Johnny Barbato and the usually awful Chasen Shreve pitched 3 perfect innings. And don't blame Joe Girardi: Clearly, he pulled CC at the right time; equally clearly, he used the right pitchers for the night.

No, blame the offense. Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner both went 0-for-4 at the top of the order. Chase Headley and Ronald Torreyes (Girardi put him at shortstop to give Didi Gregorius a night off) went 0-for-3 at the bottom. Mark Teixeira went 0-for-3 in the middle, but at least he managed a walk.

Alex Rodriguez got 3 hits, including a home run (his 3rd) and a double. Starling Castro got 2 hits, 1 for an RBI. But that was all the Yankees got off Texas pitching.

I don't care how good the other team's pitcher is: The New York Yankees should be getting more than 2 runs off them.

This time, again, they did not: Rangers 3, Yankees 2. WP: Martin Perez (1-2). SV: Shawn Tolleson (7 -- and that's the son of former Ranger and Yankee good-field/no-hit infielder Wayne Tolleson). LP: Sabathia (1-2).

*

So far this season, when the Yankees score at least 4 runs in a game, they're 5-0. When they score 3, they're 3-2. When they score 2 or fewer, they're 0-10.

And now, we have to play the Boston Red Sox. In Boston. In the little green pinball machine in the Back Bay.

We could be looking at a 30-5 aggregate loss.

On the other hand, how many times have we had a high-scoring game right before playing the Sox, especially at Fenway, and gone on to watch our bats fizzle? Maybe this series will have the opposite effect.

Here are the projected starters:

* Tonight, 7:10 PM: Masahiro Tanaka vs. Henry Owens.

* Tomorrow, 7:10 PM: Michael Pineda vs. Rick Porcello.

* Sunday, 8:05 PM (the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball game): Nathan Eovaldi vs. David Price.

Let's go, Yankees! Beat The Scum!

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.

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!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Nothing Goes Right for Yankees In Arlington

The Yankees got great pitching and just enough runs in their game away to the Texas Rangers on Monday night. They got neither at Globe Life Park in Arlington last night.

Luis Severino was only down 1-0 entering the bottom of the 3rd, but then he imploded, allowing 5 runs. Joe Girardi didn't have to consider whether to relieve him after 6 innings: He was gone after the 3rd. The bullpen was no better: Ivan Nova, apparently now the "long man," allowed 3 runs in 4 innings, and Chasen Shreve allowed a run in the 8th.

Why is Shreve even in the major leagues? When people say, "Expansion has diluted pitching, to the point where there are players who just don't belong in the major leagues," Shreve is one of the guys they're talking about.

The only Yankee run came on an RBI single by Mark Teixeira in the 7th. He and Ronald Torreyes each got 2 hits. Brett Gardner and Carlos Beltran each had 1 hit, and Gardner added a walk.

That was it: 7 baserunners. Jacoby Ellsbury: 0-for-4. Brian McCann: 0-for-4. Starlin Castro: 0-for-3. Dustin Ackley: 0-for-3. Didi Gregorius: 0-for-3. Alex Rodriguez got the night off, so we can't blame him.

Rangers 10, Yankees 1. Nothing went right. WP: A.J. Griffin (3-0). No save. LP: Severino (0-3, and he hasn't even looked good in any of the 3).

The series concludes tonight. CC Sabathia starts against Martin Perez. Then a travel day, and then we head into the belly of the beast to play The Scum at Scumway Park.

*

Days until the New York Red Bulls play again: 1, tomorrow night at 7:00, home to FC Dallas.

Days until the 1st Yankees-Red Sox series of the season: 2, this Friday night, at Fenway Park.

Days until The Arsenal play again: 3, this Saturday, 12:30 PM our time, home to East Anglia club Norwich City.

Days until the Red Bulls play a "derby": 16, on Friday night, May 13, against D.C. United (a.k.a. The DC Scum), at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in Washington. They next play New York City F.C. (a.k.a. Man City NYC and The Homeless) on Saturday afternoon, May 21, at Yankee Stadium II. They next play the Philadelphia Union on Sunday night, July 17, at Talen Energy Stadium (formerly PPL Park) in Chester, Pennsylvania. And the next game against the New England Revolution is on Sunday night, August 28, at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey.

Days until the 2016 Copa America kicks off in the U.S.: 
37, on Friday, June 3. Just 5 weeks.

Days until Euro 2016 kicks off in France: 44, on Friday, June 10. Just 6 weeks.

Days until Arsenal play as the opponents in the 2016 Major League Soccer All-Star Game: 
92, on Thursday night, July 28, at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, California, home of the San Jose Earthquakes. Just 3 months. Three days later, Arsenal will play C.D. Guadalajara, a.k.a. Chivas, one of the biggest clubs in Mexico, at the StubHub Center, home of the Los Angeles Galaxy, in Carson, California. This will be just 2 years after The Arsenal came to America to play the Red Bulls in New Jersey. I went to that one. I don't think I'll be going to either of these: Even if I could get a game ticket, paying for a plane ticket would be difficult.

Days until the 2016 Olympics begin in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: 1
00, on Friday, August 5.

Days until the next North London Derby: Unknown, but at least 115. The 2016-17 Premier League season is likely to open on Saturday, August 20, but it's unlikely that Arsenal will play Tottenham (a.k.a. The Scum) in the opener.
 
Days until Rutgers University plays football again: 
129, on Saturday, September 3, away to the University of Washington, in Seattle. A little over 4 months.

Days until East Brunswick High School plays football again: 135, on Friday, September 9, probably away, since, while the 2016 schedule hasn't been released yet, the Big Green opened last season at home.


Days until the New Jersey Devils play another local rival: Unknown, but at least 
163. The new season is likely to being on the 1st Friday in October, which would be October 7. But they're not likely to play either the New York Rangers (a.k.a. The Scum), the New York Islanders or the Philadelphia Flyers (a.k.a. The Philth) in the opener.

Days until the next East Brunswick-Old Bridge Thanksgiving game: 
201, on Thursday morning, November 24, at the purple shit pit on Route 9. Under 5 months.

Days until Alex Rodriguez' alleged retirement becomes official: 
552, as his contract runs out on October 31, 2017. Or at the conclusion of the 2017 World Series, if the Yankees make it. Whichever comes last. A little over 18 months.

Days until the 2018 World Cup kicks off in Russia: 
778, on June 14, 2018. Under 26 months. Of course, at the rate manager Jurgen Klinsmann is going, the U.S. team might not even qualify.

How to Be a Met Fan In San Diego -- 2016 Edition

On Thursday, May 5, the Mets begin a series away to the San Diego Padres.

Unlike the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Padres are an expansion team with no connection to New York. They've never even played the Mets in the Playoffs -- but they have played the Yankees in the World Series. (The Chargers have played the Jets in the Playoffs. San Diego has no NHL team, and have only had an NBA team briefly and not currently.)

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

The website of the San Diego Union-Tribune (yet another paper that, not that long ago, used to be two separate papers), is predicting low 70s by day, mid-50s by night, and, as you might expect for San Diego, no precipitation for the entire weekend. A short-sleeve shirt should be enough, no jacket necessary. Just in case, you may want to bring sunscreen.

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

If you're planning on making a side trip to Tijuana, Mexico, 25 miles south of downtown San Diego, be sure to bring your passport. If you don't have a passport, it's too late to get one for this trip, so if you're going to San Diego, do not attempt to cross the Border. Also, the crossing cannot be done by public transportation: You'll need a car.

Tickets. The Padres averaged 30,367 fans per home game last season, at a park with a seating capacity of 42,524. That's about 71 percent of capacity. Getting tickets shouldn't be a problem.

The most expensive seat in the house is a Field Box VIP for $94. Field Infield is $78, Field Plaza is $54, Terrace Infield is $63, Field Boxes are $55, Field Reserved are $47, Terrace Reserved are $45, Left Field and Right Field Lower Boxes are $35, Upper Box Infield are $32, Terrace Pavilion are $40, Field Pavilion are $39, Right Field Lower Reserved are $27, Upper Infield are $20, Upper Box Pavilion are $23, Right Field Upper Box are $22, Left Field Reserved are $23, and Upper Reserved are $18.

Getting There. It's 2,803 miles from Times Square in New York to downtown San Diego, including Petco Park. In other words, if you're going, you're flying. After all, even if you get someone to go with you, and you take turns, one drives while the other one sleeps, and you pack 2 days’ worth of food, and you use the side of the Interstate as a toilet, and you don’t get pulled over for speeding, you’ll still need over 2 full days. Each way.

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

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

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

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

That’s still faster than the bus or the train. Greyhound takes about 70 hours, changing buses anywhere from 2 to 4 times, $438 round-trip. The station is at 1313 National Avenue at Commercial Street -- 3 blocks from the ballpark!)

Amtrak takes nearly 72 hours, and you'd have to take 3 separate trains -- each way. The Lake Shore Limited leaves Penn Station at 3:40 PM Eastern Time on Monday and arrives at Union Station in Chicago at 9:45 AM Central Time on Tuesday. The Southwest Chief leaves Chicago at 3:00 PM on Tuesday, and arrives at Union Station in Los Angeles at 8:15 AM Pacific Time on Thursday. Finally, switch to the Pacific Surfliner, leaving Los Angeles at 9:55 AM and arriving in San Diego's Santa Fe Depot at 12:40 PM. The round-trip fare is $640. The Santa Fe Depot is at 1050 Kettner Blvd. at Broadway.

Flights to San Diego International Airport, also known as Lindbergh Field, will be more expensive (at least $800 round-trip), and will usually involve changing planes in Chicago or Dallas.

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

Today, nearly 1.4 million people live within the city limits, and 3.2 million in the metro area. Front Street is the delineator between streets with East and West as prefixes, while Broadway is that for those running North and South.

Sales tax is a minimum 7.5 percent in the State of California, and 8 percent in San Diego County, which includes, but is not contiguous with, the City of San Diego.

Public transportation in San Diego is pretty good, with the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (SDMTS) running buses, trolleys and light rail. Petco Park is accessible on the Orange Line at Gaslamp Quarter station, and on the Orange and Blue Lines at 12th & Imperial Transit Center station. The fare is $2.50. A 1-day pass is $5.00, and a 4-day pass (the best value if you're going for all 4 games) is $15.
Going In. Petco Park (sometimes listed incorrectly in ALL CAPS), named for the San Diego-headquartered chain of pet and pet supplies stores, has an official address, with the name and uniform number of the greatest Padre of them all (so far), of 19 Tony Gwynn Drive. It is bounded by 7th Avenue/Gwynn Drive on the 3rd base and home plate sides, Park Blvd. on the 1st base side, 10th Avenue on the right field side, and K Street on the center field side. It points north, with a good view of the downtown skyscrapers.
Parking starts at $10, though most spaces will be $15. Padre fans living north of downtown can also do what they used to do, and park at Qualcomm Stadium (except when it's also hosting an event), and take the Trolley in.

The Gaslamp Gate and the Downtown Gate are in left field. The Balboa Park Gate, the East Village Gate (not to be confused with Lower Manhattan's East Village or the Broadway's Village Gate Theater) and the Park Blvd. Gate are in right field. And the Home Plate Gate is, well, you can probably guess.
Being in the California sunshine, the field has nearly always looked good. The left-field corner has the former Western Metal Supply Company warehouse, built into the stadium complex, as was the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad warehouse into Camden Yards in Baltimore. Unlike Baltimore, however, seating sections were built into this warehouse.
As with most of the "retro ballparks" built in the 1990s and 2000s, the field is not symmetrical.  The left field pole is 334 feet from home plate, straightaway left is 367, left-center is 390, center is 396, right-center is 391, straightaway right is 382, and the right-field pole is a deceptive 322. The field is natural grass, and points north.

This is a pitcher's park, although a placement hitter like Gwynn or Dave Winfield would have been fine with it. The longest home run at the park is 471 feet, by Adrian Gonzalez, then with the Padres, in 2009. The longest home run at San Diego/Jack Murphy/Qualcomm Stadium was 499, by Mark McGwire in 1998.

Food. Being just 15 miles from the Mexican border, you might expect Petco Park to feature Mexican and Southwestern-style food. Your expectations would be fulfilled: Behind home plate, on the Field Level, there is Bull Taco and La Cantina Bar; in the Upper Level, another La Cantina Bar is in left field and the Padres Mexican Cafe is in right field.

Team-themed stands abound: Friar Franks are all over, a health-food Friar Fit stand is at Field Level behind home plate, and the PCL Club (named for the city's old-time home, the Pacific Coast League) is at Field Level behind 1st base. On Terrace Level, behind 1st base, are Club 19 (for Gwynn) and Randy Jones BBQ (a variation of the Baltimore Boog Powell and Philadelphia Greg Luzinski theme). And the Hall of Fame Bar & Grill is on Terrace Level in left field.

There are also stands with local flavor: Anthony's Fish Grotto, home of the Padres' famed fish tacos, is behind home plate on both the Field and Terrace Levels. According to a recent Thrillist article on the best food at each MLB stadium, the best food at Petco Park is Ahi poke tacos (basically, sushi tacos) at The Patio, at Section 228. The Brickhouse Deli is on Field Level in left field, inside the warehouse. The Harbor Grill is on Terrace Level behind home plate, the Trolley Station Grill is on Terrace Level behind 1st base, and the Bayview Grill is on Upper Level behind home plate.

Team History Displays. The Padres have 5 retired numbers, displayed in center field, atop the batter's eye wall.  They are: 6, Steve Garvey, 1st base 1983-87; 19, Tony Gwynn, right field 1982-2001; 31, Dave Winfield, right field 1973-80; 35, Randy Jones, pitcher 1973-80; and 51, Trevor Hoffman, pitcher 1993-2008. Also mounted on top of the wall is Jackie Robinson's universally-retired Number 42.
The team has also honored, with notations painted in gold on the front of the press box, former owner Ray Kroc (1974-84) with his initials RAK, and broadcaster Jerry Coleman, the former Yankee 2nd baseman and broadcaster who called games for the team from 1972 to 2013 -- except for 1980, when he served as manager, with unsatisfying results, and returned to the booth in 1981. Instead of retiring a number for him, or mounting an "SD" for San Diego or his initials JC (or GFC for Gerald Francis Coleman), they've hung a star, for his catchphrase for a home run or a great defensive play: "Oh, doctor! You can hang a star on that baby!"

The Padres have a team Hall of Fame. I do not know if it is on display anywhere in the park. In addition to Gwynn, Winfield, Jones, Hoffman, Kroc and Coleman (but not, as yet, Garvey), it includes Emil "Buzzie" Bavasi, the team's 1st president (1969-77, previously general manager of the Dodgers), 1st baseman Nate Colbert (1969-74), shortstop Garry Templton (1982-91), catcher Benito Santiago (1986-92), and manager Dick Williams (1982-85).  Why Colbert's Number 17 and Williams' Number 23 have not been retired, I don't know.
Garvey, Gwnn, Winfield and Jones,
at Petco Park's opening, 2004

In addition to Gwynn, Winfield, Williams and Coleman, the players who have played for the Padres and been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York (but not based on what they did as Padres) are Roberto Alomar, Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage, Rickey Henderson, Greg Maddux, Willie McCovey, Gaylord Perry, Ozzie Smith, and, a Padre for just 1 season (2006), Mike Piazza.

Gwynn, Winfield, Fingers and Smith were named to The Sporting News' 100 Greatest Baseball Players in 1998. Gwynn was also chosen by Padres fans as their team's representative in the 2006 DHL Hometown Heroes poll. A statue of him stands outside the ballpark. Fortunately, he lived long enough to see all of these honors.
The Padres have won National League Pennants in 1984 and 1998, and NL Western Division titles in those years, plus 1996, 2005 and 2006. They have never reached the Playoffs by way of the Wild Card, although they lost a play-in game for the Wild Card to the Colorado Rockies in 2007. Flagpoles flying these Pennants stand beyond the left-center field wall.

The original Padres, Ted Williams' 1st pro team, won Pacific Coast League Pennants in 1937 (with Williams), 1954, 1962, 1964 and 1967. There is no notation for them at Petco Park.

Of note is the fact that, assuming you count Johan Santana's highly asteriskable performance in 2012 as a "Met No-Hitter," the Padres are now the only team among MLB's 30 current that have never pitched a no-hitter.

Stuff. The Padres have a number of team stores, including their main one at the Gaslamp Gate in left field. The good news is, they sell all kinds of Padres merchandise. The bad news is, they sell all kinds of Padres merchandise, including the various uniforms the Padres have worn, ranging from the mustard-yellow and brown uniforms of the 1970s to the "camouflage" jerseys they wear on home Sundays in honor of San Diego's tradition as a military city. Actually, it's a Navy city, not an Army city, so while wearing and selling jerseys that are navy blue in color makes sense, camouflage jerseys make no sense at all.

As far as I know, Padres merchandise does not include monks' (friars') robes with team logos, or a fake "monk wig" simulating a ring of hair around a bald head.

Although the Padres have been around for over 40 years now, and have some history, there aren't very many good books about the team. Baseball in San Diego: From the Plaza to the Padres by Bill Swank, in cooperation with the San Diego Historical Society, is probably the best one, covering the history of professional baseball in the city from the 1899 San Diego Fullers of the Southern California League to the 2004 opening of Petco Park.

Since the Padres have not yet won a World Series, there is no DVD collection of World Series highlight films; you'd have to, separately, get the 1984 (won by the Detroit Tigers) and 1998 (by the Yankees) films.

As of yet, the only team-history video available is Nineteen Summers: Padres 1969-1988 (which would actually be 20 summers), and if you want that, it's only available on Amazon.com on VHS, not DVD. There's also a VHS tape titled Tony Gwynn: Mr. Padre that covers his entire playing career. As yet, there is no Essential Games of the San Diego Padres DVD.

During the Game. A recent Thrillist article on "Baseball's Most Intolerable Fans" ranks Padres fans 26th -- in other words, the 5th most tolerable. Despite San Diego's background as a military city (Navy base, Marine Corps base not far away in Oceanside), these are not particularly aggressive people. Having good weather 350 days out of the year will keep you calmer than typical Northeastern, Midwestern or Northwestern weather.

The Padres' greatest rivals, as you might guess, are the closest NL team, the Los Angeles Dodgers. The AL's Angels are 30 miles closer, but even with Interleague play, Padres fansand Angels fans don't seem to care about each other or their teams -- or maybe they just band together and consider the Dodgers a common enemy.

But due to Fernando Valenzuela having made his name as a Dodger before his brief stopover with the Padres, when Mexican fans come over the border for Padres-Dodgers games, the cheering is about even when the Bums come to San Diego. The Padres also have a budding rivalry with the next-closest team, the Arizona Diamondbacks. But the locals do fit the reputation of the laid-back Southern Californian. No one is going to fight you.

All 4 of these Mets-Padres games in San Diego will be promotions. Thursday, May 5, will be Cinco de Mayo Night, in addition to College Night, which every Thursday night home game is. Friday will be Nurses Night and Teacher Appreciation Night. Saturday will be Faith & Family Night and Boy Scout Night, and Padres hoodies will be given out. (Hoodies? In San Diego, which hardly knows rain, let alone cold weather?) And Sunday will be Compadres Kids Catch on the Field Day, Military Spouse Appreciation Day, and, of course, Mother's Day.
Padres' camouflage jerseys

The Padres are hosting this year's All-Star Game, and are wearing commemorative patches for it. On Sundays, in a nod to San Diego's military history, they tend to wear camouflage jerseys. Not the worst-looking uniforms in team history, but bad enough.
Oscar Gamble, once-and-future Yankee, 1978.
Not even his coolness could save this hideous uniform.

Ted Giannoulas, known in costume as The Famous Chicken, began as the KGB Chicken. No, he wasn't a Russian spy, he was a student at San Diego State University, working for a San Diego radio station, KGB-FM. (He can be seen in his original costume on NFL Films' production of the 1978 Charger-Raider "Holy Roller" game, passing out at the successful result of the Raiders' blatant cheating.)

Following a contract dispute with the station, he got a new costume (one not copyrighted by the station) and was reborn, or rather hatched out of a giant egg, on the field at San Diego Stadium in June 1979 as "the San Diego Chicken."
Starting in 1981, he was part of the cast of NBC's Saturday pregame show The Baseball Bunch, starring Johnny Bench, where he was referred to as simply "The Chicken." He became so much in demand that he could no longer belong only to his hometown, and now goes everywhere. He and the Phillie Phanatic have done more to elevate the baseball mascot to icon status than anyone -- even if they weren't the first guys in silly costumes to entertain at baseball games. (Mr. Met was the first official such mascot, but even he was unofficially preceded by the Brooklyn Dodger Sym-Phony Band.)

Since 1996, the Padres have made their Swinging Friar logo a live-action mascot, and he (sans bat) is the official mascot. As I said earlier, like many cities in California, San Diego was founded by Spanish missionaries -- hence "Padres," Spanish for "Fathers," or priests, monks, friars.
The Friar, trying very, very hard to remember
that priests are supposed to be celibate.

The Padres hold auditions for National Anthem singers, as opposed to having a regular. It will not be Roseanne Barr, who infamously, and purposely, butchered the Anthem at Jack Murphy Stadium in 1990. The Padres don't have a special song to play along with "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the 7th Inning Stretch. This could be due to the relative lack of songs about the city, or famous singers or bands from the city. However, with the city's nautical tradition, a foghorn sounds after every Padre home run -- not common, as Petco is one of the best pitcher's parks in the majors. And, in a bit of a cliche, their postgame victory song is "Celebration" by Kool & the Gang -- one of our local groups, from Jersey City.

After the Game.  San Diego's Gaslamp District has plenty of nightspots, so finding a good place for a postgame meal or drink shouldn't be too hard. And although the city has a reputation for gang violence -- as Met fans, you may have heard San Diegan Kevin Mitchell tell horror stories about it -- downtown is very safe.

If you're looking for New Yorker-friendly establishments, Henry's Pub, at 618 5th Avenue between G & Market Streets, is the home of the local New York Jets fan club. It is 6 blocks from the ballpark.

I have heard of 2 separate bars as being home of local Giants fan clubs. The Knotty Barrel is at 844 Market Street at 9th Avenue, 5 blocks from PETCO. And the U-31 Cocktail Lounge is at 3112 University Avenue at 31st Street, however, it is 6 miles northeast of the ballpark. Even if the Knotty Barrel is not a Big Blue hangout, you'd be advised to choose that over the U-31.

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

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

* Lane Field. Home to the PCL Padres from 1936 to 1957, including the 1937 PCL Pennant that featured a 19-year-old San Diego kid named Ted Williams. By the time the Padres won another Pennant in 1954, the 8,000-seat pitcher's park, on the waterfront, with a Spanish-style entrance and faraway fences except at the right field pole, was termite-ridden and had to be abandoned.
Broadway, Harbor Drive and Pacific Highway. The Santa Fe Depot and the USS Midway Museum (a retired WWII-era aircraft carrier) are adjacent to the site. Number 7 bus. The Maritime Museum of San Diego is 3 blocks to the north.

* Westgate Park. The PCL Padres' next home was in Mission Valley, at (appropriately enough) Friars Road and the Cabrillo Freeway. This park seated only a few more than Lane Field, but unlike its predecessor, which had no roof to protect fans from the hot, nearly-Mexican sun, Westgate had a roof covering the entire seating area.
Supposedly, it was expandable to 40,000, in the event that San Diego could do what Los Angeles and San Francisco had done, and bring in a major league team, through move or expansion. But the Chargers wanted a modern stadium, too, so one stadium was built for both teams. The Padres won Pennants at Westgate in 1962, 1964 and 1967, their last season there. The Fashion Valley Mall is now on the site. Fashion Valley Transit Center station on the Green Line.

* San Diego/Jack Murphy/Qualcomm Stadium. Since 1967, this has been the home of the Chargers and the San Diego State University football team, the Aztecs. It was built to the east of Westgate, at 9449 Friars Road at Mission Village Drive, just off Interstate 15, 5 Green Line stops away from Westgate/Fashion Valley at what's now Qualcomm Stadium station.
Met fans, take note: It was beloved broadcaster Bob Murphy's brother, Jack Murphy, sports editor of the old San Diego Union newspaper, who advocated for the city as a major league sports site, and when he died in 1980, the stadium was named for him -- at least, until the city sold off the naming rights. Statues of Jack and his dog Abe remain outside the stadium. It's hosted the Holiday Bowl and the Poinsettia Bowl, and has hosted 3 Super Bowls: XXII (won by the Washington Redskins), XXXII (Denver Broncos) and XXXVII (Tampa Bay Buccaneers).
Before the 1990s expansion

The Chargers have only reached the Super Bowl once, in the 1994-95 season, although they are usually in the Playoff hunt. The PCL Padres played their last season here, 1968, and then in 1969 the NL Padres came in. Holding 47,000 for baseball for most of its history, it was expanded to 65,000 by 1996, and during the 1998 World Series between the Padres and Yankees, the noise was remarkable for an open-air facility -- not that it helped the Padres. The San Diego Sockers of the original North American Soccer League played there from 1978 to 1984.

The Padres moved out after the 2003 season, and the Chargers are looking to get out, hopefully into a downtown stadium. If they can't, they may well move, possibly up the Coast to Los Angeles, from whence they came.

* Balboa Park, the San Diego Zoo, and Museums. After starting in the AFL at the Los Angeles Coliseum in 1960, the Chargers moved to San Diego for 1961. Barron Hilton, son of hotel magnate Conrad Hilton -- and the 1st brother-in-law of Elizabeth Taylor, and the grandfather of Paris and Nicky Hilton -- ran the Carte Blanche credit card company, and named the team after the card, sort of: The Chargers, although a horse (also a "charger") and a lightning bolt (which gives off a "charge") has always been the team's logo.

He's still alive, now 88, and although he no longer has anything to do with the team, he is the last surviving member of "The Foolish Club," the 8 original AFL owners, following the recent deaths of Ralph Wilson of the Buffalo Bills and Bud Adams of the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans.

The existing Balboa Stadium, built in 1914 in Balboa Park (named for the Spanish explorer), was expanded to 34,000 seats for the Chargers. While it had a lot of atmosphere, including a columned front gate, and was home to the Chargers' 1963 AFL Championship team, it was too small for the proposed AFL-NFL merger, so what's now Qualcomm Stadium was built.

In 1965, at Balboa Stadium, Jim Ryun became the 1st American high schooler to break the 4-minute mile. On August 28, 1965, the Beatles played there. The old stadium was demolished and replaced in 1978, and now hosts high school football and track. Russ Blvd. & 16th Street.
  
Balboa Park is also home to the famed San Diego Zoo. My mother says her favorite day in her life was the day she spent at the Zoo. Park Road & Zoo Place. 

Adjacent is the Federal Building, which hosts the San Diego Hall of Champions, honoring area natives such as Ted Williams, Bill Walton and 1970s Yankee stars Graig Nettles, Chris Chambliss and David Wells, as well as stars from area teams. Padres honored are Nettles, Jones, Winfield, Fingers, Gwynn, Bavasi, Gossage and Hoffman.

Of additional interest to Yankee Fans might be Don Larsen (who, like Wells, went to Point Loma High School), and the father-and-son combo of Ray and Bob Boone -- grandfather and father, respectively, of Aaron (and Bret). 2131 Pan American Plaza. 

The Park is also home to the San Diego Museum of Art, the Timken Museum of Art, the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, the San Diego Air & Space Museum, the San Diego Automotive Museum, the Museum of Photographic Arts, and the San Diego Museum of Man. The Number 7 bus takes you to the Park and places you within a short walk of all its sites.

* San Diego Sports Arena. Built in 1966, this was the home of the NBA's San Diego Rockets from 1967 to 1971, until they moved to Houston; the NBA's San Diego Clippers from 1978 to 1984, until they moved to Los Angeles; and the World Hockey Association's San Diego Mariners from 1974 to 1977. It's also hosted some minor-league hockey teams, including the current version of the San Diego Gulls.

It hosted the 1975 NCAA Final Four, which included John Wooden's last 2 games as head coach at UCLA, winning his 10th and final National Championship, beating Kentucky. The Sockers became the Major Indoor Soccer League's most successful franchise while playing here from 1980 to 1996. (They played both an NASL and an MISL season from 1980 to 1984.) Elvis Presley sang here on November 15, 1970; April 26, 1973; and April 24, 1976.

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

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

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

The Clippers missed the Playoffs by 2 games in their 1st season, 1978-79, but didn't come close again until well after moving to L.A. The main reason was that native son Bill Walton was continually injured. He is the only San Diego player who made the Basketball Hall of Fame and the NBA's 50th Anniversary 50 Greatest Players.

The Mariners, formerly the Madison Square Garden-based New York Raiders, the New York Golden Blades and the Cherry Hill-based Jersey Knights, made the Playoffs all 3 seasons they were in San Diego, and got to the WHA Semifinals in 1975 before losing to the Howe family and the rest of the Houston Aeros. But they never made any money, and folded in 1977. Their Andre Larcoix was named to the WHA's All-Time Team.

Despite its size, San Diego has already lost teams in 2 sports, and the Chargers might soon make it 3, so don't expect them to get an NBA team (they'd rank 20th in the league's markets by population) or an NHL team (19th).

San Diego doesn't have a team in Major League Soccer, or any of the other divisions in the American "soccer pyramid." The highest-ranking soccer team in town is the new version of the San Diego Sockers, playing in an indoor league at the Valley View Casino Center.

Tony Gwynn is buried at Dearborn Memorial Park, 14361 Tierra Bonita Road in Poway, 24 miles northeast of downtown. Difficult to reach by public transit.

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

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

There are 3 Presidential connections to the city, and they all came in 1996. Sort of: Pete Wilson, Governor of California, former Senator, and the city's former Mayor, launched his campaign in 1995, but his theme of bashing the poor and immigrants, so successful at getting him re-elected in the Republican backlash year of 1994, didn't play well outside California (and has, essentially, poisoned the State for Republicans who weren't action-movie stars ever since), and so he dropped out after the Iowa Caucuses.

The 1996 Republican Convention nominated Senator Bob Dole for President, and former pro quarterback (including for the hometown Chargers), former Congressman from Buffalo, and former Secretary of Housing & Urban Development Jack Kemp for Vice President. That Convention was at the San Diego Convention Center, at 111 W. Harbor Drive, across the railroad and Harbor Drive from the ballpark. And Dole had his 2nd and last debate with President Bill Clinton at the Shiley Theatre on the campus of the University of San Diego. 5998 Alcala Park Way at Marian Way. Green Line to Morena Vista station.

There haven't been a lot of TV shows set in San Diego. The most notable is probably Veronica Mars, unless you're a big Simon & Simon fan. The Marines' Camp Pendleton is in Oceanside, 40 miles north of San Diego, making San Diego the closest major city to Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. and Major Dad (which, like Simon & Simon, had Gerald McRaney, but it transferred to Quantico, Virginia after just 1 season). Fox tried to copy the success of their Wisconsin-based That '70s Show by setting That '80s Show in San Diego in 1984, the year the Padres first won the Pennant, but it bombed, worse than the Padres did in the World Series.

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

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

*

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