Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Top 5 Reasons You Can't Blame Bob Short for Moving the Minneapolis Lakers to Los Angeles

The 1953 NBA Champion Minneapolis Lakers.
Left to right: Head coach John Kundla, Slater Martin,
Frank Saul, Jim Holstein, Vern Mikkelsen, Lew Hitch, George Mikan,
Jim Pollard, Bob Harrison, Whitey Skoog, general manager Max Winter

Tomorrow night, the New York Knicks will travel to Minneapolis to face the Timberwolves, which they have done since 1989.

From 1948 to 1960, they traveled to Minneapolis to play the Lakers. The Lakers won the National Basketball League title in 1948, entered the NBA, and won the title in 1949, 1950, 1952, 1953 and 1954.

They featured future Basketball Hall-of-Famers: George Mikan, Vern Mikkelsen, Jim Pollard, Slater Martin, Clyde Lovellette, and head coach John Kundla -- still alive at age 100. They had another Hall-of-Famer: Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Bud Grant played for them.

The institution of the 24-second shot clock for the 1954-55 season changed everything, making the NBA a faster, higher-scoring game. By the end of the 1955-56 season, Mikan, despite being only 32 years old, saw the writing on the wall, and retired. His era, the Lakers' era of dominance, was over.

By 1959, the team had completely turned over, and reached the NBA Finals with rookie sensation Elgin Baylor, but lost the Finals to the Boston Celtics. And then, after the 1959-60 season, team owner Bob Short moved them across the country to Los Angeles.

How could Short move a team that had been to 7 league finals, winning 6 of them, in just 12 seasons? Especially since he was a Minneapolis native, and having Baylor, and being able to draft Jerry West, meant that they had 2 great drawing cards to fill the arena? It didn't make any sense. Talk about "Short-sighted."

In 1965, Short sold the Los Angeles Lakers to Jack Kent Cooke, who had owned minor-league baseball's Toronto Maple Leafs, was already a part-owner of the NFL's Washington Redskins, and would soon found the NHL's Los Angeles Kings. In 1968, he bought MLB's Washington Senators, and after the 1971 season, moved them as well, to the Dallas area, where they became the Texas Rangers. So he not only moved 2 different major league sports teams, he did it in 2 different sports, involving 4 different metropolitan areas.

But how could Short move what is still the most successful team in the history of Minnesota sports? Think about it: The Lakers won 5 World Championships; every other Minnesota team combined, 2 (both by the Twins).

Top 5 Reasons You Can't Blame Bob Short for Moving the Minneapolis Lakers to Los Angeles

5. The Arena Situation. The Minneapolis Auditorium opened in 1927, and seated 10,000 people, but it was not designed with sports in mind. Nor was the Minneapolis Armory, which opened in 1936 and was the Lakers' home in their final Minneapolis season, 1959-60. The Auditorium was demolished in 1989, while the Armory still stands.
The Minneapolis Auditorium

In contrast, the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena opened in 1959, seated over 16,000 for basketball, and had no tenant. The Dodgers had recently arrived to an overwhelming response, the Rams were successful, and both USC and UCLA attracted good basketball crowds. Short realized that the NBA could work there.
When Cooke bought the team from Short, he built an even better arena, the Forum in suburban Inglewood.
4. Coast to Coast. The NBA needed a team in California to be recognized as a truly major league, just as MLB had become in 1958, and the NFL had in 1946. Just 2 years later, the Philadelphia Warriors moved to San Francisco.

By the time the 1970-71 season dawned, they were joined on the Coast by the San Diego Rockets (who didn't last long), the Seattle SuperSonics and the Portland Trail Blazers. And that's without counting the ABA.

3. Los Angeles: City of the Future. The Lakers fit right in: With Elgin Baylor and Jerry West in the 1960s, West and Wilt Chamberlain in the early 1970s, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson leading "Showtime" in the 1980s, Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant in the early 2000s, and Kobe and Pau Gasol the last few years, their flashy image has been a perfect match for L.A.

2. Minnesota Didn't Miss Them. Once George Mikan retired, the Lakers' attendance was terrible. In 1961, right after the move, the Twins and Vikings arrived. By 1962, the Twins were contenders; by 1967, so were the Vikings. Also, at the time, the University of Minnesota's football team was a championship contender. So the Twin Cities weren't starved for sports entertainment.

1. It Worked. The Lakers are Southern California's most successful team, making 25 trips to the NBA Finals in their 1st 56 seasons, winning 11 of them. Although it took them until 1972 to win their 1st title, they were popular immediately. With their 1980s success, they became the region's most popular team, surpassing the Dodgers.

In contrast, when the NBA finally expanded in 1989 to include the Minnesota Timberwolves, the response as underwhelming. The T-Wolves have never been a success on the court -- they've only reached the Western Conference Finals once -- and they're not making the turnstiles spin, either. The Twin Cities might not be big enough of a region to support teams in each of the Big Four sports. And, with the Twins and Vikings both having new stadiums, and the State of Minnesota being hockey-crazy, and the NHL not wanting to piss them off a 2nd time, if any team has to go, it's going to be the T-Wolves.

In spite of the Laker titles of the Truman and early Eisenhower years, Minneapolis is simply not a basketball city, and Minnesota is not a basketball State. In contrast, Los Angeles loves its hoops.

VERDICT: Not Guilty. Whatever flaws -- or, rather, shortcomings -- Bob Short may have had, it's hard to argue that keeping the Lakers in Minneapolis would have been a better idea than moving them to Los Angeles.

How to Be a New York Basketball Fan In Miami -- 2016-17 Edition

On December 6, the New York Knicks travel to Miami to take on the Heat. They will do so again on March 31, 2017. The Brooklyn Nets will visit on January 30.

Before You Go. Miami is in Florida. It's frequently hot, even during the winter season. And it's frequently rainy. The game will be indoors, but you will be outdoors at several points in your trip. So dress lightly, wear a hat, keep hydrated, and you should probably bring an umbrella.

The Miami Herald website is predicting high 70s for next Tuesday afternoon, and high 60s for evening. They're predicting showers for Monday, but not for Tuesday or Wednesday.

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. The Heat averaged 19,724 fans per home game last season, a sellout. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are gone, so it remains to be seen whether they keep the sellouts going.

Tickets in the Lower Level, the 100 sections, can be purchased for $182 between the baskets and as low as $102 behind them. In the Upper Level, the 300 sections, as low as $35, both on the sidelines and behind the baskets. In the Baclony Level, the 400 sections, which only has seats behind the baskets, as low as $29. In each case, though, be prepared to pay a bit more.

Getting There. It's 1,283 miles from Times Square in New York to downtown Miami. Knowing this distance, your first reaction is going to be to fly down there. This is not a horrible idea, but you'll still have to get from the airport to wherever your hotel is. If you're trying to get from the airport to downtown, you'll need to change buses – or change from a bus to Miami's Tri-Rail rapid transit service. And it is possible, if you order quickly, to find nonstop flights, lasting 3 hours, for under $150 round-trip. Because it's the off-season for Florida, and midweek.

The train is not a very good idea, because you'll have to leave Penn Station on Amtrak's Silver Star at 11:02 AM and arrive in Miami at 5:58 the next day's evening, a 31-hour ride. The return trip on the Silver Meteor will leave at 8:10 AM and return to New York at 11:00 AM, "only" 27 hours – no, there's no time-zone change involved. Round-trip, it'll cost $298. And the station isn't all that close, at 8303 NW 37th Avenue. Fortunately, there's a Tri-Rail station there that will take you downtown.

How about Greyhound? There are 5 buses leaving Port Authority every day with connections to Miami, only one of them nonstop, the 10:45 PM to 7:30 AM (2 days later) version. The rest require you to change buses in Richmond and Orlando. (This is not fun, but, since New York to Miami should be straight down and back up I-95, it's also pointless. Resting the passengers, changing the driver and refueling the bus all make sense; making passengers change buses, twice, doesn't.)

The ride, including the changeovers, takes about 33 hours. Round-trip fare is $364, but it can be cut by nearly in half to $200 with advanced purchase. The station is at 4111 NW 27th Street and, ironically, is right across 42nd Avenue from the airport. In other words, this time around, it's cheaper to fly 3 hours than to take the bus for 11 times as long. Plus, going from New York to Miami on Greyhound, you might be reminded of the end of the movie Midnight Cowboy, and nobody wants to be reminded of that.

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 6 hours and 15 minutes in Florida before you reach downtown Miami – maybe a little under 6 hours if you get a hotel near the stadium.

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. A lot of people don't realize it, because Miami is Florida's most famous city, but the most populous city in the State is Jacksonville.  However, while Miami has about 425,000 people within the city limits, there are 6.5 million living in the metro area, making it far and away the largest in the South, not counting Texas.

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 Herald is the only major newspaper left in the city, but the Sun-Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale should also be available. 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.

The sales tax in Florida is 6 percent, but it's 7 percent within Miami-Dade County. Since 1984, Miami has had a rapid-transit rail service, Metrorail, and a downtown-only smaller service, Metromover. Both above-ground, sort of like Chicago's El and the Detroit People Mover, if they were in the same city. 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 American Airlines Arena opened on Millennium Eve, December 31, 1999, with a concert by hometown heroes Gloria Estefan & the Miami Sound Machine. Two days later, on January 2, 2000, the Heat played their 1st game there, beating their geographic rivals, the Orlando Magic.
A3, with the landmark Freedom Tower in the northwest corner of the photo

The arena -- sometimes called the Triple-A or the A3 -- is located downtown at 601 Biscayne Blvd. (U.S. Routes 1 & 41), between NE 6th and 8th Streets. It's 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. It can be reached via the Freedom Tower station on Metromover. If you're driving in, parking can be had for as low as $9.00.

Since moving in, the Heat have won the NBA Championship in 2006, 2012 and 2013, and also reached the NBA finals in 2011 and 2014. The '06 and '11 Finals were confusing because they played the Dallas Mavericks, whose arena is named the American Airlines Center. At least American Airlines is based in Dallas, so buying the naming rights to their arena made sense. Not so much in Miami.

Since the arena is essentially on a pier on Biscayne Bay, you will almost certainly be entering from the west, along Biscayne Blvd. The court is laid out east-to-west.
The NHL's Florida Panthers, who formerly shared the Miami Arena with the Heat, could have waited to move in, but instead play their home games closer to Fort Lauderdale, and have never played at the A3. Nor have NCAA Tournament games ever been played there. (Indeed, despite Miami's decent history of high school and pro basketball, their college hoop history is weak, and Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg is the only Florida building ever to host a Final Four.) The building opened with that Gloria Estefan concert, and continues to host concerts, including one by Janet Jackson this past September.

Food. With a great Hispanic, and especially Cuban, heritage, and with all those ex-New Yorkers and ex-New Jerseyans who know their basketball and their food, you would expect the basketball team in Miami to have great food at their arena. Here's a guide from the arena website.

AAAcomFoodUpdate_secondversion.jpg

Team History Displays. Until Dwyane Wade arrived in 2003, the Heat had mixed results. They'd won 4 straight Atlantic Division titles (1997 to 2000) and made the Playoffs in half their seasons (7 out of 14), which is better than some teams have done. But their best finish was getting pounded by the Chicago Bulls in the 1997 Eastern Conference Finals. Since Wade arrived (he has since departed), they've made 6 Conference Finals, reached 5 NBA Finals, and won 3 NBA Championships.
They have separate banners for their NBA titles and Conference titles, but 1 banner for every 4 Division titles.
Photo taken during the 2013-14 season,
as that season's Conference title banner isn't up yet.

The Heat are unique in major league sports in 2 ways regarding retired numbers. One is that they've retired a number for a player who not only never played for the team, but, unlike the New Orleans Pelicans (7 for the Jazz' Pete Maravich), he never even played in the city. They've retired Number 23 for Michael Jordan. Another is that they've honored (but not actually retired, so it's still available) a number for an athlete who played in the city, but not in that sport: 13 for the Dolphins' Dan Marino.

The 2 retired numbers of players who actually played for the Heat are 10 for guard Tim Hardaway and 33 for center Alonzo Mourning. Hardaway played for the Heat teams of the 1990s, while Mourning not only played for them then, but returned in time for their 2006 title. They've announced that Shaquille O'Neal, who also played on the 2006 team, will have his Number 32 retired later this month. Presumably, Wade's Number 3 and LeBron James' Number 6, neither of which is currently being worn, will be retired after they hang up their sneakers.

Shaq, 'Zo and guard Gary Payton, who was only with the team for 2 seasons but 1 was the 2006 title season, are the only Hall-of-Famers who have played for the Heat. LeBron and Wade will probably join them.

In another unique distinction in the NBA, the Heat hang banners for their Olympic Gold Medalists: Hardaway, Mourning, Wade, James.
O'Neal was named to the NBA's 50th Anniversary 50 Greatest Players, but that was before he ever won a title with the Los Angeles Lakers, let alone started playing for the Heat. No other Heat player was so honored.

Stuff. The Miami HEAT Store (apparently, the ALL CAPS is official) is located on the ground floor of the west end of the arena, along Biscayne Blvd.

Despite having built some history the last few years, there aren't many books about the Heat. Josh Anderson wrote the Heat's entry in the NBA's On the Hardwood series in 2013, in time for their most recent title. Rick Leddy has written the most recent LeBron biography, LeBron James: King of the Game, including his "re-rat" from South Beach back to the North Coast. Most confusing of all is that there are at least 2 books titled Miami Heat, but they're both, uh, "romance novels."

There's no 20th or 25th Anniversary video, but there are DVD collections of their 2006, 2012 and 2013 titles.

During the Game. A November 13, 2014 article on DailyRotoHelp ranked the NBA teams' fan bases, and listed the Heat's fans 13th, a little better than average. It gives them credit for coming even after LeBron left, and for coming before he came and while Wade was injured.

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 Knick fans.

However, the Knicks-Heat rivalry means a lot more to Knick fans than it does to Heat fans. South Floridians save their animus for teams from North and Central Florida: The University of Florida, Florida State, the Jacksonville Jaguars (being in the AFC means Dolphin fans hate them more than the NFC's Tampa Bay Buccaneers), the Tampa Bay Rays, the Tampa Bay Lightning, and, in basketball, especially the Orlando Magic.

Between Heat fans not really hating the Knicks, local Knicks fans being on hand, and downtown Miami being safer than some other parts of town, you shouldn't face any rough stuff. You and, if you drove in, your car should both be safe.

Julia Dale, just 14 years old and introduced during the 2013 Playoffs, is the National Anthem singer for both the Heat and the Marlins. The Heat use the White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army" as a fight song. The Heat's mascot is Burnie, a big furry orange fat thing with a basketball for a nose, and really needs to burn some calories.
But he still does well with the ladies.

After the Game. Miami has some rough areas, but the area around the arena should be as well-policed as that around Yankee Stadium or Madison Square Garden, so you should be safe.

As for where to go after the game, I can't be sure. I checked for area bars where New Yorkers gather, and found one for each of the cit'’s NFL teams.

J.C. Wahoo's Sports Bar and Grill is supposedly the home of the South Florida fan club of the Giants. But it's at 3128 N. Federal Highway (yes, the same U.S. Route 1 that goes through The Bronx and New Jersey), between Northeast 31st and 32nd Streets, 40 miles north of downtown -- further north than Fort Lauderdale, or even Pompano Beach, almost up to Boca Raton. It’s not even all that close to the stadium.

The South Florida Jets Fan Club meets at Hammerjack's, at 5325 S. University Drive in Davie, a bit closer to the stadium, but still 24 miles north of downtown.

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.

Sidelights. Miami's sports history is long, but aside from football, it's not all that involved.

* 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 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 over Cincinnati), XXIX (1995, San Francisco over San Diego), XXXIII (1999, Denver over Atlanta), XLI (2007, Indianapolis over Chicago, and the only Super Bowl that's yet been rained on) and XLIV (2011, Green Bay over Pittsburgh). It's been chose as the site for Super Bowl LIV (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, London's Arsenal played Argentine club Independiente, 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.) 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.

* Site of Orange Bowl/Marlins Park. 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; 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) Super Bowl III, when the Jets beat the Colts in one of the greatest upsets in sports history, on January 12, 1969. Super Bowl XIII, in 1979, was the last Super Bowl to be held here.

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 1942. 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, and then Super Bowl VIII. 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 30 seasons, or all of their history in their new stadium. "The Curse of Joe Robbie," anyone?

The Orange Bowl hosted a lot of soccer games, including Arsenal's 1st visit to North America, on May 31, 1972, beating the Miami Gatos 3-2. Only 4,725 fans saw it, which is what you get for scheduling a soccer game in Miami on Memorial Day Weekend.

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.

* 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 1st 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.

* 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.
In spite of this local reverence for the building, it 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.

* BB&T Center. This 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. 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.

* 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.

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 the aforementioned Burn Notice. It’s at 4201 Rickenacker 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.

The penthouse used by the Kardashian Sisters to tape Kourtney & Khloe Take Miami 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 now "taken New York."

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.

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 protestors, 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 University of Miami's Convocation Center hosted a Presidential Debate between Bush and John Kerry in 2004. 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.

Miami's top 2 museums are 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.

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.

*

You don't have to be old to be a New Yorker in Miami -- but it helps to be a sports fan. You should be able to enjoy yourself, even if neither the Knicks nor the Nets currently seem to be good enough to, pardon the pun, beat the Heat.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Eovaldi Released, Yanks Get Nothing For Him

In 2015, Nathan Eovaldi went 14-3 for the Yankees, leading the American League in winning percentage at .824.

In 2016, he went 9-8 before getting hurt, and requiring Tommy John surgery that would likely keep him out of action for the entire 2017 season.

Pitchers have come back from the surgery before and done well. And he'll only be 28 years old on Opening Day 2018.

The Yankees have now released Eovaldi.

You know, Brian Cashman is a confirmed jackass and a confirmed moron. But at least when he traded away Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, Ivan Nova and Carlos Beltran, he got something back. Nothing that's going to do a damn thing for the Yankees prior to roster call-ups in September 2018, but at least it's possible.

We're giving up Eovaldi, and getting back nothing at all.

This is not a recommended way to run a ballclub.

Meanwhile, Boston, Baltimore and Toronto are still good. Outside our Division, there's Cleveland, Detroit and Texas. Houston and Kansas City tailed off a bit, but we can't count on them not coming back to Playoff capability in 2017.

The Yankees continue to regress. November 4, 2009 seems like a long time ago. So does October 12, 2012, when we last won a postseason series. Even October 6, 2015, our last postseason game, now feels like it was in another era.

What has Brian Cashman done to make it look like a Playoff berth is possible in 2017? Not a damn thing.

*

Russ Nixon died earlier this month, at age 81. A native of the Cincinnati area, he was a catcher with bad luck. He was on the Cleveland Indians when they finished 2nd in 1959, but fell short of the Pennant. He went to the Minnesota Twins after they won the Pennant in 1965, and lost the Pennant to the Red Sox on the last day of the 1967 season. He got traded to the Red Sox, but Jim Lonborg's broken leg doomed them to non-contention, and he never played in the majors again after that season. His lifetime batting average was .268.

He went into coaching, and was promoted to his hometown Cincinnati Reds in 1976, and got a World Series ring that way. In 1981, with Nixon still on their staff, the Reds had the best overall record in Major League Baseball, but because the strike that season caused a split-season format, and they didn't finish 1st in the National League Western Division in either half, they missed the Playoffs, in spite of it being the 1st-ever 8-team Playoff. They fired manager John McNamara as the team fell apart the next season, and Nixon couldn't turn it around. He lasted another season. He had now become a manager with bad luck.
He worked in the Montreal Expos' and Atlanta Braves' systems, and in 1988 was named the Braves' manager. Although he had helped break in Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Steve Avery (Greg Maddux came later), the Braves were headed for a last-place finish in 1990, and general manager Bobby Cox fired him -- and took the job himself, with John Schuerholz being named the new GM. And the rest was history.

He later served as a coach with the Seattle Mariners in 1992, and worked in the minor-league systems of the Houston Astros and the Texas Rangers as recently as 2008.

*

Dave Ferriss died last week, just short of turning 95. The Mississippi native, sometimes listed as Boo Ferriss, was signed out of Mississippi State University by the Red Sox in 1942, served in the U.S. Army during World War II, was discharged in February 1945 due to asthma, and made his major league debut on April 29, 1945, pitching a 5-hit shutout against the Philadelphia Athletics. He pitched 22 scoreless innings to start his career, a record that lasted until 2008.

He went 21-10 in 1945, and 25-6 in 1946, making the All-Star Game at his home field, Fenway Park, and helping the Red Sox win their 1st Pennant in 28 years. Had there been a Cy Young Award at the time, he surely would have won it that year. He shut the St. Louis Cardinals out in Game 3 of the World Series, and started Game 7, but did not figure in the decision, as the Cardinals beat the Red Sox thanks to Enos Slaughter's "Mad Dash."

In 1947, his asthma began to catch up with him, and arm trouble restricted him further in 1948. In 1949, he made only 4 appearances, and his last was just 1 inning on Opening Day in 1950. He was 46-16 before his 25th birthday, but threw his last major league pitch at age 28, finishing 65-30. He pitched 2 more seasons for the Sox' top farm team, the Louisville Colonels, but it was clear that he no longer had it.

He later served as the Sox' pitching coach, and in 1960 was named head baseball coach at Delta State University in Mississippi, a job he held (with a brief break in 1967-68 to be Mississippi State's assistant athletic director) until 1988, winning 639 games and 4 Gulf South Conference Championships, and reaching 3 NCAA Division II Finals.
He coached 20 All-Americans, 20 Academic All-Americans, and 23 professional players. A player who did not make his team was John Grisham, whom Ferriss cut in 1978. Grisham returned to the Cleveland, Mississippi campus of Delta State 30 years later, and thanked Ferriss for taking him off the path of sports, and putting him on the path to writing.

He was a member of the Mississippi Sports, Delta State University Sports, American Baseball Coaches Association and Boston Red Sox Halls of Fame. The baseball field at Delta State and the Mississippi Collegiate Baseball Player of the Year award are named for him.

*

Days until The Arsenal play again: 2, Wednesday afternoon at 2:45 (evening at 7:45, their time), at the Emirates Stadium, in a League Cup Quarterfinal against Southampton.
Days until the New Jersey Devils play another local rival: 13. Their 1st game this season with the New York Rangers will be on Sunday night, December 11, at Madison Square Garden. Their 1st game this season with the Philadelphia Flyers will be on Thursday night, December 22, at the Prudential Center. By a quirk in the schedule, the New York Islanders, a team they usually play several times a season, don't show up on the slate until Saturday night, February 18, 2017, at the Prudential Center.
Days until the New York Red Bulls play again: 86, on February 22, 2017, in the 1st leg of the CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinal, home to the Vancouver Whitecaps. The 2nd leg will be on March 2. The winner will face the winner of the Quarterfinal between 2 Mexican teams: Mexico City-based Pumas de la UNAM, and Monterrey-area team Tigres UANL. 

The 2017 MLS schedule has not yet been released. If schedule patterns hold, the 1st League game of the new season will be on Sunday, March 5, 2017, which is 97 days from now.

Days until the Red Bulls next play a "derby": Unknown. We may not see the 2017 MLS schedule for weeks, so we don't know when we'll next play New York City FC, the Philadelphia Union, D.C. United or the New England Revolution.

Days until the U.S. national soccer team plays again: 116, on Friday, March 24, 2017, home to Honduras, at a venue and time TBA, in a CONCACAF Qualifying Match for the 2018 World Cup. Under 4 months. It will be the team's 1st match in the 2nd run as manager for Bruce Arena, now that Jurgen Klinsmann has finally been fired! Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty -- and U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati -- we're free at last! But is it too late to qualify for the World Cup?

Days until the Yankees' 2017 season opener: 125, on Sunday, April 2, at 8:00 PM, away to the Tampa Bay Rays. A little over 5 months.

Days until the Yankees' 2017 home opener: 133, on Monday, April 10, at 1:00 PM, home to the Rays.

Days until the next Yankees-Red Sox series: 148, on Tuesday, April 25, 2017, at 7:00 PM, at Fenway Park.

Days until the next North London Derby: 152, on Saturday, April 29, 2017, at White Hart Lane. Just 5 months. It could be moved to the next day, Sunday, April 30, to accommodate the TV networks. It is also possible that Arsenal could face Tottenham again sooner than that, through an FA Cup pairing.


Days until Rutgers University plays football again: 278, on Saturday, September 2, 2017, home to the University of Washington. The Scarlet Knights finished the 2016 season 2-9, losing last Saturday night, away to the University of Maryland.
Days until East Brunswick High School plays football again: Unknown, as the 2017 schedule hasn't been released yet. If history is any guide, it will be on Friday night, September 15, which would be 291 days from now. At any rate, they lost to Old Bridge on Thanksgiving again, 35-7.
Days until the next Rutgers-Penn State football game: 348, on Saturday, November 11, 2017, at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania.
Days until the next East Brunswick-Old Bridge Thanksgiving game: 360, on Thursday morning, November 23, 2017, at 10:00, and thank God it's at home at Jay Doyle's grove, rather than at the purple shit pit on Route 9.
Days until the next World Cup kicks off in Russia: 563, on June 14, 2018. Under 19 months. Now that Klinsmann has been fired, our chances have improved, but did he already ruin them?
Days until the 2018 Congressional election: 708. Just under 2 years, or 24 months.

Days until the Baseball Hall of Fame vote is announced, electing Mariano Rivera: 784, on January 9, 2019. A little over 2 years, or 25 months.

Days until the Baseball Hall of Fame vote is announced, electing Derek Jeter: 1,136, on January 8, 2020. A little over 3 years, or 37 months.

Days until the next Summer Olympics begins in Tokyo, Japan: 1,334, on July 24, 2020. Under 4 years, or 44 months.

Days until the 2020 Presidential election: 1,467. Just under 4 years, or 48 months.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

How to Be a Devils Fan In Nashville -- 2016-17 Edition

During the 1995 Stanley Cup Playoffs, as the Devils were advancing to a 1st title, there was a rumor that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was going to allow the Devils to be bought by a group trying to bring a team to Nashville, Tennessee -- our team.

When he was interviewed between periods of the clinching Game 4 of the Finals, the Fox interview shown on the scoreboard screen at the Brendan Byrne Arena, a full house of 19,040 Devils fans chanted, "Bettman sucks!"

"Let it be known," Bettman said to Fox (and Devils) announcer Mike Emrick, "that hockey fans are passionate!"

The Devils won the Cup, and stayed. On December 18, 1996, the Nashville Arena, now named the Bridgestone Arena, opened. On June 25, 1997, Bettman granted an expansion franchise to Nashville. On October 10, 1998, the Nashville Predators played their 1st game.

This Saturday, the Devils travel to Nashville, but only for 1 game, to play the Predators. All has been forgiven for the attempt to move the Devils there over 20 years ago.

Before You Go. Nashville is in the South. Not the Deep South, but the Mid-South. However, Tennessee rejoined the Union a long time ago, and you won't need to bring a passport or change your money.

If you were going to a baseball game, or an early-season football game, the heat might be an issue. But this will be at the beginning of March, so even outside the arena, heat won't be a factor. What could be a factor is rain: The website of Nashville's main newspaper, The Tennessean, is predicting thunderstorms. As for temperatures, they're talking low 50s for daylight and high 30s for night. You might not need a jacket in the afternoon, but you'll need a winter jacket at night.

Nashville, like most (but not all) of Tennessee, is in the Central Time Zone, an hour behind us. Adjust your timepieces accordingly.

Tickets. The Predators averaged 16,957 fans per home game last season, about 99.1 percent of capacity. Tickets might be hard to get.

Seats in the lower level, the 100 sections, go for $115 between the goals and $98 behind them. Seats in the upper level, the 300 sections, go for $78 and $65.

Getting There. It's 892 miles from Midtown Manhattan to downtown Nashville, and 881 miles from the Prudential Center to the Bridgestone Arena. So your first instinct would be to fly. This looks like a good idea, since a round-trip flight could cost under $700. The downside: Changing planes in Charlotte. Nashville International Airport is 8 miles east of downtown, and the Number 18 bus can get you to downtown in under half an hour. (The airport was originally named Berry Field, after Colonel Harry S. Berry, the Tennessee administrator for the New Deal's Works Progress Administration.)

You can't take Amtrak: It doesn't serve Nashville. Greyhound can get you from New York to Memphis in a little under 30 hours, for $378 round-trip, although it could drop to as little as $236 with advanced purchase, although you'd have to change buses in Richmond. The Greyhound station is at 709 5th Avenue South, 5 blocks south of the arena.

If you do drive, it's far enough that you should get someone to go with you, to trade off, especially if one can sleep while the other drives. Get into New Jersey, take Interstate 78 West into Pennsylvania. At Harrisburg, get on Interstate 81 South, and take that down through Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia, into Tennessee, where it flows into Interstate 40 West. Take that halfway across Tennessee. Exit 210 is for downtown.

If all goes well, you should spend a little over an hour in New Jersey, 2 hours and 45 minutes in Pennsylvania, 15 minutes in Maryland, half an hour in West Virginia, 6 and a half hours in Virginia, and 2 hours and 45 minutes in Tennessee, for a total of 13 hours and 45 minutes. Given rest stops in Pennsylvania, one at each end of Virginia, and 1 in Tennessee, and we're talking about a trip of at least 17 hours -- each way.

Once In the City. Founded in 1779, and named for General Francis Nash, killed in the Battle of Brandywine outside Philadelphia in the War of the American Revolution, Nashville is in central Tennessee. It is the State capital, home to 627,000 people with a metropolitan area of about 1.9 million.
The State House, formerly featured on Tennessee license plates.
That statue of Andrew Jackson, Tennessee pioneer,
has copies in Washington across from the White House,
and in downtown New Orleans.

The sales tax in Tennessee is 7 percent, and within Davidson County, including Nashville, 9.25 percent, even higher than New York's. Address numbers on east-west streets increase away from the Cumberland River, and Broadway separates north from south. The The Nashville Metropolitan Transit Authority (NMTA) runs buses, with a $1.75 fare, and the Music City Star, a commuter rail service to the city's eastern suburbs, with a fare double that, $3.50.
The Music City Star, with Nissan Stadium,
home of the Titans, in the background

Going In. The Bridgestone Arena is downtown, with an official address of 501 Broadway, at 5th Avenue South. Across Broadway, on either side of 5th, are the Nashville Convention Center and the Ryman Auditorium, legendary home of The Grand Ole Opry. If you're driving in, parking can be had for as little as $3.00. Major entrances are at the north and south ends, smaller ones at the east and west.
The Arena, easily identifiable with its sloping roof and its antenna at the north end, opened in 1996, with the generic name Nashville Arena. It was renamed the Gaylord Entertainment Center in 1999, after a locally-based media company that was a minority stockholder in the team. In 2005, Gaylord sold its stock, and in 2007 the arena was renamed the Sommet Center, after Sommet Group, a local company that oversaw software development and payroll services. But Sommet was a company built on fraud, its founder went to prison, and in 2010 locally-based tire company Bridgestone bought the naming rights, and holds them to this day.

The rink is laid out north-to-south, and the Predators shoot twice toward the south end.
The Arena has hosted Southeastern Conference Tournament, Ohio Valley Conference Tournament, and NCAA Tournament basketball -- in each case, both men's and women's. It hosted the Women's Final Four in 2014. The Country Music Association (CMA) Awards have been held there since 2006.

Food. Memphis has a reputation as a city of fine Southern food, particularly barbecue. Nashville, less so: They're known for music first, and food, and everything else, somewhere down the line.

Delaware North runs the concessions. There's a Main Food Court behind Sections 101 and 102 at the north end. Nathan's hot dogs and Dunkin Donuts are served throughout the Arena. Other chains available including Whitt's Barbecue, Hunt Brothers Pizza, Popcornopolis, Nuts About Nashville, Christie Cookies (hopefully not named for a Governor of New Jersey or two) and Dippin Dots. They also serve Bacon On a Stick. The South.

Team History Displays. The Nashville Predators began as an NHL expansion team in 1998 -- only the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Minnesota Wild, and the Atlanta Thrashers-turned-new Winnipeg Jets are newer franchises -- and while they've made the Playoffs in 9 of the last 12 completed seasons, and won postseason series in 2011, '12 and '16, they've never won their Division (though they've finished 2nd 7 times, including the last 2 seasons), and have never gotten past the Western Conference Semifinals.

So they've got no titles of any kind. Nor have they retired any numbers for any player. The only player they've had elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame has been Peter Forsberg, who played for them at the end of his career in 2007. David Poile, the only general manager they've ever had, has been awarded the Lester Patrick Trophy for contributions to hockey in America.

But they do have 2 banners in the rafters: Honoring their 1st game in 1998, and their fans as the "7th Man" with a Number 7, which is currently worn by Yannick Weber. (No relation to former Preds captain Shea Weber.)
The Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame is located at the Arena. No Predators player has yet been inducted.

UPDATE: Not surprisingly, given the youth of the franchise, no Predators player except Forsberg was elected to the NHL's 100th Anniversary 100 Greatest Players in 2017.

Stuff. The Nashville Predators Team Store is located on the east, 5th Avenue side of the Arena. The usual team-related gear can be found there.

As one of the NHL's newer teams, there are no NBA Finals DVD packages for the Predators, and books about them are few and far between. In time for the team's 10th Anniversary in 2008, Craig Leipold published Hockey Tonk: The Amazing Story of the Nashville Predators. I wouldn't say their story is "amazing," but as expansion franchises, go, and as Sun Belt hockey teams go, they've done okay.) Last year, Justin B. Bradford and Pete Weber (also no relation to Shea, or to professional bowling legends Dick and Pete Weber) collaborated on Nashville Predators: The Making of Smashville.

During the Game. A November 19, 2014 article on The Hockey News' website ranked the NHL teams' fan bases, and listed the Predators' fans 20th -- 1 place ahead of the Devils' fans. A slap to those of us who didn't want the Devils moved to Nashville?

Their explanation of the ranking: "Preds known for fun fan experience but don't sell out, have low Twitter following." I don't know if Twitter followers is a good gauge of fan interaction, but attendance is, and the Preds fill the Bridgestone Arena to 99 percent of capacity. So THN are lying about something.

Nashville people don't like Memphis people. And Tennessee people don't like Arkansas, Alabama, and Florida people -- holdovers from college football rivalries. And Predators fans really don't like the Chicago Blackhawks and their fans. That's about as far as rivalries go there. They don't have a particular problem with New Jersey. So as long as you don't make any wiseguy remarks about this being a North vs. South game, you shouldn't face anything beyond the usual nonviolent "My team rocks, your team sucks" talk.

Why the Blackhawks? Apparently, during Playoff matchups, Chicagoans buy up a lot of online tickets, make the 475-mile trip, and make nuisances of themselves. Sort of like Ranger fans making the much shorter trip to the Prudential Center. Except the Hawk fans make it worse, but cheering throughout the National Anthem, even when the Preds bring in country music superstars, like Vince Gill, a season ticketholder from Day One.

So the Preds have "In Gold We Trust," asking fans to wear the mustard-yellow (it sure ain't "gold") jerseys, and sing the Anthem along with whoever's singing it, usually some country singer or other (if not always a big star). It works pretty well.

Mike Fisher is the current Captain of the Predators. He's married to country superstar Carrie Underwood. If being the 2nd-most famous, and 2nd-best-paid, person in his own marriage (a rare thing for a male major league athlete) bothers him, he doesn't show it in public. Then again, this means that Carrie's married name is Carrie Fisher.

The Predators have the Predators Dancers, and their own Ice Girls -- and they sell cheesecake calendars with pictures of both. Their mascot is Gnash the Sabretooth Tiger -- Nash, short for Nashville, with a G at the beginning, so he can gnash his sabre teeth.
The mustard-yellow jersey and the bright blue claws
take some of the intimidation factor away.

You might want to stay out of Section 303, behind the north goal. Or, rather, Cellblock 303. It's their version of the Section 233 Crazies at the Prudential Center and the Blue Seats at Madison Square Garden. After each opposing player is introduced, they yell, "...SUCKS!" Okay, fairly common, and not as witty as Detroit Red Wing fans shouting, "Who cares?" But when the opposing head coach is introduced, they close with, "And he sucks, too!" That is a little different.

During the team's goal song, "Gold On the Ceiling" by the Nashville-based group the Black Keys, they do the familiar, "Hey: You suck!" After the song finishes, the sound-effects guy pushes a button for the roar of a sabretooth tiger, for each goal the team has scored thus far. The Predator fans yell, "That's one!" and "That's two!" and so on until reaching the correct number, followed by invoking the opposing goalie's name: "Thank you, Schneider, may we have another?" And while we have, "If You Know the Rangers Suck," they have, "If you're crappy and you know it, ice the puck!" Their victory song is "I Like It, I Love It," by Tim McGraw (Tug's son, to we baseball fans).

Oh yeah, there's another hockey tradition they've co-opted, one they probably should have left alone. You know how Detroit fans like to throw an octopus onto the ice? Well, when the Wings came to town in the 2002 Playoffs, Nashville fans responded by throwing that Southern pescatory staple, the catfish, onto the ice. (It probably had nothing to do with the 1966 Lovin' Spoonful song "Nashville Cats," although the Bridgestone Arena was formerly home to the Nashville Kats of the Arena Football League.)
A Predators Ice Girl, clearly not enjoying her job on the evening

After the Game. If there was an NHL team in Memphis, Nashville fans wouldn't like them. And we know they don't like Chicago. But they've never been known to turn on New Jerseyans. Devils fans shouldn't get any hassling, as long as they aren't the ones to bring it on.

Being in downtown Nashville, there are plenty of places to go for a postgame libation. Just don't call it a "libation" when you're in one, or you might get some funny looks. Robert's Western World, at 416 Broadway, is a honky-tonk famed for cold beer, fried baloney sandwiches and live country bands. Across the street, Rippy's specializes in barbecue. And there are many others.

However, I could find no place in Nashville catering to fans of any Tri-State Area team: Not the Yankees, the Mets, the Giants, and so on... and certainly not the Devils. Besides, Charlie Daniels thinks we went down to Georgia. (Which hasn't had an NHL team since April 2011.)

If you visit Nashville during the European soccer season, which we are now in, the best place to watch your local club is Fleet Street Pub, 207 Printers Alley, off Church Street between 3rd and 4th Streets downtown.

Sidelights. Nashville is about music 1st, Tennessee State government 2nd, and sports 3rd. But it's a good sports town, even though it's never had an MLB or an NBA team.

* Nissan Stadium. Home of the Tennessee Titans since it opened in 1999, it was known as the Adelphia Coliseum until 2002, simply The Coliseum until 2006, LP Field until last June. The 69,000-seat horseshoe has seen the Titans win the AFC Championship in its inaugural season, and nearly win Super Bowl XXXIV, and Division titles in 2000 (the old AFC Central), 2002 and 2008 (the new AFC South). However, the Titans haven't made the Playoffs since the 2008 season, haven't won a Playoff game since January 2004, and have gone just 5-27 the last 2 seasons.

Tennessee State University, a historically-black school in Nashville, is the stadium's collegiate tenant. The stadium also hosts the annual Music City Bowl. It hosts concerts, including the CMA Music Festival every June.

It's also been a soccer facility, including hosting the U.S. national team in a 1-0 loss to Morocco in 2006, a 3-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago in 2009, a 1-0 loss to Paraguay in 2011, and a 4-0 win over Guatemala last July. That was game was riddled by operational and logistical issues, and even before kickoff, the Twittersphere exploded with discussions of the stadium's inadequacy.

1 Titans Way, across the River from downtown.There's no bus service, but it accessible from downtown by walking across the John Siegenthaler Pedestrian Bridge, which makes for a great visual on Titans gamedays.

* Vanderbilt University. If there was an "Ivy League" for Southern schools, this school, founded by 19th Century railroad baron Cornelius Vanderbilt, would be one of them. It is superb academically, but those high standards have hurt it when recruiting athletes, who tend to go to less stringent schools, thus leaving Vandy, whose teams are called the Commodores after Cornelius' nickname, struggling within the Southeastern Conference in most sports. Their women's basketball team is an exception, but, even then, they are overshadowed by their neighbors in Knoxville, the University of Tennessee.

Dudley Field opened in 1922, but was demolished and replaced with Vanderbilt Stadium in 1981, although the playing surface is still called Dudley Field, for William F. Dudley, dean of the University's medical school and the founder of the precursor league to the SEC.
Vanderbilt's athletic complex

After leaving Houston following the 1996 season, the plan was for the Oilers to play at the Liberty Bowl in Memphis for 2 years, as the Tennessee Oilers, before moving to the new stadium in Nashville for 1999. But this was a public-relations disaster, as Memphians stayed away from Nashville's team in droves, heedless of the State's name on the team.

So after topping 32,000 in only 1 home game (the last, 50,677 seeing them beat the Pittsburgh Steelers to finish 8-8), and getting less than 18,000 in 2 of their games (the smallest NFL crowds since World War II, except for the Scab Year of 1987), Bud Adams took the hint, and swung a deal to play in Nashville a year early. Vanderbilt Stadium seated only 41,448 people, making it the smallest NFL stadium since the early 1960s, but they sold it out in 4 of their 8 games. The next year, they moved into what's now Nissan Stadium, and dropped the Oilers name to officially become the Tennessee Titans.

Vanderbilt Stadium is adjacent to Memorial Gymnasium, built in 1952 as a memorial to the servicemen and -women of World War II. It is unique in college basketball (although this was not he case when it opened) in that both teams' benches are behind one of the baskets. Other unusual touches, and its age (there are several Division I schools with older facilities still in use) have nicknamed it The Fenway Park of College Basketball. 210 25th Avenue South, about 2 miles west of downtown. Number 3 bus.

* First Tennessee Park and site of Sulphur Dell. The original home of Nashville baseball is its home once again. Sulphur Dell stood on the site from 1870 to 1969, but the original ballpark faced southwest, so the State House would be in view. This put the sun in the outfielders' eyes. Along with odors from a nearby dump wafting over, and the occasional flooding from the Cumberland River that forced some games to be moved to Vanderbilt University's field, this earned the stadium the nicknames "The Dump" and "Suffer Hell."

This wooden ballpark was demolished, and replaced with stadium of concrete and steel for the 1927 season. It seated 8,500 fans at its peak. But while the new park fixed the sun problem, it did nothing to get rid of the smell from the dump, and the shape of the plot of land forced a short right field fence with a terrace, much like Cincinnati's old Crosley Field and Houston's Minute Maid Park today. When the Yankees visited for an exhibition game, Babe Ruth refused to play his usual position of right field because of the little hill, and was moved to left field.
The team that played there the longest was called the Nashville Vols, short for "Volunteers," as the University of Tennessee (in Knoxville) calls its teams the Volunteers or the Vols, as Tennessee is known as the Volunteer State. They won Southern Association regular-season Pennants in 1901, 1902, 1908, 1916, 1940, 1943, 1948 and 1949; Playoffs for the SA title in 1939, 1940, 1941, 1942, 1943, 1944, 1949, 1950 and 1953; and the Dixie Series against the Champions of the Texas League in 1940, 1941, 1942 and 1949.
Hall-of-Famers who played for the Vols included Yankee pitcher Waite Hoyt and Pittsburgh Pirates slugger Kiki Cuyler. The 1940 Vols have been remembered as one of the greatest minor league teams. It featured future All-Star pitcher and Yankee World Champion Johnny Sain, former Detroit Tigers pitcher Cletus "Boots" Poffenberger going 26-9, and catcher Charles "Greek" George won the SA Most Valuable Player award. Unlike Sain, George he didn't play much in the major leagues, and after getting called up in 1945 due to the World War II manpower shortage, he punched an umpire during an argument and got unofficially blackballed from baseball. In his case, "Vol" might have been short for "Volatile."

The National Association, the governing body of minor league baseball, ordered that all leagues under its umbrella be desegregated for the 1962 season. Rather than comply, the Southern Association folded. The Vols, who valued staying in business over white supremacy, were inactive for 1962, but started again in the South Atlantic League for 1963. But they lost money, and folded.

Like the aforementioned Crosley Field, Sulphur Dell was used as a police impound lot, before being demolished in 1969 and being used as parking for State government buildings.

First Tennessee Park, named for a bank, opened on the site in 2015, and the Nashville Sounds moved in. It seats 8,500 people, with grassy outfield seating pushing capacity to around 10,000. It has a view of downtown Nashville. And it copied the idea of a guitar-shaped scoreboard from Greer Stadium.
The old address was 900 5th Avenue North, but it's now listed as 19 Junior Gilliam Way, for the Nashville native who wore Number 19 as a Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers player and coach. A mile from downtown, and several buses go there.

* Herschel Greer Stadium. Named for the late former president of the Vols, this ballpark seats 10,300 people, with standing room pushing it to a possible 15,000, which made it one of the largest minor-league ballparks.
From 1978 to 2014, it was the home of the Nashville Sounds, who started out in the Double-A Southern Association, and moved to Triple-A, first to the American Association, and then, when that league was split up, to the Pacific Coast League. (Yes, I know, Tennessee is pretty far from the Pacific Coast.) The Sounds won Pennants there in 1979, 1982 and 2005, meaning that Nashville has won either a regular-season Pennant or a Playoff Pennant 17 times: 1901, '02, '08, '16, '39, '40, '41, '42, '43, '44, '48, '49, '50, '53, '79, '82 and 2005. (Compare this with Memphis' 10 and Knoxville's 3.)

The stadium was easily identifiable by its nod to Nashville being "Music City": A guitar-shaped scoreboard. But as Camden Yards and a series of new ballparks, in both the majors and the minors, rewrote the rules for what a baseball stadium should be in the 1990s, Greer Stadium began to be seen as outdated, and so a new park was built.
With the Sounds having moved out, its future is uncertain. 534 Chestnut Street, about a mile and a half south of downtown. The Adventure Science Center is next-door. Buses 8, 12 and 25 will get you to within a short walk.

The nearest Major League Baseball team is the Atlanta Braves, 246 miles away, with the Cincinnati Reds a little farther away at 272 miles. According to an April 24, 2014 article in The New York Times, baseball fandom in Nashville is set by TV watching: The 3 most popular teams are the Braves, the Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, with some people rooting for the Braves and the Reds due to the comparative proximity.

The nearest NBA team is the Memphis Grizzlies, 213 miles away. But Nashvillians don't root for the Grizzlies, because of the inherent Intra-Tennessee rivalry. For those who care about the NBA at all, according to a May 23, 2014 article in The New York Times, they tend to divide their fandom among the "cool teams": The Los Angeles Lakers, the Chicago Bulls, the Miami Former LeBrons, and the Cleveland Once-and-Again LeBrons.

The city's current pro soccer team, Nashville FC, began play in 2013, in the National Premier Soccer League, the 4th tier of American soccer. It plays at Vanderbilt Stadium. The nearest Major League Soccer team is the Columbus Crew, 383 miles away, at least until the 2017 season, when Atlanta United begin play.

UPDATE: In May 2016, the United Soccer League, the 3rd tier of American soccer, announced that a team would begin play in Nashville in 2018. It is possible that they will simply buy out Nashville FC, and promote it. This would also save them from having to build a new stadium from scratch, or renovate Herschel Greer Stadium for soccer use, as Nashville FC have considered.

Don't expect Nashville to get teams in MLB, the NBA or MLS: The South really doesn't care about soccer, the metro area would rank 28th in population among NBA markets, and it would rank 31st, dead last, in baseball.

* Ryman Auditorium. If country music has a Yankee Stadium or a Madison Square Garden, this is it. The Mother Church of Country Music, a.k.a. the Carnegie Hall of the South, is easily the most 2nd-most famous building in the State of Tennessee, behind Graceland, the Memphis home of Elvis Presley, who performed at the Ryman very early in his career, on October 2, 1954. After this show, he went across the street and did another show at another famous musical institution, this one long owned by an established country star, the Ernest Tubb Record Shop, at 417 Broadway.

Opened in 1892, it began hosting the weekly Grand Ole Opry ("grand old opera") radio show on Nashville radio station WSM in 1943 (though the show had been broadcast since 1925). The Auditorium seats 2,362 people, and with stars announced ahead of time, there were occasions when thousands had to be turned away.

By the 1960s, the building had deteriorated, and complaints about the dressing rooms grew louder: The men had to share a small one, and the women had to use a restroom. Roy Acuff, often called the King of Country Music, bought an adjacent building just so he'd have a decent place to change. And a new house for the Opry was planned. A wooden circle was cut from the stage, and transplanted to the new Opry House, much like home plate or a square of sod is sometimes removed from an old ballpark and put in the new one.

"I never want another note of music played in that building," Acuff said. He had reason beyond his bitterness over the dressing room: He was a major stakeholder in Opryland USA. (He was a bit about the money: In 1948, he was the Republican nominee for Governor of Tennessee. He lost.) But he died in 1992, and, against heavy odds, the building survived him. Ed Gaylord of Gaylord Entertainment bought the building's parent company, and had it restored.

The Ryman reopened in 1994, with its main entrance moved from the west side on 5th Avenue to the east side on 4th, plus an addition that included, yes, suitable dressing rooms, and, for the first time in its 102-year history, air conditioning. In 2012, the original stage (all but a small portion of it, left for historical reasons) was replaced as part of new renovations.

The Opry has returned every winter, while still broadcasting from its new home the rest of the year. ABC broadcast The Johnny Cash Show live from the Ryman, and Cash -- whose birthday would have been today, February 26, were he still alive -- is among those country legends whose memorial service has been held there.

The revival of the Ryman has coincided with the revival of downtown Nashville, including the construction of the Arena, the Stadium, and the city's first real skyscrapers. 116 5th Avenue North.

* Nashville Municipal Auditorium. While Elvis had many recording sessions in Nashville, after 1954 he didn't give another concert in the city until July 1, 1973, a matinee and an evening show at the Municipal Auditorium.

Opened in 1962, it still hosts concerts and sporting events. It's hosted minor-league hockey, and had the Devils actually moved to Nashville for the 1995-96 season, it's likely they'd have played at the Auditorium for a year before what's now the Bridgestone Arena opened. 417 4th Avenue North, downtown, 3 blocks from the State House.

Elvis also performed in Eastern Tennessee at the City Auditorium in Paris on March 7, 1955; and at the Civic Auditorium in Kingsport on September 22, 1955.

The Beatles never performed in Nashville as a unit, although individual members did so on their solo tours.

* Grand Ole Opry House. As with sports venues, the Opry decided in the 1960s to leave the city for the suburbs, and create a family atmosphere, even adding an amusement park. Opryland USA opened in 1972, and the Grand Ole Opry House in 1974. The oak circle from the Ryman stage was placed at center stage, and lead singers stand there.

The new theater (no longer so new) seats about 4,000, and had all the amenities that the Ryman did not yet have. I visited Nashville in 1991, before it became a major league sports city, and the group I was with visited Opryland USA and had a great time. But I wanted to see the Ryman. I knew I couldn't get inside, but I still wanted to reach out and touch the brick.

Of course, at this time, Camden Yards was rewriting the rules for stadium and arena construction, and cities took back their leadership role from the suburbs. Attendance dropped, and in 1997, Gaylord Entertainment closed the theme park. The Opry House remained in operation, and the Opry Mills shopping mall and the Opryland Resort & Convention Center opened on the site of the park in 2000.

When the Cumberland River flooded in 2010, my first concern should have been for the people -- and 31 people died, in 3 States -- but it was for the Ryman. Instead, it sustained only minor damage, while the Arena, the Stadium, and the Opry House all got socked, especially the Opry House. It was able to reopen in 6 months, while the show was broadcast from the Ryman and other Nashville locations. 433 Opry Mills Drive, about 9 miles east of downtown. Number 34 bus.

* Museums. Nashville isn't all about country music, although within a few steps of the Ryman (and the Arena) are museums dedicated to Johnny Cash (119 3rd Avenue S.) and George Jones (128 2nd Avenue N.), and the music in general at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum (222 5th Avenue S.).

The Tennessee State Museum depicts the State's history, including the Native America, colonial, early Statehood and Civil War periods. Its collection of Civil War memorabilia is one of the largest. It shares a downtown building with the Tennessee Performing Arts Center -- a boring-looking 1981 building that replaced its former home, the much more appropriate 1929 War Memorial Building. 505 Deaderick Street, between 5th & 6th Avenues.

There are 3 Presidents with connections to Tennessee. Al Gore should have made it 4, and he made enough mistakes that, if he had done any one of them differently, his rightful victory would have been too big to get stolen from him. But, like the 3 who actually did get into the White House, he wasn't born in Tennessee, but rather in Washington, D.C., when his father, Albert Sr., was a Congressman. (Both father and son would serve Tennessee in each house of Congress.)

As for the other 3, 2 were born in North Carolina, and the other might have been: Andrew Jackson was born somewhere near the Carolina State Line, although no one is sure precisely where, and both North and South Carolina claim him.

But the 7th President (serving from 1829 to 1837) and War of 1812 General nicknamed Old Hickory is best known, as far as his residences are concerned, for being one of the founding fathers of the State of Tennessee.

The Hermitage was a plantation he owned from 1804 until his death in 1845. On that property, he and his wife Rachel lived in a log cabin until the main house was completed in 1821. It burned in 1834, and he then had the current house built. Today, conspiracy theorists would have blamed Henry Clay or the Bank of the United States for the fire, even though Jackson himself didn't. (He did, however, blame his political opponents for the smears against both him and Rachel that gave her a heart attack that killed her between the 1828 election and the 1829 Inauguration.)

Aside from George Washington's Mount Vernon and Elvis' Graceland, it's the most-visited former private home in America. 4580 Rachels Lane, in the town of Hermitage, 12 miles east of downtown. It's on a section of the Cumberland River known as Old Hickory Lake. The Number 6 bus gets you to within a mile and a half, and the bus and the walk combined takes about an hour.

The State Capitol, which opened just before the Civil War in 1859, contains the tomb of James K. Polk, the 11th President (1845 to 1849), and his wife Sarah. The man who waged the Mexican-American War and gained us a huge chunk of our West, including all of California, he has been hailed as a visionary and assailed as a warmonger and a racist. He chose to serve only one term, and died just 3 months after leaving office, the shortest retirement of any ex-President. Sarah outlived him by 42 years, a record for a Presidential widow, and only Grover Cleveland's wife Frances, at 50 years, had a longer retirement from being First Lady. 600 Charlotte Avenue.

The other President with a Tennessee connection is Andrew Johnson, the 17th President, who succeeded to the office on the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in 1865, and was impeached for a ridiculous reason: He fired his Secretary of War (also Lincoln's), Edwin Stanton, without the permission of the Senate. He believed that the law barring him from doing so was unconstitutional, and when the aforementioned President Cleveland challenged it in 1886, the Supreme Court said they were both right. For all the good it did Johnson: Surviving his Senate trial by 1 vote, he knew he couldn't get elected on his own in 1868, got back into the Senate in 1874 (welcomed by the men who had tried him with a standing ovation), and died the next year.

He was an unrepentant racist, making it odd that Lincoln would choose him for the Vice Presidency in 1864 (it was because he was the only Southern Senator who stayed loyal to the Union when his State seceded), and he remains a contender for the title of worst President ever. His hometown of Greenville, Tennessee is 250 miles east of Nashville. His museum is at 67 Gilland Street. (Charlotte, North Carolina is actually the closest major league city to Greenville, but it's not close.)

There's actually a 4th President with a minor connection to Nashville: In 2008, Barack Obama and John McCain had the 2nd of their 3 debates at the Black Box Theatre at Belmont University. Compton Avenue at Belmont Blvd., about 3 miles southwest of downtown. Number 2 bus.

Five of the six tallest buildings in Tennessee are in Nashville, only one in the larger city (but not larger metro area) of Memphis. The tallest went up in 1994, but has already changed names with one phone-service company buying out another: The South Central Bell Building, the BellSouth Building, and now the AT&T Building. At 617 feet high, its twin-spired roof has led to it being nicknamed the Batman Building. 333 Commerce Street.

Many music-themed movies have used Nashville as both a setting and a film location, including biopics of Elvis (Elvis, starring Kurt Russell), Patsy Cline (Sweet Dreams, starring Jessica Lange) and Loretta Lynn (Coal Miner's Daughter, starring Sissy Spacek). Each of these included the Ryman as a filming location. While the current ABC TV drama Nashville is filmed in Los Angeles, the 1975 film of the same title was filmed on location.

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Nashville is more than history and music, as important as those things are. It's also the home of an NHL team that, while not yet very successful, is usually good, has developed quite a following among people you wouldn't think would take to hockey, and is now another good reason to visit this legendary city.