Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Year of Hell

In 1975, Billy Joel wrote a song titled "Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out On Broadway)." It might have been understandable if 2017 were to have it in for us.

What did we do to 2016 to make this year hate us so much?

In 2008, Joel C. Rosenberg published Dead Heat, a thriller in which Washington, D.C. is hit by 2 nuclear warheads, killing millions, including the President, and nearly all of Congress. New York and Los Angeles are also wiped out.

I'd never heard of it. It hasn't been made into a feature film.

2012 was. But when the year in question came, it wasn't so bad, and on the day in question, December 21, not only did the world not come to an end, but nothing much happened.

So why did 2016 have such hate for humanity? I don't know.

*

January 7: Kitty Kallen dies at age 94. She was one of the top singers of the 1940s and '50s.

January 10: David Bowie dies of cancer, 2 days after his 69th birthday. While he had his issues, he was one of the truly liberating performers in the history of music. And also a very good actor.

The best thing I've ever seen written about any musical personality was comedian Margaret Cho's essay about him in 2004, while he was still very much alive and creating. I wasn't much of a fan of his before. She made me understand what he meant.

January 11: Monte Irvin dies at age 96. He was a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame for his performance with the Newark Eagles of the Negro Leagues (winning the Negro World Series in 1946) and the New York Giants of the major leagues (winning the World Series in 1954). Before Jackie Robinson was signed, Irvin was frequently cited as the man who might break baseball's color barrier.

January 14: Alan Rickman dies of cancer at age 69. He was a good guy in Galaxy Quest, a bad guy in Die Hard, and drifted between the two in the Harry Potter films.

January 18: Glenn Frey dies at age 69, from pneumonia and colitis, brought on by the drugs he was prescribed for arthritis. Not exactly what we think of when we think of "rock stars who died from drugs," but, clearly, his doctors blew it.

He was the first member of The Eagles to die, having co-written and sung lead on "Take It Easy," "Tequila Sunrise," "Lyin' Eyes," "Life In the Fast Lane" and "Heartache Tonight."

Already, people were saying that 2016 has taken too many good people.

January 23: In a campaign speech in Sioux City, Iowa, Donald Trump, incompetent businessman, all-around blowhard and candidate for the Republican Party's nomination for the office of President of the United States, says, "I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot people, and I wouldn't lose voters, okay? It's, like, incredible."

In so doing, he showed his love of violence, his disrespect for the law, his megalomania, and his 8th grade vocabulary.

This was after he had already, in 2015, called Mexican immigrants "rapists;" said that Senator John McCain of Arizona, the 2008 Republican Presidential nominee, was "a war hero because he was captured"; gave out the home phone number of a nomination rival, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina; and made a reference to a feminine bodily function of debate moderator Megyn Kelly -- from Fox News, no less, essentially the propaganda arm of the Party whose nomination he was trying to win.

At this point, the American media should have done whatever it took to say that Trump was mentally unstable, and too dangerous to be trusted with the office of the Presidency.

They didn't, because he meant big ratings for them. It wasn't just his outrageousness, it was that they had a vested interest in the election being close. They didn't want a landslid win by either party's nominee. By the time he began bragging about being a rapist, the very thing he accused Mexican immigrants of being, it was too late.

January 26: Abe Vigoda dies at age 94. He played Corleone caporegime Sal Tessio in The Godfather, went to the other side of the law to play Detective Sergeant Phil Fish on Barney Miller, and did "character actor" roles for most of the rest of his life.

Some of us thought he died years ago; indeed, it became a running gag. Some of us thought he'd live forever.

January 28: Paul Kantner dies from the effects of a heart attack. The Jefferson Airplane guitarist was 74.

January 28: The World Health Organization announces an outbreak of the Zika virus, endangering pregnant women and their children.

February 3: Maurice White dies at 74 from the effects of Parkinson's disease. He was the guiding force behind 1970s funk band Earth, Wind & Fire.

February 4: Edgar Mitchell dies at age 85. He was the pilot of Antares, the lunar module on Apollo 14, and walked on the Moon.

His death leaves 7 of the 12 men who walked on the Moon still alive: Buzz Aldrin (Apollo 11), Alan Bean (Apollo 12), David Scott (Apollo 15), John Young, Charles Duke (these last 2 on Apollo 16), Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt (the last 2 on Apollo 17).

February 7: North Korea launches a long-range rocket into space, violating multiple United Nations treaties, and prompting condemnation from around the world.

February 9: Donald Trump wins the Republican Party's New Hampshire Primary with 35 percent of the vote, nearly as much as the next 3 candidates combined. There were times when his own party could have stopped him. This, after Ted Cruz had already beaten him in the Iowa Caucuses, was probably the best time to do it.

February 12: Johnny Lattner dies at 83 from Mesothelioma. The Notre Dame quarterback won the Heisman Trophy in 1953, and played the 1954 season with the Pittsburgh Steelers, before entering the Air Force and suffering a career-ending injury.

February 13: Antonin Scalia, one of the most damaging Justices in the history of the U.S. Supreme Court, dies of a heart attack at age 79. That wasn't a bad thing. The Republicans would not accept President Obama's nominee to replace him, Merrick Garland. They wouldn't even hold hearings on whether he would be confirmed, much less a vote on it. That was.

February 19: Harper Lee dies at age 89, shortly after being manipulated into publishing her manuscript for Go Set a Watchman, a sequel to her only previous novel, To Kill a Mockingbird.

February 20: Trump wins the South Carolina Primary, with 32 percent of the vote. Cruz and Marco Rubio each got 22 percent. It was now clear that the only way Trump was not going to get the nomination was if the Party coalesced around a single candidate against him. But Cruz, Rubio and John Kasich all refused to drop out. Had any 2 of those 3 gotten behind 1, it could have been different.

February 28: George Kennedy dies at age 91. He won an Oscar for playing a prisoner in Cool Hand Luke, and starred in all 4 Airport films. He showed a penchant for comedy, both as a panelist on Match Game and in the Naked Gun spoof films.

February 28: Delmer Berg dies at age 100 in Columbia, California. He was believed to be the last survivor of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, Americans who fought for the Spanish Republic in the Spanish Civil War.

February 28: Trump is endorsed by David Duke, the former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, a group that is "credited" with killing over 4,000 people over its blood-soaked history. Asked to disavow the leader of this anti-black, anti-Catholic, anti-Semitic terrorist group, he refuses.

Asked about it on CNN, he said, "Just so you understand, I don't know anything about David Duke, okay?" This was quickly proven to be a lie, as a search of Trump's idiotic Twitter account showed.

This is a signal to racists and other bigots -- white nationalists, and even neo-Nazi groups -- that he is one of them, and that, since he is the Republican frontrunner, it is now okay to be openly bigoted again. The Era of Black President is over.

March 8: George Martin, the Beatles' producer, dies at age 90.

March 11: Keith Emerson shoots and kills himself, depressed over heart trouble. The keyboard player for The Nice, and for Emerson, Lake & Palmer was 71.

March 22: Three coordinated bombings in Brussels, Belgium, kill 32 people, and injure at least 250 people. "The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) claims responsibility.

March 23: Ken Howard dies of a heart attack at age 71. He played 2 Presidents: Thomas Jefferson in the 1972 film version of the musical 1776, and John F. Kennedy in a 1971 play titled JFK. However, he is best remembered for playing an NBA player turned high school basketball coach on the late 1970s TV series The White Shadow.

March 24: Johan Cruijff dies of cancer, shortly before his 69th birthday. Perhaps the greatest soccer player that Europe has ever produced, he made Amsterdam club AFC Ajax a world legend, brought FC Barcelona back to prominence, gave the North American Soccer League a dash of credibility, and then revolutionized Barcelona again as manager. Alas, he lost the 1974 World Cup Final with the Netherlands, and controversially didn't play for them in 1978, when they lost in the Final again.

March 24: Comedian Garry Shandling dies of a blood clot at age 66.

March 27: A suicide bombing in Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park, Lahore, Pakistan kills 75 people and injures around 340 others. A militant Sunni Islamic organization claims responsibility, saying they were targeting Christians for celebrating Easter.

March 29: Patty Duke dies of a ruptured intestine at age 69.

April 2: Clashes between the armies of Armenia and Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh kill 193 people, the heaviest breach of the 1994 ceasefire between the countries.

April 6: Merle Haggard dies from long-term pneumonia at 79. He had long looked his name, haggard, but it was a surprise that he lasted as long as he did. And it's a shame, because he was one of the few country singers to call out his peers for supporting conservatives who kept poor people, white and black alike, poor.

April 17: Doris Roberts dies of a stroke at age 90. One of those actors you always remembered by face, if not by name, until she played family matriarch Marie Barone on Everybody Loves Raymond.

April 20: Joanie Laurer dies from a mix of alcohol and prescription drugs. The former wrestler known as Chyna was only 46

April 21: The artist usually known as Prince dies from an overdose at age 57. He had taken opioids for pain in his legs. He should have had transplants for both hips, but he didn't get them -- not because he couldn't afford them, like some people, but because, as a Jehovah's Witness, his religion prohibited blood transfusions.

April 24: Billy Paul dies of cancer at age 81. He was born Paul Williams, but reversed his name because there was already a major white songwriter and a member of The Temptations, both named Paul Williams. Although he has been lauded for pro-civil rights songs, he is mainly remembered for his 1972 Number 1 hit "Me and Mrs. Jones."

May 19: EgyptAir Flight 804, heading from Paris to Cairo, crashes in the Mediterranean Sea, with 66 people on board.

May 19: Alan Young dies at age 96. He was the first actor to play the superhero Mr. Terrific (in a 1966 attempt to piggyback on the fame of Batman and The Green Hornet), voiced Keyop and 7-Zark-7 on Battle of the Planets and Scaredy Smurf on The Smurfs, and did a lot of Disney cartoon voices from the 1980s onward, including Scrooge McDuck. However, he'l always be best remembered as Wilbur Post on Mister Ed.

June 3: Muhammad Ali dies from the long-term effects of Parkinson's disease, at age 74. Had he merely been the best boxer of his time, that would have made him a legend. But because of the force of his personality, and the causes he took up, he made himself something more. There will never be another like him. There couldn't be, because of the times. And he is still... The Greatest... of All Time!

June 10: Gordie Howe dies from the effects of a stroke. "Mr. Hockey" was 88.

June 10: Christina Grimmie is shot and killed. The Voice contestant was 3 years into what should have been a long musical career. She was only 22s.

June 12: A gunman shoots over 100 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, killing 49.

June 19: Anton Yelchin dies in a freak car accident at his Los Angeles home. The actor who played Pavel Chekov in the new Star Trek movies -- and, unlike Walter Koenig on the original show, actually was born in Russia -- was only 27.

June 23: Great Britain, by 52 to 48 percent, votes to leave the European Union -- the "British Exit" or Brexit." Even as the votes are being counted, the pound loses 1/8th of its value. Eventually, it loses 1/5th of its value. Many people voted for Brexit because the money the U.K. was paying to the E.U. would then go back to the National Health Service. The Conservative government announced that it wasn't going to spend the money on the NHS anyway, but rather to cut the taxes of rich people. As with the Trump campaign, the Leave side of the Brexit vote was a total con game.

June 28: Scotty Moore dies at age 84. Elvis Presley's original guitarist, along with Chuck Berry he practically invented rock and roll guitar playing.

June 28: Buddy Ryan dies at age 85. One of many great defensive (and offensive, for that matter) coordinators that turned out not to be good head coaches, he built the most famous defense in football history, the "46 Defense" of the 1985 Chicago Bears.

June 28: Pat Summitt dies from Alzheimer's disease. The woman who made women's college basketball a big thing, coaching the University of Tennessee to 8 National Championships, was only 64.

June 28: ISIL claims responsibility for attacking Atatürk Airport in Istanbul, killing 45, and injuring around 230.

July 2: Michael Cimino dies at age 77. He famously directed The Deer Hunter -- and infamously directed Heaven's Gate.

July 2: Elie Wiesel dies at age 87. His books, including Night, made him the face of Holocaust survivors. In 1985, he received an award at the White House, but pleaded with President Ronald Reagan not to go to the SS cemetery at Bitburg, Germany. Reagan didn't listen. In 1986, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and the Mets invited him to throw out the ceremonial first ball at one of their World Series games.

July 2: Trump tweets a photo of a campaign poster citing a Fox News poll (which only a goddamned fool would take seriously, anyway), calling Hillary the "most corrupt candidate ever!"

Those words, not only ridiculous but true about Trump himself, are printed in white on a blue six-pointed star. A blue six-pointed star is synonymous with Judaism. The star was put next to her face, over a pile of money.

This was on the same day that Elie Wiesel died. Not that Trump or his supporters gave a damn. I wonder if Trump even knows who he was.

July 3: Noel Neill dies at age 95. She played Lois Lane in the 1948 and 1950 film serial versions of Superman, and replaced Phyllis Coates (now the only surviving major performer of the series) as Lois on the TV series The Adventures of Superman. She returned to the mythos as Lois' mother in the 1978 film Superman and again in the 1990s TV series Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, and played a brief but key role at the beginning of the 2006 Superman Returns.

July 16: Nate Thurmond dies of leukemia. Named to the Basketball Hall of Fame and the NBA's 50th Anniversary 50 Greatest Players, he was 74.

July 19: Garry Marshall dies of pneumonia at age 81. He developed The Odd Couple for television, created Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley (starring his sister Penny), and directed Pretty Woman, Runaway Bride, and the Princess Diaries films. When Penny directed the baseball film A League of Their Own, she returned the favor, and cast Garry as the founder of the women's league, based on Chicago Cubs owner Phillip K. Wrigley.

July 22: Japan makes the last video casette recorder (VCR). The end of an era.

July 24: Marni Nixon dies of cancer at age 86. You may not know her name or her face, but you know her voice: She dubbed the singing in film versions of legendary Broadway musicals, for Deborah Kerr in The King and I, Natalie Wood in West Side Story, and Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady.

July 26: Youree Dell Harris dies of cancer at age 53. Known as the TV psychic Miss Cleo, she did not foresee the collapse of her TV empire, or her illness.

July 30: Gloria DeHaven dies at age 91. She was a big film star in the 1940s and '50s, and became a character actress on TV after that.

August 2: David Huddleston dies at age 85. He played Olson Johnson in Blazing Saddles, Santa Claus in Santa Claus: The Movie, and the man that The Dude was confused with in The Big Lebowski.

August 5: The Olympic Games begin in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Its scandals range from Russian doping to bad behavior by an American swimmer.

August 13: Kenny Baker dies after a brief illness. The 3-foot-8 Brummie, who played R2-D2 in the original Star Wars films, before CGI made a more animated R2 possible, was 82.

August 14: Fyvush Finkel dies at 93. After a career in Yiddish theater in New York -- yes, that actually was a thing once -- he played a lawyer on Picket Fences and a teacher on Boston Public, both David E. Kelley series.

August 28: Mexican singer Juan Gabriel dies of a heart attack while on tour in Los Angeles. The icon of Latin music was 66.

August 29: Gene Wilder dies at age 83. Known for his roles in Mel Brooks films and co-starring with Richard Pryor, he was steady as a rock. But he shot with the other hand.

August 30: Věra Čáslavská dies of cancer at age 74. A winner of 3 Gold Medals at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, the gymnast won 4 more at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, and won the hearts of the world when she bowed her head as the Czech National Anthem was played, in defiance of the Soviet Union's crushing of the Prague Spring 2 months earlier.

September 5: Hugh O'Brian dies. The actor best known for starring in the 1950s TV series The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp was 91.

September 9: The government of North Korea conducts its fifth and reportedly biggest nuclear test. World leaders condemn the act, with the South calling it "maniacal recklessness."

September 11: Alexis Arquette dies from heart disease, a complication of HIV. Born Robert Arquette, the transgender actor was 47.

September 16: Edward Albee dies. The playwright, best known for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, was 88.

September 16: W.P. Kinsella dies, with a physician's assistance (legal in his native Canada), after years of suffering with diabetes. The author of the baseball novel Shoeless Joe, which became the film Field of Dreams, and many other novels about baseball, and about Native (North) Americans, was 81.

September 23: Two months after telling the Republican Convention, "Vote your conscience" and refusing to endorse Donald Trump, and several months after Trump called his wife ugly and suggested that his father was part of the conspiracy to kill President John F. Kennedy, Ted Cruz endorses him. So much for conscience, if he ever had it.

September 25: Arnold Palmer dies of heart trouble at 87. The golfer known as "The King" won 4 Masters, 2 British Opens, and a U.S. Open. My generation knows him best from his commercials for Pennzoil motor oil and Hertz car rentals. The generation after me knows him best from his endorsed Arizona Iced Tea products.

September 25: Miami Marlins pitcher José Fernández and 2 others are killed in a boating accident off Miami Beach. The pitcher was only 24, was already 38-17 in his career, and had just announced his impending fatherhood 5 days earlier.

September 28: Shimon Peres dies at 93. He was a leading figure in Israel from independence in 1948 until his death, including twice serving as Prime Minister.

September 28: International investigators conclude that Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down by a Buk missile that came from an area controlled by pro-Russian rebels.

September 28: Global carbon dioxide levels exceed 400 ppm at the time of year normally associated with minimum levels. A 400 ppm level is believed to be higher than anything experienced in human history.

September 30: The Carnegie Deli, a New York food service icon, announces that it will close its legendary location on December 30. It does.

October 7: An Access Hollywood tape from 2004 is released, showing Trump bragging to interviewer Billy Bush -- a cousin of George W. -- about grabbing women by various body parts. Essentially, the Republican nominee for President of the United States is bragging about committing multiple acts of sexual assault.

Incredibly, predictions of a "meltdown" in Trum support does not happen. This does not motivate women who are Republicans, independents or disaffected Democrats to turn away from him -- or, if it did, it did not motivate them to vote for the 1st woman nominated for President by either major party.

October 15: Having survived a paralyzing football injury to walk again, former New York Jet Dennis Byrd dies in a car crash in his native Oklahoma. He was only 50.

October 23: Pete Burns dies of a heart attack. The leader of the British band Dead Or Alive was 57.

October 24: Bobby Vee dies. The singer, best known for his 1961 Number 1 hit "Take Good Care of My Baby," was 73.

October 25: Carlos Alberto Torres dies of a heart attack at 72. He was the Captain of the Brazil team that won the 1970 World Cup, and later starred for the New York Cosmos.

November 3: Kay Starr dies from complications of Alzheimer's disease at 94. She had 2 Number 1 hits: "The Wheel of Fortune" in 1952, and "The Rock and Roll Waltz" (perhaps a parody of early rock) in 1956. She was also the singer on the version of "The Hucklebuck" played in a 1956 episode of The Honeymooners.

November 7: Janet Reno, the 1st female U.S. Attorney General, dies from the long-term effects of Parkinson's disease. She was 78.

November 8: The Presidential election. Hillary Clinton beats Donald Trump by 2.8 million votes. But close votes in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin throw the Electoral Vote to the most unsuitable Presidential candidate in American history.

Counting up all the other left-of-center votes, opposition to Trump won 54 percent of the popular vote. But that's not the way that our country decides Presidential elections. Trump wanted the affirmation of being the people's choice as President. Instead, he gets the massive responsibilities of the office, with no mandate -- indeed, a flat-out rejection -- and not the slightest bit of preparation.

We have long heard that our country should be run by a businessman. We are about to see just how goddamned stupid that idea is. Trump won't know what the hell he's doing. Maybe that's for the best: Can you imagine someone with his tendencies who does know what he's doing? As Winston Churchill would say, If it is a blessing in disguise, then it is very well disguised.

November 10: Leonard Cohen dies at 82. The legendary Montreal-born songwriter, long resident at the Chelsea Hotel in New York, had moved to Los Angeles. Cancer weakened him to the point where a fall at his home ended his life.

November 13: Leon Russell dies of a heart attack. One of rock's leading keyboard players since the late 1960s, he was 74.

November 14: Gwen Ifill dies of cancer at 61. She was one of America's leading TV journalists, regardless of race or gender.

November 23: Ralph Branca dies at 90. The Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher was the last survivor of Jackie Robinson's original 1947 teammates. That year, he won 21 games at age 21, but that was his career peak. He founded and ran the Baseball Assistance Team (BAT), aiding indigent ex-baseball figures. That's more important than the home run he gave up in 1951.

November 24: Florence Henderson dies of a heart attack at age 82. She played Carol Brady on The Brady Bunch, and became known as "America's Mom." She also famously appeared in Weird Al Yankovic's spoof video "Amish Paradise," taking the Michelle Pfeiffer role.

November 25: Fidel Castro, dictator of Cuba since 1959 (officially leaving office in 2008, but who's kidding who), after decades of rumors about his health and attempts to kill him, dies of undisclosed causes at age 90. No, 2016, it's too late to get on our good side.

November 25: Ron Glass dies of respiratory failure at 71. He played Detective Sergeant Ron Harrison on Barney Miller, although the character might have been happier serving on the Fashion Police. So that's 2 members of the cast of Barney Miller in the same calendar year. I understand he was also on a short-lived science fiction show called Firefly.

November 26: Fritz Weaver dies at 90. One of those "Oh yeah... him!" guys, he may be best remembered as the Chancellor of the fascist government in the Twilight Zone episode "The Obsolete Man." Let's just say he was a much nicer guy in real life. I often thought he was the father of actor Sigourney Weaver, but that was longtime NBC executive Pat Weaver (who lived to be even older, 93).

"This is not a new world," Rod Serling said in his opening narration for that June 2, 1961 episode. "It is simply an extension of what began in the old one. It has patterned itself after every dictator who has ever planted the ripping imprint of a boot on the pages of history since the beginning of time. It has refinements, technological advances, and a more sophisticated approach to the destruction of human freedom. But like every one of the super-states that preceded it, it has one iron rule: Logic is an enemy, and truth is a menace.

In his closing narration, Serling said, "Any state, any entity, any ideology that fails to recognize the worth, the dignity, the rights of Man, that state is obsolete. A case to be filed under 'M,' for Mankind... in The Twilight Zone."

November 28: Van Williams dies of kidney failure at 82. He had played private detective Kenny Madison on 2 ABC series in the late Ike Age: The New Orleans-base Bourbon Street Beat, and the Miami Beach-set Surfside 6.

But he's best remembered as the title character in the 1966-67 series The Green Hornet, based on the 1930s and '40s radio series: Wealthy newspaper publisher Britt Reid, who fights crime from the inside out, pretending to be a masked gangster when he's actually a good guy, working with the District Attorney. Bruce Lee was launched to North American stardom by playing his aide (I won't say "sidekick," despite the pun on the kung fu master's abilities) Kato. Williams was the only member of the main cast to live beyond 1997.

December 2: Sammy Lee dies at age 96. He was already a doctor (an ear, nose and throat specialist) when he won Gold medals in platform diving at the 1948 and 1952 Olympics.

December 2: A fire at an Oakland warehouse converted into a dance club kills 36 people.

December 5: Rashaan Salaam shoots and kills himself. The 1994 Heisman Trophy winner was 42, and had dealt with alcohol and drug problems, depression, and, it was rumored, football-related head trauma. We won't know that for sure, since his Muslim family forbade an autopsy.

December 6: Peter Vaughan dies at 93. One of the leading British actors of the late 20th Century, American audiences knew him as Maester Aemon Targaryen on Game of Thrones.

December 7: Greg Lake dies after a long battle with cancer. The King Crimson and Emerson, Lake and Palmer guitarist was 69. This leaves drummer Carl Palmer as the only surviving member of ELP.

December 8: John Glenn dies. A Marine fighter pilot in the Korean War, the 1st American to orbit the Earth in 1962, a U.S. Senator from 1975 to 1999, a Presidential candidate in 1984, the oldest astronaut ever in 1998, and the last survivor of the Mercury 7, he was 95.

December 12: Jim Lowe dies. A disc jockey, he was working at New York station WCBS (the AM one at 880, not yet an all-news station, rather derided by jazz and rock fans for being square) in 1956, when he decided to become one of the many deejays who could make records as good as the ones he was playing. For most of them, it didn't work. For him, it did: "The Green Door" hit Number 1.

He later spun records at WNEW and WNBC, and spent his last few years in The Hamptons region of eastern Long Island, dying at age 93.

December 13: Alan Thicke dies of a heart attack while playing hockey with his son. The former talk show host, singer, star of Growing Pains and father of singer Robin Thicke was 69.

December 15: Craig Sager dies after a long battle with leukemia. He was 65. He was one of many ESPN personalities who graduated from Northwestern University in Chicago, but his connection to the school was deeper, as he had played the mascot, Willie the Wildcat. Perhaps the school's color, purple, inspired him to follow in the footsteps of legendary broadcaster Lindsey Nelson, and wear garish sportsjackets, endearing him to his viewers.

December 17: Henry Heimlich, inventor of the anti-choking maneuver that bears his name, dies of a heart attack at age 96.


December 17: Louis Harris dies at age 95. He started taking polls for the Roper organization, became the 1st Presidential campaign pollster when John F. Kennedy hired him in 1960, and Louis Harris & Associates surpassed Roper to be right up there with Gallup as America's leading polling company.

December 17: Gordon Hunt dies at 87. He specialized in directing animated TV shows, and directed an episode, and guest-starred on another, of Mad About You, which featured his daughter, Helen Hunt.

December 18: Zsa Zsa Gabor dies, 44 days before what would have been her 100th birthday. She had been in very poor health the last few years. How many times was the last surviving Gabor sister married, Ed Rooney? "Nine times!"

December 19: Andrei Karlov, the Russian Ambassador to Turkey, is assassinated in the capital of Ankara. He was 62, and had previously been Russian Ambassador to North Korea. His son Gennady is also a Russian diplomat. The assassin, who cited Russian atrocities in Syria, was also shot and killed.

December 19: Dick Latessa dies at 87. He was a Broadway legend, but since most Americans never get to see a Broadway play, his TV appearances led him to be one of those actors who's "on every show," but you only know him as "Oh yeah, him!"

December 22: Miruts Yifter dies of respiratory failure at age 72. In the 1972 Olympics in Munich, he won the Bronze Medal in the 10,000 meters, then missed the final for the 5,000 meters because he spent too much time in the bathroom. He missed the 1976 Olympics in Montreal because his homeland of Ethiopia was one of several African countries boycotting, due to a controversy connected to apartheid South Africa.

But in Moscow in 1980, despite being 36 years old, he won the Gold Medal in the 5,000 meters and the 10,000 meters. At least, we think he was 36: Like Satchel Paige, Archie Moore and Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez, his age was uncertain. He said, "Men may steal my chickens, men may steal my sheep, but no man can steal my age."

December 23: Carrie Fisher -- actress, screenwriter, novelist and licensed psychotherapist, best known for her role in the Star Wars films -- has a heart attack on a flight from London to Los Angeles. She was taken to UCLA Medical Center. The Internet broke out in a collective, "No, 2016, you cannot have Princess Leia, too!"

December 24: Richard Adams, author of Watership Down, dies at age 96.

December 25: That bastard year 2016 decides, "Okay, if you won't give me Carrie Fisher, I'll take someone else. I'll take... hmmmm, let me see... George Michael!"

December 25: A Tupolev Tu-154 crashes near Sochi, Russia, killing all 92 people on board, including 64 members of the Alexandrov Ensemble, the official choir of the Russian armed forces.

December 26: George S. Irving dies at age 94. While he did commercials in the 1970s for White Owl cigars and Gillete Trac II razors, he's best remembered as the voice of Heat Miser (a.k.a. Mr. Green Christmas") on the 1974 Rankin-Bass holiday-season special The Year Without a Santa Claus (with Mickey Rooney as the voice of Big Red).

December 27: 2016 decides, "Fuck you, I'm takin' Carrie Fisher anyway."

December 28: And Carrie's mother, the legendary actress Debbie Reynolds, who had looked great for her age (84) until now, is taken from us as well.

December 29: LaVell Edwards dies at age 86. The legendary football coach at Brigham Young University had broken his hip on Christmas Eve. A lot of old people suffer broken hips and never recover.

December 29: Cyril D. Tyson dies from a series of strokes at age 89. One of the leading anti-poverty crusaders of the 1960s, he deserves to be remembered in his own right, and not just as the father of physicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.

December 29: Néstor Gonçalvez dies at age 80. A midfielder, he won 9 Uruguayan league titles and 3 Copa Libertadores (South American club tournament) titles for Peñarol, and represented his country at the 1962 and 1966 World Cups.

December 31: A man dressed as Santa Claus -- made all the more poignant, because the original Saint Nicholas was a bishop in present-day Turkey in the early 4th Century AD -- shoots 70 people, killing 39 of them, at an Istanbul nightclub. The Year of Hell went out with a bang. Literally, several bangs.

December 31: William Christopher dies at 84. He played Father John Patrick Francis Mulcahy on the entire 11-season run of M*A*S*H. Even America's favorite clergyman wasn't immune to 2016.

It has been joked that the last thing to die in 2016 is 2016 itself. Good riddance.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Russian Pie: The Year Everything Died

To the tune of "American Pie" by Don McLean. Lada is the leading brand of car made in Russia.

A long, long time ago
I can still remember
when that fraud Trump used to make me smile.

And I knew we would have a chance
to find Barack's successor stance
and we would still be happy for a while.

But February made me shiver
New Hampshire totals were delivered.
Bad news on the TV:
They'd chosen someone sleazy.

I do remember I just sighed:
"They'll reject him, they know he's lied."
But something chilled me deep inside
the year... every... thing died.

So
Dos vedanya, Miss Russian Pie
Drove my Lada where I hadda, 'cause I hadda get by
And good old boys, they dropped their whiskey and rye
realized, "This is the year that everything died.
This is the year that everything died."

Did you write the books of Trump?
And did he read them, that dumb-haired grump?
"Believe me," he told you so.

And do you believe in rock and roll
but Nugent and Kid Rock don't have soul
and can you tell me
why Trump's fans are real slow?

Well, I know that you're in love with him
'cause I saw you chanting in the gym.
You thought his words were true
and beat protestors black and blue!

I was a lonely midage Jersey buck
who knew Trump was a bigoted schmuck
but I knew we were out of luck
the year... every... thing died.

I started singing:
Dos vedanya, Miss Russian Pie
Drove my Lada where I hadda, 'cause I hadda get by
And good old boys, they dropped their whiskey and rye
realized, "This is the year that everything died.
This is the year that everything died."

Now, for 8 years, Barack had our back
as once did Frank, and Bill, and Jack.
Yes, that's how it used to be.

But a Jester squared up to the Queen
with lies not exposed by John Dean
and a voice that sickened you and me.

Oh, and while the Queen was looking down
the Russians stole her hard-earned crown.
The media was adjourned:
No verdict was returned!

He's got hair worse than Richard Marx
and views older than Fenway Park
so we sang dirges in the dark
the year... every... thing died.

We were singing:
Dos vedanya, Miss Russian Pie
Drove my Lada where I hadda, 'cause I hadda get by
And good old boys, they dropped their whiskey and rye
realized, "This is the year that everything died.
This is the year that everything died."

Gordie Howe, Muhammad Ali
Glenn Frey and Prince, David Bowie
the big names were falling fast.

Leonard Cohen and Johan Cruiff
and Leia left planetary life
and R2 and John Glenn had final blast.

Now, by half-year, we'd lost Patty Duke.
Losing Merle Haggard was no fluke.
We asked for one more dance
but George Michael didn't get a chance!

'Cause the living tried to claim the field
The Grim Reaper refused to yield.
Too many people's fates were sealed
the year... every... thing died.

We were singing:
Dos vedanya, Miss Russian Pie
Drove my Lada where I hadda, 'cause I hadda get by
And good old boys, they dropped their whiskey and rye
realized, "This is the year that everything died.
This is the year that everything died."

Oh, and there we were, at polling place
ready to slap Trump in the face
but we would get betrayed again.

So, come on, Jack be nimble, Jack be quick.
Electoral College made us sick
'cause Putin is The Donald's only friend.

Oh, and as I watched him on the stage
his supporters seethed with bigots' rage.
No angel: Born in Hell
and he can't fucking spell!

And as the shock climbed high into the night
to set us up for sacrificial rite
I saw Putin laughing with delight
the year... every... thing died.

He started singing:
Dos vedanya, Miss Russian Pie
Drove my Lada where I hadda, 'cause I hadda get by
And good old boys, they dropped their whiskey and rye
realized, "This is the year that everything died.
This is the year that everything died."

I met a girl I voted for
and I asked her, "Are you really sore?"
But she just smiled and turned away.

And I went down to Carnegie
for deli food that once fed me
but the man there said the slicer wouldn't play.

And in the streets, the children gabbed
hoping nothing would get grabbed.
Upon these words, we're chokin':
Democracy is broken.

And the enemy that we feared most
replaced by terrorists, we'd boast
they burned us all like borscht on toast
the year... every... thing died.

We were singing:
Dos vedanya, Miss Russian Pie
Drove my Lada where I hadda, 'cause I hadda get by
And good old boys, they dropped their whiskey and rye
realized, "This is the year that everything died.
This is the year that everything died."

We were singing:
Dos vedanya, Miss Russian Pie
Drove my Lada where I hadda, 'cause I hadda get by
And good old boys, they dropped their whiskey and rye
realized, "This is the year that everything died!"

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

How Old Are You Now? 2016 Television Edition

The Honeymooners was centered on Ralph Kramden (Jackie Gleason). On a few occasions, he mentioned that he'd been driving a bus for 15 or 16 years. Since the show aired in 1955 and '56, that means he started in 1940. It's unlikely he would have been allowed to drive a bus (or "brive a dus," or even "dus a brive") before turning 21.

So, presuming he was 21 in 1940, and got married to Alice Gibson (Audrey Meadows) the next year (they were said to be married for 14 years, and then 15) at 22, if he's still alive (unlikely, given his lifestyle, especially his diet), he'd now be 97 years old. (That would still make him younger than his portrayer: Gleason would have been 100 this year.)

*

M*A*S*H really did a number on continuity. I'll spare you the details. But the ages of the characters weren't always clear.

Colonel Sherman Potter (Harry Morgan) admitted to being 62 years old in an episode that would have taken place in 1952 or '53, but had previously said he lied about his age to enlist in the Army in World War I, which would have made him about 10 years younger.

Major Charles Winchester claimed to be a Harvard University graduate, Class of 1943; this would have made him 31 or 32 in the episode in question. His portrayer, David Ogden Stiers, was 40 at the time, and 35 when the character debuted, so there's no way Charles was just 31 at the time.

But none of the show's surgeons, save for the much older Potter and possibly his predecessor, Lieutenant Colonel Henry Blake (McLean Stevenson), were mentioned as having served in World War II. If they were 31 in 1951 and 32 in 1952, this would give them a birthdate of 1920 -- prime draft age during World War II, but possibly with deferments, as they would have been in college and then medical school, and the Army would certainly have said, "Okay, you can train as doctors, but if the war is still going on when you get out, you're going to be Army doctors." At any rate, if 1920 is reliable as a birthdate, and if they're still alive, they'd be 96 years old.

Corporal Walter "Radar" O'Reilly (Gary Burghoff) was supposedly 19 in 1951, making him 84 now. Yes, Radar is in his 80s.

*

Happy Days was set 19 years before the show's episodes aired: 1955 to 1965. Richie Cunningham (Ron Howard), Warren "Potsie" Weber (Anson Williams) and Ralph Malph (Don Most) graduated from Jefferson High School in 1957. This suggests a birthdate of 1938. This makes Richie, Potsie and Ralph 78. (We can presume that Howard's other major character, Opie Taylor, is the same age that he is, since The Andy Griffith Show took place in what was then the present day. So Opie is about to turn 62.)

Joanie Cunningham (Erin Moran) and Chachi Arcold (Scott Baio) would be 76, and Arthur Fonzarelli (Henry Winkler) probably around 82. Da Fonz would not, however, be in a rest home. He would still be too cool for that. And Richie Cunningham Jr. would be 52.

In The Wonder Years, set 20 years before, 1968 to 1973, Kevin Arnold and Winnie Cooper are said to start out at 12. This means they were born in 1956, and turned 60 this year.

And on another nostalgia program, That '70s Show, the gang graduates from high school in 1978, giving them a birth year of (or around) 1960. So Eric, Donna and the rest are 56.

*

If we presume the "meddling kids" on Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? were about 18 when the show first aired in 1969 (certainly, they were old enough to have driver's licenses), that makes them 65 now. Of course, dogs don't usually live past the age of 20, no matter how well you take care of them, and big dogs, such as Great Danes like Scooby, tend not to live as long as smaller dogs.

But if the gang is now 65, I can imagine Fred saying, "Now, where did I put my glasses," and remembering his long-ago dog, and saying, "Well, Scoob, it looks like we've got another mystery on our hands!"

When Gloria Bunker (Sally Struthers) and Mike Stivic (Rob Reiner) met on All In the Family, Mike was in college, and Gloria was probably the same age, maybe a year or two younger. If Mike was 20, and a flashback showed that they met in 1969, then they'd be 67 or so now. (For the record, Reiner and Struthers are both 69.) Their son Joey Stivic is 41 -- just 7 years younger than Archie was when the show started.

Can you imagine Gloria Bunker and Charles Emerson Winchester III as coming from the same place? Believe it or now, Struthers was born and raised in Portland, Oregon, and Stiers spent his teenage years in the same State, in Eugene. (While his real voice is rather refined, it does not have a Boston Brahmin accent.)

The Odd Couple made several mentions of the fact that Felix Unger (Tony Randall) and Oscar Madison (Jack Klugman) served in World War II. Felix had 2 teenaged children, and while Oscar had no children (although he did in the play and movie versions), he did have a niece who was 18, married and having a baby in an episode.

So, when the show aired from 1970 to 1975, they weren't just "two divorced men," they were divorced middle-aged men. Randall was born in 1920, Klugman in 1922 (and both are dead now), although it's possible that both enlisted as early as age 18. But while Felix was in great shape for a man in his 40s, he did have a little gray hair, suggesting that he might have been closer to 50 (as Randall was when the show first aired).

If (as I did for my "obituary" of Oscar a while back, which I wrote after Klugman died), I kept the characters' ages matched up with the actors', if they were now still alive, Felix would be 96, Oscar 94. "Odd"? Say what you want about the way Oscar lived his life, but Jack made it to 90, 6 years older than Tony was when he died!

Barney Miller revealed he was 15 years old on V-E Day, May 8, 1945, so he was born in 1930. So, if he's still alive -- his portrayer Hal Linden is -- he'd be 86.

*

Desi Arnaz Jr. was born on January 19, 1953, the same day that the I Love Lucy episode featuring the birth of his analogue, "Little Ricky" Ricardo, aired. This makes Little Ricky 63.

Theodore Cleaver was said to be 7, almost 8, when Leave It to Beaver first aired in 1957. That means he was born in late 1949. His brother Wally was 13, so he as born in 1944. That makes the Beaver 66 now, and Wally 72.

Dobie Gillis graduated high school in his show's 2nd season, in 1961, meaning he was born in 1943. This makes Dobie 73.

Tabitha Stephens was born in Bewitched's 2nd season, 1966. But in the 1977-78 spinoff series Tabitha, she is said to be in her 20s already. If the 1966 date is correct, she's 50.

The Brady Bunch kids? The series began in 1969, at which point Greg and Marcia Marcia Marcia were in high school. So they were probably born in 1953, which makes them 63, and their siblings a little younger.

I'd like to think things were better for the characters on Diff'rent Strokes than for their portrayers. Arnold Jackson's birthdate was definitively given as July 19, 1970. Willis Jackson's was April 27, 1965, and Kimberly Drummond's was October 22, 1964. If they managed to avoid the troubles that the actors had, Kimberly is now 52, Willis is 51, and Arnold is 47. And the girls on the spinoff series The Facts of Life were supposedly 13 when that show premiered in 1979, making them now 47.

*

Let's move up a bit. From The Cosby Show, based on the ages the kids were at the start, Cliff Huxtable is 78, his wife Claire is 72, Sondra Tibideaux is 51, Denise Kendall is 47, Theo Huxtable is 45, Vanessa Huxtable is 42, and Rudy Huxtable is 36. (This, of course, ignores the fact that we don't know if Vanessa and Rudy got married and, if so, whether they took their husbands' last names like Sondra and Denise did.)

Bob Saget is 60, so it's safe to presume his Full House character, Danny Tanner, is the same age. Dave Coulier is 56, but since his character Joey Gladstone and Danny are supposed to be the same age, Joey is also 60. John Stamos is 52, which makes him 8 years younger than Saget. If we presume Pam, Danny's late wife, was the same age as Danny, that probably makes her brother, Jesse Katsopolis, a couple of years younger, so he's probably now 58. Lori Loughlin, who played Rebecca Donaldson, Danny's TV morning-show co-host and later Jesse's wife, is 51, but there's no reason her character's age couldn't be her own.

As we can now see on Fuller House, D.J., now Donna Jo Tanner-Fuller (taking the Danny role), is 38. Most likely, so is her best friend Kimmy Gibler (taking the Joey role). Sister Stephanie Tanner (taking the Joey role) is 34, and sister Michelle, whom we apparently won't see in Fuller House, is 28. Jesse and Rebecca's twins, Nicky and Alex, are 23. There's some additional characters in the Fuller House cast photo above, but I don't know who they are.

On Seinfeld, Jerry Seinfeld and George Costanza were said to have graduated from high school in 1971. This suggests they were born in 1953. But real Jerry was actually born in 1954. Regardless, they'd now be 62. I get the idea that Elaine Benes was a little younger, and Cosmo Kramer a little older. Kramer on Social Security? It's possible.

On Mad About You, it was stated that Paul Buchman was born in early 1959, Jamie Stemple Buchman in late 1963, and their daughter Mabel was born in mid-1997. So, today, Paul is 57, Jamie is 52, and Mabel is 19. Holy cow, Mabel Buchman is in college.

On Friends, Monica Geller turned 27 in 1995. Rachel Green graduated from high school with her, so they're the same age. Monica met Phoebe Buffay in college, so they're probably the same age. Ross Geller is 2 years older than his sister, and he met Chandler Bing in college, so those 2 are probably the same age. And Joey Tribbiani... we know he turned 30 at some point during the show. Let's presume he's the same age as the ladies. This makes Ross and Chandler 50 this year, and the rest of them 48. Ross' son Ben is 21, Ross & Rachel's daughter Emma Geller is 13, and Monica and Chandler's twins, Erica and Jack Bing, are 12.

Fast fact that may blow your mind: Ben Geller could legitimately be dating Mabel Buchman. Or Alexis Castle.

If we presume the characters on Living Single were the same ages as their portrayers... Well, that won't work, since Kim Coles, who played Synclaire James, is 8 years older than Queen Latifah, who played her cousin Khadijah James. Okay, let's presume they're all around Khadijah's age. Therefore, Khadijah, Synclaire, Regine Hunter (played by Kim Fields, who, of course, also played Tootie Ramsey on The Facts of Life), Maxine Shaw (Erika Alexander), Overton Jones (John Henton) and Kyle Barker (T.C. Carson) are 47. And the Shaw-Barker baby we never got to see is 18.

Girlfriends was so much of a ripoff of Living Single that Michael Warren -- Sgt. Bobby Hill on Hill Street Blues -- was cast as the fathers of both Khadijah and Tracee Ellis Ross' character Joan Clayton. Joan was born in 1972, Persia White's Lynn Searcy and Jill Marie Jones' Toni Childs in 1971, and Golden Brooks' Maya Wilkes in 1978. So, this year, Lynn and Toni turned 46, Joan 45, Maya 38, Maya's son Jabari 22, and Toni's daughter Morgan is 11.

Michael Landon Jr. was 29 when he appeared as Benj Cartwright -- son of Little Joe and grandson of "Pa" Ben -- in Bonanza: The Return, which was set in 1905. He did not yet have any children. If we presume that he got married and had a son within 5 years, 1910, and presume a new generation every 25 years, that means the youngest generation of Cartwrights would now be small children, and the great-great-great-great-grandchildren of Ben.

In the other direction, if we presume that Star Trek's Captain James T. Kirk was born in 2233, as seems to be accepted in the myth's canon, and we presume a new generation every 25 years, then Kirk's great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather would have been born in 2008.

Monday, December 26, 2016

How Long It's Been: The Minnesota Vikings Reached a Super Bowl

December 26, 1976, 40 years ago: The Minnesota Vikings, a.k.a. the Purple People Eaters, beat the Los Angeles Rams 24-13 at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, Minnesota, and win their 4th NFL/NFC Championship in the last 8 seasons.

They advanced to Super Bowl XI, where they lost to the Oakland Raiders, 32-14. They fell to 0-4 in Super Bowls, having also lost Super Bowl IV to the Kansas City Chiefs, Super Bowl VIII to the Miami Dolphins, and Super Bowl IX to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Like the ancient Israelites, the Vikings have now been in the wilderness for 40 years -- and even before that, they didn't go all the way. The 2016 season is the franchise's 56th, and while they are on target to make the Playoffs again, they have never, not even once, gone as far as the rules allowed them to go.

Even in 1969, the last year of the pre-merger National Football League, they were NFL Champions, but they were not World Champions, having lost Super Bowl IV. That means that, while they have won an NFL Championship more recently than the Cleveland Browns (1964), the Philadelphia Eagles (1960), the Detroit Lions (1957) and the Cardinals (the current Arizona franchise won it in Chicago in 1947), those teams have won World Championships, while the Vikings have not.

It's been 40 years since the Vikings even reached a Super Bowl. How long has that been?

*

What the team in question was like then.

The Vikings were coached by Harry "Bud" Grant, who is still alive at age 89. They featured quarterback Fran Tarkenton, center Mick Tinglehoff, offensivle tackle Ron Yary, defensive ends Jim Marshall and Carl Eller, defensive tackle Alan Page, and safety Paul Krause. Each of these 8 men is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. They, running back Chuck Foreman, linebacker Matt Blair and team "medical adviser" Fred Zamberletti are in the Vikings' Ring of Honor.

Metropolitan Stadium, home of the Vikings and Twins at the time, has been torn down. So has the neighboring Metropolitan Sports Center, home of the NHL's North Stars. Both have been replaced by the Mall of America. The Metrodome, which became the home of the Vikings and Twins in 1982, has also been torn down, and the Vikings' new home, U.S. Bank Stadium, was built on the site. The North Stars have moved, and been replaced by the Wild. The NBA's Timberwolves have also begun play.

Only 6 NFL stadiums in use in 1976 were in use in the 2016 season: The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Rich Stadium (now New Era Field) outside Buffalo, and, for the moment, the Oakland Coliseum and San Diego Stadium (now Qualcomm Stadium).

The NFL had 26 teams. There was one in Baltimore, but it was the Colts, not the Ravens. There was one in Houston, but it was the Oilers, not the Texans. The Los Angeles Rams and Oakland Raiders have moved, and moved back. The Colts, the Oilers/Titans, the original Cleveland Browns, and the St. Louis football Cardinals have all moved. There had not yet been a team in the States of North Carolina, Tennessee, Indiana and Arizona. There are now.

The Raiders, Rams, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Francisco 49ers, Washington Redskins, Chicago Bears, New York Giants, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New Orleans Saints and Seattle Seahawks had yet to win their 1st Super Bowl. The Rams, Steelers, Bears, Giants, Oilers/Titans, Buccaneers, Saints, Seahawks, Denver Broncos, Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers, Cincinnati Bengals, New England Patriots, Buffalo Bills, San Diego Chargers, Atlanta Falcons and St. Louis/Arizona Cardinals had yet to reach their 1st Super Bowl. Each of these achievements has since been reached. Hell, the Bucs had gone 0-14 in 1976, their 1st season, so they had yet to win their 1st game.

NFL team founding owners George Halas of the Bears, Art Rooney of the Steelers, George Preston Marshall of the Redskins and Earl "Curly" Lambeau of the Green Bay Packers, were still alive. Halas and Rooney were still running their teams. Charter (1963) inductees to the Pro Football Hall of Fame Halas, Lambeau, Red Grange, Sammy Baugh, Dutch Clark, Red Grange, Mel Hein, Cal Hubbard, Don Hutson, John "Johnny Blood" McNally and Bronko Nagurski were still alive.

Joe Namath and O.J. Simpson were painfully running out the string. Roger Staubach was the NFL's defining player on offense, Mean Joe Greene on defense. Walter Payton was in his 2nd season. Ron Jaworski and Joe Montana were in college. Ray Lewis was a year and a half old. Peyton Manning was 9 months old. Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Tony Romo, Eli Manning, Troy Polamalu, Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers weren't born yet.

Current Giants head coach Ben McAdoo wasn't born yet, either. John Hynes of the Devils was a year old. Kenny Atkinson of the Nets was 9, Jack Capuano of the Islanders was 10. Todd Bowles of the Jets, Joe Girardi of the Yankees and Jeff Hornacek of the Knicks were in junior high school. Alain Vigneault of the Rangers was in high school. Terry Collins of the Mets was managing in the Pittsburgh Pirates' minor-league system.

The Steelers, the Cincinnati Reds, the Boston Celtics and the Montreal Canadiens were the current holders of their sports' World Championships. The Heavyweight Champion of the World was Muhammad Ali.

The Olympic Games have since been held in America (4 times), Canada (twice), Russia (twice), Bosnia, Korea, France, Spain, Norway, Japan, Australia, Greece, Italy, China, Britain and Brazil. The World Cup has since been held in America, Argentina, Spain, Mexico, Italy, France, Japan, Korea, Germany, South Africa and Brazil.

Jimmy Carter had just been elected President of the United States, defeating and succeeding Gerald Ford. Former President Richard Nixon, and the widows of Presidents Lyndon Johnson, John F. Kennedy, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Harry Truman were still alive.

Ronald Reagan was now out of office, having failed to wrest the Republican Party's nomination for President from Ford. George H.W. Bush was Director of the CIA, and his son George W. was failing in the energy business. Bill Clinton had just been elected to office for the 1st time, as Attorney General of the State of Arkansas. Hillary Clinton was about to start working for the Rose Law Firm in New York. Barack Obama was in high school in Hawaii. Donald Trump was making his bones as a racist slumlord, just like his dear old dad.

The Governor of Minnesota at the time was Wendell Anderson, a former hockey player -- but he had just appointed himself to a vacancy in the U.S. Senate, caused by the election of Walter Mondale as Vice President. Current Governor Mark Dayton was an aide to Mondale. Anderson was succeeded as Governor by his Lieutenant Governor, Rudy Perpich. The Governor of New York was Hugh Carey. The Mayor of New York was Abe Beame. The Governor of New Jersey was Brendan Byrne. Andrew Cuomo was at Fordham University. Bill de Blasio and Chris Christie were in high school.

Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan were just awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, for their work to ease tensions in Northern Ireland. The Pope was Paul VI. The Prime Minister of Canada was Pierre Trudeau, father of current PM Justin Trudeau. Queen Elizabeth II was on the throne of Britain -- that hasn't changed -- and James Callaghan was Prime Minister. Liverpool were holders of the Football League title, Southampton of the FA Cup, and Bayern Munich of the European Cup.

Major novels of 1976 included The Deep by Peter Benchley, The Boys from Brazil by Ira Levin, and Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice. Judy Blume published her children's books Blubber and Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Alex Haley published Roots: The Saga of an American Family; Erma Bombeck published The Grass Is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank, and William F. Buckley Jr. published Saving the Queen, his 1st novel featuring the secret agent Blackford Oakes. George R.R. Martin was teaching English at Clarke University in Iowa, and J.K. Rowling was 11 years old.

Recently released films included Carrie, Network, Rocky, Silver Streak, the original version of Freaky Friday, Dino De Laurentiis' version of King Kong, and the Barbra Streisand version of A Star Is Born. Star Wars was being finished.

Recently-debuted TV shows included What's Happening!!, Alice, In Search Of... , The Krofft Supershow, The Scooby-Doo/Dynomutt Hour, Baa Baa Black Sheep, Charlie's Angels, Holmes & Yo-Yo, Mr. T and Tina, The Muppet Show; the next series of each half of The Odd Couple: The Tony Randall Show and Jack Klugman's Quincy, M.E.; the game shows The Gong Show, Family Feud and Double Dare; and a short-lived sitcom version of Ball Four, written by and starring the pitcher who wrote the original book, Jim Bouton. The show failed to smoke 'em inside. None of the Kardashian siblings had yet been born.

"Tonight's the Night (Gonna Be Alright)" by Rod Stewart was the Number 1 song in America. The Ramones had recently founded American punk by releasing their self-titled debut album, and the Sex Pistols had effectively announced the British version with a profanity-laced TV appearance. The Eagles released Hotel California. The Band played its farewell concert in San Francisco, filmed by Martin Scorcese for his documentary The Last Waltz. Guitarist Tommy Bolin died of a drug overdose.

All 4 former Beatles were still having hits. So was Elvis Presley, but no one yet knew that he was in the last 8 months of his life. Frank Sinatra was still selling out arenas, Bob Dylan had recently completed his Rolling Thunder Revue, and Michael Jackson was still mainly thought of as the leader of his brothers' group.

A Subway ride in New York was 50 cents. The average price of a stamp was 13 cents, a gallon of gas 59 cents, a cup of coffee 35 cents, a McDonald's meal $1.32, a movie ticket $2.13, a new car $3,175, and a new house $43,400. The Dow Jones Industrial Average close the year at 1,004.

There were video games, but they were still new; arcades were dominated by pinball and other analog games of skill. Portable telephones existed, but they certainly couldn't fit in your pocket. Personal computers/ The Apple II and the Commodore PET were a few months away from being introduced. When people meant AT&T, they said, "the phone company." The Internet? Hardly anyone had even heard of it. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Tim Berners-Lee were all 21 years old, and just getting started in the computer industry.

In December 1976, reggae star Bob Marley, his wife Rita, and his manager Don Taylor were shot in an assassination attempt in Kingston, Jamaica. All survived, but Rita and Don nearly didn't. Bob was supposed to perform a concert for national unity 2 days later. He did. The Viet Cong, successful, was disbanded, and absorbed into the Vietnam People's Army. The United Nations adopted the Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques. In other words, the UN banned torture.

Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley, and composer Benjamin Britten, and Hall of Fame baseball manager Danny Murtaugh died. Matthew Shepard, and Donovan McNabb, and Takeo Spikes were born.

December 26, 1976. The Minnesota Vikings advanced to the Super Bowl, for the 4th time in the last 8 years.

They haven't done it since. They didn't make the Playoffs this season. Will they ever do it again? Stay tuned.

How to Be a Giant Fan In Washington -- 2016-17 Edition

On Sunday, January 1, New Year's Day, the New York Giants will play away to the Washington Redskins.

At this time, I don't feel like having a debate over whether to continue using the "Redskins" name. Yes, it's bad. But I want to make this travel guide as simple as possible, so I'm going to use "Redskins" and the abbreviation "'Skins" throughout.

Before You Go. D.C. can get really hot in summer, but this will be late December, so it's cold that you'll have to worry about. The Washington Post is predicting low 40s for the afternoon, and the high 20s for the evening. They do not mention a chance of rain, so it should be dry.

Washington is in the Eastern Time Zone, so you won't have to fiddle with your clocks, digital or otherwise.

Tickets. Tickets are always harder to get for NFL games than for MLB games. This is especially true in Washington: Having one of the smallest stadiums in the League before they had one of the largest, even with 24,000 extra seats to sell, the waiting list for season tickets is incredibly long. As Richard Nixon said while he was President, "The only thing people in Washington care about is the Redskins. Nobody gives a damn about the Smithsonian or the Kennedy Center." (Yeah, he would say something like that about something named for JFK. And let the record show that the Watergate complex is right next-door to the Kennedy Center.)

Despite the Redskins' struggles the last few years, they still average 78,378 fans per home game -- but that's 85 percent of capacity, and only Oakland and San Diego, whose stadiums are about 50 years old and inadequate, have a lower percentage. And any tickets returned by the visiting team go to people on their massive season-ticket waiting list. So you'll have to go to either a scalper or the NFL Ticket Exchange.

In the lower level, the NFLTE has sideline seats for this game running from $89 to $285, and in the end zone from $120 to $277. In the upper deck, sidelines go for $89 to $155, and end zones for $89 to $137.

Getting There. Before I begin this part, let me remind you that this upcoming weekend is New Year's Weekend, and a lot of seats on planes, trains and buses will be bought up already. Especially for Sunday, since that's the end of the weekend. So expect what's left to be more expensive than usual.

Getting to Washington is fairly easy. Ordinarily, if you have a car, I recommend using it, and getting a hotel either downtown or inside the Capital Beltway, because driving in Washington is roughly (good choice of words there) as bad as driving in New York. However, since FedExField is not in the District, I would recommend driving, especially if you're only going down for the game, and not "seeing the city."

It's 229 miles by road from Times Square to downtown Washington, and 219 miles from MetLife Stadium to FedExField. If you're not "doing the city," but just going to the game, take the New Jersey Turnpike all the way down to the Delaware Memorial Bridge (a.k.a. the Twin Span), across the Delaware River into the State of, well, Delaware. This should take about 2 hours, not counting a rest stop.

Speaking of which, the temptation to take an alternate route (such as Exit 7A to I-195 to I-295 to the Ben Franklin Bridge) or a side trip (Exit 4, eventually leading to the Ben Franklin Bridge) to get into Pennsylvania and stop off at Pat's Steaks in South Philly can be strong, but if you want to get from New York to Washington with making only 1 rest stop, you're better off using the Delaware House Service Area in Christiana, between Exits 3 and 1 on the Delaware Turnpike. It's almost exactly the halfway point between New York and Washington.

Once you get over the Twin Span – the New Jersey-bound span opened in 1951, the Delaware-bound one was added in 1968 – follow the signs carefully, as you'll be faced with multiple ramp signs for Interstates 95, 295 and 495, as well as for US Routes 13 and 40 and State Route 9. You want I-95 South, and its signs will say "Delaware Turnpike" and "Baltimore." You'll pay tolls at both its eastern and western ends, and unless there's a traffic jam, you should only be in Delaware for a maximum of 15 minutes before hitting the Maryland State Line.

At said State Line, I-95 changes from the Delaware Turnpike to the John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway, and you'll be on it for about an hour (unless you want to make another rest stop, either the Chesapeake House or the Maryland House) and passing through Baltimore, before seeing signs for I-895 and the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel, Exit 62.

From here, you'll pass through the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel. Take I-895 to Exit 4, and you'll be on Maryland Route 295 South, the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. BWP exits are not numbered, so you'll have to watch the mileposts and the town names on the exit signs. Your exit onto the Capital Beltway, I-95/495, will be just past Mile 6, And it will read "I-495 S/I-95 S" and mention Richmond, Virginia and Andrews Air Force Base. (That's where the 747s that serve as Air Force One are kept -- and, no, you won't be allowed in to see them, so don't bother visiting.)

Once on the Beltway, it's important to remember that, while I-95 and I-495 have directions, the Beltway itself is (more or less) circular. It has an Inner Roadway, running clockwise, and an Outer Roadway, running counterclockwise. On the way in, you'll be on the Inner Roadway. You'll take Exit 16, for Maryland Route 202/Landover Road, with signs indicating Bladensburg and Upper Marlboro. M-202 will run parallel to the Beltway, until you reach Exit 17A, again saying M-202/Landover Road, toward Upper Marlboro. Then you take Exit 16 for Arena Drive. (Yes, that's what Google Maps says: 16, then 17A, then 16 again.)

When you reach Arena Drive, turn right. Arena Drive flows right to the stadium, which is encircled by FedEx Way. If all goes well -- getting out of New York City and into downtown Baltimore okay, reasonable traffic, just the one rest stop, no trouble with your car -- the whole trip should take about 3½ hours.

Washington is too close to fly, just as flying from New York to Boston, Philadelphia and Baltimore, once you factor in fooling around with everything you gotta do at each airport, doesn't really save you much time compared to driving, the bus or the train. So forget about flying from JFK, LaGuardia or Newark to Reagan National or Dulles International Airport. (John Foster Dulles was President Eisenhower's Secretary of State.)

The train is a very good option, if you can afford it. Washington's Union Station is at 50 Massachusetts Avenue NE, within sight of the Capitol Building. But Amtrak is expensive. They figure, "You hate to fly, you don't want to deal with airports, and Greyhound sucks, so we can charge whatever we want." New York to Washington will run you $178 round-trip each way on a standard Northeast Regional, and $440 on Acela Express (formerly the Metroliner). And that's before you add anything like Business Class or, God forbid, Amtrak's overmicrowaved food. Still, it's less than 3 hours if you take the Acela Express, and 3 hours and 40 minutes if you take a regular Northeast Regional train.
Union Station

Another option is to buy a ticket for the New Carrollton, Maryland station, head out to Bus Bay C, and take the F14 bus to Hill Oaks Drive & Michele Drive. From there, it's a 10-minute walk to the stadium. The Amtrak price won't be any different, although the price for the bus may be, compared to the Metro.

Greyhound has rectified a longtime problem. They now use the parking deck behind Union Station as their Washington terminal, instead of the one they built 6 blocks away (and thus 6 blocks from the nearest Metro station), in the ghetto, back in the late 1960s. So neither safety nor aesthetics will be an issue any longer. Round-trip fare on Greyhound can be as high as $88, but you can get it for as little as $50 on advanced purchase. (This is much higher than normal, due to this being T-Day weekend.) It takes about 4 1/2 hours, and usually includes a rest stop about halfway, either on the New Jersey Turnpike in South Jersey or on the Delaware Turnpike.

Once In the City. Founded in 1800, and usually referred to as "The National City" in its early days, and "Washington City" in the 19th Century, the city was named, of course, for George Washington, although its "Georgetown" neighborhood was named for our previous commander-in-chief, King George III of England.
The name of its "state," the District of Columbia, comes from Columbia, a historical and poetic name used for America, which was accepted as its female personification until the early 20th Century, when the Statue of Liberty began to take its place in the public consciousness. "Columbia" was derived from the man who "discovered America," Christopher Columbus, and places throughout the Western Hemisphere -- from the capitals of Ohio and South Carolina to the river that separates Washington State from Oregon, from the Ivy League university in Manhattan to the South American nation that produces coffee and cocaine, are named for him.

Like a lot of cities, Washington suffered from "white flight," so that, while the population within the city limits has seriously shrunk, from 800,000 in 1950 to 650,000 today; the metro area went from 2.9 million to double that, 5.9 million. As a result, the roads leading into the District, and the one going around it, the Capital Beltway, Interstate 495, are rammed with cars. Finally, someone wised up and said, "Let's build a subway," and in 1976, the Metro opened.

That metropolitan growth was boosted by the Maryland and Virginia suburbs building housing and shopping areas for federal-government workers. And, perhaps more than any other metro area, the poor blacks who once lived in the city have reached the middle-class and built their own communities (especially to the east, in Maryland's Prince Georges County, which includes Landover). The metro area now has about 6 million residents -- and that's not including the metro area of nearby Baltimore, which would boost it to nearly 8.5 million and make it the 4th-largest "market" in the country, behind New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, slightly ahead of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Lots of people from the District and its Maryland and Virginia suburbs went up the Parkway to Baltimore to see the Orioles during the District's 1972-2004 baseball interregnum. However, during the NFL interregnum between Robert Irsay's theft of the Colts in 1984 and the arrival of the Ravens in 1996, Baltimore never accepted the Redskins as their team, despite 2 Super Bowl wins in that period. (So from March 1984 to August 1996, if you lived in the BaltWash Corridor, you had to take the Orioles for baseball and the Washington teams for the other sports. Since April 2005, you've had options for MLB and the NFL. But if you live closer to Baltimore, you still have to go to D.C. for the NBA, the NHL or MLS.)

When you get to Union Station, pick up copies of the Washington Post and the Baltimore Sun. The Post is a great paper with a very good sports section, and in just 6 seasons (now into a 7th) has covered the Nats very well, despite the 1972-2004 era when D.C. had no MLB team of its own. As a holdover from that era, it still covers the Orioles well. The Sun is only an okay paper, but its sports section is nearly as good as the Post's, and their coverage of their town's hometown baseball team rivals that of any paper in the country -- including the great coverage that The New York Times and Daily News give to the Yankees and Mets.

Do not buy The Washington Times. It was founded by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon in 1982 as a replacement for the bankrupt Washington Star as the area's conservative equivalent to the "liberal" Post. (That's a laugh: The Post has George Will, Charles Krauthammer, Michael Gerson and Kathleen Parker as columnists!) Under editor-in-chief Wesley Pruden, the Times was viciously right-wing, "reporting" every rumor about Democrats as if they were established, proven fact, and giving Republicans a free pass. Moon's "Unification Church" sold the paper in 2009, and Pruden retired the year before. But it has cut about 40 percent of its employees, and has dropped not only its Sunday edition but also its sports section. And now, there's another paper, the Washington Examiner, owned by the same company as the conservative magazine The Weekly Standard, and it is so far to the right it makes The Washington Times look like the Daily Kos. It is a truly loony publication, where Michael Barone of the American Enterprise Institute and Byron York of National Review are considered moderates.

So avoid the loonies and the Moonies, and stick with the Post. Even if you don't agree with my politics, you're going down to D.C. for baseball, and the Post's sports section kicks ass.

The sales tax in the District, once as high as 9 percent, is now just 6 percent.

The centerpoint for street addresses is the Capitol Building. North and South Capitol Streets separate east from west, and East Capitol Street and the National Mall separate north from south. The city is divided into quadrants: Northwest, Northeast, Southeast and Southwest (NW, NE, SE and SW). Because of the Capitol's location is not in the exact geographic centerpoint of the city, NW has about as much territory as the other 3 quadrants put together.

Remember: On street signs, 1st Street is written out as FIRST, and I Street is written out as EYE, so as to avoid confusion. And for the same reason, since I and J were virtually indistinguishable in written script when D.C. was founded in 1800, there is no J Street. Once the letters are expended, they go to to 2- and then 3-syllable words beginning with the sequential letters: Adams, Bryant, Clifton, etc.

Going In. Washington's subway, the Metro, was not in place until 1976, but, thereafter, it was a relatively easy ride to Redskins games at RFK Stadium. But the move to the Beltway made this a lot harder.

From Union Station (having taken either the train or the bus in), you'll get on the Red Line to Metro Center, and transfer to the Blue Line to Morgan Blvd. The walk up Morgan to the stadium should take about 20 minutes. Because the outbound trip will be during rush hour, it will cost you $4.10. To make matters worse, the Metro stops running at midnight, and you won't be able to get back from Morgan Blvd. station to Union Station. For this reason, driving down would be the best option for this game. Next season, when the Giants are more likely to be playing the Redskins away on a Sunday, things will be different.
As for driving: Going from downtown D.C., you should take any northbound numbered street that gets you to New York Avenue, a.k.a. U.S. Route 50. Take it to Exit 3B, which will take you onto M-202/Landover Road. When you get to Brightseat Road, turn right. Brightseat becomes Redskins Road, which, as you might guess, goes right to the stadium. It's about 10 miles east of downtown Washington, and should take between 20 and 30 minutes.

The official address of FedExField -- for a reason that I don't know, it is officially written as one word -- is 1600 FedEx Way, Landover, Maryland. If the name Landover sounds familiar, it's because the stadium is almost exactly across the Beltway from the site of the Capital Centre, where the Bullets (now the Wizards), the Capitals, and the Georgetown basketball team used to play.

Parking is a whopping $57.50 -- but would you rather take a taxi back to Union Station (which might cost the same), and then stay there until the middle of the night? I didn't think so. All lots permit tailgating and open four hours before the game begins. Parking permits may be obtained via eBay, Craigslist or StubHub or by calling the Redskins Ticket Office at (301) 276-6050.

Despite its size, the stadium is not an architectural marvel. It's not even an architectural curiosity, the way RFK Stadium is with its weird sloping roof and its overhanging upper deck. While the NFL is a league that shuns imagination, embracing functionality first, and aesthetics much further down the line (if at all), there are some stadiums that are distinctive: Soldier Field with its exterior Doric columns (iconic, if not Ionic), the Los Angeles Coliseum with its arched "peristyle" at the east end, Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis with its windows. FedExField, home to a team with 5 NFL Championships to its name but none won while playing there, is just a stadium. A big stadium, but no big deal.
The field is natural grass. Most football stadiums are aligned north-to-south, so that the angle of the sun doesn't bother the players. FedEx, however, is aligned (more or less) east-to-west. Whether this is a factor with the Redskins not having done well, I don't know. But in their 1st 18 seasons at FedEx, the 'Skins have made the Playoffs only 4 times. Contrast that with RFK Stadium: They made the Playoffs in 8 of their last 15 seasons there, and in 13 of their last 19.

The Redskins went from having the smallest stadium in the NFL, and possibly the best atmosphere and the best home-field advantage, to having the largest stadium, with the worst atmosphere, and hardly any home-field advantage.

The move from RFK in the District, where the fans had to walk down hard city streets from the Metro (hazardous even if you weren't wearing enemy colors), to FedEx (originally named Jack Kent Cooke Stadium in memory of the team's former owner, before new owner Daniel Snyder sold the naming rights to Federal Express) in the comfortable suburbs, meant that the 'Skins could no longer play in a stadium where the upper deck was right on top of the field, and where the aluminum stand that retracted to fit in a baseball field could no longer be jumped on to create noise like an oversized high school football game.
Capacity at FedEx was once 91,704, the highest in the league. (The Cowboys' AT&T Stadium now surpasses this.) But the furthest-back seats were so far back that Redskin fans, used to the closeness of the seats at RFK (the first of the oval multipurpose "concrete ashtray" stadiums, and easily the most intimate of those), complained like hell. The team kept tarping over seats, until the capacity was reduced to 79,000, 4th-largest in the NFL, and people still complained. Now, it's officially 82,000, less than MetLife and AT&T Stadiums.

According to Richard Smith of Stadium Journey:

The biggest shock I had as a first time guest to FedExField was how old the stadium felt. Opened in 1997, it seemed like a stadium opened possibly two decades earlier. It is shocking to consider that it is only one year older than Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium.

The concourses are dark and dreary. It has modern touches, such as the wider public areas and numerous food stands of a newer facility, but still never felt like a place that opened five years AFTER the groundbreaking Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Wandering the concourses brought back memories of long gone places such as Veterans Stadium, The Kingdome and Candlestick Park. That is not a good thing.

The Vet, the Kingdump, and The 'Stick? Oy vey -- especially if you're a fan of an NFC East team and thus had to visit The Vet. He continues:

The stadium is just so poorly designed that it must be disheartening to be a Redskins fan. The stadium is far too loud and the upper deck seems incredibly too high to enjoy the game. I found seating sections in the upper deck that you have to go both up AND down set of stairs to find your seat. A former walkway has been filled in with three rows of seating. Doing so has created some navigational issues, in that fans may need to go up and then back down a small set of stairs just to move from one area to another.
There are frankly just poor conditions for the fans. The audio, especially in the upper sections, is nearly inaudible. Seats in the lower deck have an obstructed view of the field. It is incredible that a stadium built just one year prior to Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium has the severe design flaws that it does.

In 2008, Sports Illustrated took a poll, and FedEx came in 28th among the 31 NFL stadiums, keeping in mind that the Giants and Jets groundshare. So if you count them as having 2 different atmospheres in the same stadium, FedEx is really 29th out of 32.

The Army-Navy Game was played at FedExField in 2011. So far, the U.S. soccer team has played just 1 match at the stadium, a draw with Brazil on May 30, 2012. There were 4 matches played there in the 1999 Women's World Cup. European soccer clubs Real Madrid, Barcelona, Internazionale Milano , Manchester United and Chelsea have plays summer tour games there. It's hosted concerts by Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, U2 and Metallica.

Food. In 1992, I attended a preseason baseball game at RFK Stadium, between the Orioles and the Red Sox. The food was horrible, including the worst hot dog I've ever had at a sporting event. Worse even that the terrible tube steaks at Sayreville High School football games (and those things are foul). The next day, right before the O's were to open the brand-new Camden Yards, it was reported that several of their players (but none of the Red Sox) had come down with food poisoning. I wasn't surprised. (They won the Camden Yards opener anyway.) I would later attend 2 Nationals games and the 2013 U.S.-Germany soccer match at RFK, and the food, while not great, had substantially improved.

Hopefully, it is better at FedExField. According to the team website:

Starting 3 hours before every preseason and regular season game, the AAA Ultimate Fan Zone offers its members a pre-game food and entertainment extravaganza unmatched anywhere else in the NFL. Bar-B-Q food and soft drinks are included in the admission price. Entertainment includes live music, appearances by cheerleaders and former players, video games, giveaways and flat screen televisions showing the early games. For more information, contact the Premium Seat Sales department at 301-276-6800 or by email at clubinfo@redskins.com.

They also have other areas where such amenities are available, including a Hooters restaurant, but most of them are in Club Seating, so forget it. A Johnny Rockets is available to all ticketholders, but, like the one at the new Yankee Stadium, prices are going to be closer to Outback Steakhouse than to McDonald's. They also have Ben's Chili Bowl, which was described on one website I saw as a local icon, although I've been to D.C. many times (including visits to RFK Stadium, Nationals Park and the Verizon Center), and have never noticed it.

Team History Displays. The Redskins have a Ring of Fame, featuring 47 individuals considered important to the history of the team. In 2002, as part of the team's 70th Anniversary celebrations -- they've been in Washington since 1937, but first played in 1932 as the football version of the Boston Braves -- the 70 Greatest Redskins were named. In 2012, on the 80th Anniversary, they added 10 names to make it the 80 Greatest Redskins. Some of these players are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Players are noted by the abbreviations ROF (Ring of Fame), 80GR (80 Greatest Redskins) and HOF (Pro Football Hall of Fame):

* From the 1937 and 1942 NFL Champions: ROF, founder-owner George Preston Marshall, quarterback-safety Sammy Baugh, running back-cornerback Cliff Battles, and two-way end Wayne Millner; 80GR, Baugh, Battles, Millner, head coach Ray Flaherty, two-way tackle Turk Edwards, and two-way back Andy Farkas; HOF, Marshall, Flaherty, Baugh, Battles, Millner, Edwards.

* From the 1950s: ROF, Quarterback Eddie LeBaron, running backs Bullet Bill Dudley, Charlie "Choo Choo" Justice and Dick James, and defensive end Gene Brito; 80GR, each of the preceding, plus running back Don Bosseler, receiver Hugh Taylor, center Al DeMao, guard Dick Stanfeld and linebacker Chuck Drazenovich; HOF, only Dudley.

* From the 1960s (but not making it to 1972): ROF, head coach Vince Lombardi (the former Packer boss came out of retirement to coach them in 1969, but died before the next season started), flanker Bobby Mitchell, guard Vince Promuto and linebacker Sam Huff; 80GR, Mitchell, Promuto, Huff, and safety Paul Krause; HOF, Lombardi, Mitchell, Huff and Krause. In addition, Dutch Bergman, who briefly coached the Redskins, and also in D.C. at the Catholic University of America, was, along with just about all of these figures, on the old Washington Wall of Stars at RFK Stadium, for running the company that built RFK.

* From the 1972 NFC Champions: ROF, head coach George Allen, quarterbacks Sonny Jurgensen and Billy Kilmer, running back Larry Brown, receiver Charley Taylor, tight end Jerry Smith, center Len Hauss, linebacker Chris Hanburger, and cornerbacks Brig Owens and Pat Fischer; 80GR, each of the preceding, plus receiver Roy Jefferson, offensive tackle Terry Hermeling, defensive tackle Diron Talbert, defensive ends Ron McDole and Bill Brundige, linebackers Harold McLinton and Rusty Tillman, cornerback Mike Bass, and punter Mike Bragg; HOF, Allen, Jurgensen and Hanburger. In addition, Edward Bennett Williams, the Washington "superlawyer" who owned the Redskins from 1962 to 1985, buying them from Marshall, selling a majority share in them to Cooke in 1974 and the rest of his stock to Cooke in 1985, was on the Washington Wall of Stars, but not in the 80GR or, as yet, in the ROF.

* Between the 1972 and 1982 seasons' trips to the Super Bowl: ROF, 80GR and HOF, safety Ken Houston.

* From the 1982 NFL Champions: ROF, owner Jack Kent Cooke, head coach Joe Gibbs, defensive coordinator Richie Petitbon, trainer Lamar "Bubba" Tyer, public address announcer Phil Hochberg, quarterback Joe Theismann, running back John Riggins, receiver Art Monk, guard Russ Grimm, offensive tackle Joe Jacoby, defensive tackle Dave Butz, defensive end Dexter Manley, and placekicker Mark Moseley; 80GR, Gibbs, Petitbon, and each of the preceding players, plus general manager Bobby Beathard, offensive line coach Joe Bugel (builder of that legendary "Hogs" line), running back Joe Washington, running back Mike Nelms, tight end Don Warren, center Jeff Bostic, offensive tackles George Starke and Mark May, linebackers Neal Olkewicz and Monte Coleman, and safety Mark Murphy; HOF, Gibbs, Riggins and Grimm.

* From the 1987 NFL Champions: ROF, Cooke, Gibbs, Petitbon, Tyer, Hochberg, Monk, Grimm, Jacoby, Butz, Manley, quarterback Doug Williams, receiver Gary Clark, defensive end Charles Mann and cornerback Darrell Green; 80GR, Gibbs, Petitbon, Bugel, Beathard, Monk, Grimm, Jacoby, Butz, Manley, Williams, Clark, Mann, Green, Warren, Bostic, May, Olkewicz, Coleman, receiver Ricky Sanders, guard Raleigh McKenzie, and offensive tackle Ed Simmons; HOF, Gibbs, Grimm and Green.

* From the 1991 NFL Champions: ROF, Cooke, Gibbs, Petitbon, Tyer, Hochberg, Monk, Grimm, Jacoby, Clark, Mann, Green, and running back Brian Mitchell; 80GR, Gibbs, Petitbon, Beathard, Monk, Warren, Bostic, Grimm, Jacoby, Clark, Mann, Green, Mitchell, Sanders, McKenzie, Simmons, Coleman, quarterback Mark Rypien, running back Earnest Byner, offensive tackle Jim Lachey, and linebacker Wilber Marshall; HOF, Gibbs, Grimm and Green.

* Since 1991: ROF, linebacker Ken Harvey, safety Sean Taylor, and Prince George's County Executive Wayne Curry, who led the drive to get the stadium built; 80GR, Harvey, Taylor, running back Terry Allen and Clinton Portis, offensive tackles Jon Jansen and Chris Samuels, and linebacker LaVar Arrington; HOF, defensive end Bruce Smith (better known as a Buffalo Bill, and didn't make the 80GR or, as yet, the ROF).
Long ago, the Redskins retired Baugh's Number 33. It remains the only number officially retired by the team, and they probably won't officially retire another unless it's another quarterback who turns out to have been as good as Baugh (and good luck with finding one). However, some numbers are understood to be unofficially retired; Theismann's 7, Jurgensen's 9, Sean Taylor's 21, Green's 28, Charley Taylor's 42, Brown's 43, Riggins' 44, Mitchell's 49, Butz's 65, Huff's 70 and Monk's 81.
Slingin' Sammy Baugh

There is no exterior display of Baugh's retired number. Nor is there any of the team's 5 NFL Championships (1932, 1942, 1982, 1987 and 1991), their 11 conference titles (1936, 1937, 1940, 1942, 1943, 1945, 1972, 1982, 1983, 1987 and 1991), their 13 divisional titles (1936, 1937, 1940, 1942, 1943, 1945, 1972, 1983, 1984, 1987, 1991, 1999 and 2012), or their 10 Wild Card Playoff berths (1971, 1973, 1974, 1976, 1984, 1986, 1990, 1992, 2005 and 2007).

Baugh and Houston were named to the NFL's 75th Anniversary Team in 1994. They, Huff, Taylor, Monk and Green were named to The Sporting News' 100 Greatest Football Players in 1999. Baugh, Huff and Green were named to the NFL Network's 100 Greatest Players in 2010.

Stuff. The Redskins Hall of Fame Store is located next to the Comcast SportsNet Gate (Gate H) on the Lower Level, across from Section 141. The Hall of Fame Store is open during the week from 10 AM to 6 PM, Monday through Saturday, all year round. On game day the store opens when parking lots open and stays open up to 2 hours after the game. The store accepts American Express, MasterCard, Visa and Discover.

Fans old enough to remember the 1980s might remember the fans wearing plastic pig noses, or even entire pig masks, in honor of the offensive line "Hogs." I don't know if they sell those. Nor do I know if they sell Indian headdresses, in keeping with the Redskin image, as many fans have been known to do.

I am seriously hoping the Hall of Fame Store, and any other stores at RFK Stadium, do not sell the "Hogettes" outfits. These were big fat guys who wore dresses, ladies' hats, wigs, sunglasses and plastic pig snouts to games from 1983 until 2012, when they decided to retire the act. But they raised a lot of money for charity, and still do so -- just not in costume.
Being in the Nation's Capital (well, since 1997, sort of), there are plenty of books written about the Redskins, some of which may be available at the Hall of Fame Store. In 1996, Thom Loverro published The Washington Redskins: The Authorized History; he followed this in 2007 with Hail Victory: An Oral History of the Washington Redskins. (He's also written books about the nearby Baltimore Orioles and the Negro Leagues.) David Elfin, the former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and Art Monk collaborated on Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History in 2011.

Historian Thomas G. Smith wrote Showdown: JFK and the Integration of the Washington Redskins, telling of how the 'Skins (in a situation dripping with irony) became the last team in America's top 3 sports to racially integrate. (I'm not counting hockey: Although every NHL team has had black players now, until the 1980s the game was dominated by Canadians, and there simply aren't very many black Canadians. But even the Boston Bruins, with Willie O'Ree in 1958, had integrated before the Redskins. The last team then in existence to integrate was the Montreal Canadiens, with Steven Fletcher in 1988 -- although there wasn't any outcry, the way there was in baseball and football.)

Since the District of Columbia Stadium (later to be renamed for the President's brother) was on land owned by the federal government, President John F. Kennedy had the man with jurisdiction, Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall (father of one recent U.S. Senator and uncle of another) tell Redskins owner George Preston Marshall that if he wanted the stadium, he had to integrate, or else he'd be stuck in the Senators' old Griffith Stadium with its 35,000 seats. Marshall relented, and traded for Cleveland Browns running back Bobby Mitchell, who was moved to receiver and was fully embraced by Washington fans.

In 2008, the NFL released the DVD NFL: History of the Washington Redskins. They've also released NFL's Greatest Rivalries: Washington vs. Dallas, and NFL: Washington Redskins -- 3 Greatest Games, containing their 3 Super Bowl wins (1982-83/XVII, 1987-88/XXII, and 1991-92/XXVI).

During the Game. A recent Thrillist article had the Redskins 10th on a list of the NFL's most obnoxious fans. (The Giants were 8th, the Jets 4th.) In spite of this, you do not need to fear wearing your Giant gear to FedExField. Despite the boisterousness of Redskin fans, you are not Cowboy fans. They won't start anything, so if you don't, you will be safe.

The Redskins are 1 of only 3 NFL teams with an official marching band. The band will play the National Anthem, usually in support of a singer chosen from auditions. Since 1938, they have played "Hail to the Redskins" after every score and every win. Why a band and a fight song? Founding team owner George Preston Marshall (a visionary but also an unrepentant bigot) knew, in those early days, that college football was more popular. So, since D.C. didn't have a major college team (the University of Maryland is inside the Beltway, but there wasn't any Beltway until 1961), he wanted to give the city the college football experience.
It worked: Redskin games have nearly always been well-attended, even when the team was bad. (Although, even in the RFK days, there were a lot of guys there to impress others. You know: Businessmen, lobbyists, lawyers, politicians... ) While the chorus includes the words "Braves on the warpath," the verses have been altered over the years to make the song less offensive (i.e., "Scalp 'em" became "Beat 'em").

Although, in a great irony, Griffith Stadium, the Redskins' 1st home in D.C., was just off a college campus -- but it's that of Howard University, the mostly-black school known as the Black Harvard. I'm guessing Marshall wasn't happy about that. In fact, Howard's hospital is now on the site of the stadium.

Today, the band is integrated by both race and gender, which would no doubt cause Marshall's eyes to bug out. Although the lyrics to "Hail to the Redskins" were written by his wife, actress Corinne Griffith. (Despite the name, she was not related to Washington Senators owner and stadium namesake Clark Griffith, or Clark's nephew and successor as Senators owner, Calvin Griffith, who moved the team to Minnesota mainly because D.C. had become a majority-black city, and he was even more overtly racist than Marshall.)

Oddly, the song is the source of the Redskins-Cowboys rivalry. In 1959, when Marshall, whose vote carried a lot of weight with the other NFL owners, refused to allow a Dallas team in the NFL -- which would end his team's status as the southernmost in the league, thus breaking into the biggest source of his income, Southern radio and TV rights to NFL games -- Clint Murchison, the leader of the group trying to get the Cowboys in, bought the rights to the fight song, and told Marshall that if he didn't want to pay through the nose to use the song, he had to back the Cowboys' entry. Marshall did so, and Murchison sold him the rights to the song.

The Redskins do not have an official mascot. But they did have Zema Williams, a.k.a. Chief Zee. He's been coming to Redskin games in an Indian-themed costume since 1978, and went to all 4 Super Bowls in the Joe Gibbs era -- not an easy feat considering they were in Pasadena, Tampa, San Diego and Minneapolis, all far from Washington. He also did local car ads.
Being interviewed for the NFL Network

He missed 2 Washington home games in 36 years: In 1981, when his father died; and in 2007, when, in a class act, he paid tribute to the best-known fan of the arch-enemy, the Dallas Cowboys. Wilford Jones, a.k.a. Crazy Ray, had been dressing up in a Wild West outfit in Cowboys colors from 1963 to 2006, and he and Zee had gone to every Redskins-Cowboys game -- in D.C, Landover and Irving -- for many years, and become good friends in spite of their opposition. The "mascot" version of "honor among thieves," I suppose. For the Cowboys' 2007 home opener, in full costume, Zee escorted Jones' widow onto the field at Texas Stadium, and they got a standing ovation, including from people who normally can't stand the Redskins.

During a 1983 visit to Veterans Stadium, the Redskins beat the Philadelphia Eagles, and angry Eagle fans took their frustrations out on him: He was beaten up, his leg was broken, and his original costume was ruined. But he still goes up to Philadelphia, and has been left alone since. Nor to Giants or Cowboys fans give him a hard time.

Chief Zee died on July 19, 2016, a few days after his 75th birthday.

After the Game. If you're looking for a postgame meal (or even just a pint), you'll have trouble finding it nearby, as the stadium is an island in a sea of parking. However, with this game being a 1:00 start, it will probably end by 4:30, so you could go down Arena Drive, and across the Beltway to the mall (The Boulevard at Capital Centre).

The bar 51st State is a known hangout for Yankees, Mets, Giants, Jets, Knicks and Rangers fans. (No mention of the Nets, Islanders or Devils, though.) 2512 L St. NW at Pennsylvania Avenue. Metro: Blue or Orange to Foggy Bottom. Nanny O'Brien's is also said to be a Giants fan bar. 3319 Connecticut Ave NW. Metro: Red to Cleveland Park.

If you visit D.C. during the European soccer season, which we are currently in the 2 best "football pubs" in town are Lucky Bar, at 1221 Connecticut Ave. NW (Red Line to Farragut North); and Fado Irish Pub, 808 7th Street NW., in Chinatown, a block from the Verizon Center (Red, Yellow or Green Line to Gallery Place).

Sidelights. Washington's sports history is long, but not good. The Redskins haven't won a World Championship in 24 seasons; the Bullets/Wizards, 37 seasons; all of its baseball teams combined, 92 years (yes, ninety-two); the Capitals, never in their 42-season history. Indeed, no D.C. area team has even been to its sport's finals since the Caps made it 18 seasons ago. But, if you have the time, these sites are worth checking:

* Site of Griffith Stadium. There were 2 ballparks on this site. Boundary Park was built in 1892 and burned down in 1911, within weeks of New York's Polo Grounds. Just as the Polo Grounds was rebuilt on the same site, the Senators rebuilt their home exactly where it was. Originally called League Park and National Park (no S on the end) before former pitching star Clark Griffith bought the team, this stadium was home to the old Senators from 1911 to 1960, and the new Senators only in 1961.

The Redskins played there from 1937 to 1960, and won the NFL Championship there in 1937 and 1942, although only the '42 title game was played there. There was another NFL title game played there, in 1940, but the Redskins were beaten by the Chicago Bears – 73-0. (Nope, that's not a typo: Seventy-three to nothing. Most points by one team in one game in NFL history, slightly ahead of the 'Skins' 72-41 victory over the Giants at RFK in 1966.)
A pro football team called the Washington Senators played there from 1921 until 1941 (when the manpower shortage of World War II forced them out of business), but only in that 1st season, 1921, did they play in the NFL.

While the Senators did win 3 Pennants and the 1924 World Series while playing at Griffith, it was not a good home for them. The fences were too far back for almost anyone to homer there, and they hardly ever had the pitching, either (except for Walter Johnson). In 1953, Mickey Mantle hit a home run there that was measured at 565 feet – though it probably shouldn't count as such, because witnesses said it glanced off the football scoreboard at the back of the left-field bleachers, which would still give the shot an impressive distance of about 460 feet.

The Negro Leagues' Homestead Grays also played a lot of home games at Griffith, although they divided their "home games" between Washington and Pittsburgh. Think of the Grays as the original Harlem Globetrotters, who called themselves "Harlem" to identify themselves as a black team even though their original home base was Chicago (and later moved their offices to Los Angeles, and are now based in Phoenix). It's also worth noting that the University of Maryland played its home football games at Griffith in 1948 and 1949.

By the time Clark Griffith died in 1955, passing the team to his nephew and adopted son Calvin, the area around Griffith Stadium had become nearly all-black. While Clark, despite having grown up in segregated Missouri during the 19th Century, followed Branch Rickey's path and integrated his team sooner than most (in particular going for Cubans, white and black alike), Calvin was a bigot who wanted to move the team to mostly-white Minnesota. When the new stadium was built, it was too late to save the original team, and the "New Senators" were born.

Griffith Stadium was demolished in 1965, and, as I said earlier, Howard University Hospital is there now. 2041 Georgia Avenue NW at V Street. Green Line to Shaw-Howard University Station, 3 blocks up 7th Street, which becomes Georgia Avenue when you cross Florida Avenue.

* Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium. Originally named District of Columbia Stadium (or "D.C. Stadium"), the Redskins played there from 1961 to 1996. The new Senators opened there in 1962, and President John F. Kennedy threw out the first ball at the stadium that would be renamed for his brother and Attorney General in 1969. (There was a JFK Stadium in Philadelphia, formerly Municipal Stadium, where the new arena, the Wells Fargo Center, now stands.)
The new Senators played at RFK Stadium until 1971, and at the last game, against the Yankees, the Senators were up 7-5 with one out to go, when angry fans stormed the field, and the game was forfeited to the Yankees. The 'Skins moved to their new suburban stadium in 1997, after closing the '96 campaign without the Playoffs, but the final regular-season game was a thrashing of the hated Cowboys, with over 100 Redskin greats in attendance.
The Nats played the 2005, '06 and '07 seasons at RFK. D.C. United, once the most successful franchise in Major League Soccer, have played there since MLS was founded in 1996, winning the league title, the MLS Cup, 4 times, including 3 of the 1st 4. The MLS Cup Final was played there in 1997 (DCU over the Colorado Rapids), 2000 (the team now known as Sporting Kansas City over the Chicago Fire) and 2007 (the Houston Dynamo over the New England Revolution). Previously, in the North American Soccer League, RFK was home to the Washington Whips, and the Washington Diplomats, featuring Dutch legend Johan Cruyff. And the Beatles played there on their final tour, on August 15, 1966.

DC/RFK Stadium was the first U.S. stadium specifically designed to host both baseball and football, and anything else willing to pay the rent. But I forgive it. It was a great football stadium, and it's not a bad soccer stadium, but for baseball, let's just say Nationals Park is a huge improvement. And what is with that whacked-out roof?

No stadium has hosted more games of the U.S. national soccer team than RFK: 23. (Next-closest is the Los Angeles Coliseum, with 20.) Their record there is 15 wins, 3 draws and 5 losses. So RFK is thus the closest America comes to having a "national stadium" like Wembley or the Azteca. The last match there was on September 4, 2015, a 2-1 win over Peru.

On June 2, 2013, I was in attendance at RFK Stadium for the 100th Anniversary match for the U.S. Soccer Federation. It was a 4-3 win over Germany, but this was not indicative of their true strength: They were operating at half-power because their players from Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund had so recently played the UEFA Champions League Final. Only 4 players who played in this game went on to play and win for Die Mannschaft in the 2014 World Cup Final: Centreback Per Mertesacker (of Arsenal), left back Benedikt Howedes, and forwards Miroslav Klose and Andre Schurrle (you can't be serious).

RFK hosted 5 games in the 1994 World Cup, 9 games of the 1996 Olympic soccer tournament (6 men's and 3 women's, with the main portion of the games being played in Atlanta), and 6 games of the 2003 Women's World Cup.

With the Nats and 'Skins gone, United are the only team still playing there, and plans for a new stadium for them, near Nationals Park, are moving slowly, so it will still be possible to see a sporting event at RFK Stadium for the next few years.

2400 East Capitol Street SE. Orange Line or Blue Line to Stadium-Armory. The D.C. Armory, headquarters of the District of Columbia National Guard, is that big brown arena-like thing across the parking lot.

* Nationals Park and new D.C. United stadium. The Nats' new home opened in 2008, at 1500 South Capitol Street at N Street. It's not flashy, but it looks nice. The plan for a new D.C. United stadium is for one at Buzzard Point, on land bounded by R, 2nd, T & Half Streets SW, 3 blocks from Nationals Park. The land has finally been acquired, but not yet cleared, and construction may not begin until the spring. For the moment, the plan is for DCU to begin play there in March of 2018, meaning 2 more seasons at RFK.

Prince Georges County had a proposal for a new stadium near FedExField, and Baltimore offered to build one, leading fans of DCU's arch-rivals, the New York Red Bulls, to mock the club as "Baltimore United." But the Buzzard Point stadium is now almost certain to happen.

* Uline Arena/Washington Coliseum. This building was home to the District's 1st NBA team, the Washington Capitols, from 1946 to 1951. They reached the 1949 NBA Finals, losing to the Minneapolis Lakers of George Mikan, and were the first pro team coached by Red Auerbach. Firing him was perhaps the dumbest coaching change in NBA history: By the time Red coached the Boston Celtics to their 1st NBA title in 1957, the Capitols had been out of business for 6 years.

The Coliseum was last used for sports in 1970 by the Washington Caps (not "Capitols," not "Capitals," just "Caps")of the ABA. It was the site of the first Beatles concert in the U.S. (aside from their appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show 2 nights before), on February 11, 1964.

It still stands, and its interior and grounds are used as a parking lot, particularly for people using nearby Union Station. Unfortunately, it's in a rotten neighborhood, and I wouldn't recommend visiting at night. In fact, unless you're a student of NBA history or a Beatlemaniac, I'd say don't go at all. 1140 3rd Street NE, at M Street. Red Line to Union Station, and then it's a bit of a walk.

* Site of Capital Centre. From 1973 to 1997, this was the home of the NBA's Washington Bullets, who became the Wizards when they moved downtown. From 1974 to 1997, it was the home of the NHL's Washington Capitals. The Bullets played in the 1975, '78 and '79 NBA Finals there, although they've only won in 1978 and clinched that at the Seattle Kingdome.

The Cap Centre was also the home for Georgetown University basketball, in its glory years of Coach John Thompson (father of the current coach, John Thompson III), Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo and Allen Iverson. Remember those 1980s battles with the St. John's teams of Louie Carnesecca, Chris Mullin and Walter Berry?

Elvis Presley sang there on June 27, 1976 and on May 22 and 29, 1977. (He never gave a concert in the District.) It was demolished in 2002, and a shopping mall, The Boulevard at the Capital Centre, was built on the site. 1 Harry S Truman Drive, Landover, Prince George's County, Maryland, just outside the Capital Beltway. Blue Line to Largo Town Center station.

* Verizon Center. Opened in 1997 as the MCI Center, the NBA's Wizards, the NHL's Capitals, the WNBA's Washington Mystics, and the Georgetown basketball team have played here ever since. The NCAA held its hockey Final Four, the Frozen Four, here in 2009. Only one Finals has been held here, the Caps' 1998 sweep at the hands of the Detroit Red Wings. (Georgetown has reached a Final Four since it opened, but those are held at neutral sites.) But it's a very good arena. 601 F Street NW, at 6th Street. Red, Green or Yellow Line to Gallery Place-Chinatown Station.

* Maryland SoccerPlex. The Washington Spirit of the National Women's Soccer League play here, at the main field, with a stadium with 4,000 seats. 18031 Central Park Circle, in Boyds, Montgomery County, Maryland, about 30 miles northwest of downtown D.C. You'd need the DC Metro and 2 buses to get there without a car.

* The Smithsonian Institution. Includes the National Museum of American History, which contains several sports-themed items. 1400 Constitution Avenue NW. Blue or Orange Line to Federal Triangle. (You could, of course, take the same lines to Smithsonian Station, but Fed Triangle is actually a shorter walk.)

If you're into looking up "real" TV locations, the Jeffersonian Institute on Bones is almost certainly based on the Smithsonian. The real NCIS headquarters used to be a short walk from Nationals Park, on Sicard Street between Patterson and Paulding Streets. Whether civilians will be allowed on the Navy Yard grounds, I don't know; I've never tried it. I don't want to get stopped by a guard. I also don't want to get "Gibbs-slapped" -- and neither do you. However, they have since moved to the Marine base at Quantico, Virginia, and that's a bit of a trek.

Of course, The West Wing was based at the White House, at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW. The best-known D.C.-based show that didn't directly deal with government officials was Murphy Brown. The FYI studio was said to be across the street from Phil's, whose address was given as 1195 15th St. NW. Neither the bar nor the address actually exists, but if the address did, it would be at 15th & M Streets. This would put it, rather conveniently, right down the block from 1150 15th Street, the headquarters of The Washington Post.

The University of Maryland, inside the Beltway at College Park, can be accessed by the Green Line to College Park and then a shuttle bus. (I tried that for the 2009 Rutgers-Maryland game, and it works very well.) Maryland Stadium (formerly Byrd Stadium) is one of the nation's best college football stadiums, but I wouldn't recommend sitting in the upper deck if you're afraid of heights: I think it's higher than Shea's was.

Across from the stadium is Cole Field House, where UMd played its basketball games from 1955 to 2002. The 1966 and 1970 NCAA Championship basketball games were played there, the 1966 one being significant because Texas Western (now Texas-El Paso) played an all-black starting five against Kentucky's all-white starters (including future Laker, Knick and Heat coach Pat Riley and Denver Nuggets star Dan Issel). In the 1970 Finals, it was UCLA over the University of Jacksonville.

Elvis sang there on September 27 and 28, 1974. The Terrapins won the National Championship in their final season at Cole, and moved to the adjacent Xfinity Center thereafter.

Remember that Final Four run by George Mason University? They're across the Potomac River in Fairfax, Virginia. Orange Line to Virginia Square-GMU.

The U.S. Naval Academy is 30 miles east in Annapolis, Maryland; the University of Virginia, 117 miles southwest in Charlottesville; and Virginia Tech, 270 miles southwest in Blacksburg. 

I also recommend visiting the capital's museums, including the Smithsonian complex, whose most popular buildings are the National Archives, hosting the originals of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution; and the National Air and Space Museum, which includes the Wright Brothers' Flyer, Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis, Chuck Yeager's Glamorous Glennis (the 1st plane to break the sound barrier), and several space capsules including Apollo 11. The Smithsonian also has an annex at Dulles International Airport out in Virginia, including a Concorde, the space shuttle Discovery, and the Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the 1st atomic bomb.

One of the 1960 Presidential Debates between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon was held in Washington -- still the only Presidential Debate held in the capital. On October 7, it was hosted not in a sports arena, a theater or a college auditorium, but in front of no live audience other than the panelists and the TV crew, at the studios of the NBC affiliate, WRC, Channel 4, 4001 Nebraska Avenue NW. Red Line to Tenleytown-AU.

In spite of what some movies have suggested, you won't see a lot of tall buildings in the District.  The Washington Monument is 555 feet high, but, other than that, no building is allowed to be taller than the Capitol. Exceptions were made for two churches, the Washington National Cathedral and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, and the Old Post Office Pavilion was built before the "unwritten law" went into effect. In contrast, there are a few office buildings taller than most D.C. buildings across the Potomac River in Arlington, Virginia, and in the neighboring Maryland cities of Silver Spring and New Carrollton.

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Have fun in the Nation's Capital. And enjoy Giants vs. Redskins, a rivalry now in its 85th season -- its 80th season in Washington.