Monday, February 27, 2017

State Political Scores

How "Blue" (Democratic) or "Red" (Republican) is a State, really?

I start with 1964, because that was the year of the Civil Rights Act, when the South began to turn. If a State went for the Democratic nominee that year, gets 1 point; in 1968, 2 points; and so on, up to 2016, 14 points.

The exceptions are when a Southern State went for a Southern Democrat, because we can safely presume that it wouldn't have gone for a non-Southerner: Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964, Jimmy Carter in 1976 and 1980, or Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996. In each of these cases, the State in question gets only half the credit it would ordinarily get. By 2000, Al Gore was not going to be treated as a "Southerner" by the South, and Hillary Clinton certainly wasn't.



50. Wyoming, 1: Nearly went Red for Barry Goldwater in 1964, did for Richard Nixon in 1968, and has stayed that way. Hillary's worst State. Also Barack Obama's.

49. Idaho, 1: Nearly went Red for Goldwater in 1964, did for Nixon in 1968, and has stayed that way.

48. Kansas, 1: Nearly went Red for Goldwater in 1964 (though not as closely as Idaho did), did for Nixon in 1968, and has stayed that way. 

47. Oklahoma, 1: Nearly went Red for Goldwater in 1964 (though not as closely as Idaho and Kansas did), did for Nixon in 1968, and has stayed that way.

46. North Dakota, 1: Went Red in 1968, and has stayed that way. Ranked ahead of the preceding because Obama and Hillary came closer to taking it.

45. South Dakota, 1: Went Red in 1968, and has stayed that way. Obama and Hillary came closer to taking it than they did North Dakota.

44. Utah, 1: Nearly went Red for Goldwater in 1964, did for Nixon in 1968, and has stayed that way. Ranked ahead of the preceding because Donald Trump only got 46 percent there in 2016, since homestater Evan McMullin got 21 percent, nearly relegating Hillary's 28 percent to 3rd. It was the 1 State where Bill Clinton finished 3rd in 1992, as he got 24 percent to 43 percent for George H.W. Bush and 27 percent for Ross Perot.

43. Alaska, 1: Went Red in 1968, and has stayed that way. Not so much conservative as Libertarian: They legalized recreational marijuana, which is why I've ranked it ahead of the other 1-pointers.

42. Alabama, 2: Went Red for Goldwater in 1964, and has since gone Blue only for Carter in 1976, but not 1980.

41. Mississippi, 2: Went Red for Goldwater in 1964, and has since gone Blue only for Carter in 1976, but not 1980. Ranked ahead of Alabama because Obama and Hillary have come slightly closer to taking it.

40. Texas, 2: Went Red for Goldwater in 1964, and has since gone Blue only for Carter in 1976, but not 1980. Ranked ahead of Mississippi because Obama and Hillary have come slightly closer to taking it.

39. South Carolina, 2: Went Red for Goldwater in 1964, and has since gone Blue only for Carter in 1976, but not 1980. Ranked ahead of Texas because Obama and Hillary have come slightly closer to taking it.

38. Nebraska, 5: Nearly went Red for Goldwater in 1964, did for Nixon in 1968, and has stayed that way, except for, in a split-district setup which only they and Maine have, 1 of its 3 House Districts, and therefore 1 of its 5 Electoral Votes, went for Obama in 2008 (so it gets only 1/3rd-credit for that year's election).

37. Georgia, 8.5: Went Red for Goldwater in 1964, was the only Southern State Carter won both times, won by Bill Clinton in 1992, but went Red for Bob Dole in 1996 and has stayed that way.

36. Arizona, 9: Goldwater just barely won his home State in 1964. Other than that LBJ victory, Bill Clinton's win there in 1996 is the only time it's gone Blue since Harry Truman in 1948.

35. Missouri, 9.5: Blue for LBJ in 1964, Carter in 1976, and Bill Clinton both times. Red all the other times. In other words, from 1964 onward, it has only gone Blue for Southerners. So I'm going to treat it as a Southern State, and cut its total in half, from 19 to 9.5.

34. Arkansas, 10.5: Went Red in 1964, and has since gone Blue only for Carter in 1976 (but not 1980) and homestater Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996.

33. Louisiana, 10.5: Went Red for Goldwater in 1964, and has stayed since except for Carter in 1976 (but not 1980) and Bill Clinton both times. Ranked ahead of Arkansas because it's not Bill's home State.

32. Tennessee, 11: Went Red for Nixon in 1968, and has since gone Blue only for Carter in 1976 (but not 1980), and Bill Clinton both times (but not for his Vice President, Gore, in 2000).

31. Kentucky, 11: Went Red for Nixon in 1968, turned Blue for Carter in 1976 (but not 1980), turned Blue for Bill Clinton both times, but not since. Obama and Hillary came closer to taking it than to taking Tennessee.

30. Indiana, 13: Nearly went Red for Goldwater in 1964, did for Nixon in 1968, and has stayed that way except for Obama in 2008 (but not 2012).

29. North Carolina, 14.5: Went Red for Nixon in 1968, has since gone Blue only for Carter in 1976 (but not 1980) and Obama in 2008 (but not 2012).

28. Montana, 18: Went Red for Nixon in 1968, turned Blue for Carter in 1976 (but not 1980), turned Blue for Bill Clinton both times, but not since.

27. West Virginia, 20: Except for Nixon in 1972 and Ronald Reagan in 1984 -- Carter won it in 1976 and Mike Dukakis did so in 1988 -- stayed Blue through 1996, acting more like a Northeastern State. But after the NRA told them that Gore was coming for their guns in 2000 campaign ads, it's acted more like a Southern State since, becoming among the bloodiest of Red States.

26. Florida, 32: Went Red for Nixon in 1968, Blue for Carter in 1976, back Red for Reagan in 1980, Blue for Bill Clinton in 1996 (but not 1992), the flashpoint in 2000, Blue for Obama in 2008, back Red in 2016.

25. Virginia, 39.5: Went Red for Nixon in 1968, stayed Red until Obama in 2008 (it was the 1 former Confederate State that Carter did not win in 1976), has stayed Blue since.

24. Ohio, 47: Went Red for Nixon in 1968, stayed Red except for Carter in 1976, until 1992, going Blue for Bill Clinton both times, went Red for Dubya both times, went Blue for Obama both times, went Red for Trump in 2016.

23. Colorado, 48: Went Red in 1968, Bill Clinton turned it Blue in 1992 but not 1996, and Obama turned it Blue again in 2008.

22. Nevada, 57: Went Red for Nixon in 1968, stayed that way except for Bill Clinton both times, until turning Blue for Obama in 2008, and has stayed that way.

21. Iowa, 60: Went Red for Nixon in 1968, stayed Red until going Blue for Dukakis in 1988, stayed Blue until going Red for Dubya in 2004, went Blue for Obama both times, went Red for Trump.

20. Michigan, 66: Turned Red for Nixon in 1972 (but not 1968), stayed Red until turning Blue for Bill Clinton in 1992, stayed Blue until turning Red for Trump in 2016.

19. New Mexico, 67: Turned Red for Nixon in 1968, Blue for Bill Clinton in 1992, Red for Dubya in 2004, and has stayed Blue since Obama in 2008.

18. New Hampshire, 68: Blue for LBJ in 1964, Bill Clinton both times, and ever since John Kerry in 2004. Red for Nixon both times, Gerald Ford in 1976, Reagan both times, Daddy Bush in 1988 (but not 1992), and Dubya in 2000 (but not 2004).

17. Pennsylvania, 70: Turned Red for Nixon in 1972 (but not 1968), Blue again for Carter in 1976, turned Red for Reagan in 1980, stayed Red until turning Blue for Bill Clinton in 1992, stayed Blue until turning Red for Trump in 2016.

16. Maine, 73: Turned Red for Nixon in 1972, stayed Red until turning Blue for Bill Clinton in 1992, and has stayed that way, except for, in a split-district setup which only they and Nebraska have, 1 of its 2 House Districts, and therefore 1 of its 4 Electoral Votes, went for Trump in 2016 (so it gets only half-credit for last year's election).

15. Wisconsin, 75: Went Red for Nixon both times, Reagan both times, and Trump in 2016, but that's it.

14. California, 78: Went Red for homestater Nixon in 1968, and didn't go Blue again until Bill Clinton in 1992, but has every time since.

13. Illinois, 78: Went Red for Nixon in 1968, stayed that way until Bill Clinton in 1992, and has stayed Blue since. Ranked ahead of California because of fewer homestaters (Obama's 2 and, sort-of, Hillary Clinton's 1 vs. 2 each for Nixon and Reagan).

12. Vermont, 78: Went Red for Nixon in 1968, stayed Red until turning Blue for Bill Clinton in 1992, has stayed Blue since. Ranked ahead of Illinois because no homestaters.

11. New Jersey, 78: Went Red for Nixon in 1968, stayed Red until turning Blue for Bill Clinton in 1992, has been Blue since. Ranked ahead of Vermont because it's my home State.

10. Connecticut, 80: Went Red for Nixon in 1972, didn't turn Blue again until Bill Clinton in 1992, but has stayed that way.

9. Delaware, 82: Went Red for Nixon both times, Reagan both times, and Daddy Bush in 1988, otherwise solid Blue.

8. Oregon, 85: Went Red for Nixon in 1968, turned Blue for Dukakis in 1988, has stayed Blue since.

7. New York, 91: Has gone Blue every time except for Nixon in 1972 and Reagan in 1980 and 1984.

6. Maryland, 92: Has gone Blue every time except for Nixon in 1972, Reagan in 1984 and Daddy Bush in 1988.

5. Washington, 93: Hasn't gone Red since Reagan in 1984.

4. Hawaii, 96: Since gaining Statehood in 1959, has gone Blue every time except for Nixon in 1972 and Reagan in 1984, the 2 49-State landslides.

3. Rhode Island, 96: Has gone Blue every time except for Nixon in 1972 and Reagan in 1984, the 2 49-State landslides.

2. Massachusetts, 99: Has gone Blue every time except for Walter Mondale over Reagan in 1984, the only State not to do so that year.

1. Minnesota, 102: Has gone Blue every time except for George McGovern over Nixon in 1972, the only State not to do so that year.

--. District of Columbia, 105: Since getting to vote for President for the 1st time in 1964, its mostly-black permanent residents have gone Blue every time. But it's not ranked, because, of course, it's not a State.

*

But ever since the screwed-up election of 2000 created the terms "Blue State" and "Red State," we get a different picture. The influences of Presidents before George W. Bush no longer apply. So let's judge them only from 2000 onward, and we will see their "true colors":

50. Wyoming, 0.
49. Idaho, 0.
48. Kansas, 0.
47. Oklahoma, 0.
46. West Virginia, 0. It's Shotgunistan now.
45. Arkansas, 0, with Bill Clinton's influence gone.
44. Louisiana, 0, Hurricane Katrina scattering the black vote hurt a lot.
43. Tennessee, 0, Gore came close in 2000 but it's slid back since.
42. Alaska, 0 but there's the slightest of hope.
41. North Dakota, 0 but there's slight hope.
40. South Dakota, 0 but there's slight hope.
39. Utah, 0 but there's slight hope.
38. Alabama, 0 but there's slight hope.
37. Mississippi, 0 but there's slight hope.
36. Kentucky, 0 but there's slight hope.
35. Texas, 0 but there's some hope.
34. South Carolina, 0 but there's some hope.
33. Georgia, 0 but there's some hope.
32. Montana, 0 but Obama nearly won it in 2008, so there's hope.
31. Arizona, 0 but Obama nearly won it in 2008, so there's hope.
30. Missouri, 0 but nearly won by Gore in 2000 and Obama in 2008.
29. Nebraska, 1 for that 1 EV in 2008. Less hope for the State overall.
28. Indiana, 3. Obama won it in 2008.
27. North Carolina, 3. Obama almost won it both times.
26. Florida, 7. It should have been 8, but Dubya stole it in 2000.
25. Ohio, 7. It should have been 9, but Dubya may have stolen it in 2004.
24. Iowa, 8.
23. Pennsylvania, 10. Hacked by the Russians in 2016?
22. Michigan, 10. Hacked by the Russians in 2016?
21. Wisconsin, 10. Hacked by the Russians in 2016?
20. Nevada, 12.
19. Virginia, 12.
18. Colorado, 12.
17. Maine, 12.5 due to the split-vote of 2016.
16. New Hampshire, 13.
15. New Mexico, 13.
14. Massachusetts, 15. Elected a Republican Governor in 2006 and 2014.
13. New Jersey, 15. Elected a Republican Governor in 2009 and 2013.
12. California, 15. Elected a Republican Governor in 2003 and 2006.
11. Minnesota, 15. Elected a Republican Governor in 2002 and 2006.
10. Maryland, 15. Elected a Republican Governor in 2014.
9. Illinois, 15. Elected a Republican Governor in 2014.
8. Vermont, 15. Elected a Republican Governor in 2016. Thanks, Bernie Sanders.
7. Connecticut, 15. Elected a Republican Governor in 2006.
6. Rhode Island, 15. Elected a Republican Governor in 2006 and an Independent in 2010.
5. Hawaii, 15. Elected a Republican Governor in 2002.
4. New York, 15. Elected a Republican Governor in 2002.
3. Oregon, 15. Elected a Republican Seantor in 2002.
2. Delaware, 15. Elected a Republican Senator in 1994.
1. Washington, 15. Elected a Republican Senator in 1994.

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

Next Monday, the Brooklyn Nets will visit Memphis to play the Grizzlies. The New York Knicks will do the same on April 7. This is the 30th and last NBA Trip Guide I will need to do for the 2016-17 season.

Before You Go. Memphis is in the South. Not the Deep South, but the Mid-South. In fact, their old arena was named the Mid-South Coliseum. However, Tennessee rejoined the Union a long time ago, and you won't need to bring a passport or change your money.

If you were going to a baseball game, or an early-season football game, the heat might be an issue. But this will be in early March, so even outside the arena, heat won't be a factor. What will be a factor is rain: The website of Memphis' main newspaper, The Commercial Appeal, is predicting rain. As for temperatures, they're talking mid-60s for daylight and low 40s for night.

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

Tickets. The Grizzlies are averaging 16,395 fans per home game this season, just over 90 percent of capacity, a little low considering that they're the only major league sports team in town. Tickets could well be available.

Seats in the lower level, the 100 sections, go for $115 between the baskets and $65 behind them. Seats in the upper level, the 200 sections, go for $55 and $45.

Getting There. It's 1,100 miles from Midtown Manhattan to Memphis. So your first instinct would be to fly. This looks like a good idea, since a round-trip flight could cost just $570 on American Airlines. The downside: Changing planes in Charlotte. United Airlines can get you there nonstop, but a round-trip flight costs $933. Memphis International Airport is 10 miles south of downtown, and the Number 20 bus can get you to downtown in under 40 minutes.

Greyhound can get you from New York to Memphis in a little under 30 hours, for $389 round-trip, $306 with advanced purchase, although you'd have to change buses in Richmond. The Greyhound station is at 203 Union Avenue.

Amtrak is a bit more complicated: There's no direct route from New York. You'd have to take the Lake Shore Limited out of Penn Station at 3:40 PM this afternoon, arrive in Chicago at 9:45 AM, stay over there until 8:05 PM, and take the City of New Orleans (the current version replaces the Illinois Central Railroad's Panama Limited "Night Train," instead of the old version made famous by the Steve Goodman/Arlo Guthrie song), arriving in Memphis at 6:27 AM on the morning of the game. And, according to Amtrak's website, this offer isn't available anyway. So the train, on this occasion, is out. At any rate, the address for Memphis Central Station is 545 S. Main Street.

If you do drive, it's far enough that you should get someone to go with you, to trade off, especially if one can sleep while the other drives. Get into New Jersey, take Interstate 78 West into Pennsylvania. At Harrisburg, get on Interstate 81 South, and take that down through Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia, into Tennessee, where it flows into Interstate 40 West. Take that all the way across Tennessee. Exit 1 is for downtown.

If all goes well, you should spend a little over an hour in New Jersey, 2 hours and 45 minutes in Pennsylvania, 15 minutes in Maryland, half an hour in West Virginia, 6 and a half hours in Virginia, and 8 hours and 15 minutes in Tennessee, for a total of 19 hours and 15 minutes. Given rest stops in Pennsylvania, one at each end of Virginia, and 3 in Tennessee, and we're talking about a trip of at least 26 hours -- each way.

Once In the City. Founded in 1819, and named for the ancient capital city of Egypt, Memphis is in the southwestern corner of Tennessee, across the Mississippi River from Arkansas. Downtown is 13 miles from the Mississippi State Line. So, like New York, it has a "Tri-State Area." These States led to one of the names of its ABA team, the Tams: TAM, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi.

Memphis is the largest city in Tennessee, with over 650,000 people, and a metropolitan area of over 1.3 million. That sounds like a lot, but it's actually the 3rd-smallest market in the NBA, ahead of only Oklahoma City and Salt Lake City. It would be easily the smallest in MLB, the smallest in the NFL except for Buffalo, and would rank ahead of only 4 NHL cities, all of them in Canada: Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg.

The sales tax in Tennessee is 7 percent, and within Shelby County, including Memphis, 9.25 percent, even higher than New York's. ZIP Codes for Memphis start with the digits 380 to 383. The Area Code is 901.

Address numbers on east-west streets increase away from the River, and Madison Avenue separates north from south. The Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA) runs buses and light-rail "trolleys," with a base fare of $1.75, plus 80 cents for each additional zone.
Going In. Federal Express was founded in Memphis, and aside from music companies is the corporation most associated with the city, which has certainly been helped by having bought the naming rights to the main sports arena. The official address of the FedEx Forum is 191 Beale Street, at S. 4th Street.

If you're driving, parking is to the southwest of the arena, at B.B. King Blvd. and Dr. Martin Luther King Avenue, and can be had for as little as $10.  If you're walking in from a downtown hotel, you'll most likely be going in from the north or the west.
The arena opened in 2004, and has been home to the Grizzlies and the University of Memphis (formerly Memphis State University) Tigers basketball team ever since. The Nashville Predators hosted a preseason game there in 2006, and it hosts concerts, boxing and wrestling. The court is laid out east-to-west.
Food. Memphis has a reputation as a city of fine Southern food, particularly barbecue. However, the Grizzlies' focus seems to be on Club Level restaurants, for the well-heeled customer: The Horseshoe Lounge, the Bud Light Bar, the Draft Room and the Blue Note Lounge. You may well be better off eating before and after the game.

Team History Displays. The Vancouver Grizzlies began as an NBA expansion team in 1995 -- only the Charlotte Bobcats/new Hornets are a newer team -- and moved to Memphis in 2001, not making the Playoffs until 2004.

So there isn't much history there. They've never won a title even at the Division level (although they've finished 2nd in 4 out of the last 5 seasons, and won a Playoff series in 3 of the last 6), have no banners for such titles, don't hang a banner for their 1 visit to the Western Conference Finals (in 2013, where they got swept by San Antonio), have no retired numbers, and only 2 people associated with the team have been elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame: Hubie Brown, former Knicks head coach, who held the same post with the Grizzlies from 2002 to 2005; and Allen Iverson, who briefly played for them in 2009.

The only banners in the arena belong to the University of Memphis basketball team, winning the old Metro Conference in 1982, '84, '85 and '87; winning Conference USA in 2006, '07, '08, '09, '11, '12 and '13; and reaching the NCAA Final Four in 1973, '85 and 2008. However, their 1985 Final Four berth and their 2008 C-USA title and Final Four berth were vacated by NCAA sanctions.

The Memphis Tigers also have 9 retired numbers: From the 1950s, 13, Forest Arnold, and 22, Win Wilfong; from the 1970s, 21, Larry Finch, 33, Ronnie Robinson, 35, Larry Kenon, and 44, John Gunn; from the 1980s, 24, Keith Lee, and 34, Elliott Perry; and from the 1990s, 25, Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway.

Not mentioned in the rafters is the American Basketball Association team known as the Memphis Pros in 1970-71 and 1971-72, the Memphis Tams (For the 3 States in the Memphis metro area: Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi) in 1972-73 and 1973-74, and the Memphis Sounds in 1974-75. They made the Playoffs only in their first and last seasons, and their stars included future New York Nets stars Wendell Ladner and Larry Kenon, future broadcaster Steve "Snapper" Jones, and Darel Carrier, who was named to the ABA All-Time Team (but mainly for what he'd done with the Louisville-based Kentucky Colonels).

Stuff. The Grizzlies Den is located in the arena's Grand Lobby. Whether they sell hats with bear ears on them, I don't know. Smaller souvenir stands are located all around the arena.

As one of the NBA's newer teams, there are no NBA Finals DVD packages for the Grizzlies, and books about them are few and far between.

During the Game. Memphis people don't like Nashville people. That's about as far as rivalries go there. So as long as you don't make any wiseguy remarks about this being a North vs. South game, you shouldn't face anything beyond the usual nonviolent "My team rocks, your team sucks" talk.

A November 13, 2014 article on DailyRotoHelp ranked the NBA teams' fan bases, and listed the Grizzlies' fans as 22nd. The team has only been around for 16 years, and has reached the Conference Finals exactly once. Their number of Hall of Fame players is exactly none. So there's been little about which for them to get excited about, or for which to generate any atmosphere.

The March 6 game against the Nets is not a promotional game. But the April 7 game against the Knicks is a Memphis Escape Rooms Mystery Game.

The Grizzlies' mascot is Grizz the Bear, and he won NBA Mascot of the Year in 2011. They don't have a regular National Anthem singer, instead holding auditions. As you might guess in a great music city like Memphis, the Grizzlies have been renowned for their in-game music. DJ Paul, with the town's "Bluff City" nickname in mind, recorded "We Don't Bluff (Memphis Grizzlies Theme)," while another rapper, calling himself Al Kapone, recorded "Whoop That Trick (Grizz Grindhouse Version)."
After the Game. If there was an NBA team in Nashville, Memphis fans wouldn't like them. But they're fine with pretty much everybody else, including their putative geographic rivals in Atlanta, New Orleans and Dallas. Knicks and Nets fans shouldn't get any hassling, as long as they didn't bring it on.

Beale Street, the "capital" of the blues, is not only home to the FedEx Forum but several places to go after the game, including The Hard Rock Cafe at 126, the Blues City Cafe at 138, B.B. King's at 143 (you may be familiar with the New York version on 42nd Street), Rum Boogie Cafe at 182, Silky O'Sullivan's at 183, Coyote Ugly at 326. But I can find no reference

I can find no notations of any bars where fans of New York sports teams are known to gather.

If your game in Memphis is during the European soccer season (which this one is), the likeliest place to watch your favorite club is The Brass Door, 152 Madison Avenue, downtown.

Sidelights. Memphis has its problems, including crime and racial resentments. But, in spite of having only an NBA team, never an MLB team, and never an NFL team except for 1 season, there's still plenty to see there, from the sacred to the gloriously profane.

* Memphis Pyramid. The first arena to lure a major league team to Memphis played on the theme of the origin of the city's name, designed in the shape of an Egyptian-style pyramid. The 20,142-seat arena opened in 1991, and its troubles began immediately: The arena flooded because of poorly-designed drainage.

The Memphis Tigers moved right in for the 1991-92 season, and the arena attracted the moving Vancouver Grizzlies in 2001. It also hosted the 2002 fight in which Lennox Lewis ended the legend of Mike Tyson.

But, even though it was designed with basketball in mind, they apparently hadn't lived up to the NBA's standards, and the Grizzlies only intended to use it as a stopgap arena. At the age of just 13, both the Grizzlies and the Tigers moved to the new FedEx Forum, and the Pyramid's future was in doubt.

This past April, Bass Pro Shops moved into a renovated Pyramid, and opened a megastore there. 1 Bass Pro Drive, at Front Street & Willis Avenue, a mile and a half north of downtown (so the location also wasn't very good). Number 20 bus from downtown.

* Memphis' sports complex. For many years, this location included the Mid-South Fairgrounds, a minor-league ballpark, a football stadium and a sports arena, with Christian Brothers University just to the north. The Fairgrounds and the ballpark are gone, and the arena is closed, but the stadium is still in operation.

Built in 1963 and seating 10,085 people, the Mid-South Coliseum was best known as the home of the city's American Basketball Association franchise, known as the Memphis Pros in their 1st season in town, 1971-72; the Memphis Tams after being bought by Oakland A's owner Charlie Finley, 1972-74; and the Memphis Sounds in their last season, 1974-75, after Finley sold them. They moved to Baltimore to become the Claws, but, still feeling the effects of Finley's mismanagement, folded before ever playing a game in Charm City. The closest they got to a title was 1975 East Division Finals.
Memphis never again got close to attracting an NBA team until after the Pyramid was built, which rendered the Coliseum pretty much obsolete, with half as many seats and no modern amenities.

The Beatles played 2 shows there on August 19, 1966, but the evening show was marred by a firecracker being thrown onstage, leading the bandmembers, concerned over threats due to John Lennon's controversial "We're more popular than Jesus" comment, to think it was a gunshot. (This was 2 years before Martin Luther King was killed in the city, but 3 years after John F. Kennedy was killed in Dallas, and the Beatles really didn't want to go to Dallas.)

Elvis sang at the Coliseum, on March 16 and 20, 1974 and March 20, 1976. In 1997, 20 years after his death, his old band and backup singers (nearly all of them still alive at that point) reunited for the first time at the Coliseum, and presented "Elvis In Concert," with them playing and singing in front of a huge screen showing him from performances such as the 1973 Hawaii concert and from the documentaries Elvis: That's the Way It Is (1970) and Elvis On Tour (1972). A 25th Anniversary show was done at the Pyramid in 2002, and, despite the deaths of some bandmembers, these shows continue to be put together.

The Mid-South Coliseum continued to hold concerts, and remained the South's premier pro wrestling venue (as it had been since the mid-1960s), until, operating at a loss of $1 million a year, it was closed in 2006, but it still stands.

Memphis has never had an NHL or a WHA team. The closest current NHL team is the Nashville Predators, 212 miles away, but the Memphis-Nashville rivalry may complicate rooting interests. The next-closest team is the St. Louis Blues, 283 miles away.

The Liberty Bowl game was played in Philadelphia from 1959 to 1963, and indoors at what's now Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City in 1964, before moving to the brand-new Memphis Memorial Stadium in 1965. The stadium was renamed Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in 1976.
Currently seating 59,308 people, with a slope down to small end-zone seating sections similar to what the old Tampa Stadium "Big Sombrero" had, it's hosted the University of Memphis football team since it opened. It's also briefly been home to several pro football teams: The Memphis Southmen of the World Football League in 1974 and '75, the Memphis Showboats of the USFL in 1984 and '85, the Memphis Mad Dogs of the CFL's ill-advised American experiment in 1995, and the Memphis Maniax of the XFL in 2001. It also hosted the Memphis Rogues of the old North American Soccer League in 1978, '79 and '80.

Most notably, when the Houston Oilers moved in 1996, they intended to play the 1997 and 1998 seasons at the Liberty Bowl, as the Tennessee Oilers, before moving to their new stadium in Nashville, 215 miles to the east, in 1999 as the Tennessee Titans.

But, despite having beaten Nashville to hosting regular-season NFL games, the people of Memphis were not willing to see a team they saw as both a lame duck and belonging to the despised Nashville, which inspired jealousy both as a State capital and as a competitor for the title of Music City, U.S.A. (a name Nashville actually calls itself). Despite going a respectable 8-8 (a fine 6-2 at home), they ended up getting the NFL's smallest crowds -- aside from the 1987 "Scab Bowls" -- since the 1950s. They averaged only 28,028 fans per home game, bottoming out at 17,071 for an October 12 win over Cincinnati. In contrast, they averaged 57,376 on the road. In other words, their road average would nearly have filled the Liberty Bowl, but their home average wouldn't have filled the Pyramid.

So team owner Bud Adams got the message, and figured, if he was going to get less than 40,000 fans to come out anyway, he might as well move to Nashville a year early, and put the team in Vanderbilt University's 41,000-seat stadium for a year until what's now named Nissan Stadium opened. 

American Legion Field opened in 1963, seating 8,800 people, and the new Memphis Blues minor-league baseball team moved in for the 1968 season, and the name was changed to Blues Stadium. The Blues moved out, and the park was dark for 1977, but in 1978 a new version of the Memphis Chicks moved in, and were replaced by the Memphis Redbirds in 1998.

Both the Blues and the Chicks were Class AA teams, while the Redbirds have been a Class AAA team since they arrived. The Blues won Texas League Pennants in 1969 and 1973, just like their parent club at the time did in the National League, the Mets. Those were the only Pennants won at this ballpark.

After the 1977 season, the name of the ballpark was changed to Tim McCarver Stadium, after the native son catcher, then still active. Wanting a more modern facility, the Redbirds opened a new park in 2000, and McCarver Stadium was demolished in 2005. So not only did McCarver have the oddity of having a sports facility named after him while he was not only still alive, but still playing, but, like actress Helen Hayes and the 1st Broadway theater named for her, he actually outlived (and is still outliving at this writing) the ballpark named for him! A park with youth fields is now on the site.
Real grass in the outfield, artificial turf in the infield.

The complex is 5 miles southeast of downtown. The address for the Coliseum is 996 Early Maxwell Blvd., and that of the Bowl is 335 S. Hollywood Street. McCarver Stadium was at Early Maxwell Blvd. and Raymond Skinner Drive. Number 2 or 5 bus.

* AutoZone Park. Seating 14,384 people, this is one of the largest ballparks in the minor leagues. The Memphis Redbirds, a St. Louis Cardinals farm team, have played here since 2000. It also hosted the 1st 2 MLB Civil Rights Games, in 2007 and '08.
As part of the powerful Cardinal system, the Redbirds have won Pennants here in 2000 and 2009, making 12 Pennants for Memphis minor-league teams. 200 Union Street at S. B.B. King Blvd. (formerly 3rd Street), downtown.

* Site of Russwood Park. Memphis' 1st professional ballpark was built in 1896, and, still made mostly of wood, burned down on April 17, 1960, mere hours after a preseason exhibition game between the Chicago White Sox and Cleveland Indians.
The Memphis Chickasaws (or Chicks for short) won Pennants in the Class AA Southern Association in 1903, 1904, 1921, 1924, 1930, 1933, 1953 and 1955. Elvis sang there on the 4th of July 1956, and it hosted professional wrestling crowds of up to 18,000.
The bleachers after the fire

A post office is now on the site, adjacent to the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. 910 Madison Avenue at Pauline Street, about a mile and a half east of downtown. Number 102 bus.

* Martin Park. The Negro Leagues' Memphis Red Sox had a benefactor, black businessman J.B. Martin, so they were one of the few black teams that had their own ballpark. They played at Martin Park from 1923 to 1943, surviving the Great Depression, but not the manpower shortage of World War II.

A hardware store is on the site now. 494 East E.H. Crump Blvd., about 2 miles south of downtown. Bus 4.

According to an April 2014 article in The New York Times, the Yankees are actually the most popular MLB team in Memphis and the immediate environs, while the closest team, the Cardinals (283 miles to the north) are right behind; but the further you get from central Memphis, the more the Cardinals are preferred.

According to an article in the September 2014 edition of The Atlantic, alone among Tennessee's Counties, Shelby County's favorite NFL team is not the closest team, the Nashville-based Tennessee Titans, 212 miles away, reflecting the anti-State capital bias, but the Dallas Cowboys. This is also true for the northwestern corner of Mississippi, close to Memphis, as the rest of the State sides with the New Orleans Saints. Arkansas, however, goes for the Cowboys almost in their entirety, except for the southernmost part, bordering Louisiana, where the Saints are preferred.

Don't count on Memphis ever getting an MLB team, or another NFL team in spite of the built-in rivalry with the Titans. Population-wise, they'd rank 31st in baseball; and 33rd in the NFL, in each case dead last, just as they are in the NBA (30th).

Memphis City FC began play this year, in the National Premier Soccer League, the 4th tier of American soccer. They play at the 2,500-seat Mike Rose Soccer Complex. 9000 E. Shelby Drive, 20 miles southeast of downtown. Public transit doesn't go there.
When Atlanta United takes the field for the start of the 2017 Major League Soccer season, they will be the closest MLS team to Memphis, 383 miles away. Until then, the closest will be Sporting Kansas City, 452 miles, slightly closer than FC Dallas, 454 miles.

* Museums. The FedEx Forum includes the Memphis Rock and Soul Museum. Beale Street, itself, is practically a living museum of music, especially the blues. The Sun Records studio, where Elvis, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins all became stars, has been turned into a museum. 706 Union Street at Marshall Avenue, at the eastern edge of downtown. Also in a former studio, and before that a movie theater, the Stax Museum of American Soul Music is at 910 East Mclemore Avenue, 2 miles southeast of downtown. Number 4 bus.

But Memphis', and perhaps the entire South's, most important museum is The National Civil Rights Museum. It was established at the former Lorraine Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King was shot and killed on April 4, 1968, while visiting Memphis to help striking black sanitation workers. 450 Mulberry Street, a couple of blocks from Memphis Central Station. Number 100 bus. The Mason Temple, where Dr. King gave his last speech -- "I may not get there with you, but I want you to know, tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land!" -- is at 930 Mason Street, a mile and a half south of downtown. Number 57 bus.

The 3 Presidents with connections to Tennessee are all well to the east of Memphis: Andrew Jackson and James Polk in Nashville, and Andrew Johnson in Greenville.

* Elvis sites. Memphis', and indeed Tennessee's, most famous structure isn't the FedEx Forum, or the Lorraine Motel, or Nashville's Ryman Auditorium/original Grand Ole Opry House, or the State House, or Andrew Jackson's Hermitage, or Neyland Stadium or the Thompson-Boling Center on the University of Tennessee campus in Knoxville. It's Elvis Presley's home, open to tours since his ex-wife and executor, Priscilla Presley, ordered it to fund the virtually bankrupt Elvis Presley Enterprises in 1982. (She had to wait until Elvis' father Vernon died, as he was still living there.)

Standing 8 miles south of downtown, a stone's throw from the airport and almost within walking distance of the Mississippi State Line, the name of the property was originally Graceland Farms. The site includes a house built in 1939, by Dr. Thomas Moore, whose wife Ruth was the niece of the farm's namesake, Grace Toof, who inherited it in 1894 from her father, Stephen C. Toof, who ran a commercial printing firm.

The Presley family's 1st home after Elvis got famous is at 1034 Audubon Avenue, but his fans soon visited in large enough numbers that it disturbed the neighbors. Elvis chose Graceland as his new home because it had enough land, nearly 14 acres, to isolate it from the street and its other houses, so his fans wouldn't bother the neighbors. He bought it in March 1957 for $102,500 (about $882,000 in today's money), and, over the next 20 years, sank over $500,000 into building it to his tastes. (Save your jokes.)

3764 Elvis Presley Blvd., which U.S. Route 51 south of downtown had already been named while he was still alive. Take any bus from downtown east to Madison Avenue, then the Number 42 bus. The trip takes a little under an hour. The house at 1034 Audubon is 9 miles southeast of downtown, but it's still a private residence, so don't bother anyone. Number 57 bus.

Elvis Aaron Presley died at Graceland on August 16, 1977 -- and anyone who says he's still alive is either referring to the legacy rather than the man, or is engaging in wishful thinking. (He'd be 83 years old, so he'd probably be dead by now anyway.) He was born on January 8, 1935, in Tupelo, Mississippi, a little over 100 miles to the southeast of Memphis. The city of Tupelo maintains the small house where he was born as a museum. 306 Elvis Presley Drive.

The Presley family first moved to Memphis in 1948. They lived in a rental house at 572 Poplar Avenue, now a vacant lot, just north of downtown. A year later, they moved to the Lauderdale Courts, essentially garden apartments, at 185 Winchester Avenue, Apartment 328. They stayed there until he got his big break in the Summer of 1954. Just north of downtown, near the bridge. Bus 56.

For a few months in late 1954 and early 1955, they rented a house at 2414 Lamar Avenue, on the southeast side of town. Again, Bus 56, but in the opposite direction. They spent early 1956 at another rental, a few blocks away (also via Bus 56) at 1414 Getwell Road. But he was on tour so much, he hardly saw this residence. By May 1956, it was Audubon Avenue; in March 1957, it was Graceland.

Aside from the preceding, Elvis sang in many places in and around Memphis. His first concerts, on July 17, 24 and 31, 1954, were at the Bon Air Club, at 4862 Summer Avenue. (Demolished. Bus 19) His first paid concert is said to have been at the Overton Park Shell (now the Levitt Shell) on July 30, 1954. He played it again on August 10, 1954 and August 5, 1955. 1928 Poplar Avenue. (Bus 50.)

He sang at the Eagle's Nest several times in 1954: August 7 and 27; September 4, 10, 11, 18, 24 and 25; October 1, 6, 9, 13, 15, 29 and 30; November 17 and December 10. Lamar Avenue (U.S. Route 78) and Winchester Road. (Demolished. Now a commercial area near the airport, hence the name. Bus 56 to 69)

He played the Goodwyn Institute on August 14, 1954. (127 Madison Avenue, downtown.) He played Bellevue Park on August 18, 1954. (Now Jesse Turner Park. 1310 S. Bellevue Blvd., or U.S. Route 51 -- which becomes Elvis Presley Blvd. Bus 56 to 42.) He played the VFW Club at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 684 on August 20, 1954. (3709 E. Raines Rd. Bus 36 to 7.) He played the Hippodrome on August 28, 1954. (500 Beale Street, downtown.) He played on a flatbed truck at the opening of the Lamar-Airways Shopping Center on September 9, 1954. The truck's not still there, but the shopping center is. 2268 Lamar Avenue (Route 78) at Park Avenue. (Bus 56.)

He played the James M. Kennedy Veterans Hospital on September 21, 1954. (Now the Memphis VA Medical Center. 1030 Jefferson Avenue, downtown.) He played Memphis State University's auditorium on November 3, 1954. (Now the Michael D. Rose Theatre Lecture Hall at the University of Memphis. 507 University Street. Bus 5.) He played the auditorium at Bethel Springs High School on January 31, 1955. (The school is now defunct, possibly also demolished, and I can't find an address for it.) He played the Chickasaw Ballroom at the Hotel Chisca on March 9, 1956. (272 S. Main Street, downtown.)

The Ellis Auditorium was the scene of Elvis' graduation ceremony from Humes High School in 1953, and many shows he attended as a fan. He performed there on November 13 and December 19, 1955; February 6 and May 15, 1956; and February 25, 1961 -- aside from a benefit for Pearl Harbor survivors in Hawaii the next month, his last shows until the taping of his "1968 Comeback Special." Built in 1926, it was demolished in 1997, and replaced by the Memphis Cook Convention Center. 255 N. Main Street at Exchange Avenue, downtown.

He also played across the river, in West Memphis, Arkansas, at a place called "P and G," on December 8, 1954. I can find no further information about it. This is one of many concerts he gave in Arkansas in his early days, but the rest were considerably farther from Memphis. West Memphis can be reached from downtown by taking the Main Street Trolley from Main at G.E. Patterson to the William Hudson Transit Center, then transferring to Bus 78, the West Memphis Express.

The tallest building in Memphis has little imagination to its name, and, like many other buildings of the 1960s and '70s (in this case, 1965), not much imagination to its style, either. It's named simply 100 North Main, for its address. It's 433 feet tall: Never mind New York City, there are currently 21 buildings in New Jersey that are taller.

Before his daughter Miley became famous, I once joked that Billy Ray Cyrus should revive his career by starring in CSI: Memphis. After My Name Is Earl (not set in Memphis) ran its course, Jason Lee played a cop on Memphis Beat.

Many music-themed movies have used Memphis as both a setting and a film location, including the Johnny Cash story Walk the Line, the Jerry Lee Lewis story Great Balls of Fire, and the pimp-turned-rapper film Hustle and Flow. John Grisham used Memphis as a setting for some of his novels, and The Client, The Firm and The Rainmaker have been filmed there.

*

Memphis is more than history and music, as important as those things are. It's also the home of an NBA team that, while not yet very successful, has developed quite a following, and is now another good reason to visit this legendary city.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

How to Be a Red Bulls Fan In Atlanta -- 2017 Edition

 
The expansion soccer team Atlanta United FC will play their 1st competitive match against my New York Red Bulls at Grant Field on the Georgia Tech campus, next Sunday, March 5, 2017, at 7:30 PM.

Before You Go. Being well south of New York, Atlanta is usually warmer than we are. It also gets rather humid. They don't call it "Hot-lanta" just for its nightlife. However, this being early March, heat and humidity shouldn't be an issue.

Check the website of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (used to be 2 papers, now 1) before you go. Temperatures are projected as being in the mid-60s on Sunday afternoon, and the low 50s at night. You might need a light jacket for the game, but not for most of the day.

Although Georgia, a.k.a. The Heart of the South, seceded from the Union in 1861, it was readmitted in 1870. You do not need a passport, and you don't need to change your U.S. dollars into Confederate money. And it's in the Eastern Time Zone, so you don't have to fiddle with your watch or your phone clock. Do keep in mind, though: They think you talk as funny as you think they do.

Tickets. The official capacity of Grant Field is 55,000, although this opener will probably be the only game for which the upper deck is opened. Tickets are still available for this game. (Save your jokes about other Atlanta teams' attendance.)

I can't get any listing of where away supporters will be placed. However, since the main home supporters' clubs will be in the north end, Sections 112 to 119, it makes sense that the away supporters would be put all the way across the field, in the south end, Sections 131 to 136. These seats will be $40.

Getting There. It's 868 miles from Times Square in New York to Five Points, Atlanta's center of attention. Google Maps says the fastest way from New York to Atlanta by road is to take the Holland Tunnel to Interstate 78 to Harrisburg, then I-81 through the Appalachian Mountains, and then it gets complicated from there.

No, the best way to go, if you must drive, is to take the New Jersey Turnpike/I-95 all the way from New Jersey to Petersburg, Virginia. Exit 51 will put you on I-85 South, and that will take you right into Atlanta.

You'll be in New Jersey for about an hour and a half, Delaware for 20 minutes, Maryland for 2 hours, inside the Capital Beltway (Maryland, District of Columbia and Virginia) for half an hour if you're lucky (and don't make a rest stop anywhere near D.C.), Virginia for 3 hours, North Carolina for 4 hours, South Carolina for about an hour and 45 minutes, and Georgia outside I-285 (the beltway known as the Perimeter, the Atlanta Bypass or "the O around the A") for an hour and a half.

Throw in traffic in and around New York at one end, Washington in the middle, and Atlanta at the other end, and we're talking 16 hours. Throw in rest stops, preferably in Delaware, near Richmond, near Raleigh, and in South Carolina, and it’ll be closer to 19 hours. Still wanna drive? Didn't think so.

Take the bus? Greyhound has plenty of service between the two cities, and a round-trip fare can be as low as $115. But it can be up to 24 hours each way. At least the station is downtown, at 232 Forsyth Street at Brotherton Street, by the Garnett station on the subway.

Take the train? Amtrak's New York-to-New Orleans train, the Crescent, leaves Penn Station at 2:15 PM and arrives at 8:13 AM the next morning. Going back, it leaves at 8:04 PM (so you'd have to stay overnight) and arrives back in New York at 1:46 the next afternoon. The round-trip fare is $304. It's as long as driving and riding the bus, and costs a lot more than the bus. The station is at 1688 Peachtree Street NW at Deering Road, due north of downtown. From there, take the 110 bus into downtown.

Perhaps the best way to get from New York to Atlanta is by plane? If you book now, United Airlines can get you from Newark Liberty International Airport to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport for $810 round-trip. True, that's a bit expensive than the train, but under 3 hours each way beats the hell out of 18 or 24. The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) Gold Line or Red Line subway from Hartsfield-Jackson to Five Points takes just half an hour.

(The airport is named for 2 Mayors. William B. Hartsfield served from 1942 to 1962, and got the airport built. Maynard H. Jackson Jr. was the city's 1st black Mayor, serving from 1974 to 1982, and again from 1990 to 1994, and he got a new terminal built at the airport.)

Once In the City. When you get to your hotel in Atlanta (and, let's face it, if you went all that way, you're not going down for a single 3-hour game and then going right back up the Eastern Seaboard), pick up a copy of the Journal-Constitution. It's a good paper with a very good sports section. The New York Times may also be available, but, chances are, the Daily News and the Post won't be.

Founded in 1837, and originally named "Terminus" because it was established as a railroad center, but later renamed because the railroad in question was the Atlantic-Pacific Railroad, Atlanta is a city of about 450,000 people (less than Staten Island), in a metropolitan area of about 6.1 million (still less than 1/3rd the size of the New York Tri-State Area). The sales tax in Georgia is just 4 percent, but it's 5 percent in the City of Atlanta.
The State House

Be advised that a lot of streets are named Peachtree, which can confuse the hell out of you. Even worse, the city uses diagonal directions on its streets and street signs, much like Washington, D.C.: NW, NE, SE and SW. The street grid takes some odd angles, which will confuse you further. Five Points -- Peachtree Street, Marietta Street & Edgewood Avenue -- is the centerpoint of the city.

A building boom in the 1980s gave the city some pretty big skyscrapers, so, while it won't seem quite as imposing as New York or Chicago, it will seem bigger than such National League cities as Cincinnati and St. Louis. The building currently named Bank of America Plaza, a.k.a. the Pencil Building because of its shape, is the tallest in the State of Georgia, at 1,033 feet. It stands at 600 Peachtree Street NE at North Avenue.

ZIP Codes in Georgia start with the digits 30 and 31, with Atlanta and its suburbs using 300 to 307. The Area Code for Atlanta is 404, with 770 surrounding it, and 678 overlaid.

MARTA's 3-stripes logo of blue, yellow and orange is reminiscent of New Jersey Transit's blue, purple and orange. A single trip on any MARTA train is $2.50, now cheaper than New York's. A 10-trip is no bargain at $25. The subway started running with tokens in 1979, and switched to farecards known as Breezecards in 2006.
Going In. Until Mercedes-Benz Stadium is ready on July 30, Atlanta United will be playing at Bobby Dodd Stadium at Historic Grant Field, home football stadium of the Georgia Institute of Technology, a.k.a. Georgia Tech.

The official address is 150 Bobby Dodd Way, with the former address being 177 North Avenue NW (yeah, another one of those), about a mile and a half north of downtown. MARTA Gold or Red to North Avenue. If you drive in, parking is $10.

The oldest stadium in the NCAA's Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A)? It sure doesn't look it, having been modernized several times since its opening over 100 years ago, on September 27, 1913. Bobby Dodd, who played at the University of Tennessee and coached at Georgia Tech (first as an assistant to Bill Alexander, then as head coach), is one of only 3 people elected to the College Football Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach.
The field runs north-to-south, and is natural grass, after having been Astroturf from 1971 to 1994. Previous soccer teams to play there were the Atlanta Apollos of the old North American Soccer League in 1973, and the Atlanta Beat of the Women's United Soccer Association in 2001.

College football's Peach Bowl was played there in 1968, '69 and '70. The NFL's Atlanta Falcons played a game there on October 5, 1969, against the Baltimore Colts, because the Braves unexpectedly qualified for the 1st-ever National League Championship Series against the Mets, and had dibs on what became Fulton County Stadium. (Atlanta lost both.)
Grant Field/Dodd Stadium, get up for Georgia Tech football,
with the skyline of downtown Atlanta in the background.

Food. This being the South, you could expect good eating and good hospitality. Unfortunately, Georgia Tech's website contains no information about concession stands at Dodd/Grant.

A website called SportsWhereIAm.com suggests that the west stand, where the Tech sideline is during football games, has the best selection. This site and others recommend Sonny's Pit BBQ. They also recommend the Nutty Bavarian and The Malt Shoppe, and say that if you're on the east stand, "your options will be drastically reduced to Gridiron Grill or Domino's Pizza."

And, being a college stadium, beer is not sold there.

Team History Displays. What history? They're an expansion team playing their 1st competitive match. Any historic displays will be for Georgia Tech.

On February 10, however, 23 days before their real debut, Atlanta United announced their 1st retired number: 17, for their fans, the number representing the year of their debut. Josef Martínez, likely to be the team's starting striker, wore 17 the last 3 seasons for Turin club Torino (even though it is considered a bad luck number in Italy, much as 13 is in the English-speaking world), but he agreed to switch to Number 7, saying that the symbolism of retiring the number for the fans is bigger than himself, his teammates, his coaches, or any other individual.

Stuff. There will likely be a team store at the new stadium, but, since Tech controls this stadium, Atlanta United won't have one there. You may have to settle for small souvenir stands. The team is new, so there's no team videos or books about the team.

During the Game. Atlanta United are a brand-new team. They have not yet had a chance to build any rivalries. For the moment, the only other MLS teams in the former Confederate States are Orlando City and the Texas teams, FC Dallas and the Houston Dynamo. Perhaps their distaste for the North might lead them to one day not like the Red Bulls or NYCFC, and their distaste for the federal government might lead them to one day not like D.C. United.

But they don't want to mess up their reputations by starting a fight at their 1st game that counts. If you leave them alone, they'll almost certainly leave you alone.

AUFC do not yet have a mascot. They hold auditions for National Anthem singers, instead of having a regular singer. As you might guess, Braves fans conclude the National Anthem not with " …and the home of the brave" but " …and the home of the Braves!" Hopefully, AUFC fans will not also do this. Or that annoying Tomahawk Chop and its song, the War Chant: "Oh, oh-whoa-oh-oh… whoa-oh-oh… oh-whoa-oh-oh…"

Their main supporters' clubs sit in the north end, Sections 112 to 119. Footie Mob and Resurgence (the latter symbolizing the city's rebirth after the Civil War) are holdovers from the previous minor-league team, the Atlanta Silverbacks. Terminus Legion (named for the city's original name) started in 2014, to coincide with MLS' official announcement of the team's establishment. The Faction is a family-friendly group, and is less likely to be involved in traditional soccer "ultra" activities. (So, no profane chants.)

To the tune of "The Ants Go Marching" -- it's the same tune as "When Johnny Comes Marching Home," but they can't cite that, because it's a Union song from the Civil War -- Terminus Legion sings:

We are Atlanta, we hold it down, A-Town, A-Town!
We are Atlanta, we hold it down, A-Town, A-Town!
The city where the players play!
We ride on them things like every day!
We are Atlanta, and we hold it down!

Or, as we Red Bull fans sing, "Da-da, da-da, D.C. United takes it up the ass!"

To the tune of Atlanta-based OutKast's "Hootie Hoo," Footie Mob sings:

Hootie Hoo!
United on the left, United on my right!
Attacking all days, scoring always!
Hootie Hoo!
United on the left, United on my right!
Attacking all days, scoring always!
Hootie Hoo!

After the Game. You should have no trouble with AUFC fans on your way out. Atlanta does have a bit of a crime problem: While you'll probably be safe around the stadium and on the subway, you don't want to wander the streets late at night.

A good way to have fun would seem to be to find a bar where New Yorkers hang out. Unfortunately, the best ones I could come up with were all outside the city. Hudson Grille (sure sounds like a New York-style name), 6317 Roswell Road in Sandy Springs, is 15 miles north of Five Points. MARTA Red Line to Dunwoody, then transfer to Number 5 bus.

Mazzy's, at 2217 Roswell Road in Marietta, is the home of the local Jets fan club, but it's 20 miles north, and forget about reaching it by public transportation. The club also lists Bada Bing's, at 349 Decatur Street SE, just 1 stop east of Five Points on the MARTA Green Line (fitting), but they claim Mazzy's is their "perfect place." Meehan's Public House is also said to be a Jet fans' hangout. 227 Sandy Springs Place, at the CityWalk shopping center, just outside I-285. MARTA Red Line to Dunwoody, transfer to the 87 bus.

A Facebook page titled "Mets Fans Living In Atlanta" was no help. Your best bet may be to research hotel chains, to find out which ones New Yorkers tend to like, and meet up with fellow Metsophiles (or Metsochists) there.

A recent Thrillist article on the best sports bars in each State listed The Midway Pub as the best in Georgia. It's about 3 1/2 miles east of downtown, at 552 Flat Shoals Avenue SE. Number 74 bus.

A few steps away from Grant Field, over the North Avenue Bridge (over I-75/85) at 61 North Avenue NW, highlighted by a huge neon letter V, is The Varsity. No visit to The A-T-L is complete without a stop at The Varsity. Basically, it’s a classic diner, but really good. Be careful, though: They want to keep it moving, much like the Soup Nazi on Seinfeld and its real-life counterpart The Original Soup Man, and also Pat's Steaks in Philadelphia.

The place has a language all its own, and, when they ask, "What’ll you have?", being a Met fan, you do not want to order what they call a Yankee Dog – or a Naked Dog, which, oddly, is the same exact thing: A hot dog whose only condiment is mustard (which hardly makes it "naked," but that's what they call it). Check out this link, and you'll get an idea of what to say and what not to say.

If your visit to Atlanta is during the European soccer season, which is now moving toward its climax, you can watch your favorite clubs at the following locations:

* Arsenal, Manchester City and Leicester City: Brewhouse Cafe, 401 Moreland Avenue NE. MARTA Blue Line to Inman Park-Reynoldstown, then Bus 6 to Euclid & Moreland.

* Chelsea and Bayern Munich: Ri Ra, 1080 Peachtree Street, 2 miles north of downtown. MARTA Red or Gold Line to Midtown Transit Station. I've also heard that Bayern fans meet at Der Biergarten, 300 Marietta Street NW,just north of the stadium/arena complex. Bus 51.

* Liverpool: Meehan's Public House, 200 Peachtree Street. MARTA Red or Gold Line to Peachtree Center.

* Tottenham Hotspur: A different Meehan's, 232 19th Street NW, 3 miles north of downtown. MARTA Red or Gold Line to Arts Center, then a 20-minute walk. (You were expecting Atlanta + Spurs to = Brains? Yeah, surrrre.)

* Manchester United, Everton, Celtic and Barcelona: Fado Irish Pub, at The Shops Buckhead Atlanta, 273 Buckhead Avenue, 6 miles north of downtown. Bus 110.

* Real Madrid: The Olde Blind Dog, 705 Town Blvd NE, 9 miles northeast of downtown. MARTA Gold Line to Brookhaven, then Bus 25 to Peachtree Road & Town Blvd.

If you don't see your club listed here, your best bets are Brewhouse Cafe or Fado.

Sidelights. When the Thrashers moved to become the new Winnipeg Jets in 2011, it marked the 2nd time in 31 years that Atlanta had lost an NHL team. They still have teams in MLB, the NFL and the NBA, plus a Division I-A college which has been successful in several sports, the annual Southeastern Conference Championships for both football and basketball, an annual college football bowl game, the Peach Bowl -- and, now, MLS.

But that doesn’t make Atlanta a great sports town. All of their major league teams have tended to have trouble filling their buildings.

* Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. Home to the Southern Association's Atlanta Crackers in their last season, 1965; to the Braves from 1966 to 1996; to the NFL Falcons from 1966 to 1991; and to the Atlanta Chiefs of the North American Soccer League (Champions 1968) from 1967 to 1973. Known simply as Atlanta Stadium until 1974, it was in what's now the parking lot north of Turner Field.
The old stadium hosted the World Series in 1991, 1992, 1995 and 1996, the last 3 games there being the Yankees' wins in Games 3, 4 and 5 of the '96 Series. It hosted NFC Playoff games in 1978 and 1991, the Peach Bowl from 1971 to 1991, and 2 matches of the U.S. national soccer team: A win over India in 1968, and a win over China in 1977. It also hosted the Beatles shortly after its opening, on August 18, 1965.

In the Green Lot parking area north of the park, where Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium used to be, there is a chain-link fence about where the left-center-field fence was, and, at the approximate location of where it landed, then the Braves' bullpen, is the marker that used to be on the wall behind it, honoring Aaron’s record-breaking 715th career home run, hit on April 8, 1974.
Fulton County Stadium was known as "The Launching Pad." Put it this way: If the field conditions there were the same as at Milwaukee County Stadium, Hank Aaron would still have hit over 600 home runs, but he wouldn't have gotten to 715. So the faraway distances at The Ted make it a balanced ballpark.

* Turner Field. The next home of the Braves is at the intersection of Capitol Street SE and Love Street SE, but the official address is 755 Hank Aaron Drive SE. Unfortunately, the MARTA subway doesn't get all that close to Turner Field. To make matters worse, the ballpark is separated from downtown Atlanta by the intersection of Interstates 20 and 75/85, so unless you had a hotel within a 10-minute walk of the ballpark, you weren't going to walk there. the Number 55 bus goes from Five Points Station, the centerpoint of MARTA, to Turner Field.
Turner Field in its original configuration,
as the 1996 Olympic Stadium

Turner Field opened in 1996, as the main venue for the Olympic Games held in Atlanta that year. After the Olympics, the north end was demolished, and replaced with the bleachers and main scoreboards, so that the 85,000-seat track & field stadium could become a proper 50,000-seat baseball stadium.
As seen here, with the outline of the
original configuration still in place at the north end.

The Braves played the 1999 World Series there, and hosted the 2000 All-Star Game. But it never became as treasured as some of the other neo-retro stadiums, such as those in Baltimore, Cleveland and Philadelphia. And, while much of it retained features from Fulton County Stadium (such as the blue fence with the yellow line on top, and the yellow distance markers), the Braves didn't build up the same kind of history there: 10 Division titles to 7, but only 1 Pennant to its predecessor's 4, and no World Championships.
Instead of being completely demolished, the stadium is, once again, being converted, into a 30,000-seat football stadium for Atlanta-based Georgia State University. Since they won't need as much parking, part of the parking lots are being converted into student housing and retail property. And the school's new baseball field is being built on the site of Fulton County Stadium, so that the Aaron 715 marker will be in the exact same place on the field that it was at the old stadium.
Artist's rendering of the baseball complex

Construction on the converted facility, still with the working name of Georgia State Stadium, just began, and the 1st Georgia State football game there is set for August 31 of this year.
Artist's rendering of the football complex

* SunTrust Park. Construction is nearing completion on the new ballpark, named for a bank, that the Braves hope to open on April 14, in Cumberland, Cobb County, Georgia. It's in Atlanta's northwestern suburbs.
Artist's rendering

The Braves have tried to justify the move by saying that this is "near the geographic center of the Braves' fan base." This may be true. But the proposed move would also get them out of the majority-black City of Atlanta and into the center of mostly-white, Tea Party-country Georgia. Gee, I wonder if there's a connection, especially now that the famously inclusive Ted Turner no longer owns the team? (Ironically, Tea Party groups have opposed the building of the stadium, citing the taxes that would have to be implemented for it.)

Seriously, the Braves have got it backwards: Whereas many teams in the various sports left the inner city for the suburbs, or at least for suburban parts of their cities, in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, and then came back downtown in the 1990s, 2000s and 2010s, the Braves built Fulton County Stadium downtown in 1965 (and then Turner Field downtown in 1996), and are going out to the suburbs in 2017. Do they really think this is going to increase their oft-mocked attendance? We shall see.

Capacity will be about 41,000. It is northwest of the interchange of Interstates 75 and 285, on Circle 75 Parkway, 13 miles northwest of Five Points. MARTA Gold to Arts Center, then transfer to Number 10 bus. The Braves also plan to use a "circulator" bus system to shuttle fans to and from the stadium.
* Georgia Dome, Philips Arena, site of The Omni. They're next-door to each other, at Martin Luther King Jr. Drive SW and Northside Drive NW (another confusing street name). The Georgia Dome has been home to the Falcons since 1992 and has hosted the SEC Championship Game. It hosted the NCAA Final Four in 2002 (Maryland beating Indiana), 2007 (Florida beating Ohio State), and 2013 (Louisville over Michigan).

The Philips Arena has been home to the NBA's Hawks since 1999, and was the home of the NHL's Thrashers from 1999 to 2011. It was built on the site of the previous Atlanta arena, The Omni, which hosted the Hawks from 1972 to 1997, the NHL's Atlanta Flames from 1972 to 1980 (when they moved to Calgary), the 1977 NCAA Final Four (Queens native and ex-Knick Al McGuire leading Marquette over Dean Smith’s North Carolina), and the 1988 Democratic Convention (Michael Dukakis was nominated for President, which didn't work out too well).

Elvis Presley sang at the Omni on June 21, 29, 30 and July 3, 1973; April 30, May 1 and 2, 1975; June 4, 5, 6 and December 30, 1976.

The U.S. national soccer team played at the Georgia Dome on July 22, 2015, losing 2-1 to Jamaica.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium, a new retractable-roof stadium for the Falcons and Atlanta United FC, is under construction, just south of the Georgia Dome, which, presumably, will be demolished. It's currently projected to open on July 30. It is scheduled to host the College Football Playoff National Championship on January 8, 2018 and Super Bowl LIII on February 3, 2019, and will host the SEC Championship Game and the Peach Bowl starting next season.
Mercedes-Benz Stadium, next to the Georgia Dome,
and in front of Philips Arena

The CNN Center is adjacent to the arena, and the College Football Hall of Fame just to the north of that, at 250 Marietta Street NW. MARTA Gold or Red to Dome-GWCC-Philips Arena stop.

With the loss of the Thrashers, the nearest NHL team to Atlanta is the Nashville Predators, 247 miles away. Atlanta would be 10th in population among NHL markets, but don't count on them ever getting another team after losing 2 within 31 years.

* Hank McCamish Pavilion. The Georgia Institute of Technology (a.k.a. Georgia Tech) has played basketball here at "the Thrillerdome" since 1956. Originally named the Alexander Memorial Coliseum, for legendary football coach Bill Alexander, the building underwent a renovation from 2010 to 2012, funded in large part by a donation from the McCamish family.

The Pavilion hosted the Hawks from their 1968 arrival from St. Louis to The Omni's opening in 1972, and again from 1997 to 1999 while Philips Arena was built on The Omni's site. The WNBA's Atlanta Dream will play their 2017 and '18 seasons there, due to renovations at Philips Arena. 965 Fowler Street NW. MARTA Gold or Red Line to Midtown.

In between Grant Field and the Thrillerdome is Russ Chandler Stadium, Tech's baseball facility. Although they've never won a National Championship, the list of players they've sent to the majors leagues includes Marty Marion, Marlon Byrd, Nomar Garciaparra, Jason Varitek and Mark Teixeira. 255 5th Street NW.

Georgia Tech's teams have two nicknames, the Yellow Jackets and the Ramblin' Wreck. There is a 1930 Ford Model A called the Ramblin' Wreck (don’t let the name fool you, they love their college traditions in the South and this vee-hicle is kept in tip-top condition) that drives onto the field at Dodd/Grant before every game, carrying the Tech cheerleaders, including Buzz the Yellow Jacket, with the team running behind it.

I would advise against going to Dodd/Grant when Tech plays their arch-rivals, the University of Georgia, as those games not only sell out, but have been known to involve fights. Other than that, the stadium has a great atmosphere. (UGa's Sanford Stadium is 71 miles east of Five Points, at 100 Sanford Drive in Athens. Take I-85, or Megabus from MARTA Civic Center station.)

* Site of Ponce de Leon Park. The Southern Association's Atlanta Crackers played at 2 stadiums with this name, from 1907 to 1923, and then, after a fire required rebuilding, from 1924 to 1964. The second park seated 20,000, a huge figure for a minor league park then -- and a pretty big one for a minor league park now.

"Crackers"? The term is usually applied to a poor white Southerner, and is, effectively, black people's response to what we now call "the N-word." It has also been suggested that the term referred to plowboys cracking a whip over their farm animals, or that it was a shortened version of an earlier team called the Firecrackers, or that it comes from the Gaelic word "craic," meaning entertaining conversation, or boasting, or bantering. (To make matters more confusing, the Negro Leagues had a team called the Atlanta Black Crackers.)

The team won a Pennant in 1895, before the 1st ballpark with the name was built. In the 1st park, they won Pennants in 1907, 1909, 1913, 1917 and 1919. In the 2nd, they won in 1925, 1935, 1938, 1945, 1954, 1956, 1957, 1960 and 1962. So, 15 in all. After that 1962 Crackers Pennant, Atlanta would not win another until the Braves finally did it 29 years later. All told, Atlanta has won 20 Pennants.

The park was known for a magnolia tree that stood in deep center field, until 1947 when Earl Mann bought the team and moved the fence in a bit, so that the tree was no longer in fair play. Although it never happened during a regular-season professional game, in exhibition games both Babe Ruth and Eddie Mathews hit home runs that hit the tree.

The park also hosted high school football and the occasional prizefight, including the last fight in the career of Jack Dempsey, in 1940, when he was 45 years old and beat pro wrestler Clarence "Cowboy" Luttrell.

The Southern Association, a Double-A League (since replaced by the Southern League) folded in 1961, rather than accept integrated teams. The Crackers, known (ironically, considering their location) as "the Yankees of the Minors," were accepted into the Triple-A American Association, and remained there until their final season, 1965, before the Braves arrived the next year. That last season, 1965, was played at what became Fulton County Stadium, its 52,000 seats making it the largest stadium ever to regularly host minor-league games, a record that would later be broken by the Denver Bears after Bears Stadium was expanded to 74,000 seats and became Mile High Stadium.

The Midtown Place Shopping Center is now on the site. Unlike the park, and the 1st shopping center that was on the site, before Midtown Place, the magnolia tree has never been torn down. 650 Ponce de Leon Avenue NE. MARTA Gold to North Avenue, then transfer to Number 2 bus.

* Dahlberg Hall. Formerly the Atlanta Municipal Auditorium, this structure opened in 1909, and was the longtime home of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra until 1968, when Woodruff Arts Center opened. In 1970, it was the site of Muhammad Ali's return to boxing, after his legal exile. He knocked Jerry Quarry out in the 3rd round.

In 1979, Georgia State University bought the Auditorium, and converted it into their alumni hall, renaming it for alumnus Bill Dahlberg. Courtland Street & Auditorium Place SE. Just 5 blocks east of Five Points, and within walking distance.

Ty Cobb is buried in his family's mausoleum in Rose Hill Cemetery, in his hometown of Royston, 93 miles northeast of Atlanta. It can only be reached by car.

* Non-Sports Sites. There's the Atlanta Cyclorama and Civil War Museum, 800 Cherokee Avenue SE, which tells the true story of that fire you saw in Gone With the Wind. At the other end of the spectrum, giving all people their equal due, is the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site at 449 Auburn Avenue NE, which includes the house that was Dr. King's birthplace and boyhood home, the Ebenezer Baptist Church where he and his father Martin Sr. preached, and his tomb. The King Memorial stop on MARTA's Blue and Green Lines serves both the King Center and the Cyclorama.

The Carter Center, housing Jimmy Carter's Presidential Library and Museum, and the Carter Center for Nonviolent Social Change, is at 453 Freedom Parkway. Bus 3 or 16 from Five Points stop on MARTA. The Carters have announced that, unlike most recent Presidents, they will not be buried at their Presidential Library, but rather in their hometown of Plains, 158 miles south of Atlanta.

From 1924 onward, Franklin D. Roosevelt had a retreat at Warm Springs, which became known as the Little White House when he became President in 1933. He died there on April 12, 1945. 401 Little White House Road, 73 miles southwest of Atlanta.

Atlanta also has museums honoring Gone With the Wind author and Atlanta native Margaret Mitchell, Atlanta's native drink Coca-Cola, and Atlanta's native news network CNN. And there's the city's major shopping district, Underground Atlanta, in the Five Points area.

Elvis sang at the historic Fox Theater early in his career, giving 6 shows in 2 days, March 14 and 15, 1956. 660 Peachtree Street NE at Ponce de Leon Avenue. MARTA Gold or Red Line to North Avenue. He topped that from June 22 to 24, giving 10 shows in 3 days (including a personal record 4 on the 23rd -- he was a lot younger then) at the Paramount Theater, next-door to the Loew's Grand Theater, famous for being the site of the world premiere of Gone With the Wind.

Both the Paramount and the Loew's Grand (which burned in a suspected insurance scam in 1978) have been demolished, and replaced by the Georgia-Pacific Tower. John Wesley Dobbs Avenue & Peachtree Street NE. MARTA Gold or Red Line to Peachtree Center.

In addition to the preceding, Elvis gave concerts at the following Georgia locations: 2 shows at the City Auditorium in Waycross on February 22, 1956; the Bell Municipal Auditorium in Augusta on March 20 and June 27, 1956; 2 shows at the Savannah Sports Arena on June 25, 1956; the Savannah Civic Center on February 17, 1977; and at the Macon Coliseum on April 15, 1972 (2 shows); April 24, 1975; and August 31, 1976. He was supposed to sing there again on April 2, 1977, but his lifestyle was catching up with him, and the show was postponed, and done on June 1.

Atlanta is the home base of actor-writer-producer-director Tyler Perry, and all his TV shows and movies are set there. The house that stands in for the home of his most famous character, Mabel "Madea" Simmons, is at 1197 Avon Avenue SW, 3 miles southwest of downtown. MARTA Gold or Red Line to Oakland City, then a 10-minute walk north. I think it's a private home, so don't bother whoever lives there. Especially if there's somebody living there who's like Madea.

The most famous TV show set in Georgia was The Dukes of Hazzard. The State in which Hazzard County was located was never specified in the script, but the cars had Georgia license plates, and Georgia State Highway signs could be clearly seen. The first few episodes were filmed in Covington, about 37 miles southeast of Five Points. After returning from a Christmas break from filming in 1978-79, new sets were built in Southern California to mimic a small Southern town's courthouse square.

Years later, the TV version of In the Heat of the Night would also film in Covington. The movie version, like the TV version set in the fictional town of Sparta, Mississippi, was filmed in Tennessee and Illinois, as Sidney Poitier refused to cross the Mason-Dixon Line to film his scenes.

Atlanta has attracted the supernatural, including The Walking Dead, The Vampire Diaries and Teen Wolf. Much of Andy Griffith's ole-country lawyer show Matlock was filmed around the Fulton County Government Center and the State Capitol along MLK Drive, centered on Central Avenue.

But, for the most part, Matlock, like another Atlanta-based show, Designing Women, was filmed in L.A. The house that stood in for Julia Sugarbaker's home, at 1521 Sycamore Street in the show (the address does exist in neighboring Decatur), isn't even in Georgia: It's in Little Rock, Arkansas, hometown of series co-creator and writer Harry Thomason. (His co-creator and writer Linda Bloodworth-Thomason is from Poplar Bluff, Missouri.)

The most famous movie scene ever filmed in Georgia wasn't any scene in Gone With the Wind (that was filmed in Hollywood), but the town square scene in Forrest Gump. That was filmed in Chippewa Square in Savannah, 250 miles southeast of Atlanta. The bench has been moved tongue nearby Savannah History Museum. Most of the movie was filmed in Beaufort, South Carolina.

*

Atlanta is an acquired taste, especially for a New Yorker or a New Jerseyan. Is it worth going? Let me put it this way: If your mission is simply to have a good time in an unfamiliar city, and to "cross one more roadtrip off your list," then, by all means, go, stay safe, and have fun. Of course, you'll have another chance to cross a ballpark off your list next year.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

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

Next Saturday, the Brooklyn Nets will visit the Portland Trail Blazers. The New York Knicks will visit on March 23.

Before You Go. Like its Pacific Northwest neighbors Seattle and Vancouver, Portland is notorious for rain. The game will be indoors, but you won't be indoors on the entire visit. The website for The Oregonian, Portland's major newspaper, says the temperatures will be in the high 40s by day and the mid-30s by night on Saturday, and there will, yes, be rain.

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

Tickets. At the old Coliseum, the Blazers couldn't even fit in 13,000 people. From their 1977 title run until they moved out in 1995, the attendance was the same every night: 12,880, later 12,888. That was 814 consecutive sellouts.

Today, they're in the Moda Center, with 19,441 seats. They haven't sold out every game in the 20 years since they moved it, but they are averaging 19,204 this season, so that's a little under 99 percent of capacity. Tickets will be tough to get.

But, for the moment, they are available. Tickets in the 100 Level are, according to the team's website, available for "As low as $109." In the 200 Level, "As low as $72." In the 300 Level, "As low as $24." By NBA standards, that's quite cheap.

Getting There. It's 2,895 miles from Times Square to the Moda Center in Portland. In other words, if you're going, you're going to want to fly.

After all, even if you get someone to go with you, and you take turns, one drives while the other one sleeps, and you pack 2 days' worth of food, and you use the side of the Interstate as a toilet, and you don't get pulled over for speeding, you'll still need over 2 full days to get there. One way.

But, for future reference, if you really, really want to drive... Get onto Interstate 80 West in New Jersey, and stay on that through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming and Utah. Outside Ogden, Utah, at Exit 168, switch to Interstate 84 West. Take that into Idaho and Oregon, all the way to the end of I-84.

Not counting rest stops, you should be in New Jersey for an hour and a half, Pennsylvania for 5:15, Ohio for 4 hours, Indiana for 2:30, Illinois for 2:45, Iowa for 5 hours, Nebraska for 6:45, Wyoming for 6:30, Utah for 3:30, Idaho for 5:30, and Oregon for 6:15. In total, that's around 49 1/2 hours. Given rest stops, we're talking more like 60 hours -- 2 1/2 days.

That's still faster than Greyhound (70 hours, changing buses in Denver, $518 round-trip) and Amtrak (67 hours, changing in Chicago, $464 before booking sleeping arrangements). Union Station, which serves both carriers, is at 550 NW 6th Avenue. 6th & Hoyt station on MAX.

On Amtrak, you would leave Penn Station on the Lake Shore Limited at 3:40 PM Eastern Time on Wednesday, arrive at Union Station in Chicago at 9:45 AM Central Time on Thursday, and board the Empire Builder at 2:15 PM, and would reach Union Station in Portland at 10:10 AM Pacific Time on Saturday.

A round-trip flight from Newark to Portland International Airport (whose call letters, PDX, have also become a nickname for the city) can be had for under $900. A round-trip flight is possible, but having to change planes is much more likely. The MAX Red Line will get you from the airport to downtown in 33 minutes.

Once In the City. Founded in 1845 as the end of the Oregon Trail, in the shadow of Mount Hood, legend has it that the name of the town was decided by a coin flip. Francis Pettygrove wanted to name the town after his hometown of Portland, Maine. Asa Lovejoy was from Groton, Massachusetts. Pettygrove won, and that's why the Knicks aren't playing the Groton Trail Blazers next Saturday.

Portland, a.k.a. the Rose City has a population of around 640,000, and a metro area of about 3.2 million. It's still growing, but not as fast as it was in the 1980s and '90s, when a group successfully lobbied to slow down the suburban sprawl. It was named PLAN, for Prevent Los Angelization Now.

The State of Oregon has no sales tax, and this covers the County of Multnomah and the City of Portland. The Willamette River is the divider between east and west, and Burnside Street, including its bridge over the river, is the divider between north and south.

ZIP Codes in Oregon begin with the digits 97, and Portland and its suburbs use 970 and 971. The Area Code for Portland is 503, with 971 overlaid.

TriMet, the area's public transit service, runs buses and the MAX light rail system. A single fare is $2.50, while a day pass is $5.00. They also run the WES Commuter Rail.
A MAX train, downtown

The capital of Oregon is Salem, about 50 miles southwest of downtown Portland. The 1st 2 State Houses were destroyed by fires in 1855 and 1935. The new State House opened in 1938, but it looks like a cross between an Art Deco church and a prison. Fortunately, the grounds are covered with examples of Oregon's natural beauty, but also include a pair of burned, broken pillars from its predecessor.
The State House in Salem

Going In. The official address of the Moda Center is 1 North Center Court Street. The building is bounded by Ramsay Way (named for former head coach Jack Ramsay) on the north, Wheeler Avenue on the east, Multnomah Street on the south and Center Court Street on the west. MAX reaches the arena via Rose Quarter and Interstate stations.

Definitely walk from your hotel or take public transit, because parking spaces are expensive, running around $22. If you do come in by MAX, you'll probably be entering through the south side of the arena.
Opening in 1995 as the Rose Garden, it was renamed for healthcare provider Moda Health in 2013. It is also home to the Western Hockey League's Portland Winterhawks (for some but not all games), and the Arena Football League's Portland Thunder. The court is aligned northwest to southeast.
The Blazers' former home, the Veterans Memorial Coliseum, is across Center Court Street. It opened in 1960, and was home to the Blazers from their 1970 debut until 1995, and the Winterhawks full-time from 1976 to 1995 and part-time since then.
The Coliseum

It hosted the 1965 NCAA Final Four, with UCLA beating Michigan in the Final. This was also the 1st Final Four to feature a New Jersey-based team, the Princeton squad led by future Knick and future U.S. Senator Bill Bradley. The Beatles performed at the Coliseum on August 22, 1965, and Elvis Presley sang there on November 11, 1970 and April 27, 1973.
The Moda Center, with the Coliseum behind it

Food. I couldn't find a section guide to the concession stands, but the arena website did say this:

Delicious icons from Portland's restaurant scene fill the Moda Center at the Rose Quarter.


Sandwich specialists Bunk Sandwiches will continue to bring Portland's favorite sandwiches to Trail Blazers fans. Pizzeria extraordinaire Sizzle Pie and Salt and Straw Ice Cream anchor the new local focus of the Moda Center menu. These new additions, returning fan favorites and fresh concepts created by the venue's food service partner, Levy Restaurants, are sure to please all who attend.
Levy Restaurants also recently unveiled new food concepts including Fowl Language, featuring fried chicken, wings, and chicken biscuit sandwiches. The Pines is a new bar on the 300 level which features craft beers, cocktails and extraordinary views of the Portland skyline. 

In addition to the new culinary experiences, Levy Restaurants also recently introduced a number of new food carts. Plum Tasty is a healthy food cart brought to you by Moda, where slow food is served fast.  It's a delicious way to dine during the game with mouth-watering food made fresh and healthy just for you, including vegetarian options and healthy grab 'n go snacks.  Plum Tasty is located at Entry A9 on the Main Concourse. Humble Slider features a variety of house-made sliders, and at the Polanco cart you can dine on nachos, tacos and more. The Cones cart serves hand-dipped ice cream cones with many toppings and dips for you to choose from.

The Club Level provides each guest with an exquisite variety of food and beverage options. Nook offers a range of vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options. At the Hot Stone location you're able to pick from an excellent selection of artisan pizzas, pastas and salads.  Oven toasted sandwiches and 1/3 pound burgers are served at the Junction 5 location.  The Club Level also features Portland favorites such as Bunk Sandwiches, Cha Cha Cha traditional Mexican Food, and Salt and Straw farm to cone ice creams. 

Team History Displays. The Blazers aren't a particularly old team, nor an especially successful one. But they celebrate the history they have heavily. They hang banners for their 1977 NBA Championship; their 1977, 1990 and 1992 Western Conference Championships; and their 1978, 1991, 1992, 1999 and 2015 Division titles.

A whopping 8 players, plus the head coach, the owner, and a broadcaster from their 1977 NBA Championship team have been honored with retired number banners. Number 1 for owner Larry Weinberg is in the rafters, but is still available to be worn by a player. Retired are 13 for guard Dave Twardzik, 14 for guard Lionel Hollins (now the head coach of the Nets), 15 for guard Larry Steele, 20 for forward Maurice Lucas, 30 for forward Bob Gross, 32 for center Bill Walton, 36 for forward Lloyd Neal, and 77, in honor of the year, for the coach, Dr. Jack Ramsay. A microphone is retired for broadcaster Bill Schonely.

Guard Geoff Petrie, the 1st player ever drafted by the Blazers in 1970, was 1971 NBA Rookie of the Year, but was traded for Lucas before the 1976-77 season. Nonetheless, the Blazers retired his Number 45. From the 1990 and 1992 Western Conference titles, they've retired the numbers of guards Clyde "the Glide" Drexler, 22; and Terry Porter, 30. In 2008, they had a dual-retirement ceremony for 30, for Gross and Porter.

The Blazers' retired number banners are, as far as I know, unique is sports, in that they have the honorees' signatures stitched onto them.
In addition to Walton, Drexler and Ramsay, Blazers in the Basketball Hall of Fame include guard Lenny Wilkens (the last season of his playing career, 1974-75, player-coach that year and coach only the next), guard Dražen Petrović (before he became a New Jersey Net), forward Scottie Pippen (for 4 seasons after he left the Chicago Bulls), and center Arvydas Sabonis. Walton, Drexler, Wilkens and Pippen were named to the NBA's 50th Anniversary 50 Greatest Players, but only Walton and Drexler for what they did in Portland.

The Winterhawks have won the President's Cup as Champions of the Western Hockey League in 1982, 1998 and 2013, and the Memorial Cup in 1983 and 1998. 

Don't be confused by their banners: While the Chicago Blackhawks were originally stocked by players bought from the defunct Portland Rosebuds, the Winterhawks have not only a similar name but the same red & black colors and the same Indian Head logo as the Chicago team, and they even followed the "Black Hawks" by shortening their name from 2 words ("Winter Hawks") to 1, they are not a farm team of the Blackhawks.

Winter Hawks/Winterhawks alumni include Hall-of-Famers Mark Messier and Cam Neely, the brothers Dave & Wayne Babych, Adam Deadmarsh, Brandon Dubinsky, Ray Ferraro, the brothers Marcel & Marian Hossa, Clint Malarchuk, Brenden Morrow, the brothers Jim & Larry Playfair, Mike Vernon, and the brothers Blake & Glen Wesley.

Stuff. The Trail Blazers Fan Shop is in the Moda Center, open during games, and 11 AM to 3 PM otherwise.

Amazon.com doesn't have any DVDs about the Blazers -- not even a retrospective of their 1977 title season. Just VHS tapes. They do have some books. Jack Scott wrote Bill Walton: On the Road With the Portland Trail Blazers after their title season. Walton and Wayne Thompson wrote Blazermania: This Is Our Story -- The Official History of the Portland Trail Blazers in 2010, on the team's 40th Anniversary. And Nate LeBoutillier published the Blazers' edition of the NBA's A History of Hoops series earlier this year.

During the Game. Portland is a relatively safe city. The Blazers had a bit of a rivalry with the Seattle SuperSonics, but with the Sonics gone, PTB games are rather peaceful. They have no history of animosity with either the Knicks or the Nets, and as long as you don't provoke anybody, you'll be fine.

A November 13, 2014 article on DailyRotoHelp ranked the NBA teams' fan bases, and listed the Blazers' fans 3rd: "This is one of the more dedicated fan bases in all of professional sports... This is truly a fan base that would be crushed if the team were to leave town." A swipe at the underwhelming response of Seattle to losing the Sonics, perhaps?

The original version of the Pinwheel logo

The Blazers have perhaps the funkiest logo in sports: Designed by a cousin of team founder Harry Glickman (still alive at age 91), it's been called a "pinwheel," and represents 2 5-on-5 basketball teams line up against each other, one wearing red, the other silver.


The current version



The Blazers hold auditions for National Anthem singers, rather than having a regular singer. Their theme song is an instrumental titled "Crazy" (with no connection to the Patsy Cline song of the same title). But the only notable fan chant is, "Let's go, Blazers!"



In addition to the BlazerDancers cheerleaders, a junior dance team composed of 8- to 11-year-old girls also performs at selected home games, as does a hip-hop dance troupe. Other regular in-game entertainment acts include a co-educational acrobatic stunt team which performs technically difficult cheers, a breakdancing squad known as the Portland TrailBreakers, and a pair of percussion acts.



The mascot is Blaze the Trail Cat, a mountain lion, which makes sense, given the Cascade Mountains in which Portland sits. Like the Gorilla in Phoenix and Hugo the Hornet in Charlotte, Blaze does trick dunks.
In fact, Saturday's game against the Nets is Mascot Night, at which the Blazers will celebrate "Blaze's Birthday Bash."

After the Game. Portland's reputation for safety, and their fans' reputation for being noisy but not nasty, will work in your favor. Both you and your car should be safe.

If you're hungry after the game, on Martin Luther King Blvd. at Hassalo Street, 6 blocks east of the arena, there's a Burgerville. On Grand Avenue between Multnomah and Hassalo, there's a Denny's and a Red Robin. Spirit of 77 is a Blazers-themed bar at 500 NE MLK Blvd. at Lloyd Blvd., across from the Oregon Convention Center, a 5-minute walk from the Moda Center. 

Blitz-Ladd recently featured in a Thrillist article about the best sports bar in every State, as the best one in Oregon. 2239 SE 11th Avenue, at Sherman Street. Number 4 bus.

The Jolly Roger, at 1340 SE 12th Avenue at Madison Street, is known as a hangout for New York Giants fans. They may also be welcoming to Knicks or Nets fans. Bus 4 from Rose Quarter Transit Center. I have also heard that Kingston Bar & Grill is a Giant fans' bar. 2021 SW Morrison Street, at 20th Place, across from Providence Park.

If you visit Portland during the European soccer season, which we are now in, the likeliest place to watch your favorite club is at the Toffee Club, 1006 SE Hawthorne Blvd. Bus 14.

Sidelights. Portland doesn't have much of a sports history besides the Blazers. But there are a few items worth mentioning, besides the Coliseum and the Moda Center.

* Providence Park. This started as a minor-league baseball field named Multnomah Field in 1893. It was replaced by Multnomah Stadium in 1926. The name has been changed to Civic Stadium in 1966, PGE Park in 2001, Jeld-Wen Field in 2011 and Providence Park in 2014.
In this photo, you can tell that it was designed for baseball.

At 21,444 seats, it was one of the largest ballparks in the minor leagues. It was home to the Pacific Coast League's Portland Beavers from 1956 to 1972, again from 1978 to 1993, and again from 2001 to 2010. They only won 1 Pennant there, in 1983, but won 4 Division titles: 1965, 1983, 1993 and 2004.

It was home to the Portland Mavericks of the Northwest League, the team with whom Jim Bouton began his post-Ball Four comeback and co-invented Big League Chew. It was home to the Portland Rockies of the Northwest League from 1995 to 2000. Currently, the city doesn't have a professional baseball team.

Portland State University plays football there, and both the University of Oregon and Oregon State University played "home" games on the site between 1894 and 1970. It was home to the Portland Storm, later the Portland Thunder, of the World Football League in 1974 and '75, and the Portland Breakers of the USFL in 1985.

The original Portland Timbers, of the original North American Soccer League, played there from 1975 to 1982. After the NASL folded, the Timbers were reconstituted, began play in 1985, folded again in 1990, started again in 2001, and joined Major League Soccer in 2011.

The Portland Thorns of the National Women's Soccer League began play there in 2013, and, like their masculine counterparts, are one of the best-supported teams in their league.

Civic Stadium hosted Soccer Bowl '77, in which Pelé and the New York Cosmos won the NASL title by beating the Seattle Sounders, making it Pelé's last competitive match. (I wonder if the Portland fans rooted against Seattle.) 

It hosted 4 games of the 1999 Women's World Cup, and 6 of the 2003 edition, 1 involving the U.S. It's hosted 4 games of the U.S. men's national team, 3 wins and a draw, most recently a 2013 win over Belize.

Elvis played one of the earliest stadium concerts at Multnomah Stadium on September 2, 1957. 1844 SW Morrison Street. Kings Hill/SW Salmon Street MAX station.

* Vaughn Street Park site. The PCL Beavers began playing at the 12,000-seat Vaughn Street Park in 1901. They won 8 Pennants there: 1901, 1906, 1910, 1911, 1913, 1914, 1936 and 1945. A fire in 1947 burned down the bleachers, which led to the Beavers giving up on it after the 1955 season, and moving to what's now Providence Park.


It's an industrial area now, and a plaque honoring the ballpark is on the site. 2401 NW Vaughn Street at 24th Avenue, about 2 miles northwest of downtown. Bus 15.
* Portland Ice Arena site. From 1914 to 1926, the Portland Rosebuds played in the Pacific Coast Hockey Association. Their home was the Portland Ice Arena. In 1916, they won the PCHA title, and became the 1st American team to play in the Stanley Cup Finals, losing to the National Hockey Association Champions, the Montreal Canadiens. 

(Don't mention this to Portland fans, but the next year, Seattle beat the Canadiens and became the 1st American city to actually win the Cup.)

The team included future Hall-of-Famers Dick Irvin Sr., Ernie "Moose" Johnson and Tommy Dunderdale, but folded in 1926, and its players were mostly brought east to form the Chicago Blackhawks.

From 1928 to 1941, the Arena was home to the Portland Buckaroos. Several teams of that name played in Portland until 1975, and were replaced by the Winterhawks in 1976. The Arena closed in 1953 and was demolished. NW 20th & 21st Avenues, Northrup & Marshall Streets, a mile west of Union Station. NW 21st & Northrup on MAX.
Portland has the NBA and MLS, but don't expect it to get teams in the other sports soon. Its population would rank it 23rd in MLB, 21st in the NFL and 19th in the NHL. For the time being, the closest MLB and NFL teams are in Seattle, 173 miles away; and the closest NHL team is in Vancouver, 314 miles away.

An April 23, 2014 article in The New York Times shows that the most popular MLB team in Portland is the closest team, the Seattle Mariners, but it's not overwhelming: They average about 22 percent of Portland baseball fans, while the Yankees and Red Sox battle it out for 2nd place, in the 10s. 

The September 2014 issue of The Atlantic shows that the most popular NFL team in Portland, and in most of Oregon, is the Seattle Seahawks -- and while this was after the Hawks' Super Bowl XLVIII win, it was before they got into Super Bowl XLIX. Southwestern Oregon, closer to California than to Washington State, prefers the San Francisco 49ers, while southeastern Oregon prefers... the Dallas Cowboys, as does neighboring southwestern Idaho. Ew.

The University of Oregon is 114 miles south on I-5, in Eugene. It can be reached by Cascades Point bus from Union Station, although this will take 2 hours and 45 minutes and cost $26 -- each way. Oregon State University is 87 miles south, in Corvallis. You'd have to take at least 2 conveyances to get there, and it would cost $50.50 -- each way.

Portland's top museum is its Art Museum, at 1219 SW Park Avenue. The Oregon Historical Society Museum is across the street at 1200 SW Park. City Hall station on MAX. The Oregon Museum of Science & Industry is at 1945 SE Water Avenue. OMSI/SE Water station on MAX.

Oregon has never produced a President. The closest it's come is the years when an orphaned Herbert Hoover lived with an uncle growing up in Newberg, 25 miles southwest of downtown Portland. The Hoover-Minthorn House is at 115 S. River Street. There is a bus that goes there, but it's prohibitively expensive, so if you want to see it, you should rent a car.

As with Utah, the tallest building in Oregon is named the Wells Fargo Center. Not to be confused with the Philadelphia arena of the same name, his one opened in 1972, and looks it: It's rather dull architecture. It stands 546 feet at 1300 SW 5th Avenue. City Hall station on MAX.

The TV shows Bates Motel (based on the film Psycho, which was also set there) and Eureka were set in Oregon. Specifically in Portland, Leverage, Portlandia, and the brief 1990s CBS crime drama Under Suspicion were both filmed and set there. Unfortunately, the most famous TV show set in Portland was one of NBC's all-time turkeys, the McLean Stevenson sitcom Hello, Larry.

In addition to Psycho (which was filmed in Southern California), films based in Oregon include Ice Cube's Are We There Yet? series, the Madonna bomb Body of Evidence, Drugstore Cowboy, Five Easy Pieces, The Goonies, Arnold Schwarzenegger's comedy Kindergarten Cop, The Lathe of Heaven, Mr. Brooks, Mr. Holland's Opus, My Own Private Idaho, Overboard, Paint Your Wagon (Clint Eastwood in a musical? Yes), Pay It Forward, the track & field movies Personal Best and Pre (about Steve Prefontaine, the 1st athlete to endorse Oregon-based Nike footwear), The Postman (Kevin Costner's postapocalyptic film, a.k.a. "Kevin's Gate"), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Short Circuit, Stand By Me, and, of course, the film version (which he hated) of Ken Kesey's novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

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And on that note, let me remind you that the city has the slogan "Keep Portland Weird." The Trail Blazers, with their odd history, are a part of that. This is not a threatening town, unless you don't like weird things.



But you're from New York (or New Jersey), so you're used to weird. You should be able to have fun in Portland.