Wednesday, December 21, 2016

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

The New York Knicks visit the Atlanta Hawks on December 28 and January 29. The Brooklyn Nets do so on March 8 and 26.

Knicks vs. Hawks isn't much of a rivalry. Nor is Nets vs. Hawks. But, since the Hawks have long struggled at the box office, due to their ineptitude and Atlanta's status as a city with a lot of transplants, this will be a good chance for fans of either New York City team to get another arena, and even a road win, under their belts.

Before You Go. Being well south of New York, Atlanta is usually warmer than we are. Granted, this won't make much of a difference with an indoor sport, but you should still be aware. Check the website of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (used to be 2 papers, now 1) before you go. For the moment, they're predicting pretty low 70s for the afternoon, and low 60s for the evening -- and that's unseasonably warm for us at this time of year.

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 Hawks averaged 16,714, fans per home game last season, about 89 percent of capacity. In spite of there being quite a few New York and New Jersey natives in Atlanta, getting tickets should be fairly easy, as long as you have the money.

In the lower level, the 100 sections, tickets are $245 between the baskets, $139 behind them. In the 200 level, $174 between and $121 behind. In the 300 level, $81 between and $39 behind. The 400 level is closed off, since they don't think they can sell seats on those sections.

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 7 buses a day leaving from Port Authority to Atlanta, but only 2 of them are no-changeover routes. It costs as much as $358 round-trip (though it can be as low as $178 on advanced purchase). Yeah. Tha'ts not better than driving. And, at 21 hours each way (usually including an hour-and-a-half stopover in Richmond, Virginia), it saves you no time. 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 he next morning. That's just under 18 hours. It returns at 8:04 PM (meaning you'll need an overnight stay in Atlanta) and arrives back in New York at 1:46 the next afternoon. The round-trip fare is $240. It's as long as driving and riding the bus, but could be cheaper 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 (named for 2 late Mayors of Atlanta), nonstop, for $804 round-trip. True, that's more expensive than the train, but 2½ hours each way beats the hell out of 18. 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 2-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 1/3 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.

Coke ad in the Five Points

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 slightly 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 in 2006.
Going In. Philips Arena, named for the Dutch electronics company, and opened in 1999 on the site of the former Hawks arena, The Omni, is part of the Georgia World Congress Center complex, at Marietta Street & Centennial Olympic Park Drive NW, which also includes the Georgia Dome, the site of the new Falcons' stadium and CNN headquarters.

The official address is 1 Philips Drive. If you're driving, parking costs $13. If you're not, take MARTA's Blue or Green Line to Dome-GWCC-Philips Arena-CNN Station. Hawk Walk is a street that connects the station, the arena and the CNN headquarters.

There are steel columns on the Georgia Dome side of the arena that spell out "ATLANTA," and on the CNN side that spell out "CNN." Other than that, there's not much about it that's remarkable, at least not architecturally.
The Philips Arena was the home of the NHL's Atlanta Thrashers from 1999 to 2011, before they moved to become the new version of the Winnipeg Jets. The WNBA's Atlanta Dream, named for Atlanta native Martin Luther King's 1963 March On Washington speech, also plays there.

Unlike most arenas, the court is laid out on a diagonal, instead of more or less east-to-west or north-to-south: Northeast-to-southwest. The center scoreboard at Philips is the same one from The Omni, with some modern touches added. 
Food. Son, Ah say son, this bein' the South, y'all can expect good eatin' and good hospitality. What the Hawks lack in history and atmosphere, they make up in food. Some arena restaurants are open only to club-seating patrons.

Available to all are RED and Taco Mac. Hawk Walk has stands for Courtside Grill, Fry Baby, Buckhead Diner Express, Backcourt BBQ, Corona Beach Hut Bar, 3 Point Play Pizza, sandwich & salad shop The Works, Nava Taqueria, Peachtree Pretzels, Italian-style sandwich bar Veni Vidi Vici, Delaney's Irish Pub, Crown Royal Bar and Rock and Roll Bar.

In the arena concourses, you can find barbecue stands Buzzer Beaters (Portals 12 and 25) and Full Court Press (3), Slam Dunk Pizza (3, 11, 15 and 26), burger & chicken place Burgers & Birds (2 and 21), chicken stand Fowl Line (27), hot dog stand Hot Diggity Dog (20), Dessert Shoppe (2) and Gluten Free Portable (12).

Team History Displays. The Hawks hang banners for their 1970 Western Division title; their 1980, 1987 and 1994 Central Division titles; and their 2015 Southeast Division title.
The Hawks banners, photo taken during a Thrashers game
prior to their 2011 move and the Hawks' 2015 Division title

The Hawks have officially retired 4 numbers: 9, forward Bob Pettitt, 1954-65 (their last season in Milwaukee and their 1st 10 in St. Louis); 21, forward Dominique Wilkins, 1982-94; 23, forward Lou Hudson, 1966-77 (their last 2 seasons in St. Louis and their 1st 9 in Atlanta); and 55, of Dikembe Mutombo, center 1996-2001. Center Jason Collier played the 2004-05 season with the Hawks, and then died from an enlarged heart at age 28. The Hawks have not retired his Number 40, but they have removed it from circulation. There's also a banner honoring Ted Turner, who owned the team from 1977 to 2001.

Their banners for Pettit and Hudson are to the left of their title banners, the one for Wilkens to the right, where it will, presumably, be joined by Mutombo's. They do not hang a banner for their 1958 NBA Championship, won in St. Louis.

There are 14 men in the Basketball Hall of Fame who have played for the Hawks, but only 8 in Atlanta. The Hawks do not have a team Hall of Fame. Besides Wilkins and Mutombo, they haven't had a Hall of Fame player for more than 4 Atlanta seasons. Pete Maravich and Walt Bellamy played 4 seasons for them, Moses Malone for 3, Connie Hawkins for 1. Zelmo Beaty, elected earlier this year, played the last 6 seasons in St. Louis, but only the 1st in Atlanta, 1968-69.

Pettit was named to the NBA's 25th Anniversary Team in 1971, and its 35th Anniversary Team in 1980. He, Wilkens, Maravich, Wilkins and Malone were named to the NBA's 50th Anniversary 50 Greatest Players in 1996. Swin Cash, who played for the Atlanta Dream in the 2014 season, was named to the WNBA Top 20 at 20 in 2016 -- in the 20th Season, rather than at the 20th Anniversary.

Although Pistol Pete Maravich is probably, except maybe for 'Nique, the franchise's best player of the last half-century, and died young, the Number 44 that he wore with the Hawks remains in circulation. (He did get his Number 7 retired by the Jazz.) Lenny Wilkens (note the spelling, so not related to Dominique) played for them in St. Louis and coached them in Atlanta, but there's no mention of him, either.

UPDATE: They retired Maravich's 44 on March 3, 2017.

Stuff. Hawksshop stores can be found in the arena and along Hawk Walk, selling pretty much any kind of memorabilia you could find at any other arena.

While there are several good books about Atlanta's favorite team, the Braves, the Hawks have hardly any written about them. Last year, as part of the NBA's A History of Hoops series, Jim Whiting published The Story of the Atlanta Hawks. That's about as good as it's going to get until the Hawks actually make a serious run at a title. And as for DVDs with the Hawks as the subject, I searched and found exactly none.

It's almost as if the Hawks don't exist. And, at the rate they're going, soon, they won't -- at least, not in the Big Peach.

During the Game. A November 13, 2014 article on DailyRotoHelp ranked the NBA teams' fan bases, and listed the Hawks' as 28th, or 3rd-least-engaged. According to the article, "Everyone loves to talk about them, but once they start doing bad, the fans stop showing up. Even when they make the Playoffs, they still don't sell out games."

Atlanta can be a rough city, but, aside from a brief rivalry with the Orlando Magic when each team had some Georgia natives on their roster, they don't have any real rivalries. Despite the Charlotte Hornets, New Orleans Pelicans and Memphis Grizzlies being regional rivals, they're not that close -- certainly not like the Boston-New York-Philly-Washington corridor.

NFL Falcons and Georgia Tech college football games might be good places to keep your guard up. But Hawks fans are not going to pick fights with you. As I said, they barely care enough to show up. You do not have to worry about wearing Knicks, Nets, or any other team's, gear in Philips Arena. Hawks fans will generally not act like New York, Philadelphia or Boston fans and get snippy (or worse, rough) because of it.

The Hawks hold auditions for National Anthem singers, rather than have a regular performer. I do not know if Hawks fans follow their Braves-leaning lead by concluding the National Anthem not with " …and the home of the brave" but " …and the home of the Braves!" I hope they don't. It's not as dumb as the Baltimore "O! say does that… " but it's bad enough.

Foster Carson, a.k.a. "Sir Foster," is perhaps the most renowned organist in the NBA. Atlanta-based rapper and minister J4J has recorded a theme song for the Hawks. I don't know if they do the Braves' annoying Tomahawk Chop and its song, the War Chant: "Oh, oh-whoa-oh-oh… whoa-oh-oh… oh-whoa-oh-oh…"

The team's mascot is Harry the Hawk, and they do have cheerleaders who perform dance routines -- and, given the Hawks' perennial attendance struggles, I don't envy the ladies or Harry their jobs.

After the Game. You should have no trouble with Hawks fans on your way out, and you may even find a few of your fellow travelers ready to celebrate a Knick (or Net) win – or commiserate with you on a Knick (or Net) loss. But, if it's a night game, be sure to get on the subway and then back to your hotel. Atlanta does have a bit of a crime problem; while you'll probably be safe in the World Congress Center area and on the subway, you don't want to wander the streets late at night.

A recent Thrillist article on the best sports bars in every State called the Midway Pub the best in Georgia. However, it's in East Atlanta, 3 miles east of downtown, and not easily reachable by public transportation. 552 Flat Shoals Avenue SE.

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. An alleged Giants fan bar is 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. Another is McCray's Tavern, at 4500 W. Village Place in Smyrna, 13 miles west of downtown, closer to the site of the new Braves ballpark, and not easily reachable by public transportation.

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 N'Yawkuhs (or N'Jerseyans) there.

If your visit to Atlanta is during the European soccer season, which is now approaching its climax, your best bet to watch your favorite club is the Brewhouse Cafe, at 401 Moreland Avenue NE. MARTA Blue Line to Inman Park-Reynoldstown.

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 an MLS team about to debut, a Division I-A college which has been successful in several sports, the annual Southeastern Conference Championships for both football and basketball, and an annual college football bowl game, the Peach Bowl.

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

* The Omni. The Philips Arena was built on the site of the previous Atlanta arena, The Omni, a.k.a. the Omni Coliseum. That arena 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 there on June 21, 29, 30 and July 3, 1973; April 30, May 1 and 2, 1975; and June 4, 5, 6 and December 30, 1976.

The Omni had to be replaced because the architects built it with steel that didn't hold up in Georgia's humid climate, and so, by the late 1990s, they had a 25-year-old arena that was in roughly the condition of one 75 years old. So The Omni had to go. The Philips Arena is built with more resistant steel, and should last for a while. (Then again, you never know: Following the "death" of The Omni at age 25, Turner Field is going to die at age 20, and the Georgia Dome at 26.)

With the Thrashers gone, the closest NHL team to Atlanta is the Nashville Predators, 247 miles away. Atlanta was the 11th-largest market in the NHL, but don't expect it to ever get another team.

* Georgia Dome and Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The Georgia Dome, next-door to Philips Arena, opened in 1992, and has since been home to the Falcons, he SEC Championship Game, and the Chick-fil-A Bowl (formerly the Peach Bowl). It hosted the 2006 Sugar Bowl due to the Superdome still being unusable after Hurricane Katrina.

It hosted the NCAA Final Four in 2002 (Maryland beating Indiana), 2007 (Florida beating Ohio State), and 2013 (Louisville over Michigan). It's also hosted the 1996 Olympic basketball games, several SEC basketball tournaments and the 2003 Women's Final Four. It's hosted 7 soccer games, including a recent CONCACAF Gold Cup loss by the U.S. men's team to Panama, a 2014 U.S. women's team win over Russia, and games by legendary club sides AC Milan, Manchester City and Mexican side Club America.

A new retractable-roof stadium for the Falcons, and for a proposed Atlanta team for Major League Soccer, is planned for just south of the Georgia Dome, which, presumably, will be demolished -- like Turner Field, remarkably soon after its construction.

Like the new Braves ballpark, it will open in 2017, allowing both the Falcons and the Major League Soccer expansion team Atlanta United to move in. Naming rights have been sold to Mercedes-Benz -- giving them the names of both the Falcons and their NFC South Division rivals, the New Orleans Saints. It is slated to host the College Football Playoff National Championship on January 7, 2018, and Super Bowl LIII on February 3, 2019.

Until Atlanta United first takes the pitch, the closest MLS team will be Orlando City Soccer Club, 436 miles away.

* 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, began in February, and the 1st Georgia State football game there is set for August 31 of this year.
Artist's rendering of the football complex

* Alexander Coliseum/McCamish Pavilion. The Georgia Institute of Technology (a.k.a. Georgia Tech) has played basketball here at "the Thrillerdome" since 1956, and recently completed a renovation. This building, named for legendary football coach Bill Alexander, also 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 was built on The Omni's site.
After a 2010 renovation, funded in part by the McCamish family, it was renamed the Hank McCamish Pavilion. But everyone still calls it the Alexander Coliseum or the Thrillerdome. 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 to Midtown.

* Bobby Dodd Stadium at Historic Grant Field. The oldest stadium in Division I-A college football? It sure doesn't look it, having been modernized several times since its opening a little over 100 years ago, on September 27, 1913. Dodd, who played at the University of Tennessee and coached at Georgia Tech (first as an assistant to Alexander, then as head coach), is 1 of only 3 people elected to the College Football Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach.

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 before every game, carrying the Tech cheerleaders, including Buzz the Yellow Jacket, with the team running behind it.

The 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.) Atlanta United will also play its inaugural season at Dodd/Grant until at least June, at which point Mercedes-Benz Stadium should open. 177 North Avenue NW (yeah, another one of those). MARTA Gold or Red to North Avenue.

I would advise against going to Dodd/Grant or Alexander when Tech play 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 and arena have great atmosphere. UGa is 72 miles east, in Athens. It can be reached by Greyhound.)

A few steps away, over the North Avenue Bridge (over I-75/85) at 61 North Avenue NW, highlighted by a huge neon letter V (as seen in the photo at the top of this post), 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.

* 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.

The team won a Pennant in 1895, before the 1st ballpark with the name was built. In the first 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 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 for their final season, 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.

* SunTrust Park. The Braves have now broken ground for the stadium they hope to open in April 2017, in Cumberland, Cobb County, Georgia. It's in Atlanta's northwestern suburbs. 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.)

Capacity will be about 41,000. It will be 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.

* College Football Hall of Fame. It's just to the north of the stadium and arena complex, at 250 Marietta Street NW. MARTA Gold or Red to Dome-GWCC-Philips Arena stop.

* 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.

* 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 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 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 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 1988-92 TV version of In the Heat of the Night would also film in Covington. The 1967 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 the TV series version of 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. Is it worth going? That's up to you to decide.

But if your mission is simply to have a good time in an unfamiliar city, and to "cross one more arena off your list," then, by all means, go, stay safe, and have fun.


Jay said...

A few thoughts.

First, stop with the barbs about Atlanta teams not filling their venues. I've seen Yankee playoff games that weren't full, and New York, having more than three times the population of Atlanta, has zero excuse for that. Plus, (and this is definitely a mark against Altanta as a municipality), it's so much easier to get around in NYC. So just stop with the attendance stuff. If you're going to lord over Atlanta about pro sports, a mention of the trophies will suffice. NY teams have a gazillion titles. Atlanta has one. We can talk long-suffering with the best of them. Leave the fans out of it. Besides, we're much more into college sports, particularly college football. We care about different things.

Second, round-trip airfare to ATL need not cost $800. I've done ATL-NY for a fourth of that. Which makes the drive/bus/train/fly question much easier to settle. Just takes a little advance planning. If you must drive, 95 to 85 may be faster, but that drive through Virginia is beautiful. Probably moreso in March than in January.

Third, the rest of your observations about Atlanta are pretty spot-on. January weather will be warmer but don't plan on wearing shorts. In March, be prepared for anything. Food - there's probably no equivalent to Tony's Di Napoli here, but if you were set on Italian food, you'd probably stay in NYC anyway. Just dive in to the fried fare and tell your arteries it'll be OK when you return north.

Uncle Mike said...

Let me get this straight: You tell me you care about different things, and yet you want me to leave the fans out of it?

No, it is you people down there who are leaving yourselves out of it. THAT'S THE WHOLE POINT. You're a lousy sports city. Maybe you wouldn't be so "long-suffering" if you'd show the hell up and give your teams a home-field advantage! Then we wouldn't be able to say your attendance stinks, because it wouldn't.