Monday, January 30, 2017

Halley's Politics

Yesterday, America's most popular scientist, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, tweeted this:

Seems the World goes batshit crazy, every few decades. Just long enough to forget the last time the World went batshit crazy.

Since he's best known as an astronomer, that made me think of Halley's Comet, which takes 75 1/2 years to go around the solar system and be visible from Earth once again.

Its 1986 appearance wasn't particularly up to the hype. It won't be back until 2061. I would be 91 years old. I had a great uncle who lived to be 90, and a great aunt is now 89. But as far as I know, no person from whom I am descended has ever lived to be 91. So I probably won't get a better chance than I got in '86.

Is Tyson right? Is the idiocy of Trump, Brexit, Netanyahu, Prime Minister Abe in Japan, and far-right movements all over the globe -- including the "radical Islam" that these other right-wing nuts hate so much -- an example of "Halley's Politics"?

Let's crunch the numbers:

2016-17: You know what's going on. Subtract 75 or 76 years, and you get...

1940-41: The peak of fascism in World War II, Stalin's purges in the Soviet Union, their collision in Eastern Europe, and Japan overruning the Pacific from Burma to Pearl Harbor.

1865: America's Civil War ends, but while the forces of freedom won the war, the forces of racism killed Abraham Lincoln and won the peace.

1789: The French Revolution.

1714-15: The War of the Spanish Succession ends, the Ottoman-Venetian War begins, and King Louis XIV of France dies, leaving his 5-year-old great-grandson as King Louis XV.

The pattern comes up a little short, but the 1640s was the decade of the English Civil War, and the temporary overthrow of the monarch by Oliver Cromwell. He was so brutal in his rule of the British Isles that, after he died in 1658 and the monarchy restored 2 years later, his corpse was dug up and beheaded, and the head stuck on a pike. To this day, his name is considered a profanity in Ireland.


Or is the pattern shorter than 75/76 years? Maybe it's every 24/25 years.

2016-17: This crap.

1991-92: The fall of the Soviet Union, the Yugoslavian Civil War, and George Bush the father going from a 91 percent approval rating to 37 percent of the vote as he runs for re-election.

1967-68: Revolutions from Jerusalem to Paris to Chicago, and Tricky Dick Nixon gets into the White House despite getting only 43 percent of the vote.

1942: The depth of World War II. At that point, an Axis victory still looked more likely than not.

1917-18: The Russian Revolution, World War I, and the chaotic aftermath of both.

1892-93: The pattern falls short here, but in 1893 a depression began, there was an increase in colonization, and labor unrest peaked in America in 1894.

1867-68: It's fizzling out, although North America saw the end of the French occupation of Mexico, the independence of Canada, and, in the U.S., continued resistance to Reconstruction and the impeachment and very nearly removal of President Andrew Johnson.

Apparently, my "Halley's Politics" theory makes more sense if you use the 75/76 years of Halley's Comet as your guide.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

How to Be a New York Football Fan In Atlanta -- 2017 Edition

The Atlanta Falcons have advanced to Super Bowl LI. So, having never done a trip guide for them before, I'm going to do this one as if they had an upcoming home game against either the Giants or the Jets.

Since their opponents in the Super Bowl, the New England Patriots, are an AFC Eastern Division opponent of the Jets, I do one of these for them every year, so I don't have to do one for them in the leadup to the Super Bowl. Here's a link to this season's edition.

Before You Go. Being well south of New York, Atlanta is usually warmer than we are. It also gets rather humid. In addition, Turner Field does not offer much protection from the sun. They don't call it "Hot-lanta" just for its nightlife. Check the website of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (used to be 2 papers, now 1) before you go.

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 Falcons averaged 69,999 fans per home game in 2016. I guess they couldn't sell that 1 more season ticket to make it 70,000. That was 98 percent of capacity, which made getting tickets tough.

Since the season is over, we only have next season's info to go by, which is that season tickets in the lower level start at $125 per game. So, that's a starting point from which to think.

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 2 cities, and it's relatively cheap: $120 round-trip. But at 20 1/2 hours each way (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 AM the next morning. 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 just under $500. True, that's more expensive than the train,but under 3 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 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 472,000 people (slightly less than Staten Island), in a metropolitan area of about 6.4 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. Atlanta's electricity is supplied by Georgia Power Company.

Atlanta became majority-black in the 1960, and is now the 4th-largest majority-black city: About 51 percent black, 41 percent white, 4 percent Hispanic and 3 percent Asian. The northern half of the city is mostly white, the southern half mostly black. As a major center for both black filmmaking and hip-hop, Atlanta is, essentially, the Black Hollywood.

Both the Hispanic and the Asian populations of the city have more than doubled since 2000. And, with 12.8 percent of the population willing to classify themselves as gay or bisexual, Atlanta has the 3rd-highest gay percentage of any major city in America, behind San Francisco and Seattle.

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.
Atlanta has always been the cultural capital of the South, particularly of the "New South." In the 1950s, Mayor Hartsfield, knowing that he couldn't get investors in his city if it was believed to be racist, billed it as "the City Too Busy to Hate." And Atlanta is a majority-black city. Nevertheless, it is still in Georgia, which is still the South. There's still old touches, including the fixation on Gone With the Wind, and the fact that the State Flag, even after several redesigns, still resembles the actual flag of the Confederate States of America, "the Stars and Bars" (not the "Southern Cross," that was the Confederate Battle Flag).
Going In. The Georgia Dome and the Philips Arena are next-door to each other, at Martin Luther King Jr. Drive SW and Northside Drive NW (another confusing street name), at the western edge of downtown. Officially, the Dome's address is 1 Georgia Dome Drive NW. If you drive in, parking is $20.
The Georgia Dome. Behind it to the right, Philps Arena.
Behind them, downtown Atlanta.

The 74,228-seat stadium has been home to the Falcons since 1992 and Georgia State University (with only the lower level opened, resulting in 28,155 seats) since 2010, and has hosted the SEC Championship Game since 1994, and the Peach Bowl (a.k.a. the Chick-fil-A Bowl) since 1993.

It hosted Super Bowl XXVIII in 1994 (the Dallas Cowboys beating the Buffalo Bills) and Super Bowl XXXIV in 2000 (the St. Louis Rams beating the Tennessee Titans). It hosted the NCAA Final Four in 2002 (Maryland beating Indiana), 2007 (Florida beating Ohio State), and 2013 (Louisville over Michigan). All of these functions will now be transferred to the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Interior shot, including the Falcons' retired number banners

It hosted the 2006 Sugar Bowl due to the Superdome still being unusable after Hurricane Katrina. 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. And it was "home field" for Atlanta's Evander Holyfield when he defended the Heavyweight Championship of the World against Vaughn Bean on September 19, 1998.

The field is FieldTurf, and is aligned east-to-west, which is not a problem since the dome blocks the sun.

The 19,049-seat Philips Arena, officially at 1 Philips Drive NW, has been home to the NBA's Hawks since 1999, and was the home of the NHL's Thrashers from 1999 to 2011. 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.

* 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), a fight by Atlanta's own Evander Holyfield, defending the Heavyweight Championship of the World against Bert Cooper on November 23, 1991.
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. It also hosted the 1988 Democratic Convention, which nominated Michael Dukakis for President, which didn't work out too well.

Food. Son, Ah say son, this bein' the South, y'all can expect good eatin' and good hospitality. You want the usual ballpark fare, including hot dogs and beer? They got 'em and they got 'em good. You want Southern specialties such as fried chicken and barbecue? They got that, too.

They've got a Philly Cheese Steak stand at Sections 102 and 122; a Carved Sandwich Stand and Mac N Cheese Mania at 103; MetroCity Dogs specialty hot dogs and sausages) at 104; Jim N Nicks BBQ at 104 and 126; Street Corn Nachos at 105 and 125; Praline Pecans and Cinnamon Almonds at 108, 109, 128 and 139; Georgia Dawg (a half-pound hot dog topped with Vidalia Onion Relish) at 109 and 130; Delights by Dawn cupcakes at 109; Dippin Dots at 110, 120, 123, 131 and 140; Waffle Fries at 113 and 137; Turkey Legs at 118 and 138; Funnel Cakes at 118 and 138; a Boar's Head Deli and a Gluten Free Stand at 120; Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q at 124; Shock Top Bratwurst at 124 and 137; Atlanta Sausage Factory and Asian Influenced Cart at 128; BBG Big Dawg (a half-pound hot dog topped with pulled pork) at 109, 130 and 134; and Chicken & Waffles (a weird Southern favorite that is also oddly popular in Ohio) at 140.

Team History Displays. This season, the Falcons made the Playoffs for the 13th time in their 51-season history, or once every 4 years. 3.92, actually. That's not that bad a ratio. It's slightly better than the Jets' 14 times in 57 seasons, or once every 4.07 years. For both teams, the problem isn't just getting to the Playoffs, but what happens once they do.

The Falcons won the NFC Western Division in 1980 and 1998 (what a team in Atlanta was doing in the Western Division in the first place is another matter), and have won the NFC South Division in 2004, 2010, 2012 and 2016. This season marks their 2nd NFC Championship, having previously won it in the 1998 season, and going on to lose Super Bowl XXXIII to the Denver Broncos. Obviously, their 2016 banners aren't up yet, but they hang their 1998 NFC title banner and their 5 previous Division title banners.
Officially, the Falcons do not retire uniform numbers. But the players in the Atlanta Falcons Ring of Honor usually have their numbers kept from circulation. There are 9 honorees:

* From the late 1960s and the early 1970s: Number 60, linebacker Tommy Nobis, their 1st-ever draft selection, who really should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but isn't.

* From the late 1970s and 1980s "Gritz Blitz" team, including the 1980 NFC West title: 10, quarterback Steve Bartkowski; 31, running back William Andrews; 42, running back Gerald Rigs; 57, center Jeff Van Note; 78, offensive tackle Mike Kenn; and 87, defensive end Claude Humphrey.

* From the 1991 Wild Card team: 21, cornerback Deion Sanders; and 58, linebacker Jessie Tuggle.

* From the 1998 NFC Champions, a.k.a. "the Dirty Birds": So far, only Tuggle.

* From the 2004 team that reached the NFC Championship Game, no one yet. The problem is, the most prominent player from that team was Number 7, quarterback Michael Vick.

Until 2011, the only person associated with the Falcons for more than a single season who was elected to the Hall of Fame was their 2nd head coach, Norm Van Brocklin, and he had already been elected as a player before he ever became their coach. Since then, Sanders and Humphrey have been elected. As I said, Nobis should be in. And Andrews might have made it if not for a career-ending knee injury. The only quarterbacks associated with the Falcons in the Hall are Van Brocklin and... the guy they practically gave away after a hopeless rookie season in 1991: Brett Favre.

No Falcons players made the NFL's 75th Anniversary Team in 1994. The Sporting News named Deion Sanders to its 100 Greatest Football Players in 1999. The NFL Network named him and Tony Gonzalez to its 100 Greatest Players in 2010.

Seriously: Given half a century, the comparative weakness of the NFC South (even with the long domination of the old NFC West by first the Los Angeles Rams and then the San Francisco 49ers), and Georgia's love of football, this is a massively underachieving franchise.

There is a Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, but it's in Macon, 85 miles southeast of downtown Atlanta, and only reachable by car. And their website is messed-up, so I can't tell you who's in it.

Stuff. The Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United Team Store is... not at the Georgia Dome. I guess, with the new stadium being built, it didn't make sense to put one in the old stadium, and then have to move all that stuff to the new one. Presumably, they will have a store at the new stadium. But, for now, the Team Store is at the Mall of Georgia, 3333 Buford Drive NE, in Buford. Bus 413 from Five Points.

With a lackluster history, there aren't many good books about the Falcons, but team owner Arthur Blank and sportswriter I.J. Rosenberg have collaborated on an anniversary feature, Atlanta Falcons: 50 Seasons. Ben Hawkins just published Matt Ryan: A Biography, about their current starting quarterback, although in a week's time, one way or the other, it will be very out of date. Videos detailing the Falcons are hard to come by, although if they win Super Bowl LI, that will change.

During the Game. Atlanta can be a rough city, but unless you're a fan of the Carolina Panthers or the New Orleans Saints, Falcons fans probably won't give you a hard time. Just don't mention the old Mets-Braves rivalry, and you should be fine.

UPDATE: From September 1 to 7, 2017, during the NFL National Anthem protest controversy, polled fans of the 32 NFL teams, to see where they leaned politically. Despite the natural conservatism of the South, Falcon fans were found to be 2.7 percent more liberal than conservative, although that places them in the more conservative half of NFL fanbases.

The Falcons hold auditions for National Anthem singers, instead of having a regular singer. As far as I know, they don't do what Braves fans do, which is conclude the National Anthem not with " …and the home of the brave" but " …and the home of the Braves!" It’s not as dumb as the Baltimore "O! say does that… " but it’s bad enough.

The mascot is Freddie Falcon. His golden coloring does not clash with the Falcons' red & black jerseys, of which he wears Number 00.
After the Game. You should have no trouble with Falcons fans on your way out, and you may even find a few of your fellow travelers ready to celebrate a Giant or Jet win – or commiserate with you on a Giant or Jet loss. But if you're staying overnight, be sure to get back to your hotel, as Atlanta does have a bit of a crime problem: While you'll probably be safe in the stadium parking lot 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.

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.

If your visit to Atlanta is during the European soccer season, which we are now in, 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.

UPDATE: On February 3, 2017, Thrillist made a list ranking the 30 NFL cities (New York and Los Angeles each having 2 teams), and Atlanta came in 18th, in the bottom half. They wrote:

Atlanta's a complicated city that far too many experience only in the form of airport layovers and far too few experience in the form of a coveted Holeman and Finch burger, a pilgrimage to Clermont Lounge, and an inexplicable traffic jam that makes you question whether there's good in the universe.

Here's a listing of some notable Atlanta sites:

* Mercedes-Benz Stadium. A new retractable-roof stadium for the Falcons and Major League Soccer's expansion Atlanta United FC is under construction, just south of the Georgia Dome, which, presumably, will be demolished. The official address is 441 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive NW.
It will seat 71,000 for football, 40,000 for soccer. Theoretically, it can be expanded to up to 83,000 seats. It is scheduled to open on July 30. It will also annually host the Kickoff Game and the Peach Bowl, both with Atlanta-based Chick-Fil-A as a name sponsor; and the Southeastern Conference Championship Game. It will host the College Football Playoff National Championship on January 8, 2018; Super Bowl LIII on February 3, 2019; and the NCAA Final Four on April 4 and 6, 2020.
Artist's depiction of completed stadium, with roof closed

UPDATE: On September 12, 2017, Thrillist had an article ranking all 31 NFL stadiums. Mercedes-Benz Stadium, having hosted 1 regular-season game, came in 5th:

Mercedes-Benz is home to the first Chick-fil-A in an NFL Stadium, a spot famous for never being open on Sundays.

* 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, the 2nd legs of the 1968 and 1971 NASL Finals hosted by the Chiefs, 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

* SunTrust Park. Construction is well underway on the new ballpark, named for a bank, that the Braves hope to open in April 2017, 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.
Construction photo, dated December 21, 2016

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, to be done in the NBA's of-season so that the Hawks can still play there, much as was recently done with Madison Square Garden. 965 Fowler Street NW. MARTA Gold or Red Line 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 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 one 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 July, 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 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.)

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.

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.

* 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 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.

* Centennial Olympic Park. Set up as the centerpiece of the city's celebration of the 1996 Olympics, it turned tragic when Eric Rudolph, an anti-abortion and anti-gay rights activist, set off a bomb. There were 113 injuries, including 1 person directly killed, and another who died of a heart attack at the scene. It was also damaged by a tornado in 2008.

Still, the Park hosts the Wendesday WindDown summer concert series, and an annual 4th of July concert and fireworks show. It is bounded on the north by Baker Street (no, Sherlock Holmes doesn't live there), Centennial Olympic Park Drive on the east, and Marietta Street on the west, with the latter 2 forming the point of a triangle so that there is no southern boundary. Same MARTA stop as the stadium and arena.

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 played 2 shows at the City Auditorium in Waycross on February 22, 1956. 865 Pendleton Street, 238 miles southeast, actually closer to Jacksonville. He played the Bell Municipal Auditorium in Augusta on March 20 and June 27, 1956. 712 Telfair Street, 148 miles east.

He played 2 shows at the Savannah Sports Arena on June 25, 1956. Since demolished, it stood at 2519 E. Gwinnett Street, 250 miles southeast. He played the Savannah Civic Center on February 17, 1977. 301 W. Oglethorpe Avenue. And he played 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. 200 Coliseum Drive, 84 miles south.

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 on Designing Women, 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, at Bull and Hull Streets, in Savannah, 250 miles southeast of Atlanta. The bench has been moved to the nearby Savannah History Museum, 303 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Most of the movie was filmed in Beaufort, South Carolina, 42 miles to the northeast, 287 miles southeast of Atlanta, and 71 miles southwest of Charleston.


Atlanta is an acquired taste, especially for a sports fan. Is it worth going? Put it this way: At the rate the Falcons are going, with a Super Bowl berth and a new stadium, it just might become a better sports city.

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

Saturday, January 28, 2017

How to Be a Devils Fan In Columbus -- 2017 Edition

Next Saturday, the New Jersey Devils will go to Ohio to play the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Before You Go. Columbus can get really hot in the summer, but this game will be played in late February, and, besides, the game will be indoors. The Columbus Dispatch website is predicting low 30s for Saturday afternoon, and low 20s for the evening. There is a chance of snow for late Sunday, but that shouldn't affect you.

Columbus is in the Eastern Time Zone, so you won't have to set your clocks back.

Tickets. The Blue Jackets are averaging 15,229 fans per home game this season, up over 1,200 from last season, due to their long winning streak sparking hope that this is the season they'll finally win a Playoff series for the 1st time. (How their fans have suffered since... the team debuted in October 2000.) However, it's still only about 84 percent of capacity, and only the Islanders, Arizona and Carolina are doing worse in that regard.

Which does beg the question: Why did Columbus get an NHL team? Why not Cleveland or Cincinnati, the more proven major league cities? Probably because somebody (probably the actual Devil, a.k.a. Commissioner Gary Bettman) though that neither Cleveland nor Cincinnati could support a team by itself, but a team in Columbus, in Central Ohio, would be supported by the entire State. (Or maybe that theory makes no sense, since he let the Minnesota North Stars move to Dallas, when he could have suggested Austin as a way to get fans from Dallas and Houston, but didn't.)

At any rate, you should be able to walk up to the box office 5 minutes before puck-drop, and buy any seat you can afford. In the Lower Level, the 100 sections, seats are $110 between the goals and $80 behind them. In the Upper Level, the 200 sections, seats are $58 between the goals and $39 behind them.

Getting There. It's 536 miles from Times Square in New York to Capitol Square in Columbus, and 526 miles from the Prudential Center to Nationwide Arena.

Flying may seem like a good option, although with a destination city as close as Columbus, you shouldn't have to change planes. But you do, in either Washington (Dulles) or Chicago (which is further west than Columbus). And it's a bit expensive considering the distance, at $643 round-trip from Newark Liberty to Port Columbus International Airport.

Amtrak does not go to Columbus. Its main train station was demolished in 1979 to make way for the Columbus Convention Center (which is too bad, because it was just 2 blocks from the Arena), and it is now the largest metropolitan area in America that doesn't have Amtrak access.

Greyhound's run between New York and Columbus is about 14 hours with no change of buses necessary, costing $258, and dropping to as little as $98 with advanced-purchase. The station is at 111 E. Town Street, at 3rd Street, downtown, 2 blocks south of the State House.

If you decide to drive, it's far enough that it will help to get someone to go with you and split the duties, and to trade off driving and sleeping. You'll need to get on the New Jersey Turnpike. Take it to Exit 14, to Interstate 78. Follow I-78 west all the way through New Jersey, to Phillipsburg, and across the Delaware River into Easton, Pennsylvania. Continue west on I-78 until reaching Harrisburg. There, you will merge onto I-81. Take Exit 52 to U.S. Route 11, which will soon take you onto I-76. This is the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the nation's first superhighway, opening in 1940.

The Turnpike will eventually be a joint run between I-76 and Interstate 70. Once that happens, you'll stay on I-70, all the way past Pittsburgh, across the little northern pandhandle of West Virginia, and into Ohio all the way to Columbus.

If you do it right, you should spend about an hour and 15 minutes in New Jersey, 5 hours and 30 minutes in Pennsylvania, 15 minutes in West Virginia, and about 2 hours and 15 minutes in Ohio. That's about 9 hours and 15 minutes. Counting rest stops, preferably halfway through Pennsylvania and just after you enter Ohio, and accounting for traffic in both New York and Columbus, it should be no more than 11 hours, which would save you time on Greyhound, if not flying.

Once In the City. Founded in 1816, Columbus, named for Christopher Columbus, celebrates its 200th Anniversary this year. It is easily the largest city in Ohio by population, with about 823,000 people, to a mere 397,000 for Cleveland and 298,000 for Cincinnati. But its metropolitan area has just 2.4 million people, still larger than Cincy's 2.2 million but considerably smaller than Cleveland's 3.5 million, because Cleveland has a much larger suburban area.

High Street is the street address divider between East and West, and Broad Street serving as the divider between North and South. The southeaster corner of High & Broad includes Capitol Square, with the State House. The sales tax in the State of Ohio is 5.75 percent, rising to 7.5 percent in Franklin County, including the City of Columbus.
The Ohio State House. No, I don't know why they stopped buildng it
before finishing the dome.

ZIP Codes in Columbus begin with the digits 432, and the Area Code is 614, with 380 overlaid. The Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) runs buses, but no rapid transit rail system: No subway, no elevated, no light rail, no commuter rail. The fare is $2.00.

Going In. The Nationwide Arena (naming rights bought by the insurance company) is about a mile northwest of the State House, in the Arena District, near the confluence of the Scioto and Olentangy Rivers, in an area that includes their minor-league ballpark and their Convention Center.

Several bus lines get you there. The official address is 200 W. Nationwide Blvd. Parking is cheap, starting at $3.00. The rink is laid out east-to-west, and the Jackets attack twice toward the east end.
The Arena includes an in-house practice facility, the OhioHealth IceHaus. It was the 1st NHL arena to have this since the old Madison Square Garden, and inspired the building of the AmeriHealth Pavilion as part of the Devils' Prudential Center project.
The Arena has hosted NCAA Tournament basketball, "professional wrestling" and concerts. The husband & wife team of country singers Tim McGraw & Faith Hill played the Arena's 1st event, and British rock legends Paul McCartney and (the surviving members of) The Who have played there within the past year. President Barack Obama held one of his final 2012 campaign rallies, with Bruce Springsteen and Jay-Z performing.

ESPN The Magazine declared it "the No. 2 stadium experience in professional sports." The Ultimate Sports Road Trip rated it the best arena in the NHL, saying, "This newer arena in downtown Columbus is the anchor for the emerging Arena District, already burgeoning with shops, restaurants and hotels. The venue is spectacular, from its nostalgic brick and stone veneer to its sweeping concourses with blue mood lighting and modern amenities. The arena bowl has state of the art scoreboards and surround LED graphics boards which look 21st century high tech. With a separate practice rink built right in the facility, theme restaurants and great food selection, not to mention a raucous hockey atmosphere, this NHL venue is a must see!"

But despite its youth, the Arena already has a tragic history. On March 16, 2002, 13-year-old Brittanie Cecil was struck in the head by a deflected puck during the Blue Jackets' game against the Calgary Flames, dying from her injuries 2 days later. As far as can be determine, she is the only fan in the NHL's nearly 100-year history ever to be killed in a game-related accident. As a result of her death, the NHL mandated safety netting in all its arenas.

Food. Being in Big Ten Country, where tailgate parties are practically a sacrament, you would expect the Columbus arena to have lots of good options. They do not disappoint. Their chain stands include ColdStone Creamery behind Sections 108, 121, 202, 203 and 218; Tim Hortons at 210; Kettle Chipper potato chips at 105; Papa John's Pizza 102 and 226; and that Cincinnati specialty, Skyline chili -- chili over spaghetti -- at 105, 119 and 206.

There are stands for that Midwestern staple, Bratwurst, at 108, 121, 202, 203 and 209; a Sausage Haus at 121; a Baked Potato stand at 105; Burgers at 105, 119, 206 and 222; Hot Dogs at 108, 111, 119, 202, 203, 206, 209, 218 and 222; Chicken Tenders at 101, 119, 206 and 222; French Fries at 105, 119, 206 and 222; Cheese Fries at 229; Popcorn at 108, 121, 202, 203, 209 and 218; Milkshakes at 105; and Mexican food at 217.

Team History Displays. As 1 of the 2 newest teams in the NHL, the Jackets don't have much history. They have no retired numbers. They have just 1 banner honoring anyone, founding owner John H. McConnell. "Mr. Mac" was also the founder of Worthington Industries, a steel company. Kilbourn Street, on the Arena's west side, has been renamed John H. McConnell Blvd. in his memory. The team's parking deck, across the Boulevard from the Arena, is named the McConnell Garage. His son, John P. McConnell, now owns both the team and Worthington Industries.

They have just 1 player from their history who has been elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame, Sergei Fedorov, who played for them from 2005 to 2008, but is better known as a Detroit Red Wing. (I don't know why they haven't retired his number: It's not like 91 is a popular one.) They have never won their Division in 14 tries (not counting the current season and the never-played 2004-05). They've made the Playoffs only twice (in 2009 and 2014), and won a grand total of 2 Playoff games (both in 2014 against Pittsburgh).

Dave King, the team's 1st head coach, has been elected to the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Hall of Fame, for his contributions to the Canadian national team. As yet, no member of the Jackets' organization has received the Lester Patrick Trophy for contributions to hockey in America.

Instead of banners detailing the team's history (which wouldn't take many banners), they have banners of the NHL's other 29 teams. Yes, even the teams that Jacket fans don't particularly like, such as Pittsburgh, Detroit and Chicago.

Stuff. The Blue Line Team Store is on the north side of the Arena. The usual items that can be found at a souvenir store can be found there, including Union-style Army hats with the team logo on them.

As 1 of the 2 newest teams in the NHL, starting play in 2000 along with the Minnesota Wild, there aren't any official NHL videos about the Jackets. Don't count on finding many books about them either: The only one I could find on was Erin Butler's entry for them in the NHL's official Inside the NHL series. Maybe if this strong season they're having turns out well.

During the Game. A November 19, 2014 article on The Hockey News' website ranked the NHL teams' fan bases, and listed the Blue Jackets' fans 28th, ahead of only Dallas and Arizona: "Jackets fans have decent reputation, but THN metrics suggest it's exaggerated." I'm not sure what that means.
Does it mean that they have an exaggerated reputation for decency?

No, their reputation for decency is fine: You do not have to worry about wearing Devils gear in Nationwide Arena. Their rivals are the Pittsburgh Penguins (a reflection of the Browns vs. Steelers and Bengals vs. Steelers rivalries), the Detroit Red Wings (a reflection of the Ohio State vs. Michigan rivalry), and the Chicago Blackhawks (because everybody in the Midwest seems to hate the Hawks, now that they've replaced the Wings as the Midwest's most successful hockey team). They won't bother New Jersey fans, as long as you don't bother them first.

So you may be asking yourself, "I know what a Yellow Jacket is, it's a nasty stinging insect. I know what a Green Jacket is, it's the jacket you get for winning the Masters golf tournament. But what's a Blue Jacket?" The team's name was inspired by Ohio's connection to the American Civil War: Not only were legendary Generals Ulysses S. Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman and Philip Sheridan from Ohio, but the State lost a greater percentage of its population in battle than any other (on the non-traitor side, anyway).

Leo Welsh is the Jackets' National Anthem singer. The fans, who call themselves the 5th Line (hockey teams usually have 4 forward lines) like to do the "O-H-I-O" chant made famous at Ohio State football games (and copied by the R&B group the Ohio Players on their song "Fire"), and also chant the team's initials, "C-B-J!"

Prior to the start of the 2007-08 season, the team bought a hand-made replica of an 1857 Napoleon cannon. It is "fired" at home games when the Jackets take the ice, score, or win. Their goal song is "The Whip" by Locksley.

The mascot is Stinger the Yellow Jacket, although his costume was changed from yellow to green because it clashed less with the Blue Jackets' blue jerseys. He wears Number 00, in honor of the team's 2000 founding, and tends to bang on a snare drum.
That's right: They say that this clashes less.

After the Game. The Arena district is well-policed, and downtown should be safe. Columbus doesn't have nearly the reputation for crime that Cleveland and Cincinnati do.

As for where to go for a postgame meal or drink, an Italian restaurant called Beppa di Bucco is across from the Arena to the east, a Mexican restaurant named Nada to the west, and bd's Mongolian Grill to the south.

The most famous bar, perhaps in the entire State of Ohio, is the Varsity Club, across from the OSU Ice Arena and 3 blocks north of Ohio Stadium. 278 W. Lane Avenue, at Tuttle Park Place. High Street, the eastern boundary of the OSU campus, has been described as "a zoo" on home football Saturdays, although that won't affect you as a visiting hockey fan.

Unfortunately, the most storied Ohio State fan bar of all, Papa Joe's, home of the Saturday morning Kegs and Eggs breakfast, burned down in 1996. The current pizza chain of the same name has no connection, aside from being an Ohio tradition. Retail space, including the current Ohio State bookstore (a Barnes & Noble, of course), is on the site. 1556 N. High Street at 11th Avenue.

I can find no references to places where New Yorkers gather in or around Columbus: The sites that usually list bars for football fans in exile don't seem to have references to where Yankees, Mets, Giants or Jets fans go when they live nearby.

If you visit Columbus during the European soccer season, the Fado Irish Pub chain has an outlet here, at 4022 Townsfair Way, about 9 miles northeast of downtown. Number 16 bus.

Sidelights. Columbus may have only the 1 major league team, but it's a decent sports town, and here's some of the highlights:

* Huntington Park. Just 2 blocks west of Nationwide Arena, at 330 Huntington Park Lane, this 10,100-seat stadium has been home to the International League's Columbus Clippers since 2009. Since moving in, they've won Pennants in 2010, 2011 and 2015, giving them a total of 10 Pennants.
* Cooper Stadium. Opened in 1932 as Red Bird Stadium, and renamed for Harold Cooper, the Franklin County Commissioner and team owner who kept professional baseball in the city in the 1950s, this stadium was one of the most successful ballparks in the minor leagues. It was also one of the largest, seating 17,500 people at its peak, and 15,000 in its last years.

Initially, it was home to the Columbus Red Birds, a farm team of the St. Louis Cardinals (also nicknamed the Redbirds), and to a Negro League team, the Columbus Blue Birds. The Red Birds won Pennants in 1933, 1934, 1937, 1941, 1942, 1943 and 1950.

The Cardinals moved them to Omaha in 1955, and a new team was brought in, the Columbus Jets, a farm club first of the Kansas City Athletics, then of the Pittsburgh Pirates. This led to the stadium being renamed Jets Stadium. They won the Pennant in 1961 and 1965, before being moved to Charleston, West Virginia after the 1970 season. The Pirates restored Columbus as their Triple-A team in 1977, the Yankees took over in 1979, the Washington Nationals in 2007, and the Cleveland Indians in 2009.
The Clippers were a Yankee farm team from 1979 to 2006, infamous as the bad end of "The Columbus Shuttle," George Steinbrenner's pipeline from Triple-A ball to the Yankees and back. As a Yankee farm team, they won IL Pennants in 1979, 1980, 1981, 1987, 1991, 1992 and 1996. All told, Columbus baseball teams have won 19 Pennants.

Cooper Stadium was closed after the 2008 season, but instead of being demolished, it has been converted into an auto racing facility. 1155 W. Mound Street, 3 miles west of downtown. Number 6 bus.

An April 24, 2014 article in The New York Times, showing baseball fandom by ZIP Code, shows that, despite being considerably closer to Cincinnati (107 miles) than to Cleveland (143 miles), the Indians still have a slight edge on baseball fandom in Columbus, on the average having 28 percent to the Reds' 22 percent. The September 2014 issue of The Atlantic Monthly had a similar map, showing that the Browns are more popular in Columbus than the Bengals.

Cincinnati is the nearest MLB and NFL city, while Cleveland is the nearest NBA city. If it had teams in those sports, Columbus would rank 29th in population in MLB, 26th in the NFL, and 25th in the NBA. So don't hold your breath.

* Ohio State. The most famous building in the State of Ohio is Ohio Stadium, or, as ABC Sports' legendary college football announcer Keith Jackson called it, The Big Horseshoe On the Olentangy -- home field of the school usually referred to as "THE... Ohio State University." How big is it? The official seating capacity is currently listed as 104,944, making it the 4th-largest non-racing stadium in the world. 411 Woody Hayes Drive (formerly Woodruff Avenue), 3 1/2 miles north of downtown. Number 18 bus.
The Value City Arena at the Schottenstein Center opened in 1998, at 555 Borror Drive, across the Olentangy River from the Stadium. It hosted the NCAA's hockey Final Four, a.k.a. the Frozen Four, in 2005. The Bill Davis Stadium (baseball) and the Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium (track & field) are part of this complex as well.
From 1956 to 1998, Ohio State played basketball at St. John Arena, across from the Stadium at 410 Woody Hayes Drive. It was at this arena that the Buckeyes played the 1959-60 season in which they won the National Championship. Coach Fred Taylor is in the Basketball Hall of Fame, along with 3 players on this team, although 1 is in as a coach: Jerry Lucas, John Havlicek, and "sixth man" Bob Knight.
It was also at St. John that Elvis Presley sang on June 25, 1974. Early in his carer, Elvis played 2 shows at the Franklin County Veterans Memorial Auditorium on May 26, 1956. Built in 1955, it was demolished in 2015, and an Ohio Veterans Museum is being built on the site. 300 W. Broad Street, on the Scioto River, just across from downtown. (The Beatles played in Cleveland and Cincinnati, but not in Columbus.)

Columbus has never hosted an NCAA Final Four. Nor has any other Ohio city. The 13,435-seat University of Dayton Arena, built in 1969, 74 miles west of Columbus, has hosted more NCAA Tournament games than any other facility: 107.

* Indianola Park. This was the home ground of the Columbus Pandhandles, one of the 1st professional football teams, from 1901 to 1926, before the glut of early pro football doomed them. Along with the Canton Bulldogs, in the 1910s they dominated the Ohio League, one of the NFL's predecessors.
They are best remembered for the 7 Nesser brothers (sons of German immigrants, there were 8, but Pete, 1877-1954, ironically the largest of them, didn't like football and didn't play; there were also 4 sisters): John (1875-1931), Phil (1880-1959), Ted (1883-1941), Fred (1887-1967), Frank (1889-1953), Al (1893-1967) and Ray (1898-1969, the youngest and the last survivor).

Knute Rockne, who did play a little pro football before going back to Notre Dame to coach, said, "Getting hit by a Nesser is like falling off a moving train." In 1921, Ted's son Charlie (1903-1970) played with the Panhandles, marking the only time a father and son have played in the NFL at the same time, let alone for the same team.

The Indianola Shopping Center is now on the site, 3 miles north of downtown. 1900 N. 4th Street at 19th Avenue. Number 4 bus.

* Mapfre Stadium. Opening in 1999, and known until last year as Columbus Crew Stadium before naming rights were sold to a Spain-based insurance company, the Crew moved into this 22,555-seat stadium after playing their 1st 3 seasons (1996-98) before 90,000 empty seats at Ohio Stadium. They won the MLS Cup in 2008, and reached the Final again last year, losing to the Portland Timbers despite playing at home.
The Stadium also hosted the MLS Cup Final in 2001 (San Jose beating Los Angeles), 10 games of the U.S. National Team (including 4 games against Mexico, all 2-0 or "Dos A Cero" wins), and 6 games of the 2003 Women's World Cup (including a 3-0 U.S. win over North Korea).

One Black and Gold Blvd., at 20th Avenue, about 3 1/2 miles north of downtown, near the Indianola Shopping Center. Number 4 bus.

Currently without an NBA team, a May 12, 2014 article in The New York Times shows basketball allegiances in the Columbus area are mixed between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Miami Heat. But once you get into the suburbs, it becomes more Cavs territory. My guess: Ohio State students from elsewhere, some of whom end up staying in Columbus, stick with their old home teams; while some stick with LeBron James (who's played for both the Cavs and the Heat), and some adopted the Cavs regardless of LeBron.

The aforementioned Ohio Veterans Museum is now scheduled to open in Summer 2018.

Ohio Village is a recreated 19th Century community, sort of an updated, Midwestern version of Colonial Williamsburg. 800 E. 17th Avenue, at Velma Avenue. Number 4 bus. The Columbus Museum of Art is at 480 E. Broad Street, at Washington Avenue. Number 10 bus. The Center of Science & Industry (COSI) is across from the Veterans Memorial Auditorium site, at 333 W. Broad Street, at Washington Blvd. Number 10 bus. The James Thurber House, home to the legendary author and humorist, is at 77 Jefferson Avenue,at N. 11th Street. Number 6 bus.

Farther afield -- with no public transportation available -- the Armstrong Air & Space Museum is in the hometown of Neil Armstrong, the late 1st man to walk on the Moon. 500 Apollo Drive in Wapakoneta, just off Interstate 75, 87 miles northwest of downtown Columbus.

No Presidents have come from Columbus, but Rutherford B. Hayes and William McKinley lived there while they were Governor of Ohio. Alas, there was no Governor's Mansion during their times in the office. The Ohio Governor's Residence and Heritage Garden has only been the Governor's Mansion since 1957, and current Governor John Kasich, who ran for President last year, already lived nearby (he'd been a Congressman for the area), and so he only uses it for official functions. 358 N. Parkview, in Bexley, about 4 miles northeast of downtown. Number 10 bus.

McKinley's historical sites are all in or near his hometown of Canton, and I discuss them in my Cleveland trip guides. Hayes' home, Spiegel Grove, and his grave and Presidential Library are in Fremont, 106 miles north of Columbus. Warren G. Harding's hometown of Marion is 51 miles north. Dying in office in 1923, he remains the last President to have lived in Ohio. As with both locations, there is no public transportation to there from any of Ohio's major cities.

Marion was also the official hometown of the Oorang Indians, a pro football team made up entirely of Native Americans, led by Hall-of-Famers Jim Thorpe and Joe Guyon. The problem wasn't that some of the players used their Native names, which included animal names like Ted Buffalo, Gray Horse, Big Bear, Eagle Feather and War Eagle. The problem is that they were party animals, not getting the rest they needed. As quarterback Leon Boutwell noted:

White people had this misconception about Indians. They thought they were all wild men, even though almost all of us had been to college and were generally more civilized than they were. Well, it was a dandy excuse to raise hell and get away with it when the mood struck us. Since we were Indians we could get away with things the whites couldn't. Don't think we didn't take advantage of it.

As a result of their wild ways, they went 3-6 in 1922, and 2-10 in 1923, and folded. I say Marion was their official hometown because they were a "traveling team," playing just 1 of their 21 games in Marion.

The tallest building in Columbus is the Rhodes State Office Tower, named for the longtime Governor who ordered the Ohio National Guard to fire on the protestors at Kent State University on May 4, 1970. Completed in 1974, it is 629 feet high, and every bit as ugly as the Administration it memorializes. 30 E. Broad Street, downtown, across from the State House.

While lots of movies have been shot and/or set in Ohio, Columbus hasn't been a popular location for them. There have been 2 TV shows set in Columbus: Family Ties, the 1982-89 NBC sitcom that introduced us to Michael J. Fox; and Man Up!, an ABC sitcom set in nearby Gahanna that tanked and was canceled after 13 episodes in 2011.


Columbus may be Ohio's largest city, but aside from being the State capital, it's known for 2 things: Ohio State football, and Ohio State anything else. But a Blue Jackets game could be fun, and it's close enough for a fairly easy New Jersey Devils roadtrip.

Friday, January 27, 2017

How to Go to a North Dakota Hockey Game

Continuing my bid to do at least 1 of these for all 50 States, North Dakota has the hockey program at the University of North Dakota. On Friday and Saturday, February 3 and 4, they will host St. Cloud State University of Minnesota, before taking 2 weeks off. So this is as good a time as any to do theirs.

Before You Go. There are 2 things everyone seems to know about the State of North Dakota: It is flat (not entirely true), and it is cold (not always true). Both Friday and Saturday will have an afternoon high of about 20 degrees. Friday night will be in single digits. Saturday night will reach for zero and below. Bundle up!

Most of North Dakota, including Grand Forks, is in the Central Time Zone, 1 hour behind New York. Adjust your timepieces accordingly.

Tickets. Seating capacity is 11,643. You would think that this wouldn't be an issue, given North Dakota's low population. Except that, being the only real drawing card in the Dakotas aside from Mount Rushmore, UND leads the nation in per-game hockey attendance: 11,576, or 99.5 percent of capacity. (As you might guess, Wisconsin is 2nd and Minnesota is 3rd.) So getting tickets may be difficult.

If you can get tickets, they'll be $46 for adult tickets throughout the arena, and $30 for children age 12 and under.

Getting There. It's 1,518 miles from Times Square to the Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Knowing this, your first inclination would be to fly. But you can't get a flight from any of the New York Tri-State Area airports, only to Fargo -- which is 80 miles south of Grand Forks. So that's out.

Amtrak does go to Grand Forks, but the schedule is a bit unfriendly. You would leave Penn Station on the Lake Shore Limited on Wednesday, February 1, at 3:40 PM Eastern Time, arrive at Union Station in Chicago at 9:45 AM Eastern Time on Thursday, then switch to the Empire Builder at 2:15 PM, arriving in Grand Forks at 4:41 AM on Friday. There are more boring places to be than in Grand Forks, North Dakota at 4:41 AM on a Friday, but none appreciably so. The trip back is the Empire Builder at 1:02 AM on Sunday, to Chicago at 3:55 PM, back to the Lake Shore Limited at 9:30 PM, and arriving at Penn Station at 6:23 PM Eastern Time on Monday.

It's $432 round-trip. The Amtrak station is at 5555 Demers Avenue, 4 miles west of downtown, but only 2 miles west of the UND campus. Alas, there's no direct bus service to either.

Greyhound may be better. You can leave Port Authority Bus Terminal at 5:15 PM Eastern Time on Wednesday, and arrive in Grand Forks at 8:35 AM Central Time on Friday. It will be $404 round-trip, or $368 with advanced-purchase. The Greyhound station is at 450 Kittson Avenue, downtown, 2 miles east of campus.

Unfortunately, you'd have to change buses four times: In Cleveland in the middle of the night on Thursday, in Chicago in late morning on Thursday, in Minneapolis in prime time on Thursday, and have a 5-hour, 20-minute layover in Fargo in the middle of the night on Friday.

The only other option, and it's the same price, but limits you to the Saturday game instead of giving a choice of Friday or Saturday, is as follows: Leave Port Authority at 10:15 PM on Wednesday, have a nearly 6-hour layover in Chicago on Thursday (fine by me), then have another 6-hour layover in Minneapolis on Friday morning, before arriving in Grand Forks at 7:20 PM Central Time on Friday -- just a little too late to catch the Friday game's puck-drop.

If you want to drive, it's best to get someone to go with you, so you can trade off driving and sleeping. You'll need to get into New Jersey, and take Interstate 80 West. You'll be on I-80 for the vast majority of the trip, through New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio. In Ohio, in the western suburbs of Cleveland, I-80 will merge with Interstate 90. From this point onward, you won’t need to think about I-80 until you head home; I-90 is now the key, through the rest of Ohio and Indiana.

Just outside Chicago, I-80 will split off from I-90, which you will keep, until it merges with Interstate 94. For the moment, though, you will ignore I-94. Stay on I-90 through Illinois, until reaching Madison, Wisconsin, where you will once again merge with I-94. Now, I-94 is what you want, taking it across Minnesota, over the Red River into North Dakota.

Just 3 miles into North Dakota, switch to Interstate 29 North, until Exit 141 for Grand Forks. Take U.S. Route 2 East to Ralph Engelstad Arena Drive. Drive half a mile south, and the arena will be ahead.

If you do it right, you should spend about an hour and a half in New Jersey, 5 hours and 15 minutes in Pennsylvania, 4 hours in Ohio, 2 and a half hours in Indiana, an hour and a half in Illinois, 2 and a half hours in Wisconsin, 4 hours and 15 minutes in Minnesota, and an hour and a half in North Dakota. That's 23 hours. Counting rest stops, preferably halfway through Pennsylvania and just after you enter both Ohio and Indiana, outside Chicago, halfway across Wisconsin, and at each end of Minnesota, and accounting for traffic in New York, the Chicago suburbs and the Twin Cities, it should be no more than 29 hours, which would save you time on both Greyhound and Amtrak, if not on flying.

Once In the City. "Dakota" is a Native name meaning "friends" or "allies." North Dakota is home to about 750,000 people. About 250,000 of that, 1/3rd is at the eastern edge, in Cass (Fargo), Traill and Grand Forks Counties. Most of the 340 or so miles west of that is sparsely populated and, until you get to the western part (which is in the Mountain Time Zone, with the rest being on Central Time), very flat.
Downtown Fargo

North Dakota and South Dakota, once part of the same territory, were admitted to the Union on the same day, November 2, 1889. Officially, North Dakota is the 39th State, and South Dakota is the 40th State.

The State capital, Bismarck, is about 250 miles southwest of Grand Forks, and 200 miles west of Fargo. The town of Rugby, in the north-central part of the State, about 150 miles west of Grand Forks, is the geographic center of the continent of North America. The State's largest newspapers are The Grand Forks Herald and The Forum of Fargo-MoorheadThe State sales tax is 5 percent.
The rather ordinary-looking State House, in Bismarck

Like much of the Midwestern United States, the area around the campus was first settled by the French, who named it Les Grande Fourches, after the confluence of the Red River and the Red Lake River.
Downtown Grand Forks

The town was settled in the 1740s, and incorporated as a city in 1870. It has a population of about 57,000. Counting its surrounding area, including East Grand Forks, Minnesota across the Red River, its metropolitan area has about 100,000, behind the 118,000 people in Fargo alone, which, along with Moorhead, Minnesota, is part of a metro area of 234,000.
ZIP Codes in North Dakota start with the digits 58, and the Area Code is 701. Address numbers go up as you get further west of the Red River. Demers Avenue divides street addresses into North and South. Like New York, Grand Forks/East Grand Forks has a Central Park, bracketing the Red River. It does not, however, have a highway "beltway." Cities Area Transit (CAT) runs buses for Grand Forks and East Grand Forks. A single ride is $1.50, and a 10-ride card is $13.
North Dakota is about 90 percent white -- Norwegians make up about 35 percent of the entire State, and Germans 34 percent -- 3.2 percent Native American, 2.4 percent Hispanic, 2.6 percent black, and 1.0 percent Asian. The State is very rural, and hasn't voted for a Democrat for President since Lyndon Johnson in 1964.

The University of North Dakota was founded in 1883, 6 years before Statehood. In addition to its main campus, it trains aviation students at Grand Forks International Airport. In addition to the hockey players listed in "Team History Displays," its athletes include former Knicks player and 11-Championships-winning NBA coach Phil Jackson, and Philadelphia Eagles legend Pete Retzlaff. 

Other notable alumni include: Novelist Maxwell Anderson, Class of 1911; sportscaster and talk-show host Irv Kupcinet '34; Terry Ingstad '69, a.k.a. disc jockey Shadoe Stevens; author and journalist Chuck Klosterman '94; and these politicians, all representing North Dakota: Governors Lynn Frazier 1902, Ragnvald Nestos 1904, William Langer 1908, John Moses 1914, Fred Aandahl '21, John E. Davis '35, Ed Schafer '69 (also briefly U.S. Secretary of Agriculture); Senators Frazier, Langer, Moses, Byron Dorgan '66 and Heidi Heitkamp '77.

Going In. The Fighting Hawks of the University of North Dakota play at Ralph Engelstad Arena, which has an address of 1 Ralph Engelstad Arena Drive. It opened in 2001, with a seating capacity of 11,643, and a rink that runs north-to-south. Its exterior architecture has received plaudits from many people in the hockey world, including Wayne Gretzky, who called it "one of the most beautiful buildings we have in North America."
Engelstad, a native of nearby Thief River Falls, Minnesota, was a 1954 graduate of UND, and had been a goaltender on their hockey team. He got rich as a developer and operator of casino-hotels in Las Vegas and Biloxi, Mississippi. He had donated heavily to the school, and its former arena was renamed for him in 1988. He had donated toward the building of a new arena, which, while on campus, would be a building owned by him on land owned by him (and, after his death, his family).

But UND is one of the schools that has bowed to pressure and removed its former Native American mascot name, in their case the Fighting Sioux. Their jerseys, while green and white, had an "Indian head" logo similar to that of the Chicago Blackhawks.
But such things are very sensitive in both Dakotas, with their many Indian reservations. Midway during construction, as UND was considering changing the name, Engelstad -- then a 71-year-old white conservative billionaire, the kind of man who does not accept being told, "No, you can't have that" -- said he would withdraw his funding of the school if the teas were renamed in deference to political pressure. To further make his point, he had the Fighting Sioux logo placed all over the arena, including a large granite logo in the main concourse.

He died in 2002, but the controversy did not die with him. The NCAA then barred schools that use Native American imagery from hosting, or wearing such imagery in, postseason play. UND sued the NCAA, and got a temporary injunction allowing its teams to keep their mascot and uniforms. They pointed out that Florida State was not forced to drop the name Seminoles.
A joke suggestion. The pronunciation was the same.

The NCAA decided they could keep the name if they could get permission from both "Sioux nations" in their State. They only got one, and the name was given up in 2015, in exchange for the Fighting Hawks. The controversy hasn't completely gone away, with somebody suggesting that "HAWKS" stands for "How About We Keep Sioux?"
"The Ralph" has hosted NCAA Tournament hockey games, and the State high school finals, both boys' and girls'. In 2005, it hosted both the World Junior Ice Hockey Championships and the NCAA Men's Division II Basketball Championship. It has hosted Minnesota Wild exhibition games, and concerts, mostly country music.
An adjoining building, named the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center for Ralph's wife (also a UND graduate), opened in 2004, as the home of the school's basketball and volleyball teams. The Engelstad family has an agreement with the University: The school pays $1.00 a year for renting both "The Ralph" and "The Betty," and the family gets control and final say over them.
"The Betty" on the left, "The Ralph" on the right

The Fighting Hawks play in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, and in the Big Sky Conference in all other sports.

Food. According to the arena's website,

There are several concession stands in the building which offer a variety of choices from bacon cheeseburgers to chicken wraps. Other vendors in our building include Tim Horton's, Red Pepper, and Little Caesar's Pizza.

Team History Displays. A statue of the arena's namesake is in the main lobby on the east side. His family had it made, wanting everyone to know his place in the school's history. His own historical knowledge was a bit skewed: Another controversy arose when it was discovered that he had a big collection of Nazi memorabilia, one that would have made Marge Schott think, "Whoa, too much!"

UND has won 8 National Championships in hockey, including being the current holders. They've won in 1959, 1963, 1980, 1982, 1987, 1997, 2000 and (the only one won since moving into the new REA) 2016. They've also reached 22 Frozen Fours, won 17 Conference Championships in the regular season, and won 11 Conference Tournaments. Their National Championship banners are green with white lettering, their Conference Championship banners white with green lettering.
Image result for North Dakota hockey banners
The 8th banner, added since this photo,
has an ND monogram instead of an Indian head.

They don't retire uniform numbers. But they've sent many stars to the NHL, including Dennis Hextall (Bryan's son, Bryan Jr.'s brother and Ron's uncle), 1980 U.S. Olympian Dave Christian, James Patrick, Ed Belfour, Jonathan Toews, T.J. Oshie, current Arizona Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett, current Devil Travis Zajac, and former Devils Craig Ludwig, Mike Commodore, Brad Bombardir and Zach Parise (as well as his brother Jordan).

The Hobey Baker Award, hockey's answer to the Heisman Trophy, has been won by Tony Krkac in 1987 and Ryan Duncan in 2007, although the former didn't have much of an NHL career, and the latter has never even played in the NHL.

Stuff. The Sioux Shop (that name didn't change) is located at the north end of the arena. There is probably no college hockey team that sells a larger amount, or a wider variety, of team-related stuff than UND. has videos of some of their National Championship games, but no books in stock. The UND bookstore is across the street, and perhaps you can pick something up there. It may include Mike Bynum's 75 Years of Fighting Sioux Hockey History, but that only goes up to 2004.

During the Game. You do not need to fear for your safety at a University of North Dakota hockey game. Especially since you're just visiting, and not rooting for the opposition. Just don't say anything bad about ol' Ralph, and don't bring up the team name controversy, and you'll be all right.

Given said controversy, it's probably for the best that there's nobody in a mascot costume. Nor is there a regular National Anthem singer. Their connection to the Blackhawks, however unofficial, has led them to adopt the Chicago club's goal song, "Chelsea Dagger," as their own. They have 3 fight songs: "UND," "It's for You, North Dakota U," and "Stand Up and Cheer."

After the Game. Again, your safety should not be an issue. As for where to go to get a postgame meal, the immediate selection is not good. There's a Jimmy John's at 2855 10th Avenue N., but that's about it. You'll have to go back out to Route 2, where there's (from west to east) a Burger King, a Far East Buffet, Northside Cafe, Papa Murphy's Take 'N' Bake Pizza, Taco John's, and Slapshot Pizza & Fat Albert's Subs.

If your visit to Grand Forks is during the European soccer season, which we are now in, the local branch of the U.S. soccer team fan club, the American Outlaws, meets at Rhombus Guys, at 312 Kittson Avenue downtown. You should be able to find your favorite club on TV there.

Sidelights. North Dakota's sports history is... pretty much the UND hockey team, and that's about it. From 1947 to 1972, they played at the Winter Sports Building, which opened in 1936. Official seating capacity was 3,868, and during a full house, the body heat would raise the temperature about 20 degrees -- not necessarily a bad thing in the Dakotas.

John Mariucci, head coach at arch-rival Minnesota, called it "a potato barn," and the nickname of The Old Barn stuck. Ironically, Minnesota also calls Williams Arena -- still their basketball ground, and their hockey ground until moving into an arena named for Mariucci -- "The Barn."
UND won the 1959 and 1963 National Championships while playing there. But the threat of the NCAA demoting UND from Division I to Division II led them to build a new arena, and The Old Barn was demolished in 1978. The only mention I can find of its location is "on the southeast edge of campus beside the railroad tracks."

That would probably put it adjacent to Memorial Stadium, a 10,000-seat facility built in 1927, which the school still uses for track & field and for football practice. Officially, the address is 2nd Avenue North, bounded also by 26th Street, Campus Drive and Overpass-Columbia Road.  
Across 26th Street was the new Winter Sports Center, opening in 1972, and renamed the Ralph Engelstad Arena in 1988. It seated 6,067 people, and the Fighting Sioux won 5 National Championships there: 1980, 1982, 1987, 1997 and 2000. It also hosted the 1983 NCAA Frozen Four, won by Wisconsin.
UND hockey moved to the new arena in 2001, and the old one was demolished in 2013. It will be replaced by the UND Athletics High Performance Center, described by the University as "an indoor practice and competition facility."

In 2001, the same year that the new Ralph Engelstad Arena opened, UND moved its football into an indoor stadium, the Alerus Center. It seats 12,283 for football, but can be expanded to 21,000 for concerts. 1200 S. 42nd Street, at the southwestern edge of the campus, between 42nd and I-29.

There is a North Dakota State University (NDSU), in Fargo. The Bison are members of the Big 12 Conference for wrestling, the Missouri Valley Football Conference (as are the University of South Dakota and South Dakota State University), and the Summit League for all other sports (again, as are USD and SDSU). They play football indoors at the 19,000-seat Fargodome, and basketball at the Bison Sports Arena, at 1800 and 1600 N. University Drive, respectively, across 17th Avenue from each other.

UPDATE: On October 6, 2017, Thrillist compiled a list of their Best College Football Stadiums, the top 19 percent of college football, 25 out of 129. The Fargodome came in at Number 23: "The ruckus has a tendency to extend beyond the doors."
There is only 1 professional baseball team in North Dakota: The Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks are an independent team, and won Pennants in the Northern League in 1998, 2003, 2006, 2009 and 2010. They now play in the 21st Century edition of the American Association. They play at Newman Outdoor Field, 1515 15th Avenue North in Fargo, and includes a museum for Maury Wills, who coached and broadcast for them.

Also honored with a museum in Fargo is the city's favorite son, Roger Maris. The local American Legion Post wanted to honor him, and contacted him for his permission in 1984. Knowing he was dying, Roger had 2 requests: That it be free of charge, and "put where people can see it." In other words, he didn't want people going out of their way just to see him.

The Roger Maris Museum was established at the West Acres Regional Shopping Center, at 3902 13th Avenue South, about 4 miles southwest of downtown. It's in the Sears wing of the mall, near its eastern end. It contains several artifacts relating to his life and career, including one of his Most Valuable Player wards, and some seats from the pre-renovation original Yankee Stadium.

Roger Maris is buried in Fargo, at Holy Cross Cemetery, on Aquarius Drive, a few miles down University Drive from the NDSU athletic facilities.

The Minnesota teams dominate pro sports fandom in North Dakota. Even in the Western part of the State, very far from the Twin Cities, no baseball team really makes any inroads on the Twins, nor any football team on the Vikings, nor any hockey team on the Wild. The exception is the NBA: The Timberwolves only started in 1989 (the Wild did so in 2000, but inherited people who'd rooted for the North Stars from 1967 to 1993), and so the Lakers remain more popular west of Fargo and Grand Forks. 

There is a professional soccer team in North Dakota. Dakota Fusion FC play in Fargo, at Sid Cichy Stadium, at Bishop Shanley High School -- alma mater of Maris, former Texas Rangers pitcher Rick Helling, and Connor McGovern, who just finished his rookie season as a guard for the Denver Broncos. 5600 25th Street South.

A State only since November 2, 1889 -- it was admitted as the 39th State, and South Dakota as the 40th State, on the same day -- North Dakota's history is misleading. Most of its history is in its Native American period. As a result, most of the historic sites in the State are former Army forts, which recreate life among the Natives and the settlers.

In Grand Forks, the North Dakota Museum of Art is a short walk from The Ralph, at 261 Centennial Drive. Fargo has The Fargo Air Museum, at 1609 19th Avenue N.; and The Plains Art Museum, at 704 1st Avenue N.

Neither Elvis Presley nor the Beatles ever gave a concert in North Dakota. There has never been a President from either of the Dakotas, but Theodore Roosevelt ran a ranch there in the 1880s. Its land is now part of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, in North Billings. But that's in the western part of the State, 383 miles southwest of The Ralph -- closer to that other Dakota site connected with TR, Mount Rushmore (263 miles), and closer still to the Montana State Line, 30 miles.

The tallest building in Grand Forks is the Canad Inns Destination Center, a hotel with a casino and a water park, just 126 feet high. 1000 S. 42nd Street. The tallest building in the entire State is the State Capitol, at 600 E. Boulevard Avenue in Bismarck, 242 feet. (The only other State whose State House is its tallest building is West Virginia.)

The only TV shows ever set in North Dakota are Blood & Oil, a briefly-airing nighttime soap on ABC in 2015; and the currently-running FX series Fargo, based on the Coen Brothers film of the same title (and which, like the film, spills over into Minnesota and South Dakota). Aside from Fargo the film, the best-known movie set in North Dakota is Leprechaun. So, not much to go on.


A University of North Dakota hockey game may be the biggest, or at least the most interesting, thing happening in the Peace Garden State. But there just might be enough other things there for visitors to enjoy themselves.