Thursday, February 27, 2020

How to Be a Devils Fan In Las Vegas -- 2020 Edition

The 2017-18 NHL season saw the debut of the League's 31st franchise, the Vegas Golden Knights. They did shockingly well, winning the Pacific Division and the Western Conference, before being defeated in the Stanley Cup Finals by the Washington Capitals.

This coming Tuesday night, the New Jersey Devils will face them at the T-Mobile Arena.

Before You Go. Las Vegas may have mountains in the distance, but it's the desert. It can get warm in the Winter, and brutally hot in the Summer. This being early January, you probably won't have to worry about the heat. But check the weather forecast on the Las Vegas Review-Journal's website before you, so you'll know what to bring.

When I visited Las Vegas, a taxi driver told me it only rains about 2 days out of the year. Next Tuesday will not be one of those days. Temperatures will be in the high 60s in daylight and the low 40s at night, so you will need a jacket.

Although the State of Nevada is not on the Pacific Coast, most of it, including Las Vegas and environs, is in the Pacific Time Zone, which is 3 hours behind New York. Adjust your timepieces accordingly.

Tickets. Capacity for Knights games is listed as 17,500, and they're averaging 18,286 per game this season, over a sellout. That would be understandable even if they were a typically awful expansion team, because of the novelty. So tickets will be hard to come by.

Seats in the lower level, Sections 1 to 20, are $163 between the goals and $138 behind them. In the upper deck, the 200 level, they're $111 between and $83 behind.

Getting There. It's 2,524 miles from Times Square in New York to downtown Las Vegas, and 2,518 miles from the Prudential Center in Newark to the T-Mobile Arena. In other words, if you're going, you're flying.

If -- pardon the gambling metaphor -- you play your cards right, you can get a round-trip nonstop ticket from Newark Liberty International Airport to McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas for a little under $200. More likely, it'll be around $400, and you'd have to change planes in Denver. (Pat McCarran was a U.S. Senator from Nevada from 1933 until his death in 1954, and, despite his Democratic affiliation, he was one of the reckless Communist-hunters in Congress at the time.)

Amtrak doesn't go to Las Vegas anymore. Greyhound does, and round-trip fare is $875, but can drop to as low as $399 with advanced purchase -- and even that might turn out to be more expensive than flying.

The former Amtrak station is now the Greyhound station, and, as with another great party city, New Orleans, it might be the least interesting building in a city full of gaudy ones. 200 S. Main Street, downtown.
Driving is a bad idea -- even if it's not the late Dr. Hunter S. Thompson or one of his friends offering to drive you to Las Vegas. After all, even if you get someone to go with you, and you take turns, one drives while the other one sleeps, and you pack 2 days' worth of food, and you use the side of the Interstate as a toilet, and you don't get pulled over for speeding, you'll still need over 2 full days. Each way.

But, if you really, really want to drive, take Interstate 80 West, nearly to the Nebraska-Colorado line, then Interstate 76 West to Denver, then Interstate 70 West into Utah, to Interstate 15 South, which goes into Las Vegas.

Given an average speed of 60 miles an hour, you'll be in New Jersey for an hour and a half, Pennsylvania for 5:15, Ohio for 4 hours, Indiana for 2:30, Illinois for 2:45, Iowa for 5:15, Nebraska for 6 hours, Colorado for 7:15, Utah for 6 hours, Arizona for half an hour, and Nevada for 2 hours; for a total of 43 hours. Factor in rest stops, you'll need nearly 3 full days. And, remember, that's just one way.

Once In the City. The name Nevada comes from a Spanish word meaning "snow-covered," and Las Vegas means "the stars," perhaps prophetic given the role the city would eventually have in the entertainment industry.

Nevada gained Statehood on October 31, 1864, and mentions of its transition from Territory to State, in the midst of the American Civil War (hence the motto "Battle Born"), were occasionally dropped on the TV show Bonanza, set at the other end of the State, in Virginia City, near Reno and the State capital, Carson City.
Founded in 1905, the arrival of the Golden Knights has allowed Las Vegas to surpass Edmonton as the newest city in North American major league sports, and Oklahoma City as the newest in the U.S. The fastest-growing American metro area in the 1980s and 1990s, it got hammered by the 2007-11 recession, possibly worse than any other city, but has recovered somewhat. It is home to about 630,000 people, and its metro area around 2.3 million. The city is about 48 percent white, 32 percent Hispanic, 12 percent black, 7 percent Asian, and 1 percent Native American.
The "centerpoint" of the city, where east-west and north-south addresses begin, is Main Street and Ogden Avenue. The city has no beltway. It's important to remember that, as with Princeton, New Jersey, a lot of the major sights in "Las Vegas" are actually outside the city limits, south of them. Most of these are in the city of Paradise, including the airport, Caesars Palace, and the UNLV campus.

The Las Vegas Strip runs from Sahara Avenue to Russell Road -- from about 2500 to about 4700 South Las Vegas Boulevard. Northward to Flamingo Road -- with Caesars, the Flamingo, Bally's and the Bellagio on its corners -- in pretty much parallels I-15, the Las Vegas Freeway. Then it curves slightly to the east, toward downtown, separated from Main Street by 5 blocks.

If we accept downtown Las Vegas as "downtown Las Vegas," and Caesars as "downtown" for the casinos, then these are actually 4 miles apart -- not walking distance, especially in the usual Vegas heat.
The city has 2 major newspapers, the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Las Vegas Sun. Knowing that it wouldn't exist without Los Angeles and Hollywood, most of the casino-hotels also carry the Los Angeles Times. Knowing that they get visitors from the East Coast, they also carry the New York Times and the Washington Post. (At least, they did when I first visited in 1991. With the Age of the Internet, that may no longer be practical.)
"Bright light city, gonna set my soul, gonna set my soul on fire!"
-- "Viva Las Vegas," lyrics by Doc Pomus,
melody by Mort Shuman, sung by Elvis Presley

The sales tax in the State of Nevada is 6.85 percent, and in Clark County, including Las Vegas, it's 8.1 percent. ZIP Codes in the Las Vegas area begin with the digits 889, 890, 891 and 893. The Area Code is 702, with 775 overlaid. NV Energy provides all that electricity.
The State House, the Nevada State Legislative Building,
in Carson City

The Deuce and the Strip & Downtown Express (SDX) provide premium frequent service approximately every 15 minutes along the Strip and in downtown. Visitors are required to purchase Strip & All Access passes which includes both Strip routes and all other residential routes. A 2-hour pass is $6.00, a 24-hour pass is $8.00, and a 3-day pass is $20.

The Las Vegas Monorail opened in 2004. It runs from SLS Station at Sahara Avenue south to the MGM Grand. A single ride is $5.00, a day pass is $12, and a 3-day pass is $28.
The Monorail, at the Westgate,
formerly the International and the Hilton,
Elvis' old stomping grounds

Going In. Anschutz Entertainment Group and Harrah's Entertainment built the T-Mobile Arena, naming rights bought by the mobile-phone company, and opened it on April 6, 2016, with Las Vegas natives The Killers and Shamir opening for Mr. Las Vegas himself, Wayne Newton.
"The Fortress" (it doesn't look like one, but the nickname ties in with the Knights theme) has a mailing address is 3780 S. Las Vegas Blvd., about 3 1/2 miles south of downtown. It is accessible by MGM Grand Station on the Monorail, and it's a 2-block walk west. If you drive in, parking can be had at the MGM Grand for $20.

The court and rink are laid out east-to-west -- or, more precisely, southwest-to-northeast. The Knights shoot twice toward the northeast end, Sections 10 and 11.
Since it opened for the 2016-17 season, the Arena has hosted Frozen Fury, an annual NHL preseason game. That 1st season, the home team was the Los Angeles Kings, but, from this season onward, it's the Golden Knights. The arena has also hosted the Pac-12 Conference Basketball Tournament, the Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor prizefight, the Miss USA pageant, and the Latin Grammys.

Food.  Las Vegas brings in people from all over the world, and knows that these people expect to be catered to. So there's lots of good food at T-Mobile Arena, run by Levy Restaurants:

* Pizza Forte: At Sections 1 and 11.

* Pink's Hotdogs (for some reason, spelled as one word): 3, 18 and 213.

* Cool Intentions Ice Cream: 6.

* Rollin Smoke Barbecue: 10.

* Tail and Fin (seafood): 19 and 219.

* Shake Shack: 20.

* Chronic Tacos: 20 and 209.

Team History Displays. Very quickly, they dispensed with the question, "What history?" At their home opener, they raised separate banners for their 2017-18 Western Conference and Pacific Division Championships.
The team's name is, sort of, a nod to history: Owner Bill Foley is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, and he wanted to name the team the Black Knights, which is the name of the Academy's teams. The Academy had no issue with that, but the NHL turned the request down, saying the name would be too close to the Chicago team's name, the Blackhawks. 

But, noting that "Knights" were, in his words, "the epitome of the warrior class," Foley looked for an alternative name, and found it. The helmet logo's exposed facial area seems to form a V, for "Vegas."

(Foley actually owns 85 percent of the team. The other 15 percent is owned by the Maloof family, formerly owners of the NBA's Sacramento Kings.)
They also have a wraparound banner suggesting a window onto the city's skyline, banners of the other NHL teams, and a banner in memory of the 58 people killed in the gun massacre at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival on October 1, 2017, during the team's 1st preseason. It has 58 points of light, rather than the number 58, although they have retired that as a uniform number. It's a number rarely worn in the NHL, anyway.
It's hard to say that they have an arch-rival yet. Geographically, their rivals would be the Los Angeles area teams, the Los Angeles Kings and the Anaheim Ducks; the Phoenix-based Arizona Coyotes; and, I suppose, the San Francisco Bay Area's San Jose Sharks and Denver's Colorado Avalanche. 

They beat the Kings and Sharks in the 2018 Playoffs, before beating the Winnipeg Jets in the Western Conference Finals and then losing the Stanley Cup Finals to the Winnipeg Jets. In 2019, they lost to the Sharks in the 1st Round. But I don't see a real rivalry forming yet.

Stuff. The Armory is to the right of the main arena entrance at the east end, and supplies the usual gear available at a team store.

In July 2018, the sports department of the Las Vegas Sun released Born to Glory: The Vegas Golden Knights' Historical Inaugural Season. In September, Joe Pane and Deke Castleman published Vegas Golden Knights: How a First-Year Expansion Team Healed Las Vegas and Shocked the Hockey World. As yet, there are no DVDs about the team, although, if they had won the Cup, there surely would be a DVD set.

During the Game. It's hard to tell who the Knights' rivals will turn out to be, but their fans have yet to prove themselves to be rough. They don't even seem to think about playing up Vegas' Mob image. As usual, your best bet for staying safe is to not antagonize anyone.

The Knights-Devils game will not feature a promotion. They hold auditions for National Anthem singers, instead of having a regular. The Knights' goal song is "Vegas Lights" by Panic! At the Disco. They also sing Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" as "Sweet Golden Knights, bomp, bomp, bomp."

Their mascot is a Gila monster with a gambling-themed name, Chance. They opted against using a knight for a mascot, having seen that other knight mascots (such as Rutgers' Scarlet Knight) didn't seem very child-friendly.
As if an ugly regional lizard is.
At least this Ice Girl seems to like her.

After the Game. As I said, while VGK fans already have a Stanley Cup Finals appearance under their belts, they have not yet proven to be arrogant or mean. Just keep to yourself on the way out, and you should by fine.

Between the Arena and the strip is the New York New York Hotel & Casino. I don't know if it caters to New Yorkers (and New Jerseyans), but you should feel a little at home there. It has a Shake Shack and a Starbucks. And if you can't find a good place to drink in Vegas, then maybe that's one thing that happens in Vegas that should stay in Vegas.

If your visit to Las Vegas is during the European soccer season (which we are now in), the best soccer bar in the area is McMullan's Irish Pub, at 4650 W. Tropicana Avenue. Bus 201 to Cameron Street. Manchester United fans gather at the Crown & Anchor British Pub, 1350 E. Tropicana Avenue. Bus 201 to Maryland Parkway.

Sidelights. On November 30, 2018, Thrillist published a list of "America's 25 Most Fun Cities," and, as you might expect given its reputation as a city designed as a resort, Las Vegas came in 5th.

With 2 brief exceptions, the Golden Knights are the 1st major league sports team to call the Las Vegas area, or anywhere in the State of Nevada, home. Until now, it's been relatively isolated.

The closest other major league cities are as follows: Anaheim, MLB, 260 miles away; Los Angeles, all 5 big sports, 267; Phoenix, everything but MLS, 298; San Diego, MLB, 328; Salt Lake City, NBA and MLS, 425; San Jose, NHL and MLS, 521; Santa Clara, NFL, 528; Oakland, MLB, 546; Sacramento, NBA, 558; San Francisco, MLB and NBA, 562.

Because of the transient nature of Las Vegas -- a large percentage of area residents aren't natives, and people tend to stick with their home teams until they're raising children in their new area and then accept the local teams as their kids do -- prior to the Knights, no one sports team was particularly dominant in Southern Nevada.

The most popular baseball teams, as you might guess, are the Los Angeles Dodgers (with about 18 percent of the fandom, according to an April 23, 2014 article in The New York Times), the Yankees (15 percent) and the Boston Red Sox (9 percent).

In each case, that's mostly media-driven -- in the Dodgers' case, due as much to that as to geography. After all, the Angels are slightly closer to Vegas than the Dodgers, and the Padres (not a whole lot further away) were the longest-running parent club of the Triple-A team. But they don't show up on the area's radar these days. Nor do the Diamondbacks, even though Hoover Dam and the Colorado River, the Arizona State Line, are less than an hour's drive away, which is no big deal at all in the Western U.S.

As for the Northern California sports teams, they don't gain any popularity in Nevada until you get to the Reno/Carson City/Lake Tahoe area, 450 miles from Vegas. They're 130 miles from Sacramento, 220 miles from Oakland and San Francisco, and 250 miles from San Jose. In the other direction, they're 515 miles from Salt Lake City and its NBA and MLS teams.

In NFL fandom, according to an article in the September 2014 issue of The Atlantic, Western Nevada, the Reno part, is dominated by San Francisco 49ers fans. Eastern Nevada, very sparsely populated, is Denver Broncos country. But Southern Nevada, the Vegas area, the leader there is the Dallas Cowboys -- a whopping 1,200 miles away. 

Of course, Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis is in the process of carrying out his threat to move the team to Vegas, and he wants to make Nevada, the Silver State, "the Silver & Black State." So the Cowboys may be out as the area's top NFL team.

There was no encroachment on Los Angeles' domination of the NBA and NHL market in Vegas. A May 12, 2014 article in The New York Times showed the Lakers as by far the most popular basketball team, and that does have as much to do with geography as winning and media blitzes. 

The same held true for the Kings: January 2016 article on BusinessInsider.com showed that, before anyone knew that the NHL was coming to Vegas, the 2-time recent Stanley Cup winners were the most popular team in Nevada.

The Utah Jazz played 11 "home games" at the Thomas & Mack Center in the 1983-84 season, and 2 more in 1984-85, going 6-8 overall. The 17,923-seat arena, named for prominent area bankers E. Parry Thomas and Jerome D. Mack, has been home court to the basketball teams at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas (UNLV) since it opened in 1983, with head coach Jerry Tarkanian, a.k.a. "Tark the Shark" (hence the arena's nickname, the Shark Tank), leading them to the NCAA Final Four in 1977, 1987, 1990 (winning the National Championship) and 1991, before falling victim to the NCAA's punishment of his excesses.
It's also hosted minor-league hockey, arena football, and other indoor sports. The adjoining Cox Pavilion, seating 2,454, is home to UNLV's women's basketball team. It's hosted 3 fights for the Heavyweight Championship of the World: The 1st Riddick Bowe-Evander Holyfield fight, November 13, 1992; Holyfield's win over Michael Moorer, November 8, 1997; and the 2nd Lennox Lewis-Holyfield fight, November 13, 1999, the last true unification fight for the title.

4505 S. Maryland Parkway, in Paradise, about 2 miles east of the Strip. And be warned: The UNLV campus is so tacky! (How tacky is it?) It's so tacky, it makes Rutgers' Busch Campus look like the College Avenue Campus.

UNLV's stadium is not on campus. It was built in 1971 as Las Vegas Stadium, became the Silver Bowl (in honor of Vegas' bowl game, now named the Las Vegas Bowl) in 1978, and renamed Sam Boyd Stadium in 1984, for a major figure in the casino industry.
In addition to the Rebels, it was home to the Las Vegas Quicksilvers of the original North American Soccer League in 1977 (featuring the aging Portuguese star Eusébio), the Las Vegas Posse in the Canadian Football League's brief U.S. experiemnt in 1994, and the Las Vegas Outlaws of the ill-fated, ill-advised XFL in 2001. Real Madrid defeated Mexican team Santos Laguna there in 2012.

The north-pointing horseshoe seats just 35,500, and is expandable to 40,000. That's still a lot less than the Oakland Coliseum, but the Raiders decided not to use it as a stopgap facility, instead staying in Oakland for one last season in 2019. 7000 E. Russell Road, in Whitney, about 10 miles east of the Strip. The BHX Bus (Boulder Highway Express) takes 40 minutes to get there.

Allegiant Stadium, planned to open for the Raiders and UNLV this coming July 31, is at 2000 (or thereabouts) W. Hacienda Avenue and Dean Martin Drive, across I-15 from the Mandalay Bay Casino, and about 4 blocks south of the T-Mobile Arena. Its official address has been established as 3333 Al Davis Way. It will have a permanent, but clear, roof, and seat 65,000, expandable to 72,000 for Super Bowls and the NCAA Final Four.
Artist's depiction

Las Vegas now has a WNBA team, formerly the Utah Starzz and the San Antonio Silver Stars. The Las Vegas Aces play at the 12,000-seat Mandalay Bay Events Center, at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.

That arena has already hosted 3 fights for the Heavyweight Championship of the World: Lennox Lewis beating David on November 11, 2000; Lewis beating Hasim Rahman on November 17, 2001; and Vitali Klitschko beating Danny Williams (not the Hawaii Five-O character) on December 11, 2004. 3950 S. Las Vegas Blvd., about a mile south of the T-Mobile Arena and 5 miles south of downtown.
In 1947, local entrepreneur Big Jim Cashman built a stadium for the Las Vegas Wranglers of the Sunset League, a farm team of the Boston Braves. The stadium was named Cashman Field. They moved into the Southwest International League in 1952, the Arizona-Mexico League in 1957, and the California League in 1958, but were always Class C -- at the time, 5 levels below the major leagues, equivalent to today's short-season A-ball (Staten Island Yankees, Brooklyn Cyclones).
The old Cashman Field wasn't much to look at.

They became the Las Vegas Pirates in 1958, but that was their last season. The city was then without professional baseball until a new 9,334-seat Cashman Field opened on the same site in 1983, when the Spokane Indians moved, and became the Las Vegas Stars, a farm team of the San Diego Padres. They won the Pacific Coast League Pennant in 1986 and 1988, giving Las Vegas 3 league titles.
In 2001, when they became a farm team of the Los Angeles Dodgers, they were renamed the Las Vegas 51s, in honor of a U.S. Air Force facility nicknamed Area 51, which is about 80 miles north of Las Vegas, and probably has nothing to do with aliens, although an alien is the team's new logo. They became a Toronto Blue Jays farm team in 2009 and a Mets farm team in 2013.

In 1996, because renovations at the Oakland Coliseum would not be finished by Opening Day, and groundsharing with the San Francisco Giants meant playing at Candlestick Park, the Oakland Athletics moved their 1st 6 home games to Cashman Field, making it the smallest stadium to host a regular-season Major League Baseball game in the 20th Century.

The Las Vegas Lights of the United Soccer League, American soccer's 2nd division, began play at Cashman Field in 2018, and have developed a cross-State rivalry Reno 1868 FC. 850 N. Las Vegas Blvd., at the northern edge of downtown. Bus 113 will get you to within half a mile.

For the 2019 season, as the top farm team of the Oakland Athletics, the 51st became the Las Vegas Aviators, and moved into the brand-new 10,000-seat Las Vegas Ballpark. This new place has one major advantage over Cashman Field: Shade. Cashman has very little cover for the fans, and, as I mentioned, Las Vegas can get hot. 
Image result for Las Vegas Ballpark
1650 S. Pavilion Center Drive, at Sahara Avenue, in Summerlin, about 10 miles west of the Strip. Monorail to SLS Station, then Bus SX, which will take about 45 minutes, but will still involve less walking than the considerably closer Cashman Field does now.

By the late 1970s, Las Vegas had overtaken Madison Square Garden as the boxing capital of the world. The 15,356-seat arena at Caesars Palace has hosted 12 fights for the Heavyweight Championship of the World, with Larry Holmes winning the 1st 9.

It was Holmes taking the WBC version of the title from Ken Norton on June 9, 1978; knocking Alfredo Evangelista out on November 10, 1978; knocking Earnie Shavers out on September 28, 1979; knocking Lorenzo Zanon out on February 3, 1980; knocking Leroy Jones out on March 31, 1980; showing everyone just how far Muhammad Ali had fallen on October 1980; defeating Trevor Berbick on April 11, 1981; his thrilling fight with Gerry Cooney that ended with a 13th round knockout on June 11, 1982; and his 1st round demolition of Marvis Frazier (Joe's son) on November 25, 1983.

On June 19, 1992, Holmes had his own You-shoulda-hung-the-gloves-up-years-ago moment at Caesars, getting beat by Evander Holyfield. Holyfield regained the title from Riddick Bowe there on November 6, 1993; but then lost it there to Michael Moorer on April 22, 1994. Other notable fights there have included George Foreman's knockout of Ron Lyle in 1976, and Sugar Ray Leonard's win over Marvelous Marvin Hagler in 1987.
Beyond those fights, Caesars is the best-known casino in the Las Vegas area. 3570 S. Las Vegas Blvd. It has its own stop on the Monorail.

The MGM Grand Las Vegas opened in 1993, including the MGM Grand Garden Arena, an obvious nod to Madison Square Garden. The 17,157-seat arena hosted the NHL's Frozen Fury preseason game from 1997 until 2015, with the Los Angeles Kings as the home team.
The MGM Grand Garden Arena, next to the MGM Grand

But it's better known for boxing. In 1994, 45-year-old George Foreman regained the Heavyweight Championship of the World there by knocking Moorer out, and then beat Axel Schulz there on April 22, 1995. In 1996, Mike Tyson needed less than 2 minutes to knock Bruce Seldon out there; shortly after the fight let out, one of the spectators, rapper Tupac Shakur, was shot, and died 6 days later.

It was Tyson's last fight before he "Finally" faced Evander Holyfield. Both of their fights were at the MGM Grand, Holyfield's stunning upset in the 1st and Tyson's disqualification for biting Holyfield's ears in the 2nd. (The headline was obvious: "Heavyweight Chomp." I couldn't figure out why they didn't call it "Tyson's Midnight Snack," until I realized that the time difference meant that it was in the 9:00 PM hour, not the midnight hour as it was here in the East.) More recently, on January 17, 2015, Deontay Wilder took the WBC title there in a decision over Bermane Stiverne.

The Grand Garden has also featured Oscar De La Hoya, Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao fighting each other, and was just the site of Tyson Fury winning the Heavyweight Championship of the World from Deontay Wilder. 3799 S. Las Vegas Blvd. It is the southern terminus of the Monorail.

The T-Mobile Arena was built on the site of The Dunes Hotel, which hosted the title fight between Holmes and Tim Witherspoon on May 20, 1983. Witherspoon may have been hosed in a split decision, coming closer to beating Holmes than anyone did until Michael Spinks 2 years later.

Also gone is The Riviera, which hosted 3 title fights: Holmes beating James "Bonecrusher" Smith on November 9, 1984; beating David Bey on March 15, 1985; and, after building a 48-0 record, finally losing to Michael Spinks on September 21, 1985. 2901 S. Las Vegas Blvd.

The Mirage hosted 1 Heavyweight Championship fight, Holyfield taking the title from James "Buster" Douglas on October 25, 1990. It's still in business, at 3400 S. Las Vegas Blvd.

The Las Vegas metropolitan area currently ranks 24th out of 31 NHL markets in population. Presuming the Raiders do make the move, they'll rank 29th out of 32 in the NFL. If it had teams in the other Leagues, it would rank 30th in MLB (ahead of only Milwaukee), 27th out of 31 in the NBA, and 29th out of 31 in MLS.

Las Vegas is also known for music. Notable is Wayne Newton, in residence since 1958, when the future "Midnight Idol" was just 16. Howard Hughes' Sands Hotel was headquarters for "The Rat Pack": Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop -- who filmed Ocean's Eleven there in 1960 -- and whoever the 5 of them thought was worthy at any given time.

Women were auxiliary members at best, but they included Judy Garland (and, later, by extension, her daughter Liza Minnelli), Shirley MacLaine and Angie Dickinson. Shirley, Angie and Liza are now the closest thing we have to living members. (Frank Jr., Nancy and Tina were never considered members.)

The Sands opened in 1952, with a show by Danny Thomas, and closed in 1996, and was soon demolished. The film Con Air ends with a plane crashing into it, and the building was demolished soon thereafter. In 1999, The Venetian Resort and Casino opened on the site. 3355 S. Las Vegas Blvd.

Liberace is another name associated with the city, with his splashy performances and his museum a couple of miles east of the Strip, now closed. When he was onstage, he didn't need the city's light bulbs, neon and spotlights. He just had to smile.

And then there was Elvis Presley. On April 23, 1956, he began a 3-week stand at the New Frontier Hotel. With the nearby nuclear tests in mind, he was billed not as either of his usual nicknames at that point, "The Memphis Flash" or "Elvis the Pelvis," but as "The Atomic-Powered Singer."

But he was only 21 years old -- barely legally old enough to be in a casino. His fans were that age and younger, and couldn't get in to see him no matter how rich they were. The ones who were a little older usually couldn't afford it. And grownups were not ready to understand him at that point. So, after 2 weeks of 8:00 PM and midnight shows, the hotel cut its losses, paid him for the full 3 weeks, and sent him home a week early.

The New Frontier Hotel was demolished in 2007, and the land is currently vacant -- probably because it's owned by Steve Wynn, who's in legal trouble. 3120 S. Las Vegas Blvd.

His Sun Records labelmate Carl Perkins, then climbing the charts with "Blue Suede Shoes" (which Elvis, of course, would cover), remembers that when Elvis got back to Memphis, he said, "Someday, I'll be the highest-paid guy on that Strip."

On July 31, 1969, that prediction came true. The International Hotel put the 34-year-old King of Rock and Roll onstage, doing 4 weeks of dinner and midnight shows, selling out 2,200 seats every single time. In the last 8 years of his life, he would play 750 shows at the International -- renamed the Las Vegas Hilton in early 1972.
The Hilton hosted 10 Heavweight Title fights: Leon Spinks taking the title from Ali on February 15, 1978; Holmes knocking Ossie Ocasio out on March 23, 1979; Michael Spinks knocking Steffen Tangstad out on September 6, 1986; Tyson becoming the youngest Heavyweight Champion ever, knocking Berbick out on November 22, 1986; Tyson knocking Bonecrusher Smith out on March 7, 1987; Tyson knocking Pinklon Thomas out on May 30, 1987; Tyson knocking Tony Tucker out on August 1, 1987; Tyson knocking Frank Bruno out on February 25, 1989; and Lennox Lewis beating Oliver McCall on February 7, 1997.

The 375-foot Y-shaped white marble structure stood in for the Whyte House in the 1971 James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever. From 1998 to 2008, it hosted Star Trek: The Experience. In 2014, the Hilton was renamed the Westgate Las Vegas Resort. 3000 Paradise Road, separated from the Strip by a street with the same name as Graceland's in Memphis: Elvis Presley Boulevard. It has its own stop on the Monorail.
Elvis played 84 shows at the Sahara Hotel in Stateline, near Lake Tahoe. It's now the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. 50 U.S. Route 50. And he played the Reno Centennial Coliseum on November 24, 1976. (It's now the Reno-Sparks Convention Center, at 4590 S. Virginia Street.) All told, he played 764 concerts in the State of Nevada -- 43 percent of the concerts he would ever perform. The State with the next-most was Texas, with 177.

After his death, his record for highest-paid Vegas performer would be broken, first by Liberace, and then by many others, including Elton John, Celine Dion and Britney Spears.

The Beatles played the Las Vegas Convention Center on August 20, 1964. This 6,300-seat arena also hosted Sonny Liston when he defended the Heavyweight Championship against Floyd Patterson on July 22, 1963; Muhammad Ali when he defended it against Patterson on November 22, 1965; and Ali when he defended it against Ron Lyle on May 16, 1975.
UNLV also played basketball there from 1959 until the opening of the Thomas & Mack Center in 1983. But it was demolished in 1990, for an expansion of the convention facilities. 3150 Paradise Road, next-door to the International/Hilton/Westgate.
The Convention Center as it appeared in 1964

* Reno. Elsewhere in Nevada, Reno -- 437 miles to the northwest -- has 2 professional sports teams: The Reno Aces are the 51s' rivals in the PCL, and since 2009 have played at the 9,013-seat Greater Nevada Field. The Arizona Diamondbacks farm team won the Pennant in 2012, having previously won in 2006 as the Tucson Sidewinders. Also playing at this stadium is Reno 1868 FC of the United Soccer League. 250 Evans Avenue.
The main campus of the University of Nevada is also in Reno. While UNLV's teams are called the Runnin' Rebels -- I can only think that it's because it's the school's Southern campus -- UNR's teams are called the Wolfpack, like at North Carolina State. They play football at the 27,000-seat Chris Ault Field at Mackay Stadium, which opened in 1966. 1664 N. Virginia Street.
They won the Far West Conference in 1932, 1933 and 1939; the Big Sky Conference in 1983, 1986, 1990 and 1991; the Big West Conference in 1992, 1994, 1995, 1996 and 1997; and the Western Athletic Conference in 2005 and 2010, for a total of 14 Conference Championships. They are now in the Mountain West Conference.

They play basketball at the 11,784-seat Lawlor Events Center, which opened in 1983. 1500 N. Virginia Street. They've won their conference 22 times in the regular season (including 2017 and 2018), and 5 times in the tournament (each time also winning the regular season title, including in 2017), but the closest they've gotten to a National Championship is the NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen in 2004. While they are the more successful school in football, UNLV is way ahead of them in basketball.
This arena also hosted a Heavyweight Championship fight, with Holmes defending the title by beating Carl "The Truth" Williams on May 20, 1985.

The Reno area has hosted other Heavyweight Championship fights. The only other recent one was Lennox Lewis defeating Henry Akinwande at Caesars Tahoe on July 12, 1997. Before that, it was a common boxing site, because of its lax laws. Bob Fitzsimmons took the title from Gentleman Jim Corbett at the Race Track Arena in Carson City on March 17, 1897. Marvin Hart and Jack Root fought for the vacancy in the title caused by the retirement of Jim Jeffries, with Hart winning on July 3, 1905.

But in 1908, Jack Jackson had become the 1st black Heavyweight Champion of the World, and fans searched for a "Great White Hope" who could take it back from him. Finally, after other fighters proved not good enough, Jeffries answered the constant call of, "Jeff, it's up to you!" He was well past it, and well out of shape. He lost a lot of weight, but in the brutal Northern Nevada heat on July 4, 1910, Johnson knocked him out in the 15th round. Jeffries admitted to reporters, "I could never have whipped Johnson at my best. I couldn't have hit him. No, I couldn't have reached him in a thousand years." Johnson lasted 5 more years as champ.

The site of this 1st "Fight of the Century," the 1st big fight promoted by George "Tex" Rickard -- later to build what we now call "the old Madison Square Garden" and the original Boston Garden -- and also of the Hart-Root fight was built at what was then the eastern edge of the city, where Reno Salvage now stands. 301 Montello Street, at E. 4th Street.

* Museums. Las Vegas doesn't want you to go to museums. They want you to gamble, and to drink, so that you can gamble some more. That's why the casino floors don't have clocks or windows: So you won't know how long you've been gambling. As Doc Pomus wrote for Elvis: "Turning day into nighttime, turning night into daytime." Or, as Bernie Taupin wrote for Elton, although he was talking about New York, "Unless they see the sky -- but they can't, and that is why they know not if it's dark outside or light."

(Atlantic City's casinos also don't have clocks, and while they have back entrances to the Boardwalk, there's space between them and the casino floors, and the door windows are tinted, so you can't tell if it's day or night.)

But Vegas does have museums. Alas, the best-known is The Mob Museum, dedicated to the city's organized crime, begun in 1946 when Benjamin Siegel (he hated being called "Bugsy") opened the Flamingo at 3555 S. Las Vegas Blvd. The Mob Museum is at 300 Stewart Avenue, downtown. A few blocks away, between The Mob Museum and Cashman Field, are the Neon Museum and the Las Vegas Natural History Museum, and 770 and 900 N. Las Vegas Blvd., respectively.

The most significant historic site anywhere near Las Vegas isn't that near. It's Hoover Dam, straddling, and using for electrical power, the Colorado River, at Boulder City, Nevada and Willow Beach, Arizona. Both Southern Nevada and Southern California as we have come to know them could not exist without it.

It was named Boulder Dam when it opened in 1936, it was renamed in 1947 for former President Herbert Hoover, who authorized its construction. The renaming was done by a Republican Congress, but Democratic President Harry Truman, who had become friends with Hoover and admired what he did when he wasn't President, and had no problem with signing it into law.

U.S. Route 93 used to run atop the Dam, but it was just a 2-lane road, so a bypass bridge was built. The Mike O'Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge opened in 2010, named for a figure from each State: Governor Callaghan of Nevada, and Tillman, the Arizona State and Arizona Cardinals football player who left the NFL to enlist in the U.S. Army after the 9/11 attacks and was killed in action in Afghanistan (by, as it turned out, "friendly fire").

The Dam is about 30 miles southeast of Vegas. There's no public transportation, but most of the hotels run a private bus or van service there.
The Grand Canyon? 125 miles to the east, including past Hoover Dam -- or, given how the roads had to be built, southeast, then northeast. Again, you should be able to find a hotel with private service that will do both the Dam and the Canyon.

No President has ever come from Nevada. Nor has any Vice President. Nor has any Nevada-based politician come particularly close. The highest-ranking one, as far as I know, is the recently-retired Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Nor has any President had a vacation home, a "Western White House," in Nevada, although Jack Kennedy liked to hang out with Sinatra and his pals at the Sands. He had to stop doing so while President, for fear of being connected with organized crime -- which ultimately led to the split between the President and the Chairman of the Board.

(This also led to Peter Lawford, who married JFK's sister Pat, being excommunicated from the Rat Pack. Frank's switch from Democrat to Nixon- and Reagan-supporting Republican came later, and had little to do with the Kennedy family.)

The most famous TV show set in Nevada, and one of the greatest shows set anywhere, was the Western Bonanza, which aired on NBC from 1959 to 1973. The title comes from the 1859 discovery of the Comstock Lode, a silver vein, in Storey County near Lake Tahoe. In real life, the city of Virginia City was built nearby, and, on the show, Benjamin Cartwright (played by Lorne Greene) built his Ponderosa Ranch there ("Ponderosa" was the Spanish name for the area's tall pine trees), where he lived with his sons Adam (Pernell Roberts), Eric, a.k.a. Hoss (Dan Blocker), and Joseph, a.k.a. Little Joe (Michael Landon).

At Virginia City's peak, in the mid-1870s, it had about 25,000 people, and rivaled San Francisco for financial and cultural influence in the Western U.S. But the glory days only lasted about 20 years: A "Great Fire" burned much of the city in 1875, and by the time of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona in 1881, Virginia City was all over as a boomtown. By the 20th Century, the Wild West was done, and the place was already a period piece. In the 2010 Census, there were 855 permanent residents, and only 4,000 in the entire County.

But people still go there as tourists, to see remnants of the Wild West, and to take in the atmosphere of Bonanza, still seen in reruns on nostalgia-TV channels. It's 425 miles northwest of Las Vegas, 26 miles southeast of Reno, 16 miles northeast of Carson City.

But don't go looking for the actual show set: That was at RKO Forty Acres in Hollywood. A Ponderosa Ranch theme park opened in Incline Village in 1967, with a mockup of the Cartwright house. It was closed in 2004. It was adjacent to the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort and Diamond Peak Ski Resort, about 30 miles west of the real Virginia City, and 30 miles southwest of Reno, from which the Blue Bus makes the trip -- $49 each way.

Other TV shows set in Nevada include Reno 911!; and these, all in Las Vegas: The 1978-81 ABC crime drama Vega$Crime Story (a 1980s NBC period piece set in early 1960s Chicago and Las Vegas), the 2003-08 NBC drama Las Vegas, the 2005 poker-themed ESPN series Tilt, and the original version of CBS' CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

And lots of TV shows have done a trip-to-Vegas episode, including Perfect Strangers (Balki wins a trip, and is thrilled, because he loves Wayne Newton, but Cousin Larry develops a gambling problem), Full House (Uncle Joey opens for Wayne Newton), Roseanne (Roseanne mistakes the real Wayne for an impersonator and heckles him), and Friends (Joey's film shoot there is canceled, and Monica and Chandler's plan to get married in Vegas falls apart when Ross and Rachel, drunkenly, actually do).

Movies set in Las Vegas include Ocean's Eleven (both versions, Frank Sinatra's of 1960 and George Clooney's of 2001), Viva Las Vegas (Elvis Presley sings, races cars, and romances Ann-Margret), The Godfather (Michael Corleone vs. Moe Green), Over the Top (Sylvester Stallone in an arm-wrestling tournament), Midnight Run (Robert De Niro as a bounty hunter vs. Crime Story's Dennis Farina as a Mob boss in McCarran Airport), Rain Man (Tom Cruise teaches Dustin Hoffman how to count cards), Bugsy (Warren Beatty plays Ben Siegel and meets Annette Bening), Cool World, Indecent ProposalCasino (De Niro again), Showgirls, National Lampoon's Vegas Vacation, Fools Rush In, a film version of Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas, Pay It Forward, Rush Hour 2, The Cooler, Resident Evil: Extinction, 21, The Hangover and Last Vegas.

James Bond went there in 1971 for Diamonds Are Forever. Sean Connery's Bond seeks revenge on Ernst Stavro Blofeld for the death of his wife, and gets help from Jimmy Dean (the country singer and sausage magnate plays a Howard Hughes analogue) Lana Wood (Natalie's sister), and Jill St. John. In 1997, Mike Myers parodied Bond with Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, playing both the Bond type (Powers) and the Blofeld type (Dr. Evil), whose Number Two was played by Robert Wagner -- who, in real life, married Natalie Wood and Jill St. John.

Nicolas Cage made a hobby of Vegas: Honeymoon In Vegas, Leaving Las Vegas and Con Air. The documentary Elvis: That's the Way It Is showed Elvis rehearsing for, and then playing, his Vegas show in August 1970. Vegas movies with an Elvis tie-in include the aforementioned Honeymoon In Vegas and 3000 Miles to Graceland.

The 38 tallest buildings in Nevada are in and around Las Vegas. You have to get to the 39th-tallest to find one in Reno or anywhere else. The Stratosphere Tower, at 2000 S. Las Vegas Blvd., is 1,150 feet high, but by the definition set out by the governing body for such things, it's not a "building." (Although the much-shorter casino-hotel attached to it is.)

Therefore, the "tallest building" in Nevada is The Palazzo, 642 feet, 3325 S. Las Vegas Blvd. It will be replaced by the 735-foot The Drew Las Vegas, currently under construction at 2755 S. Las Vegas Blvd., with an intended opening of late 2020.

You may have heard that prostitution is legal in Nevada. This is partly true. However, it is illegal in Clark County, which includes Las Vegas and the adjoining suburbs, including every casino-hotel; Lincoln County, to the north of Clark; Washoe County, which includes Reno; Douglas County, also near Reno, which includes Stateline, which is on Lake Tahoe (there is no city named Lake Tahoe); and the independent city of Carson City, the State capital.

As for getting married in Nevada, no blood test or waiting period is required. And Las Vegas makes it even easier: Once a short form is completed, and it and $77 are submitted to the marriage license bureau, you can get a marriage license within minutes, the ceremony can be performed, and it's legal in all 50 States. But don't do this. Anyone worth marrying is worth a real wedding.

Did I forget anything important? Oh yeah, Southern California's original tourist destination, outside of the Hollywood studios. Most people I've talked to who have been to both Disneyland in Anaheim and Walt Disney World outside Orlando, Florida have said that the Florida one is a LOT better. Anyway, the address is 1313 S. Harbor Blvd. in Anaheim, and if you're staying in Los Angeles, just drive down I-5. Public transportation is possible, but it's a mile and a half from the closest bus stop to Disneyland's gates.

*

So, if you can afford it, go on out and join your fellow Devils fans in going to see the new NHL team. And remember: If "What happens in Vegas" is a Devils win," don't let it stay in Vegas!

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

How to Go to a New York Red Bulls Game -- 2020 Edition


The New York Red Bulls begin their 2020 season this Sunday afternoon at 1:00, as they host FC Cincinnati at Red Bull Arena.

Before You Go. The weather in New York and New Jersey is pretty much the same as for the entire Northeastern U.S. It could be chilly for the March and April games, but in May, it will get warmer. By June, you'll wonder what the hell is wrong with the MLS establishment, playing a Summer schedule, where the wearing of that classic soccer accoutrement, the scarf, is insane. By October, the last full month of the regular season, it will start getting cooler.

If you're going for more than just the game, and are also seeing New York City, the easier hotels to get into, both for cost and availability, may be in the Outer Boroughs (Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx and Staten Island) or New Jersey.

New York and New Jersey are in the Eastern Time Zone, so if you also live there, if your team is NYCFC, Philadelphia, D.C., New England, Montreal, Toronto, Orlando, Columbus, Cincinnati or Atlanta, the times will be the same; in the Central Time Zone, Chicago, Minnesota, Kansas City, Dallas or Houston, 1 hour ahead; Mountain Time, Colorado or Salt Lake, 2 ahead; Pacific Time, either of the Los Angeles teams, San Jose, Portland, Seattle or Vancouver, 3 ahead.

Tickets. The official seating capacity of Red Bull Arena is 25,000 seats even. In 2019, the Red Bulls averaged 16,856 fans per home game, only about 70 percent of capacity, and 16th out of MLS' 24 teams.

"Derbies," games against NYCFC, Philly, DC and New England, will naturally have greater demand than for games against Midwestern, Western, or Canadian teams. FC Cincinnati is not a rival in the slightest, so you can probably get any seat for which you're willing to spend.

For MLS regular-season games: In the Lower Bowl, the 100 sections, midfield seats are $96. Corner flag seats are $48. Seats in the North Ward end zone are $42. Seats in Sections 101, 102 and 133 in the South Ward are supporters' sections, complete with standing, singing and foul language permitted, and are $23.

In the Upper Level, the 200 sections, midfield seats are $72, corner flag seats are $36, and end zone seats are also $36. These end zone seats include Section 220, where the visiting team's fans are placed.

A word of warning: If you buy tickets online or over the phone, the Red Bulls' ticket department will, at many a later date, be very aggressive in trying to get you to buy more. They will e-mail you. They will call you on the phone. They will repeat this process. Over and over again. They are relentless. They are polite about it, and they are only doing their jobs, but they will not give up.

Getting There. Most likely, you're flying. Most likely, you'll be flying into Newark Liberty International Airport. If your hotel is in New York City, a taxi from the airport will cost $52 -- each way. You're better off taking the monorail to New Jersey Transit's Northeast Corridor rail line. From there, it's 7 minutes and $8.50 to Newark's Penn(sylvania) Station; half an hour and $13 to New York's Penn Station.

If you want to drive:

* From Manhattan (about 12 miles from Times Square): Take the Lincoln Tunnel to N.J. Route 3 West, to the New Jersey Turnpike South to Exit 15W. Take Interstate 280 West, to I-280's Exit 16. Take the ramp to Harrison Avenue. Turn left, then right on Frank E. Rodgers Blvd. South, going under the underpasses for I-280 and the railroad. Red Bull Arena will be on your left. This should take about half an hour.

* From The Bronx and points Upstate: Take the George Washington Bridge to Interstate 95 South, until it becomes the Turnpike, and then follow the directions from Manhattan.

* From Queens and northern Long Island: Take the Grand Central Parkway over the Triborough/Robert F. Kennedy Bridge, to the Harlem River Drive, to the George Washington Bridge, and then follow the directions from The Bronx.

* From Staten Island: Take any route that gets you to Interstate 278 West, the Staten Island Expressway, and across the new Goethals Bridge. (A new version replaced the 1928 original in 2017.) Take the Turnpike North to Exit 15E, to I-280 West, and then follow the directions from Manhattan.

* From Brooklyn and southern Long Island: Take the Belt Parkway to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, and then follow the directions from Staten Island.

* From Bergen County, New Jersey: Take N.J. Route 17 South to the Turnpike, and then follow the directions from Manhattan.

* From anywhere else in North Jersey: Take any route that gets you to I-280 East, including the Garden State Parkway, whose Exit 145 will get you to it. Then take I-280's Exit 16, and then follow the directions from Manhattan.

* From Central Jersey: Same directions as from North Jersey, except you'll be reaching the Parkway and/or I-280 from the south instead of the north.

* From Philadelphia: Take the Betsy Ross Bridge to N.J. Route 90, to N.J. Route 73 South, to the New Jersey Turnpike North, to Exit 15E, to Interstate 280 West, and then follow the directions from Manhattan. This should take about 2 hours.

* From Washington, D.C.: Take Interstate 95 North to the Delaware Memorial Bridge, to the start of the New Jersey Turnpike, and then follow the directions from Philadelphia. About 4 hours.

* From New England: Take any road that gets you to I-95 South, cross the George Washington Bridge, and take the Turnpike South to Exit 15W, then follow the directions from I-280. Depending on where in New England you leave from, it should take anywhere from 2 hours (Western Connecticut) to 8 hours (the population centers of Maine). If from Boston, figure on around 5 hours.

* From Montreal: Take Autoroute 15 South over the border, where it becomes Interstate 87, first as the Adirondack Northway, then as the New York State Thruway. Take that to the Garden State Parkway, to Exit 145 to I-280. About 8 hours.

* From Toronto: Take the Queen Elizabeth Way to Niagara Falls, cross the border, take Interstate 190 to Interstate 90/New York State Thruway. At Syracuse, switch to Interstate 81 South. At Scranton, switch to Interstate 380 South, then Interstate 80 East. I-280 will split off from I-80. About 10 hours.

* From Columbus: Take Interstate 70 East until it merges with Interstate 76 as the Pennsylvania Turnpike. At Harrisburg, switch to Interstate 78 East, to the Garden State Parkway, to I-280. About 10 hours.

* From Cincinnati: Take Interstate 71 North to Columbus, and then follow the directions from there. About 12 hours.

* From Nashville: Take Interstate 40 East to Ext 421. Take Interstate 81 North through Tennessee, Virginia, and the West Virginia and Maryland Panhandles, to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Then follow the directions from Columbus. About 13 1/2 hours.

* From Atlanta: Take Interstate 85 North until it merges with I-95 at Petersburg, Virginia, and then follow the directions from Washington. About 14 hours.

* From Chicago: Take Interstate 90 East until it merges with I-80, then stick with I-80 until I-280. About 18 hours.

* From Miami: Take Interstate 95 North almost up all the way. Eventually, you will reach Petersburg, and you'll be following the directions from Atlanta, Washington and Philadelphia. About 19 hours.

* From Kansas City: Take I-70 East across Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, and then follow the directions from Columbus. About 22 hours.

* From Orlando: Take Interstate 4 East to I-95, and then follow the directions from D.C. About 24 hours.

* From Minnesota: Take Interstate 94 East until it merges with I-90, and then follow the directions from Chicago. About 24 hours.

* From Houston: Take Interstate 10 East to Mobile, Interstate 65 North to Montgomery, Interstate 85 North to merge with I-95 in Virginia, and then follow the directions from D.C. At least 36 hours.

* From Dallas: Take Interstate 30 to Little Rock, Interstate 40 across Arkansas and Tennessee to I-81, then take I-81 North to Harrisburg to I-78 East, and then follow the directions from Columbus. At least 36 hours.

From here on out, at least 2 full days:

* From Colorado: Take I-70 to Kansas City, and then follow the directions from there.

* From Salt Lake City: Take I-80 all the way to I-280, and then follow the directions from there.

* From Los Angeles (either one): Take I-10 East to Interstate 15 North to I-70 in Utah, and then follow the directions from Denver.

* From San Jose: Take Interstate 680 North to I-80, and then follow the directions from Salt Lake City.

* From Portland: Take Interstate 84 East into Utah to I-80, and then follow the directions from Salt Lake City.

* From Seattle: Take I-90 to Chicago, and follow the directions from there.

* From Vancouver: Take B.C. Route 99 over the border, where it becomes Interstate 5 South, to Seattle, and follow the directions from there.

Once In the City. The City of New York, which is within the State of New York, has an estimated population of 8.5 million. The entire Tri-State Area (New York, Northern and Central New Jersey, and the southwestern corner of Connecticut) has about 23.7 million. Only about 16,000 live in the Red Bulls' Town of Harrison, though.

New York City was founded by the Dutch in 1624, as New Amsterdam, in the colony of New Netherland. On September 8, 1664, the English took it from the Dutch without firing a shot. It was named after the brother of King Charles II, the Duke of York -- later King James II.

When the British occupied Manhattan after driving George Washington's Continental Army out in 1776, they burned it, and this is why there are very few remaining pre-19th Century buildings anywhere in the City (unlike such other Revolutionary-era cities as Boston and Philadelphia). After the British went home, the City's port, and location between two rivers, made it the richest in the Western Hemisphere, and was a big reason why America became a world power over the next 200 years.

New York City is divided into 5 Boroughs: Manhattan (the central island), The Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island. The City is also part of "the New York Metropolitan Area" or "the New York Tri-State Area," which includes parts of New York State not in the City (such as Long Island, Nassau and Suffolk Counties; and the Lower Hudson Valley, such as Westchester County) and the States of New Jersey and Connecticut.

So where does the City's nickname, the Big Apple, come from? There are plenty of theories, including a debunked one about a brothel owner named Eve. In his 1909 book The Wayfarer in New York, Edward S. Martin wrote, "Kansas is apt to see in New York a greedy city... It inclines to think that the big apple gets a disproportionate share of the national sap."

But this earliest known usage didn't catch on. John J. Fitz Gerald, horse racing reporter for the New York Morning Telegraph, first used it on May 3, 1921: "J.P. Smith, with Tippity Witchel and others of the L.T. Bauer string, is scheduled to start for 'the big apple' to-morrow." He used it frequently thereafter. Supposedly, jazz musicians soon took it up, and spread the name across the country. Variations include Los Angeles as the Big Orange and Tampa as the Big Guava.

Aside from your time at the games, most of your time in the City will be spent in Manhattan. North of 14th Street, streets will be a bit easier to navigate, as they will follow the 1811 grid plan. South of 14th Street, you may end up as confused as a foreigner would be in London, as this oldest part of the City doesn't always pay attention to the grid.

In the grid, Manhattan has (almost exclusively) numbered streets running (more or less) east-west, and (mostly) numbered avenues running (more or less) north-south. The numbered streets go up to 264th Street in The Bronx. Brooklyn and Queens also have numbered streets and numbered avenues, but they're a lot more confusing; when someone in New York says, "34th Street" or "5th Avenue," 95 percent of the time, they'll mean the one in Manhattan. But, be advised that they might not.

"Lower Manhattan" or "Downtown" is pretty much everything south of 14th Street, including Houston Street (pronounced HOW-stin, not HYOO-stin like the Texas city), which is, effectively, Zero Street. "Uptown" is pretty much everything in Manhattan north of 59th Street, from the southern edge of Central Park upward. "Midtown" is between 14th and 59th, and is where, aside from the games and some of the major museums, most of the touristy stuff is.
Times Square

From the East River to the west-bounding Hudson River, the avenues run: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, Lexington, Park, Madison, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th. There is a 4th Avenue, but it only runs from 8th Street to 14th Street, becoming Park Avenue South at Union Square and then Park Avenue at 32nd Street.

The outlier is Broadway, which starts at the southern tip of Manhattan (known as The Battery), and remains more or less straight until 10th Street, at which point it curves to (more or less) the northwest, until 78th Street, at which point it straightens out again.

The delineator between the East Side and the West Side is Broadway from 8th Street on down, and 5th Avenue from 8th Street on up.

6th Avenue is also known as Avenue of the Americas, and 7th as Fashion Avenue due to its going through the Garment District. 6th and 7th Avenues stop at 59th Street, where Central Park begins, bordered by 5th and 8th Avenues, and 59th and 110th Streets. West of Central Park, 8th Avenue becomes Central Park West, 9th Avenue becomes Columbus Avenue, 10th Avenue becomes Amsterdam Avenue, and 11th Avenue becomes West End Avenue.

North of Central Park, in Harlem, America's most famous black neighborhood, 6th Avenue resumes as Lenox Avenue, but all 3 are also named for civil rights leaders: 6th/Lenox is Malcolm X Blvd., 7th is Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd., and 8th is Frederick Douglass Blvd.

Below 14th Street, the streets frequently don't follow the grid. The fact that the buildings there are, and look, older lends the area a "film noir" look. If you're a comic book fan, there's a running gag that Metropolis, hometown of the optimistic superhero Superman, is Manhattan north of 14th Street on a beautiful spring day; while Gotham City, hometown of the brooding crimefighter Batman, is Manhattan south of 14th Street, a few minutes after midnight, on a cold rainy day in November.

The Subway system is going to sound complicated. I won't go into the difference between the IRT, the BMT and the IND, especially since those companies were absorbed into the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) in 1965.

There are lettered lines, and there are numbered lines. The 1, 2 and 3 trains have red logos, and go under 7th Avenue until Times Square (42nd Street), then go under Broadway. The N, Q and R trains have yellow logos, and they're the reverse, going up Broadway until Times Square, and then under 7th Avenue, before curving and heading Crosstown to Queens. The A, C and E trains have blue logos, and go under 8th Avenue, although the E curves at 53rd Street and heads to Queens. The B, D and F trains have orange logos, and go under 6th Avenue, until the F curves at 53rd Street and joins the E.

The 4, 5 and 6 trains have green logos, and go under Lafayette Street, then Park Avenue, then Lexington Avenue. Until the much-discussed, finally under-construction first phase of the 2nd Avenue line opens (they say it will be at the end of 2016), this will be the only north-south line on the East Side. The 7 has a purple logo, and runs under 42nd Street to Queens, where, due to its going through several ethnic neighborhoods in that Borough, is known as the International Express (but only runs express trains during rush hours). And the L has a gray logo, and runs under 14th Street to Brooklyn.

Note that some trains are express (2, 3, 4, 5, A, D and Q, only making the most-used stops), while the others are local (making all stops). And don't worry about the G, J, M and S trains, because, most likely, you won't need them. (The G is the only line on the entire system that does not go through Manhattan at all.)

The Subway fare is $2.75. Free transfers can be made from train to bus, or vice versa. However, there's a $1.00 fee for every new MetroCard.

The sales tax in New York City is 8.875 percent. In New Jersey, it's 7 percent. Consolidated Edison, or "Con Ed," runs the City's electricity, while Public Service Electric & Gas (PSE&G) runs it for New Jersey.

Since the Red Bulls play in New Jersey rather than in New York City: ZIP Codes in North Jersey tend to begin with the digits 07, including 071 for Newark and environs, 072 for Elizabeth, 073 for Jersey City, and 075 for Paterson. Central and South Jersey were assigned ZIP Codes starting with the digits 08, including 084 for Atlantic City, 086 and 086 for Trenton, and 089 for New Brunswick and environs. Interstates 278 and 287 serve as freeway "beltways" for New York, and for Newark.

New Jersey's original Area Code was 201. 609 was split off in 1958, 908 in 1991, 732 in 1997, and 856 in 1999. Now, they serve as follows: 201, with 551 overlaid in 2001, serves only Bergen and Hudson Counties (including the Meadowlands, and thus MetLife Stadium, and Harrison, and thus Red Bull Arena); 609 serves Mercer County (including the capital of Trenton and Princeton University) and the Southern Shore region (including Atlantic City); 732, with 848 overlaid, much of Central Jersey (including Rutgers University) and the Northern Shore region; 856, the Delaware River region that serves as suburbs of Philadelphia; 908, the Counties of Union, northern Somerset, Morris and Warren; and 973, with 862 overlaid, the Counties of Essex (including Newark, and thus the Prudential Center) and Passaic.

Red Bull Arena is in Harrison, next-door to Kearny, once considered the capital of American soccer; and both are across the Passaic River from Newark, the State's largest city. Newark's population of about 285,000 is about 52 percent black, 35 percent Hispanic, 11 percent white, and 2 percent Asian.

Harrison, named for President William Henry Harrison, and home to about 14,000, is 44 percent Hispanic, 38 percent white (much of that Irish, Scottish and, as a result of the spillover from Newark's East Side, the Ironbound district, Portuguese), 16 percent Asian, and 2 percent black. Kearny, named for early American General Stephen Kearny, an area native, and home to about 42,000, is about 49 percent white (with about the same ethnic makeup as Harrison, but with a few more Italians), 40 percent Hispanic, 6 percent black and 5 percent Asian.

That ethnic mix has sometimes had ugly results. Manhattan had pro-slavery riots in 1834, riots between native-born citizens and Irish immigrants in the notorious Five Points neighborhood in 1835, the Draft Riots during the American Civil War in 1863, the Orange Riots between Irish of Protestant and Catholic faiths in 1870 and 1871, a race riot in Lower Manhattan in 1900; and race riots in response to police brutality in Harlem in 1935, 1943 and 1964.
There was also a riot on Wards Island in the East River in 1868, the Stonewall Riot that launched the modern gay rights movement in 1969, the Hard Hat Demonstration of 1970 that was a backlash against the various liberal movements of the era, looting during the black out of 1977, the Crown Heights Riot in Brooklyn in 1991; and the reactions to the police's handling of the Howard Beach Incident in Queens in 1986, the Central Park Jogger attack in 1989, the torture of Abner Louima in 1997, and the police's murders of Amadou Diallo in 1999 and Eric Garner in 2012.
Being outside the city doesn't necessarily offer protection, either. There was an anti-German riot in Hoboken in 1851, an anti-Communist riot in Peekskill in 1949, and the Newark Riot of 1967 that spilled over into nearby Plainfield, New Jersey.
Going In. There are 3 ways to get to Red Bull Arena by public transit. None of them is easy or fast. The location in Harrison put it within a reasonable walk of lots of serious soccer fans of Portuguese, Central American, Irish, Scottish and Italian extraction in Newark, Harrison and Kearny. But for anyone who doesn't live nearby, it's hard.

The easiest is to take any means of getting to Penn Station in Newark. From Penn Station in New York, the trip is scheduled (don't laugh) to take 18 minutes, and costs $10.50 round-trip.
A double-decker New Jersey Transit train

From there, you would switch to the PATH (Port Authority Trans-Hudson) train, riding it 1 stop to Harrison. This part should only take about 3 minutes, and the Harrison station is in good condition and well-policed, therefore safe.

Thankfully, the old station (opened in 1937 -- I had previously believed it to be 1911) has finally been replaced with a new one, eliminating a terrible bottleneck that was designed to serve a town whose population has remained around 14,000 for as long as I can remember, and not to serve a 25,000-seat sports stadium.
Another way is to take the New York Subway's A, C or E train to the World Trade Center, and then switch to the PATH system, at a new transit pavilion that opened in 2016. WTC to Harrison takes 20 minutes.

The last way is to take PATH directly from its 33rd Street terminal at Herald Square (33rd, 6th Avenue & Broadway), a block east of Penn Station, transfer at Journal Square in Jersey City, and take a 2nd train to Harrison. Because PATH reroutes all weekend trains (except the Newark-World Trade Center line) through Hoboken Terminal, doing it this way on a Saturday or a Sunday takes an hour. On a weekday, when you'd only have to change at Journal Square, it should take about 35 minutes.

The PATH fare is $2.75, just like the Subway's. If you're transferring from the Subway to PATH, the cards from one can be used on the other, but it will be separate fares, not a free transfer, so it's $5.50 each way.

There is another way, and if you prefer the English pubgoing experience, it may be more to your liking. Once you arrive at Newark's Penn Station, you can walk out the east entrance onto Market Street. This is the Ironbound section of Newark, so named because it's ringed by railroads and the Passaic River. It is mainly a Portuguese neighborhood, but also with Brazilians due to the common language. It's got a bit of an old-country touch (Iberia Restaurant was built to look like a castle), but if you're friendly, the people will gladly return that.

A number of bars (we usually don't call them "pubs") on Market Street cater to Red Bulls fans, including Bello's Pub (378), Titanic Bar (486) and Catas (538). (R.I.P. El Pastor, 570.) Lots of beer, lots of sangria, lots of glorious meat. (The Portuguese and the Brazilians are both big on barbecue.) The area also has lots of seafood restaurants and bakeries.

It's a special place: It was these people that turned me on to the game after a youth of thinking soccer was "boring" and that people who said, "You don't understand the nuances" were full of shit. They showed me how wrong I was. They showed me just how exciting the game can be.

It's 9 blocks down Market Street from Penn Station to Jackson Street. The walk across the Jackson Street Bridge, over the Passaic River, is a Red Bull fans' sacrament. This shouldn't be a problem for  you, unless you're really afraid of heights.
Red Bulls ultras marching over the bridge.
Flares are not allowed in the stadium.

Once over the Bridge, you will enter the city of Harrison, and the Arena will be on your right. Just follow the crowd. The entire walk from Penn Station down Market, over the Bridge, and into the Arena is a little over 1 mile. It should take about 20 minutes if you don't stop at any of the bars. (Ha ha).

Red Bull Arena, and its home team, are, like their namesakes in Salzburg, Austria and Leipzig, Germany, named for the Salzburg-based beverage company. From their founding in 1996 until 2005, the New York club was named the New York/New Jersey MetroStars, and the nickname "Metro" still holds, as many fans don't like the corporate takeover. (The Austrian club had been known as SV Austria Salzburg, while RB Leipzig was founded with the name in 2009.)

Sky Blue FC, the New York-area team in the National Women's Soccer League, will also begin playing at Red Bull Arena this season, after 11 seasons at Yurcak Field on the Busch Campus of Rutgers University in Piscataway.

The official address of Red Bull Arena is 600 Cape May Street, about 12 miles from Midtown Manhattan, 1 mile from downtown Newark, and 150 miles from Cape May. (No, I don't know why the street has that name.) If you're driving in, parking is $10, and tailgating is not permitted.
Upon arrival at Red Bull Arena, entry gates are as follows: Gate A, southwest; Gate B, northwest; Gate C, northeast; and Gate D, southeast. Since the main parking lot is on the west side, most fans will enter through Gates A and B.
The field has always been natural grass, specifically Kentucky bluegrass, and is aligned north-to-south. The Red Bulls nearly always (but not quite always) defend the south goal during the 1st half, and attack in that direction for the 2nd, thus attacking toward their most loyal support in he 2nd half.

There really isn't a bad seat in the house, although if you're in the lower level in the south end zone, the fans will set off smoke as the players are introduced, and again after every goal. I once got a nasty headache from this -- making me perhaps the only person ever to be unhappy that Thierry Henry had scored a hat trick for his team. (In fact, I only saw the 1st 2 goals. He scored the 3rd in stoppage time, while I was in the first aid station, drinking the water to swallow the Tylenol.)
The view from the South Ward

The Arena has hosted high school matches between nearby soccer powers Harrison and Kearny, and the Big East Conference Tournament.

It's hosted 4 matches by the U.S. men's national team: A 2011 loss to Ecuador, a 2014 win over Turkey, and losses to Costa Rica in 2015 and 2017, the latter a major reason why the U.S. did not qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

It's hosted 4 matches by the U.S. women's team, a 2011 win over Mexico, and a 2013 win and a 2015 draw vs. South Korea, and a 2017 loss to England in the She Believes Cup. The 2018 She Believes Cup featured a doubleheader there last March 4, and both games ended in draws: The U.S. and France 1-1, and England and Germany 2-2. It's hosted games of the CONCACAF Gold Cup: 2 in 2011, 3 in 2013, and 2 in 2017, and is scheduled to host 2 this year.

Other national teams to have played there include Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, the Czech Republic, El Salvador, French Guiana, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Peru, Serbia, and Trinidad & Tobago.

Club teams that have played there include Brazil's Santos (who played the Arena's opening game, losing 3-1 to the Red Bulls on March 20, 2010); English clubs Manchester United (who beat an MLS team in the 2011 MLS All-Star Game), Arsenal, Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur; Lisbon, Portugal clubs Benfica and Sporting Clube de Portugal (a.k.a. Sporting Lisbon); French clubs Paris Saint-Germain, Olympique Lyonnais and Montpellier; German club Bayern Munich; Italian clubs Juventus of Turin, Fiorentina of Florence, Internazionale of Milan and AS Roma of Rome; Mexican clubs America and Guadalajara (a.k.a. Chivas); Argentine club Estudiantes de La Plata; El Salvadoran clubs FAS and Alianza; Guatemalan club Antigua GFC; and Colombian club Atlético Nacional.

The Arena has also hosted rugby, including the Churchill Cup, shortly after it opened in 2010. A year ago, it hosted a rugby match between London clubs, in which Saracens defeated London Irish (who, despite their name, actually play in Reading, in Berkshire), 26-16. Only once has the Arena ever hosted a concert, by Dispatch on June 18, 2011.

Food. The Arena has concession stands on its north, east and south side concourses, with the west side taken up mostly by the Bullshop and club seating. They serve Nathan's food products, from the Coney Island-originating chain famous for its hot dogs. I'm not crazy about Nathan's hot dogs, but try the crinkle-cut French fries, they're fantastic. Most of the good stands, with the more varied items, such as those catering to local communities like the Portuguese and the Brazilians, are on the east side.
One thing I don't like about the Arena is that all the concession stands are on the lower level. If you're upstairs, in the 200 sections, you'll have to go downstairs to get something to eat. And, unlike at baseball games, there's no roaming vendors.

Team History Displays. When the team was founded, in the leadup to MLS' kickoff season of 1996, attempts were made to buy the rights to the name of the great franchise of the North American Soccer League, the New York Cosmos, but they failed. Had they succeeded, they could have laid a claim, as does the team founded in 2010 that actually does, to the 5 NASL titles that the old Cosmos won: 1972, 1977, 1978, 1980 and 1982.

(Ironically, 3 of the 4 the MLS teams that took on the names of NASL teams have done better in their new incarnations: The Seattle Sounders, the Portland Timbers and the San Jose Earthquakes. The Vancouver Whitecaps are, thus far, the lone exception.)

So, in honor of the New York Metropolitan Area, the team was named the New York/New Jersey MetroStars. And, as I said, in 2006, Austrian soft drink maker Red Bull bought the team, and changed the name, a decision which remains unpopular, even though they've now been the Red Bulls longer than they were the MetroStars: 14 seasons to 10.

Despite 24 seasons of history, the MetroStars/Red Bulls haven't won much. They've regularly won, and currently hold, the Atlantic Cup, reflective of the annual winner of their rivalry with D.C. United. The winner is decided by aggregate goals, and Metro won it last season, 4-1. DC leads in overall goals, 153-119; and in overall wins, 43-35 with 17 draws.
Luis Robles and Michael Amir Murillo
with the 2017 Atlantic Cup

There is, as yet, no trophy for the overall winners between the Red Bulls and their other rivals: NYCFC, Philly U, and the Revs. The Red Bulls lead NYCFC 9-5 with 2 draws (and 2017 is the only season in which NYCFC have won the season series), lead Philly 13-10 with 9 draws, and trail New England 35-29 with 18 draws.

The Red Bulls also won the Emirates Cup on a preseason visit to London to play Arsenal and Paris Saint-Germain in 2011 -- as close as Arsenal are likely to get to hosting a testimonial for the man who starred for both clubs, Thierry Henry.
Thierry Henry holding the 2011 Emirates Cup
with his Red Bulls teammates

But the only trophies that really count in MLS are the MLS Cup, the league playoff championship; the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, America's answer to the FA Cup; and the Supporters' Shield, the regular-season championship. The Red Bulls have won the Supporters' Shield in 2013, 2015 and 2018. There are banners for them above the East Stand.

But they've never won the MLS Cup, only making 1 Final, losing to Columbus in 2008. They've never won the Open Cup, reaching only 2 Finals, losing to Chicago in 2003 and to Kansas City in 2017.
A banner honoring Tab Ramos, who grew up in neighboring Kearny, hangs from the upper deck in the South Ward, and bears his Number 10, but that number has not been retired, and is currently worn by midfielder Alejandro Gammara, a.k.a. "Kaku." Henry's Number 14 has not been retired, either, but is not currently being worn. Nor is the Number 12 of popular former player and former manager Mike Petke.

An adjacent banner honors the Red Bulls' all-time starting XI, named following their 2010 move from Giants Stadium to Red Bull Arena. Goalkeeper: North Brunswick, New Jersey native Tim Howard. Defenders: Jeff Parke, Eddie Pope, and Petke, who was also the manager who won them the 2013 Supporters' Shield. Midfielders: Ramos, Youri Djorkaeff, Amado Guevara, and Dave van den Bergh. Forwards: Clint Mathis, Jozy Altidore and Juan Pablo Angel. Notably not on that list is German superstar Lothar Matthäus, who played the 2000 season for the MetroStars, was a tremendous flop due to injury and attitude, and retired as a player thereafter.

Stuff. The Bullshop can be accessed from the West Stand during the game, and the outside after the game and on non-game days. Various Red Bull-related items can be purchased there.

There are, as yet, no official team videos. The closest any film comes is the documentary Thierry Henry: 1 on 1, which tells of his 2010 and 2011 season with the Red Bulls. The closest we come to having a good book about the team is The Road to Reviving Professional Soccer in New York City, written by Ian Thomson and published just before the Arena opened. Obviously, it couldn't take into account Henry's impending arrival, the international teams and European clubs coming to the Arena, and the expansion to allow NYCFC into MLS.

Until then, you may have to settle for Phil West's fantastic 20th Anniversary piece The United States of Soccer: MLS and the Rise of American Soccer Fandom.

During the Game. With the dangers of European and Latin American soccer in mind, the Red Bulls organization and the local police will not put up with violence. You will not have to fear for your safety.

Opposing fan groups usually make arrangements to have police escorts into the Arena and into their assigned section in the northeast corner of the upper deck. Bottles, cans, fireworks, flares, smoke bombs and weapons are not permitted. Vuvuzelas, the bane of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, are also banned. Musical instruments are also banned, except for the supporters' sections.

The Red Bull ultras -- the Empire Supporters' Club, the Garden State Ultras, the Viking Army and others -- sit in the South stand, a.k.a. the South Ward. (Newark calls its political divisions "wards," and this carried over into the Arena, even though it's not in Newark.)

The Viking Army began in 2010, ignoring the truth that the actual Vikings did not wear horned helmets. (Why wear something that your opponents can easily grab?) I had previously presumed that they took up the name in honor of the manager that the Red Bulls had hired for that season, Sweden native Hans Backe. But after he was fired after the 2012 season, they kept it going, so, clearly, it was not about him.

These groups are ultras, not hooligans: They will wear costumes, play instruments, chant, sing, and use a lot of profane and even sick humor -- but they will never initiate violence. If necessary, they will defend themselves, and many of them are large, solidly-built individuals, and New York and New Jersey does come with a tough reputation. But if you don't start anything, neither will they.

The Red Bulls do not have an official mascot, although a fan named John Russ wears a team jersey, paints his bald head red, wears plastic bull horns, and a bull-style nose ring. He calls himself Johnny Toro (Spanish for "bull"). He can be found in the South Ward.
They hold auditions for National Anthem singers, instead of having a regular. For the most part, the fans either sing along or respect the silence -- the exception being that, at "the rockets' red glare," the South Ward will shout the word, "RED!"

Some fans refuse the corporatization of the club: They still wear MetroStars jerseys from the 1996-2005 period, and refer to the club by the original nickname "Metro." Some will go so far as to never drink Red Bull. (I won't drink it -- not because I'm against corporatization of sports, although I am, but because I just don't think the stuff tastes good.)

The Ultras open the game with a version of Little Peggy March's "I Will Follow Him":

We love ya, we love ya, we love ya
and where you go we follow, we follow, we follow
'cause we support the Red Bulls, the Red Bulls, the Red Bulls
and that's the way we like it, we like it, we like it
Oh whoa whoa, whoa...

Some of their songs do cross the line of appropriateness, however. The 2nd half, in which the opposing team defends the south goal, leads to songs about how the ultras think the goalie "sucks" and is a "pedophile." (The former may be true for some goalies; the latter is probably untrue for all of them.)

Even after the mass shootings of the last few years, they include this one, from British punk band Cock Sparrer:

Take 'em all!
Take 'em all!
Line 'em up against a wall and shoot 'em!
Short and tall!
Watch 'em fall!
Come on, boys, take them all!
Take them all!
Watch them fall!
Take them all!
Watch them fall!

The South Ward groups were also among the leading practitioners of what's come to be called "YSA." When the visiting team goalie was mere feet away from them, getting ready for a goal kick, the fans would yell, "Ahhhhhhhh... " and when the ball was finally kicked, yell, "You suck, asshole!"

Caring more about bringing families in than the hardcore support that made its existence even possible, the league cracked down, and Red Bulls management offered the groups a bribe: If they avoided it for 5 straight entire home games, they would get $4,000.

The Empire Supporters Club originally tried to get their members to insult Commissioner Don Garber by chanting, "You suck, Garber!" (which, as you may be aware, or could at least guess, he does), but not enough of them were willing to do that. So they accepted the bribe, and decided to just continue through the goal kicks with whatever song they were singing at the time, instead of stopping said song to do the YSA chant. So did the Viking Army.

The Garden State Ultras refused, even though they didn't participate in the chant in the first place, unfurling a banner reading, "NOT FOR SALE." One member said, "We don't do the chant, but we don't want money to be told not to do something." As a result, club management barred the GSU from taking banners to the game. They got the message, and dropped their protest. Red Bull Arena is now a YSA-free zone.

Most New York Tri-State Area teams have another Area team as their arch-rivals, as with the Islanders and the Devils vs. the Rangers. (Yankees vs. Mets, Giants vs. Jets and Knicks vs. Nets, these are not real rivalries.)

But New York City F.C. -- despite their foolhardy attempt to start a hooligan ruck outside Bello's in the Summer of 2015 -- is not yet there. Their fans hate the Red Bulls more than anyone else, but the RBNY fans think of them as a mere annoyance, inviting their Manchester City-inspired blue shirts to call them the Smurfs, and using the anti-Chelsea song "You Ain't Go No History."

Some Area teams have a Philadelphia team as their rivals: The Mets vs. the Phillies, the Giants vs. the Eagles, the Devils (at least secondarily) vs. the Flyers, and (to an extent) the Nets vs. the 76ers. But the Philadelphia Union are not the Red Bulls' rivals. Their fans hate the Red Bulls more than anyone else, but the Union are an afterthought in Harrison, with the brief exception of this chant: "New York's chillin'! Jersey's chillin'! What more can I say? Fuck Philly!"

And some Area teams have a Boston (or at least New England) team as their rivals: The Yankees vs. the Red Sox, the Jets vs. the Patriots, the Knicks vs. the Celtics, and (at least secondarily) Rutgers vs. UConn and the Rangers vs. the Bruins. But the New England Revolution are not the Red Bulls' rivals. Their fans hate the Red Bulls more than anyone else, but aside from a few Yankee Fans doing the "Boston sucks!" chant, the Revs are barely on Metro fans' radar.

No, the true rivalry is with D.C. United. While Mets vs. Nationals is only a recent rivalry, Giants vs. Redskins hasn't mattered since the early Nineties, St. John's vs. Georgetown hasn't mattered sine the mid-Eighties, Knicks vs. Wizards hasn't mattered since the Wizards were the Bullets in the late Seventies, and the Capitals don't really have a rivalry with any Area team, the "Atlantic Cup" rivalry was forged at the league's beginning, when DCU captured 3 of the 1st 4 MLS Cups, and have since won a 4th.

Metro fans call them "The D.C. Scum." D.C. fans call us "The Pink Cows," and always remind us that the MLS Cup count is still 4-0 in their favor - although their last one is fading into the distance: As with Arsenal, D.C. last won their league in 2004.

After the Game. Stadium security and the local police take no chances on allowing English-style, European-style or South American-style fan violence. The escort out given to opposing fans is equal to the one going in, and no tolerance for fan violence, in either direction, is given. You will be safe.

Some fans head back across the Jackson Street Bridge for the Ironbound bars, others in the other direction toward downtown Harrison and Kearny. Most, though, head out, either by car or the PATH train.

If your visit to New York will include a European soccer matchday, you are probably in luck: The City leads the nation in, among so many other things, available soccer pubs.

Alas, the place that set the standard is gone. Nevada Smith's (or just "Nevada's" to those of us who went there), at 74 3rd between 11th and 12th, was New York's 1st great soccer bar, until a dispute with management in 2011 led bartender Jack Keane to leave and found the Football Factory.

For a while, they hung on, until their building was condemned as unsafe. They moved around the corner to Webster Hall, a historic theater at 125 East 11th Street, which has since kept the bar open for Premiership matches. Nevada's then moved into a new building at 100 3rd Avenue, a block north of their original location, but had to move again. To any of these 3 locations, you would have taken the L Train to 3rd Avenue.

Finally, they rented space at Public House, in the former O'Casey's, at 140 East 41st Street, off Lexington Avenue, a block south of the Chrysler Building. Finally, they had to give up the ghost, although Public House (the term from which the word "pub" comes) still shows Premiership matches. 4, 5, 6 or 7 Train to Grand Central.

At any rate, you can almost certainly find your favorite team at one of these places:

* The Football Factory at Legends: 6 West 33rd Street at 5th Avenue, across from the Empire State Building. D Train to 34th Street-Herald Square. This place is home to more supporters' clubs than any other, and its reputation is such that regulars know that there is not to be any trouble.

Its clubs include: From England, Chelsea, Newcastle United, their North-East rivals Sunderland, both Birmingham clubs (Aston Villa and Birmingham City), both Sheffield clubs (United and Wednesday), Fulham, Southampton, Leicester City, Watford, AFC Bournemouth, Leeds United, Blackburn Rovers, Bristol City, Preston North End and Middlesbrough; Welsh clubs Cardiff City and Swansea City; French clubs Paris Saint-Germain and Olympique Lyonnais; German clubs Hamburger SV, Hertha Berlin and Eintracht Frankfurt; Italian clubs Juventus, AC Milan, Napoli and Bologna; Brazilian clubs Fluminense and São Paulo; and Argentine club River Plate.

* Smithfield Hall: Several clubs meet here, at 138 West 25th Street at 7th Avenue. 1 Train to 23rd. These clubs include London's West Ham United, Crystal Palace and Nottingham Forest; Manchester United; Spanish biggies Barcelona and Valencia, German giants Bayern Munich, French club Olympique de Marseille, Italian club Internazionale, and Brazilian club Grêmio

Bayern fans also pack Paulaner Brewhaus, 265 Bowery (F to 2nd Ave).

* Mulligan's On First: This is the premier soccer bar in New Jersey, at 159 1st Street, between Garden and Bloomfield Streets, in Hoboken, Hudson County. I know the owner, Paul Dawson, a Chelsea fan from Dublin, and he does whatever he can to make it as authentic as possible. He favors Chelsea, and their fans can load the place up. Knowing his local, largely Irish-American clientele, there's also lots of Celtic memorabilia.

But fans of all clubs are welcome there, as long as they don't abuse fans of other clubs. PATH train to Hoboken, then 2 blocks north on River Street, then 4 blocks west on 1st Street.

Chelsea fans also congregate at The Central Bar, 109 East 9th Street at 3rd Avenue (6 Train to Astor Place).

* Manchester United: A club with universal appeal (read: "Bandwagon followers"), Man U fans are everywhere. Like rats, and about as welcome. In addition to Smithfield Hall, they are welcomed at Baker Street Pub at 1152 1st Avenue at 63rd Street (4, 5 or 6 Train to 59th), Maggie Reilly's at 340 West 29th at 9th (A Train to 34th-Penn Station), and Bar 43 & Grill at 43-06 43rd Street in Queens (7 Ttrain to 40th Street).

* Liverpool: The Mersey Reds may have more meeting places than anyone in the game. The 11th Street Bar, 510 East 11th Street at Avenue A was the original, but it's small and fills up quickly. L Train to 1st Avenue. Nearby, Kelly's was once a Tottenham pub. I guess it got promoted. 12 Avenue A, at 1st Street. F Train to 2nd Avenue.

Carragher's Pub and Restaurant is owned by, yes, Liverpool legend Jamie. 228 West 39th Street at 7th Avenue. A Train to 42nd. The Irish American Pub, at 17 John Street at Nassau Street, recently opened its "Boot Room" to Kopites. 4 or 5 Train to Fulton Street. The Grafton (formerly Lunasa) is at 126 1st Avenue at 8th Street/St. Mark's Place. 6 Train to Astor Place. The East End Bar & Grill is on the Upper East Side at 1664 1st Avenue at 87th Street. Q Train (the new 2nd Avenue Subway) to 86th Street. Be warned: This is also an NYCFC "partner pub."

In Brooklyn, there's the Monro Pub in Park Slope. 481 5th Avenue. R Train to 9th Street. In Queens, there's the Shillelagh Tavern in Astoria, at 47-22 30th Avenue. R Train to 46th Street. The Starting Gate was a good Liverpool pub, but it's permanently closed. 59-10 Woodside Avenue. 7 Train to 61st Street-Woodside.

* Arsenal: The new home of New York Gooners is Jack Doyle's, at 240 West 35th Street between 7th and 8th Avenue. A, C or E Train to 34th Street; or 1, 2 or 3 Train to 34th Street. In Hoboken, Finnegan's Pub has begun hosting Arsenal matches. 734 Willow Avenue at 8th Street. It might be easier to get there by taking NJ Transit's Bus 126 from Port Authority than by using the PATH system.

Previously, 14th Street, east of Union Square, was the place to be -- "Gooner Alley," I called it. Arsenal fans' 1st place was the Blind Pig at 233 East 14th, off 2nd Avenue, but it became a victim of its own success, filling up by 45 minutes before kickoff. Ironically, it couldn't pay a big rent increase, and it closed last year, after 9 years. Some fans went to O'Hanlon's, a block away at 349, off 1st. The Winslow, at 243, also took spillover. These bars will still show Arsenal matches. L Train to 3rd or 1st Avenue.

There is also an Arsenal bar in Brooklyn, the appropriately-named Highbury Pub, 1002 Cortelyou Road, Q Train to Cortelyou. Woodwork had been a Brooklyn-based Arsenal and Barcelona bar, but it's closed. Bar 43, in addition to being a Man U bar, is the Arsenal bar in Queens.

* Manchester City: Citizens meet at Amity Hall, 80 W. 3rd Street in Greenwich Village. A, C or E Train to W. 4th Street. Their original bar, The Mad Hatter Pub, 360 3rd Avenue at 26th Street, has been closed and replaced.

* Everton: The Blue side of Merseyside meets at Turnmill, 119 E. 27th Street, between Park and Lexington Avenues. 6 Train to 28th Street. Previously, Evertonians met at Mr. Dennehy's, 63 Carmine Street in the West Village. 1 Train to Houston Street. Due to rising rents, Mr. Dennehy's closed on March 31, 2018. The family that runs it hopes to open in a new space nearby, but, as yet, no such luck.

* Tottenham Hotspur: Flannery's, at 205 West 14th at 7th, is the latest in a series of Spurs bars, after they got kicked out of Floyd in Brooklyn and Kelly's on the Lower East Side, and O'Casey's in Midtown closed. 1 Train to 14th.

"Spuds" also meet at Perdition (perhaps appropriately named) at 692 10th Avenue at 49th Street, C Train to 50th Street; and in Brooklyn's Park Slope at the Black Horse Pub, 568 5th Avenue at 16th Street. R Train to Prospect Avenue.

* Stoke City: Potters fans meet at Fitzgerald's Pub, 336 3rd Avenue at 25th Street. 6 Train to 23rd.

* Norwich City: The New York Canaries meet at George Keeley, 485 Amsterdam (9th) Avenue at 83rd Street. 1, 2 or 3 Train to 86th.

* Real Madrid: Madridistas meet at The Playwright Irish Pub, 27 West 35th Street, between 5th and 6th Avenues.

Atlético Madrid: Atleti fans meet at The Long Hall, 58 East 34th Street, between Madison & Park Avenues, a short walk from Legends and their longtime tormentors at The Playwright. The Long Hall, named for the Long Room in the library at Trinity College in Dublin, and is also an Irish-themed restaurant and gift shop.

For both Madrid clubs: B, D, F, M, N, Q, R or W Train to 34th Street-Herald Square.

* Celtic: With the Glasgow club's ties to Ireland, there are lots of Irish-themed bars that show their games, but due to cable network demands, they are required to charge an admission fee, usually $5.00 but sometimes more.

I mentioned Mulligan's in Hoboken. Jack Demsey's (no P) is just a few doors down from the Football Factory, at 36 West 33rd. D Train to 34th-Herald Square. And The Parlour is at 250 West 86th at Broadway. This place fills up quickly, and has more old-country fans than possibly any of these bars, but the burgers and the fries are worth it. 1 Train to 86th Street.

* AS Roma: Fans of the team of the Eternal City, Italy's capital, meets at Grey Bar, 43 West 26th Street at 6th Avenue. R Train to 28th Street.

* Borussia Dortmund: The famously hipsterish Westphalia club that occasionally challenges Bayern for German supremacy has fans meeting at McHale's Bar & Grill, at 251 West 51st Street, off 8th Avenue. C Train to 50th Street.

* Sporting CP and Benfica: I have been unable to find out where Sportinguistas and Benfiquistas meet. Your best bet to see either of the Lisbon clubs is going to be either the Football Factory or one of the bars on Market Street in Newark's Portuguese-heavy Ironbound.

* Boca Juniors: The Buenos Aires giants meet in Queens, at the Boca Junior Steakhouse at 81-08 Queens Blvd. R Train to Grand Avenue-Newtown.

At many of these bars, you can pick up copies of First Touch, the area's free weekly newspaper dedicated to the sport.

Sidelights. On November 30, 2018, Thrillist published a list of "America's 25 Most Fun Cities," and, as you might guess, New York came in 1st.

Baseball season has not begun yet, but both New York baseball parks allow tours. Yankee Stadium: $25. Citi Field: $13. The former can be reached via the D train on the West Side, and the 4 train on the East Side, both to 161st Street-River Avenue; the latter, by the 7 train to Mets-Willets Point station.

The old Yankee Stadium was home to the Yankees from 1923 to 1973, and again from 1976 to 2008, and to the NFL's Giants from 1956 to 1973. It was on the other side of 161st Street from where the new one now stands. The old Cosmos played the 1971 and 1976 season at the old Yankee Stadium.

New York City FC now play at Yankee Stadium. Sometimes. Last season, due to scheduling conflicts with the Yankees, they had to play one game in Citi Field, and another at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut, forever shattering their argument about the Red Bulls about who actually plays home games in New York City. Red Bull Arena is 15.7 road miles from Times Square; while Yankee Stadium is 5.9 miles, and at Citi Field, 8.2 miles, Harrison isn't that much farther than the South Bronx or Flushing Meadow, and you still have to use a bridge or a tunnel for each -- and East Hartford is 115 miles.

Citi Field replaced Shea Stadium, home of the Mets from 1964 to 2008, the Yankees in 1974 and '75 while the old Yankee Stadium was being renovated, the NFL's Jets from 1964 to 1983, and the Giants in 1975. (The Giants played some 1973 and all 1974 games in the Yale Bowl in New Haven, Connecticut, far from The City.)

Across Roosevelt Avenue from Citi Field is Flushing Meadow-Corona Park, where the U.S. Open tennis tournament is held every late August and early September, and where the 1939-40 and 1964-65 New York World's Fairs were held. If you saw the Men In Black movies, you'll recognize the Unisphere globe, which is one of the surviving structures from the 1964 Fair.

The name "Flushing" comes from the Dutch "Vlissingen," and, no matter how much the Mets stink, has nothing to do with plumbing, although Citi Field's predecessor, Shea Stadium, was often nicknamed the Flushing Toilet.

The Mets were founded in 1962, to take the place of a pair of teams that moved to California for the reason of greed after the 1957 season: The New York Giants (who played in upper Manhattan) and the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Giants moved to San Francisco, the Dodgers to Los Angeles, and have maintained their nasty rivalry to this day, thought separated by 389 miles instead of 14.

The move of the Giants was upsetting to many, that of the Dodgers to many more, as they were the only team that Brooklyn could then claim as its own, and they moved to the untapped market of California, and took their rivals with them.

The analogy would not be to Wimbledon FC moving to Milton Keynes. Think, instead, of Brooklyn as New York's answer to the East End (complete with docklands and a distinctive accent), and imagine that, near the peak of their success, West Ham had moved to India -- and took Tottenham with them. (Not Millwall. Millwall would be considered "minor league" by U.S. standards.) Then imagine that Chelsea really did have "no history," and only started a few years after the Hammers and Spurs moved, and started as a joke, until they had a couple of titles, and their fans became obnoxious far beyond what their success had yet earned. That would be the Mets.

At any rate, both the Dodgers' and Giants' former homes were replaced by housing projects. Worth visiting in daylight, but not at night. Ebbets Field, home of the Dodgers from 1913 to 1957, was at 1700 Bedford Avenue at Sullivan Place. Q train to Prospect Park. The Polo Grounds was home of the baseball Giants from 1890 to 1957, the Yankees from 1913 to 1922, the football Giants from 1925 to 1955, the Jets from 1960 to 1963, and the Mets in 1962 and 1963. 2955 Frederick Douglass Blvd. (an extension of 8th Avenue). D train to 155th Street.

Madison Square Garden, home of the NBA's Knicks and the NHL's Rangers, and the site of some legendary prizefights and concerts, allows tours, for $27. This is the 4th in a series of buildings with the name, opening in 1968 (this past week was the 50th Anniversary), on top of Penn Station, after the original Roman-inspired Station, built in 1910, was demolished in 1963.

Between 31st and 33rd Streets, between 7th and 8th Avenues. 1, 2, 3, A, C or E train to 34th Street-Penn Station. Across 8th Avenue is the main post office, with its columns inspiring comparisons to the old Penn Station, and a move to make it the next Penn Station is in the planning stages.

(Because of lease issues, the Madison Square Garden Corporation may have to build a new arena in the next few years, despite already having seriously renovated the current Garden both in 1992 and again completing a 2-year renovation job in 2014. Location to be determined.)

The Barclays Center, home of the NBA's Brooklyn Nets since it opened in 2012, and the NHL's New York Islanders since last Autumn, offers tours for $24. 2, 3, 4, 5, B or Q train to Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center. It's built across the street from the Long Island Rail Road's Atlantic Terminal, one of 3 major rail stations in the City.

On December 19, 2017, a deal was announced, to build a new arena for the Islanders at Belmont Park, in Elmont, in Nassau County, just over the City Line, thus returning the Isles to The Island. They plan to have it ready for the 2020-21 season.

The Prudential Center in Newark, home of the NHL's New Jersey Devils since it opened in 2007, is a 5-minute walk from Newark's Penn Station. It does not offer tours.

MetLife Stadium, the home of the NFL's Giants and Jets, does allow tours, but only on Saturdays, for $20. It's in the Meadowlands Sports Complex of East Rutherford, New Jersey, which also includes a horse racing track, and an arena that used to be home of the Devils and the Nets.
USA vs. Argentina, March 27, 2011.
I was one of 78,936 on hand for a 1-1 draw.
Lionel Messi did not score for Argentina.
Esteban Cambiasso did, as did Juan Agudelo for the U.S.

This stadium, which opened in 2010, has already hosted a number of matches, including the U.S. vs. Argentina in 2011 (I was there), Brazil vs. Argentina in 2012, and a 2014 Portugal vs. Ireland match. It hosted 2 games of the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2011, and again in 2015. It has been selected by the U.S. Soccer Federation as a finalist to be one of the host venues for the 2026 World Cup.

Its predecessor, Giants Stadium, hosted the NFL's Giants from 1976 to 2009, the NFL's Jets from 1984 to 2009, the original New York Cosmos from 1977 to 1985, and several games in the 1994 World Cup and the 1999 Women's World Cup. It hosted 3 games of the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2005, 4 in 2007, and 1 in 2009.

MetLife Stadium is the only domeless Northern stadium to host a Super Bowl, Super Bowl XLVIII, on February 2, 2014. New Jersey Transit messed up the train service, but they lucked out with the weather: Kickoff temperature was a tolerable 49 degrees, and a snowstorm hit the next day. The Seattle Seahawks clobbered the Denver Broncos 43-8.


It is hard to get to, though. On game days, New Jersey Transit runs rail service right there, but if you're going from either New York's or Newark's Penn Station, you have to change trains at Secaucus Junction. Without it being a game day, you may need to have to go to the Port Authority Bus Terminal at 41st Street and 8th Avenue (A, C or E train to 42nd Street), and take a NJ Transit bus.

Even harder to get to is the Nassau Coliseum, where the Islanders played from 1972 to 2015, and the Nets from 1971 to 1977. 1255 Hempstead Turnpike, in Hempstead (mailing address Uniondale), Long Island. Across the Turnpike is James M. Shuart Stadium, home of Hofstra University athletics. This 11,929-seat stadium no longer hosts college football (Hofstra played there from 1963 until it dropped its program in 2009), but in 1972 and '73, the old Cosmos played there. The new, minor-league Cosmos played here from 2013 to 2016. Take the Long Island Railroad from Penn Station in New York to Hempstead Terminal, then switch to the N70, N71 or N72 bus.

The new Cosmos began playing at MCU Park, the 7,000-seat home of minor-league baseball's Brooklyn Cyclones since 2001, in 2017, and will play there again at least this season. 1904 Surf Avenue, in the Coney Island section. D, F, N or Q Train to Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue.

The 5,000-seat Icahn Stadium was built in 2005 on the site of Downing Stadium, a 22,000-seat horseshoe which stood from 1936 to 2002. It was home to the Cosmos in the 1974 and '75 seasons, the New York Stars of the NFL-challenging World Football League in 1974, and the Negro Leagues' New York Black Yankees in the 1938 season. It hosted the U.S. team against Scotland in 1949 and England in 1964, losing badly both times.

The new stadium hosts track & field events. On Randalls Island, in the East River. Number 4 train to 125th Street, then transfer to the M35 bus at 125th and Lexington Avenue.

The New York area has a team in the National Women's Soccer League, called Sky Blue FC. They won the title of the previous league, Women's Professional Soccer (WPS), in 2009.They play at Yurcak Field, which is the 5,000-seat soccer and lacrosse stadium of Rutgers University, a three-minute walk from its 52,000-seat football stadium, on its Busch Campus in Piscataway, New Jersey. You'd have to take New Jersey Transit rail from Penn Station to New Brunswick, then a campus bus from the station to the stadium. 
Yurcak Field

In addition to the Meadowlands Racetrack, New Jersey has thoroughbred horse racing at Monmouth Park. Opening in 1946, it has been home since 1968 to the Haskell Invitational, named for the park's former president, Amory Haskell, and annually attracting winners of the Triple Crown races every July; and since 1988 to the Jersey Derby, formerly run at the since-demolished Garden State Park in Cherry Hill and the since-closed Atlantic City Race Course.
175 Oceanport Avenue in Oceanport, 55 miles by road from Midtown Manhattan (although a bit closer as the crow flies, across New York and Sandy Hook Bays). New Jersey Transit runs train service there during the Summer.

As for the City's main tourist attractions: If your secondary goal, beyond the primary goal of seeing your team play the Red Bulls, is to see a "Broadway play," I would advise against it, as you may well be very disappointed. Tickets are expensive and not easy to get, and may not be worth it. This is hardly a golden age for Broadway: Nearly every show is either a borrow from London's West End, a stage adaptation of a movie you may already have seen, or a revival of a classic musical featuring performers whose names are not especially well-known. (And are not likely to be, either: Although a few major actors got their start on Broadway, the days when The Ed Sullivan Show -- which helped the Beatles rise to superstardom -- could, thanks to Sullivan's status as a Broadway columnist, raise performers and songs from nearby theaters to iconic status are long gone.)

An NY CityPass will be expensive, but it will save you a large amount if your goal is to cram in as many tourist attractions as possible. You can tailor your pass to the sites you want to see. For example: The $109 version gets you the Empire State Building, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American Museum of Natural History, the Museum of Modern Art, the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island or a Circle Line Cruise around Manhattan Island, and the Top of the Rock observation deck at Rockefeller Center or the Guggenheim Museum. With CityPASS, you'll skip most ticket lines.

As for the museums: While London's are free, New York's are not. They have "donations" -- or "suggested general admissions" -- running form $15 to $22.

The two best-known New York Museums are opposite Central Park from one another, a mile apart. The American Museum of Natural History is at 79th Street and Central Park West (8th Avenue). C train to 81st Street. And the Metropolitan Museum of Art -- a.k.a. The Met, not to be confused with the opera house, the baseball team, or the London police -- is at 82nd Street and 5th Avenue. This stretch of 5th is known as Museum Mile, and also includes, among others, the egg-shaped, Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. 4, 5 or 6 train to 86th Street, 4 blocks down Lexington, and then 3 blocks west to 5th Avenue.

The Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts is New York's center for classical performances, with several venues, most notably the current edition of the Metropolitan Opera House. 63rd Street and Broadway. 1 train to 66th Street-Lincoln Center.

The other major classical venue is Carnegie Hall. How do you get to Carnegie Hall? "Practice, my boy, practice!" The old joke is wrong: Anyone who can afford to rent Carnegie Hall's main auditorium may do so, regardless of level of talent. It's at 881 7th Avenue at 57th Street. 1, A, B, C or D train to 59th Street-Columbus Circle, or F train to 57th Street.

Alas, the legendary delicatessens around the corner on 7th Avenue, the Carnegie Deli at 56th Street and the Stage Deli at 55th, are now closed, victims of excessive rents. The famous Italian restaurant Mama Leone's has been gone for many years.

The Russian Tea Room, a famous restaurant mere steps away from Carnegie Hall at 150 West 57, is to be avoided: The service is only passable, and the food would be mediocre at half the price. In fact, I would avoid the best-known restaurants altogether. It's been said that New York offers the best cheap meals and the worst expensive meals in the world. So if you have the bucks to blow, and you want to be able to say, "I ate at (fill in the blank: Smith & Wollensky's Gallagher's, Peter Luger's, or wherever else)," go ahead, but you have been warned.

The closest thing you may get to a true British pub experience is the Atlantic Chip Shop, at 129 Atlantic Avenue at Henry Street in Brooklyn. The place is decked out in British memorabilia, and when there's no football or rugby match on TV, they usually have a British film on. The last time I was there, they played Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

4 or 5 train to Borough Hall, then 4 blocks down Court Street, then turn right on Atlantic and walk 2 blocks. The owners also run the Park Slop Chip Shop, which is closer to a genuine chippy. 383 5th Avenue at 6th Street -- remember, that's Brooklyn's 5th Avenue, not Manhattan's. R train to 9th Street, walk up 4th Avenue to 6th Street, and 1 block over to 5th.

A Salt and Battery is also a good fish and chips place. The fish is top-notch, but they do have what we call French fries, rather than chips. Next-door is another English-themed place, Tea and Sympathy, owned by the same people. 112 Greenwich Avenue at 13th Street. 1, 2, 3, A, C or E train to 14th Street. If your taste runs more to the Scottish, Caledonia Scottish Pub is at 1609 2nd Avenue at 83rd Street. 4, 5 or 6 train to 86th Street.

The Freedom Tower at the new World Trade Center is now open, complete with observation deck, and certified as the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. It looks over the site of the original Twin Towers, at Liberty and Greenwich Streets, and expect long lines if you want to visit the 9/11 Memorial. E train to World Trade Center, or R train to Cortlandt Street.

Because of security concerns after the 9/11 attacks, it is no longer possible to tour the New York Stock Exchange building at Wall and Broad Streets. However, it doesn't cost anything to walk down Wall Street, the center of the financial world. 2, 3, 4 or 5 train to Wall Street.

The South Street Seaport area is one of the City's last remaining bastions of pre-Civil War (1861-65) architecture. In fact, one of the reasons John Lennon said he loved New York so much was that it reminded him of Liverpool, especially with the dock areas. However, the Pier 17 shopping center, which had lots of goodies, has been demolished to make way for a new one, supposedly to open in late 2016.

There have been 2 Presidents born in New York City. And the 1st would have slapped the 2nd. Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site, a recreation of the townhouse where TR was born in 1858, is at 28 East 20th Street. N or R train to 23rd Street. Donald Trump was born at Jamaica Hospital, at 89-00 Van Wyck Expressway in Kew Gardens. E train to Jamaica-Van Wyck.

New York has relatively easy access to beaches: Coney Island in Brooklyn, the Rockaways in Queens, City Island in The Bronx; Long Island's Long Beach, Jones Beach, Fire Island and "The Hamptons," including Montauk, a.k.a. "The End"; and New Jersey's Shore, from Keansburg off Exit 117 of the Garden State Parkway all the way down to Cape May, Exit 0.

Red Bull Arena is 12 miles from the house that stood in for Tony's house on The Sopranos. 14 Aspen Drive, in North Caldwell, Essex County. About 18 miles due west of Midtown Manhattan. Hard to reach by public transit: From Newark's Penn Station, Newark Light Rail to Bloomfield Avenue, then Bus 11 to Stevens Avenue and E. Lindley Road, then a half-hour walk south on Mountain Avenue, left on Wildwood Drive, left on Aspen. Remember: It's a private residence. I don't think a real mobster lives there, but you should still respect the residents' privacy.

Not many other TV shows have been set in North Jersey. The Heights, about a teenage band named "The Heights" for their Jersey City neighborhood, lasted just 3 months on Fox in late 1992, 13 episodes, but its theme song, "How Do You Talk to an Angel," credited to "The Heights," hit Number 1 on November 14.

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This is usually where I close the blog post by telling you what a terrific city you'll be visiting, and hoping that you'll have fun.

Well, whatever you might think of your hometown, there is no better city on Earth than New York. While it is very easy for things to go wrong there, if you follow these directions, you should be fine, and be able to enjoy yourself immensely. Good luck.