Sunday, March 29, 2020

Clyde at 75

Walt Frazier is ageless, timeless, and peerless. He may be the coolest human being who ever lived.

Walter Frazier -- no middle name -- was born on March 29, 1945 in Atlanta. This being the pre-1964 South, he went to all-black schools, including David Tobias Howard High School in Atlanta. He is only its 4th-most important alumnus, trailing civil rights activists Martin Luther King Jr., Maynard Jackson and Vernon Jordan. It is currently being renovated and converted into a middle school, as a feeder school for Henry W. Grady High School.

Like Willie Mays, he was a quarterback who thought football was his best sport, but, in a statement that was then true as far as professional football was concerned, he said, "There were no black quarterbacks, so I played basketball."

He accepted a basketball scholarship from Southern Illinois University. Although integrated, and in the same State as Chicago, don't let that fool you: SIU is in Carbondale, and it's more Southern than Illinois. It's further south than St. Louis (106 miles to the northwest). It's closer to Memphis (212 miles to the southwest) than it is to Chicago (332 miles to the north).

But he excelled there, being named an NCAA Division II All-American in 1964 and 1965. He got them to the Division II Final in 1965, losing to a University of Evansville team that featured future Chicago Bulls star and Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan.

He lost his eligibility for the 1965-66 season, for academic reasons. SIU, whose teams are called the Salukis, after a breed of hunting dog similar to an Afghan hound, joined NCAA Division I for the 1966-67 season, and, under coach Jack Hartman, advanced to the Final of the National Invitation Tournament.

It had been several years since the NIT really mattered, since the college basketball point-shaving scandal of 1951. Certainly, no one believed that SIU could seriously challenge NCAA Tournament winners UCLA, coached by John Wooden and starring Lew Alcindor, later to rename himself Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

But the NIT did get Frazier to Madison Square Garden for the 1st time, and in the Final, SIU played Marquette University of Milwaukee, coached by Rockaway native and former Knick Al McGuire. The Salukis won, Frazier was named the Tournament's Most Valuable Player, and New York took notice of him. SIU would retire the Number 52 that he wore there.

The Knicks took him with the 5th pick of the 1967 NBA Draft. He joined a team that already had Willis Reed at center, Bill Bradley and Cazzie Russell at forward, and Dick Barnett at guard. But while they won their season opener, they dropped their next 4, before Frazier made his professional debut on October 28, 1967. He played 34 minutes, attempted 8 shots, and made just 1, although he had 8 rebounds and 7 assists. The Knicks lost, 111-98 to the Detroit Pistons at The Garden.

Their last game at the 49th-50th Street and 8th-9th Avenue Garden was on February 10, 1968, and they beat the Philadelphia 76ers 115-97. Their 1st game at the 31st-33rd Street and 7th-8th Avenue Garden was on February 14, and they beat the San Diego Rockets 114-102.

In mid-season, general manager Eddie Donovan fired head coach Dick McGuire, Al's brother and a Hall of Fame guard for the Knicks in the 1950s, and moved him to the post of scouting director. Red Holzman, who had helped the Rochester Royals win the 1951 NBA title, was named head coach, and everything began to come together. Frazier was named to the NBA's All-Rookie Team.

On December 19, 1968, the most important trade in Knick history was made. The Knicks sent Walt Bellamy, a Hall of Fame center but not really someone who fit Holzman's plans, and Howie Komives, a good but not great guard, to the Pistons for forward Dave DeBusschere. "Double D" became the key to the Knicks' defense.

Now, the starting five that symbolize team basketball in New York was in place: Reed, DeBusschere, Bradley, Frazier and Barnett. True, the Boston Celtics, who won 11 titles in 13 seasons from 1957 to 1969, had really "invented" the team game as far as the NBA was concerned. But don't tell that to Knick fans: To them, the great coach was William "Red" Holzman, not Arnold "Red" Auerbach.

As the Knicks got better, the New York media got interested in their personalities. Reed was the Captain, the on-court leader who took nonsense from his own players and took no prisoners from the opposition. DeBusschere was the enforcer, which is not to say that he was dirty: He was aggressive, but clean, more Gandalf the Wizard saying, "You shall not pass!" than a typical Ranger goon.

Bradley was the Princeton and Oxford intellectual: Not that they weren't all smart -- Barnett got a Ph.D. in education, and has been referred to as "Doctor Dick" ever since -- but Bradley was on another level, with John McPhee's book about him being titled A Sense of Where You Are. He always seemed to know what was going to happen next on the court.

Frazier was the coolest cat in the game. He wasn't just (Cliche Alert) smooth as silk on the court, playing both offense and defense as if no effort was needed (which was deceptive, as he was a hard worker). He became the fanciest dresser in the league, his suits and fedora hats leading someone to compare him to Warren Beatty in the film Bonnie and Clyde. He has been "Clyde" Frazier ever since. He also began to favor fancy cars, fancy restaurants, and fancy women. He was the ultimate man about town.
1973. Note the brand-new World Trade Center in the background,
and the license plate on the Rolls-Royce: WCF, for "Walt (Clyde) Frazier.

In 1969, the Knicks got to the Eastern Division Finals, losing to the Celtics. The 1969-70 season was when it all came together. They had an 18-game winning streak, an NBA record (but for only 2 more years). In the Playoffs, despite the presence of Earl "the Pearl" Monroe, one of the few players who could match Clyde for flashiness, the Knicks beat the Baltimore Bullets in 7 games. Then, despite the presence of Alcindor and already-all-time great Oscar Robertson, the Knicks beat the Milwaukee Bucks, to reach their 1st NBA Finals in 17 years.

Let's put this in perspective. At this point, the Yankees had won 20 World Series. The Giants had won 4 NFL Championships. The Rangers had won 3 Stanley Cups. And in the preceding 16 months, the Jets had won the Super Bowl, and then the Mets had won the World Series. The Jets had only been in existence since 1960, the Mets since 1962. The Knicks had been a founding franchise of the NBA, in 1946, and in 24 years had never won a Championship. They needed one.

In their way were the Los Angeles Lakers, who had 3 of the defining figures of the NBA's 1st quarter-century: Wilt Chamberlain, the best player the game has ever known; Elgin Baylor, the 1st man to really make the game stylish; and Jerry West, the best shooter the sport had yet seen and a really good defensive player, too. The Knicks were huge underdogs, and while they took 3 of the 1st 5 games, Reed was injured in Game 5. When the Lakers won Game 6, and it didn't look like Reed would play in Game 7, few people gave the Knicks any chance.

It was May 8, 1970. It had been 4 days since the Kent Sate Massacre, 4 weeks since the announcement of the breakup of the Beatles, and 11 weeks since the convictions of five of the Chicago Seven (which were overturned 2 years later).

Richard Nixon was President, and had expanded the Vietnam War, rather than wrapping it up like he'd promised. Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were dead. Muhammad Ali was still in boxing exile.

Earlier that very day, in response to Kent State and other antiwar demonstrations, what became known as "The Hard Hat Demonstration" happened: Blue-collar guys marching down 5th Avenue in Midtown, in support of the war, and against civil rights. The conservative backlash to a decade of liberalism was well and truly on.

And, at what could have been their moment of greatest triumph, Knick fans were at their moment of greatest despair.

There were 19,500 paying customers at "The New Madison Square Garden Center" that Friday night. Among them, Woody Allen was sitting courtside. Also from Brooklyn, but sitting up at the very top, in what were then known as the Blue Seats, was Shelton "Spike" Lee, who would also later become a renowned film director sitting courtside. And the one thing on the minds of Woody, Spike, and everybody in between was, "Will Willis play?"

He did. He limped out onto the court for warmups, and hit a few shots. The Lakers stopped and watched. They were already beaten. When the game began, Willis dragged his bad leg around the court, took the game's 1st 2 shots, and made them both. It was effectively over.

Everyone remembers it as The Willis Reed Game. But Frazier had his best game: 36 points to lead all players, 19 assists to lead all players, 7 rebounds. Barnett had 21 points. DeBusschere had 18 points and 17 rebounds. Despite 28 points from West, and 21 points and 24 rebounds from Chamberlain, the Knicks won 113-99, and were World Champions for the 1st time.

*

Clyde owned New York. Mickey Mantle was retired. Tom Seaver, as great as he was, and as much as he had done for the Mets, didn't have the type of personality to indulge in New York's pleasures. Joe Namath of the Jets was the cool quarterback, with the long hair, the white shoes, and, when he wasn't on the field, the fur coat and the shades. And he had guaranteed the upset. And he loved the New York nightlife as much as anybody from John McGraw to Babe Ruth to Mantle.

But Clyde didn't need no guarantee. And he dressed better than Broadway Joe. Men wanted to be him. Women just wanted him. It was a team effort, but he was not only the best player on the team, he is, to this day, the best all-around basketball player the New York Tri-State Area has ever seen. (Sure, there would soon be Julius "Dr. J" Erving, but he was doing it in the ABA, on Long Island, not in the NBA in Midtown. It just wasn't the same.)
But there was another player out there that mesmerized even Clyde. He said, "I dreamed about a lot of women, but Earl was the only man I dreamed about." Earl Monroe of the Baltimore Bullets drove every player who ever had to guard him, or get past him, insane. A Philadelphia native, he, like Clyde, had to go to a "mid-major" college, in his case the historically-black Winston Salem State University in North Carolina. He debuted in the NBA the same year, 1967, and had fans calling him not just "Earl the Pearl," but "Black Jesus."

In the 1971 Eastern Conference Finals, the Pearl-led Bullets eliminated the Knicks, reaching their 1st NBA Finals. They would lose to Milwaukee, move to Washington in 1973, make the Finals again in 1975, lose to the Golden State Warriors, and finally win the whole thing in 1978, defeating the Seattle SuperSonics in the Finals, before the Sonics reversedthe result in the 1979 Finals. Known as the Washington Wizards since 1997, they haven't been back to the Finals since.

On November 10, 1971, the most stunning trade in NBA history was made. The Knicks sent Mike Riordan, Dave Stallworth, and an undisclosed amount of cash to the Bullets for Monroe. The joke was that the Knicks would need 2 basketballs, because Clyde and the Pearl would both always need to have it.

That was not the case. They shared the backcourt just fine. The Knicks reached the Finals again in 1972, losing to the Lakers. They made it again in 1973, and beat the Lakers. They had won 2 NBA Championships in 4 years.

They've never done it again. The 1973-74 season would be the last for Reed, De Busschere and Lucas. The 1976-77 season would be the last for Bradley. After that season, the Knicks did the unthinkable: They traded Clyde to the Cleveland Cavaliers. For Jim Cleamons. Even-up.
Easily the strangest outfit he's ever worn,
and not just because of the Number 11.

Injuries meant that Clyde only played 66 games for the Cavs over 3 seasons. On December 15, 1979, injured and unable to play in that night's game between the Cavs and the Knicks at The Garden, his Number 10 was retired. After the 1979-80 season, he retired as a player. His career points-per-game average of 18.9 rose to 20.7 in the Playoffs, highlighting his clutch performances.

In 1989, he joined the Knicks' broadcasting team, and, while still wearing his fabulous suits, developed "Clydeisms," descriptive rhymes, including "swishing and dishing," "slashing and dashing," "swooping and hooping," "posting and toasting," and "bounding and astounding."

He's done TV commercials for Puma sneakers -- "New Puma shoes feel like wings on your feet, and with wings on your feet, you can fly!" -- and for Just For Men hair coloring, with fellow player-turned-broadcaster Keith Hernandez of the Mets.

He was married once, and has a son, Walt Frazier III. He owns a restaurant near The Garden and real estate in Harlem, where he has lived since he arrived in New York. He was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1987, and named to the NBA's 50th Anniversary 50 Greatest Players in 1996. If there is a 75th Anniversary 75 Greatest Players in 2021, he will surely be named to that, too.

But for New York Tri-State Area basketball, he is the all-time great. Not Patrick Ewing: He didn't win a title. Not Willis Reed: Maybe without Willis, the Knicks don't win, but, without Clyde's performance in that Game 7, Willis' return might not have mattered. Not Julius Erving: As great as Dr. J. was with the New York Nets on Long Island, it was only 3 seasons.
There is only one. Only one Clyde. A Happy and Stylish Birthday, man, and may there be many more.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Every MLS Team's Greatest Player

Part V, and the conclusion, of a series. This one is tougher, since soccer is a much more transient sport than the traditional North American "Big Four." Especially when you consider "loan spells."

What a player did elsewhere, including for his national team, even if it was the U.S. team, is irrelevant here. It's what he did playing for his Major League Soccer team that matters.

There are 4 MLS teams that were named for teams in the North American Soccer League, all on the Pacific Coast: The Portland Timbers, the San Jose Earthquakes, the Seattle Sounders and the Vancouver Whitecaps. Carryovers are not permitted. Nor will great players from NASL teams in a team's city be counted: New York can't count Pele, Los Angeles and Washington can't count Johan Cruyff, and Boston and Toronto can't count Eusebio.

Atlanta United, 2017-2019: Josef Martinez. The Venezuelan has made this choice very easy.

Chicago Fire, 1998-2019: Piotr Nowak. A good Polish player would certainly find a home in Chicago, and he sure did.

FC Cincinnati, 2019: Kendall Watson. The Costa Rican was trusted to be team Captain.

Colorado Rapids, 1996-2019: Marcelo Balboa. Good player, but how did a defender become a team's most popular player ever? Probably the long flowing hair.

Columbus Crew, 1996-2019: Brian McBride. He is a big figure in the histories of both club and country. Or, to use Crew fans' favorite adjective, "Massive."

FC Dallas, 1996-2019: Jason Kreis. Elsewhere, he's probably better known as a manager, but, in North Texas, he's their all-time leading scorer.

D.C. United, 1996-2019: Jaime Moreno. John Harkes, Jeff Agoos and Eddie Pope did more for the national team, but, as I said, that doesn't matter for this list, so it's Moreno. A close 2nd is his fellow Bolivian, Marco Etcheverry.

Houston Dynamo, 2006-2019: Brian Ching. Most goals, most assists, and 8 seasons without going blind looking at his teammates' hyper-orange jerseys.

Inter Miami, 2020: Can't say yet, as they just started.

LA Galaxy, 1996-2019: Landon Donovan. For all their international legends -- David Beckham, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Steven Gerrard -- and American legends Cobi Jones and Edson Buddle, it's Donovan who tops their list. And, again, the national team and what he's done for them isn't counted toward it.

Los Angeles FC, 2018-2019: Carlos Vela. He wasn't good enough for England's Premier League, but he found his level at Exposition Park.

Minnesota United, 2017-2019: Ethan Finlay. Hard to choose a player from a team so new, unless someone makes it obvious, as Josef Martinez did for Atlanta.

Montreal Impact, 2012-2019: Evan Bush. Unique among MLS teams, their best ever is a goalkeeper.

Nashville SC, 2020: Can't say yet, as they just started.

New England Revolution, 1996-2019: Taylor Twellman. Studio analysis doesn't enter into it.

New York City FC, 2015-2019: David Villa. Not Andrea Pirlo: He was washed up by the time he got to Yankee Stadium II.

New York Red Bulls, 1996-2019: Thierry Henry. I know, I said what a player did elsewhere doesn't matter. But, while Bradley Wright-Phillips scored more goals for the former MetroStars, he wasn't better.

Orlando City, 2015-2019: Dom Dwyer. Better known as Mr. Sydney Leroux.

Philadelphia Union, 2010-2019: Sebastien Le Toux. Holds more team offensive records.

Portland Timbers, 2011-2019: Diego Valeri. The Argentine is 1st in goals, 1st in assists, and 2nd in appearances, including the 2015 MLS Cup win.

Real Salt Lake, 2005-2019: Javier Morales. Far and away their all-time leading scorer.

San Jose Earthquakes, 1996-2019: Chris Wondolowski. Wondo gets a bum rap for his insufficient performances for the national team. But he has scored 155 goals for the Quakes. Next-best is Ronald Cerritos, with 61.

Seattle Sounders, 2009-2019: Clint Dempsey. Like I said, his USMNT achievements have nothing to do with this.

Sporting Kansas City, 1996-2019: Tony Meola. The goalkeeper from Kearny, New Jersey found a home far from PATH, on the Plains.

Toronto FC, 2007-2019: Sebastian Giovinco. Not good enough for Juventus in his homeland, but for the Ontario Reds, he was more than good enough.

Vancouver Whitecaps, 2011-2019: Russell Teibert. The fact that the midfielder is from Canada (albeit Niagara Falls, far across the country) shouldn't matter, but his longevity and performance do.

Every NHL Team's Greatest Player

Part IV of a series.

Anaheim Ducks, 1993-2020: Teemu Selanne. Even having started his career in Winnipeg can't dislodge the Finnish Flash from this honor.

Arizona Coyotes, 1997-2020: Shane Doan. Winnipeg, Jets, 1972-1996: Bobby Hull. Jets/Coyotes overall, 1972-2020: Hull. Doan was the last active player for the old Jets, and edges Teppo Numminen among 'Yotes.

Boston Bruins, 1924-2020: Bobby Orr. He only played 10 seasons for them, and only enough games to add up to 8 full seasons. But it says a lot about them that professional sports have been played atop North Station in Boston for 92 years, and there's only 2 athletes honored with statues there: Bill Russell, who won 11 titles with the Celtics, and Orr, who won just 2, but revolutionized the sport, and did as much as any human being, living or dead, to popularize it in America.

Buffalo Sabres, 1970-2020: Gilbert Perreault. The team's all-time leading scorer did more for them than Dominik Hasek did. Don't tell me how great Hasek was: He was never even the 2nd-best goalie in the NHL, because he was always stuck behind Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur.

Calgary Flames, 1980-2020: Jarome Iginla. Atlanta Flames, 1972-1980: Tom Lysiak. Flames overall, 1972-2020: Iginla. It's hard to overlook the 1989 Stanley Cup winners, including Lanny McDonald, Theoren Fleury, Joe Nieuwendyk, Al MacInnis and Mike Vernon. But Iginla, who may have been cheated out of the 2004 Cup, is the team's career leader in most offensive categories.

Carolina Hurricanes, 1997-2020: Rod Brind'Amour. Hartford Whalers, 1972-1997: Ron Francis. Whalers/'Canes overall, 1972-2020: Francis. Francis isn't quite the best player if you count only the Carolina years, but he's close.

Chicago Blackhawks, 1926-2020: Bobby Hull. The Golden Jet's stats have been surpassed by many, including his son Brett. But he replaced Maurice Richard as hockey's most exciting player.

Colorado Avalanche, 1995-2020: Joe Sakic. Quebec Nordiques, 1972-1995: Peter Stastny. Nords/Avs overall, 1972-2020: Sakic. Patrick Roy might be the greatest goaltender of all time, but his career was split in half between Montreal and Denver, and so he's not the greatest player ever for either.

Columbus Blue Jackets, 2000-2020: Rick Nash. He was with them for only 7 years, but is still their career leader in most offensive categories.

Dallas Stars, 1993-2020: Mike Modano. Minnesota North Stars, 1967-1993: Neal Broten. Stars overall, 1967-2020: Modano. He might be the best forward American hockey has ever produced. The best American player? See the Rangers' entry.

Detroit Red Wings, 1926-2020: Gordie Howe. Mr. Hockey is still the greatest player ever. Don't tell me Orr was: He played his last game at 30. Don't tell me Wayne Gretzky was: When he was 38, he had to retire; when Howe was 38, he was still 1 of the top 5 players in the game.

Edmonton Oilers, 1972-2020: Wayne Gretzky. It's easy to forget that they won the 1990 Stanley Cup without him. But even Connor McDavid will not surpass him.

Florida Panthers, 1993-2020: Roberto Luongo. It was a tough choice between him and Pavel Bure. If either had spent his entire career in South Florida, that would have clinched it. Luongo was there longer.

Los Angeles Kings, 1967-2020: Marcel Dionne. Maybe one of the 2012 and '14 Stanley Cup winners will overtake him, possibly Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar, or Jonathan Quick. Then again, we thought Luc Robitaille might, and he didn't. Wayne Gretzky? He was only a King for 7 1/2 seasons, and he wasn't nearly for them what he was for Edmonton.

Minnesota Wild, 2000-2020: Marian Gaborik. Hard to pick one for this team, especially since Mikko Koivu, their all-time scoring leader, doesn't really jump out at you. But Gaborik remains their all-time goalscorer, and was a fantastic player.

Montreal Canadiens, 1909-2020: Maurice Richard. Maybe the Habs have had a player or two who was more talented than the Rocket, but not greater. In Quebec, he is still L'idole d'un peuple -- "the idol of a people," or "the idol of a nation."

Nashville Predators, 1998-2020: David Legwand. He's their all-time leader in points, assists, games and seasons, so he's an easy choice.

New Jersey Devils, 1982-2020: Martin Brodeur. Colorado Rockies, 1976-1982: Lanny McDonald. Kansas City Scouts, 1974-1976: Wilf Paiement. Scouts/Rockies/Devils overall, 1974-2020: Brodeur. Marty's better.

New York Islanders, 1972-2020: Denis Potvin. Mike Bossy was more spectacular, but Potvin was not only more important, but better.

New York Rangers, 1926-2020: Brian Leetch. Mark Messier had the better career (which is true for all but maybe 10 players, ever), and he certainly had the franchise's greatest moment. But Leetch was a Ranger for longer, including said moment, when he, not Messier, won the Conn Smythe Trophy as Playoff MVP, the 1st American to win the award. He may still be the best American-born player ever.

Ottawa Senators, 1894-1934 and 1992-2020: Daniel Alfredsson. It's hard to judge players of the original "Silver Seven" team's era against today's players -- the very name, implying 7 players on the ice, as was the case until around 1910 or so, proves that it was a different game. Maybe King Clancy would be the all-time Ottawa player had he not left for Toronto in 1930.

Philadelphia Flyers, 1967-2020: Bobby Clarke. Dirty? Yes. Great anyway? Yes. You try playing 15 seasons in the NHL with both diabetes and a bullseye on your back.

Pittsburgh Penguins, 1967-2020: Mario Lemieux. I don't care what Sidney Crosby achieves, he won't be better than Lemieux.

St. Louis Blues, 1967-2020: Brett Hull. He may not have come close to a Stanley Cup until after he left St. Louis, but he's ahead of Garry Under, Bernie Federko, Al MacInnis and Keith Tkachuk. It will be a while before we can determine that one of the 2019 Stanley Cup winners has surpassed him.

San Jose Sharks, 1991-2020: Patrick Marleau. He scored 508 goals for them. The next-closest player is Joe Pavelski with 355.

Tampa Bay Lightning, 1992-2020: Steven Stamkos. Ahead of Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier, without having won a Stanley Cup as they did in 2004? For peak, definitely, yes. For a career, if it's not a yes yet, it will be.

Toronto Maple Leafs, 1917-2020: Frank Mahovlich. The Big M was the scoring star of their biggest, best, and last dynasty.

Vancouver Canucks, 1970-2020: Pavel Bure. Trevor Linden might be Mr. Canuck, but, in this case, spectacular performance beats long-term excellence.

Vegas Golden Knights, 2017-2020: Marc-Andre Fleury. Although he'll be better remembered as a Pittsburgh Penguin, he'll be VGK's 1st Hall-of-Famer.

Washington Capitals, 1974-2020: Alexander Ovechkin. Go ahead and say nice words for Rod Langway, Mike Gartner and Adam Oates, but this one is easy.

Winnipeg Jets, 1972-1996 and 2011-2020: Bobby Hull. Atlanta Thrashers, 1999-2011: Ilya Kovalchuk. Thrashers/Jets overall, 1999-2020: Kovalchuk. If you have to name a member of the "New Jets," it's Blake Wheeler. But if you have to name a single overall Jet, it's the man whose Golden Jet nickname gave the team its name. Sure, it was the WHA, but Hull, more than Gordie Howe of the Houston Aeros, dominated that league.

Every NBA Team's Greatest Player

Part III of a series.

Atlanta Hawks, 1968-2020: Dominique Wilkins. St. Louis Hawks, 1955-1968: Bob Pettit. Milwaukee Hawks, 1951-1955: Pettit. Tri-Cities Blackhawks, 1946-1951: Deanglo King. Hawks overall, 1946-2020: Pettit. It says something about this franchise that the best player they've had since Pettit retired, 55 years ago, is 'Nique, a one-dimensional player (dunking) who as mocked for being the namesake of a fictional highway where no passing was allowed.

Boston Celtics, 1946-2020: Bill Russell. Sport's ultimate winner. An Olympic Gold Medal, 2 National Championships, and, for the C's, 11 NBA Championships.

Brooklyn Nets, 2012-2020: Brook Lopez. New Jersey Nets, 1977-2012: Jason Kidd. New York Nets, 1967-1977: Julius Erving. Nets overall, 1967-2020: Erving. The Doctor would have given Kidd and Lopez a taste of their own medicine.

Charlotte Hornets, 1988-2002 and 2004-2020: Larry Johnson. Alonzo Mourning was a better all-around player, but wasn't in Charlotte long enough.

Chicago Bulls, 1966-2020: Michael Jordan. I could have said Will Perdue, just to see if you were paying attention.

Cleveland Cavaliers, 1970-2020: LeBron James. Especially the 2nd time around.

Dallas Mavericks, 1980-2020: Dirk Nowitzki. Mark Cuban proved he could run a Dairy Queen, and Dirk proved he could run the floor.

Denver Nuggets, 1967-2020: Dan Issel. David Thompson was better, but was only there for 7 years, Dikembe Mutombo for 5. Issel had 10.

Detroit Pistons, 1957-2020: Isiah Thomas. Fort Wayne Pistons, 1941-1957: Bobby McDermott. Pistons overall, 1941-2020: Thomas. You don't have to like him, especially if you're a Knicks fan, and to a lesser extent a Bulls fan. But, for this team, he's it.

Golden State Warriors, 1971-2020: Steph Curry. San Francisco Warriors, 1962-1971: Wilt Chamberlain. Philadelphia Warriors, 1946-1962: Chamberlain. Warriors overall, 1946-2020: Chamberlain. No, Rick Barry doesn't get this, not since Steph captained a 2nd title. But Wilt still leads everybody.

Houston Rockets, 1971-2020: Hakeem Olajuwon. San Diego Rockets, 1967-1971: Elvin Hayes. Rockets overall, 1967-2020: Olajuwon. Both the Big E and Akeem the Dream (as he was known, and spelled, at the time) played at the University of Houston. And Hayes did play for the Rockets again at the end of his career. But Hakeem is far and away the Rockets' all-time best.

Indiana Pacers, 1967-2020: Reggie Miller. That's included the ABA years.

Los Angeles Clippers, 1984-2020: Chris Paul. San Diego Clippers, 1978-1984: Bill Walton. Buffalo Braves, 1970-1978: Bob McAdoo. Braves/Clippers overall: Paul. This may change over the next few years. Then again, knowing this franchise, that's a layup, but hardly a given.

Los Angeles Lakers, 1960-2020: Earvin "Magic" Johnson. Minneapolis Lakers, 1947-1960: George Mikan. Lakers overall, 1947-2020: Johnson. Magic ahead of Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James -- and, except for Wilt, that would have been true even if all of these guys (as Baylor, West and Worthy did) spent their entire careers with the Lakers.

Memphis Grizzlies, 2001-2020: Mike Conley. Vancouver Grizzlies, 1995-2001: Shareef Abdur-Rahim. Grizzlies overall, 1995-2020: Conley. Ahead of the brothers Pau and Marc Gasol.

Miami Heat, 1988-2020: Dwyane Wade. LeBron was better for a career, but not for the Heat.

Milwaukee Bucks, 1968-2020: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He was better in L.A., and with them longer. But who's going to top him in Milwaukee? Giannis? Not yet.

Minnesota Timberwolves, 1989-2020: Kevin Garnett. There really isn't a 2nd option.

New York Knicks, 1946-2020: Walt Frazier. Don't tell me Patrick Ewing. He predicted titles. Clyde won them.

New Orleans Pelicans, 2002-2020: Anthony Davis. The fact that he forced his way out to go to the Lakers doesn't change that. Nor does the fact that they had the Hornets name until 2013.

Oklahoma City Thunder, 2008-2020: Kevin Durant. Seattle SuperSonics, 1967-2008: Gary Payton. Sonics/Thunder overall, 1967-2020: Payton. If KD had stayed, he'd be ahead, but he didn't, so he's not.

Orlando Magic, 1989-2020: Dwight Howard. Longevity puts him ahead of Shaquille O'Neal and Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway

Philadelphia 76ers, 1963-2020: Wilt Chamberlain. Syracuse Nationals, 1949-1963: Dolph Schayes. Nats/Sixers overall, 1949-2020: Chamberlain. The greatest player in basketball history. If you have to ask why, you don't know basketball.

Phoenix Suns, 1968-2020: Steve Nash. This was close. I could have given it to Paul Westphal. Had he spent 7 seasons with them instead of 4,, I would have given it to Charles Barkley.

Portland Trail Blazers, 1970-2020: Buck Williams. Bill Walton was more important, but injuries insured that he wouldn't be the choice here.

Sacramento Kings, 1985-2020: Mitch Richmond. Kansas City Kings, 1972-1985: Otis Birdsong. Cincinnati Royals, 1957-1972: Oscar Robertson. Rochester Royals, 1923-1957: Bob Davies. Royals/Kings overall, 1923-2020: Robertson. The NBA's oldest franchise, and the Big O tops everyone they've got -- but that's less a testament to his talent than it is an indictment of what they've done since he left in 1970.

San Antonio Spurs, 1967-2020: Tim Duncan. David Robinson was somebody special. It took somebody special to surpass him.

Toronto Raptors, 1995-2020: Vince Carer. For 1 season, it's Kawhi Leonard. For a career, it's still Vinsanity.

Utah Jazz, 1979-2020: Karl Malone. New Orleans Jazz, 1974-1979: Pete Maravich. Jazz overall, 1974-2020: Malone. The Mailman by a hair over John Stockton.

Washington Wizards, 1997-2020: Gilbert Arenas. Washington Bullets, 1973-1997: Elvin Hayes. Baltimore Bullets, 1963-1973: Earl Monroe. Chicago Zephyrs, 1961-1963: Walt Bellamy. Overall: Monroe. Earl the Pearl.

Every NFL Team's Greatest Player

Part II of a series.

Arizona Cardinals, 1988-2019: Aeneas Williams. St. Louis Cardinals, 1960-1987: Larry Wilson. Chicago Cardinals, 1920-1959: Dick "Night Train" Lane. Cardinals overall, 1920-2019: Wilson. I could have gone with Kurt Warner for the Arizona years. Lane may have been the best cornerback ever, but he split his career with 2 other teams. Wilson may have been the best safety ever, up there with Emlen Tunnell, Willie Wood, Paul Krause and Ronnie Lott.

Atlanta Falcons, 1966-2019: Claude Humphrey. Deion Sanders was a Falcon for only 5 seasons. So was Tony Gonzalez. Morten Andersen was there for 8, but he was a kicker. For longevity, and for being the godfather of the 1st good Falcon team, the late 1970s' "Gritz Blitz," I'm giving it to Hall-of-Famer Humphrey.

Baltimore Ravens, 1996-2019: Ray Lewis. You don't have to think he was a good guy. You should admit that he was the best linebacker of the 21st Century.

Buffalo Bills, 1960-2019: Bruce Smith. Even if O.J. Simpson hadn't done what he did after leaving Orchard Park, Bruce would still be ahead of him.

Carolina Panthers, 1995-2019: Cam Newton. His days in Charlotte now appear to be done, but he is clearly the best player in franchise history.

Chicago Bears, 1920-2019: Walter Payton. How do you choose among Payton, Red Grange, Bronko Nagurski, Sid Luckman, Gale Sayers, Dick Butkus and Mike Singletary? We are talking about some of the best and baddest players ever. But who was better, badder, or sweeter than "Sweetness"?

Cincinnati Bengals, 1968-2019: Anthony Munoz. With the possible exception of Forrest Gregg, he was the best offensive tackle of all time.

Cleveland Browns, 1946-2019: Jim Brown. The greatest football player of all time? It's either him or Jerry Rice, and I don't want to hear about no cheating Tom Brady.

Dallas Cowboys, 1960-2019: Emmitt Smith. Bob Lilly? Roger Staubach? Tony Dorsett? Troy Aikman? No, go with the game's all-time leading rusher.

Denver Broncos, 1960-2019: John Elway. A lot of really good players, including some greats on defense, but Elway is still the franchise's defining player, even if his skill as an executive now appears to have been limited to bringing in Peyton Manning.

Detroit Lions, 1934-2019: Barry Sanders. Bobby Layne split his career with Pittsburgh. Doak Walker cut his career short. Dick "Night Train" Lane split his career with 2 other teams. Joe Schmidt, despite still being alive at this writing, isn't as well remembered as some other great defensive players of his time. But Barry often seemed to be beyond human.

Green Bay Packers, 1919-2019: Don Hutson. For all the greatness of the Vince Lombardi years, even Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, Forrest Gregg, Ray Nitschke, Willie Davis and Willie Wood can't match Hutson, the game's 1st great receiver, from the Curly Lambeau era. Nor can Mike Holmgren era players like Brett Favre and Reggie White. Nor can Aaron Rodgers, not that I would call him a player of the Mike McCarthy era.

Houston Texans, 2002-2019: J.J. Watt. He's not ahead of Earl Campbell as Houston's best player ever, but he is for the Texans franchise.

Indianapolis Colts, 1984-2019: Peyton Manning. Baltimore Colts, 1947-1983: Johnny Unitas. Colts overall, 1947-2019: Unitas. How great do you have to be to be ahead of Peyton? As great as Johnny U, who still gets some acclaim as the greatest quarterback who ever lived.

Jacksonville Jaguars, 1995-2019: Fred Taylor. The Jags don't yet have any Hall-of-Famers. Tony Boselli wasn't there long enough. So, until somebody else develops, it's probably a coin flip between Taylor and Jimmy Smith.

Kansas City Chiefs, 1960-2019: Willie Lanier. A tough call over fellow Super Bowl IV-winning defenders Buck Buchanan and Bobby Bell, and their quarterback, Len Dawson. Patrick Mahomes? Looks great, and got them their next ring, but he's got a long way to go.

Las Vegas Raiders, 2020: Haven't happened yet. Los Angeles Raiders, 1982-1994: Howie Long. Oakland Raiders, 1960-1981 and 1995-2019: Art Shell. Raiders overall, 1960-2019: Long. Hard to believe that this franchise, so long known for freaks and rogues, has as its greatest player a straitlaced intellectual from a Jesuit school in the Philly suburbs. For the L.A. years, Howie is a close call over Marcus Allen.

Los Angeles Chargers, 1960, 2016-2019: Philip Rivers. San Diego Chargers, 1961-2015: Kellen Winslow Sr. Chargers overall, 1960-2019: Winslow. Lance Alworth and LaDainian Tomlinson make it a tough choice.

Los Angeles Rams, 1946-1994 and 2015-2019: Deacon Jones. St. Louis Rams, 1995-2014: Marshall Faulk. Cleveland Rams, 1936-1945: Bob Waterfield. Rams overall, 1936-2019: Jones. Up there with Reggie White as the best defensive end of all time, and the coiner of the term "sack," Deacon was his name, flattening ballcarriers was his game.

Miami Dolphins, 1966-2019: Larry Csonka. Sorry, Dan Marino, but you didn't win a ring.

Minnesota Vikings, 1961-2019: Alan Page. For all that Fran Tarkenton achieved, when you think of the Vikings, you think of their 1970s "Purple People Eaters" defense, led by Page.

New England Patriots, 1960-2019: John Hannah. Usually considered the greatest guard in football history, and he never had to cheat.

New Orleans Saints, 1967-2019: Drew Brees. Until he led them to victory in Super Bowl XLIV, it was a tough choice, possibly Rickey Jackson. But with Brees now having some of the best passing numbers ever, it's him.

New York Giants, 1925-2019: Lawrence Taylor. You don't have to think he was a good guy. You could admit that he was the best linebacker of the 20th Century. Actually, the Giants may have had a better linebacker before LT was even born: Sam Huff. And Mel Hein, from back in the 1930s, might have been the greatest center ever.

New York Jets, 1960-2019: Curtis Martin. Joe Namath brought them that title, but his career stats just don't match up with those of Curtis, including 10,302 rushing yards and 58 touchdowns -- plus another 2,439 yards on 367 catches.

Philadelphia Eagles, 1933-2019: Chuck Bednarik. The best center ever? It could have been "Concrete Charley." The best linebacker of his era? If not Huff, it could have been Bednarik. Yes, he is a contender on both counts, the last of the 60-minute men.

Pittsburgh Steelers, 1933-2019: Joe Greene. Terry Bradshaw is rightly beloved, but even he would say, "Describe the Pittsburgh Steelers? Defense." And no defensive tackle, not even Merlin Olsen, was ever better than Mean Joe Greene.

San Francisco 49ers, 1946-2019: Jerry Rice. How good do you have to be to be ahead of the possible greatest quarterback who ever lived, Joe Montana, who gave him a jump-start to his career? Maybe the best player ever. It's either Rice or Jim Brown.

Seattle Seahawks, 1976-2019: Russell Wilson. It's not too soon to say so. Certainly, it wouldn't be, if Pete Carroll hadn't stupidly called that pass.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1976-2019: Derrick Brooks. A tough call over his teammate Warren Sapp, and earlier Bucs defensive stalwart Lee Roy Selmon.

Tennessee Titans, 1997-2019: Eddie George. Houston Oilers, 1960-1996: Earl Campbell. Oilers/Titans overall, 1960-2019: Campbell. George should be in the Hall of Fame. Campbell not only is, but is one of the defining running backs of his or any other era.

Washington Redskins, 1937-2019: Sammy Baugh. He was the game's 1st great passer. He was a great defensive back. And he is the all-time leading in punting yard average. Think about it: In today's terms, he was Patrick Mahomes, Richard Sherman and Brett Kern at the same time.

Every MLB Team's Greatest Player

A little exercise to get us through this long stretch with no sports. I'll name a greatest player ever for each team. If a team has been in more than one city, I'll do it for each separate city. In following entries, I'll do it for the other North American major league sports.

Alphabetical order by current team name:

Arizona Diamondbacks, 1998-2019 (since the 2020 season hasn't happened yet): Randy Johnson. Their only qualified Hall-of-Famer. Their only other player in the Hall is Roberto Alomar, and he only played 38 games for him, in his last season, 2004.

Atlanta Braves, 1966-2019: Greg Maddux. Milwaukee Braves, 1953-1965: Eddie Matthews. Boston Braves, 1871-1952: Warren Spahn. Braves overall, 1871-2019: Hank Aaron.

Baltimore Orioles, 1954-2019: Cal Ripken Jr. St. Louis Browns, 1902-1953: George Sisler. Browns/O's overall: Sisler. Ted Williams called Frank Robinson the most underrated player of all time, but he only played 6 (admittedly important) seasons with the O's. Picking Cal ahead of Brooks Robinson was tougher. But Sisler may be the greatest forgotten player: A .340 lifetime hitter who was considered the best-fielding 1st baseman of his era. His 257 hits in 1920 stood as a record for 84 years. He could even pitch a little. He'd be remembered a lot more if he hadn't fallen 188 hits short of 3,000.

Boston Red Sox, 1901-2019: Ted Williams. Not quite the greatest hitter who ever lived, but he could be 2nd behind Babe Ruth. Carl Yastrzemski was a very good fielder, as well as a great hitter, so he makes this closer than you might think. David Ortiz, of course, is Sox fans' biggest hero. But he is ineligible, and you know why.

Chicago Cubs, 1876-2019: Ernie Banks. Maybe, with the 2016 World Series win under his belt, someone like Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez or Kris Bryant will surpass the man known as Mr. Cub. But 512 home runs, and excellence over 19 seasons (1953 to 1971) and at 2 different positions (shortstop and 1st base) helps Banks.

Chicago White Sox, 1901-2019: Frank Thomas. If Shoeless Joe Jackson had been allowed to finish his career, he might rank ahead of the Big Hurt. But he wasn't, and so he doesn't.

Cincinnati Reds, 1882-2019: Johnny Bench. I could tell you that Pete Rose is ineligible, but I won't. I can tell you that Rose split his career between Cincinnati and Philadelphia, but, really, it wouldn't matter. If Pete had spent his entire career in Cincy, Bench would still be ahead of him. No runs, no drips, no errors.

Cleveland Indians, 1901-2019: Bob Feller. A tough call, but Napoleon Lajoie, Tris Speaker and Jim Thome all split their careers with at least 1 other team.

Colorado Rockies, 1993-2019: Larry Walker. Their only Hall-of-Fame player, qualified or otherwise.

Detroit Tigers, 1901-2019: Ty Cobb. The Georgia Peach hasn't played a game in 92 years, but that .366 (or .367) lifetime batting average is still a record, and those 4,189 (or 4,191) hits still put him ahead of Hank Greenberg and Al Kaline.

Houston Astros, 1962-2019: Craig Biggio. Over 3,000 hits, 4 Gold Gloves, 7 All-Star Games, 6 postseason berths including the Astros' 1st Pennant, and, as far as we know, no cheating.

Kansas City Royals, 1969-2019: George Brett. It took the Royals until 2014 to so much as make the Playoffs without him. And I doubt that any player on their 2014 and '15 Pennant winners will surpass him.

Los Angeles Angels, 1961-2019: Nolan Ryan. So many great players have played for the Halos, but split between them and other teams: Frank Robinson, Hoyt Wilhelm, Nolan Ryan, Rod Carew, Reggie Jackson, Don Sutton, Bert Blyleven, Dave Winfield, Lee Smith, Eddie Murray, Rickey Henderson, Vladimir Guerrero, Hall-of-Famers all. Guerrero recently became the 1st player to go into the Hall with an Angels cap on his plaque. But he was only with them for 6 years. Ryan was there for 8, and the bulk of his achievements was with them: 138 of his 324 wins, 2,416 of his 5,714 strikeouts, 5 of his 8 All-Star Games, and 4 of his 7 no-hitters.

Los Angeles Dodgers, 1958-2019: Sandy Koufax. Brooklyn Dodgers, 1883-1957: Duke Snider. Dodgers overall, 1883-2019: Koufax. Jackie Robinson was their most important player, and a great player, but not their greatest player.

Miami Marlins, 1993-2019: Miguel Cabrera. The toughest call for any teams. They've had 5 players reach the Hall of Fame, but they had a combined 5 years with the Marlins. I could have chosen Gary Sheffield, but we'll never know how much of his contributions were real. I could have chosen Jeff Conine, the man known as Mr. Marlin, who was on both World Championship teams, but didn't come close to a Hall of Fame career. So I went with Cabrera, who only spent the 1st 5 seasons of his career with the Fish.

Milwaukee Brewers, 1970-2019: Robin Yount. Paul Molitor comes close. Prince Fielder does not. Christian Yelich might surpass him, but not yet.

Minnesota Twins, 1961-2019: Kirby Puckett. Washington Senators, 1901-60: Walter Johnson. Senators/Twins overall, 1901-2019: Johnson. Puckett's fine all-around career was shorter than it should have been, but it was still ahead of Rod Carew, who split his career between Bloomington and Anaheim. And while Harmon Killebrew was sensational in his one dimension, he was such a one-dimensional player. But the Big Train was just too good a pitcher to not be this franchise's all-time best.

New York Mets, 1962-2019: Tom Seaver. No other choice.

New York Yankees, 1903-2019: Babe Ruth. For all the amazing things about the Sultan of Swat, consider how good he had to be to finish ahead of Lou Gehrig (the greatest 1st baseman ever), Joe DiMaggio (a candidate for the greatest center fielder ever), Mickey Mantle (ditto), Yogi Berra (a candidate for the greatest catcher ever), Derek Jeter (a candidate for the greatest shortstop ever), and Mariano Rivera (the greatest relief pitcher ever) -- and, if you don't care if he used steroids, Alex Rodriguez (a candidate for the greatest 3rd baseman ever).

Oakland Athletics, 1968-2019: Rickey Henderson. Kansas City Athletics, 1955-1967: Enos Slaughter. Philadelphia Athletics, 1901-1954: Jimmie Foxx. A's overall: Henderson. Not that Rickey's ego needs any more fluffing, but, as Bill James put it, you could cut his career in half, and have 2 Hall-of-Famers.

Philadelphia Phillies, 1883-2019: Mike Schmidt. Phils fans already chose him as such on their 1883-1982 Centennial Team -- and he still had 199 home runs, 5 All-Star Games, 3 Gold Gloves, a Pennant and an MVP award to go.

Pittsburgh Pirates, 1882-2019: Honus Wagner. Roberto Clemente was a fantastic all-around player, whose cultural importance surpasses that of almost every player who's ever lived. Ralph Kiner and Willie Stargell were two of the greatest sluggers who ever lived. And Bill Mazeroski may have been the best-fielding 2nd baseman ever, and also hit the most important home run ever. But Wagner, 103 years after his last game, is still the greatest shortstop ever, with 3,420 hits and a career OPS+ of 151.

St. Louis Cardinals, 1882-2019: Stan Musial. Say what you want about Rogers Hornsby, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock and Albert Pujols, but none of them did for the Cards what Stan the Man did.

San Diego Padres, 1969-2019: Tony Gwynn. Not every "Mr. (Team Name)" is a team's greatest player ever, but Gwynn is both Mr. Padre and that team's greatest player ever.

San Francisco Giants, 1958-2019: Willie Mays. New York Giants, 1883-1957: Christy Mathewson. Giants overall, 1883-2019: Mays.

Seattle Mariners, 1977-2019: Ken Griffey Jr. This was going to be a tough call, since I thought he had spent only about half of his career with the M's. But once I looked at their career records again, and saw that Junior actually had 13 seasons in Seattle, compared to Ichiro Suzuki's 14, I realized that the power numbers meant that I had to give it to Griffey.

Tampa Bay Rays, 1998-2019: Evan Longoria. Their only player yet to make the Hall of Fame is Wade Boggs, and he played just 2 seasons for them, at the end of his career. But Longoria is their all-time leader in both home runs and RBIs, and he won 3 Gold Gloves with them, making this a little easier than for the other Florida team.

Texas Rangers, 1972-2019: Adrian Beltre. Technically, this shouldn't be all that hard. It should be Ivan Rodriguez. But he used steroids, so he's ineligible. Fergie Jenkins and Nolan Ryan had some great years for the Rangers, but not enough of them. In contrast, Beltre had 8 years with them, the last at age 39, and he was still producing runs for them.

Toronto Blue Jays, 1977-2019: Roy Halladay. The Jays have had 8 Hall-of-Famers, but it could be argued that none of them had their best years in Toronto. Halladay and Roberto Alomar are the only 2 that come close, and, for reasons of longevity -- 12 seasons, as opposed to Alomar's 5 -- Halladay comes closer, even if he was better in Philadelphia.

Washington Nationals, 2005-2019: Stephen Strasburg. Montreal Expos, 1969-2004: Tim Raines. 'Spos/Nats overall: Raines. Admittedly, Max Scherzer makes this a tough call. Bryce Harper no longer does.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

How Long It's Been: Everything Stopped for At Least a Week

September 13, 2001

It's been a while since I posted. Mainly because hardly anything is happening in sports. The coronavirus has put pretty much everything on hold, and we won't even know for how long for a while yet.

World War II resulted in travel restrictions, which hurt sports a little, but not a lot of sports cancellations -- at least, not in this country.

The assassination of President John F. Kennedy led to people staying home and doing nothing but watch the TV coverage of the funeral proceedings for 4 days -- but there were still NFL games played that Sunday.

The closest parallel is to the 9/11 attacks. Everything, from sports to the New York Stock Exchange, was shut down from Tuesday morning, September 11 until Monday morning, September 17. Some things for a little longer.

This will be longer than that. Much longer. It's looking like it will be at least a month. It may be 2 months. It may be longer than that. We just don't know.

What was it like during that weeklong shutdown after 9/11? How does it compare with now? And how much has the world changed in the 18 years and 6 months since?

*

We didn't know how bad it would be. The front page of the New York Daily News on September 13, suggested 10,000 people had died. It was quickly revised to 5,000, and then, when records were checked to see who was in the Twin Towers and hadn't been found alive, and checking against duplicate entries, down to 3,000, still the worst one-day loss of life on American soil since the American Civil War.

This time, the loss of life is likely to be far worse. As of this writing, on the evening of March 15, 2020, there have been 1,629 people confirmed to have the disease, and 64 of them have died. But it will go way up. Hundreds. Thousands. Perhaps millions. We can only guess at this point. And that would have a deeper effect on our national psyche than the all-at-once blow that the 9/11 attacks were.

On 9/11, people whose loved ones hadn't yet been found pretty much knew that those people were dead. Many people were missing for only the 1st day and later found alive, but anybody still missing as the sun rose on September 12 wasn't going to be found alive. (As far as I know, nobody has yet been proven to have used the attack as a convenient way to fake their death and run off with money or an illicit affair.) That time, as Yogi Berra might have said if he'd become an investigator instead of a baseball player, even within the uncertainty, there was certainty.

In addition, we don't have the particulars as to who is going to die. We have already seen some prominent people stricken, including husband-and-wife actors Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta, and the current Mayor of Miami, Francis X. Suarez. But there is, as yet, no indication that any famous person will die from it. Surely, some will.

Among the notable people who died as a result of the 9/11 attacks were television producer David Angell, conservative TV legal analyst Barbara Olson, and hockey player turned scout Garnet "Ace" Bailey. (No relation to the old-time hockey star Irvine "Ace" Bailey.)

In this current crisis, we're addicted to our TV sets, our smartphones, the Internet. In 2001, smartphones were few and far between, a lot of us still hadn't really figured out the Internet, and for those of us in the New York Tri-State Area who still didn't have cable TV, WCBS-Channel 2 was the only station we had left. They still had their antenna on top of the Empire State Building. Everybody else had theirs on top of 1 World Trade Center. So we had one channel, and the same damn thing on, for an entire week.

And that's all we watched: Images of the carnage, updates from police and fire department leaders, politicians making statements, pundits speculating about America's response to al-Qaeda and its allies. The parallel to the 4 days after the JFK assassination was made.

But distractions were few. No sports. No regular TV programming. At least now, we still have new TV content, although some production is being shut down. We won't see the effects of that for a few weeks. If life otherwise returns to normal in, say, 2 months, it'll be like an extended TV Summer, or maybe a writers' strike, as happened to shorten the TV season a few years back.

The sports that were frozen were different. The Houston Astros were still in the National League, on their way to winning its Central Division for the 4th time in 5 years, and no one was accusing them of cheating. The San Francisco Giants had not won the World Series in 47 years, the Boston Red Sox in 83, the Chicago White Sox in 84, and the Chicago Cubs in 93. The Astros, Arizona Diamondbacks, and the team now known as the Los Angeles Angels had never won a World Series. The Astros, D-backs, the Angels, the Colorado Rockies, the Tampa Bay Rays and the Texas Rangers had never even been in one.

The New England Patriots, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the New Orleans Saints, the Seattle Seahawks had never won a Super Bowl. The Bucs, Saints, the 'Hawks, the Carolina Panthers had never even been in one. The Philadelphia Eagles had won NFL Championship Games, but not a Super Bowl. The Arizona Cardinals hadn't been in an NFL Championship Game in 54 years, and that was 2 cities ago. The Colts had won a Super Bowl, but not since moving from Baltimore to Indianapolis.

The Miami Heat, the Dallas Mavericks, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Toronto Raptors had not yet won an NBA Championship. The Heat, the Mavs, the Cavs and the Raps had not even reached the NBA Finals. The New Jersey Nets had won ABA Championships, but had not yet reached the NBA Finals.

The Tampa Bay Lightning, the Carolina Hurricanes, the Anaheim Ducks, the Los Angeles Kings, the Washington Capitals and the St. Louis Blues had not yet won the Stanley Cup. The Lightning, the 'Canes, the Ducks, the new Ottawa Senators, the San Jose Sharks, and the Nashville Predators had not even reached the Stanley Cup Finals.

The Montreal Expos had not yet become the Washington Nationals. The St. Louis Rams and the San Diego Chargers had not yet moved back to Los Angeles. The Oakland Raiders had not yet moved to Las Vegas. The Houston Texans had not yet begun play.

The Nets had not yet moved to Brooklyn. The Vancouver Grizzlies were in the process of moving to Memphis. The Seattle SuperSonics had not yet become the Oklahoma City Thunder. The original Charlotte Hornets had not yet become the New Orleans Hornets or the New Orleans Pelicans. The Charlotte Bobcats had not yet begun play, nor become the new Charlotte Hornets. The Atlanta Thrashers had not yet become the new Winnipeg Jets. The Vegas Golden Knights had not yet begun play.

There were 11 MLB teams, 17 NFL teams (more than half), 13 NBA teams and 7 NHL teams that have since moved into new venues. Every New York Tri-State Area sports team except the Knicks and the Rangers has done so.

The holders of the World Championships were the Yankees, the Baltimore Ravens, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Colorado Avalanche. That's a lot of purple. Lennox Lewis was the undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the World -- and remains the last man to be so. Manchester United held the Premier League title, Liverpool the FA Cup, and Bayern Munich the UEFA Champions League.

The Olympic Games have since been held in America, Greece, Italy, China, Canada, Britain, Russia, Brazil and Korea. The World Cup has since been held in Japan, Korea, Germany, South Africa, Brazil and Russia.

David Ortiz was a mildly interesting slugger for the Minnesota Twins. Tom Brady had thrown exactly 3 passes in regular-season NFL games, completing 1. Drew Brees and Eli Manning were still in college. Aaron Rodgers, LeBron James and Megan Rapinoe were in high school.

Cristiano Ronaldo was 16 years old. Lionel Messi and Sidney Crosby were 14. Colin Kaepernick, Steph Curry, Clayton Kershaw and Stephen Strasburg were 13. Kevin Durant was about to turn 13. Mesut Ozil, Alex Morgan, Patrick Kane, James Harden were 12. Jose Altuve and Mike Trout were 11. Kawhi Leonard was 10. Aaron Judge was 9. Mookie Betts and Bryce Harper were about to turn 9. Paul Pogba was 8. Giannis Antetokounmpo was 6. Patrick Mahomes was about to turn 6. Gleyber Torres, Connor McDavid, Joe Burrow, Lamar Jackson and Sam Darnold were 4. Christian Pulisic was about to turn 3. Nico Hischier and Kylian Mbappe were 2. Zion Williamson was 1. Jack Hughes was 4 months old.

What were the current managers and head coached of the Tri-State Area teams doing then? Barry Trotz of the Islanders was the head coach of the Nashville Predators. Adam Gase of the Jets was an assistant coach at Louisiana State University. Mike Miller of the Knicks was an assistant coach at Kansas State University. David Quinn of the Rangers was an assistant coach at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Aaron Boone of the Yankees was playing for the Cincinnati Reds. Jacque Vaughn of the Nets was about to start playing for the Atlanta Hawks. Chris Armas of the Red Bulls was playing for the Chicago Fire. Ronny Deila of NYCFC was playing for Odds Ballklubb in Skien, Norway. Luis Rojas of the Mets was playing in the farm system of the team now known as the Miami Marlins. Alain Nasreddine of the Devils was playing for the minor-league Hamilton Bulldogs. Joe Judge of the Giants was playing at Mississippi State University. And Walt Hopkins of the Liberty was in high school in Sparks, Nevada.

The idea that two people of the same gender could legally be married, and have all the legal benefits of marriage, was considered ridiculous. But then, so was the idea that corporations were "people," and entitled to the rights thereof.

George W. Bush had been "President" for less than 8 months, and the idea that his time in the White House would be dominated by terrorism would have been considered ridiculous. Indeed, while many Americans had heard of Osama bin Laden, few had heard of his organization, al-Qaeda.

Former Presidents Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford, and their wives, were all still alive. Barack Obama was a State Senator in Illinois. Hillary Clinton was in her 1st year in the U.S. Senate from New York. Donald Trump was about to open the 72-story Trump World Tower, then the tallest all-residential structure on Earth. Derek Jeter would be one of its tenants, although he would later move out.

The Governor of New York was George Pataki. The Mayor of New York City was Rudy Giuliani, and running to replace him were a dedicated Democratic public servant, Mark Green, and a playboy Republican billionaire, Michael Bloomberg.

The Governor of New Jersey was Donald DiFrancesco, filling in the expired term of Christine Todd Whitman, whom Bush had appointed Director of the Environmental Protection Agency. (And Republicans wondered why we called Bush "stupid.") Running to replace DiFrancesco were former Jersey City Mayor Bret Schundler, who was so conservative he made the new "president" look like George McGovern; and Woodbridge Mayor and former State Senator Jim McGreevey, who seemed very popular with the ladies, and he seemed to reciprocate their feelings. If we only knew...

There were still living veterans of World War I, the Mexican Revolution, the Bolshevik Revolution, and the Baltic and Irish Wars of Independence. There were still living survivors of the Galveston Hurricane of 1900, the General Slocum fire of 1904, the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, and the sinkings of the Titanic in 1912 and the Lusitania in 1915.

The Pope was John Paul II. The current Pope, Francis, had just been named Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio. The Prime Minister of Canada was Jean Chretien. The Prime Minister of Britain was Tony Blair. The British monarch was Queen Elizabeth II. (That hasn't changed.) The holder of the Nobel Peace Prize was Kim Dae-jung, then the President of South Korea. There have since been 3 Presidents of the United States, 5 Prime Ministers of Britain, and 3 Popes.

Major novels of 2001, later turned into movies, included John le Carre's The Constant Gardener, Ian McEwan's Atonement, and Yann Martel's Life of Pi. There were, as yet, only 4 Harry Potter books, and only 3 installments of A Song of Ice and Fire. The 1st Harry Potter film would not debut until November, and no one had yet tried to turn ASOIAF into a TV series or a film.

Major films of the late Summer and early Autumn of 2001 included Original Sin, The Princess Diaries, Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Jeepers Creepers, The Musketeer, Rock Star, Zoolander, Mariah Carey's Glitter (a film considered so bad it was nicknamed "Flashdunce"), a high school reworking of William Shakespeare's Othello titled O, and the baseball film Summer Catch. Some of these films' box office would be hurt due to their release close to September 11.

Television shows that had recently aired their final first-run episodes included Nash Bridges, Diagnosis Murder, Baywatch, Walker, Texas Ranger, 3rd Rock from the Sun, Moesha, Xena: Warrior Princess, Star Trek: VoyagerMoesha, and, after 33 years, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. Also, Seven Days, whose "Go back a week in time to prevent a horrible occurrence" premise would have been cruel to maintain in the time after 9/11.

Recently debuted were My Wife and Kids, The Weakest Link, Trailer Park Boys, Six Feet Under, Witchblade, and The Amazing Race. However, some shows saw the attacks stop -- or, if premiering afterward, prevent -- their momentum, including the prequel series Star Trek: Enterprise and the Bonanza tribute Ponderosa. This also applied to Kim Delaney's post-NYPD Blue legal drama Philly, and the superhero spoof The Tick.

On the other hand, some new shows did just fine, possibly due to their premise, including the Superman reworking Smallville, with its theme song "Save Me" by Remy Zero; spy series Alias and 24; law-enforcement dramas Crossing Jordan and Law & Order: Criminal Intent; and the sitcoms Scrubs, According to Jim, Reba and The Bernie Mac Show.

On Smallville, Tom Welling was soon to debut as Clark Kent -- but not as Superman. George Clooney's disastrous appearance in Batman and Robin was still the most recent version of the Caped Crusader. Tobey Maguire was filming his 1st appearance as Spider-Man, and Pierce Brosnan his last as James Bond. Paul McGann's one-shot was the most recent version of Doctor Who.

No one had yet heard of Omar Little, Leroy Jethro Gibbs, Michael Bluth, Rick Grimes, Wynonna Earp, Lisbeth Salander, Bella Swan, Michael Scott, Don Draper, Katniss Everdeen, Walter White, Jax Tller, Richard Castle, Leslie Knope or Sarah Manning.

Khloe Kardashian, Rob Kardashian, Lady Gaga, Emilia Clarke and Kit Harington were in high school. Kevin Jonas, Joe Jonas, Rihanna and Emma Stone were in junior high. Louis Tomlinson was 9; Jack Gleeson, Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, Nick Jonas, Miley Cyrus, Nicki Minaj and Zayn Malik were 8; Ariana Grande, Liam Payne, Niall Horan, Harry Styles and Justin Bieber were 7; Kendall Jenner, Sophie Turner and Abigail Breslin were 5; Maisie Williams was 4; Kylie Jenner was 3.

The Number 1 song in America was "I'm Real (Murder Remix)," by Jennifer Lopez, featuring Ja Rule. It replaced "Fallin'," a spectacular debut single for Alicia Keys, whose title (if not subject matter) became problematic after the Towers fell.

The last big event in New York before the attacks was a tribute concert for Michael Jackson at Madison Square Garden. The next big event in New York after them was The Concert for New York City, which included ex-Beatle Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend of The Who, Elton John, David Bowie, Eric Clapton... and Billy Joel, who showed up drunk, saw all these British rock legends, and said, "What's with all the teacups? Where are all the Americans?"

There were plenty of Americans, including James Taylor, John Mellencamp, Bon Jovi, Janet Jackson, Jay-Z, Destiny's Child, and Backstreet Boys. Bruce Springsteen didn't show up, but Melissa Etheridge played "Born to Run" and her own "Come to My Window" -- and, both times, her microphone cut out, but the entire crowd sang along anyway.

Inflation was such that what $1.00 bought then, $1.45 would buy now. A U.S. postage stamp cost 34 cents, and a New York Subway ride $1.50. The average price of a gallon of gas was $1.53, a cup of coffee $2.02, a McDonald's meal (Big Mac, fries, shake) $5.57, a movie ticket $5.66, a new car $21,478, and a new house $207,800.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed the day before the attacks at 9,605.51. When the market reopened on 9/17, it understandably had what was then its biggest one-day point drop, to 8920.70.

The tallest buildings in the world were another set of "twin towers," the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The world's 1st self-contained artificial heart had recently been implanted, but the patient lived only 5 months. Most people now had mobile telephones, but not yet smartphones. Wikipedia, the iPod and the Xbox all debuted that year, before the attacks. However, there was, as yet, no Skype, no Facebook, no YouTube, no Twitter, no Wii, no Tumblr, no iPhone, no Pinterest, no Instagram, and no iPad.

Baseball and football resumed 1 week after the attacks. Yankee Fans claim that the team's 2001 postseason run, with its stunning home runs leading to a World Series Game 7 heartbreak, lifted the New York Tri-State Area up out of its grief. Met fans claim that their 1st game back, with a game-winning (but not walkoff) home run by Mike Piazza over their "arch-rivals," the Atlanta Braves. meant more. Met fans are, frequently, not very smart.

In the weeks leading up to the attacks, there were racist riots in Bradford, Yorkshire, England. A G8 Summit in Genoa, Italy was interrupted by anti-globalization protesters. A Palestinian terrorist killed 15 people at a Sbarro restaurant in Jerusalem. Terrorists killed 252 people on a train in Angola. Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, deposed as the last Tsar of Bulgaria as a child, became the 1st former monarch ever to be elected by the people of his former country as their head of government. He served one term, and left of his own accord.

In America, Congressman Gary Condit, Democrat of California, was questioned in the murder of Chandra Levy, a former aide of his. He was cleared, but the scandal cost him his re-election the next year, and the murder remains unsolved. Roy Moore, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the State of Alabama, erected a monmuent to the Ten Commandments outside the Court building, apparently ignoring his own violations thereof, not to mention the monument's violation of the 1st Amendment. The federal government dropped its antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft. And singer Aaliyah was killed in a plane crash in the Bahamas. These are the things we considered to be important before the 9/11 attacks.

In the weeks after them, terrorists took advantage of the fear the nation was feeling to mail letters laced with anthrax to members of Congress and media outlets. America attacked Afghanistan, for protecting bin Laden, beginning the War On Terror. President Bush established the Office of Homeland Security, and signed the overreaching USA Patriot Act.

Dorothy McGuire, and Isaac Stern, and former Arsenal manager Bertie Mee died. Kaia Gerber (model and lookalike daughter of supermodel Cindy Crawford), and LaMelo Ball, and Bukayo Saka were born.

September 11, 2001. As Franklin Roosevelt said of another day 60 years earlier, a date which lives in infamy. And the last time the whole world, including the world of sports, seemed to stop for several days.

It lasted about a week. The coronavirus has already "stopped the world" for longer than that. For how much longer? For now, we have no idea.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

We Didn't Start the Virus

The Coronavirus, a.k.a. COVID-19, has, thus far, killed about as many Americans as our worst mass shootings. That number could rise to more than the 3,000 or so that were killed on 9/11.

That's the best-case scenario. What might happen if we had a government that gave a damn about its citizens. We don't. Donald Trump only cares about himself, so he's going to do whatever he thinks it will take to keep him in the White House and out of prison. And he has botched this thing six ways to Sunday.

And the stock market, the one thing that had been saving Trump, giving him free rein to say, "Re-elect me because the economy is great," is in free-fall. It's lost a net 4,600 points in the last 4 trading days -- and that includes a 900-point gain on Monday.

Actor Tom Hanks, and his wife, actress Rita Wilson, were in Australia, and feeling a little under the weather. They got tested. They've got it.

There has been some panic, and the idea of Hanks, one of America's most beloved actors, having this disease has freaked some people out. The scientists say that of the people who get it, maybe 2 or 3 percent will die, most of them older people and/or those with compromised immune systems. In other words, if you get it, you may feel lousy for a few days, but you probably won't die because of it. In this one way, it is like the flu, although it may take longer to run its course.

Thus far, New Jersey has reflected this: As of this writing, a little before 1:00 PM on Thursday, March 12, we have about 25 cases, but only 1 death, a 69-year-old man. Most schools in New Jersey are closed, and other States are likely to follow.

Last night, Trump gave a speech from the Oval Office, contradicting his earlier claims that the virus was a hoax to make him look bad and would go away quickly.

But in that speech, his face was oranger and puffier than usual, his right eye was squinting as if he couldn't read the teleprompter (an activity he had mocked Barack Obama for), he slurred some words (twice in a space of 30 seconds, he turned the word "relief" into "reliff"), and gave the impression that he was either sick or on drugs (Adderall is the most-rumored one).

The way that sports has handled it has varied. Before anyone in America realized it was going to be a problem, it was out of control in northern Italy, and Italian soccer games have been played in closed stadiums, with only people necessary to make the game happen allowed in. There is talk that the rest of Europe will do the same.

In America, the NBA has suspended its season, as 2 Utah Jazz players, Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, have tested positive. Most teams have played about 65 of their 82 regular-season games.

Think about this: This NBA season has seen the collapse of the league's most recent quasi-dynasty, the Golden State Warriors; season-long, or nearly so, injuries to superstars Steph Curry and Kevin Durant; the injury-delayed arrival of super rookie Zion Williamson; and the death of league legend Kobe Bryant -- and none of those stories is the biggest story of the season. The biggest story of the season is that we don't know if -- and, if so, how, the season will be resolved.

Major League Soccer has suspended its season for the next 30 days, at which point it will reassess the situation.

The NHL office has announced it is continuing its season, but will watch for further developments.

The NCAA has announced that its basketball tournament, a.k.a. March Madness, would be played, but "behind closed doors." Suppose they gave a tournament, and nobody came? Conference tournaments, the last activity before the NCAA Tournament, have also been canceled.

Major League Baseball is, like the NHL, taking a wait-and-see approach. The only cancellation thus far has been the home opener series for the Oakland Athletics, and their hand was forced when Alameda County banned large gatherings.

What does all of this mean for my blog? Last September, due to a health scare and some other things going on in my life, I announced that I wouldn't do Trip Guides for the NBA this season. That turned out to be the right thing to do, as this disruption would have messed that up.

As for the NHL: I've done them for every team this season, except one, the Minnesota Wild. That one is due a week from today, on March 19, since the Devils are supposed to play there a week from then, on March 26. I still intend to do that one.

As for MLS: I can't do any more of those until I know what the league intends to do.

As for MLB: I will do those until the Commissioner's office changes its plans.

Somebody on Twitter wrote of yesterday, "Today was like if (Billy Joel's song) 'We Didn't Start the Fire' was a day." And someone responded:

Schools close, Tom Hanks, trouble in the big banks
no vaccine, quarantine, no more toilet paper seen.
Travel ban, Weinstein, panic COVID-19
NBA, gone away, what else do I have to sayyyyyy

We didn't start the virus. No, we didn't light it, but we're trying to fight it.


UPDATE: A few minutes after I posted this, the NHL also suspended its season. A couple of hours later, MLB suspended Spring Training, and suspended regular season games for the 1st 2 weeks of the season, at which point it will reassess. A couple of hours after that, the NCAA canceled both its men's and women's national tournaments outright.

And Arsenal revealed that manager Mikel Arteta tested positive. The Premier League postponed their match with Brighton & Hove Albion this Saturday, but hasn't suspended the season outright yet.

Monday, March 9, 2020

How to Be a Devils Fan In Tampa Bay -- 2020 Edition

Next Sunday at 5:00 PM, the New Jersey Devils travel to Tampa to play the Tampa Bay Lightning.

In 2014, I saw a blog post (I don't remember who wrote it) by someone who called San Diego "the Tampa of California." I think he owes San Diego an apology.

Before You Go. While the game will be indoors, you'll still have to get around, so you should know about the weather. Even though it's mid-Autumn here, it isn't there.

The Tampa Bay Times (formerly the St. Petersburg Times) and the Tampa Tribune are both predicting temperatures in the high 80s in the afternoon, and the mid-60s at night. Florida must be where the cliche, "It's not the heat that's so bad, it's the humidity" began. But no rain or even high humidity is being predicted. Still, be prepared to sweat when you're outside the arena.

The Tampa Bay region is in the Eastern Time Zone, so you don't have to change your watch, or the clock on your smartphone. And while Florida was a Confederate State, you don't need to bring a passport or change your money.

Tickets. The Lightning are averaging 18,878 fans per game this season, nearly a sellout. They did so last season and the season before, too. This means that, proportionally, they're doing better at the box office than any other Florida team, including the Miami Heat and the Orlando Magic. It also means that, if only 1 team is likely to still be in Tampa Bay in 10 years, surprise, it's the hockey team.

In the Lower Level (100 sections), seats between the goals will run you $137, behind the goals $104. In the Upper Level (300s), $80 and $53.

Getting There. It is 1,136 road miles from Times Square in Manhattan to downtown Tampa, and 1,126 miles from the Prudential Center in Newark to the Amalie Arena. Sounds like you're gonna be flying.

This may be your lucky trip: You can get a round-trip nonstop ticket for under $200 -- cheaper than the train and the bus. Tampa International Airport was originally named Drew Field, after John H. Drew, a land developer who gave the land to the Army, before the Air Force was spun off from the Army.

If you want to take a side-trip to Disney World, you could fly to Orlando (which is 92 miles from Tampa) and rent a car, but I suspect that hotels will be cheaper in the Tampa Bay area, and get more expensive the closer you get to Disney.

Amtrak's Silver Meteor train leaves Newark Penn Station at 3:38 every afternoon, and arrives in Tampa at 12:49 the following afternoon. That's right, 21½ hours. It leaves Tampa at 5:27 PM the next day, arriving in Newark at 6:23 the following night. Round-trip fare is $310.

You can get a Greyhound bus out of New York's Port Authority at 11:00 Tuesday morning and be in St. Petersburg by 3:20 Wednesday afternoon. That's a little over 28 hours. Round-trip fare can be as high as $327, but advanced purchase can bring it down to as little as $223.

The catch is that you'd have to change buses twice, in Richmond and Orlando. And the layover in Richmond is 3 hours and 15 minutes. And I don't like the Richmond Greyhound station, and I doubt that you will, either. There's also hourlong layovers in Fayetteville, North Carolina and Jacksonville. The Tampa Greyhound station is at 610 E. Polk Street, 4 blocks from the Amtrak station.

If you do prefer to drive, see if you can get someone to split the duties with you. Essentially, you'll be taking Interstate 95 almost all the way down, turning onto Interstate 10 West at Jacksonville and then, after a few minutes, onto Interstate 75 South. Just outside of Tampa, you'll switch to Interstate 4, and take that to the end, before its merge with Interstate 275, onto Nebraska Avenue South, riding that into downtown Tampa.

It should take about 2 hours to get through New Jersey, 20 minutes in Delaware, an hour and a half in Maryland, 3 hours in Virginia, 3 hours in North Carolina, 3 hours in South Carolina, 2 hours in Georgia, and a little over 5 hours between crossing into Florida and reaching downtown Tampa.

Given proper 45-minute rest stops – I recommend doing one in Delaware, and then, once you're through the Washington, D.C. area, doing one when you enter each new State, and then another around Orlando, for a total of 7 – and taking into account city traffic at each end, your entire trip should take about 26 hours. Maybe you can do it in 24 if you speed and limit your rest stops to half an hour each, especially if one of you drives while the other sleeps, but I wouldn't recommend this.

Once In the City. "Tampa" is believed to be a Native American name meaning "sticks of fire," while St. Petersburg, like the city of the same name in Russia that was known as Leningrad in the Soviet era, is named after the first Pope, the Apostle Peter.

Tampa, founded in 1849, is home to 380,000 people; St. Petersburg, founded in 1888, is home to 260,000; and the metro area as a whole 3.1 million, so while neither city is big, it's a decent-sized market, and thus should be drawing a lot more people for baseball and football games.

One of the reasons it's not is that, much like the Miami area, Tampa Bay has a justly-deserved reputation for having a lot of retirees, people who either are too old, and thus possibly too frail or at least too tired, to leave their houses and drive into St. Petersburg; or have just had it with the inconveniences of life, and are satisfied to get their baseball on television. Nearly 1 in 5 residents of the Tampa Bay area, 19.4 percent, is age 65 and over.

Ethnically, the region is 76 percent white, 11 percent black, 11 percent Hispanic (considerably lower than Miami), and 2 percent Asian. Another difference is within the Hispanic community: Unlike the Cuban-dominated Miami, Tampa Bay's is 30 percent Mexican, 28 percent Puerto Rican, 13 percent Cuban, and 29 percent all others (Central and South American). Separately, the cities of Tampa and St. Petersburg both report being about 58 percent white, 23 percent Hispanic, 16 percent black and 3 percent Asian.

It's easy to forget that Central Florida is still The South. Tampa was among the cities that had a race riot in the Summer of 1967, from June 11 to 15, and, like most of the others, was caused by an act of police brutality by a white cop on an unarmed black citizen. Tampa was luckier than most of those cities, with only 1 death attributable to the rioting. Under similar circumstances, there was a riot in St. Petersburg in October 1996.

In Tampa, Whiting Street divides the city's streets into North and South, and the Hillsborough River into East and West. In St. Petersburg, Central Avenue divides the city into North and South, and while there appears to be no East-West divider, 1st Street seems to set off a section with Northeast addresses. Although Interstate 75 must be crossed to enter either Tampa or St. Petersburg, the region does not have a "beltway."

HART, Hillsborough Area Regional Transit, runs buses, $2.00 Local and $3.00 Express. PSTA runs $2.00 buses around St. Petersburg. There is no subway or commuter rail. So, if you want to go into St. Pete, taking the 100X bus from downtown Tampa ($3.00) and transferring to a bus in St. Pete ($2.00) will be $5.00 each way.

The sales tax in Florida is 6 percent. ZIP Codes in Tampa begin with the digits 335, 336 and 346; in St. Petersburg, 337; in nearby Lakeland, 338. The Area Code for Tampa is 813, 727 for the St. Petersburg side of the Bay, and 941 south of Tampa Bay.

Going In. The Lightning's arena opened in 1996 as the Ice Palace. It became the St. Pete Times Forum in 2002. In 2012, the St. Petersburg Times renamed itself the Tampa Bay Times, and, since it still owned the arena's naming rights, it became the Tampa Bay Times Forum. In 2016, it became the Amalie Arena, is named for Amalie Oil Company, founded in Pennsylvania but now based in Tampa.
The arena is downtown, has an official address of 401 Channelside Drive, and is also bounded by Morgan Street and Old Water Street. Depending on which lot you enter, parking will be either $15 or $20. Since the arena is on the waterfront, bounded by the Ybor Channel on the south, you'll probably be entering on the north side. There is an elevated walkway connecting the arena area with the adjacent Embassy Suites hotel complex.
The Tampa Bay Storm of the Arena Football League have played at the arena since 1997. The arena hosted the NCAA Frozen Four in 2012 and 2016, and the 2012 Republican Convention, at which Mitt Romney was nominated for President. The rink runs north-to-south. The Lightning attack twice toward the north end of the arena.

Food. The Tampa Bay region is known for its Spanish and Hispanic heritage. Cuban sandwiches, featuring freshly sliced ham, pork, and Genoa salami on toasted Cuban bread with Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard, are sold throughout the stadium.

Local chain PDQ, a fast, casual dining restaurant that specializes in fresh hand-battered chicken tenders, sells chicken tenders, sandwiches, fresh salads, fries and other favorites off their restaurant menu, outside Section 102. Mr. Empanada, Tacos Trueno, Anthony's Italian Sandwich, Deli and Stir Fry and a carving station will be new offerings around the arena. Additionally, a new portable concession stand on the 100 Level will feature fresh, hand-rolled sushi for fans attending Lightning games and Amalie Arena events. A gourmet grilled cheese portable concession stand will also be available on the 100 Level concourse.

Holy Hog has a location on the 100 level. The local BBQ restaurant opened their first location on the Bud Light Party Deck at the beginning of the 2014-15. Items available at Holy Hog include award winning barbeque, mac n' cheese, beef brisket sandwiches and other favorites from their restaurant menu.

The Lightning will be offering fans the option to purchase value meal items at select locations around Amalie Arena. Value items at Lightning home games will include $4 Kayem hot dog, $4 garden salad, $4 chicken nuggets, $5 Lynchburg nuggets and fries and $8.75 super slice of pizza and a 12 oz. soda.

The premium menus at Amalie Arena have also been updated for the upcoming season. Firestick Grill will now offer fresh rolled sushi, grilled veal rack chop, hydroponic green salads and fresh stone crab claws. Fans enjoying events and Lightning games from the suite level will now have the option to order World of Beer pretzels with beer cheese dipping sauces and the famous Columbia Restaurants 1905 salad.

Team History Displays. The Lightning hang their 2004 Stanley Cup banner, their 2004 and 2015 Eastern Conference title banners, and their 2003, 2004, 2018 and 2019 Division title banners from the rafters. True, the Devils also have banners for Division and Conference title seasons in which we also won the Cup, but with as many banners as we have, and with the 3 Cup banners at the opposite end of the arena, it doesn't look like we have a brief history of success all clumped together. Even the Islanders and Flyers, who had dynasties and haven't won the Cup since, have enough banners to make it look worth their while. The Bolts, as yet, don't.
There are 5 Lightning players who have been elected to the Hall of Fame. Dino Ciccarelli and Denis Savard each played only 2 seasons for them, Mark Recchi only 1, and each is better known for playing elsewhere. Dave Andreychuk played the last 4 seasons of a 640-goal career for the Lightning, and Martin St. Louis is newly-elected. Vincent Lecavalier is now eligible, but is not yet in.

Phil Esposito, elected for what he did with as a player with the Boston Bruins and then the Rangers, was the Lightning's 1st general manager. He's also been given the Lester Patrick Trophy for contributions to hockey in America. No Lightning players were named to the NHL's 100th Anniversary 100 Greatest Players in 2017, although Esposito was, for his play in Boston.

The Lightning have retired Lecavalier's Number 4 and St. Louis' Number 26. Andreychuk's 25 is not currently being worn, suggesting a future retirement for his number as well. The Lightning do not yet have a team Hall of Fame. Nor did they name a 25th Anniversary All-Time Team when they had the chance last year.
One of those banners is really going to
confuse some St. Louis Blues fans.

The Florida Sports Hall of Fame is located at Lake Myrtle Sports Park in Auburndale, 48 miles northeast of Amalie Arena. Andreychuk is the only Lightning player yet elected.

The Lightning's rivalry with the Florida Panthers has a trophy called the Governor's Cup, given to the winner of the season series. The Panthers have won it 13 times, the Lightning 12 (including the last 3 seasons, counting this season), with 2 no-awards, in 1996 due to a split of the season series, and in 2005 due to the NHL season being canceled by Gary Bettman's lockout.

The Panthers -- presumably angry because the Lightning were the 1st NHL team in Florida, thus the name "Florida Panthers" rather than "South Florida" or "Miami" -- also lead the all-time series in games, 66-62-10. Ah, but the Lightning have won a Stanley Cup, and the Panthers have not. The teams have never met in the Playoffs.

Stuff. The Tampa Bay Sports store is located to the right of the main staircase, inside the McDonald's Ticket Office on the west side of the arena.

Whether the Store sells team books and DVDs, I don't know. Most likely, the only DVD they would sell would be the official 2004 Stanley Cup highlight video. As for books about the team, you may be out of luck, despite the team now having surpassed their 25th Anniversary. Steve Yerrid published Tampa Bay Lightning Winning Ways: The Making of a Championship Heart, but that was back in 2005, during the yearlong lockout, and is now well out of date, with no mention of current star Steven Stamkos.

During the Game. A November 19, 2014 article on The Hockey News' website ranked the NHL teams' fan bases, and listed the Lightning's fans at 24th -- not good, but 1 above their arch-rivals, the Panthers. The article says, "A good team at a bargain price? Why don't more people support the Lightning?"

In fact, they're averaging a sellout. They're a National Hockey League team averaging more fans per game than their metropolitan area's Major League Baseball team. There is no other metro area where the NHL team outdraws the MLB team. Whatever the Lightning's issues are, attendance is not one of them. (Although the ticket prices, once among the League's lowest, are no longer a bargain.)

Although the locals -- the ones who are not transplanted New Yorkers or New Jerseyans, anyway -- really, really hate the Yankees and Yankee Fans for repeatedly "taking over their ballpark" (as if it were much of a task, or much of a prize), their hockey fans don't have the same kind of rivalry with any of the New York Tri-State Area hockey teams -- not even the Rangers, whom they beat in last year's Eastern Conference Finals.

They will not fight you. Aside from the occasional brawl between football players in the "hate triangle" between the University of Florida, Florida State University and the University of Miami, there is rarely violence at sporting events in Florida.

Sonya Bryson, a retired Air Force sergeant, is the Lightning's regular National Anthem singer. Their goal song is "Fluxland," by the group of the same name. The big chant is, "Let's go, Bolts!"
Sonya Bryson

The team's mascot is ThunderBug -- actually, a lightning bug. (Get it?) He wears a Lightning jersey with Number 00 on it. The team also has the Lightning Girls dancers.
On occasion, the Lightning will wear a 3rd jersey with "BOLTS" in diagonal script, a la the Rangers. Since the team did not exist before 1992, this is not a "throwback," jersey, it's a "fauxback."

After the Game. Despite some crime issues -- Tampa natives Dwight Gooden and his nephew Gary Sheffield both dealt with gang violence growing up in the 1970s and '80s -- Downtown Tampa is not an especially high-crime area. And, as I said, Bolts fans do not get violent. You might get a little bit of verbal if you're wearing opposing team gear, but it won't get any worse than that.

If you're looking for a place to relax with a postgame snack and drink, a mall named Channelside Bay Plaza is across Beneficial Driver from the arena. It has a Hooters, a Japanese restaurant named Oishi, a "fusion" restaurant called Flambe', and a ColdStone Creamery.

Malio's, in downtown Tampa at 400 N. Ashley Drive at Kennedy Blvd., is a locally famous restaurant, known around there as George Steinbrenner's favorite. He had a private room there, as does the still-living Tampa native and Yankee Legend Lou Piniella.

If you're looking to spend time with others from the Tri-State Area, "Legends Sports Bar, Billiard, Hookah and Grill" is the home of the New York Giants Fan Club of Tampa Bay. But it's at 1339 E. Fletcher Avenue, on the north side of Tampa, about 9 miles due north of the arena. The home of the New York Jets Fan Club of Tampa Bay, Peabody's Bar & Grill, is similarly far away, at 15333 Amberly Drive on the north side of Tampa, 14 miles northeast.

If  you visit during the European soccer season (as we are now in), and want to see your favorite club play on TV, the best soccer bar in the Tampa Bay area is MacDinton's, in Hyde Park, about 2 miles over the Hillsborough River and west of downtown. 405 S. Howard Avenue at Azeele St. Bus 30 to Kennedy Blvd. & Howard Avenue, then 3 blocks south on Howard. Unless you're a Liverpool fan, in which case you might prefer Pokey's, at 100 E. Madison Street, downtown, near the Hillsborough River waterfront.

Sidelights. The Yankees' spring training home, George M. Steinbrenner Field (formerly Legends Field), is at Dale Mabry Highway and Tampa Bay Blvd., across from the home of the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Raymond James Stadium. (Raymond James is a financial holding company, not a person native to Tampa who deserved the naming rights.)

The University of South Florida (USF) also plays football at Raymond James. The U.S. national men's soccer team has played there, and has won a friendly with Ecuador, 3-1 on March 25, 2007; won a friendly with El Salvador, 2-1 on February 24, 2010; lost a CONCACAF Gold Cup match to Panama, 2-1 on June 11, 2011; won a World Cup Qualifier with Antigua & Barbuda, 3-1 on June 8, 2012; and won a CONCACAF Gold Cup match over Martinique, 3-2 on July 12, 2017. It hosted 2 games each in the Gold Cup in 2011 and 2017.

Playing there, the women's team has won a friendly with South Korea, 1-0 on November 8, 2008; won a friendly with France, 1-0 on June 14, 2014; a SheBelieves Cup match with England, 1-0 on March 3, 2016; and another SheBelieves Cup match there on March 5, 2019, a 1-0 win over Brazil.

North of Raymond James was Al Lopez Field. (Lopez, a Hall of Fame catcher and manager, was a person native to Tampa who deserved the naming rights.) North of that was the Buccaneers' first home, Tampa Stadium, known as The Big Sombrero because of its weird shape. It was built in 1967 with 46,000 seats, and expanded to 74,000 when the Bucs were expanded into existence in 1976. The United States Football League's Tampa Bay Bandits also played there.

The Giants won Super Bowl XXV there. It also hosted Super Bowl XVIII, in which the Los Angeles Raiders beat the Washington Redskins; the 1984 USFL Championship Game, in which the Philadelphia Stars beat the Arizona Wranglers; and 3 games of the U.S. soccer team. It was demolished in 1999.

Raymond James Stadium hosted Super Bowl XXXV, with the Giants losing to the Baltimore Ravens, and Super Bowl XLIII, with the Pittsburgh Steelers beating the Arizona Cardinals. It is scheduled to host Super Bowl LV on February 7, 2021. It also hosted the 2016-17 College Football National Championship Game, in which Clemson beat Alabama.

The entire group of current and former stadium sites is north of downtown Tampa, near the airport. Take the Number 30 bus from downtown to the Number 36 bus to the complex.

One of the legendary homes of spring training baseball, Al Lang Field (now Progress Energy Park), named for the Mayor who promoted St. Pete as a spring training site, is at 1st Street SE & 2nd Avenue S., 2 miles east of the Trop, in downtown St. Pete on the shore of Tampa Bay.

The spring home of the Yankees from 1947 to 1961, the Mets from 1962 to 1987, and the St. Louis Cardinals from 1947 to 1997, it is no longer used as a major league spring training or Florida State League regular season facility. In fact, the new Rays ballpark was supposed to be built on the site, but they haven't been able to get the funding, so Al Lang Field remains standing. It is the home of the new version the Tampa Bay Rowdies, in the new version of the North American Soccer League, the second division of North American soccer. Bus 100X to Bus 4.

Tampa-based teams have won Florida State League Pennants in 1920, '25 (Tampa Smokers), '57, '61 (Tampa Tarpons), '94, 2001, '04, '09 and '10 (Tampa Yankees). St. Petersburg teams have done it in 1975, '86 (St. Petersburg Cardinals) and '97 (St. Petersburg Devil Rays, who won a Pennant before their parent club had even played a game). The Clearwater Phillies won a Pennant in the same year as their parent club in Philadelphia, 1993, and won another under their current name, the Clearwater Threshers, in 2007, presaging their parent club's success.

To get to Tropicana Field, home of the Rays since their inception in 1998, you'll have to go onto Interstate 275, and cross the Howard Frankland Bridge – a bridge named for the local businessman who proposed it, built in 2 spans, 1960 and 1990, and so traffic-ridden it's known locally as "the Howard Frankenstein Bridge" and "the Car-Strangled Spanner" – over Tampa Bay itself and into St. Pete.
The Car-Strangled Spanner

Opened in 1990 as the Florida Suncoast Dome, and nicknamed the White Elephant because of its exterior color and lack of a tenant for the sport for which it was intended, the name was changed in 1993 when the NHL's Lightning came in, making the stadium the ThunderDome. But they were only there for 3 seasons, until the building now known as the Tampa Bay Times Forum opened.
In their home opener, October 10, 1993, the Bolts set what was then an NHL record of 27,227 fans in the quirky seating configuration the place had at the time. So an expansion hockey team -- in Florida, mind you -- in the era before you could buy game tickets online, managed to outdraw a winning, Internet-era baseball team.
Anyway, when the Devil Rays (as they were known from 1998 to 2007) arrived, the stadium's name was changed to Tropicana Field -- but, make no mistake, this blasted thing (or thing that should be blasted) is a dome. In 1999, it became the only building in Florida (so far) to host an NCAA Final Four; Connecticut beat Duke in the Final.

The official current seating capacity is 31,042, but that's with several sections of seats tarped over. The actual number of seats is 42,735, but that doesn't give the Trop an "intimate setting." Like the hardly-mourned Kingdome in Seattle, the high, gray roof gives the stadium the look of a bad mall. Those "catwalks" around the rim don't help. And that awful field -- one of the few ever, and the only one now, to have a dirt infield with the rest of the field being artificial turf, instead of just dirt cutouts around the bases -- may make you nostalgic for Giants Stadium's awful experiments with real grass.

But the seating design itself may look familiar to you, in shape if not in color: It was copied from Kauffman Stadium (formerly Royals Stadium) in Kansas City. Don't look for fountains in the outfield, though: That would be too classy for this joint.

The Lightning played their 1st season, 1992-93, at Expo Hall, part of the Florida State Fairgrounds. It seats only 10,425 people, so it was never going to be more than a temporary home, but they outgrew it immediately, because, unlike the new Ottawa Senators, who came into the NHL at the same time, they weren't horrible; indeed, they were rather respectable from the off. 4800 U.S. Route 301, about 8 miles northeast of downtown. It would take 3 buses to get there.
Tampa Bay does not have an NBA team, nor is it likely to try for one in the near future, even though it would rank 20th in NBA markets. The Orlando Magic play 93 miles from downtown Tampa, while the Miami Heat are 279 miles away. Yet, mainly due to LeBron James (but also due to Shaquille O'Neal being much more recently in Miami than in Orlando), the Heat are more popular in the Tampa Bay region than the Magic are -- and the Los Angeles Lakers are nearly as popular as the Magic, probably because of Shaq and Kobe.

The Tampa Bay History Center is across from the arena at 801 Old Water Street. The Florida Aquarium is at 701 Channelside Drive, east of the mall. And Busch Gardens, with its African theme (for political correctness reasons, they can't call it "The Dark Continent" anymore), is at 10165 N. Malcolm McKinley Drive, 10 miles northeast of downtown. Take the Number 8 bus to 7th Avenue & 15th Street, then walk up 15th Street to 11th Avenue and catch the Number 18 bus, and take that to Busch Blvd.

The Beatles never played a concert in the Tampa Bay region. Elvis Presley did: In Tampa, at the Fort Homer Hesterly Armory on May 8 and July 31, 1955, and on February 19 and August 5, 1956; and at Curtis Hixon Hall on September 13, 1970, April 26, 1975 and September 2, 1976; in St. Petersburg, at the Floridian Theater on August 7, 1956, and the Bay Front Center on September 3, 1976 and February 14, 1977; in Sarasota at the Florida Theater on February 21, 1956; and in Lakeland, at the Polk Theater on August 6, 1956, and at the Lakeland Civic Center on April 27 and 28, 1975 and September 4, 1976.

This should provide you with some non-sports things to do in the Tampa Bay region. And, if you want to go there, Walt Disney World is 70 miles up Interstate 4, an hour and 15 minutes by car from downtown Tampa.

No President has ever come from Florida. Two men who served as Governor ran for the Democratic Party's nomination for the office, but neither came particularly close to the nomination: Reubin Askew dropped out after the 1984 New Hampshire Primary, and Bob Graham didn't even make it to calendar year 2004, much less to the Iowa Caucuses.

The Tampa Bay region doesn't have a lot of tall buildings. The tallest, at 579 feet, is 100 North Tampa, named for its address at Whiting Street downtown, formerly named the Regions Building.

Oh, and, get this: As New York is known as the Big Apple, Tampa likes to call itself the Big Guava. In the words of the immortal Jack Paar, I kid you not.

As far as I know, the only major-network TV show set in the Tampa Bay region  has been Second Noah, ABC's 1996-97 series starring Daniel Hugh Kelly as a veterinarian at Busch Gardens. Cougar Town was set in fictional Gulf Haven, supposedly in Sarasota County, which would put it about 60 miles from Tampa. Quite a few films have been set there, though, including Cocoon, Edward Scissorhands and A Time to Kill.

*

So, if you can afford it, go on down and join your fellow Devils fans in a little Florida hockey. You'd probably have more fun in Tampa than in the Panthers' out-of-the-way arena. Winning, well, that's another matter.