Sunday, May 1, 2016

How to Be a Red Bulls Fan In Orlando -- 2016 Edition

On Sunday, April 24, the New York Red Bulls won a home game, 3-2, over Orlando City SC (Soccer Club), featuring Brazilian legend Kaká, U.S. national team star Brek Shea, and former Real Madrid and Arsenal player Júlio Baptista, a.k.a. The Beast.

This coming Friday, they play each other again in Orlando. (This past Saturday night, the Red Bulls throttled FC Dallas in Harrison, 4-0.

Before You Go. Florida must be where the saying, "It's not the heat that's so bad, it's the humidity" was first used. Indeed, when Miami got its expansion baseball team in 1991, someone joked that, since they already had the Heat, a basketball team that was then so bad, the baseball team should be named the Miami Humidity. (It was named the Florida Marlins instead, and is now the Miami Marlins.)

Orlando isn't as far south as Miami, but I've been there in November, and the place simply doesn't recognize what the calendar says for the Northeast. It can be 85 degrees and 100 percent humidity. It can be unbearable. The Orlando Sentinel website currently has projections for next Friday for the high 80s in the afternoon, and the low 70s at night. Wear short sleeves, and stay hydrated.

Orlando is in the Eastern Time Zone, so you won't have to fool with your timepieces. Florida was part of the Confederate States of America, and Central Florida (outside of Disney World itself, which is its own fiefdom under "Uncle Walt," who was very conservative) is still very much Southern, but you won't need to bring your passport or change your money (although Disney World does use "Disney Dollars" as coupons).

Tickets. Orlando City averaged 32,847 fans per home game last season. By the way they measure soccer capacity at the Citrus Bowl, that's a sellout. That could have been due to the novelty factor. But the women's league team, the Orlando Pride, also sells very well by that league's standard. In Orlando, soccer is in. So getting tickets could be difficult.

But this is one sport where fans of the visiting team have a built-in advantage: You only have to look in one particular section, and it's going to be cheap. It's Section 101, the northeast corner of the stadium, and it will be just $26.

Getting There. It's 1,080 miles from Times Square to downtown Orlando. Reading this, your first thought is going to be to fly.

Amazingly, you can get a round-trip flight for around $300, if you don't mind making a stopover. This turns out to be a bargain by anyone's standards, especially when you see the Orlando airport and its fantastic monorail. The only problem is, you've got to start at Newark Airport. At least they've finally built their monorail.

(Orlando International Airport's airport code of MCY comes from its former status, up until 1975, as McCoy Air Force Base, named for Colonel Michael Norman Wright McCoy, a hero pilot of World War II who was killed in a crash at what was then named Pinecastle Air Force Base in 1957.)

Amtrak's Silver Meteor leaves New York's Penn Station at 3:15 PM, and arrives in Orlando at 12:49 the following afternoon, a 21-and-a-half hour trip. It's $278 round-trip. Be advised that the Florida trains, the Silver Meteor and the Silver Star, are notoriously late on their returns to the Northeast Corridor. So flying is the better option. The Amtrak station is on Slight Blvd. at Copleand Drive, downtown.

Greyhound runs 5 buses a day from New York's Port Authority Bus Terminal to Orlando, with a round-trip fare of $318, but it can drop to $182 with advanced purchase. This trip takes 25 hours, with a change of buses and an hour-and-a-half layover in Richmond, which is not fun. So far, flying remains the better option, which is a rarity on these Trip Guides. The Greyhound station is at 555 N. John Young Parkway. 2 miles west of downtown. Number 25 bus.

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. At Exit 260, take Interstate 4 West, and Exit 82B for downtown Orlando.

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 about 2 hours and 45 minutes in Florida. 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 23 hours -- faster than Greyhound, but not faster than Amtrak.

Once In the City. Founded as Jernigan in 1875, and home to about 255,000 people with a metropolitan area of just under 3 million, Orlando was named for Orlando Reeves, an American soldier who was killed within what is now the city limits during the Second Seminole War in 1835.

There's just one problem: It never happened. There was no fighting in said war in what's now the Orlando area, and the only Orlando Reeves who lived nearby owned a plantation with a sugar mill on it. He carved his name in a tree, and somebody presumed later on that he must have been buried there. How he became a war hero, who knows. Maybe it was Southern pride, something the locals tried to cling to after General Sherman kicked the Confederacy's redneck ass.

The sales tax in Florida is 6 percent, and an additional 6 percent is placed on all hotel rooms. Central Blvd. divides city addresses into North and South, and Orange Avenue divides them into East and West.

Lynx is the local bus service. A single ride is $2.00. Orlando recently began their SunRail commuter service, which, by sometime next year, will extend, north-to-south, from DeLand in the north to Poinciana in the south. (For the moment, it runs from DeBary to Sand Lake Road.) They also want to expand to the airport, and to Daytona Beach; the former will happen next year, but the later remains only a plan.
A SunRail train in downtown Orlando

Going In. The Citrus Bowl complex used to include an old football stadium and an old baseball park. Opened in 1936 as Orlando Stadium, the stadium became the Tangerine Bowl in 1946, and from 1947 onward (with the exception of 1973, when it was held at the University of Florida) hosted the game of the same name, often on New Year's Day, which was renamed the Florida Citrus Bowl in 1983, and Camping World Stadium earlier this year.

It seated a mere 8,900 people at its opening, and just 15,900 as late as 1975. But a major expansion boosted it to 52,000 the next year, and 65,438 in 1989. A 2014 renovation, complete with wider seats, brought the total to 61,348, which still gives it more seats than 1 current NFL stadium, the Oakland Coliseum. While OCSC limit seating capacity to 33,000 for most games, they do sometimes open the upper deck.
The official address is 1 Citrus Bowl Place, at the southwest corner of W. Church Street and Rio Grande Avenue, about 2 miles west of downtown. Parking is $10. The stadium is in a horseshoe shape, open at the north end. The field is artificial.

The stadium actually hosts 3 bowl games: The Citrus Bowl, the Russell Athletic Bowl, and, starting last year, the AutoNation Cure Bowl, raising money for breast cancer research. Since 1997, it's hosted the Florida Classic, between historically black schools Florida A&M of Tallahassee and Bethune-Cookman of Daytona Beach -- a copy of New Orleans' Bayou Classic between Grambling State and Southern University. And from 1979 to 2006, it hosted games of the University of Central Florida.

Pro teams that have called it home include the Florida Blazers of the World Football League in 1974, the Orlando Renegades of the United States Football League in 1985, the Orlando Thunder of the World League of American Football in 1991 and '92, and the Orlando Rage of the XFL in 2001.

Orlando City Soccer Club has played there since 2011, and got promoted to MLS in 2015. The Orlando Pride of the National Women's Soccer League just began playing, and playing there. Both soccer teams hope to move into a new stadium for the 2017 season. The team's badge features a lion, in homage to the Orlando Lions, who played in various minor leagues from 1985 to 1996. The lion's mane has 21 flares, looking like a sun but also paying tribute to the fact that OCSC is the league's 21st team.

The Bowl hosted 5 games of the 1994 World Cup, and 8 -- 5 men's, 3 women's -- in the 1996 Olympics (mostly based in Atlanta). It hosted the 1998 MLS All-Star Game, and 3 games of the U.S. national team, most recently in 1998, resulting in a win and 2 draws.
Food. Florida is Southeastern Conference territory, where tailgating is a holy rite. And Orlando City do allow tailgating in their parking lot. But they do serve food inside the Citrus Bowl.

On the East Sideline, they have Halftime Stand (generic food), Rio Grande (Mexican food), East Central Grill (generic), Champion Pizza, Monster Sandwich (including pulled pork and pulled chicken), and All-American stand (generic).

On the West Sideline, they have All-American Stand, Rio Grande, Mid Field Grill (featuring "Salad in a Jar" and trail mix along with generic stuff), Monster Sandwich and Halftime Stand. And at the North End, they have MVP Goal Stand (generic).

Team History Displays. They've only played since 2011, and in MLS since 2015, so, as the song goes, "You ain't got no history."

Stuff. As a new team, there are no books or videos about Orlando City SC. And while the new stadium will have a team store, the Citrus Bowl does not. But there are souvenir stands around the stadium.

During the Game. This is the South, but it's not football: It's "football." There is no rivalry between the Red Bulls and Orlando City. The fact that OCSC and New York City FC came into the league at the same time has resulted in lots of comparisons (so far, mostly favoring Orlando's operation), but that's not a rivalry, either. You're not going to be in physical danger unless you provoke someone. So don't do that.

Orlando City hold auditions for National Anthem singers, instead of having a regular. Their mascot is Kingston the Lion (as in the lion is the king of the jungle), whose mane appears to be in Jamaican-style braids (as in Kingston is the capital of Jamaica).
Since OCSC are, for the moment, the only MLS club in Florida -- the Tampa Bay Mutiny and the Miami Fusion both failed, and David Beckham's new Miami team isn't yet close to being underway -- supporters' groups throughout Florida have taken to them.

The leading group is The Ruckus, and includes the Tallahassee-based Capitol City Ruckus. The Iron Lion Firm separated from The Ruckus shortly after its founding in 2009 (with the hope of getting into MLS), and can be identified by their ILF 407 banners (their initials, and Orlando's Area Code). The ILF, as befitting their Bob Marleyesque name, are more Caribbean and Latin American in style, if not necessarily in ethnic makeup.

These 2 groups (and stand) in the south end, and form "The Wall." This massive support gave OCSC the 2nd-highest per-game attendance in the league, behind only Seattle.
Like the Red Bulls' ultras, they sing the various on Little Peggy March's "I Will Follow Him": "We love ya (3 times), and where you go we'll follow (3 times)..." Like the Red Bulls, and the D.C. Scum, they sing "Vamos... " ("Vamos, Vamos Orlando, esta noche, tenenos que ganar... " Let's go, let's go Orlando, this night, we have to win... ")

To the tune of "When Johnny Comes Marching Home," they sing "Orlando City Anthem":

From miles around we come to town
to see our team
We're gonna score and sing some more
you better believe
Orlando City, Hey!
Sing of Victory!
Orlando City, all... the way!

They're a new club, so maybe next year they'll learn that songs are supposed to rhyme. They also endured some controversy last season, when objections were raised to a chant that included the word "retarded." Both the Ruckus and the ILF agreed to replace the offending word in the chant, and have been publicly commended by the advocacy groups that had objected.

After the Game. Orlando is not known as a high-crime city. You should be safe going out, and, if you drove to the game, you car should be in one piece.

I was not able to find any place to eat or drink that is known to cater to New York teams' fans. And there don't seem to be a lot of bars near the stadium. But there's a New York International Bread Company a block east, at 1500 Church Street.

If you visit Orlando during the European soccer season, unless you're a fan of a very big club, you're probably out of luck. Aces, at 825 Courtland Street, about 6 miles north of downtown, is an Arsenal pub. Two possibilities for other English clubs, most likely Liverpool-friendly, are The Harp and Celt, 25 S. Magnolia Avenue, downtown; and The George & Dragon, 6314 International Drive, about 9 miles southwest of downtown, across from Universal's theme parks.

Sidelights. Orlando doesn't have much of a sports history. And if you're not interesting in going to the nearby theme parks, there's not a whole lot to do there except experience serious humidity all year long.

* New Stadium. Orlando City Stadium was supposed to open for this season, but construction delays have pushed it back to next year. When Orlando City and the women's team Orlando Pride move in for the Spring of 2017, the stadium is set to seat 25,500 (making it less than half the size of the Citrus Bowl, but slightly larger than Red Bull Arena), and will have a natural grass surface.

700 block of W. Church Street, at Parramore Avenue, about 7 blocks east of the Citrus Bowl, and 3 blocks west of the Amway Arena. SunRail to Church Street.
Artist's depiction of the new "Lions' Den"

* Tinker Field site. Just to the west of the Citrus Bowl, Tinker Field opened in 1914. It was the longtime spring training home of the Washington Senators/Minnesota Twins franchise, and when the stadium was rebuilt in 1963, seats from Griffith Stadium were added to it, since the Senators had moved to Minnesota and the new Senators had moved into RFK Stadium.

Pennants in the Class A Florida State League were won by the 1921 Orlando Tigers, the 1923 Orlando Bulldogs, the 1927 Orlando Colts, the 1940 and 1946 Orlando Senators, the 1955 Orlando C.B.'s, and the 1968 Orlando Twins. Pennants in the Class AA Southern League were won by the 1981 Orlando Twins, the 1991 Orlando Sun Rays, and the 1999 Orlando Rays. That's 10 Pennants.

The Orlando Rays moved to Alabama after the 2003 season, becoming the Montgomery Biscuits. Despite metropolitan Orlando having a population greater than 7 MLB markets (St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Cincinnati and Milwaukee), it has been without professional baseball since the Aaron Boone Game. Rumors of the Tampa Bay Rays moving to Orlando if they can't get a new stadium either in Tampa or St. Petersburg continue to swirl, but if they ever do move, it probably won't be to Orlando, not to the Tinker Field site or to the 9,500-seat Champion Stadium on the Disney World campus.

Unfortunately, the recent renovation of the Citrus Bowl meant that the 100-year-old Tinker Field would have a right field that was much too short, and it was torn down last year. It seated 5,100 people at the end. 1610 W. Church Street at Rio Grand Avenue.

According to an April 24, 2014 article in The New York Times, despite being 106 miles away -- or, perhaps, because they aren't considerably closer than that -- the Rays only get about 10 percent of MLB fandom in the Orlando area. The Boston Red Sox get about 15 percent. And the Yankees average about 30 percent.

Orlando has never had a team in the NFL, unless you count the Orlando Breakers, the fictional team on the sitcom Coach in the 1995 and 1996 seasons. Real pro football teams that have played there include the Orlando Broncos of the Southern Football League (1962-63), the Orlando Panthers of the Continental Football League (1966-70), the Florida Blazers of the World Football League (1974), the Orlando Renegades of the USFL (1985), the Orlando Thunder of the World League of American Football (1991-92), and the Orlando Rage of the XFL (2001).

According to the September 2014 issue of The Atlantic, even though the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 88 miles from downtown Orlando and the Miami Dolphins are 222 miles away, and the Buccaneers won a Super Bowl 13 seasons ago while the Dolphins are now 42 seasons without a title, the Dolphins remain the most popular NFL team in the Orlando area. (The Tampa Bay Lightning, 85 miles away and coming off a Stanley Cup Finals berth, are the closest and most popular NHL team.)

Despite its growing metropolitan area population, Orlando would still rank only 24th in MLB, and 20th in the NFL.

* Orlando City Stadium. Currently under construction, and set to open next Spring, Orlando City SC and their sister club the Orlando Pride will play here. 700 Church Street at Glenn Lane, downtown, between the Amway Center and the Citrus Bowl complex.

* Amway Center. Since 2010, the NBA's Orlando Magic have played at this downtown arena. It is also home to the Orlando Solar Bears of minor-league hockey, and the Orlando Predators of arena football. The official address is 400 W. Church Street. It is bordered by Church Street, Hughey Avenue, South Street and Division Avenue.
* Orlando Arena site. "The O-rena" was the Magic's home from their 1989 beginnings until 2010, and also hosted the Solar Bears, the Predators, and, from 1999 to 2002, the Orlando Miracle of the WNBA. (The team moved to become the Connecticut Sun. Funny how they became the Sun after moving from Florida to New England, instead of the other way around.)

The Magic played the 1995 and 2009 NBA Finals at this building, later renamed the TD Waterhouse Center and the Amway Arena (the Magic are owned by Amway chairman Rich DeVos, hence his company's name on arenas old and new). It was a major arena for Arena Football, hosting the ArenaBowl in 1992, 1994 and 2000. The Orlando Predators won the ArenaBowl in 1998 and 2000.

But it opened right before the design of Baltimore's Camden Yards rewrote the rules for sports venues. The skyboxes had the worst sightlines in the arena, and many of them went unleased, denying the Magic precious megarevenues. (Never mind that DeVos is one of the richest men in America: He was going to be damned if he was going to let his fellow owners laugh at him for his revenue issues.)

As early as 2000, DeVos started whining to the City of Orlando about building him a new arena, even though he's worth $6 billion and could have funded building the $480 million arena he eventually got all by himself -- 12 times over. The O-rena was imploded in 2012, and the site is being redeveloped for both residential and office space. 600 W. Amelia Street at Alexander Place, downtown, about 7 blocks north of its replacement.

* Bright House Networks Stadium. This 44,206-seat stadium opened on the University of Central Florida campus in 2007. The stadium has a flexible seating section that can safely allow students to bounce, similar to the effect of the metal seating in the west end zone at RFK Stadium in Washington, giving it the nicknames the Bounce House and the Trampoline.

4465 Knights Victory Way at Plaza Drive, 16 miles northeast of downtown. Any bus that goes to Lynx Central Station Terminal, then Bus 104.

* Site of Orlando Sports Stadium. Like the Chicago Stadium and the Olympia Stadium in Detroit, this "stadium" was actually an arena, opening in 1967. It was later renamed the Eddie Graham Sports Complex, after a pro wrestler and promoter, since pro wrestling was its main feature. But it was also a major concert venue, hosting Led Zeppelin in 1971, Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue in 1976, and, on February 15, 1977, Elvis Presley.

The building was not well maintained, and was demolished in 1995. A housing development named Econ River Estates is now on the site.

* Theme Parks. Disney World is 17 miles southwest of downtown Orlando, and, like its counterpart Disneyland in Anaheim, California, is a bit of a walk from the nearest public transportation. It's definitely a car place, although it does have a monorail on the grounds.

Sea World 14 miles southwest of downtown, but can be reached by public transit: SunRail from Lynx Central Station Terminal to Bus 50. 7007 Sea World Drive. Universal Orlando Resort (formerly Universal Studios Orlando) can be reached from downtown via Bus 40: 6000 Universal Blvd., 8 miles southwest.

Orlando isn't big on museums, but there are 3 that may be worth a look. The Orange County Regional History Center is at 65 E. Central Blvd. at Court Avenue. The Orlando Science Center and the Mennello Museum of American Art are both in Loch Haven Park, at 777 E. Princeton Street. SunRail to Florida Hospital Health Village.

The Beatles never performed in Orlando, but, as I said, Elvis did, toward the end. Toward the beginning, on May 11, 1955, Elvis did 2 shows at the Municipal Auditorium. He performed there again on July 26 and 27, 1955, and twice on August 8, 1956. The building is now named the Bob Carr Theaer, for the Mayor who desegregated the city in the 1960s. 401 W. Livingston Street at Hughey Avenue, downtown, about 5 blocks north of the Amway Center.

The University of Florida is in Gainesville, 113 miles northwest of downtown Orlando. Florida State University is in the State capital of Tallahassee, 258 miles northwest.

Miami has several skyscrapers. Tampa has a few. Orlando really doesn't. The tallest building in town is the SunTrust Center, 441 feet high, at 200 S. Orange Avenue at Church Street, 3 blocks (counting I-4) east of the Amway Center.

Outside of the Orlando-area theme parks, the biggest tourist attraction in Central Florida is the John F. Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, 45 miles east of Orlando, on the Atlantic Coast. You'll have to drive: Public transportation simply isn't available.

Aside from Coach, which used stock footage of the Citrus Bowl (as it had with the University of Iowa, standing in for the fictional Minnesota State) but was filmed in Southern California, there haven't been many TV shows set in Orlando, aside from sitcoms doing the trope of the family going to Disney World for a two-parter.

A few movies have been set at Disney World, including the recent George Clooney film Tomorrowland. The only movie I know of that was filmed and set in Orlando proper, rather than in Mickeystan, is Ernest Saves Christmas, part of Jim Varney's Ernest P. Worrell ("Hey, Vern!") franchise. Christmas in Orlando? Could be worse: Could be Christmas in Miami. Or Christmas in L.A. Or Christmas in Vegas.

*

So if you're a Red Bulls fan, or even a New York City FC fan, head down to Orlando to see them take on the local XI. Who knows, you might have a good time even if you never set foot in "The Happiest Place On Earth."

T.S. Eliot Can Shut Up

"April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain."
T.S. Eliot wrote that in 1922. He titled the poem "The Waste Land."

The Yankees ended April 2016 in last place in the American League Eastern Division, at 8-14. Only Minnesota, Houston and Atlanta have lesser records.

The Yankees are now 0-12 when score less than 3 runs, 8-2 when they score at least 3.

This is unacceptable.

*

The Red Sox scored 2 runs off Michael Pineda in the 2nd inning last night, and we already got the sense that the game was lost, because the Yankees simply haven't been hitting.

At the top of the order, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner each went 0-for-4. Why do we have either of these guys in the lineup, if they can't get on base to provide potential RBIs for Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez? Speaking of whom, each of those went 0-for-3, and was replaced for his final at-bat.

Here's who got on base: Carlos Beltran with a single, Chase Headley with a single, Starlin Castro with a single and a walk, and Brian McCann with 2 singles. That was it.

It's almost irrelevant that Pineda didn't have his good stuff again, and that Chasen Shreve and Johnny Barbato were horrible again: If Pineda had gone 7 innings, and allowed 1 run, and Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller had each added a perfect inning, we would have lost this game 1-0.

Instead, Red Sox 8, Yankees 0. WP: Rick Porcello (5-0). No save. LP: Pineda (1-3).

Of course, I want to beat the Red Sox. But, at this point, winning is important, never mind against whom.

The series concludes tonight. Nathan Eovaldi starts against former Tampa Bay pain in the ass David Price.

T.S. Eliot can shut up: As any baseball fan, especially a Red Sox fan, can tell you, the cruelest month is October.

But you've got to get there first.

Maybe the Yankees should send out a Mayday?

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Yanks Let Big Fat Lying Cheating B@$+@rd Beat Them Again

Nothing in sports angers me more than the media's knowledge that David Ortiz was caught cheating and still denies it, and their acting like it was all okay, and then their castigation of the Yankees for what they've admitted to.

It's called "cognitive dissonance."

Ortiz should have been banned from baseball for life years ago.

If the price for that had also been the same punishment for Alex Rodriguez? I would have gladly lived with that.

Anyway, last night, in the opener of the 1st Yankees vs. Red Sox game of the season, at Fenway Park, things were going so well. Masahiro Tanaka had a 3-hit shutout going for 6 innings, and the Yankees had a 2-0 lead, thanks to a home run by A-Rod in the 2nd inning (his 4th of the season) and an RBI single by Brett Gardner in the 5th.

But, for once, Joe Girardi made a mistake not by taking out a pitcher going strong after 6, but leaving him in for the 7th. Tanaka allowed a pair of 1-out singles, then got a strikeout, and then allowed a double by Jackie Bradley, tying the game.

Then Girardi brought Dellin Betances in to pitch the 8th. Suffice it to say, he has not turned out to be the new Mariano Rivera of 1997 to 2013 -- or even the new Mariano Rivera of 1996 (unbeatable 8th inning guy).

It wasn't all Betances' fault: Xander Bogaerts lined a shot that deflected off Starlin Castro's glove, not really a makeable play, so I don't blame Castro, either. But, of course, Ortiz was the next batter; and, of course, he hit a home run.

If you're not going to plunk him in that situation, at least walk him intentionally. True, it puts the potential winning run on 2nd base with only 1 out. But it sends a message: No, you big fat lying cheating bastard, we are not letting you beat us this time.

Red Sox 4, Yankees 2. WP: Koji Uehara (1-1). SV: Craig Kimbrel (7). LP: Betances (0-2).

The series continues tonight. Michael Pineda starts against Rick Porcello.

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Red Sox Are the REAL "Evil Empire"

As Christmas approached in 2002, the Yankees signed 2 big foreign stars: Japanese outfielder Hideki Matsui, and Cuban pitcher Jose Contreras.

The Red Sox wanted Contreras badly, but owner George Steinbrenner told Brian Cashman to get him or else, and Cashman got him.

Red Sox team president Larry Lucchino did not take this lying down. When the New York Times reached him for comment on the signing, he said, "The evil empire extends its tentacles even into Latin America." 

People have called the Yankees "the Evil Empire" ever since.

This is stupid.

The most obvious reason that it's stupid is that most of us first heard the expression "evil empire" on March 8, 1983, when President Ronald Reagan delivered a speech at a hotel on the grounds of Walt Disney World outside Orlando, Florida, to a bunch of evangelicals whose Jesus was the one who said to smite single mothers and gays, not the one who said to love thy neighbor as thyself and to give your possessions to the poor:

In your discussions of the nuclear freeze proposals, I urge you to beware the temptation of pride, the temptation of blithely, uh, declaring yourselves above it all, and label both sides equally at fault, to ignore the facts of history, and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire, to simply call the arms race a giant misunderstanding, and thereby remove yourself from the struggle between right and wrong, and good and evil.

Reagan was calling the Soviet Union an evil empire. The Soviet Union was opposed to capitalism, opposed to obscene wealth, opposed to private property.

The New York Yankees, at least since Jacob Ruppert began to build the team that would dominate baseball in the 1920s, have been the most capitalist of all teams, have been obscenely wealthy, and own the greatest private property in all of sports on this planet, Yankee Stadium. (If you're a soccer fan, don't tell me Real Madrid's Bernabeu, Barcelona's Camp Nou, or Manchester United's Old Trafford is greater. What do they host besides their home teams?)

So comparing the Yankees to the Soviet Union, "the evil empire," really is stupid. If Reagan had never made that speech, maybe it would make sense.

*

But it goes beyond that. The comparison is also made to the Galactic Empire, the antagonists in the Star Wars films. Some Yankee Fans get a kick out of this, making it backfire on Sox fans, by showing Darth Vader as a representation of the Yankees, turning, "May the Force be with you" into, "May the Curse be with you" prior to the Sox cheating the Curse of the Bambino to death in 2004.

And, just before the Sox did that, Pedro Martinez made his "call the Yankees my Daddy" remark, and a banner at Yankee Stadium showed Vader saying, "Pedro: I am your father!"

But the media, particularly ESPN and Fox, the duopoly of baseball coverage on national TV, have fed the myth that the Red Sox are the Light Side of the Force, and the Yankees are the Dark Side.

Bullshit. We are the Light Side, while the Red Sox are the Dark Side.

You want to use Star Wars as the template? Okay, let's take the 1st 6 films into context. From 1921 to 2003 was the Republic, then came its downfall.

The 1999 American League Championship Series was Episode I: The Phantom Menace: The Yankees were challenged by a resurgent enemy that we thought was no longer a threat, but we got the message: Take them seriously.

The 2003 season was Episode II: Attack of the Clones: They were really gunning for us now, and we knew we had a war on our hands, but it still looked like we would prevail in the end.

2004 was Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. No explanation necessary.

Time passed. The 2009 season, when it was revealed that the Sox were steroid cheats, and we lost to them for most of the season but began pounding them in early August, and clinched the Division against them in late September, on the way to winning the World Series again, was Episode IV: A New Hope.

2013, when we missed Derek Jeter for most of the season, we said goodbye to Mariano Rivera, and the Sox won the Series for the 1st time since they were outed as cheaters, and nobody seemed to give a damn that they had cheated, was Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. The movie that many Star Wars fans say is the best one, but these people need to be slapped: How can it be the best, if it ends with the bad guys winning? These people are ESPN and Fox, celebrating the Sox and David Ortiz, when they know goddamned well how evil they are.

Hopefully, 2016 will be Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.

If you still doubt that it's the Red Sox who are the Dark Side, remember that their pitchers have consistently tried to injure our players with pitched balls.

Bronson Arroyo drilled Alex Rodriguez in the back, A-Rod cursed him out, and Jason Varitek, leaving his mask on like the bitch that he is, shoved his mitt in A-Rod's face. This was a far cry from 1976, when Bill Lee, after a brawl that led to his shoulder injury, "The Yankees fought like hookers swinging their purses." How would he know? And what did it say about his team that they lost the fight anyway?

Want more proof? Pedro tried to "execute Order 66" on Don Zimmer. For the last few years of his life, Zim's uniform number as a coach was the number of years he'd been in professional baseball. When he died, still on the staff of the Tampa Bay Rays, the Rays retired the last number that he wore. It was 66.

You want to say that you hate the Yankees? Go ahead. I like to use the line from ancient Rome: Oderint dum metuant. Meaning, "Let them hate, as long as they fear."

But don't insult the evidence by saying that the Yankees are evil. When the Red Sox have been war criminals at least since Pedro the Punk arrived in 1998, and still are long after he's been gone.

Not a Good Way to Hit Going Into a Boston Series

The Yankees closed their series in Texas by doing what they've done most of April 2016: Failing to score enough runs.

Don't blame CC Sabathia: The Big Fella pitched decently, allowing 3 runs on 5 hits, 3 walks and a hit batsman over 6 innings. He only threw 90 pitches, so he could have gone longer.

But don't blame the bullpen, either. Between them, the slumping Johnny Barbato and the usually awful Chasen Shreve pitched 3 perfect innings. And don't blame Joe Girardi: Clearly, he pulled CC at the right time; equally clearly, he used the right pitchers for the night.

No, blame the offense. Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner both went 0-for-4 at the top of the order. Chase Headley and Ronald Torreyes (Girardi put him at shortstop to give Didi Gregorius a night off) went 0-for-3 at the bottom. Mark Teixeira went 0-for-3 in the middle, but at least he managed a walk.

Alex Rodriguez got 3 hits, including a home run (his 3rd) and a double. Starling Castro got 2 hits, 1 for an RBI. But that was all the Yankees got off Texas pitching.

I don't care how good the other team's pitcher is: The New York Yankees should be getting more than 2 runs off them.

This time, again, they did not: Rangers 3, Yankees 2. WP: Martin Perez (1-2). SV: Shawn Tolleson (7 -- and that's the son of former Ranger and Yankee good-field/no-hit infielder Wayne Tolleson). LP: Sabathia (1-2).

*

So far this season, when the Yankees score at least 4 runs in a game, they're 5-0. When they score 3, they're 3-2. When they score 2 or fewer, they're 0-10.

And now, we have to play the Boston Red Sox. In Boston. In the little green pinball machine in the Back Bay.

We could be looking at a 30-5 aggregate loss.

On the other hand, how many times have we had a high-scoring game right before playing the Sox, especially at Fenway, and gone on to watch our bats fizzle? Maybe this series will have the opposite effect.

Here are the projected starters:

* Tonight, 7:10 PM: Masahiro Tanaka vs. Henry Owens.

* Tomorrow, 7:10 PM: Michael Pineda vs. Rick Porcello.

* Sunday, 8:05 PM (the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball game): Nathan Eovaldi vs. David Price.

Let's go, Yankees! Beat The Scum!

How to Be a New York Soccer Fan In Dallas -- 2016 Edition

“I’m in hell!” – Morgan Freeman
“Worse: You’re in Texas!” – Chris Rock
-- Nurse Betty

On Friday, April 29, the New York Red Bulls host FC Dallas. Due to this year's Major League Soccer schedule, FCD is the only team in the League that will host neither the Red Bulls nor New York City FC.

Nevertheless, I feel it's important to give you a complete picture of the League, so I'm going to treat this home game as if it were an away game. (With the necessary adjustments in Italics.)

The Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex is in what Texas native Molly Ivins – frequently sarcastically – called The Great State.

An example of her writing: “In the Great State, you can get 5 years for murder, and 99 for pot possession.” (I once sent the late, great newspaper columnist an e-mail asking if it could be knocked down to 98 years if you didn’t inhale. Sadly, she never responded.)

Before You Go. It's not just The South, it's Texas. This is the State that elected George W. Bush, Rick Perry, and Bill Clements Governor; Dick Armey, Tom DeLay, Ron Paul and Louie Gohmert to the House of Representatives; and Phil Gramm and Ted Cruz to the Senate -- and thinks the rest of the country isn't conservative enough. This is the State where, in political terms, somebody like Long Island's conservative Congressman Peter King is considered a sissy. This is a State that thinks that poor nonwhites don't matter at all, and that poor whites only matter if you can convince them that, no matter how bad their life is, they're still better than the (slur on blacks) and the (slur on Hispanics).

So if you go to Texas for this series, it would be best to avoid political discussions. And, for crying out loud, don't mention that, now over half a century ago, a liberal Democratic President was killed in Dallas. They might say JFK had it comin' 'cause he was a (N-word)-lovin' Communist.

No. I'm not kidding. There are millions of Texans who think like this -- and, among their own people, they will be less likely to hold back. So don't ask them what they think. About anything.

At any rate, before we go any further, enjoy Lewis Black's R-rated smackdown of Rick Perry and the State of Texas as a whole. Perry is so stupid and myopic, he makes Dubya look like Pat Moynihan.

Also within the realm of "It's not just The South, it's Texas," you should be prepared for hot weather. It's not just the heat that's so bad, it's the humidity. And the mosquitoes. You think it was only the heat that made the Houston Astros build the Astrodome? Sandy Koufax said, "Some of the bugs they've got down there are twin-engine jobs." And, unlike Houston (then as now), the Dallas-area team does not have a dome, or even a roof over the stands. It's hot, it's humid, it's muggy and it's buggy, and they have that shit all the time.

So, before you go, check the websites of the Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (the "Startle-gram") for the weather. Of course, in this case, since you're not actually going, the current forecast is irrelevant.

Fortunately, despite the State's Southernness and Confederate past, you don't need a passport to visit, and you don't need to change your money.

Texas (except for the southwestern corner, with El Paso) is in the Central Time Zone, 1 hour behind New York. Adjust your timepieces accordingly.

Tickets. FC Dallas averaged 15,981 fans last season. That's about 78 percent of official seating capacity. Getting tickets should not be a problem.

Away fans are seated in Section 132, at the northeast corner of the stadium. Tickets are $36.

Getting There. It is 1,551 miles from Midtown Manhattan to downtown Dallas, and 1,542 miles from Red Bull Arena to Toyota Stadium. So unless you want to be cooped up for 24-30 hours, you... are... flying.

Nonstop flights from Newark, Kennedy or LaGuardia airports to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport will set you back close to $1,500 (round-trip). That's a bit expensive and if that’s too much, you may have to wait until next season, in the hopes that it'll be cheaper (or you get a raise). Or find alternate transportation. Which is the best idea, especially if you can go with a supporters group from your club -- especially since getting from Dallas proper to Frisco without a car is damn near impossible.

So, if it’s a choice between being cooped up or spending that much dough, what is being cooped up going to be like? Amtrak offers the Lake Shore Limited (a variation on the old New York Central Railroad’s 20th Century Limited), leaving Penn Station at 3:40 PM Eastern Time and arriving at Chicago’s Union Station at 9:45 AM Central Time. Then switch to the Texas Eagle at 1:45 PM, and arrive at Dallas’ Union Station (400 S. Houston Street at Wood Street) the following morning at 11:30. It would be $501 round-trip, and that’s with sleeping in a coach seat, before buying a room with a bed on each train.

Dallas is actually Greyhound’s hometown, or at least the location of its corporate headquarters: 205 S. Lamar Street at Commerce Street, which is also the address of their Dallas station. (The city is also the corporate HQ of American Airlines.) If you look at Greyhound buses, you’ll notice they all have Texas license plates. So how bad can the bus be?

Well, it is a lot cheaper: $338 round-trip, and advanced purchase can get it down to $278. But it won’t be much shorter. It's a 40-hour trip, and you'll have to change buses at least twice, in Richmond, Virginia (and I don't like the Richmond station) and either Atlanta or Memphis.

Oh... kay. So what about driving? As I said, over 1,500 miles. I would definitely recommend bringing a friend and sharing the driving. The fastest way from New York to Dallas is to get into New Jersey, take Interstate 78 West across the State and into Pennsylvania, then turn to Interstate 81 South, across Pennsylvania, the "panhandles" of Maryland and West Virginia, and across the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia into Tennessee, where I-81 will flow into Interstate 40. Take I-40 into Arkansas, and switch to Interstate 30 in Little Rock, taking it into the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area, a.k.a. "The Metroplex." Between the East and West branches of Interstate 35, I-30 is named the Tom Landry Freeway, after the legendary Dallas Cowboys coach.

If you're driving not into Dallas proper, but right to the game -- or if you've got a hotel in or around Frisco -- take I-30 to Exit 94 in Greenville, to U.S. Route 380 West. At Prosper, take the Dallas North Tollway South, to Main Street, and turn left.

Once you get across the Hudson River into New Jersey, you should be in New Jersey for about an hour, Pennsylvania for 3 hours, Maryland for 15 minutes, West Virginia for half an hour, Virginia for 5 and a half hours (more than the entire trip will be before you get to Virginia), 8 hours and 15 minutes in Tennessee, 3 hours in Arkansas, and about 3 hours and 45 minutes in Texas.

Taking 45-minute rest stops in or around (my recommendations) Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Charlottesville, Virginia; Bristol, on the Virginia/Tennessee State Line; Nashville and Memphis, Tennessee; Little Rock and Texarkana, Arkansas; and accounting for overruns there and for traffic at each end of the journey, and we’re talking 31 hours. So, leaving New York at around 10:00 on Sunday morning (thus avoiding rush-hour traffic), you should be able to reach the Metroplex at around 4:00 on Monday afternoon (again, allowing you to avoid rush-hour traffic, and giving you time to get to your hotel).

And you really should get a hotel. Fortunately, there are hotels available nearby, particularly around the intersection of the Dallas North Tollway and the Sam Rayburn Tollway, near the Stonebriar Centre Mall, about 4 miles south of Toyota Stadium. They’re likely to be cheaper than the ones in downtown Dallas.

Once In the City. Dallas (population about 1,250,000, founded in 1856) was named after George Mifflin Dallas, a Mayor of Philadelphia and Senator from Pennsylvania who was James K. Polk's Vice President (1845-49). Fort Worth (about 800,000, founded in 1849) was named for William Jenkins Worth, a General in the War of 1812 and the Mexican-American War. Arlington (375,000, founded in 1876) was named for the Virginia city across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., as a tribute to Confederate General Robert E. Lee. And Frisco (150,000 and rising fast)

The population of the entire Metroplex is about 7.2 million and climbing, although when you throw in Oklahoma, southern Arkansas and northern Louisiana, the total population of the Rangers' "market" is about 19 million -- a little less than the New York Tri-State Area, and soon it will surpass us.

Commerce Street divides Dallas street addresses into North and South. Beckley Avenue, across the Trinity River from downtown, appears to divide them into East and West. The sales tax in the State of Texas is 6.25 percent, in Dallas County 8.25 percent, and in Tarrant County (including Arlington and Fort Worth) 8 percent even.

Public transportation is a relatively new idea in Texas. While Dallas has built a subway and light rail system, and it has a bus service (get a Day Pass for $5.00), until recently, Arlington was the largest city in the country with no public transportation at all.
A Green Line light rail train, just outside of downtown

Going In. The Major League Soccer club FC Dallas (formerly the Dallas Burn) play at Toyota Stadium, at 9200 World Cup Way in the suburb of Frisco. It's actually at the intersection of Main Street and Coleman Blvd., across Main from the new Frisco Square retail complex. (World Cup Way is a block to the west.) I can find no reference to the cost of parking.

It’s 28 miles up the Dallas North Tollway from downtown, so forget about any way of getting there except driving. See if you can sign on with a RBNY or NYCFC fan group that's going.
Toyota Stadium opened in 2004, and FCD have played there since 2005. It was known as the Frisco Soccer & Entertainment Complex from 2004 to 2005, Pizza Hut Park until 2012, and FC Dallas Stadium briefly until 2013, when Toyota bought the naming rights. It also holds the rights to the Chicago Fire's stadium (Toyota Park) and the arena of the NBA's Houston Rockets (the Toyota Center).
The field is natural grass, and is aligned north-to-south, with the north end being the open end of the horseshoe. The south end has been blocked off for the 2016 season.

The stadium seats 20,500. It is surrounded by 17 practice fields (for local youth soccer as well as the MLS club), known as the Toyota Soccer Center. A National Soccer Hall of Fame is planned for the grounds. The U.S. soccer team has played there twice, both against Guatemala, a win and a loss. It also hosts high school football games, and the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision title game -- what used to be known as Division I-AA.

Frisco is also home to Dr. Pepper Ballpark, the 10,600-seat home of the Frisco RoughRiders of the Class AA Texas League; the Dr. Pepper Arena, home of the Texas Legends of the NBA Development League, the Texas Tornado of the North American Hockey League, and the Dallas Stars' practice facility; the Dallas Cowboys' new corporate headquarters and training facilities (I guess Jerry Jones simply can't stop building); and the headquarters of the Southland Conference (NCAA FCS).

Unlike Toyota Stadium, Dr. Pepper Ballpark, which is 5 miles closer to downtown Dallas, can be reached by public transit -- but it would require 3 buses and take an hour and a half.

Food. In Texas, you can expect Tex-Mex, barbecue, and lots and lots of beer, including the hometown brand, Lone Star Beer. FCD is sensitive to the locals' wishes. According to the team website:

Legends took over operations for Toyota Stadium in March 2012. FC Dallas charged Legends with delivering innovation, increasing per capita revenue, improving food quality and changing the fan experience.

To deliver against each of these goals, Legends put a plan in place that included:
  •     The addition of Legends signature brands including Bent Buckle Barbecue, and Los Vaqueros Cantina
  •     The addition of performance cooking in Clubs
  •     A change in the food preparation philosophy by introducing the signature “made from scratch” approach in all areas
Team History Displays. Although the Dallas Burn (FC Dallas since moving to Frisco in 2005) were a charter MLS franchise in 1996, and are (like the Red Bulls) celebrating their 20th Anniversary in 2016, their history is about as bleak as ours. (Though still better than yours, if you are a fan of the Small Club In Da Bronx.) They won the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in 1997, and also reached the Final in 2005 and 2007. They were runners-up for the MLS Supporters' Shield in 2006 and (to us) in 2015; and for the MLS Cup in 2010.

There is no display in the stadium's fan areas honoring the 1997 U.S. Open Cup win or the 2010 MLS Western Conference title. And there are no retired numbers, and no team hall of fame.

A statue of Lamar Hunt stands outside Toyota Stadium. Hunt, a Dallas native and the son of oil baron (and funder of right-wing extremism, making him a proto-Tea Partier) H.L. Hunt, wanted to bring professional football to Dallas -- and, by "football," he didn't meant soccer. At first. He wanted an expansion franchise. When the NFL wouldn't give him one, he found out that the Chicago Cardinals were losing money, and offered to buy them and move them to the Cotton Bowl. The NFL wouldn't let him do that, either, and allowed the Cards to move to St. Louis (and later Arizona).

Frustrated, Hunt founded the American Football League and its Dallas Texans, to begin play in 1960. In 1963, knowing he couldn't compete for publicity and fans with the team the NFL did allow, the Cowboys, he moved his team, and it became the Kansas City Chiefs. He was also a founding part-owner of the NBA's Chicago Bulls. Eventually, he made peace with the NFL, got the AFL merged into it, and the AFC Championship trophy is named for him.

So is the American equivalent of the FA Cup, the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Why? In 1962, Hunt and his eventual wife Norman went to Dublin, Ireland, and watched a Shamrock Rovers match. In 1966, he went to England and attended the World Cup -- and was hooked: Over the last 40 years of his life, he attended matches of every World Cup except one.

In 1967, he founded one of the leagues that would, the next year, merge into the original North American Soccer League. His Dallas Tornado won the NASL title in 1971, and nearly did so again in 1973. But the team never made money, and in 1981 he and his partner Bill McNutt merged them with the Tampa Bay Rowdies's owners. They sold the Rowdies in 1983, and the loss of Hunt's prestige, combined with Giorgio Chinaglia's dimwittery killing the League's New York franchise, killed the old NASL.

But Hunt didn't give up on U.S. soccer, and worked to bring the World Cup to the U.S. in 1994, and then found Major League Soccer in 1996. He was a founding owner of the teams now known as Sporting Kansas City and the Columbus Crew, financed the building of what's now Mapfre Stadium in Columbus, and bought the Dallas Burn in 2003, building what's now Toyota Stadium and moving them there.

For his contributions to the game, he was elected to the National Soccer Hall of Fame (as well as the Pro football, Tennis, and Texas Sports Halls of Fame) in 1992, and in 1999, the U.S. Soccer Federation renamed the U.S. Open Cup after him. He died in 2006, and his son Clark Hunt now owns FC Dallas and the Kansas City Chiefs.
Stuff. The FC Dallas Team Shop is in the northeast corner of the stadium. It is open on non-game days, and on gamedays opens with the stadium gates. Naturally, they also sell cowboy hats and foam 10-gallon hats with the club logo on them.

Despite having 20 years of history, there is no team history DVD of the team. Nor is there an official book history. However, in 2014, Nathan Nipper published Dallas 'Til I Cry: Learning to Love Major League Soccer.

During the Game. FC Dallas fans consider their rivals to be Houston, Kansas City and Los Angeles -- not New York. Keep politics and religion out of it, and you'll probably be fine. And, this being a stadium, you're gonna get searched, and so is everyone else, so Texas' infamously lenient gun laws will be rendered useless. You're not going to get shot. Even J.R. Ewing wouldn't have gotten shot.

The club holds hold auditions for National Anthem singers, instead of having a regular singer. Their mascot is Tex Hooper, a longhorn bull, named for the State and for the "hoops" (vertical stripes) on the club's jerseys. As with London's blue-striped Queens Park Rangers and Glasgow's green-striped Celtic, a common shout at FCD games is, "C'mon The Hoops!"
There are 5 main supporters groups for FCD. The Dallas Football Elite (DFE) and Red Shamrock both sit in Section 101, a.k.a. The Snake Pit. The Budweiser Beer Garden in the stadium's north end is home to the Dallas Beer Guardians (DBG) and the Lone Star Legion (LSL). Section 117 is home to El Matador.
The groups tend to adapt the chants they inherited from the English clubs that, frequently (including in my own case) led them to their local team, rather than the other way around. "We love ya, we love ya, we love ya, and where you go we'll follow... " will be familiar to RBNY fans. Familiar to almost everyone will be "Oh when the Hoops! Go marching in!" The LSL also adapts chants from continental Europe and Latin America. El Matador does chants in both English and Spanish.

Red Shamrock, unlike the others, goes out of its way to be family-friendly, keeping their language kid-appropriate. Example: "FCD ain't nothin' to mess with!" instead of the more familiar and profane version often heard in the Red Bulls' South Ward. Another: "FCD! We are here! To sing our songs and drink some beer!" instead of the more familiar, "(name of group)! We are here! Shag your women and drink your beer!" And, "Can you hear the (opponent) sing? I can't hear a freakin' thing!" as opposed to using the other F-word.

FC Dallas fans hate Houston and the Dynamo the way Metro fans hate D.C. United. To the tune of, "My Darling Clementine":

Build a bonfire! Build a bonfire!
Put Houston at the top!
Put (today's opponent) in the middle!
And we’ll burn the freakin’ lot!

And to "You Are My Sunshine," which English fans adapted for Liverpool, as in, "You are a Scouser... ":


You are from Houston
From friggin’ Houston
You’re only happy
on Welfare Day
Your mom’s a hooker,
Your dad’s a dealer
Please don’t take my hubcaps away!

After the Game. Dallas has a bit of a bad reputation when it comes to crime, but you'll be pretty far from it. The stadium is deep into Dallas' well-off northern suburbs, far from any bad neighborhood, it’s one of those ballparks that’s not in any neighborhood. As long as you don’t make any snide remarks about the Cowboys, Texas in general, or religion, safety will not be an issue.

Just across Main Street from the south end of the stadium is the Frisco Square shopping center, which has eateries Jake's Uptown, Mattito's Tex-Mex and Nola Grill Frisco. A block away, at Simpson Plaza, is Pizzeria Testa. To the west, at Main Street and Dallas Parkway (which flanks the Dallas North Tollway), are The British Lion (an obvious attempt to cash in on the soccer vibe) and Fruitealicious. A little further up Dallas Parkway are Icream Cafe and the Blue Goose Cantina. A Panera, a Smoothie King and an IHOP are across the Tollway on the other side of the Parkway.

The only bars I could find that have been mentioned as catering to New Yorkers are Buffalo Joe's at 3636 Frankford Road, home of the local Giants fan club, about halfway between the stadium and downtown Dallas; and Humperdinks at 6050 Greenville Avenue, home of Metroplex Jets fans, a little closer to downtown. The Cape Buffalo Grille, in the northern suburb of Addison, was once described as a home for local Giants fans, and as "a lifesaver for people from New York and New Jersey"; however, it has been permanently closed.

If, on a later trip to Dallas, you want to watch your favorite European team, you can do so at the following locations:

* Arsenal, Liverpool: The Londoner, 14930 Midway Road, Addison. From Union Station, DART Red Line to Forest Lane Station, then transfer to Bus 488.

* Manchester United: Vickery Park, 2810 N. Henderson Avenue. Blue Line to Mockingbird Station, then transfer to Bus 24.

* Manchester City: The British Lion, 5454 Main Street, Frisco, 2 blocks west of Toyota Stadium. Not reachable by public transit.

* Tottenham, Celtic and Bayern Munich: Trinity Hall, 5321 E. Mockingbird Lane, just off the SMU campus. Blue Line to Mockingbird Station.

* Chelsea: British Beverage Company, 2800 Routh Street. Bus 183 to Pearl & McKinney, then a 12- minute walk.

* Newcastle: The Dubliner, 2818 Greenville Avenue. Possible to get within a half-hour walk of it by public transportation, better to drive.

* West Ham: McSwiggan's Irish Pub, 6910 Windhaven Pkwy., The Colony. Possible to get within a half-hour walk of it by public transportation, better to drive.

* Barcelona: Rugby House Pub, 8604 Preston Road in Plano. Possible to get within a half-hour walk of it by public transportation, better to drive.

* Real Madrid: Si Tapas Restaurant, 2207 Allen Street. Blue Line to City Place/Uptown West, then transfer to Bus 36 to Woodall Rogers at Allen.

If you don't see your favorite club mentioned, your best bet is probably Trinity Hall -- but, as I said, it's the local Tottenham fans' pub, and do you really want to be around those cunts?

Sidelights. Despite their new rapid-rail system, Dallas is almost entirely a car-friendly, everything-else-unfriendly city. Actually, it's not that friendly at all. It's a city for oil companies, for banks, for insurance companies, things normal Americans tend to hate. As one Houston native once put it, "Dallas is not in Texas."

In fact, most Texans, especially people from Fort Worth (and, to a slightly lesser extent, those from Houston) seem to think of Dallas the way the rest of America thinks of New York: They hate it, and they think that it represents all that is bad about their homeland. Until, that is, they need a win. Or money. But there are some sites that may be worth visiting.

Globe Life Park, home of the Texas Rangers baseball team, is 17 miles west of downtown in Dallas, and 18 miles east of downtown Fort Worth, about halfway between. Arlington is in Fort Worth's Tarrant County, not Dallas County. The official address is 1000 Ballpark Way, off Exit 29 on the Landry Freeway. It sits right between Six Flags and the new Cowboys stadium (now named AT&T Stadium).
Globe Life Park, with Jerry Jones' Death Star in the background

Across Legends Way from the ballpark is a parking lot where the original home of the Rangers, Arlington Stadium, stood from 1965 to 1993. It was a minor-league park called Turnpike Stadium, built in 1965 for the Texas League's Dallas-Fort Worth Spurs, before the announcement of the move of the team led to its expansion for the 1972 season.

Dallas won Texas League (Double-A) Pennants in 1926, 1929, 1941, 1946 and 1953. They played at Burnett Field, which opened in 1924, and was abandoned after the Dallas Rangers and the Fort Worth Cats merged to become the Spurs in 1965. Currently, it's a vacant lot. 1500 E. Jefferson Blvd. at Colorado Blvd. Bus 011.

The Cats won TL Pennants in 1895, 1905, 1906, 1920, 1921, 1922, 1923, 1924, 1925, 1930, 1937, 1939 and 1948. Those 6 straight Pennants in the Twenties became a pipeline of stars for the St. Louis Cardinals, and the 1930 Pennant featured Dizzy Dean and a few other future members of the Cards' 1930s "Gashouse Gang."

The Cats played at LaGrave Field, the first version of which opened in 1900, and was replaced in 1926, again after a fire in 1949, and one more time in 2002, as a new Fort Worth Cats team began play in an independent league. 301 NE 6th Street. Trinity Railway Express to Fort Worth Intermodal Transit Center, then Number 1 bus.

One more baseball-themed place in Texas that might interest a Yankee Fan: Due to his cancer treatments and liver transplant, Mickey Mantle, who lived in Dallas during the off-seasons and after his baseball career, spent the end of his life at the Baylor University Medical Center. 3501 Junius Street at Gaston Avenue. Bus 019.

Merlyn Mantle died in 2009, and while it can be presumed that Mickey's surviving sons, Danny and David, inherited his memorabilia, I don't know what happened to their house, which (I've been led to believe) was in a gated community and probably not accessible to the public anyway; so even if I could find the address, I wouldn't list it here. (For all I know, one or both sons may live there, and I've heard that one of them -- Danny, I think -- is a Tea Party flake, and even if he wasn't, the family shouldn't be disturbed just because you're a Yankee Fan and their father was one of the Yankees.)

If you truly wish to pay your respects to this baseball legend: Mickey, Merlyn, and their sons Mickey Jr. and Billy are laid to rest at Sparkman-Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery. Also buried there are Tom Landry, tennis star Maureen Connolly, oil baron H.L. Hunt, Senator John Tower, Governor and Senator W. Lee "Pappy" O'Daniel, bluesman Freddie King, actress Greer Garson and Mary Kay Cosmetics founder Mary Kay Ash. 7405 West Northwest Highway at Durham Street. Red Line to Park Lane station, then 428 Bus to the cemetery.

AT&T Stadium, the new home of the Cowboys (opening in 2009), is close to Globe Life Park; in fact, it’s 7/10ths of a mile. You could walk between them. If you don't mind losing 5 pounds of water weight in the Texas heat. The official address is 925 N. Collins Street, and the Cowboys offer tours of this Texas-sized facility, which will make the new Yankee Stadium seem sensible by comparison.

It has now hosted a Super Bowl, an NCAA Final Four (in 2014, Connecticut over Kentucky), some major prizefights and concerts (including Texas native George Strait opening the stadium with Reba McIntire, and recently holding the final show of his "farewell tour" there), and the biggest crowd ever to attend a basketball game, 108,713, at the 2010 NBA All-Star Game. While the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City hosted a larger regular-season crowd, the biggest crowd ever to see an NFL game on American soil was the first regular-season game there, the Cowboys and the Giants (Lawrence Tynes winning it for the G-Men with a last-second field goal), 105,121.

It hosts several special college football games: The annual Cotton Bowl Classic, the annual Cowboys Classic, the annual Arkansas-Texas A&M game, the Big 12 Championship, and, on January 12 of next year, it will host the first National Championship game in college football's playoff era.

Mexico's national soccer team has now played there 5 times -- the U.S. team, only once (a CONCACAF Gold Cup win over Honduras in 2013). Mexican clubs Club America and San Luis, and European giants Chelsea and Barcelona have also played there.

Don’t bother looking for the former home of the Cowboys, Texas Stadium, because "the Hole Bowl" was demolished in 2010. If you must, the address was 2401 E. Airport Freeway, in Irving. The U.S. soccer team played there once, a 1991 loss to Costa Rica. The North American Soccer League's Dallas Tornado played most of its home games there, featuring native son Kyle Rote Jr., son of the SMU grad who played for the Giants in the 1950s.

The Cowboys' 1st home, from 1960 to 1970, was the Cotton Bowl, which also hosted the Cotton Bowl game from 1937 to 2009, after which it was moved to AT&T Stadium. It also hosted some (but not all) home games of Southern Methodist University between 1932 and 2000, the Tornado in their 1967 and 1968 seasons, the Burn/FCD from 1996 to 2005, some games of soccer’s 1994 World Cup, and 7 U.S. soccer games, most recently a draw to Mexico in 2004.

But it's old, opening in 1930, and the only thing that's still held there is the annual "Red River Rivalry" game between the Universities of Texas and Oklahoma, every 1st Saturday in October, and that's only because that’s the weekend when the Texas State Fair is held, as the stadium is in Fair Park. (Just look for the statue of "Big Tex" -- you can't miss him.) While it doesn't seem fair that Oklahoma's visit to play Texas should be called a "neutral site" if it’s in the State of Texas, the fact remains that each school gets half the tickets, and it's actually slightly closer to OU's campus in Norman, 191 miles, than it is from UT’s in Austin, 197 miles. The address is 3750 The Midway.

Next-door is the African-American Museum of Dallas. 1300 Robert B. Cullum Blvd., in the Fair Park section of south Dallas. Bus 012 or 026, or Green Line light rail to Fair Park station. Be advised that this is generally considered to be a high-crime area of Dallas.

The NBA’s Dallas Mavericks and the NHL's Dallas Stars play at the American Airlines Center, or the AAC. Not to be confused with the American Airlines Arena in Miami (which was really confusing when the Mavs played the Heat in the 2006 and 2011 NBA Finals), it looks like a cross between a rodeo barn and an airplane hangar. 2500 Victory Avenue in the Victory Park neighborhood, north of downtown. Bus 052 or Green Line to Victory station.

Before the AAC opened in 2001, both teams played at the Reunion Arena. This building hosted the 1984 Republican Convention, where Ronald Reagan was nominated for a 2nd term as President. To New York Tri-State Area fans, it is probably best remembered as the place where Jason Arnott's double-overtime goal won Game 6 and gave the New Jersey Devils the 2000 Stanley Cup over the defending Champion Stars. The 1986 NCAA Final Four, won by Louisville over Duke, was held there.

It was demolished in November 2009, 5 months before Texas Stadium was imploded. The arena didn't even get to celebrate a 30th Anniversary. 777 Sports Street at Houston Viaduct, downtown, a 10-minute walk from Union Station.

The Dallas Sportatorium was built in 1935 to host professional wrestling, burned down in 1953 (legend has it that it was arson by a rival promoter), was rebuilt as a 4,500-seat venue, and continued to host wrestling even as it was replaced by larger arenas and fell into a rat-infested, crumbling decline, before a 2001 fire (this one was likely the result of the neglect, rather than arson) finally led to its 2003 demolition. Elvis Presley sang there early in his career, on April 16, May 29, June 18 and September 3, 1955. The site is now vacant. 1000 S. Industrial Blvd. at Cadiz Street, just south of downtown.

The Dallas Memorial Auditorium opened in 1957, and hosted some games of the ABA's Dallas Chaparrals games. The Beatles played there on September 18, 1964. Elvis sang there on November 13, 1971; June 6, 1975; and December 28, 1976. It is now part of the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, named for Texas' 1st female U.S. Senator. 650 S. Griffin Street, downtown.

Elvis also sang in Fort Worth, at the Tarrant County Convention Center, now the Fort Worth Convention Center, on June 18, 1972; June 15 and 16, 1974; and June 3 and July 3, 1976. 1201 Houston Street. A short walk from the Fort Worth Intermodal Transportation Center.

If there’s 2 non-sports things the average American knows about Dallas, it's that the city is where U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963, and where Ewing Oil President J.R. Ewing was shot on March 21, 1980. Elm, Main and Commerce Streets merge to go over railroad tracks near Union Station, and then go under Interstate 35E, the Stemmons Freeway – that’s the "triple underpass" so often mentioned in accounts of the JFK assassination.

The former Texas School Book Depository, now named The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, is at the northwest corner of Elm & Houston Streets, while the "grassy knoll" is to the north of Elm, and the west of the Depository. Like Ford’s Theater, where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865, and the area surrounding it in Washington, the area around Dealey Plaza is, structurally speaking, all but unchanged from the time the President in question was gunned down, an oddity in Dallas, where newer construction always seems to be happening.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy was shot in downtown Dallas and died, while John Ross Ewing Jr. was shot in downtown Dallas and lived. Where’s the justice in that? J.R. was shot in his office at Ewing Oil’s headquarters, which, in the memorable opening sequence of Dallas, was in the real-life Renaissance Tower, at 1201 Elm Street, Dallas' tallest building from 1974 to 1985. In real life, it's the headquarters for Neiman Marcus. Bank of America Plaza, on Elm at Griffith Street, is now the tallest building in Dallas, at 921 feet, although not the tallest in Texas (there’s 2 in Houston that are taller).

The real Southfork Ranch is at 3700 Hogge Drive (that’s pronounced "Hoag") in Parker, 28 miles northeast of the city. (Again, you’ll need a car.) It’s not nearly as old as the Ewing family's fictional history would suggest: It was built in 1970. It’s now a conference center, and like the replica of the Ponderosa Ranch that Lorne Greene had built to look like his TV home on Bonanza, it is designed to resemble the Ewing family home as seen on both the original 1978-91 series and the 2012-present revival. It is open to tours, for an admission fee of $9.50.

Dallas values bigness, but unless you count Southfork and Dealey Plaza, it isn't big on museums. The best known is the Dallas Museum of Art, downtown at 1717 N. Harwood Street at Flora Street. Nearby is the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, named for ol' H. Ross himself, at 2201 N. Field Street at Broom Street.

The Dallas area is also home to 2 major football-playing colleges: Southern Methodist University in north Dallas, which, as alma mater of Laura Bush, was chosen as the site of the George W. Bush Presidential Library (now open); and Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. The Bush Library is at 2943 SMU Blvd. & North Central Expressway, a 5-minute walk from Ownby Stadium, Moody Coliseum, and the university bookstore, which, like so many university bookstores, is a Barnes & Noble (not named for Dallas character Cliff Barnes). Blue or Red Line to Mockingbird Station.

SMU is also home to Moody Coliseum, home court of their basketball team. The Dallas Chaparrals played ABA games there from 1967 until 1973, when they became the San Antonio Spurs. 6024 Airline Road.

SMU has produced players like Doak Walker, Forrest Gregg, Dandy Don Meredith, and the "Pony Express" backfield of Eric Dickerson and Craig James (both now TV-network studio analysts), while TCU has produced Slingin' Sammy Baugh, Jim Swink and Bob Lilly. Both schools have had their highs and their lows, and following their 1987 "death penalty" (for committing recruiting violations while already on probation), and their return to play in 1989 under Gregg as coach, SMU are now what college basketball fans would call a "mid-major" school. Ironically, TCU, normally the less lucky of the schools, seriously challenged for the 2009 and 2010 National Championships, but their own "mid-major" schedule doomed them in that regard. TCU's Amon G. Carter Stadium hosted the U.S. soccer team's 1988 loss to Ecuador.

Aside from Dallas, TV shows that have shot in, or been set in, the Dallas area include Walker, Texas Ranger, Prison Break, the new series Queen of the South (based on a Mexican telenovela), and the ridiculous, short-lived ABC nighttime soap GCB (which stood for "Good Christian Bitches").

Movies about, or involving, the JFK assassination usually have to shoot in Dallas: The 1983 NBC miniseries Kennedy with Martin Sheen, JFK, Love Field, Ruby, Watchmen, LBJ (with Bryan Cranston as the Texan who succeeded him), and the Hulu series 11/22/63, based on Stephen King's fantasy novel.

Other movies shot in the city include the 1962 version of State Fair, Bonnie and Clyde, Mars Needs Women, Logan's Run, The Lathe of Heaven, Silkwood, Tender Mercies, Places in the Heart, The Trip to Bountiful, Born on the Fourth of July, Problem Child, My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys (not about the football team), The Apostle, Boys Don't Cry, Dallas Buyers Club, the football films Necessary Roughness and Any Given Sunday, and, of course, the porno classic Debbie Does Dallas. However, it might surprise you to know that RoboCop, which was set in a Detroit that was purported to be in a near future when the city was even worse than it then was in real life, was filmed in Dallas. What does that say about Dallas? (To me, it says, "This is another reason why Dallas sucks.")

*

Texas is a weird place, and the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex is no exception. But it's a pretty good area for sports, and it even seems to have embraced this other kind of "football" between seasons of the football they know.

If you can afford it, and can find a way to get from downtown Dallas to Frisco, go, and help your fellow Metro fans make FC Dallas feel like they’re in New York, or New Jersey. But remember to avoid using the oft-heard phrase "Dallas sucks." In this case, keep the truth to yourself!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Nothing Goes Right for Yankees In Arlington

The Yankees got great pitching and just enough runs in their game away to the Texas Rangers on Monday night. They got neither at Globe Life Park in Arlington last night.

Luis Severino was only down 1-0 entering the bottom of the 3rd, but then he imploded, allowing 5 runs. Joe Girardi didn't have to consider whether to relieve him after 6 innings: He was gone after the 3rd. The bullpen was no better: Ivan Nova, apparently now the "long man," allowed 3 runs in 4 innings, and Chasen Shreve allowed a run in the 8th.

Why is Shreve even in the major leagues? When people say, "Expansion has diluted pitching, to the point where there are players who just don't belong in the major leagues," Shreve is one of the guys they're talking about.

The only Yankee run came on an RBI single by Mark Teixeira in the 7th. He and Ronald Torreyes each got 2 hits. Brett Gardner and Carlos Beltran each had 1 hit, and Gardner added a walk.

That was it: 7 baserunners. Jacoby Ellsbury: 0-for-4. Brian McCann: 0-for-4. Starlin Castro: 0-for-3. Dustin Ackley: 0-for-3. Didi Gregorius: 0-for-3. Alex Rodriguez got the night off, so we can't blame him.

Rangers 10, Yankees 1. Nothing went right. WP: A.J. Griffin (3-0). No save. LP: Severino (0-3, and he hasn't even looked good in any of the 3).

The series concludes tonight. CC Sabathia starts against Martin Perez. Then a travel day, and then we head into the belly of the beast to play The Scum at Scumway Park.

*

Days until the New York Red Bulls play again: 1, tomorrow night at 7:00, home to FC Dallas.

Days until the 1st Yankees-Red Sox series of the season: 2, this Friday night, at Fenway Park.

Days until The Arsenal play again: 3, this Saturday, 12:30 PM our time, home to East Anglia club Norwich City.

Days until the Red Bulls play a "derby": 16, on Friday night, May 13, against D.C. United (a.k.a. The DC Scum), at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in Washington. They next play New York City F.C. (a.k.a. Man City NYC and The Homeless) on Saturday afternoon, May 21, at Yankee Stadium II. They next play the Philadelphia Union on Sunday night, July 17, at Talen Energy Stadium (formerly PPL Park) in Chester, Pennsylvania. And the next game against the New England Revolution is on Sunday night, August 28, at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey.

Days until the 2016 Copa America kicks off in the U.S.: 
37, on Friday, June 3. Just 5 weeks.

Days until Euro 2016 kicks off in France: 44, on Friday, June 10. Just 6 weeks.

Days until Arsenal play as the opponents in the 2016 Major League Soccer All-Star Game: 
92, on Thursday night, July 28, at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, California, home of the San Jose Earthquakes. Just 3 months. Three days later, Arsenal will play C.D. Guadalajara, a.k.a. Chivas, one of the biggest clubs in Mexico, at the StubHub Center, home of the Los Angeles Galaxy, in Carson, California. This will be just 2 years after The Arsenal came to America to play the Red Bulls in New Jersey. I went to that one. I don't think I'll be going to either of these: Even if I could get a game ticket, paying for a plane ticket would be difficult.

Days until the 2016 Olympics begin in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: 1
00, on Friday, August 5.

Days until the next North London Derby: Unknown, but at least 115. The 2016-17 Premier League season is likely to open on Saturday, August 20, but it's unlikely that Arsenal will play Tottenham (a.k.a. The Scum) in the opener.
 
Days until Rutgers University plays football again: 
129, on Saturday, September 3, away to the University of Washington, in Seattle. A little over 4 months.

Days until East Brunswick High School plays football again: 135, on Friday, September 9, probably away, since, while the 2016 schedule hasn't been released yet, the Big Green opened last season at home.


Days until the New Jersey Devils play another local rival: Unknown, but at least 
163. The new season is likely to being on the 1st Friday in October, which would be October 7. But they're not likely to play either the New York Rangers (a.k.a. The Scum), the New York Islanders or the Philadelphia Flyers (a.k.a. The Philth) in the opener.

Days until the next East Brunswick-Old Bridge Thanksgiving game: 
201, on Thursday morning, November 24, at the purple shit pit on Route 9. Under 5 months.

Days until Alex Rodriguez' alleged retirement becomes official: 
552, as his contract runs out on October 31, 2017. Or at the conclusion of the 2017 World Series, if the Yankees make it. Whichever comes last. A little over 18 months.

Days until the 2018 World Cup kicks off in Russia: 
778, on June 14, 2018. Under 26 months. Of course, at the rate manager Jurgen Klinsmann is going, the U.S. team might not even qualify.