Archive for the ‘sports’ Category

Writing A Book Part 1: Idea to Execution

The 21-month period ended this Saturday with the publication of my latest book, Terry Bradshaw: From Super Bowl Champion to Television Personality. The long process appeared to be common with certain kinds of non-fiction publications.

Things started last January when an editor for a new series of books on sports idols who became popular culture icons asked me if I wanted to submit a book proposal. Having had my book, The Bullets, The Wizards and Washington, D.C. Basketball published with Rowman and Littlefield, I knew something about the steps they sought in their book proposals. The difficult part was figuring out whom I would write about.

At first, the names that popped into my head were female tennis stars, specifically Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova. Each had played a role in furthering women’s roles on the tennis circuit, but they also were well known for their sexual orientation and became major figures in announcing. After thinking twice about them, I focused on Jim Brown. The former NFL star running back had a long career as a movie actor in Hollywood. He stood as a player in the Civil Rights Movement and had also voiced his opinion on matters in politics and culture over the years.

Then, the set of struggles over the Confederate flag in South Carolina and on the car used in the television show The Dukes of Hazzard happened. I read a wide-range of articles and felt there was a lot about the American South that I did not know. I realized that Terry Bradshaw had as rich a career in popular culture as in sports so I looked into him as a possibility for a book. I wrote a chapter on Bradshaw acting in 1970s Burt Reynolds movies, polished it up after my friend Brian gave it a great read, and shipped it off to the publisher along with the book proposal.

With university and some academic presses, after the editor completes a review, he/she submits these documents to people with expertise in the field for comments. Rowman and Littlefield have “reading boards” with librarians who offer their assessment, including whether they would have an interest in buying the book upon completion. The group gave the possible Bradshaw book the nod in January 2016. I received a contract giving me an October 2016 completion date. I doubted that I could complete the ten chapters in this time frame and sought a co-writer. This time I could not find one. Fortunately, Brian volunteered to read chapters, then raise questions and identify gaps.

As always I started with researching the subject. Bradshaw has written four books about his life and they proved very helpful. These books featured stories that I could use later and people and places that I knew had to be corroborated in other books, magazines and newspapers. Bradshaw’s books showed why he was a popular culture icon. His football career covered the 1970s and 80s. He served as a color commentator for games during the 1980s, and has been a studio analyst for professional football on two networks for 27 years. He has sang country western and gospel music, made movies and appeared on television shows in the 1970s and the 1990s and 2000s. Has has made commercials for nearly every type of product.

The other books ranged from fan and journalist books on football and the Pittsburgh Steelers to academic works on  of the 1970s.  Sports reporter Gary Pomerantz’s Their Life’s Work: The Brotherhood of the 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers, Then and Now provided details about the team and the individual men. Several figures from the team wrote autobiographies, including the team’s President Dan Rooney through linebacker Andy Russell and announcer Myron Cope. All these works provided context and stories about the team and Bradshaw’s personality. A few scholars wrote about on road movies and Southern movies during the 1970s as well the depictions of Southerners in popular literature and television which offered perspectives on imagery of Southern white males, specifically the Good Old Boy.

This information got me off to a great start but I noticed great gaps about his childhood and days working in television. I used resources like the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame to identify people who wrote about or played with Bradshaw while he played high school and college football. Thankfully I discovered that people from the area proved very nice and willing to help. Doug Ireland, the head of the Hall of Fame, gave me several names, and they remarkably included Bradshaw’s old high school football coach. The coach provided details about Shreveport, the school system, the football program, and Terry’s personality. I also spoke with the journalists they had told me about and they had grown up with Terry so they could provide some childhood insight as well as high school and college football stories. Again, my great fortune to meet open and straight-shooting people.

I figured finding out about television broadcasting would be more difficult. There are small cadres of people working in the field and reputations are guarded closely. I tried to reach out to a few groups including the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame.  I left messages and heard nothing back. Some articles in sports weeklies such as Sports Illustrated, featured a few articles about individuals who worked with Terry Bradshaw while he was with CBS Sports. Through various searches I found information for sports producer Terry O’Neil. I re-read the articles, read his autobiography and prepared a list of questions. He proved very helpful and insightful about the work of a color commentator and studio host and analyst for the NFL.

Other searches for producers and on-air talent did give me a few email addresses and telephone numbers. Most significantly I got to talk with Bradshaw’s broadcasting partner for a few years Verne Lundquist. He proved generous with his time, providing responses to my questions but also offering stories.

Unfortunately, other well-known people I called failed to return my messages. Getting in touch with players I figured would be a challenge. When I wrote the basketball book I received a list with contact information for some former players. This helped a lot and I conducted quite a few interviews, particularly with players who were active decades ago. A few active general managers, assistant coaches, scouts and former players spoke with me. But one former player gave me particular insight into why many would not discuss their past or other players. He said, “This is a fraternity. If you want to get a chance at a job in the league, you have to keep things tight.”

While that stunk, I revealed in the discovery of how much simpler researching history has become because of the digitization of many magazines and newspapers. Before starting specific searches, I consulted the yearly Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature to find any article published about Terry Bradshaw, the Steelers during the 1960s and 1970s, and items related to NFL quarterbacks. I then found many of these articles through the specific search engines for the magazines, including Sports Illustrated and Time, People and Variety. Most fortunately, people with specific interests such as in radio, or in movies, have digitized some special interest magazines, such as Broadcasting and Cash Box, which contained significant insight into Bradshaw’s television, movie and music careers.

The number of newspapers that have been digitized is amazing. Thankfully I live in Washington, DC and have the Library of Congress as a resource. They have access to the digitized versions of the largest newspapers, including Washington Post, New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe and the Atlanta Constitution. They also have services providing access to African-American newspapers and to small-town and rural newspapers as well. The city’s library has a service that provides access to historical newspapers across the United States. Most of these newspapers start from the 1990s. These are incredibly valuable resources, especially when you are interested in knowing what reactions reviewers, critics and the general public had to a person’s artistic and other activities.

I spent weeks printing or copying the details from thousands of articles covering Bradshaw’s playing career through his years on Fox’s NFL Pregame shows, which have changed names and contributors over the years. Among those with regular appearances on the show are comedians Jimmy Kimmel and Frank Caliendo. I organized these materials chronologically in individual chapters based upon Bradshaw’s activity: childhood, football player, singing, acting and commercials, studio analyst. I drafted a chapter every three weeks and received pretty quick reads from my friend.

While Brian read the chapter 9 and the conclusion I searched for photographs. I asked several of the people whom I interviewed if they had a photograph and thought that two would send a copy. I consulted with Louisiana State University in Shreveport and discovered that they had digital images of the Woodlawn High School newspaper. This included a few photographs of Terry Bradshaw. I called the Louisiana Technical University’s Archives and they had a large collection that did not yield what I hoped to put in the book. The Pittsburgh area newspapers and magazines had a couple of excellent photographs. However, I ended up only using a bird’s-eye view of the new stadium (Three Rivers Stadium in 1970). The problem with the others was that they had NFL depicted on them and the photo archivist stated that I might have to pay the league for the rights to use them in the book.

I am not sure about the legal issues but I heard something similar when I called the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Library and the Warner Brothers’ Library. Each had photographs of Bradshaw in the movies, specifically Hooper and The Cannonball Run. Unfortunately, each photograph cost more than I planned on spending and they mentioned that I was responsible for getting the rights clearances. The expectation was that I would contact the person in the image and get their consent to publish the photograph in the book. Way too much to do and quite unlikely to be granted if the person isn’t able to exert control over how the image is used.

After creating a list of the photographs and indicating their location in the book, I shipped these documents, copies of the photographs and the nine chapters to the publisher in late September 2016. The book editor read the manuscript and shipped me back copies within a month with questions to clarify points or offer suggestions about words or sentence structure. The largest comments focused on the size of the book. The contract called for 100,000 words and this I delivered. However, the book ran 400 pages which was too costly for production. The editor asked me to reduce the context surrounding everything from the economy of the South in the 1960s through the attempts of athletes to make music and star in movies. I could also make some small changes in word choices, spelling or other items. Another big decision involved splitting up the chapter on the Steelers’ four championships in two because of its size.

The first round of editing ended in December. The copy editors and printing staff at Rowman & Littlefield took over. We looked at a couple of possible cover images and I offered my opinion.They also asked me if I knew of people in the field of sports history and popular culture who would be interested in reading the first draft and providing an endorsement. I belong to a few groups of academics but am not very well connected so I wasn’t sure whom to ask. I contacted the people who initially got me involved, the series editors, and asked them if they had any recommendations. With me sending out a few requests and the editors looking, we arrived at finding three people who offered to read the draft. To my amazement, all submitted raves for the book. I felt great.

I received this first version of the book that the three readers got in early April 2017. This gave me the chance to see what the book will look like and determine if anything generated heartburn and needed changing. Every paragraph received a numerical label in brackets representing the chapter and when the paragraph appears, for example [2.3]. I understood the purpose of the numbers in brackets. Instead of using page numbers, the published wanted me to place these numbers in the book’s index. I had 2-3 weeks to place these numbers in the index next to the persons, places, and things that I thought worth tracking. After starting the indexing of chapter one, I realized that several people and organizations would need many subheadings to indicate the different activities and events they participated in. As I finished the second chapter I felt exhausted and another 250 pages remained. I decided in order to meet this deadline I needed to hire someone. A neighbor had some time so she took over the indexing of the two non-football focused chapters because she is not a big fan of the sport. She did a fantastic job and helped me with another chapter as well. I emailed the completed index to the publisher.

A month later, the book editor at Rowman & Littlefield emailed me with the final copy of the book’s cover. A week later I received a second  copy of the final draft of the book, including the index. They also sent an author’s questionnaire and a document I filled in with places that I thought would be potential locations for a book review. The press’s small publicity department generally sent out copies of the book to four of the outlets the review books for libraries. The publications are Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Choice and Booklist. I knew a few places from previous books that I’ve published, such as Journal of Sports History and Journal of Popular Culture. I researched for other outlets, particularly websites, and forwarded a list to the publisher.

In July, almost two months before the book came out, the first review emerged. The Publishers Weekly reviewer thought highly of the book and gave it a great review. My editor sent me notice of it. Now I became curious what else might come out. I noticed this blurb from Library Journal:

FIRST AND TEN: TOP FOOTBALL TITLES FOR SUMMER AND FALL

Abrams, Brett L. Terry Bradshaw: From Super Bowl Champion to Television Personality. Rowman & Littlefield. (Sports Icons & Issues in Pop Culture). Sept. 2017. 304p. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9781442277632. $40. SPORTS

Arians, Bruce with Lars Anderson. The Quarterback Whisperer: How To Build an Elite NFL Quarterback. Hachette. Jul. 2017. 256p. ISBN 9780316432269. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780316432252. SPORTS

**Bell, Upton & Ron Borges. Present at the Creation: My Life in the NFL and the Rise of America’s Game. Univ. of Nebraska. Nov. 2017. 400p. illus. ISBN 9781496200396. $24.95. SPORTS

Carlson, Chuck. Ice Bowl ’67: The Packers, the Cowboys, and the Game That Changed the NFL. Sports Pub. Oct. 2017. 224p. illus. ISBN 9781683580973. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781683581017. SPORTS

George, Thomas. Blitzed: Why NFL Teams Gamble on Starting Rookie Quarterbacks. Sports Pub. Sept. 2017. 208p. notes. ISBN 9781683581079. $24.99. SPORTS

Myers, Gary. My First Coach: Inspiring Stories of NFL Quarterbacks and Their Dads. Grand Central. Aug. 2017. 288p. index. ISBN 9781455598465. $28; ebk. ISBN 9781455598472. SPORTS

**Oriard, Michael. The Art of Football: The Early Game in the Golden Age of Illustration. Univ. of Nebraska. Aug. 2017. 280p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780803290693. $39.95. SPORTS

Savage, Phil with Ray Glier. 4th and Goal Every Day: Alabama’s Relentless Pursuit of Perfection. St. Martin’s. Aug. 2017. 336p. index. ISBN 9781250130808. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250130815. SPORTS

Stewart, Wayne. Remembering the Stars of the NFL Glory Years: An Inside Look at the Golden Age of Football. Rowman & Littlefield. Jul. 2017. 238p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781442274235. $38; ebk. ISBN 9781442274242. SPORTS

**Zimmerman, Paul. Dr. Z: The Lost Memoirs of an Irreverent Football Writer. Triumph. Sept. 2017. 304p. ed. by Peter King. ISBN 9781629374642. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9781633198487. SPORTS

The R&L publicist said that indicated a full review of the book would be coming in the near future. It did and the person called it a unique take on Bradshaw’s life and career. The R&L editor thought the reviews were outstanding.

Anybody who knows me immediately realizes that I start combing through the Internet to see what else would appear. The book did not get reviewed in the other two locations. The hard work of marketing and publicity remained ahead to be discussed in the second part of this chronicle.

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Battle of the Sexes Movie

It was great going with members of the Capital Tennis Association to see the movie Battle of the Sexes this Saturday evening. As a gay lesbian and bi group of tennis people, CTA members had multiple interests in the movie’s topics. We knew the people, could enjoy the sport and identify with the character’s same-sex interest. Many of the actors playing small roles, including Sarah Silverman and Alan Cumming, gave the movie extra gay cache. Thanks to the social director and others in the group’s leadership for organizing the two showings.

Only a few of us were old enough to have experienced the tennis match between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King when it originally occurred. Most of us recall the spectacle and our thrill over King’s victory, but I also recall the intensity of the Women’s Liberation movement and the backlash it faced from a wide-range of males in the U.S. at the time. King’s victory proved very important to the movement. The movie captures that spirit of the tennis match very well. It shows the way the professionals played the game in that era, with much serve and volley tactics, and illuminates just how much slower it seems the serves and ground strokes were, partially because of the wooden racquets and other equipment disadvantages.

The story is less successful in showing the strength of male chauvinism that existed at the time. We see the feeling embodied in Jack Kramer, who also represents the elitism of tennis that King battles against. However, he does not spout any of the highly vitriolic language and anger that came out of many male chauvinists. Intriguingly, Kramer was a key figure in the establishment of the “Open-era” of tennis which did democratize the sport to a significant degree.

Since it is a movie, it will need to combine events and things to fit into the short time span. Battle of the Sexes melds the founding of the Virginia Slims Tournament with the start of the Women’s Tennis Association which actually happened three years apart. It makes a point of showing that Kramer kicked the women who joined the WTA out of the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association. This supposedly denied the nine women of the WTA access to the Grand Slam Tournaments (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open). Such an action would have been a huge loss to the women and the sport yet the movie does not discuss it again. King and the others played in those Grand Slams so the denial seems to have not occurred.

At the conclusion, the movie provides a few lines of epilogue to show what happened to the characters afterwards. My husband and I stood agape as the closing did not mention Marilyn Barnett and her famous palimony suit against Billie Jean King in 1981. We mentioned this to the other group members and none of them had heard of the case and how much it cost Billie Jean King in endorsements. Palimony had roots in the famous Lee Marvin and Michelle Triola Marvin in 1977. Other cases include

  • Rock musician Peter Frampton was sued by Penelope J. “Penny” McCall in 1976. McCall asked for half of Frampton’s earnings during the five years that they were together. According to McCall, she gave up her job as a rock promoter and devoted herself full-time to Frampton, right at the time that he achieved superstar status. A New York judge ruled that Frampton and McCall never intended to marry each other and “never held themselves out to the public as husband and wife” and dismissed her complaint on the grounds that to act otherwise would condone adultery. The case set precedent in New York state.[8][9]
  • Tennis player Billie Jean King was sued by Marilyn Barnett in 1981.
  • Tennis player Martina Navratilova was sued by Judy Nelson in 1991.
  • In 1996, Van Cliburn was sued by former partner Thomas Zaremba for a share of his income and assets following a 17-year relationship ending in 1994. Zaremba’s palimony case was dismissed for lack of written agreement, along with claims for emotional distress and that Cliburn subjected him to the fear of AIDS through Cliburn’s alleged unprotected liaisons with third parties.[10][11]
  • In 2004, comedian Bill Maher was sued for US$9 million by his ex-girlfriend, Nancy “Coco” Johnson.[12][13][14] On May 2, 2005, a California Superior Court judge dismissed the case.[15][16][15]

The other omission was the relationship between King and Riggs after the match. After the Battle of the Sexes the two became friends and remained close until his death in 1995. King said she spoke to Riggs the day before he died, and they said “I love you” to each other.

For additional information see or see which cites Selena Roberts’ 2005 book, A Necessary Spectacle: Billie Jean King, Bobby Riggs, and the Tennis Match That Leveled the Game.

 

 

 

Will Bradshaw Read The Book?

I sent a personal letter, contacted an agent and a publicist and got a “I decline” to help from Mr. Bradshaw. I understand because he has written five books and has an author that he works with.

Hopefully, he’ll be inclined to read it.

Gays, NFL, Dogs Prevent Suicide

This is a really nice article containing a few of my favorite things: football, gays and dogs

Former NFL lineman Ryan O’Callaghan comes out in moving profile

Ryan O'Callaghan

Ryan O’Callaghan played for both the New England Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs. Jeff Taylor

 

 

 

 

 

 

Former NFL lineman Ryan O’Callaghan, who played for the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs, has come out of the closet in a moving interview for Outsports.

O’Callaghan, who spent five years in the NFL, never expected to have a post-football life. He was deeply closeted, unable to imagine living as an openly gay man. Instead of coming out or continuing to live with the pain of life in the closet, he planned to commit suicide after he retired from the game.

“I wrote a letter,” he said. “I was close.”

“If it wasn’t for some good friends, a couple of good dogs, I’d be gone,” he added. “I’m just glad there were people that were looking out for me, pushing me in the right direction to actually get help.”

He also struggled with drug addiction.

“I was abusing painkillers, no question,” he said. “It helped with the pain of the injuries, and with the pain of being gay. I just didn’t worry about being gay when I took the Vicodin. I just didn’t worry.”

Ryan O'CallaghanRyan

Ryan O’Callaghan with his dogs.

He credits a small group of people within the Chiefs organization with helping lead him to a better place, including the team’s general manager, Scott Pioli. He reassured O’Callaghan that he still had Pioli’s support, who shared that he had many gay people in his life and had previously counseled other gay NFL players.

Related: These NFL teams just became the first to sponsor a pride celebration

O’Callaghan said he hopes his coming out will show others that it is safe for them to do so as well, including some more recognizable names.

A handful of NFL players have come out after retirement, including running back Dave Kopay, cornerback Wade Davis, defensive tackle Esera Tuaolo, guard Roy Simmons, offensive tackle Kwame Harris, and running back Ray McDonald.

Defensive end Michael Sam was drafted into the NFL, by the St. Louis Rams, as an openly gay man, but was cut before the season began.

O’Callaghan recalled growing up in Redding, California, in an environment where gay people were not readily accepted.

“If you’re a gay kid and you hear someone you love say ‘fag,’ it makes you think that in their eyes you’re just a fag too,” he said. “That got to me a lot.”

But when he went home to come out to his family, he was pleasantly surprised.

“All the people I was most concerned about were fine. It was so much easier and better than I ever imagined,” he recalled.

He said he thinks the NFL is ready for an openly gay player.

“I think teams are ready. Guys just have to understand he’s gay. It doesn’t mean he wants to date you, he just wants to be your teammate,” he said. “It’s not a big deal, it’s really not.”

Related: NFL documentary profiles closeted gay player

He added that he hopes his story will lead to “someone else much higher profile coming out.”

He said he is in a much better place since coming out.

“I’m having a great time. I love life now, I absolutely love life now.”

He went to school at California and played for four years in the NFL. His career is captured here: http://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/O/OCalRy20.htm

Removing Statues — Changing Stadium Names

The officials running the city of New Orleans decided to remove the public statues of Confederate States of America figures. Mayor Mitch Landrieu and the City Council sparked both huge protests and large rallies of support. The same historic moments mean heritage to some and bondage and misery to others. The city leaders declared the statues a public nuisance and determined that the pain they inflicted outweighed the heritage they represented. The statues reminded many of their past oppression but also remind people of today’s inequality in New Orleans.

New Orleans is largely segregated. Stagnating wages and gentrification have compounded income disparity here. People in East New Orleans suffer from extremely limited economic and social opportunities and the area has not recovered from Hurricane Katrina.

In Melbourne, the tennis stadium bears the name of tennis great Margaret Court. The 74-year-old is currently a Christian pastor and has over the past several years made anti-gay statements, including personal attacks on specific players. The comments certainly represent the heritage and attitudes of a segment of the population but have also generated significant opposition and backlash. The majority of professional tennis players have made their support for same-sex marriage known.

Several interesting questions arise from this controversy. Does the Australian Tennis Federation elect to remove Court’s name from the stadium because of the public rancor and hurt she now represents? If they don’t will tennis professional elect to skip the Australian Open? Stay tuned.

Loss of a Old Pro

The Bullets, the Wizards, and Washington, DC, Basketball_cover_rev

I was fortunate enough to interview former Baltimore Bullets owner Earl Foreman for this book.

He owned the team that Dr. J started his professional career with in the early 1970s. He was very sharp and funny during the interview. He even played little games to test my knowledge. The best part of the conversation involved all the efforts he made to try and get himself a franchise in the National Basketball Association after selling his portion of the Bullets to Abe Pollin.

Foreman owned the only Washington, D.C. based American Basketball Association team and they made the playoffs.

 

I’m sure his family will miss him greatly.

NHL Forward Thinking Forward

 

Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins faced an interesting choice after receiving a tweet with a homophobic slur in it. Pete Blackburn explains what the Bruins’ left winger did.usatsi_9743954-vadapt-767-high-0

Towards the beginning of his NHL career, Brad Marchand quickly developed a reputation as being a nuisance on the ice. He established himself as an effective pest and agitator, but also was labeled as “dirty” after a few controversial hits and incidents.

In his arsenal of tactics, Marchand has been known to low-bridge, sucker punch and slew foot opponents. His trash talk game is also tremendous and relentless.

While those aspects of his game haven’t completely been eradicated, in the past few years the Bruins winger has become more recognized for his elite two-way skill. He has developed into a leader for the Boston club and, this past fall, scored the clinching goal at the World Cup of Hockey while playing on Canada’s top line alongside Sidney Crosby.

Marchand, 28, credits that growth to being older and more mature, saying his “priorities have changed” over the years. But it’s not just his on-ice play that has become more admirable.

Recently, Marchand has become somewhat of a champion for people in the LGBT community. In December, the winger was attacked on a Twitter with a homophobic slur. In a since-deleted tweet, Marchand responded to the hate by publicly shaming the person who sent the vitriolic remarks his way, saying “this derogatory statement is offensive to so many people around the world, [you’re] the kind of kid parents are ashamed of.” The response prompted the user to delete his account.

Marchand was applauded for standing up for the gay community and taking a proactive approach to silencing the hate, and ESPN’s Joe McDonald recently spoke to Marchand about the exchange.

“I want to stand up for what I believe in, and I don’t think it’s right when people say things or bash people because of their sexual orientation,” said Marchand, via ESPN. “I have friends who are in gay relationships, and I don’t think it’s right for people to be against that. Everyone is allowed to find love whatever way that is, so I felt like that was a time to say something, especially nowadays. We’re in 2017, and things are a lot different than they were 100 years ago. We’re all evolving to be equal, and that’s the way things should be.”

When asked whether or not an openly gay player would be accepted in an NHL locker room, Marchand delivered a strong vote of confidence in favor of equality.

“Guys would accept that, no question,” Marchand assured. “We’re a team in the [dressing] room and a family. It doesn’t matter what different beliefs guys have, or where they come from, or whatever the case may be. Guys would accept it. Again, in the room we’re a family. That’s the way it is on a hockey team, and that’s the way it will always be.”

There has yet to be an openly gay player in the league, though Marchand says it’s “bound to happen at some point, and when it does, it will be accepted.” The NHL has had a large number of players endorse the You Can Play campaign, which is dedicated to eradicating homophobia from sports, so it certainly appears that Marchand isn’t the only star who feels this way.

DC Basketball Book

Our book received a nice compliment in a recent blog:

 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

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

Next Thursday night, the New York Knicks visit the Washington Wizards. They will visit again on January 31. The Nets will visit on December 30 and March 24.

Before You Go. D.C. can get really hot in summer, but this will be mid-November, so that won’t be an issue. For this coming Thursday, The Washington Post is predicting the mid-60s for the afternoon, and the mid-40s for the evening. They’re also predicting a 20 percent chance of rain. You should bring a winter jacket.

Washington is in the Eastern Time Zone, so you won’t have to fiddle with your clocks, digital or otherwise.

Tickets. The Wizards averaged 17,302 fans per game last season, only about 85 percent of capacity. So getting tickets shouldn’t be a problem.

Unlike the Capitals, with whom they share the arena, ticket prices aren’t as high as the Washington Monument. Seats on the Main Concourse can be had for as little as $64, on the Club Concourse for $64, and on the Upper Concourse for as much as $63 and as little as $22.

Getting There. Getting to Washington is fairly easy. If you have a car, I recommend using it, and getting a hotel either downtown or inside the Capital Beltway, because driving in Washington is roughly (good choice of words there) as bad as driving in New York.

It’s 227 miles by road from Times Square in Midtown Manhattan to the Verizon Center in downtown Washington. If you’re not “doing the city,” but just going to the game, take the New Jersey Turnpike all the way down to the Delaware Memorial Bridge (a.k.a. the Twin Span), across the Delaware River into the State of, well, Delaware. This should take about 2 hours, not counting a rest stop.

Speaking of which, the temptation to take an alternate route (such as Exit 7A to I-195 to I-295 to the Ben Franklin Bridge) or a side trip (Exit 4, eventually leading to the Ben Franklin Bridge) to get into Pennsylvania and stop off at Pat’s Steaks in South Philly can be strong. But if you want to get from New York to Washington with making only 1 rest stop, you’re better off using the Delaware House Service Area in Christiana, between Exits 3 and 1 on the Delaware Turnpike. It’s almost exactly the halfway point between New York and Washington.

Once you get over the Twin Span – the New Jersey-bound span opened in 1951, the Delaware-bound one was added in 1968 – follow the signs carefully, as you’ll be faced with multiple ramp signs for Interstates 95, 295 and 495, as well as for US Routes 13 and 40 and State Route 9. You want I-95 South, and its signs will say “Delaware Turnpike” and “Baltimore.” You’ll pay tolls at both its eastern and western ends, and unless there’s a traffic jam, you should only be in Delaware for a maximum of 15 minutes before hitting the Maryland State Line.

At said State Line, I-95 changes from the Delaware Turnpike to the John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway, and you’ll be on it for about an hour (unless you want to make another rest stop, either the Chesapeake House or the Maryland House) and passing through Baltimore, before seeing signs for I-895 and the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel, Exit 62.

From here, you’ll pass through the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel. Take I-895 to Exit 4, and you’ll be on Maryland Route 295 South, the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. BWP exits are not numbered, but, in this case, that doesn’t matter, because you’re going to take it all the way to the end, with the exit indicating U.S. Route 50 West, which will also be New York Avenue NE. When you get to 6th Street NW, which is part of U.S. Route 1, turn left. The Verizon Center is between 6th and 7th Streets, and between F and G Streets. The official address is 601 F Street NW.

If all goes well — getting out of New York City and into downtown Baltimore okay, reasonable traffic, just the one rest stop, no trouble with your car — the whole trip should take about 4 hours.

Washington is too close to fly, just as flying from New York to Boston, Philadelphia and Baltimore, once you factor in fooling around with everything you gotta do at each airport, doesn’t really save you much time compared to driving, the bus or the train. So forget about flying from JFK, LaGuardia or Newark to Reagan National or Dulles International Airport. (John Foster Dulles was President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Secretary of State.)

The train is a very good option, if you can afford it. Washington’s Union Station is at 50 Massachusetts Avenue NE, within sight of the Capitol Building. But Amtrak is expensive. They figure, “You hate to fly, you don’t want to deal with airports, and Greyhound sucks, so we can charge whatever we want.” New York to Washington will run you $318 round-trip on a standard Northeast Regional. That’s before you add anything like Business Class or, God forbid, Amtrak’s overmicrowaved food. Still, it’s less than 3 hours if you take the Acela Express, and 3 hours and 40 minutes if you take a regular Northeast Corridor train.

Union Station

Word of warning: The Knicks-Wiz game starts at 7:00, so it will end at around 9:20 or 9:30. The last train of the night back to Newark leaves Union Station at 10:10 PM (arriving at Newark Penn at 1:32 AM), so you’ll have a little over half an hour to get from the arena to the station. This is possible by Metro or taxi, but it doesn’t leave much margin for error — especially if the game goes to overtime or, with the Devils’ luck, a shootout. If you can afford an overnight stay at a hotel (and D.C. hotels are expensive, a bit cheaper in the nearby suburbs), you should get one, and leave on Sunday instead.

Greyhound has rectified a longtime problem. They now use the parking deck behind Union Station as their Washington terminal, instead of the one they built 6 blocks away (and thus 6 blocks from the nearest Metro station), in the ghetto, back in the late 1960s. So neither safety nor aesthetics will be an issue any longer. Round-trip fare on Greyhound from Port Authority in New York to Union Station in Washington can be as high as $80, but you can get it for as little as $32 on advanced purchase. It takes about 4 1/2 hours, and usually includes a rest stop about halfway, either on the New Jersey Turnpike in South Jersey or on the Delaware Turnpike.

Again, the game will end around 9:30 PM. If you took Amtrak down, the last train of the night leaves Union Station at 10:10 PM. There’s a 10:00 PM Greyhound back to Port Authority, but it doesn’t get in until 2:20 AM; and an 11:15 that arrives at 4:15 AM. Have you ever been in Port Authority before sunrise? I have, and it’s pretty depressing. Better to stay over, if you can afford it.

Once In the City. Founded in 1800, and usually referred to as “The National City” in its early days, and “Washington City” in the 19th Century, the city was named, of course, for George Washington, although its “Georgetown” neighborhood was named for his predecessor as our commander-in-chief, King George III of England.

The name of its “state,” the District of Columbia, comes from Columbia, a historical and poetic name used for America, which was accepted as the nation’s female personification until the early 20th Century (as opposed to its male personification, Uncle Sam), when the Statue of Liberty began to take its place in the public consciousness. “Columbia” was derived from the man who “discovered America,” Christopher Columbus, and places throughout the Western Hemisphere — from the capitals of Ohio and South Carolina to the river that separates Washington State from Oregon, from the Ivy League university in Manhattan to the South American nation that produces coffee and cocaine, are named for him, albeit with different spellings.

Like a lot of cities, Washington suffered from “white flight,” so that, while the population within the city limits has seriously shrunk, from 800,000 in 1950 to 650,000 today; the metro area went from 2.9 million to double that, 5.8 million. As a result, the roads leading into the District, and the one going around it, the Capital Beltway, Interstate 495, are rammed with cars. Finally, someone wised up and said, “Let’s build a subway,” and in 1976, the Metro opened.

That metropolitan growth was boosted by the Maryland and Virginia suburbs building housing and shopping areas for federal-government workers. And, perhaps more than any other metro area, the poor blacks who once lived in the city have reached the middle class and built their own communities (especially to the east, in Maryland’s Prince Georges County, which includes Landover). The metro area now has nearly 6 million residents — and that’s not including the metro area of nearby Baltimore, which would boost it to nearly 8.5 million and make it the 4th-largest “market” in the country, behind New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, slightly ahead of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Lots of people from the District and its Maryland and Virginia suburbs went up the Parkway to Baltimore to see the Orioles during the District’s 1972-2004 baseball interregnum. However, during the NFL interregnum between Robert Irsay’s theft of the Colts in 1984 and the arrival of the Ravens in 1996, Baltimore never accepted the Redskins as their team, despite 2 Super Bowl wins in that period.

Before you get to Union Station, read the Washington Post and the Baltimore Sun online — or, if you want to go old-school, buy paper copies of them at the Station. The Post is a great paper with a very good sports section, and in just 6 seasons (now into a 7th) has covered the Nats very well, despite the 1972-2004 era when D.C. had no MLB team of its own. As a holdover from that era, it still covers the Orioles well. The Sun is only an okay paper, but its sports section is nearly as good as the Post‘s, and their coverage of their town’s hometown baseball team rivals that of any paper in the country — including the great coverage that The New York Times and Daily News give to the Yankees and Mets.

Do not buy The Washington Times. It was founded by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon in 1982 as a replacement for the bankrupt Washington Star as the area’s conservative equivalent to the “liberal” Post. (That’s a laugh: The Post has George Will, Charles Krauthammer, Michael Gerson and Kathleen Parker as columnists!)

Under editor-in-chief Wesley Pruden, the Times was viciously right-wing, “reporting” every rumor about Democrats as if they were established, proven fact, and giving Republicans a free pass. Moon’s “Unification Church” sold the paper in 2009, and Pruden retired the year before. But it has cut about 40 percent of its employees, and has dropped not only its Sunday edition but also its sports section.

And now, there’s another paper, the Washington Examiner, owned by the same company as the conservative magazine The Weekly Standard, and it is so far to the right it makes The Washington Times look like the Daily Kos. It is a truly loony publication, where Michael Barone of the American Enterprise Institute and Byron York of National Review are considered moderates.

So avoid the loonies and the Moonies, and stick with the Post. Even if you don’t agree with my politics, you’re going down to D.C. for hockey, and the Post’s sports section kicks ass.

The sales tax in the District, once as high as 9 percent, is now just 6 percent.

The centerpoint for street addresses is the Capitol Building. North and South Capitol Streets separate east from west, and East Capitol Street and the National Mall separate north from south. The city is divided into quadrants: Northwest, Northeast, Southeast and Southwest (NW, NE, SE and SW). Because of the Capitol’s location is not in the exact geographic centerpoint of the city, NW has about as much territory as the other 3 quadrants put together.

Remember: On street signs, 1st Street is written out as “FIRST,” and I Street is written out as “EYE,” in order to avoid confusion. And for the same reason, since I and J were virtually indistinguishable in written script when D.C. was founded in 1800, there is no J Street. Once the letters get to W, there is no X, Y or Z Street. Instead, they go to to 2- and then 3-syllable words beginning with the sequential letters: Adams, Bryant, Clifton, etc.

Going In. Washington’s subway, the Metro, opened in 1976, but it wasn’t an easy ride to a Bullets game, since they were just outside the Beltway and the Metro didn’t go out there at the time. The move downtown made this a lot easier.

From Union Station (having taken either the train or the bus in) to the arena, it couldn’t be any easier: You’ll get on the Red Line, and it’s 2 stops to Gallery Place-Chinatown, taking all of 5 minutes between the stops. (How long you’ll have to wait on the platform to get on the train is another matter. If the outbound trip were during rush hour, it would cost you $2.15. Since it’s not (Saturday), each way will be $1.75.
The Verizon Center is at 601 F Street NW, on the edge of Washington’s Downtown and its Chinatown, so it’s got marquees in both English and Chinese. It’s surrounded by a lot of kitsch, with several chain restaurants and faux-Irish pubs. Some people like that sort of thing. Whether you do is up to you, although this will come into play when I get to “After the Game.”

Of course, all this means a lot of traffic, so, as I said, you should get a hotel and leave your car in their parking deck. If you’re just going down I-95 for the game and coming back up, parking will run you around $20.
The Bullets and Capitals moved in for the 1997-98 season, and, trying to burnish the NBA entry’s image, owner Abe Pollin dismissed the Bullets name — a holdover from Baltimore (1963-73), a tribute to a previous NBA team (1948-55), which was not only alliterative but referred to Baltimore’s status as an armaments production center during World War II — as referring to D.C.’s status at the time as “the Murder Capital of America.” He chose “Washington Wizards,” because it suggested that magic could happen on the court (though not the Orlando Magic or Earvin “Magic” Johnson), and also because it restored the alliteration.

The court is laid out east-to-west. The Wizards share the court with the WNBA’s Washington Mystics, and the floor with the NHL’s Washington Capitals. It is 1 of 10 arenas to house both an NBA team and an NHL team.

The Verizon Center’s nickname is “The Phone Booth.” Not “The Situation Room.”

That’s an ad for a CNN broadcast on the scoreboard.

Food. Food at D.C. sports venues runs from the very good at Nationals Park to the very bad at RFK Stadium. Having been to the Verizon Center for a Devils-Capitals game, I can tell you it’s more good than bad.

Hard Times Café has 2 outlets in the arena, featuring chili dogs, nachos and wings, on the concourse behind Sections 112 and 119. “my Oh!” offers gluten-free food at Section 108. There’s Dunkin Donuts (good), Papa John’s Pizza (bad), Greene Turtle Sports Bar & Grille, Budweiser Brew House, and Draft Ops Fantasy Lounge.

Other than that, presume the usual sports stadium/arena fare: Hot dogs, burgers, pizza, fries, fries, more fries, ice cream (sometimes in the form of Dippin’ Dots or whatever they call ’em down there), and maybe some more fries.

Team History Displays. The Wizards, formerly the Washington Bullets, celebrated their 40th Anniversary in 2013, and they do have some history, even if they haven’t won so much as a Division title since the Carter Administration, and won just 1 Playoff series between 1982 and 2013, although they won 1 in each of the last 2 seasons.

The Wizards and Mystics hang their banners on the north and west sides of the arena, the Caps on the south side. These include the 1978 NBA title; the Eastern Conference Title in 1971, 1975, 1978 and 1979; and the Atlantic Division title in 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975 and 1979 — apparently, they count what they won nearby Baltimore from 1963 to 1973.

They have 4 retired numbers. The 41 of center Wes Unseld and the 11 of Elvin Hayes, the Big E, are to the left of the 1978 World Championship banner, to which they led the Bullets. The 25 of Gus Johnson and the 10 of Earl “the Pearl” Monroe (who wore 15 with the Knicks, who retired it for him), are to the right of the title banner.
Each of these honorees has been elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame. Unseld, Hayes and Monroe were named to the NBA’s 50th Anniversary 50 Greatest Players.

The fact that none of these honorees played beyond 1981 gives you an idea of how things have gone for this team in the Administrations of Ronald Reagan, both George Bushes, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. But they were damn good in the Richard Nixon, Jerry Ford and Jimmy Carter years.

There are 13 former Bullets in the Basketball Hall of Fame, but, aside from the preceding, only Bernard King, after his comeback from his awful injury as a Knick, lasted even 4 seasons with them, the last of those in 1991.

The Washington Wall of Stars at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium honors 4 Bullets figures: Hayes, Unseld, 1970s guard and now Wizards broadcaster Phil Chenier (whose Number 45 has not been retired), and Abe Pollin, who owned the franchise from 1964 (in Baltimore) until his death in 2009, including the moves to Landover and downtown Washington.

It also honors Red Auerbach, who played at George Washington University, coached the early NBA’s Washington Capitols, and maintained his residence in D.C. to the end despite his New York roots and his 16 titles in Boston; and Horace “Bones” McKinney, who played for Auerbach on those Capitols and succeeded him as coach.

Stuff. The Verizon Center is a good, well-appointed, well-lit, comfortable, properly-located modern arena. But its website is crap. There’s no indication there that there is a team store, let alone where it is. However, every sports venue has souvenir stands, where you can get anything with the team’s logo on it. Either of them, or both of them.
The 40th Anniversary has not yet produced much in the way of official publications. The most comprehensive history of the team actually preceded the anniversary, published in 2012: Brett L. Abrams and Raphael Mazzone’s The Bullets, the Wizards, and Washington, DC Basketball. Jim Whiting wrote the Wizards’ entry in the NBA’s A History of Hoops series.

As for videos, forget it: There’s no official team history, no DVD package from the 1978 NBA Finals, no Bullets/Wizards 10 Greatest Games. There is a DVD biography of Abe Pollin, the man who brought the Bullets to Washington, founded the Capitals, and built both the Capital Centre and the Verizon Center.

During the Game. A November 13, 2014 article on DailyRotoHelp ranked the NBA teams’ fan bases, and listed the Wizards’ fans at 23rd out of 30 — not because they’re nasty (they aren’t particularly so), but because they’re fair-weather: They showed up in the Seventies when the team arrived and reached 3 NBA Finals, and again when Michael Jordan showed up for the 2001-02 and 2002-03 seasons.

You do not need to fear wearing your Knicks or Nets gear to the Verizon Center. The Wizards don’t really have any nasty rivalries, not even with the Knicks (although it got a little rough during the Willis/Clyde years when the Bullets were in Baltimore) or Philly or Boston. Despite D.C.’s reputation for crime, downtown is well-lit and well-policed. So if you don’t start anything, chances are, you will be safe.

One fan you definitely won’t have to worry about is Robin Ficker. The Maryland lawyer (occasionally disbarred and reinstated) and former State legislator was a notable fixture at Bullets games at the Cap Centre, sitting behind the visitors’ bench and gaining a reputation as the NBA’s most infamous heckler. When the team changed name and arena in 1997, they moved Ficker’s season-ticketed seat away from courtside. Furious, he gave up going, and claims that, since late in the 1998 season, he has been to exactly 1 Wizards game.

Because D.C. fans had to go up to Baltimore to get their big-league baseball fix from 1972 to 2004, there is one annoying trait from Oriole games that they brought back with them — even at Nats games: The “O!” shout during the National Anthem, on, “O, say does that Star-Spangled Banner yet wave… ?”

I hate that. What’s more, traditionally, Washingtonians hate Baltimore. (Much more so than Baltimoreans hate Washington.) Why would you adopt one of their habits? At least they didn’t adopt the Orioles’ 7th Inning Stretch song, even though, for people coming into D.C. from Virginia, it would be a bit more appropriate: John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.” That would have made much more sense than the “O!” shout.

Speaking of the Anthem, the Wizards do not have a regular singer for it, and hold auditions. They play “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns ‘n Roses right before tipoff; “Shake Your Groove Thing” by Peaches & Herb during the game; “Tear Da Club Up” by Three 6 Mafia when it looks like the game is won; and “Celebration” by Kool & the Gang when it’s over.

G-Wiz
The Wizards have 2 mascots: G-Wiz, a blue furry thing in a wizard hat that looks like a cross between the Muppets Cookie Monster and Gonzo the Great (there’s a scary thought for a guy who grew up in the 1970s); and G-Man, a guy in a blue suit of exaggerated muscles, who does stunt dunks, much like Phoenix’s Gorilla and Charlotte’s Hugo the Hornet. (The name may come from the fact that the arena is a short walk from the headquarters of the FBI, whose agents are nicknamed G-Men — which gave rise to a nickname for the New York Football Giants.)

G-Man

After the Game. As I said, you should be safe walking around the arena and downtown D.C. If you’re looking for a postgame meal (or even just a pint), the nearby choices are many. A particular favorite of mine is Fado, an Irish-themed bar that shows international soccer games. It’s a short walk away, at 808 7th Street NW.
The bar 51st State is a known hangout for Yankees, Mets, Giants, Jets, Knicks and Rangers fans. (No mention of the Nets, Islanders or Devils, though.) 2512 L St. NW at Pennsylvania Avenue. Metro: Blue or Orange to Foggy Bottom. Nanny O’Brien’s is also said to be a Giants fan bar. 3319 Connecticut Ave NW. Metro: Red to Cleveland Park.

If you visit D.C. during the European soccer season, which we are currently in the 2 best “football pubs” in town are Lucky Bar, at 1221 Connecticut Ave. NW (Red Line to Farragut North); and Fado Irish Pub, 808 7th Street NW., in Chinatown, a block from the Verizon Center (Red, Yellow or Green Line to Gallery Place).
Sidelights. Washington’s sports history is long, but not good. The Redskins haven’t won a championship in 24 seasons; the Bullets/Wizards, 37 years; all of its baseball teams combined, 91 years; the Capitals, in 41 years, never have they ever. Indeed, no D.C. area team has even been to its sport’s finals since the Caps made it, and even that was 17 years ago. But, if you have the time, these sites are worth checking:

* Site of Boundary Park and Griffith Stadium. There were 2 ballparks on this site, one built in 1892 and one in 1911, after the predecessor burned down – almost exactly the same story as New York’s Polo Grounds. The 2nd one, originally called League Park and National Park (no S on the end) before former pitching star Clark Griffith bought the team, was home to the old Senators from 1911 to 1960, and the new Senators only in 1961.

The Redskins played there from 1937 to 1960, and won the NFL Championship there in 1937 and 1942, although only the ’42 title game was played there. There was another NFL title game played there, in 1940, but the Redskins were beaten by the Chicago Bears – 73-0. (Nope, that’s not a typo: Seventy-three to nothing. Most points by one team in one game in NFL history, slightly ahead of the ‘Skins’ 72-49 victory over the Giants at RFK in 1966.)

While the Senators did win 3 Pennants (1924, ’25 and ’33) and the 1924 World Series while playing at Griffith, it was not a good home for them. The fences were too far back for almost anyone to homer there, and they hardly ever had the pitching, either (except for Walter Johnson). In 1953, Mickey Mantle hit a home run there that was measured at 565 feet – though it probably shouldn’t count as such, because witnesses said it glanced off the football scoreboard at the back of the left-field bleachers, which would still give the shot an impressive distance of about 460 feet.

The Negro Leagues’ Homestead Grays also played a lot of home games at Griffith, although they divided their “home games” between Washington and Pittsburgh. Think of the Grays as the original Harlem Globetrotters, who called themselves “Harlem” to identify themselves as a black team even though their original home base was Chicago (and later moved their offices to Los Angeles, and are now based in Phoenix).

By the time Clark Griffith died in 1955, passing the team to his son Calvin, the area around Griffith Stadium had become nearly all-black. While Clark, despite having grown up in segregated Missouri during the 19th Century, followed Branch Rickey’s path and integrated his team sooner than most (in particular going for Cubans, white and black alike), Calvin was a bigot who wanted to move the team to mostly-white Minnesota. When the new stadium was built, it was too late to save the original team, and the “New Senators” were born.

Griffith Stadium was demolished in 1965, and Howard University Hospital is there now. 2041 Georgia Avenue NW at V Street. Green Line to Shaw-Howard University Station, 3 blocks up 7th Street, which becomes Georgia Avenue when you cross Florida Avenue.

* Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium. Originally named District of Columbia Stadium (or “D.C. Stadium”), the Redskins played there from 1961 to 1996. The new Senators opened there in 1962, and President John F. Kennedy threw out the first ball at the stadium that would be renamed for his brother and Attorney General in 1969. (There was a JFK Stadium in Philadelphia, formerly Municipal Stadium, where the new arena, the Wells Fargo Center, now stands.)

The new Senators played at RFK Stadium until 1971, and at the last game, against the Yankees, the Senators were up 7-5 with one out to go, when angry fans stormed the field, and the game was forfeited to the Yankees. The ‘Skins moved to their new suburban stadium in 1997, after closing the ’96 campaign without the Playoffs, but the final regular-season game was a thrashing of the hated Cowboys in front of over 100 Redskin greats.

The Nats played the 2005, ’06 and ’07 seasons at RFK. D.C. United have played there since Major League Soccer was founded in 1996, winning the league title, the MLS Cup, 4 times, including 3 of the first 4. (Only the Los Angeles Galaxy, with 5, can top that.) Previously, in the North American Soccer League, RFK was home to the Washington Diplomats, featuring Dutch legend Johan Cruyff. And the Beatles played there on their final tour, on August 15, 1966.

DC/RFK Stadium was the 1st U.S. stadium specifically designed to host both baseball and football, and anything else willing to pay the rent. But I forgive it. It was a great football stadium, and it’s not a bad soccer stadium, but for baseball, let’s just say Nationals Park is a huge improvement. And what is with that whacked-out roof?

No stadium has hosted more games of the U.S. national soccer team than RFK: 25, most recently a win over Peru this past September 4. (Next-closest is the Los Angeles Coliseum, with 20.) Their record there is 15 wins, 3 draws and 5 losses. So RFK is thus the closest America comes to having a “national stadium” like Wembley or the Azteca. I was there on June 2, 2013, the 100th Anniversary match for the U.S. Soccer Federation. It was a 4-3 win over a Germany team operating at half-power because their players from Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund had so recently played the UEFA Champions League Final. There were 5 games of the 1994 World Cup and 6 games of the 2003 Women’s World Cup played there.

With the Nats and ‘Skins gone, United are the only team still playing there, and plans for a new stadium for them, near Nationals Park, are moving slowly, so it will still be possible to see a sporting event at RFK Stadium in the 2016 and 2017 MLS seasons, at least. 2400 East Capitol Street SE. Orange Line or Blue Line to Stadium-Armory. (The D.C. Armory, headquarters of the District of Columbia National Guard, is that big brown arena-like thing across the parking lot.)

* Nationals Park and new D.C. United stadium. The Nats’ new home opened in 2008, at 1500 South Capitol Street at N Street. It’s not flashy, but it looks nice. Ground has finally been broken for the new D.C. United stadium at Buzzard Point, on land bounded by R, 2nd, T & Half Streets SW, 3 blocks from Nationals Park. It is expected to open for the 2018 season.

Prince Georges County had a proposal for a new stadium near FedEx Field, and Baltimore offered to build one, leading New York Red Bulls fans to mock the club as “Baltimore United.” But the Buzzard Point stadium is now going to happen.

* FedEx Field. At RFK, the Redskins had the smallest stadium but best home-field advantage in the NFL: Only 56,000 could fit inside, but the upper deck was fairly close, and the north stand, built on aluminum so it could retract for baseball, made for big noise when thousands of fans jumped up and down on it.

At their 1997-present home, originally named Jack Kent Cooke Stadium for the ‘Skins’ late owner, they have what was once the largest stadium in the NFL (the capacity has been reduced to 82,000 from a peak of 91,000), but maybe the worst home-field advantage. The stadium is too big, and the sound doesn’t carry well. The move from a bad neighborhood in the District to out in the Maryland suburbs — it’s right across the Beltway from where the Capital Centre was — means that no one is intimidated, the way they were at RFK. The Redskins made the Playoffs in 13 of their last 26 seasons at RFK; they’ve only made it in 4 of their 1st 18 at FedEx.

While several big European soccer teams have played there, and 4 matches of the 1999 Women’s World Cup were played there, the U.S. men’s team has only played 1 match there so far, a draw with Brazil on May 30, 2012. The Army-Navy Game was held there in 2011.

Already, there is talk that it might be replaced. Hopefully, the new stadium will be either in the District, or at least closer to public transportation. 1600 FedEx Way, Landover, Maryland. Blue Line to Morgan Blvd… and then a 20-minute walk north. Yeah, not the best option for someone without a car.

* Uline Arena/Washington Coliseum. This building, opened in 1941, was home to the District’s 1st NBA team, the Washington Capitols, from 1946 to 1951. (Note the different spelling.) They reached the 1949 NBA Finals, losing to the Minneapolis Lakers of George Mikan, and were the 1st pro team coached by Red Auerbach. Firing him was perhaps the dumbest coaching change in NBA history: By the time Red coached the Boston Celtics to their first NBA title in 1957, the Capitols had been out of business for 6 years.

The Capitols owner who fired Auerbach was the owner Mike Uline, who’d originally named it the Uline Arena. His nickname was Uncle Mike. As far as I know, that and a love of sports is the only thing we have in common.

The Coliseum was last used for sports in 1970 by the Washington Caps (not “Capitols,” not “Capitals,” just “Caps”) of the ABA. It was the site of the first Beatles concert in the U.S. (aside from their appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show 2 nights before), on February 11, 1964.

It still stands, and its interior and grounds are used as a parking lot, particularly for people using nearby Union Station. Unfortunately, it’s in a rotten neighborhood, and I wouldn’t recommend visiting at night. In fact, unless you’re a student of NBA history or a Beatlemaniac, I’d say don’t go at all. 1140 3rd Street NE, at M Street. Red Line to Union Station, and then it’s a bit of a walk.

Amazingly, Auerbach, who was born in Brooklyn but made his name in Boston, was a graduate of George Washington University, and lived the rest of his life in Washington. When he died in 2006, he was buried at King David Memorial Gardens in the D.C. suburb of Falls Church, Virginia. Orange Line to East Falls Church, then transfer to Bus 2A.

* Capital Centre site. From 1973 to 1997, this arena with a saddle-shaped roof was the home of the NBA’s Washington Bullets, who became the Wizards when they moved downtown. From 1974 to 1997, it was home to the Caps. The Bullets played in the 1975, ’78 and ’79 NBA Finals there, although they’ve only won in 1978 and clinched that at the Seattle Kingdome.
The Cap Centre was also the home for Georgetown University basketball, in its glory years of Coach John Thompson (father of the current coach, John Thompson III), Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo and Allen Iverson. Remember those 1980s battles with the St. John’s teams of Louie Carnesecca, Chris Mullin and Walter Berry?

Elvis Presley sang there on June 27, 1976 and on May 22 and 29, 1977. (He never gave a concert in the District.) It was demolished in 2002, and a shopping mall, The Boulevard at the Capital Centre, was built on the site. 1 Harry S Truman Drive, Landover, Prince George’s County, Maryland, just outside the Capital Beltway. Blue Line to Largo Town Center station.

* Maryland SoccerPlex. The Washington Spirit of the National Women’s Soccer League play here, at the main field, with a stadium with 4,000 seats. 18031 Central Park Circle, in Boyds, Montgomery County, Maryland, about 30 miles northwest of downtown D.C. You’d need the DC Metro and 2 buses to get there without a car.

* The Smithsonian Institution. Includes the National Museum of American History, which contains several sports-themed items. 1400 Constitution Avenue NW. Blue or Orange Line to Federal Triangle. (You could, of course, take the same lines to Smithsonian Station, but Fed Triangle is actually a shorter walk.)

If you’re into looking up “real” TV locations, the Jeffersonian Institute on Bones is almost certainly based on the Smithsonian. The real NCIS headquarters used to be a short walk from Nationals Park, on Sicard Street between Patterson and Paulding Streets. Whether civilians will be allowed on the Navy Yard grounds, I don’t know; I’ve never tried it. I don’t want to get stopped by a guard. I also don’t want to get “Gibbs-slapped” — and neither do you. However, while the Navy Yard is still home to the DC field office, they have since moved the main NCIS HQ to the Marine base at Quantico, Virginia, and that’s a bit of a trek.

Of course, TV shows about Presidents, including The West Wing and Scandal, are based at the White House, at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. The best-known D.C.-based show that didn’t directly deal with government officials was Murphy Brown. The FYI studio was said to be across the street from the bar Phil’s, whose address was given as 1195 15th St. NW. Neither the bar nor the address actually exists, but if the address did, it would be at 15th & M Streets. This would put it right down the block from 1150 15th, the headquarters of The Washington Post.

The University of Maryland, inside the Beltway at College Park, can be accessed by the Green Line to College Park and then a shuttle bus. (I tried that for the 2009 Rutgers-Maryland game, and it works very well.) Byrd Stadium, built in 1950, is one of the nation’s best college football stadiums, but I wouldn’t recommend sitting in the upper deck if you’re afraid of heights: I think it’s higher than Shea’s was.

Across from the stadium is Cole Field House, where UMd played its basketball games from 1955 to 2002. The 1966 and 1970 NCAA Championship basketball games were played there, the 1966 one being significant because Texas Western (now Texas-El Paso) played an all-black starting five against Kentucky’s all-white starters (including future Laker, Knick and Heat coach Pat Riley and Denver Nuggets star Dan Issel). In the 1970 Final, UCLA beat Jacksonville University.

Elvis sang there on September 27 and 28, 1974. The Terrapins won the National Championship in their final season at Cole, and moved to the adjacent Comcast Center thereafter.

Remember that Final Four run by George Mason University? They’re across the Potomac River in Fairfax, Virginia. Once known as the Patriot Center, their 10,000-seat arena was renamed EagleBank Arena when it was bought by Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which also owns and operates the Verizon Center. Orange Line to Virginia Square-GMU.

The U.S. Naval Academy is 30 miles east in Annapolis, Maryland; the University of Virginia, 117 miles southwest in Charlottesville; and Virginia Tech, 270 miles southwest in Blacksburg.

I also recommend visiting the capital’s museums, including the Smithsonian complex, whose most popular buildings are the National Archives, hosting the originals of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution; and the National Air and Space Museum, which includes the Wright Brothers’ Flyer, Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis, Chuck Yeager’s Glamorous Glennis (the 1st plane to break the sound barrier), and several space capsules including Apollo 11. The Smithsonian also has an annex at Dulles International Airport out in Virginia, including a Concorde, the space shuttle Discovery, and the Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the 1st atomic bomb.
One of the 1960 Presidential Debates between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon was held in Washington — still the only Presidential Debate held in the capital. On October 7, it was hosted not in a sports arena, a theater or a college auditorium, but in front of no live audience other than the panelists and the TV crew, at the studios of the NBC affiliate, WRC, Channel 4, 4001 Nebraska Avenue NW. Red Line to Tenleytown-AU.

In spite of what some movies have suggested, you won’t see a lot of tall buildings in the District.  The Washington Monument is 555 feet high, but, other than that, no building is allowed to be taller than the Capitol. Exceptions were made for two churches, the Washington National Cathedral and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, and the Old Post Office Pavilion was built before the “unwritten law” went into effect. In contrast, there are a few office buildings taller than most D.C. buildings across the Potomac River in Arlington, Virginia, and in the neighboring Maryland cities of Silver Spring and New Carrollton.

*

Have fun in the Nation’s Capital. If you’re lucky, the Knicks or Nets will show the Wizards some magic of their own.

About Me

Uncle Mike Central New Jersey, where men are men, and the women also root for the Yankees., United States Born in North Jersey. Raised in Central Jersey. Yankee Fan and Rutgers fan since 1977. Devils fan since they arrived in 1982. Arsenal fan since 2008. Former Nets fan, now an NBA free agent. No NFL team. Single, interested in changing that status. No children, but uncle to two adorable young girls. Liberal Democrat and damn proud of it. Hopefully, in sports as well as politics, I can live up to the words of the late John Spencer on “The West Wing”: “We are going to raise the level of debate in this country, and let that be our legacy.” View my complete profile

 

 

 

http://unclemikesmusings.blogspot.com/2016/11/how-to-be-new-york-basketball-fan-in_12.html

Good to Be Goofy White Guy

Friday, Aug 19, 2016 11:33 AM EST
The ballad of “Swim Shady”: Ryan Lochte’s Rio fiasco is more proof that male athletes are a protected class
The Olympic swimmer’s fake-robbery debacle is being brushed off, while gymnast Gabby Douglas is the target of abuse
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Topics: 2016 Summer Olympics, Gabby Douglas, male entitlement, Rio Olympics, Ryan Lochte, Life News
The ballad of “Swim Shady”: Ryan Lochte’s Rio fiasco is more proof that male athletes are a protected class
Ryan Lochte (Credit: AP/Martin Meissner)

It must be a heady thing to have all the privileges of a male athlete. You can pretty much do anything before you’re held even remotely accountable — and then when you do have to face any consequences, you’ll get a nice chorus of despair about your lost opportunities. In what other realm could the misdeeds of a 32-year-old man be gently passed off as the antics of “kids?”

Oh, to be you, Ryan Lochte.

Early this week, reports emerged that the blue-haired Olympic medalist — along with three other members of the U.S. swim team — had been “robbed at gunpoint” early Sunday morning. USOC spokesperson Patrick Sandusky issued a statement saying that while heading toward the Olympic village, “their taxi was stopped by individuals posing as armed police officers who demanded the athletes’ money and other personal belongings. All four athletes are safe and cooperating with authorities.”

Lochte himself gave an eminently Lochte-ish account of the event, telling NBC, “They pulled out their guns, they told the other swimmers to get down on the ground — they got down on the ground. I refused, I was like we didn’t do anything wrong, so — I’m not getting down on the ground. And then the guy pulled out his gun, he cocked it, put it to my forehead and he said, “Get down,” and I put my hands up, I was like ‘whatever.’ He took our money, he took my wallet — he left my cell phone, he left my credentials.”

And the the tale began to change. On Thursday, Brazilian police said that “It seems that they lied. No robbery was committed against these athletes. They were not victims of the crimes they claimed.” Instead, it appeared the swimmers had vandalized a gas station — USA Today reports “one of them broke down the bathroom door and police found damage to a soap dispenser and a mirror” — leading to a confrontation with armed security guards and a payoff, possibly to cover the damages. The AP reports that “police said the swimmers were unable to provide key details in early interviews, saying they had been intoxicated.”

The response to these hijinks has been generous, to say the least. Rio 2016 spokesman Mario Andrada shrugged Thursday, “Let’s give these kids a break. Sometimes you take actions that you later regret. They are magnificent athletes. Lochte is one of the best swimmers of all times. They had fun. They made a mistake. It’s part of life. Life goes on. Let’s go.”
Video: Rio 2016: Swimmer Ryan Lochte’s Crime Story Unravels

I guess if you’re “one of the best swimmers of all times,” you can do whatever the heck you want! P.S. This “kid” is 32.

Olympics and Municipal Investment: US Style

Over the past two months, the momentum of the opposition to Boston hosting the Olympic Games spurred me while the narratives coming out about Rio sparked Matt Holder to write pieces about the Olympics for this blog. Matt summarized his article on media narratives with the statement: “…we see that media narratives care less about public good and more about creating an environment that efficiently routes public money into private pockets.” He cited Jules Boykoff’s book, Celebration Capitalism and the Olympic gamesas a notable explanation of how the Olympics are publically sold while the real beneficiaries are the hosting region’s elite.

Indeed, in their book Olympic Dreams: The Impact of Mega-Events on Local Politics, authors authors Matthew J. Burbank, Gregory D. Andranovich and Charles H. Heying discussed the Olympics as a growth strategy for U.S. cities. They analyzed how three US cities fared in their attempt to use the Olympics as an approach to economic growth in the post globalization United States. The authors argued that with less federal dollars available for urban renewal and a reduced tax base due to the global economy, regions have looked to the Olympics and mega events as ways to bring in revenue. Most importantly, the Games have enabled local elites to push forward changes to the city’s landscape that they would not have been able to do without the cover of hosting the Games.

The book discussed how the Clinton Administration funneled nearly a billion dollars of funds to Atlanta to help the city in its efforts to build infrastructure for the Games. With their bid for the Games, Atlanta’s officials proposed the conversion of 5700 units of public housing in some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods to nicer living conditions for those residents.The city received $250 million from the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for this conversion and a similar amount in private funds. Less than 10% went toward the project which led to the displacement of 16000 low-income residents, which one has to wonder of that wasn’t the goal.

Others have noted similar agendas when other cities have bid. I noted in my book, Capital Sporting Grounds that in the 2012 Baltimore-Washington-Northern Virginia Olympics bid. The plans for Great Meadows to be the equestrian site would circumvent the opposition to the development of that area. Others opposed to hosting the games noted that there were several other stadium locations that pushed a development program that local citizens did not want and had stopped from happening earlier.

During a session at the 2015 Popular Culture Conference I attended a panel in the Sports section where a discussion over the plans for Chicago’s bid arose. Everyone in the room seemed to know that the bid’s plans would eliminate some significant public spaces, including parks. Clearly there is an awareness about the agendas of elites to bind unpopular development changes to the Games and of the limited value of the Games to a municipality’s revenue stream in the long run. Perhaps this is what has energized the No Boston Olympics movement. In their Olympics Truth section they argue that the Games do not help local economies. In their Olympic Myths section, they make this point again, and include arguments that two of the proposed promises (improved subway system and the Olympic Village representing a great housing gain for the city) will not materialize.

I call on fellow sports historians, particularly those who study the Olympics, to join the public debate on the Boston Games!