Monday, February 8, 2016

Top 5 Reasons You Can't Blame the Philadelphia Athletics for Moving to Kansas City

February 8, 1956, 60 years ago: Connie Mack dies in Philadelphia, of "old age and complications from hip surgery." He was 93 years old.

A former major league catcher, occasionally good but never great, he managed the Philadelphia Athletics from their founding in 1901 until 1950 -- 50 seasons. He won American League Pennants in 1902, 1905, 1910, 1911, 1913, 1914, 1929, 1930 and 1931. He won the World Series in 1910, 1911, 1913, 1929 and 1930.

But increase in salaries caused by the arrival of the Federal League in 1914 caused him to break up his 1st dynasty, and the stock market Crash of 1929 wiped out his savings, causing him to break up his 2nd dynasty, as he had no more income outside of the team.

He was never able to rebuild the A's as he had in the 1920s. And, also being the owner, he was not going to be fired as manager, even as he entered his 80s, and began making inexplicable moves, including calling out names of pinch-hitters, players who hadn't been on the A's in years.

Finally, after the 1950 season, his sons ganged up on him. Earle and Roy Mack, his sons from his 1st marriage, did not get along with Connie Mack Jr., his son from his 2nd marriage. The one thing they agreed on was that Connie Sr., at age 87, had to go, as field manager, as general manager, and as owner in all but name.

Their financial management was no better than his, and in 1954, they sold the A's to Arnold Johnson, who ran a Chicago-based trucking business, and he moved them to Kansas City.  Mack was dead in a year and a half, a few months after that scourge of the elderly, a hip-breaking fall.

*

Mitchell Nathanson, author of The Fall of the 1977 Phillies, makes the case that, unlike with the St. Louis Browns and Cardinals, and the Boston Braves and Red Sox, in the case of Philadelphia, the wrong team moved and the wrong team stayed.
He's got a point. The AL's A's not only were more successful than the National League's Philadelphia Phillies -- from 1901 to 1949, winning 9 Pennants to the Phils' 1, in 1915 -- but were the landlords at Shibe Park, while the Phils, who'd the inadequate Baker Bowl a few blocks away, were the tenants. The Phils' stirring 1950 "Whiz Kids" Pennant changed the recent history, but not the overall history.

Here's what the teams did after the A's moved in 1954:

* The Phillies have made the Playoffs 12 times, won the NL Eastern Division 11 times, won 5 Pennants, and won the World Series in 1980 and 2008. Not a bad record, but this includes the near-misses for the postseason in 1964, 1982, 2004, 2005 and 2006; and the terrible postseason chokes of 1977 and 1978, plus losing World Series they had very good chances to win in 1983, 1993 and 2009.

* The A's did nothing in Kansas City, but since moving again, to Oakland, in 1968, they've made the Playoffs 18 times, won the AL Western Division 16 times, the Pennant 6 times (although not since 1990) and the World Series 4 times (1972, 1973, 1974 and  1989). Indeed, the A's won more World Series in 3 seasons (1972 to 1974) than the Phils have won in the competition's entire history (1903 to 2015).

* Just since the A's moved to Oakland, 1968 to 2015, they've won nearly as many Pennants, 6, as the Phils have in their entire history (1883 to 2015), 7.

So, in hindsight, Philadelphia and its fans might have been better off keeping the A's and losing the Phils.

And in the 25 years between the Crash of '29 and the A's move, not only the Phils' on-field fortunes as futzed-up as those of the A's, but so were their finances. Gerry Nugent had to get a loan from the other NL owners in 1943, just so he could send the team to spring training. He sold them to William D. Cox, who had plenty of money and was willing to spend it, but was caught betting on the Phils, and so was banned from baseball. A new owner stepped in.

So if the Phils were in that bad a shape, why did they stay, and not the A's? Did the 1950 Pennant really matter all that much?

Not really. It would be a "Best of the Rest" in a list of...

The Top 5 Reasons You Can't Blame the Philadelphia Athletics for Moving to Kansas City

5. Demographics. In the 1950 Census, Philadelphia was cited as having just under 2.1 million people. This was the most it would ever have. Indeed, the population was already going down. It would be a shade over 2 million in 1960, a little under that in 1970, under 1.7 million in 1980, under 1.6 million in 1990, and bottom out at just over 1.5 million in 2000. It's now believed to be about 1,553,000.
Philadelphia, 1950. Prior to the 1980s, they really didn't have skyscrapers.
In the foreground, that's 30th Street Station on the left,
and the main post office on the right.

Meanwhile, the suburbs boomed, so that the Philly region, a.k.a. the Delaware Valley -- Eastern Pennsylvania, South Jersey and Northern Delaware -- has about 7.1 million people, making it the nation's 7th-largest market. This suburban boom will be revisited in Reason Number 3.
A more recent photo, taken from a traffic helicopter
over the Delaware River, next to the Ben Franklin Bridge.
As you can see, the city has grown up. Way up.

Ahead of Philly in metropolitan population are New York (23 million), Los Angeles (18 million), Chicago (almost 10 million) and San Francisco (8.6 million), all with 2 MLB teams, although San Fran may lose the Oakland Athletics in the next few years. Also ahead of Philly are Boston (just over 8 million) and Dallas (7.2 million). And nobody is credibly suggesting that Boston, whose Red Sox are no longer selling out every game, or Dallas, a football-first city which barely supports the Texas Rangers as it is, should get a 2nd Major League Baseball team.

When the Phillies were winning 5 straight NL East titles from 2007 to 2011, and Citizens Bank Park was full 81 times a year -- even after the economic Crash of 2008, the worst since the Crash of 1929 that wiped Connie Mack out -- there was talk that Philly might get a 2nd team, either through expansion by the AL or a moved team, playing at CBP until they could get their own ballpark built. There was even talk that, after over half a century away, the A's could come home. But the Phils' 2012 collapse, and their subsequent nosedive in attendance, put an end to that talk, before it could reach an even remotely serious stage.

Philadelphia could support 2 major league baseball (capitalized or otherwise) teams before World War II. But not afterward. As with Boston and St. Louis, 1 of the 2 teams was going to have to go.

4. The Deaths of the Shibe Brothers. When Ben Shibe, Connie Mack's co-owner and the man for whom their ballpark was named, died in 1922, his shares of the team went to his sons. Thomas F. Shibe became team president, and John F. Shibe became vice president.
Tom Shibe, left, with Ty Cobb,
who closed his career with the A's in 1927 and '28.

Tom and Jack Shibe were "sportsmen" in the old sense, also interested in hunting and speedboat racing, respectively. Tom essentially ran the ballpark, while Mack ran the team. But Tom died in 1936. John replaced his brother Tom as president, and Mack installed his son Roy as vice president. But John got sick shortly after becoming president, dying the next year.
Jack Shibe

Connie, club treasurer from day one, installed himself as president, and bought out the brothers' widows, making himself majority owner for the first time. Why not promote one of the next generation of Shibes? Because neither Tom nor John had children, while Ben's daughters, being women, were not seriously considered for team leadership roles, even though they had stock in the club.

One of Ben's sons-in-law, Ben MacFarland, was named traveling secretary. His brother, Frank MacFarland, was named assistant treasurer. But the MacFarlands were frozen out of management decisions regarding the team or the stadium, neither of which got proper maintenance.

Connie set Roy, Earle and Connie Jr. to run the team after him, frequently citing "The House of Mack." (Even that wasn't correct: His full name was Cornelius Alexander McGillicuddy. He only shortened his name to "Mack" as a young player so that it would fit in a box score without being abbreviated into something like "M'Cuddy.")
L to R: Roy Mack, Connie Mack, Earle Mack, Connie Mack Jr.

In 1937, and again in 1939, at ages 74 and 76, Connie Sr. got sick, and Earle, who had played a little for the A's from 1910 to 1914, filled in as manager. If either of the Shibe brother had still been around at the time -- Tom was 70 when he died, and Jack was 65, both of them thus younger than Connie Sr. -- they might have talked some sense into "The Grand Old Man of Baseball,"

(Roy Mack died in 1960, only outliving his father by 4 years. Earle lived on until 1967, and Connie Jr. until 1996. His son Connie III became a U.S. Senator from Florida, and Senator Mack's son Connie IV was elected to the House like his father, but has failed in his only Senate bid thus far.)

3. Ballparks. Part of the problem was Shibe Park itself. Opening on April 12, 1909, it was the 1st concrete and steel stadium in Major League Baseball. The Shibe brothers expanded it in 1925, and eventually seating capacity would reach... 33,608. This made it smaller than any ballpark in use in MLB today; when it finally closed on October 1, 1970, 3 months after the end for Crosley Field in Cincinnati and Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, only Fenway Park in Boston was similarly small.
And losing his money in the Crash of '29 and buying out the Shibe widows had tapped Connie Mack out. He tried adding more seats, but he couldn't afford the maintenance on Shibe Park. When his sons pushed him out, they took out a tremendous mortgage, and couldn't make the payments on it, so they couldn't keep the place up either.

Access was a big problem, too. Although North Philadelphia hadn't yet descended into urban blight, there was no major highway nearby. Public transportation? The trolleys had been cut back, so to get to Shibe Park, you either had to take the Broad Street Line subway to North Philadelphia, or the Pennsylvania Railroad to Germantown Junction (now SEPTA's North Philadelphia commuter rail station), or the Reading Railroad to North Broad Street Station; and then take a bus 7 blocks down Lehigh Avenue. Even if you weren't afraid of the neighborhood (and by the time the Phillies made their 1964 Pennant run, lots of people were), that was a hassle.

In contrast, the Kansas City Municipal Stadium, built in 1923, was being double-decked in the 1954-55 off-season, doubling its seating capacity to 35,020, and while its neighborhood soon deteriorated as well, it had better access roads and more parking.
When the A's were sold, the Macks sold Shibe Park to the Phillies, even though their owner said, "I need Shibe Park like I need a hole in the head." He renamed it Connie Mack Stadium in honor of the Grand Old Man, and spent the rest of the 1950s and nearly all of the 1960s trying to get it replaced, finally convincing the city to build what became Veterans Stadium for the Phillies and the NFL's Eagles, who left Connie Mack Stadium for the University of Pennsylvania's Franklin Field in 1958, before groundsharing with the Phils again from 1970 to 2003, when each had a new stadium built adjacent to the Vet at the South Philadelphia sports complex.

2. Kansas City. It had been a very good baseball town, with the minor-league Blues (a Yankee farm team from 1936 to 1954) and the Negro Leagues' Monarchs each winning multiple Pennants. If the A's didn't move there for 1955, some team would have done so in the next few years. If that hadn't happened by 1960, surely, they would have gotten an expansion franchise.
It worked, sort of: Although their attendance in Kansas City was never great, in each of the A's 1st 7 seasons there, they got more fans than in each of their last 5 seasons, and in 24 of their last 25 seasons, in Philadelphia. Even their worst seasonal attendance in K.C. was better than 4 of their last 5 years in Philly. Once the A's moved to Oakland, and were replaced by the Royals, fans who had never warmed to Charlie Finley, who'd bought the A's after the death of Arnold Johnson in 1960, came out in better numbers than the A's franchise would ever see until the 1980s.

The Royals' recent success, including last year's World Series and the last 2 AL Pennants, shows that Kansas City was a sleeping giant as far as baseball markets was concerned. All they needed was to show that ownership cared. It took ownership a while to show it, but they have, and the fans are coming out.

But the A's might never have moved to Kansas City -- and the Phillies might have, or might have moved somewhere else -- if the right man hadn't stepped in to buy the Phillies.

1. The Carpenters. No, not the singing siblings of the 1970s. In November 1943, Robert Ruliph Morgan Carpenter bought the Phillies from the banned William D. Cox.

Known as Ruly, he could afford it: The Carpenters were one of the oldest and wealthiest families in Philadelphia and in neighboring Wilmington, Delaware. Ruly married into the family in Delaware, the du Ponts, giving him control of more money. He became an executive at E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company (a.k.a. simply "DuPont," but the family has never capitalized the D in their names), and made even more money.

He was a strong supporter of the University of Delaware, including its athletic department. But he didn't really want to run the Phillies. So he left that to his son, Robert Ruliph Morgan Carpenter Jr. Known as Bob Carpenter, he totally reorganized the team, giving it a real front office, a real farm system, and a real scouting department for the first time. The result was the 1950 Pennant, featuring Hall-of-Famers Robin Roberts and Richie Ashburn, Most Valuable Player Jim Konstanty, and Dick Sisler, whose home run on the final day of the season clinched the flag.
Eventually, Bob's moved stopped working, especially since he was so focused on getting the ballpark replaced. In 1972, that task done, he turned control over to his son, Robert Ruliph Morgan Carpenter III, known as Ruly like his grandfather. Ruly made Paul Owens the general manager, and they built the Phillies team that dominated the NL East from 1976 to 1983, including the 1980 World Championship.

The Carpenter family is no longer involved with the team, but retains a small ownership, and still supports University of Delaware athletics. But once they bought the Phillies, and put to work money the Mack and Shibe/MacFarland families simply didn't have, the A's, despite the huge advantages in ownership and history with the Phillies, were doomed as far as Philadelphia was concerned.

VERDICT: Not Guilty. As many mistakes as the Macks made, there were circumstances beyond their control that put an end to the Athletics' tenure in Philadelphia.

The A's had to go. And it worked out. For a while. Why did they leave Kansas City after only 13 seasons? That's a blog post for another time.

Top 5 Reasons You Can't Blame Cam Newton for the Carolina Panthers Losing Super Bowl 50

Yes, Cam Newton fumbled the ball in the end zone, and it was recovered for a Denver Bronco touchdown. And, yes, later on, fumbled, and froze, and didn't pick the ball up, and the Broncos did. And, yes, as a result of these 2 fumbles, especially the 2nd,, the Carolina Panthers lost Super Bowl 50.

But Newton isn't solely to blame. In the tradition of the ESPN series The Top 5 Reasons You Can't Blame..., here are...

The Top 5 Reasons You Can't Blame Cam Newton for the Carolina Panthers Losing Super Bowl 50

First, a few reasons that didn't make the cut: The Best of the Rest.

No Other Panther Picked Up the Fumbles. Obviously. There were 10 other Panthers on the field at the time. If one of them had picked either of them up, who knows?

The Misread Fair Catch. The Panthers thought Jonathan Norwood had called for a fair catch of Brad Norman's punt, but he hadn't, and he ended up returning a mere 28-yard punt for 61 yards, the longest punt return in Super Bowl history.

It was only 10-7 Broncos at that point. Granted, the Broncos only got a field goal out of it, but, if the Panthers had fielded the return properly, and then held the Broncos, it would have been only 13-10 Broncos at the time Newton began the play that led to his 2nd fumble, and the Panthers would've needed only a field goal to tie the game and, most likely, send it to overtime. There would have been considerably less pressure on Newton, and he might've gotten the job done.

The Missed Field Goal. Graham Gano kicked a field goal to make it 16-10 Broncos early in the 4th quarter, but he also missed one early in the 2nd half. That would have made it 13-10 Broncos, meaning the one he actually made would've made it 16-13, and made it a field-goal-to-tie, touchdown-to-win game. And we go back to the point about pressure in the previous reason.

The Broncos Were Already Winning. This one only applies to the 2nd fumble. But if Newton had hung onto the ball, there's no guarantee he would have gotten the Panthers downfield for a touchdown to tie the game 17-17. Even if he had led the Panthers to a tying touchdown, there's no guarantee the Broncos wouldn't have prevented overtime with a last-minute winning score. After all, they only would've needed a field goal.

The Iron Bowl. Cam Newton quarterbacked Auburn University against the University of Alabama. This rivalry is known, for Alabama's steel industry, as the Iron Bowl. Win it, and you are a hero to your school and its alumni forever. Lose it, and your name may as well be Mud. In rivalries like that one, there's more pressure than that than their is from the Super Bowl, because it's not from the whole country, it's from your own people.

Duane Thomas, one of the stars of the Dallas Cowboys' win in Super Bowl VI, said, "If it's 'the ultimate game,' why are they playing it again next year?" Well, if you've ever played in Alabama-Auburn, or Ohio State-Michigan, or Texas-Texas A&M, or Florida-Florida State... you get the idea... then your idea of what constitutes an "ultimate game" is a bit skewed.

Due to reasons I won't get into here, Newton only played 1 season at Auburn, 2010. But he won the Heisman Trophy, and led them to the Southeastern Conference and then the National Championship. More importantly, from their perspective, was what Newton did in that season's Iron Bowl. Auburn trailed Alabama 24-0. Newton led them to win 28-27. I'm surprised there isn't a statue of him outside Jordan-Hare Stadium already.

What's winning a Super Bowl compared to being a football god in the State where, more than any other (including Pennsylvania, Ohio and Texas), football is a religion?

Now, for the Top 5 Reasons:

5. The Media. They all seemed to want to make the game about Peyton Manning. They also dragged the racial aspect into it: Peyton Manning, a white Southern quarterback (he grew up in New Orleans while his Mississippi father Archie was the Saints' quarterback) who charmed the media and everyone else, vs. Cam Newton, a black Southern quarterback (from Atlanta) who refused to play the media's game, was guilty of self-promotion, and represented the States that sent Jesse Helms (North Carolina) and Strom Thurmond (South Carolina) to the U.S. Senate.

You can argue that Newton shouldn't have allowed this to get into his head, which is why I've only listed it at Number 5. But it was still there, and it was something he couldn't control.

4. The Panthers' Receivers. Newton threw 41 passes in Super Bowl 50, and only completed 18 of them. But you know what? The quarterback is only half the issue. The men he's throwing to have to catch them.

In the 1960s, Johnny Unitas wouldn't have gotten anywhere without Raymond Berry, John Mackey and Lenny Moore to throw to. Bart Starr had Max McGee and Bowd Dowler. Joe Namath had Don Maynard and George Sauer.

In the 1970s, Roger Staubach had Drew Pearson. Terry Bradshaw had Lynn Swann and John Stallworth. In the 1980s, Joe Montana had Dwight Clark, and later Jerry Rice and John Taylor. The 3 quarterbacks who took the Washington Redskins to 4 Super Bowls in a 10-season span had Art Monk, Gary Clark, Ricky Sanders, Don Warren and Clint Didier. Phil Simms had Phil McConkey.

In the 1990s, Troy Aikman had Michael Irvin and Daryl Johnston. Brett Favre had Antonio Freeman and Robert Brooks. John Elway had Shannon Sharpe and Rod Smith. In the 2000s and 2010s, Peyton Manning, when he was with the Indianapolis Colts, had Marvin Harrison and Joseph Addai. Eli Manning had Plaxico Burress, Amani Toomer, David Tyree, Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham. Tom Brady had... ways to cheat.

Who did Cam Newton have to throw to last night? Corey Brown, Ted Ginn and Greg Olsen each caught only 4 passes. Devin Funchess and Jerricho Cotchery, only 2 each. Fozzy Whittaker and Jonathan Stewart each caught only 1. Mike Tolbert, none. And once they caught those passes, how far did they get with them? Newton's 18 completions went for 265 yards, an average of 14.7 yards per catch.

I don't want to sound like Sonny Corleone yelling at Tom Hagen in The Godfather -- "Pop had Genco, what do I got?" -- but, in this case, the Panther receiving corps was no Tom Hagen, let alone Genco Abbandando.

3. Ron Rivera. He's the head coach. He called the Panthers' plays. He called the plays that weren't working for the Panthers all night long. He called the plays that led to Newton's fumbles. Doesn't he share the blame?

2. Experience. The Broncos not only had a lot more of it, but having been in the Super Bowl before meant that, whatever problems they had, reacting to the hype was not going to be one of them.

When a team gets embarrassed like the Broncos were in Super Bowl XLVIII, one of two things is going to happen: Either they get discouraged, and they don't make it back, or they remember the taste of how close they came, and they get more determined than ever to get back. Usually, the latter happens more when the team loses in the Playoffs before the Super Bowl, i.e. with the 1985 and '86 Giants, or the 1996 and '97 Broncos.

But there are examples of teams losing a Super Bowl and coming back to win it within 3 seasons: The 1969-70 Kansas City Chiefs (3), the 1970-71 Baltimore Colts (2), the 1971-72 Cowboys (1), the 1972-73 Miami Dolphins (1), the 1977-78 Cowboys (2). Granted, the last of those examples was nearly 40 years ago, but it had happened a few times. The Broncos just made it happen again.

1. The Broncos Were Better. True, the Panthers were 15-1 this season -- 17-1 counting the Playoffs. But over the last 4 seasons, going into Super Bowl 50, counting the Playoffs, the Broncos were 55-18. Over the same stretch, the Panthers were 44-24. Between their 12-4 2013 season and their 15-1 2015 was a 2014 season in which they went 7-8-1.

The Bronco defense, led by game MVP Von Miller, faced a team that was 17-1, and held them to 10 points over the 60 minutes. They had to, because their vaunted quarterback Manning only led their offense to score 16 before the fumble. In the 1st 49 Super Bowls, only 3 times had a team scored so few points (or fewer) and still won: The 1968-69 Jets (16), the 1972-73 Miami Dolphins (their 14 a record low for a Super Bowl winner), and the 1974-75 Pittsburgh Steelers (16). It hadn't been done in 41 years. The 2007-08 Giants were the only team in that span to score as few as 17 and still win.

So the Orange Crush defense had to step up, and hold the Panthers off, or even get the ball back and give their offense a chance to put the game away. They had the experience and the poise to do it. And they did it. They were simply better.

VERDICT: Not Guilty. This game was won by the Broncos more than it was lost by the Panthers, or any personnel thereof.

Peyton, Cam, Beyoncé and Rudy

Peyton Manning! You just won the Super Bowl in what was probably the last game of your career! Now, what are you going to do?

Essentially, the question that has traditionally been answered in commercials, "I'm goin' to Disney World!" was asked by Tracy Wolfson of CBS, after Manning's Denver Broncos beat the Carolina Panthers 24-10 in Super Bowl 50 last night.

Manning did not say he was going to Disney World. Here's what he did say:

You know, I'll take some time to reflect. I got a couple of priorities first. I want to go kiss my wife and my kids. I want to go hug my family. I'm going to drink a lot of Budweiser tonight, Tracy. I promise you that.

He started off on the right foot. Then, he promoted binge drinking.

And people want to get on Panthers quarterback Cam Newton for how he reacted after the game? Idiots.

This was a few minutes after Dame Helen Mirren appeared in an ad for, yes, Budweiser -- I thought she had more taste than that --

“If you drive drunk, you, simply put, are a shortsighted, utterly useless, oxygen-wasting human form of pollution, a Darwin Award-deserving selfish coward. If your brain was donated to science, science would return it. So, stop it... Don't be a pillock.”

She could have used a stronger word, also common in British street speech or pub talk, but it would never have gotten onto American television.

Peyton Manning, for promoting heavy drinking and unfair labor practices (through shilling for Papa John's pizza) before a tremendous worldwide TV audience...

You, sir, are a pillock.

And, if the rumor is true, and you also used human-growth hormone or some other performance-enhancing drug throughout your career, joining with your nemesis Tom Brady -- who, along with his team, has been caught in multiple cheats -- to do what performance-enhancing drugs did to baseball, which is cast doubt on the legitimacy of an entire era...

You, sir, are a... word that Dame Helen probably wanted to use.

See You Next Tuesday.

*

I'm just glad the game's Most Valuable Player award was given to Bronco linebacker Von Miller. I've often criticized the expression "Defense wins games"/"Defense wins championships." Defense never won a damn thing without offense failing. You can't win unless you score. You can't score unless you have the ball. If you have the ball, even if you're a traditional defensive player who's intercepted a pass or picked up a fumble, by definition, you are now on offense.

The Broncos' defense was the 2nd-biggest factor in the game. The biggest factor was the Panthers' inability to adjust to it.

That said, Miller was the player on the winning side who had the biggest impact, and was thus deserving of the MVP.

I was sure they were going to give it to Manning, what with him being beloved by the media, and what with it (probably) being his last game.

Because when the media loves a quarterback, they... how can I put this politely... never shy away from showing you that love. We've seen it before. Johnny Unitas. Joe Namath. Roger Staubach. Joe Montana. John Elway. Brett Favre. Now, Brady and Manning. (Not so much Eli Manning, though -- because he beat Brady in 2 Super Bowls, thus ruining the media's narrative.)

Yes, Elway retired as a back-to-back Super Bowl winner, and as the reigning Super Bowl MVP. But he wouldn't have won a Super Bowl without Terrell Davis in the backfield -- Sammy Winder was good, but, back then, Elway didn't have someone who was TD good, and that's a big reason why he went 0-3 before going 2-0 in the biggest game -- and Peyton wouldn't have won this Super Bowl without Von Miller and his defensive compadres shutting down the Panther offense.

Just in case Peyton was thinking it was all about him. Maybe he wasn't. But, going in, the media sure was.

*

As for Cam Newton: I could criticize him for his postgame reaction. Instead, I'll say that Newton is lucky on 2 counts: He didn't screw up that big for a New York team (or Boston, or Chicago, or Los Angeles), or for his alma mater, Auburn University, against their arch-rivals, the University of Alabama.

However, I can and do criticize Newton for not picking up that fumble that turned a decent shot at a winning touchdown drive into a final score that did not, at all, indicate how close the game was until that point.

Some people are telling him, "Act like you've been there before." Well, he hadn't been there before.

And he may never get back. That's the hard part: In the biggest game of his career, he froze. I'm reminded of Chuck Knoblauch in the 1998 Playoffs, although Knobby is white, was playing a much less important position, and was in what did not amount to a Game 7 like Newton's game. On the other hand, Knobby also isn't nearly as smart as Newton.

If this had happened to Newton in a regular-season game, we'd talk about it until the next game. Instead, we talk about it forever, because it was in the Super Bowl. Ask Jackie Smith. Ask Scott Norwood. Ask Kevin Dyson -- and he didn't even do anything wrong; quite the contrary, he did his damnedest, and came up a few inches short.

But look at this list: Daryle Lamonica, Joe Kapp, Vince Ferragamo, Ron Jaworski, Ken Anderson, David Woodley, Dan Marino, Tony Eason, Boomer Esiason, Stan Humphries, Neil O'Donnell, Drew Bledsoe, Chris Chandler, Steve McNair, Kerry Collins, Rich Gannon, Jake Delhomme, Donovan McNabb, Matt Hasselbeck. Most likely, Rex Grossman. Possibly, Colin Kaepernick.

Each of those quarterbacks went to one Super Bowl, lost it, and never got back in.

There's a lot of talent there. Marino is in the Hall of Fame. McNabb becomes eligible next year, and will probably get in, if not on the 1st try. Lamonica, Jaworski, Anderson, Esiason and Bledsoe are all worthy of Hall consideration. At the very least, Newton should end up with a career as good as those last 5.

But this could have been his only chance, and he blew it.

The truly sad part is, the game wasn't even interesting until that play. And then, it got interesting in a bad way.

*

About the halftime show: Thanks to Newton, no one is going to remember that Coldplay never should have been selected. Not that they were offensive. They were just... weak.

But Beyoncé Knowles upstaged the whole thing. As she usually does. She gave a Black Power salute, a la Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics. The dancers behind her wore black berets, like the Black Panthers, founded just up the road in Oakland 50 years ago.

And Rudy Giuliani, the former Mayor of New York, saw it as an attack on his favorite people (whom he refused to ever give a raise), the police. Here's what he told Fox News this morning:

This is football, not Hollywood, and I thought it was really outrageous that she used it as a platform to attack police officers, who are the people who protect her and protect us, and keep us alive.

And what we should be doing in the African-American community, and all communities, is build up respect for police officers. And focus on the fact that, when something does go wrong, okay, we'll work on that. But the vast majority of police officers risk their lives to keep us safe.

Well, gee, Rudy, maybe African-Americans would have more respect for police officers if they didn't see some -- not one every 10 years, but several times in the last few, from Staten Island to Baltimore to Cleveland to Ferguson, Missouri and so on -- get away with murder. Who didn't "keep us alive." (I'm using "us" in this case even though I'm white.)

And that doesn't even include Trayvon Martin's murderer, a cop wannabe that the cops didn't think was mentally stable enough to join them.
You want black people to build up respect for police officers? Start by demanding that police officers respect them. The motto is, "To serve and protect." "Serve" comes before protect, Rudy, you fascist... pillock!

Rudy needs to shut the bloody hell up. His achievement as Mayor, reducing crime, would never have happened without the crime bill pushed and signed by President Bill Clinton. (A liberal Democrat and Hillary's husband, in case you've forgotten.) And even at his moments of triumph, we all knew, even if we didn't want to say it out loud, that Rudy was a racist.
As the late Sidney Zion, a columnist for the New York Daily News and a strong supporter of Rudy's, put it, "The problem with Rudy Giuliani is that he's not a peacetime don." In other words, he can never accept victory: He's always looking for a new war to fight.
And rather than accept the truth, which is that Beyoncé and the people who agree with her have a point, he attacks.
But you're not going to win a popularity contest with either of the two most popular women in the country. He's already lost one to Hillary, when he refused to run against her for the U.S. Senate in 2006. And now he's launching one against Beyoncé? Fool.
As the lady herself might have said, If you didn't like it, then you shoulda put a sock in it.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

How to Be a New York Football Fan In San Francisco -- 2016 Edition

Tonight, Super Bowl 50 -- I suppose they didn't want to use the Roman numeral because, to the NFL, "L" doesn't mean "fifty" or "League," it means "loss" -- is being played at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California, the new home of the San Francisco 49ers.

The 50th Super Bowl should have been played where the 1st one was, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which not only still stands, but will be the home of the Los Angeles Rams (and possibly one other team) in the 2016, '17 and '18 season, before the Rams' new stadium opens in Inglewood, and will presumably bring the Super Bowl back to the L.A. area. (The Coliseum hosted 2 Super Bowls, the Rose Bowl in Pasadena 5.)

Why not hold Super Bowl 50 at the site of Super Bowl I? Not enough luxury boxes. Plus, I don't think the NFL is keen on the idea of the fabulously wealthy having to go to the edge of the South Central ghetto.

Neither the Giants nor the Jets reached Super Bowl 50, or even made the Playoffs this season. And neither one visited the Bay Area this season. But, if they had, I would have written something like this:

Before You Go. The San Francisco Bay Area has inconsistent weather. San Francisco, in particular, partly because it’s bounded by water on three sides, is the one city I know of that has baseball weather in football season and football weather in baseball season. Or, as Mark Twain, who worked for a San Francisco newspaper during the Civil War, put it, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”

The websites of the San Jose Mercury News and the Oakland Tribune, and SFgate.com, the website of the San Francisco Chronicle, should be checked before you leave. (I won't cite their predictions for today, since it's meaningless for Giant and Jet fans.)

Tickets. The 49ers averaged 70,799 fans per game this season, a sellout every game. They are a team that is struggling now, but they are an iconic franchise, whose new stadium has yet to see its novelty worn off.

So tickets might be hard to come by. You'll probably have to go to the NFL Ticket Exchange. (Don't look up prices for today's game: The Super Bowl has always been overpriced. Even in 1967, it was $12.)

Getting There. It’s 2,906 miles from Times Square in Midtown Manhattan to Union Square in downtown San Francisco, and 2,928 miles from MetLife Stadium to Levi's Stadium. This is the longest Giants or Jets roadtrip there is, and will remain so, unless the clueless Roger Goodell or some future Commissioner decides to put a franchise in London. In other words, if you’re going, you’re flying.

You think I’m kidding? Even if you get someone to go with you, and you take turns, one drives while the other one sleeps, and you pack 2 days’ worth of food, and you use the side of the Interstate as a toilet, and you don’t get pulled over for speeding, you’ll still need over 2 full days. Each way.

But, if you really, really want to drive... Get onto Interstate 80 West in New Jersey, and – though incredibly long, it’s also incredibly simple – you’ll stay on I-80 for almost its entire length, which is 2,900 miles from Ridgefield Park, just beyond the New Jersey end of the George Washington Bridge, to the San Francisco end of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

If you're driving directly to Santa Clara (i.e., if your hotel is there), then, getting off I-80, you’ll need Exit 8A for I-880, the Nimitz Freeway – the 1997-rebuilt version of the double-decked expressway that collapsed, killing 42 people, during the Loma Prieta Earthquake that struck during the 1989 World Series between the 2 Bay Area teams. From I-880, you’ll take Exit 8A, for Great Mall Parkway.

Not counting rest stops, you should be in New Jersey for an hour and a half, Pennsylvania for 5:15, Ohio for 4 hours, Indiana for 2:30, Illinois for 2:45, Iowa for 5 hours, Nebraska for 7:45, Wyoming for 6:45, Utah for 3:15, Nevada for 6:45, and California for 3:15. That’s almost 49 hours, and with rest stops, and city traffic at each end, we’re talking 3 full days.

That’s still faster than Greyhound and Amtrak. Greyhound does stop in Oakland, at 2103 San Pablo Avenue at Castro Street. But the trip averages about 80 hours, depending on the run, and will require you to change buses 2, 3, 4 or even 5 times. And you'd have to leave no later than Thursday morning to get there by Sunday gametime. Round-trip fare is $592, but it can drop to $396 with advanced purchase.

On Amtrak, to make it in time for a Sunday afternoon kickoff, you would leave Penn Station on the Lake Shore Limited at 3:40 PM on Wednesday, arrive at Union Station in Chicago at 9:45 AM Central Time on Thursday, and switch to the California Zephyr at 2:00 PM, arriving at Emeryville, California at 4:10 PM Pacific Time on Saturday. Round-trip fare: $673. Then you'd have to get to downtown San Francisco or San Jose.

Getting back, the California Zephyr leaves Emeryville at 9:10 AM, arrives in Chicago at 2:50 PM 2 days later, and the Lake Shore Limited leaves at 9:30 PM and arrives in New York at 6:23 PM the next day. So we're talking a Thursday to the next week's Thursday operation by train.

Newark to San Francisco is a relatively cheap flight, considering the distance. You can get a round-trip fare for under $600. You'd have to change planes once on the way to San Francisco, and then taking BART into the city. BART from SFO to downtown San Francisco takes 30 minutes, and it's $8.65.

Once In the City. San Francisco was settled in 1776, and named for St. Francis of Assisi. San Jose was settled the next year, and named for Joseph, Jesus' earthly father. Both were incorporated in 1850. Santa Clara was settled in 1777 and incorporated in 1852. It was named after St. Clare of Assisi, one of St. Francis' 1st followers. Oakland was also founded in 1852, and named for oak trees in the area.

With the growth of the computer industry, San Jose has become the largest city in the San Francisco Bay Area, with a little over 1 million people. San Francisco has about 850,000, Oakland 400,000, and Santa Clara, the new home of the 49ers, 120,000. Overall, the Bay Area is home to 8.6 million people and rising, making it the 4th largest metropolitan area in North America, behind New York with 23 million, Los Angeles with 18 million, and Chicago with just under 10 million.

San Francisco doesn't really have a "city centerpoint," although street addresses seem to start at Market Street, which runs diagonally across the southeastern sector of the city, and contains the city's 8 stops on the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) subway system. Most Oakland street addresses aren't divided into north-south, or east-west.  The city does have numbered streets, starting with 1st Street on the bayfront and increasing as you move northeast. One of the BART stops in the city is called "12th Street Oakland City Center," and it's at 12th & Broadway, so if you're looking at a centerpoint for the city, that's as good as any. San Jose's street addresses are centered on 1st Street and Santa Clara Street.
A BART train

A BART ride within San Francisco is $1.75; going from downtown to Daly City, where the Cow Palace is, is $3.00; going from downtown SF to downtown Oakland is $3.15, and from downtown SF to the Oakland Coliseum complex is $3.85. In addition to BART, CalTrain and ACE -- Altamont Commuter Express -- link the Peninsula with San Francisco and San Jose.

The sales tax in California is 6.5 percent, and it rises to 8.75 percent within the City of San Francisco and the City of San Jose. It's 9 percent in Alameda County, including the City of Oakland. In San Francisco, food and pharmaceuticals are exempt from sales tax. (Buying marijuana from a street dealer doesn't count as such a "pharmaceutical," and pot brownies wouldn't count as such a "food." Although he probably wouldn't charge sales tax -- then again, it might be marked up so much, the sales tax would actually be a break.)

Important to note: Do not call San Francisco "Frisco." They hate that. "San Fran" is okay. And, like New York (sometimes more specifically, Manhattan), area residents tend to call it "The City." For a time, the Golden State Warriors, then named the San Francisco Warriors, actually had "THE CITY" on their jerseys. They will occasionally bring back throwback jerseys saying that.

Going In. The official address of Levi's Stadium is 4900 Marie P. DeBartolo Way, after the mother of former 49ers owner and newly-elected Pro Football Hall-of-Famer Eddie DeBartolo. (If you're going to apply to the U.S. Postal Service to make it 4900, why not 4949?) The intersection is Marie P. DeBartolo Way and Tasman Drive. It's 46 miles southeast of downtown San Francisco, 39 miles southeast of downtown Oakland, and 9 miles northwest of downtown San Jose.
If you're driving in, parking is $30. There is plenty of room for tailgating, and 49er fans have been known to have, shall we say, more refined tailgate party palates. You're as likely to find wine as beer, fancy French cheeses as Cheese Whiz, and sushi as bratwurst.

If you’re taking public transportation, you take ACE, Altamont Commuter Express, from downtown San Francisco to Santa Clara station. California's Great America theme part is next-door. From downtown San Jose, take the 916 trolley.
Naming rights to the stadium were bought by Levi Strauss & Company, the San Francisco-based clothing giant that popularized blue jeans all over the world. I'm against corporate names on stadiums and arenas, but if you're going to put one on a Bay Area stadium, that's as good a choice as any.
The field runs north-to-south (well, northwest-to-southeast), and is real grass. It hosts the Pacific-12 Conference Championship Game, and in 2019 (for the 2018 season) it will host the College Football Playoff National Championship.

The NHL hosted a Stadium Series outdoor hockey game there a year ago, with the San Jose Sharks losing to their arch-rivals, the Los Angeles Kings. It is contracted to host 1 San Jose Earthquakes game per year, and last year Manchester United beat Barcelona there. It will host games of the 2016 Copa America. The stadium's largest crowd was 76,976, for WrestleMania 31 last year. Coldplay is playing the Super Bowl halftime show, and they will return to the stadium in September. One Direction and Taylor Swift have both played it.

Food. San Francisco, due to being a waterfront city and a transportation and freight hub, has a reputation as one of America’s best food cities. Levi's Stadium benefits from this:.

Centerplate, which will be handling most of the stadium's concessions, boasts that they'll have one food and beverage point of sale for every 86 fans, cutting down on line times. And if you're a vegan or vegetarian, you'll be particularly excited to hear that the stadium will have the best meatless options in the NFL.
Over 180 different food items will be served at Levi's Stadium, with 17 types of quick-service concepts that will be named for exactly what they're selling. They include Franks (nitrate-free, with a vegan option), Burgers (with American Kobe beef and vegan burgers), Curry (Indian-style, with spiced naan, cassava chips, and varieties like Rajisthani lamb and vegan navy bean and kale), Tortas, Soft Serve, Barbecue (pulled pork or pulled jackfruit), Panini and Steamed Buns (Asian-style bao in Peking duck, pork belly, and vegan portobello varieties).
All the menus will be on digital screens, and AT&T Park regulars will find familiar favorites like garlic fries and Ghirardelli ice-cream sundaes. All told, there are 14 vegan and 26 vegetarian food options (though the latter figure includes a few types of ice cream). 13 of the 36 stands will offer kid's meals, with a choice of pizza, hot dogs, or chicken tenders.
In addition to the standard quick-service offerings, the stadium will feature an outpost of Santa Cruz's Mondo Burrito on the upper concourse, and a tap room at the 50-yard line with 42 different drafts (most of which are from Anheuser-Busch, but with some bigger craft options like Lagunitas IPA, Speakeasy Prohibition, 21st Amendment Brew Free or Die, and, in a coup for small SOMA upstart Cellarmaker, Dobis Pale Ale).
Aiden Winery's kegged chardonnay and pinot noir will be on tap throughout the stadium, with another 12 or so wines from local producers scattered here and there.
Team History Displays. The 49ers have made the Playoffs 26 times, most recently in 2013. They've won the NFC West 19 times: In 1970, '71, '72, '81, '83, '84, '86, '87, '88, '89, '90, '92, '93, '94, '95, '97, 2002, '11 and '12. They've won 6 NFC Championships: in 1981, '84, '88, '89, '94 and 2012. And they've won 5 Super Bowls: XVI in 1981-82, XIX in 1984-85, XXIII in 1988-89, XXIV in 1989-90, and XXIX in 1994-95. But there appears to be no notations for any of these inside Levi's Stadium.

The 49ers have retired 12 numbers, plus notations for former owner Eddie DeBartolo and the late former head coach Bill Walsh:

* From the 1957 team that tied for the NFL Western Division title, but lost a Playoff to the Cleveland Browns: 34, running back Joe Perry; 39, running back Hugh McElhenny; 73, defensive tackle Leo Nomellini; and 79, offensive tackle Bob St. Clair. Quarterback Y.A. Tittle also played for this team, but his Number 14 has not been retired by the 49ers. (It has been retired by the Giants.) Nor has the Number 35 of John Henry Johnson, who left the 49ers the season before. Tittle, Perry, McElhenny and Johnson formed the only all-Hall-of-Fame backfield ever (playing in San Francisco from 1954 to '56).

* From the 1970 and '71 teams that reached back-to-back NFC Championship Games, losing both to the Dallas Cowboys: 12, quarterback John Brodie; 37, cornerback Jimmy Johnson (no relation to the Cowboy coach of the same name, or to John Henry Johnson); and 70, defensive tackle Charlie Krueger. Brodie is not in the Hall of Fame. Linebacker Dave Wilcox is, but his Number 64 has not been retired.

* From the Super Bowl XVI and XIX winners: DeBartolo and Walsh; 16, quarterback Joe Montana; 42, cornerback Ronnie Lott; 87, receiver Dwight Clark. Clark is not in the Hall of Fame. Defensive end Mean Fred Dean is, but his Number 74 has not been retired. Also not in the Hall of Fame, but should be, is Number 33, running back Roger Craig.

* From the Super Bowl XXIII and XXIV winners: DeBartolo, Walsh, Montana, Lott; 80, receiver Jerry Rice. Craig was still there. Linebacker Charles Haley also was, and is in the Hall, but his Number 94 has not been retired. Steve Young was a backup, and while he got 2 rings, he barely played.

* From the Super Bowl XXIX winners: DeBartolo and Rice; 8, quarterback Steve Young. Linebacker Rickey Jackson, a Hall-of-Famer for his service to the New Orleans Saints, was on this team. So was defensive end Richard Dent, one for his service to the Chicago Bears. So was cornerback Deion Sanders, whose best years were with the Atlanta Falcons and Dallas Cowboys.

* No players from the 2012 NFC Championship have yet been honored.

The 49ers also have a team Hall of Fame, whose inductees include: DeBartolo, Walsh, Young, Brodie, Tittle, Montana, Craig, Perry, both Johnsons, McElhenny, Lott, Wilcox, Krueger, Nomellini, Dean, St. Clair, Rice; founding owners Tony and Vic Morabito, 1950s receiver Gordy Soltau (Number 82), 1960s cornerback R.C. Owens (27), Super Bowl XXIV- and XXIX-winning coach George Seifert, and 1980s and '90s executive John McVay -- whom Giant fans might remember as the head coach who was fired after the 1978 "Miracle of the Meadowlands" game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame (BASHOF) is unusual in that its exhibits are spread over several locations, including Levi's Stadium. The 49ers honored include Walsh, DeBartolo, Brodie, Tittle, Montana, Craig, Perry, both Johnsons, McElhenny, Lott, Wilcox, Nomellini, St. Clair, Rice, Soltau, 1940s and '50s coach Buck Shaw, 1940s quarterback Frankie Albert (Number 16, the NFL's 1st great lefthanded quarterback, long before Young), 1970s quarterback Jim Plunkett (16, a San Jose native elected mainly on his performance with the Raiders), 1980s and '90s tight end Brent Jones (84), and a San Francisco native who closed his career with the 49ers, but is now far better known for something else: O.J. Simpson.

Stuff. The 49ers' flagship team store is inside Gate A of Levi's Stadium. They also have team stores throughout the Bay Area.

As a historic team, there are lots of books written about the Niners. In 2014, Brian Murphy -- putting team owner Jed York (Eddie DeBartolo's son-in-law)'s name on it to gain inside access -- published San Francisco 49ers: From Kezar to Levi's Stadium. A few months earlier, Matt Maiocco and team legend Dwight Clark collaborated on San Francisco 49ers: The Complete Illustrated History.

Last year, Dave Newhouse published Founding 49ers: The Dark Days Before the Dynasty. After the 4th Super Bowl win in 1990, Bill Walsh got together with San Francisco Chronicle writer Glenn Dickey and wrote Building a Champion: On Football and the Making of the 49ers, the ultimate inside look at the greatest football organization of the past 35 years. (Yes, ahead of the Patriots of the last 15 years: The 49ers won more Super Bowls, and they didn't have to cheat.)

In 1990, the NFL put out San Francisco 49ers: Team of the '80s. It's now out on DVD. In 2006, in time for the team's 60th Anniversary (this coming year is the 70th), the League put out San Francisco 49ers: The Complete History. With another Super Bowl appearance and a new stadium, it's no longer so complete, but it's the best video history of the team available.

During the Game. This is not a Raider game, where people come dressed as pirates, biker gangsters, Darth Vader, the Grim Reaper, and so on. Nor is this a Giant game where you might be wearing Dodger gear. This is a 49ers game, where fans have tailgated with picnic tables, tablecloths, and even candlesticks -- and not just because they once played at Candlestick Park. These people are as likely to drink California wine as Wisconsin beer at their tailgates. They are more refined, and for all their success, they're not particularly arrogant. You will be safe wearing your Giant or Jet colors.

The 49ers hold auditions for National Anthem singers, instead of having a regular. Since the 1980s, "We're the 49ers" has been the team's theme song. Before that, they had a "Touchdown, 49ers" fight song. The 49ers were named for the Gold Rush prospectors that made Northern California possible in 1849, and their mascot resembles one of them, named Sourdough Sam, as sourdough bread was, long before Rice-a-Roni, the actual "San Francisco treat." Naturally, he wears Number 49.
After the Game. Again, Niner fans are not Raider fans. And the Santa Clara stadium is far from any crime issues. Don't antagonize anyone, and you'll be fine.

If you want to go out for a postgame meal or drinks, David's Restaurant, across Tasman Drive from the stadium's north end, is described as a "traditional American restaurant." But it's part of the Santa Clara Country Club, so it might be a bit expensive. A little bit east on Tasman, Butter & Zeus sells fast-food sandwiches and salads. Giovanni's New York Pizzeria is 4 miles to the west, at 1127 Lawrence Expressway (it's really just a suburban divided highway), but I can't say that its "New York pizza" is authentic.

There are three bars in the Lower Nob Hill neighborhood of San Francisco that are worth mentioning. Aces, at 998 Sutter Street & Hyde Street in San Francisco’s Lower Nob Hill neighborhood, is said to have a Yankee sign out front and a Yankee Fan as the main bartender. It’s also the home port of Mets, NFL Giants, Knicks and Rangers fans in the Bay Area.

R Bar, at 1176 Sutter & Polk Street, is the local Jets fan hangout. And Greens Sports Bar, at 2239 Polk at Green Street, is also said to be a Yankee-friendly bar. Of course, you’ll have to cross the Bay by car or by BART to get there.

Sidelights. The San Francisco Bay Area, including the East Bay (which includes Oakland), has a very rich sports history. Here are some of the highlights:

* AT&T Park. Home of the Giants since 2000, it has been better for them than Candlestick -- aesthetically, competitively, financially, you name it. Winning 3 World Series since it opened, it's been home to The Freak (Tim Lincecum) and The Steroid Freak (Barry Bonds).

It's hosted some college football games, and a February 10, 2006 win by the U.S. soccer team over Japan. 24 Willie Mays Plaza, at 3rd & King Streets.

* Oakland Coliseum complex. This includes the stadium that has been home to the A’s since 1968 and to the NFL’s Oakland Raiders from 1966 to 1981 and again since 1995; and the Oracle Arena, a somewhat-renovated version of the Oakland Coliseum Arena, home to the NBA’s Golden State Warriors on and off since 1966, and continuously since 1971 except for a one-year hiatus in San Jose while it was being renovated, 1996-97. Various defunct soccer teams played at the Coliseum, and the Bay Area’s former NHL team, the Oakland Seals/California Golden Seals, played at the arena from 1967 to 1976.

The Oakland Coliseum Arena opened on November 9, 1966, and became home to the Warriors in 1971 -- at which point they changed their name from "San Francisco Warriors" to "Golden State Warriors," as if representing the entire State of California had enabled the "California Angels" to take Los Angeles away from the Dodgers, and it didn't take L.A. away from the Lakers, either.
The arena also hosted the Oakland Oaks, who won the American Basketball Association title in 1969; the Oakland Seals, later the California Golden Seals (didn't work for them, either), from 1967 to 1976; the Golden Bay Earthquakes of the Major Indoor Soccer League; and select basketball games for the University of California from 1966 to 1999. It's also been a major concert venue, and hosted the Bay Area's own, the Grateful Dead, more times than any other building: 66. Elvis Presley sang at the Coliseum Arena on November 10, 1970 and November 11, 1972.

In 1996-97, the arena was gutted to expand it from 15,000 to 19,000 seats. (The Warriors spent that season in San Jose.) This transformed it from a 1960s arena that was too small by the 1990s into one that was ready for an early 21st Century sports crowd. It was renamed The Arena in Oakland in 1997 and the Oracle Arena in 2005. The Warriors plan to move into a new arena in San Francisco for the 2017-18 season.

* Seals Stadium. Home of the PCL’s San Francisco Seals from 1931 to 1957, the Mission Reds from 1931 to 1937, and the Giants in 1958 and ’59, it was the first home professional field of the DiMaggio brothers: First Vince, then Joe, and finally Dom all played for the Seals in the 1930s. The Seals won Pennants there in 1931, ’35, ’43, ’44, ’45, ’46 and ’57 (their last season). It seated just 18,500, expanded to 22,900 for the Giants, and was never going to be more than a stopgap facility until the Giants’ larger park could be built. It was demolished right after the 1959 season, and the site now has a Safeway grocery store.

Bryant Street, 16th Street, Potrero Avenue and Alameda Street, in the Mission District. Hard to reach by public transport: The Number 10 bus goes down Townsend Street and Rhode Island Avenue until reaching 16th, but then it’s an 8-block walk. The Number 27 can be picked up at 5th & Harrison Streets, and will go right there.

* Candlestick Park. Home of the Giants from 1960 to 1999, the NFL 49ers since 1970, and the Raiders in the 1961 season, this may have been the most-maligned sports facility in North American history. Its seaside location (Candlestick Point) has led to spectators being stricken by wind (a.k.a. The Hawk), cold, and even fog. It was open to the Bay until 1971, including the 1962 World Series between the Yankees and the Giants, and was then enclosed to expand it from 42,000 to 69,000 seats for the Niners. It also got artificial turf for the 1970 season, one of the first stadiums to have it – though, to the city’s credit, it was also the 1st NFL stadium and 2nd MLB stadium (after Comiskey Park in Chicago) to switch back to real grass.

The Giants only won 2 Pennants there, and never a World Series. But the 49ers have won 5 Super Bowls while playing there, with 3 of their 6 NFC Championship Games won as the home team. The NFL Giants did beat the 49ers in the 1990 NFC Championship Game, scoring no touchdowns but winning 15-13 thanks to 5 Matt Bahr field goals. The Beatles played their last “real concert” ever at the ‘Stick on August 29, 1966 – only 25,000 people came out, a total probably driven down by the stadium’s reputation and John Lennon’s comments about religion on that tour.

The Giants got out, and the 49ers have now done the same, with their new stadium opening last year. The last sporting event was a U.S. national soccer team win over Azerbaijan earlier this year, the 4th game the Stars & Stripes played there (2 wins, 2 losses). It has now been demolished, and good riddance.

Best way to the site by public transport isn’t a good one: The KT light rail at 4th & King Streets, at the CalTrain terminal, to 3rd & Gilman Streets, and then it’s almost a mile’s walk down Jagerson Avenue. So unless you’re driving/renting a car, or you’re a sports history buff who HAS to see the place, I wouldn’t suggest making time for it.

In spite of the Raiders' return, the 49ers are more popular -- according to a 2014 Atlantic Monthly
article, even in Alameda County. The Raiders remain more popular in the Los Angeles area, a holdover from their 1982-94 layover, and also a consequence of L.A. not having had a team since.

* Kezar Stadium. The 49ers played here from their 1946 founding until 1970, the Raiders spent their inaugural 1960 season here, and previous pro teams in the city also played at this facility at the southeastern corner of Golden Gate Park, a mere 10-minute walk from the fabled corner of Haight & Ashbury Streets. High school football, including the annual City Championship played on Thanksgiving Day, used to be held here as well. Bob St. Clair, who played there in high school, college (University of San Francisco) and the NFL in a Hall of Fame career with the 49ers, has compared it to Chicago’s Wrigley Field as a “neighborhood stadium.” After the 49ers left, it became a major concert venue.

The original 60,000-seat structure was built in 1925, and was torn down in 1989 (a few months before the earthquake, so there’s no way to know what the quake would have done to it), and was replaced in 1990 with a 9,000-seat stadium, much more suitable for high school sports. The original Kezar, named for one of the city’s pioneering families, had a cameo in the Clint Eastwood film Dirty Harry. Frederick & Stanyan Streets, Kezar Drive and Arguello Blvd. MUNI light rail N train.

* Emeryville Park. Also known as Oaks Park, this was the home of the Pacific Coast League’s Oakland Oaks from 1913 until 1955. The Oaks won Pennants there in 1927, ’48, ’50 and ’54.

Most notable of these was the 1948 Pennant, won by a group of players who had nearly all played in the majors and were considered old, and were known as the Nine Old Men (a name often given to the U.S. Supreme Court). These old men included former Yankee 1st baseman Nick Etten, the previous year’s World Series hero Cookie Lavagetto of the Brooklyn Dodgers (an Oakland native), Hall of Fame catcher Ernie Lombardi (another Oakland native), and one very young player, a 20-year-old 2nd baseman from Berkeley named Billy Martin. Their manager? Casey Stengel. Impressed by Casey’s feat of managing the Nine Old Men to a Pennant in a league that was pretty much major league quality, and by his previously having managed the minor-league version of the Milwaukee Brewers to an American Association Pennant, Yankee owners Dan Topping and Del Webb hired Casey to manage in 1949. Casey told Billy that if he ever got the chance to bring him east, he would, and he was as good as his word.

Pixar Studios has built property on the site. 45th Street, San Pablo Avenue, Park Avenue and Watts Street, Emeryville, near the Amtrak station. Number 72 bus from Jack London Square.

* Frank Youell Field. This was another stopgap facility, used by the Raiders from 1962 to 1965, a 22,000-seat stadium that was named after an Oakland undertaker – perhaps fitting, although the Raiders didn’t yet have that image. Interestingly from a New York perspective, the first game here was between the Raiders and the forerunners of the Jets, the New York Titans.

It was demolished in 1969. A new field of the same name was built on the site for Laney College. East 8th Street, 5th Avenue, East 10th Street and the Oakland Estuary. Lake Merritt BART station.

* Cow Palace. The more familiar name of the Grand National Livestock Pavilion, this big barn just south of the City Line in Daly City has hosted just about everything, from livestock shows and rodeos to the 1956 and 1964 Republican National Conventions. (Yes, the Republicans came here, not the “hippie” Democrats, although they did hold their 1984 Convention downtown at the George Moscone Convention Center.)

The ’64 Convention is where New York’s Governor Nelson Rockefeller refused to be booed off the podium when he dared to speak out against the John Birch Society – the Tea Party idiots of their time – and when Senator Barry Goldwater was nominated, telling them, “I would remind you, my fellow Republicans, that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And I would remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” (Personally, I think that extremism in the defense of liberty is no defense of liberty.)

Built in 1941, it is one of the oldest remaining former NBA and NHL sites, having hosted the NBA’s Warriors (then calling themselves the San Francisco Warriors) from 1962 to 1971, the NHL’s San Jose Sharks from their 1991 debut until their current arena could open in 1993, and several minor-league hockey teams. The 1960 NCAA Final Four was held here, culminating in Ohio State, led by Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek (with future coaching legend Bobby Knight as the 6th man) beating local heroes and defending National Champions California, led by Darrell Imhoff.

The Beatles played here on August 19, 1964 and August 31, 1965, and Elvis sang here on November 13, 1970 and November 28 & 29, 1976. It was the site of Neil Young’s 1978 concert that produced the live album Live Rust and the concert film Rust Never Sleeps, and the 1986 Conspiracy of Hope benefit with Joan Baez, Lou Reed, Sting and U2. The acoustics of the place, and the loss of such legendary venues as the Fillmore West and the Winterland Ballroom, make it the Bay Area’s holiest active rock and roll site. 2600 Geneva Avenue at Santos Street, in Daly City. 8X bus.

In addition to the preceding, Elvis sang at the Auditorium Arena (now the Kaiser Convention Center, near the Laney College campus in Oakland) early in his career, on June 3, 1956 and again on October 27, 1957; and the San Francisco Civic Auditorium (now the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, 99 Grove Street at Polk Street) on October 26, 1957.

* SAP Center at San Jose. Formerly the San Jose Arena and the HP Pavilion, this building has hosted the NHL’s San Jose Sharks since 1993. The Warriors played here in 1996-97, while their Oakland arena was being renovated. If you’re a fan of the TV show The West Wing, this was the convention center where the ticket of Matt Santos and Leo McGarry was nominated. 525 W. Santa Clara Street at Autumn Street, across from the Amtrak & CalTrain station.

* Avaya Stadium. The brand-new home of Major League Soccer's San Jose Earthquakes, it is soccer-specific and seats 18,000 people. 1123 Coleman Avenue & Newhall Drive; 41 miles from downtown Oakland, 46 from downtown San Francisco, 3 1/2 from downtown San Jose. ACE (Altamont Commuter Express) to Great America-Santa Clara.

This is actually the 3rd version of the San Jose Earthquakes. The 1st one played in the original North American Soccer League from 1974 to 1984, at Spartan Stadium. This has been home to San Jose State University sports since 1933, it hosted both the old Earthquakes, of the original North American Soccer League, from 1974 to 1984. It's hosted 3 games of the U.S. national team, most recently a 2007 loss to China. 1251 S. 10th Street, San Jose. San Jose Municipal Stadium, home of the Triple-A San Jose Giants, is a block away at 588 E. Alma Avenue. From either downtown San Francisco or downtown Oakland, take BART to Fremont terminal, then 181 bus to 2nd & Santa Clara, then 68 bus to Monterey & Alma.

The 2nd version of the Quakes played at Spartan Stadium from 1996 to 2005, but ran into financial trouble, and got moved to become the Houston Dynamo. The 3rd version was started in 2008, and until 2014 played at Buck Shaw Stadium, now called Stevens Stadium, in Santa Clara, on the campus of Santa Clara University. Also accessible by the Santa Clara ACE station.

* Stanford Stadium. This is the home field of Stanford University in Palo Alto, down the Peninsula from San Francisco. Originally built in 1921, it was home to many great quarterbacks, from early 49ers signal-caller Frankie Albert to 1971 Heisman winner Jim Plunkett to John Elway. It hosted Super Bowl XIX in 1985, won by the 49ers over the Miami Dolphins – 1 of only 2 Super Bowls that ended up having had a team that could have been called a home team. (The other was XIV, the Los Angeles Rams losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Rose Bowl.)

It also hosted San Francisco’s games of the 1994 World Cup, and the soccer games of the 1984 Olympics, even though most of the events of those Olympics were down the coast in Los Angeles. It hosted 10 games by the U.S. national team, totaling 4 wins, 2 losses, 2 draws.

The original 85,000-seat structure was demolished and replaced with a new 50,000-seat stadium in 2006. Arboretum Road & Galvez Street. Caltrain to Palo Alto, 36 miles from downtown Oakland, 35 from downtown San Francisco, 19 from downtown San Jose.

* California Memorial Stadium. Home of Stanford’s arch-rivals, the University of California, at its main campus in Berkeley in the East Bay. (The school is generally known as “Cal” for sports, and “Berkeley” for most other purposes.) Its location in the Berkeley Hills makes it one of the nicest settings in college football. But it’s also, quite literally, on the Hayward Fault, a branch of the San Andreas Fault, so if “The Big One” had hit during a Cal home game, 72,000 people would have been screwed. With this in mind, the University renovated the stadium, making it safer and ready for 63,000 fans in 2012. So, like their arch-rivals Stanford, they now have a new stadium on the site of the old one.

The old stadium hosted 1 NFL game, and it was a very notable one: Due to a scheduling conflict with the A’s, the Raiders played a 1973 game there with the Miami Dolphins, and ended the Dolphins’ winning streak that included the entire 1972 season and Super Bowl VII. 76 Canyon Road, Berkeley. Downtown Berkeley stop on BART; 5 1/2 miles from downtown Oakland, 14 from downtown San Francisco, 48 from downtown San Jose.

Yankee Legend Joe DiMaggio, who grew up in San Francisco and later divided his time between there and South Florida, is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma, on the Peninsula. 1500 Mission Road & Lawndale Blvd. BART to South San Francisco, then about a 1-mile walk.

The Fillmore Auditorium was at Fillmore Street and Geary Boulevard, and it still stands and hosts live music. Bus 38L. Winterland Ballroom, home of the final concerts of The Band (filmed as The Last Waltz) and the Sex Pistols, was around the corner from the Fillmore at Post & Steiner Streets. And the legendary corner of Haight & Ashbury Streets can be reached via the 30 Bus, taking it to Haight and Masonic Avenue and walking 1 block west.

San Francisco, like New York, has a Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), at 151 3rd Street, downtown. The California Palace of the Legion of Honor is probably the city’s most famous museum, in Lincoln Park at the northwestern corner of the city, near the Presidio and the Golden Gate Bridge. (Any of you who are Trekkies, the Presidio is a now-closed military base that, in the Star Trek Universe, is the seat of Starfleet Command and Starfleet Academy.) And don’t forget to take a ride on one of them cable cars I’ve been hearing so dang much about.

Oakland isn’t much of a museum city, especially compared with San Francisco across the Bay. But the Oakland Museum of California (10th & Oak, Lake Merritt BART) and the Chabot Space & Science Center (10000 Skyline Blvd., not accessible by BART) may be worth a look.

The tallest building in Northern California is the iconic Transamerica Pyramid, 853 feet high, opening in 1972 at 600 Montgomery Street downtown. If all goes according to schedule, it will be superseded next year by the Salesforce Tower, also downtown, at 415 Mission Street, rising 1,070 feet. Another skyscraper will open around the same time in Los Angeles, slightly higher, so the Salesforce Tower won't be the tallest building in California, much less the American West.

While San Francisco has been the setting for lots of TV shows (from Ironside and The Streets of San Francisco in the 1970s, to Full House and Dharma & Greg in the 1990s), Oakland, being much less glamorous, has had only one that I know of: Hangin' With Mr. Cooper, comedian Mark Curry's show about a former basketball player who returns to his old high school to teach.

In contrast, lots of movies have been shot in Oakland, including a pair of baseball-themed movies shot at the Coliseum: Moneyball, based on Michael Lewis' book about the early 2000s A's, with Brad Pitt as general manager Billy Beane; and the 1994 remake of Angels In the Outfield, filmed there because a recent earthquake had damaged the real-life Angels' Anaheim Stadium, and it couldn't be repaired in time for filming.

Movies set in San Francisco often take advantage of the city's topography, and include the Dirty Harry series, Bullitt (based on the same real-life cop, Dave Toschi); The Maltese Falcon, starring Humphrey Bogart; Woody Allen's Bogart tribute, Play It Again, Sam; The Lady from Shanghai, the original version of D.O.A., Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo48 Hrs., and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home -- with the aircraft carrier USS Ranger, at the Alameda naval base, standing in for the carrier Enterprise, which was then away at sea.

The 1936 film San Francisco takes place around the earthquake and fire that devastated the city in 1906. And Milk starred Sean Penn as Harvey Milk, America's 1st openly gay successful politician, elected to San Francisco's Board of Supervisors in 1977 before being assassinated with Mayor George Moscone the next year.

Movies set in San Francisco often have scenes filmed there and in Oakland, including Pal Joey, Mahogany, Basic Instinct, the James Bond film A View to a Kill, and Mrs. Doubtfire, starring San Francisco native Robin Williams.

*

So, if you can afford it, go on out and join your fellow Giant or Jet fans in going coast-to-coast, and take on the legendary, but now-struggling San Francisco 49ers. After all, the Giants have won more NFL Championships, if not yet as many Super Bowls. The Jets? Well, their 1 is still more iconic than any of the Niners' 5.

Useless Last-Minute Super Bowl Betting Tips -- 2016 Edition

In the first 49 Super Bowls...

The NFC Champion has won 26 times, the AFC Champion 23. Not a huge difference there.

But if you count teams that started in the old, pre-1970 merger NFL, including the Steelers and Colts, then it becomes 33-15 NFC. You really shouldn't count the Ravens, even though they began as the Browns (who began in the AAFC before becoming an NFL team anyway); but if you do, then it's 35-13 NFC. The Denver Broncos started out in the AFL, while the Carolina Panthers are a 1995 NFL expansion team. Based on this... Advantage: Carolina.

The team wearing the white jerseys has won 31, including the last 4, and 9 of the last 10. The Panthers will be wearing white. Advantage: Carolina.

UPDATE: I was wrong: The Broncos wore white, and the Panthers blue.

Teams whose primary (dark) uniform color is blue have won the most Super Bowls, 17 -- but have also lost the most, 18. Red has the best winning percentage, at 10-6; Black is 11-8, Green is 7-7, Purple is 4-4, and Orange is 0-5. The Panthers' primary color is a very dark blue. Advantage: Carolina.

The older of the two teams has won 32 times -- and if you accept the old Browns/Ravens as an "old" team, it becomes 33 times. Advantage: Denver.

The Jets are the only team to reach the Super Bowl with a mascot that is an inanimate object. (No, I'm not talking about Fireman Ed.) The only other such team in the league could be the Browns, depending on what you think a "Brown" is. Advantage: Neither.

Teams with human mascots are 37-22 in Super Bowls. Teams with animal mascots are only 11-27. Miles the Bronco and Sir Purr the Panther are both animals. Advantage: Neither.

Teams with horse mascots, the Broncos and the Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts, are 4-7. Teams with cat mascots are 0-3: The Panthers have lost their only appearance before tonight, the Cincinnati Bengals are 0-2, the Jacksonville Jaguars have never made it, and the Detroit Lions haven't made an NFL Championship Game, under any name, since 1957. Since horse have won, and cats haven't... Advantage: Denver.

Teams playing their home games on natural grass are 24-23; on artificial turf, 24-26. Both teams play on real grass. The game is being played at Levi's Stadium, which also uses real grass. Turf teams having to switch to grass for the Super Bowl are 13-10, but since that doesn't apply to either team, no advantage. Grass teams having to switch to turf for the Super Bowl are 9-8, while teams playing on turf and staying on turf are 11-12. Not a whole lot of help there.

The team with the more experienced quarterback doesn't help much: It's almost an even split, 25-24. Peyton Manning is considerably more experienced than Cam Newton, but is that really an advantage for Denver? After all, "more experienced" could mean "old," while "less experienced" could mean "just entering his prime."

Having the more experienced head coach doesn't help much: Teams with the less experienced coach are 26-23. The Broncos' Gary Kubiak has been a coach since 1992, an NFL coach since 1994, and an NFL head coach since 2006. The Panthers' Ron River has been a coach, and an NFL coach, since 1997, and a head coach since 2011. So while this particular advantage leans toward Denver, it may be utterly meaningless. Rivera does, however, have a Super Bowl ring, with the 1985 Chicago Bears.

The team that is closer in distance to the site of the Super Bowl is 27-22. And Denver, Colorado is a lot closer to Santa Clara, California than Charlotte, North Carolina is. But in the era of every team flying their own private planes, and with nearly a week to acclimate to the location of the game, is that really an issue?


Finally, teams from States that were Red States -- won by the Republican nominee for President in the most recent election -- are 25-21 in Super Bowls. Teams from Blue States -- won by the Democratic nominee in the last election -- are 24-28. North Carolina has gone Republican in every election but 1 since 1980, while Colorado has gone Democratic in the last 2 elections.

Does this mean... Advantage, Denver? Not necessarily: The last 5 Super Bowl winners have been from Blue States -- but so have the last 6 Super Bowl losers. The last Red State team to win was the New Orleans Saints, 6 years ago. The last team from a conservative city to win was the Indianapolis Colts, 9 years ago. Now that suggests... Advantage, Denver.

*

At the moment, the point spread is Panthers by 5.

The 1968-69 Jets, the 1969-70 Chiefs, the 1980-81 and 1983-84 Raiders, the 1982-83 and 1987-88 Redskins; the 1990-91, 2007-08 and 2011-12 Giants; the 1997-98 Broncos, the 2001-02 Patriots, the 2002-03 Bucs, the 2009-10 Saints, the 2012-13 Ravens and the 2013-14 Seahawks -- 15 of the 49 winners -- won the Super Bowl despite being the underdog.

The 1975-76 Cowboys, the 1988-89 Bengals, the 1995-96 Steelers, the 2003-04 Panthers, the 2004-05 Eagles and the 2008-09 Cardinals -- 6 teams -- beat the spread, but did not win the game. The 1996-97 Packers were 14-point favorites to beat the Patriots, and beat them by exactly that, 14 points. The 1999-2000 Rams were 7-point favorites to beat the Titans, and did so. On those 2 occasions, the Super Bowl point spread was right on.

My recommendations? I have two:

1. Don't bet on the game. You need the money more than your friends do, and especially more than any bookmaker does.

2. Enjoy yourself, but don't eat too much.

You could go for the team wearing the less ugly uniforms. Since the Broncos will be wearing their bright orange jerseys with purple trim, and the Panthers their road whites, that would mean the Panthers.

There is sentiment behind Peyton Manning. But he pals around with employee-hating Papa John Schnatter, so to hell with him: Let's go, Panthers!


If you must bet, consider what I've said here, take it with a pinch of salt, and use your head.

Let's hope, first and foremost, for a good game, with no major injuries, and no moments like Peyton's over-the-shoulder snap on last year's first play from scrimmage. No "Leon Lett Play." Nothing that would make an announcer say, as Verne Lundquist said after a wide-open Jackie Smith of the Cowboys dropped a sure touchdown pass in Super Bowl XIII, which ended up making the difference, "Aw, bless his heart, he's got to be the sickest man in America!

Nobody deserves to have that happen to him.


Well, maybe the Patriots do. But they're not in it this time, are they? They couldn't cheat their way in again.


Broncos or Panthers? We shall see.