I've been covering the 49ers since 2003, and the gig has taken me to every NFL city save one: Houston. Assuming that I remain healthy (please, God) and The Bee still has a travel budget in the fall (please, economy), that omission will be addressed this season when the 49ers visit the Texans. With the NFL poised to release the full schedule - dates, times, national tv skeds - tomorrow, I thought I'd list my favorite and least favorite NFL destinations.
1. New Orleans. Sure, it's got problems. But the Big Easy is the most unique big city in America. Great atmosphere, fantastic restaurants and finally a place where I can use my high school French. Laissez les bon temps rouler!
2. Miami. Like a crazy girlfriend. She's hot and a lot of fun, but you're always worried you might get stabbed.
3. Seattle. It's better early in the season than late when - you've probably never heard this about Seattle - it tends to be a bit damp. True Seattle story: After the 49ers fourth-quarter win a few years ago, the wind was so fierce that the hotel tower I was staying in literally was swaying back and forth. It felt like I was bunking in the crow's nest of a clipper ship.
4. New York. I hesitate to list NYC this high because it will validate all those Manhattanites who think the sun rises and sets on the Hudson. Still, there's an energy in the city like no other. Now if you'd just lower your hotel rates, I actually may be able to stay there instead of Rutherford, NJ.
5. Washington. Barrows' hometown. Everybody always complains that D.C. is overrated. Keep complaining -- we press one button and your city ceases to exist.
6. Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh is like the ugly girl from high school who reappears as a stunner at the reunion. Who knew there was a beautiful city behind all those smokestacks and smog? Great stadium.
7. Chicago. I came up with the perfect motto for this city - Chicago: Fat and Coughing. Ok, that's a bit harsh. You have a fantastic downtown, lots of cool neighborhoods and an underrated lakefront. Still, a couple of hours a week on the treadmill wouldn't hurt.
8. Boston. If you're so tough, why are all the men wearing necklaces?
9. Baltimore. The Inner Harbor is nice and the city has the best football-baseball stadium combo in America. Plus, any city that produces characters like Stringer Bell, Omar and Snoop gets huge bonus points. If you haven't seen "The Wire," drop whatever you're doing and rent - no, buy -- it. You can thank me later.
10. Green Bay. Yes, you may die of hypothermia 15 minutes after arriving. And yes, their idea of "entertainment" involves a Remington and an unsuspecting deer. But nowhere else do you get such a feeling of community, especially when the Packers play. If you want real America, this is it.
11. Phoenix/Tempe. Two words: jean shorts. 365.
12. Buffalo. This past December I watched Buffaloans (Buffalites? Buffalarians? Buffalenos?) tailgate for two and half hours in a freezing rain. Without jackets. With a smile on their faces. Toughest. People. Ever. (They'll need that stiff upper lip with T.O. in town)
13. Tampa. The city is famous for its excellent ...(my mom reads this) ... libraries.
14. Kansas City. I'm trying to eliminate beef from my diet, but I make an exception when I come to Kansas City. You're welcome, taste buds. Sorry, colon.
15. Nashville. The music scene. The university. The downtown. You'd have a nice little city here if there wasn't a Denny's, Hardee's or Waffle House everywhere you turned. (See: zoning laws)
16. San Diego. Voted best city in America ... in which to get into a fistfight with a gaggle of drunken midshipmen.
17. Cleveland. Like restoring an old El Camino: You're making progress but every so often you question whether it's worth the effort.
18. Cincinnati. It's as if a Southern city got hammered one night, went home with a Midwest city and nine months later out popped Cincinnati.
19. Denver. Where your flight gets delayed.
20. Jacksonville. The best thing about Jacksonville is that it's an hour and a half from Savannah.
21. Atlanta. Why does it take so long to get through security at Hartsfield International Airport? Everyone's trying to get the hell out of Atlanta.
22. Philadelphia. If I write anything but "Philly sucks" I won't be allowed back in Washington.
23. Charlotte. If you love Bank of America ATMs, book a flight.
24. Indianapolis. I'll set the scene for you: Overcast, 40 degrees and it snowed about a week ago so that the streets are brown and slushy and rock salt coats everything. That's Indianapolis from October-May.
25. Detroit. Where M. Night Shyamalan draws his inspiration.
26. Minneapolis. A few years ago, all of the 49ers beatwriters got food poisoning after eating undercooked chicken at the Metrodome. That was the highlight of the trip.
27. St. Louis. Two out of the last three cab drivers I had likely belonged to the KKK. The third guy? I couldn't put my bags in his trunk because it was overflowing with clear plastic jugs that were sloshing around with a mysterious pink fluid. Pretty sure it wasn't lemonade. Dear FBI ...
28. Dallas. City motto: flat, brown and ... sorry, fell asleep. Y'all come back real soon!
-- Matt Barrows