Friday, May 18, 2007

There Ought to be More Madness Here

Our Town downtown

March 12, 2007

Here’s a note that came early in the week from Steve Bloom, who writes a lot of sports for us:

The [NYU] Violets finished the 2006-07 season by winning the ECAC Division III Men’s Basketball Metro Championship last night at Coles over Richard Stockton College, 58-55. They ended the season with a 22-6 record. Pretty darn good. It was fun covering the Violets. Thanks for encouraging me to follow the team.

Steve wrote a cover story on the NYU team at the end of January and got hooked on going to the games. None of the rest of us went to any of them, but some of us commented at the time of the article how surprised we were at the description of the game atmosphere. It was more the stuff of college sports than we had imagined NYU games would be. Cheerleaders, pep bands, excited crowds. Just up the street from the Angelika.

We thought it was great that it was that way. I especially did. I like college sports so much that I this year bought season tickets to Fordham basketball. One of my daughters went there but she could care less about their hoops. I go up to the Bronx because the gym is classic and the atmosphere is fun. Fordham’s in a good league. The coach is a show and the student section tosses baby dolls in the air behind the basket while the other team is shooting free throws.
You leave these games feeling different than when you walked in. You’re on cloud nine if your team won, way down if they lost. It’s better than going to concerts, which someone once said are totally emotionally ‘safe games’. Bruce never loses or even gets the ball stolen. You get to cheer baskets scored against no defenders. All the fans go home happy like they won a game. But, no risk, no real reward. That’s why sports are so wildly popular everywhere. Even as a spectator you invest something of yourself. You risk something. It’d be easier to rent a movie you’ve seen before on Saturday night than to watch a basketball game and maybe have to go through the pain of losing, but if your team wins, it’s a rush. How many real rushes have you gotten from NetFlix?

Last week and weekend the Big East Tournament was held at the Garden. People all over the country watched it on their tubes. That’s what I usually do. This time I went over to it. I bought a ticket Friday afternoon from a scalper whose looks and manner you’d know not to trust in a movie, but I was in a hurry to get inside and it turned out all right. Cost me $80. Craig’s List, which I don’t really know how to use, wanted at least $100. So I saved $20 there, I figured, and I stayed away from the $7.75 beers once I got inside.

The atmosphere was charged, better than a concert. Guys had money bet, guys had loyalties; they didn’t want their school to lose. People there had hats and shirts on from all over the Big East. Pep bands played the songs their fathers had stood and clapped to. March Madness was just underway.

The Garden is lit perfectly for basketball. The lights above the seats are dimmer there it seems than in other arenas; that makes the court seem brighter in contrast like a boxing ring at a big fight.

You think while you’re there that there ought to be big-time basketball interest all year long in New York—for the colleges. In Philly they have a little hoops world all their own with St. Joe’s and LaSalle and Villanova and Penn and Temple—and Drexel. It’s a great tradition. Why couldn’t New York develop such a thing among St. John’s and Fordham and NYU and Columbia and Manhattan. Men and women’s teams. Have a Christmas tourney in the Garden. It’d strengthen all the programs. It’d help keep some of the local talent here. And it would give you another reason to go to a game.

-- Bill Gunlocke

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