Thursday, November 16, 2006

Maiden Voyage to the Mecca

One of the things that got me excited about moving to New York was the sports scene. I anticipated trips to Yankee Stadium, Shea Stadium, and, of course, Madison Square Garden. Knicks, Rangers, and college basketball all occupy the latter. Before I even arrived in NYC, I had tickets to four events at MSG. Two Knicks games (Miami Heat, because I feel I need to see Shaq and Wade play, and the Seattle Supersonics, because I'd like to see them play as much as I can before they move to Oklahoma City) and two Rangers games (both against Ottawa, to see my boy Pat play). But on Wednesday, with the Wizards in town, Liz wanted to fill her fix for DC sports, and I wanted to see Gilbert, so we decided to catch a game at "The World's Most Famous Arena."

Madison Square. The Garden. MSG. It doesn't matter what you call it, say any of those to a sports fan and they know exactly what you mean. MSG may technically stand for Madison Square Garden, but in reality, it stands for a lot more.

MSG stands for New York City. The Garden that is standing now was built in 1968, but the history of Madison Square Garden goes back to the late 1800s. As New York City grew, developed, changed, so did MSG.

MSG stands for music. It isn't just a sports arena. MSG has been home to many non-athletic events as well, including music. The Garden is quite the concert hall, a stopping point of many major tours and big-time acts. In fact, Billy Joel has his number retired, the only non-athlete to gain that honor (he was honored with the number 12 after playing his record 12th concert at MSG in 2006). Bruce Springsteen must be pissed... he has played 11 concerts at MSG, but there is only one "11" hanging in the rafters (more about that later).

MSG stands for boxing. In it's earliest sporting days, boxing was what The Garden was known for. It has been home to many famous fights, but none more than the historic Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier bouts. Big time boxing may have moved to Las Vegas, but The Garden will always be known for the historic fights that took place in boxing's glory days.

MSG stands for hockey. The New York Rangers are one of the NHL's most known teams. Sure, they've got four of Lord Stanley's Cups. And they also have four retired numbers (including the "11" that Bruce will never have, but not counting the league-wide retirement of the Great One's "99"). But part of the allure of the Rangers is the fact that they play in Madison Square Garden.

But for me, most of all, MSG stands for basketball. As I walked into MSG for the first time, I heard the NBA on NBC theme song playing in my head. During the glory days of the NBA, or at least my glory days, so many of the great memories took place at The Garden. LJ. The brawl. The choke. MJ. Starks. Before my time, there were even greater moments and players that came through MSG. The Knicks, as awful as they are now (although there are few bright spots for the future), are one of the NBA's greatest franchises, with two titles in the 1970s, 9 retired numbers (including Clyde, The Pearl, Willis Reed, Bill Bradley, and Patrick Ewing), 10 Hall of Famers, and one famous fan. But MSG is also home to college basketball, hosting the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, the occasional St. John's game, and countless NCAA Tournament games.

It wasn't Reggie, Smits, and the Davis's vs. Ewing, Starks, Mason, and Oakley. It was Arenas, Jamison, and Butler vs. Marbury, Francis, and Curry. Not quite the same appeal. But walking through those doors, looking at the banners, and seeing Spike Lee complain to the officials more than Isiah Thomas made me appreciate where I was. It was a great way to honor the nation's most famous arena. It may not have been MJ, and it may have been the least attended game in 14 years, but in a quirky way, it was a great look at sports history.

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Monday, November 13, 2006

BC Reunion Weekend

This weekend, I made my triumphant return to Boston to see the crew, the campus, and the football team. It had the potential to be a disaster from the start. Why? Three words: Fung Wah bus. To save money, Liz and I took the "Chinatown express" on Thursday. Some of you may be able to recall me saying things such as "I will never take the Fung Wah," in the past. But in the past, I didn't equate $25 (the amount I saved by traveling Fung Wah over Greyhound this weekend) to four meals . But I had reason to be skeptical of taking the FungWah, like the multiple articles I read during my four years at BC in the Herald or the Globe about buses breaking down, getting in accidents, or even catching fire. Or, sophomore year when Joe, Rob, Amish, Chris, and I drove to Jersey for the BC/Rutgers football game, and while traveling around 80mph, had a Fung Wah scream by us on the right. This particular instance, coupled with the popular Boston Chinese take-out restaurant Lucky Wah, has led me to the conclusion that "Wah" directly translates to "fast" or "express." What else would a bus service and a take-out place have in common other than speed? "It could mean 'unsafe' or 'harmful,'" Fell noted, on our return trip to New York on Sunday.

Arriving in Boston in the afternoon, I headed into campus to see some of the fellas and lose a couple games of NHL Hitz (a great throwback memory to the days of Joey, T-Bone, Robbie, and Mac). After a few hours at Roggies (an essential stop) and some sushi from Sapporo, I hopped on the T and went out to Somerville for a night of "drinkin' beehs with the smaht kids at some Hahvahd bahs" with Ethan. After a few ogre-sized Hoegaarden beers and a few other imports, Ethan and I headed back to his mansion for some drunken foosball. I would like to note that I don't remember how many games Ethan and I played, but I did win one game.

On Friday, after watching Good Will Hunting and a movie I probably shouldn't disclose with Ethan, I went to another mansion, this time the one that is home to Reed, Finch, Galligan, and his boy from home, Jeff. Friday night quickly turned into a shitshow, as noted in the 20th edition of Monday Mornings With Levy. Beirut, an 80's power hour, a few scattered half-pints of whiskey, and a solid group of friends eventually made it downtown to Faneuil Hall and our favorite dive joint, Dockside. Having most the crew back together was great, and it was a wonderful night.

Saturday, after taking a field trip to my storage unit to pick up some winter clothes to bring back to New York, it was time to tailgate the much anticipated match up between Duke and Boston College. Starting off in Ignacio was a good throwback to last year. Robbie and I then moved down to the Mod Lot for the Meehan tailgate, which included delicious seafood dip and a Conorburger. After a reunion with Frank Albano and a few of the mushes, I decided it was time to go to the infamous Galligan tailgate, and cut through the Mods. Little did I know, it would take me nearly an hour to make it through the Mods, as I ran into a ton of people I hadn't seen in months. The Galligan tailgate was as great as always, with Marty tossing me a keg as soon as I got there.

The game itself was pretty boring. I harassed the band to "play song 16" throughout the game. About half the times I asked, one of the band members would say "do you even know what song 16 is?" Of course I know what song 16 is. And I have no problem with requesting a marching band to play Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone." They good thing was, they actually played it for me in the 4th quarter after I had spent the entire game yelling at them to do it. Unfortunately, I was otherwise occupied at the time. At least I was there when they played song 14.

After the game, it was back to Galligan's mansion for a night of flip-cup, beirut, and other various drinking games. But one of the best parts of a reunion weekend is the reminiscing of the great memories. We remembered Gootz pouring ice on Galligan per request of the mayor of Mazatlan, the effects of 100 Beer Weekend (including the development of alter egos named Scott), and of course, Senior Week. After perching in a makeshift throne for nearly two hours, Ethan and I formed an OT (Ogre Team) to take on Shane & Co., who talked a lot of trash. But as soon as Ethan left me with one cup to hit, I knew it was Game Over. By the end of the night, everyone was exhausted from such a long weekend.

The trip to Boston was a fun and much needed one. It was great to see the majority of the crew, tailgate, see a game, and spend some time in Chestnut Hill. But by Sunday night, I was glad to be back in the city so nice, they named it twice. Thank God I got back alive.

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Sunday, November 05, 2006

2006-2007 NCAA Preview

I grew up playing basketball, listening to basketball, watching basketball, eating basketball, sleeping basketball, breathing basketball. It is, without question, my favorite sport. It helped that I really started following sports during the glory days of Michael Jordan and the NBA. I also remember the great memories of watching college basketball. The O'Bannon brothers at UCLA. Miles Simon, Mike Dickerson, and Mike Bibby at Arizona. The Runnin' Rebels of UNLV. The great Duke and UNC rivalries. And the emergence of Gonzaga and the other lovable Mid-Majors. Needless to say, my favorite month of the year is March. Not only do I get March Madness, but Spring Break and St. Patrick's Day as well. And skirt day occasionally falls in March if we're lucky. Guys know what I'm talking about.

Being at a college that grew into a legitimate program while I was there was something I really enjoyed. I saw the senior season of Troy Bell, who became Boston College's all-time leading scorer. That season, Craig Smith had an outstanding freshman season, and eventually became arguably the best power forward in the Big East. Jared Dudley showed up. So did the Sean Williams Block Party. And the program is on the rise, after moving to the basketball superconference of the ACC. It was awesome to be in a collegiate environment like that. I took classes with Craig Smith. Lou Hinnant would go out of his way to say "What up." I shot hoops in the Plex on the same court as Coach Al Skinner.
One of my favorite things about college basketball is following those players once they reach the pros.

I am a Seattle Supersonics fan, and always will be (unless they move to Oklahoma City, then I don't know what I will do). But I follow other teams depending on the players they have. I followed Golden State for a couple years, and now Washington because of Gilbert Arenas, who I loved at Arizona. The same goes for the Knicks and now the Trailblazers because of Nate Robinson and Brandon Roy, who both played at Washington. Kevin Garnett, who is one of my favorite players, didn't attend college... but I was a huge fan of two of his teammates while they were in college: Craig Smith (BC) and Randy Foye (Villanova), both rookies. The Clippers are emerging as one of my favorite teams, due in part to some players I liked in college, including Elton Brand (Duke), Cuttino Mobley (URI), Tim Thomas (Villanova), Chris Kaman (Central Michigan), and Corey Maggette (Duke). And would I really care about the Charlotte Bobcats? If they didn't have Adam Morrison (Gonzaga), I wouldn't. This is one of the reasons I love watching the NBA Draft so much. You better believe that I'm going to go to MSG in June for it this year. One of the perks to living in the city that's so nice, they had to name it twice.

Anyway, onto my preview for the 2006-2007 NBA preview, starting with the RoundyRankings:
  1. Florida
  2. North Carolina
  3. Ohio State
  4. Kansas
  5. UCLA
  6. LSU
  7. Pittsburgh
  8. Georgetown
  9. Wisconsin
  10. Duke
  11. Arizona
  12. Texas A&M
  13. Boston College
  14. Washington
  15. Alabama
  16. Memphis
  17. Georgia Tech
  18. Connecticut
  19. Texas
  20. Kentucky
  21. Syracuse
  22. Marquette
  23. Tennessee
  24. Louisville
  25. Gonzaga
Roundy Award for the Best Player in the Nation
Glen Davis, Senior F/C, LSU

First Team All-Roundy

PG: Mustafa Shakur, Arizona
SG: Brandon Rush, Kansas

SF: Jared Dudley, Boston College
PF: Tyler Hansbrough, North Carolina

C: Glen Davis, LSU

Second Team All-Roundy

PG: Dominic James, Marquette

SG: Rodney Stuckey, Eastern Washington

SF: Alando Tucker, Wisconsin

PF: Joakim Noah, Florida

C: Greg Oden, Ohio State

All-Breakout Team

PG: Tyrese Rice, Sophomore, Boston College

SG: Jeremy Hunt, Senior, Memphis

SF: Pierre-Marie Altidor-Cespedes, Junior, Gonzaga

PF: Jon Brockman, Sophomore, Washington

C: Josh McRoberts, Sophomore, Duke

All-Freshman Team

PG: Tywon Lawson, North Carolina

SG: Daequan Cook, Ohio State

SF: Chase Budinger, Arizona

PF: Spencer Hawes, Washington

C: Greg Oden, Ohio State

Freshman of the Year

Greg Oden, C, Ohio State

Defensive Player of the Year

Sean Williams, Jr. F/C, Boston College

Coach of the Year

Thad Matta, Ohio State

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