Ramble On Sports

Where sports, pop culture and everything else collide.

Is this a minor league baseball stadium or Madison Square Garden?

Posted by Bill Koch on November 24, 2009

New York’s reputation is that of a basketball Mecca, a city where point guards as tough as Chuck Liddell grow up playing on its gritty blacktop courts in neighborhoods that the average suburbanite only has nightmares about.

At least that’s what I thought when I took my first trip to Madison Square Garden on Sunday to watch the Celtics battle the Knicks. I didn’t dare wear anything green – I figured I’d have a 50/50 chance of getting shanked on 32nd Street if I busted out a Kevin Garnett jersey. I thought I’d be sitting on my hands the whole time while taking in the game from the Garden’s third tier.

Man, was I wrong. Basketball hasn’t just gone soft in the Big Apple – it’s double-delicate Charmin, part Broadway production, part movie studio, part begging, and completely dreadful on a court that hasn’t seen a championship since the Knicks captured the 1972-73 NBA title.

For all the city’s storied hoops history, a quick scan of the banners (or lack of them) in the Garden rafters showed that the Knicks have won just two championships. It was a perfect example of how perception becomes reality – I always thought they were one of the league’s most prominent franchises, but I wouldn’t make that mistake now after scanning their mostly blank résumé.

Then I realized the trick that the Knicks have been playing on their fans for years. Actually, it was blasting in my ears throughout the pregame courtesy of Brooklyn’s own High & Mighty Brass Band. They were the house entertainment in the stands, and they definitely stood out – for going on way too long. I was pretty thankful at that point for my $9 beer, poured for me by a delightful young woman named Kaleena who admitted within five seconds that she was actually a Celtics fan and had a crush on Garnett and Ray Allen.

Halfway through my beer I thought I was at a minor league baseball game – and for those who know me, 12 ounces wouldn’t alter my brain that much. T-shirts started flying into the crowd, thrown by Knicks’ Street Team members who were dancing around the court and giving away free swag. It was hardly a dignified gesture befitting a team that plays in the self-proclaimed World’s Most Famous Arena. This exercise repeated itself about 10 times throughout the course of the afternoon – certainly the Steinbrenners were watching on MSG and taking production notes about what to do to liven up Yankee Stadium next spring.

I thought the free giveaways were about as low as the Knicks would go. Nope. They jumped straight to outright begging next courtesy of point guard Chris Duhon, who addressed the crowd following the National Anthem. Duhon thanked the fans for coming out and “supporting us through the tough times we’re having right now.” If 3-8 is only tough, I can’t imagine what 2-9 would have been if New York had lost to the Nets the night before. For some reason I couldn’t quite picture Josh Beckett taking the microphone before his Opening Day start at Fenway Park in April and asking the fans to make sure they keep coming back.

On it went from there, complete with Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell making idiots of themselves courtside while filming a movie that will come out next summer, Anthony Anderson starting the wave, Joe Girardi being honored at halftime as the winner of the Sweetwater Clifton City Spirit Award (allegedly a charitable foundation run by the Knicks – likely a shameless attempt to get the crowd to cheer something by that point), and some fool proposing to his girlfriend on Garden Vision at halftime. Hopefully their marriage is more successful than the product the Knicks put on the court. For some reason, if the guy was intelligent enough to get engaged in a place associated with chronic losing, I have my doubts that the happy couple will be seeing a 10th anniversary.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot – Garnett’s overtime jumper as time expired gave the Celtics a 107-105 win. Maybe that was the point the whole time.

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