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A Bulls Fan In Madison Square Garden

by Bobby Loesch on November 3, 2009 at 1:24AM

So I went to New York City for the first time ever yesterday. This included a trip to Madison Square Garden for the New York Knicks/Charlotte New Orleans Hornets game. I observed some things, so without further introduction...

20 Thoughts On My Madison Square Garden Visit

1) My uncle and I picked up our tickets at the StubHub store a handful of blocks from the arena, and playing on one of their TVs was a DVD called "NBA Dynasty Series -- New York Knicks."

The game being played?
1993 Eastern Conference Finals, Game 2 - Knicks fans will always remember where they were for "The Dunk" by scrappy shooting guard John Starks, as he soared above the Bulls to throw it down.
How is this game part of the dynasty series? You lost that series! There was no dynasty! It was one stupid dunk! That's nothing! I must cheer myself up with a picture which sums up how great the Bulls were!

jordan6rings.jpgMuch, much better...

2) I walk into the entrance of Madison Square Garden. On the right side, there's this long photo montage of all of these notable events that have happened in the arena. Basically a wide array of concerts and sporting events. Included was this picture:

...and this picture:

The level of denial New York seems to have about the success of the 1990s Knicks borders on psychotic.

Now... ideally, you're on my side and think Knicks fans are delusional, but I'm sure there are some people who are thinking "But Bobby, they're just emphasizing some of their highlights from the 90s! Maybe they never won a title, but they had some good teams and players! It's not a big deal!"

Not a big deal?!?!

This would be like if you walked into Soldier Field ten years from now and saw this:

That's wrong. And awful. This is what you should see:

grossmanfumblesuperbowl.jpgWhen you close your eyes. When you go to sleep. Until forever.

And that ain't going up in no stadium any time soon.

Despite my 90s Knicks-related beefs, it just can't be denied...

3) Madison Square Garden is sweet. When an arena or stadium is described as "vintage" and "historic" and "has character," it obviously enters the Wrigley Field zone where you become skeptical it's just a crappy stadium covered with glowing buzzwords and praise. Not the case with the Garden. It was really cool. Historic, yes. But decrepit? Nah. It's got the old-school feel, but also very nice jumbotron. The best places tend to have a mixture of both.

4) When I first walked into walkway of the arena, "Hypnotize" by The Notorious B.I.G. was playing (such a killer beat and bassline). Probably the coolest moment of the night.

It was followed by "Empire State of Mind" by Jay-Z. The Knicks also came out to that song during pre-game introductions, and I heard it a third time on my way out of the Garden. Between that, radio overplay, and the World Series, I'm probably the only person in America who isn't sick of that song yet. It's just too good.

5) As for the seats? We sat in very back of the 300 level...

msgmap.JPG...and though that looks super far away, it really wasn't that bad. I loved the seats. I mean, they weren't Spike Lee seats by any means (note: I did not see Spike Lee at the game), it was wayyy closer than the top deck of the United Center. On that subject, I really don't mind the upper deck of the UC, though I know some people aren't big fans. The point I make is this: if you don't mind top level of the UC, you'd love the 300 level of the MSG. If you dislike the top level of the UC, there's still a chance you'd dig the 300 level of MSG.

My uncle seemed to think the seats were pretty far away, but I attributed that to his being spoiled with usually better seats on previous MSG visits. I'm telling you, the UC has desensitized me to all "far away" seats in other venues. Alleged nosebleed seats at other venues feel so relatively close by comparison. Can we also blame the upper deck of the Cell for this? I say yes.

6) The pre-game playlist of songs was sponsored by Fuse and selected by Al Harrington. It consisted of three song picks. One was some Drake song (I forget what) and the other was this new Jay-Z song "On To The Next One."

7) The Knicks' pre-game "Inactive List" showing prominently on the jumbotron featured Eddy Curry and Cutino Mobley, exclusively. Now, Eddy Curry is out with calf and/or weight issues, but Cutino Mobley?! He retired in 2008 due to a heart condition without ever playing in a game for New York. How could the Knicks possibly have the audacity to list him as a pre-game inactive when he's never playing in the NBA ever again? Is it because they're still paying out the remainder of his contract and they're bitter about that? Is it solely out of spite? So, so weird.

8) But it gets weirder. The Knicks have Billy Joel and Elton John numbers retired in the rafters.

Yeah. Wikipedia sez Joel got his for selling out MSG 12 times while Sir Elton's number is the amount of total times he's played MSG.

Oh, and Billy Joel's domination doesn't end there:
This honor has also been given to Joel at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia where a banner in the colors of the Philadelphia Flyers is hung honoring Joel's 46 Philadelphia sold-out shows.
Billy Joel has been retired in two NBA/NHL arenas.

9) The Knicks started Chris Duhon, David Lee, Larry Hughes (WHAT?!?!?!?), Wilson Chandler (DePaul University, my boy), and Danilo Gallinari. When they came out on the court for the first time, the Knicks players all wielded multiple t-shirts which they proceeded to throw into the crowd. It felt very... minor league baseball-y, to give it an attempted description. I loved it, but it just seemed like NBA players wouldn't ever have to do that. It almost felt like a pre-apology for the season which is about to unfold.

I didn't want to rip the Knicks for having overly dramatic pre-game introductions -- as the Bulls are the cream of the crop in over-the-top... rhyme! -- but theirs was pretty elaborate. It even featured a highlight video of Knicks players passing and dunking in some dark gym. Despite the simulated competitiveness and hyper-intensity, they were playing against no one in these highlights. My uncle attributed it to lack of actual game highlights.

When the starting five got announced, Gallinari got the biggest cheers, with Lee a close second. I was initially baffled, thinking the Knicks fans were just latching onto him because he's Italian and, unlike a large portion of the roster, hasn't proven that he sucks yet. But, man, I don't think that's it. What I'm saying is, brace yourself: Danilo Gallinari could be good.

While he might have some holes in his game, it looks like he can shoot the ball, pass decently, and get to the rim. Coming into the game, he was averaging 22+ points a game this season, which is the most of any second-year player in the NBA so far. I think I sort of wrote him off last year because he had back problems and I just blindly assumed it'd become a chronic issue. But rumors of his demise have been greatly exaggerated. Am I off-base with my opinion on him as good? It's possible, but regardless, I can, after seeing him, absolutely promise he'll be an entertaining player even if his ceiling is lower than I'm estimating.

10) So yeah, the Knicks have Duhon, Hughes, and Curry. Chicago Bulls Triple-A, anyone?

11) Early on in the first quarter during a break, a Yankees-Phillies highlight came up flashing the score of the game (1-0, Yankees) and a highlight of A-Rod's RBI hit which occurred only minutes earlier. The crowd cheered in sheer delight and anticipation. Soon after, the Phillies grabbed the lead, and, needless to say, no highlights or updates were shown for the duration of the Knicks game.

Do New Yorkers just ignore losing?

12) There was Kidz Bop contest at halftime featuring a 13-year old white girl singer, a 11ish?-year old white boy keyboard player, and a 10-year old Asian girl singer. Basically, all three performed briefly, and a winner was decided with cheers.

The loudest the stadium got at any point while I was there -- pre-game, game, half-time, anything -- was when the crowed erupted in support of the 10-year old Asian girl. She tore the roof off that place.

13) Keep in mind, the crowd for the game was at about 80-90% capacity. But the enthusiasm for basketball just wasn't there. The only crowd I've ever seen that the Knicks crowd would be on par with were the Blue Jays fans I experienced during my trip to the Rogers Centre for White Sox-Jays... and those people just a lifeless bunch of nothing. The Knicks fans weren't that bad, but they weren't too far behind, either.

I've heard all the tired cliches about how New York needs to have a good basketball team. The people need it. The city needs it. The NBA needs it. David Stern has to make it happen, if only somehow. I'm not going to say I'm now a believer in that or anything, but I definitely could see how stories and opinions like that manifested. It's a bummer to see such a great basketball city with no buzz. Still, the sense of entitlement isn't really fair. I mean, every city deserves a great team, right? Well, maybe not Memphis.

14) We've touched on some of the all-stars on the Knicks roster. But you know who still hasn't been mentioned? Hint: he played 13 minutes last night. Ohhhh yes: Darko Milicic!

darko.jpgHe doesn't totally look like this anymore...

Darko looked so stumbly and unpolished. Unevenly set screens, potentially not in great shape, and a plethora of awkward footwork. I've held out hope for a long time that he could maybe, somehow develop into a solid NBA player, but I think I'm finally ready to declare his career what it is always has been: pretty much dead on arrival.

15) Duhon's line? 18 points, 9 assists, 5 rebounds, 2 steals, plus-minus of + 10

That said, he's still pretty much the same guy he was when he left the Bulls. I don't want to rip him because I never hated him as much as some people do -- plus, he always seemed like a nice guy -- but we're really not missing much with him gone. A line like that looks sort of glamorous, no? But remember, it's Mike D'Antoni's system. He's got the Knicks running.

16) Chris Paul was phenomenal to see in person. He finished with 32 points, 13 assists, 5 rebounds, and one steal. Best passer I will ever see in person ever ever? Very likely.

17) Speaking of small guards: Nate Robinson didn't play (ankle). I was very bummed about that.

18) Oh... the Knicks actually got their first win of the season. David Lee was the high man, finishing with 28 points and 7 rebounds. Solid game all-around for him. He's basically like an P.H.D. version of Tyler Hansbrough with a slight jumper. What I mean to say is, he's doing the things that he has a reputation for (hustling hard, rebounding, not making mistakes, maximizing his skillset) and now mixing it with a little bit of seemingly new-found finesse which presumably came from NBA seasoning. His court awareness was fantastic.

19) On the train back to New Jersey afterwards, a guy who also went to the game -- presumably a Knicks fan -- sitting one seat over from me called his dad to tell him he attended. The extremely blunt conversation basically went like this:

"Dad, we went to the Knicks game. Yeah, it was a good time, but the better team definitely didn't win...[pause]...The Hornets didn't win."

Knicks fans: broken spirited, probably delusional, selectively prideful, and now... bitterly pseudo-sarcastic!

20) Headline on nyknicks.com following the game?

Knicks Sting Hornets For First Win

Yay, journalism.

* * *
Get Direct TV New York to follow all the knicks action.

16 Comments | Leave a comment

I think I knew the East Coast loved Billy Joel, but does he really have a retired number in two cities? That blows my mind. The only other precedent I can think of for this is MJ having his number retired for the Heat, which really isn't the same as the Joel thing at all. Shocking.

But more shocking: your Darko hashtag on Twitter is actually the third Darko hashtag of the week. Didn't see that coming.

Also, nyknicks.com - or any team site - does not qualify as journalism. That's PR bullshit in its purest form.

Am I really standing up for journalism? Yes. Yes I am.

Says the man who links Sam Smith

Hey, that's for comedy reasons as much as anything else. The exclamation mark makes it ironic!

Can we also blame the upper deck of the Cell for this? I say yes.

The upper deck at the cell is like watching a game in an odd amusement park ride where there are mirrors that make everything seem farther away and intensely steep stairs that make you feel you are one step away from falling to your death.

the weird thing about msg is how there are no levels/decks like at normal stadiums. you could literally walk from the front row to the last row of the stadium without having to go thru an exit or go up any ramps in the concourse area

When I was there a couple years ago, I was wearing a White Sox hoodie. Needless to say I was heckled by one worker there. He laughed at me and said welcome to the Garden. Oh, and they searched me when I walked in. Not like your typical search when going to sporting events, it was more similar to airport security or getting padded down by a cop.

And no one there seemed to speak English (the fans in the stands.) The people in front of me and my brother would cheer after every basket by the Knicks in their Eastern European accents and hold up their styrofoam #1 hand. One of the guys (who was accompanied by a lady, presumably his girlfriend) would rush through his pockets to pull out his camera whenever the Knicks dancers would come on the floor to snag a couple hundred pictures. Creepy.

That anonymous one was from me. I forgot to put my name in.

Get ready for some Utah Jazz!!

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