Sunday, March 20, 2011

Big East Tournament Trip, Day 2 (Part 2)

Getting to Madison Square Garden, Pun City was figuring that one would enter the building somewhere around the iconic cylindrical part of the complex. Alas, this was not the case. Due to renovations, they only wanted fans coming in at the 7th Street entrance. Pun City circled the building twice (admittedly once just for fun, but still on the lookout for how to get in), and came up empty.

As it turned out, the entrance is on a completely different block than the cylindrical "arena" portion of the complex. Eventually this blog was able to track it down.

Entering the facility, this blog soon found out that its seat was in the extreme back row of the Garden. It wasn't a bad view, but it was further back than Pun City had envisioned. The 400 level, while higher, was possibly better seating, since the 400 level is all of the suites. Another point to note, for anyone visiting MSG, is that if you have a ticket out, the ushers will check it. If you keep it in your pocket, and just go where you want, they won't check it.

Overall through the tournament, Pun City was impressed with the ushers in general. They pretty much let you move down wherever you want, as long as you don't have your ticket out, and no one boots you from your seat. The few times Pun City did get booted from a seat, the ushers were polite about it. During a blowout, this blog was able to venture down to the 15th row behind the basket, so that worked out pretty well. Beyond this, just moving about 4 rows down from the back row gets a much better seat, as you are no longer behind the scoreboard.

Concessions are expensive. You could make the case that they're ridiculously expensive, but one thing to keep in mind is that all food in New York City is pretty high-priced. The cheapest item on the menu at MSG is a hot dog, for $5.75. Sodas begin at $6.00. Pun City's neighbors were ordering $8.75 beers pretty consistently. By comparison, outside the stadium, there's a White Castle 2 blocks away that this blog got 6 cheeseburgers, a large soda, and a sack of fries for $10.26. (This is usually in the $6-$8 range in the Chicago area).

Another unusual aspect of Madison Square Garden is its distinctive smell. It smells like a gigantic spilled beer. If it just smelled like a beer, that'd be alright. But it's a spilled beer, so there's some percentage of floor grime mixed in with the beer, which is generally unsatisfying. That said, you definitely know where you are when that smell hits you, and since you're watching good basketball (unless you watched the Knicks in the 7 years preceding this one), you may actually appreciate the smell, since you can associate it with other good things.

The games of the opening day of games, Connecticut beat DePaul, Rutgers beat Seton Hall in OT, South Florida beat Villanova on a last-minute collapse by the Wildcats, and Marquette beat Providence handily.

Notable happenings:

-Preceding the Rutgers-Seton Hall game, Pun City saw SHU cheerleaders handing out Seton Hall towels, and this blog happened to be wearing its Seton Hall hat, so it went over and grabbed one of those.

During the Rutgers-Seton Hall game, Pun City had moved down to the 200 level, around halfcourt. In the two sections in front of this blog, there were small groups of particularly boisterous supporters. One group of Rutgers fans was sitting to this blog's front left. A pair of Seton Hall fans was sitting to this blog's front right. One of the Rutgers fans was completely hammered, basically had his eyes at least partially closed the whole time, but still managed to be upright and recognize what was happening in the game (we'll call this guy "Totally Hammered Guy"). He had a particularly intense friend that seemed to be spoiling for a fight with SHU fans (we'll call this guy "Belligerent RU guy"). The Seton Hall guys also had a guy spoiling for a fight ("Belligerent SHU guy"), in addition to a preppy looking guy in a sportcoat that might not have been spoiling for the fight, but would have participated ("Preppy SHU guy"). The two groups shouted at each other through the game, mainly about how each school was better. Belligerent SHU guy was continually saying that SHU graduates make more money coming out of school, and I think Belligerent RU guy kept saying that SHU was a ripoff or something.

Anyway, eventually Belligerent SHU guy orders a beer for the totally hammered RU guy, and instructs the servicewoman to say something to the effect of "Have another one, I can afford to buy you this because SHU grads make more money than RU grads." Pun City gathered that this was the very edited result after the servicewoman refused to relay a few messages that Belligerent SHU guy had initially proposed. Much posturing ensued. The RU guys threw away the receipt, theoretically making it impossible to claim said beer, but once the beer purveyor arrived, the servicewoman recovered the receipt, and Totally Hammered Guy took the beer.

While all of this was going on, SHU squandered a lead they had no business giving up (8 point lead with 7:44 remaining), and RU pulled ahead by 3 late. Fortunately for the SHU guys, Jeremy Hazell hit a game-tying 3-pointer at the buzzer to send the game to overtime. This ratcheted up the trash talking between the two groups, at which point Belligerent RU guy approached the SHU guys, threw a beer at them (somehow not connecting with either of them), and challenged the pair to a fight. After the beer toss, Preppy SHU guy had kind of grabbed at Belligerent RU guy and ended up ripping a 6-inch hole in Belligerent RU guy's shirt's armpit area. At this point, Belligerent RU guy officially challenged the SHU pair to a fight in the concourse once the game was over (one would assume that Totally Hammered Guy would have been involved as Belligerent RU guy's ally in this theoretical fight). The SHU guys both happily agreed to this.

This was probably the only time the entire tournament that Pun City didn't see any ushers anywhere near its seats. After a long while, some eventually came over, but they hadn't come over because of the fight, and had to be notified of what had happened before they took any action. Their action was not particularly swift, only standing in the tunnel near the two groups. Belligerent RU guy made another couple threatening motions toward the SHU group (holding up his fist a couple times, then punching his other hand). The ushers didn't do anything at this point, either because they didn't see it or because they didn't think it was anything worth acting on.

Alas, there was not an epic throwdown in the concourse following RU's win. The two SHU guys had sort of ducked out early when they saw SHU was going to lose in OT, and because they had self-servingly "reported" the RU guy as threatening them, the ushers let them go. The ushers did converge on the RU guys after the game, but they might have just done so to separate them from the SHU guys, or it's possible they held them afterward to discipline them further. Pun City wasn't going to stick around to find out, so this blog apologizes for the anticlimatic ending there.

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