Wednesday, February 20, 2013

This is no longer the Madison Square Garden I grew up with

The older I get the more I notice or am affected by the passage of time. This brings about many signs that maybe, just maybe, my childhood might be long gone and never coming back. I can look at my brother's wedding more than two years ago or my sister's nuptials coming in just over four months for indications of that. But one significant sign that the world is different from when you grew up comes from recognizing that the places you spent your youth are long gone. Perhaps the diner you frequented is now a Five Guys or the record store you bought Use Your Illusion I at has become an Apple Store.

Or perhaps the sports venues you once attended are all long gone.

Indeed that last one has gotten a dramatic and striking overhaul. In my life growing up in the New York metropolitan area there were nine professional sports teams and I've seen them all, but in the last six years, nearly all of them have changed, or announced they will soon be changing their homes. The Devils moved to the Prudential Center in 2007. The Yankees and Mets each opened new ball parks in 2009. The Giants and Jets opened MetLife Stadium in 2010. The Nets moved to a cozy new place at the Barclays Center this past fall and the New York Islanders will join them when they leave Nassau Coliseum behind for good in 2015.

The Knicks and Rangers always seemed like outliers, though. There were no plans to leave Madison Square Garden, the home they proudly call "The World's Most Famous Arena" whenever they opportunity presents itself. While I'm not a Rangers fan, I am a Knicks fan, and the Garden is still where I saw my first in-person hockey game in April of 1995. It is a place with an interior that even as recent as last season felt magical and yet comforting to me, with its purple and green seats and almost claustrophobic intimacy as the upper decks crouch uncomfortably above the lower ones.

There are memories there.

But even if the Knicks and Rangers aren't moving, they are still adapting with the time. In the summer of 2011, the Garden began a lengthy renovation process that will be executed in three distinct phases so as not to disrupt the NHL and NBA seasons. While the first phase changed some of the distinct purples seats into black, the building, aside from some widened concourses, was still more or less recognizable. However, with the second phase essentially finished in the summer of 2012, the building has taken on an entirely new look.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The next trip is officially on the docket, and it's a big one

First, I should acknowledge a shameful lack of recapping what was a, uh, bizarre Super Bowl last Sunday. Suffice it to say I always figured the biggest television event of the year would run a little longer than your average football game, but I'd be lying if I told you I expected this would be aided by an unexpected 34-minute power outage at the Superdome. I have seen some curious things during Super Bowls in the past whether they be men catching footballs off their helmets, streakers running onto the field and getting tackled or the Buffalo Bills actually participating in a playoff game, but this might have been the strangest one by a fair stretch.

While the two Harbaughs might have flipped their lids a few times at the mishap -- though considering almost no one within earshot of them could actually fix it I don't entirely understand why -- I'll at least look back at it fondly as a collective experience we'll all laugh about years from now. It also gave us some time to check out Puppy Bowl IX, which didn't make me feel as dumb as I thought it would. Fortunately, there are other things for that.

The best part about the power coming back, however, was clearly the impact it had on the game, allowing the 49ers to regroup when they were trailing by 22 points and actually making the game entertaining. The next thing you knew it was suddenly a classic that came down to a final drive, a goal-line stand (which was about as poorly executed by San Francisco as could be -- no timeout before fourth down? No running plays to Colin Kaepernick?), a few controversial non-calls and some absolutely marvelous end-game strategy that nearly saw even more fun end-game strategy if the Niners had fair caught the final free kick and taken a free kick of their own in hopes of a game-tying field goal.

All in all, it wasn't the greatest Super Bowl I've ever seen, but it was certainly one of the better ones, and it reaffirmed the fact that more often than not in the free-agency-salary-cap era the Super Bowl truly delivers, and the city of Baltimore celebrated in the only way they know how. Since the year 2000, 9 of the 14 Super Bowls played have ended with a margin of victory of seven points or less, and one of the games that didn't -- Super Bowl XLIV -- only didn't because of a late New Orleans pick six as Indianapolis was driving for the tying score. The Super Bowl almost always delivers, this one, nearly featuring the greatest comeback in championship history certainly did and now it cripples me emotionally to know I have to wait seven months to watch real football again. The only real disappointment was that Ray Lewis hit the under on his postgame theological references.

But on the plus side, the Giants are officially back in the hunt to be Super Bowl champions now, so there's that.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Oh hey, there's a football game on Sunday night

I had a dream Friday morning that I was up close and watching the Giants in the Super Bowl this Sunday. It was exciting, exhilerating and I didn't want to wake up lest I spoil the fun. There were a few issues with this setup, though.

1) They don't let you sit in the middle of the field to watch the action during the Super Bowl.
2) The Super Bowl is being played in the New York area next year, not this year.
3) The Super Bowl definitely isn't being played on the turf field in Queens West across the street from me.
4) That field doesn't even have the dimensions to hold an NFL field.
5) You cannot see One World Trade Center from the field in Queens West.
6) The New York Giants are not playing in the Super Bowl this summer.

That last one is the only one that really upsets me, but as they say, all good things something something. So this Sunday, the Giants will be handing off the Lombardi Trophy for, I don't know, like a year maybe, to either the Baltimore Ravens or the San Francisco 49ers. It's a pretty big game if I'm not mistaken -- so big in fact that it is not happening at Queens West Field but rather the Superdome in New Orleans.

Potato, Potahto.

So yeah, Super Bowl XLVII is happening this weekend and while it doesn't carry the intrigue or global import of, say, any Super Bowl the Giants might be playing in, apparently it's still going to be played. I'm pretty surprised about this, but such is life. I will be watching anyway.