Travels

NYC – Day 4, Learning Basketball

Happy holidays, everyone! A day for a brisk walk in Central Park before the Knicks game this afternoon. The operative word here being “brisk” as it’s 21F/-6C today. I’m ashamed to say I didn’t wander too long in search of breakfast and instead went to the Starbucks round the corner. The one advantage is they serve coffee in buckets.

Oh my. I’m going to say it again. It is eye-wateringly cold outside. I may be from Yorkshire, but even I felt a bit of a fraud saying “yeah, bikini weather” today. It’s also been gloriously sunny, so my idea of wearing sunglasses to keep out the wind went sadly uncredited as a whole bunch of people were doing the same to keep the sun out. The maverick blends in! Luckily Madison Square Garden as set up for basketball is a good deal warmer than when it’s set up for hockey.

So, basketball seems to be a much bigger deal than hockey. They have cheerleaders and everything. And a much bigger advertising presence – welcome to America! I suppose it’s because it’s more accessible than hockey; there are basketball hoops everywhere and any kid can show up and play, whereas hockey requires expensive kit and a nearby rink or a parent willing and able to drive further afield. But most of the people I spoke to don’t play. Maybe they had a go in school, but they never played regularly and certainly don’t now. So why do they follow basketball rather than hockey? I don’t get it, though I expect there’s a lot of upbringing/tradition/indoctrination (can I call it that?) that I haven’t considered as I didn’t grow up here. Personal opinion: hockey is way better. Of course I’d say that. But I watched the Knicks play the Oklahoma City Thunder (arguably the best team, with the best player, in the NBA) and I couldn’t shake the thought that everything was so slow and laid back. There were moments of hustle, but really quite rare in a 48 minute game. But I don’t know basketball.

I was glad to have chosen to sit in the new Chase bridge seats though, which was a totally new setup for me in a sports arena. Maybe it’s a totally new setup for any arena, although I suspect that the corporate boxes in some arenas have a similar feel. There are only 3 rows of seating, 2 in regular seats and a bar and a row of stools at the back. The rows are stacked quite high over each other (my feet were about the height of the shoulders of the guy in front of me) and are separated by glass. The rows are also divided down the middle by glass, so there must be something like 9 seats in each section. It means each section feels quite removed from the others around it, and there’s a lot less singing and dancing. Good for a basketball n00b as it gives you space to work out what’s going on and not feel pressure to react to things you didn’t understand! Maybe also fun if you’re in a group and can take a whole section. The view is amazing, and there are no lines for the food concessions! But I’m relieved I didn’t pick these seats for the hockey.

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