NEW YORK CITY - The thrill of appearing on the big stage, Madison Square Garden, encompasses players, coaches and even those on the sideline. Tuesday evening, Tiffany Jockens, a South Florida baton twirler limbered up with anticipation of her first Garden appearance. The USF sophomore is a national twirling champion but the Garden is that special arena to perform, and she knew it.
Yes, the Garden is a magical place. And the storied edifice has played no small part in serving as an appropriate home to the Big East Conference Tournament. The first tournament here was three decades ago, 1983. Amazing how the years have sped by and memories of Chris Mullin, Patrick Ewing, the six overtime classic et. al, remain so vivid.
On this opening night of the Big East Tournament, the games were not Naismith Hall of Fame material. But moving on, surviving, is the key. Local teams Seton Hall and Rutgers did just that.
As special as the tournament is there is a bitter sweet feeling. The realization a loss will mean the end of careers. Kyle Smyth’s dad talked about that during halftime of the Rutgers game. How he wanted his son’s career to go on if for just another day. The overtime win over South Florida made that possible.
Seton Hall and Smyth moved on to play another day. Another day which truthfully, is not really an ordinary one. For they are be appearing on hallowed ground, or court in this case. At the ‘world’s most famous arena’.
Garden moments are lasting and special.
This sign outside Madison Square Garden among the 9-to-5 commuters is indeed prophetic:
Over 90 minutes until game time, the Garden floor displays the tournament insignia in relative quiet:
Ray with the South Florida Sun Dolls:
Seton Hall's Kyle Smyth looking to inbound:
DePaul players watching the end of Seton Hall/South Florida near the tunnel leading to the floor:
DePaul coach Oliver Purnell alone with his thoughts moments before the second half vs. Rutgers: