Monday, December 15, 2014

Holiday Festival: Ray Floriani's Photo Essay

NEW YORK CITY­ - The MSG (for years, the ECAC) Holiday Festival brought four teams with different agendas: St. John’s, off to a surprisingly start in possession of a national ranking, Manhattan, Rutgers and Fordham all trying to find their way early in the season. The focus on this December afternoon was the present campaign. Still, there was a hint of nostalgia permeating the air.

Part of it had to do with the honoring of legends at halftime of the St.John’s-­Fordham nightcap, coaches and players from a few decades back who made their mark and also contributed to Garden lore.

Nostalgia was also evident and remembering this tournament in its rich past, from the days of an eight-team field starting just after Christmas, a time when the hustle and bustle of the season seemed to subside, yet people were still in a festive holiday spirit. Later, the tournament was reduced to four teams, usually St. John’s, a national out-of-area representative and a few local schools. Later, it took on more of a local flavor. Today, it is in its present format: No tournament elimination per se, just a doubleheader with area programs as a highlight.

There was a time when this was a prestigious event of national prominence. Teams hoped for an invitation and capturing the title put you in the conversation regarding the best teams in the land. Today, that is not the case, as the festival as we knew it moved on.

This is not to degrade, only cite change. Teams still relish the invitation to appear at the ‘World’s Most Famous Arena.’ The respective teams utilize the competition to gauge what is needed to improve for their respective conference competition. Rutgers (over Manhattan) and St. John’s, handling Fordham, were the respective victors on a day we concentrated on the present, while remembering a wonderful past with cherished memories.

Fordham enters Madison Square Garden just before halftime of the first contest:
Rutgers dance team members engage in a "selfie" during halftime of their game against Manhattan. Also, yours truly posed with the dance team at the half:
Manhattan in the huddle before starting the second half:
Coach Steve Masiello of Manhattan calls a play:
Rutgers coach Eddie Jordan meets the media following a hard-fought victory over Manhattan:
Off the ball action: Fordham's Eric Paschall looks for a space to cut to as Rysheed Jordan of St. John's defends:
Halftime honorees: From the left are Dee Rowe (UConn) and Jack Powers, (Manhattan) and from right to left are Billy Schaeffer, (St. John's) Darryl Brown, (Fordham) and Tom Young (Rutgers):

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