This is the time of year when most folks in the New York area are in a festive mood. You can’t really go more than a half block in midtown Manhattan without seeing the splendor of the season in the many windows and stores that line block after block in the city that never sleeps. It’s also the time of year that some of the biggest college basketball programs find their way to play in one of the several holiday tournaments that have become a staple of the Big Apple.
Holiday College Basketball in New York – Yule Love It!
On Saturday, the college basketball excitement was quite apparent as I traveled with my family on trains and subways, seeing numerous folks decked out in their favorite teams colors, interspersed with the handful of lookalike Santa’s going about their business. On Blue Devils, on Tar Heels, on Wildcats, and Bruins. Some Utes and a smattering of Buckeyes round out the basketball elves that travel from near and far to cheer on their team, and hope that St. Nick will bring them a win under the tree.
I was lucky enough to attend the North Carolina-UCLA, and Kentucky-Ohio State matchup at the Barclays Center in downtown Brooklyn. It was my first foray into the stepchild arena of Madison Square Garden, and took a mere two trains and a subway ride to bring me to the nationally televised classic. In the first game, North Carolina disposed of a pesky UCLA, who had beaten then number one ranked Kentucky a few weeks back. A spirited Tar Heels crowd was in attendance, cheering on their Carolina blue heroes, hoping to herald them to bigger and better things going into 2016.
As soon as the match was over, the Big Blue Nation took center stage, as they always do, no matter where the Kentucky Wildcats play, and the chants of ‘Let’s Go Cats’, came streaming down the rafters of the high, tight arena. There were those Ohio State fans sparsely found throughout the seats, their red mixing in with the majority of blue, in what looked like a home game at Rupp Arena for UK. Unfortunately, the Cat fans were not happy, with UK acting like Scrooge in disappointing the thousands who had traveled from the Bluegrass State to look for a little early holiday cheer. In the end, a late run by UK made the atmosphere electric, but the Buckeyes were a little too much, seeming to want it more, sending the Wildcat Nation, feeling more than blue in the season of cheer.
On the other side of the East River, in the hallowed arena they call the ‘world’s most famous’, the Duke Blue Devils took on the Utes from the University of Utah, in another holiday classic at Madison Square Garden. Duke fans are as good a traveling troupe as the UK diehards, and they ended up locked in a seesaw battle for 40 minutes, which ended in a holiday treat for fans of both teams – overtime. In the end, the Utes beat the Blue Devils by two points, sending the fans home with another close defeat, disappointing the faithful who made their trek to the City, prior to Christmas week celebrations at home.
All in all, it appeared that the teams in red, like Santa, won the day in both Manhattan and Brooklyn, while the fans of Duke and Kentucky, felt like what Elvis sang in bringing a ‘blue, blue Christmas’ to their teams. They now have visions of ACC and SEC conference games dancing in their heads, as they New Year lurks in the not too distant future. For another exciting, chilly day in New York, it was college basketball heaven, mixed among the crowds of revelers, who rushed to get in their last minute shopping.
For basketball purists, like myself, I thoroughly enjoyed making the trek by train and subway, watching two great games in Brooklyn, hanging out with my family and friends, and chatting with fans of all teams, and then caving in by taking a Uber all the way back to New Jersey later that night. It was, all in all, a very good day and precursor to a busy week. College basketball in New York City at the holidays is a nice early gift wrapped up in Tar Heel blue, Duke and Kentucky darker blue, Utah and Ohio State red, and a very little Bruin yellow. The lights certainly were bright both inside and outside. Ho ho ho and happy holidays to all.