‘The Mecca’ for the First Time with Storm
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It is safe to say that in spite of its popularity not only on these shores, but also in large parts of Europe, basketball is not one of the U.K.’s premier sports. In fact, I have never witnessed a game live, or even watched more than 10 minutes on TV, and could probably name you less than ten NBA players.
Nonetheless, the Olympics in London last summer has given a fresh boost to the sport in my home country, to back up the emergence of Luol Deng of the Chicago Bulls a few years ago, perhaps the most famous and highest paid British sportsman that no one in the U.K. has ever heard of.
With the increased exposure for the sport in Europe in mind, it seemed appropriate for me to partake in a game; not to mention the prominence the sport has here at St. John’s. With the new semester here, it seemed a prime opportunity to travel into Manhattan for a game between the Red Storm and the Huskies of University of Connecticut at Madison Square Garden. I witnessed the passion of the Red Zone supporters at the soccer and volleyball games last semester, but with basketball being arguably St John’s flagship sport, and taking into account the team itself’s high esteem, I expected the support to be on another level, and I was certainly not disappointed.
The venue itself is, as the stadium announcer proudly declared, the world’s most famous arena, and certainly a fitting venue for my first ever basketball game. Sitting proudly in midtown Manhattan, “The Garden” has a metropolitan setting that few other arenas can boast, and its imposing presence gives it a certain allure that makes the place feel even more special. The huge interior, however, also had a reasonably intimate feel to it. My seat felt incredibly close to the action, and the St. John’s opponent at either end of the court created the atmosphere that basketball teams must surely crave on occasions such as this. As the game reached its commencement, I looked around at the more than significant spectator turnout. The anticipation was clearly at its maximum, and I certainly couldn’t wait for the tip-off.
The game itself was excellent. While the Red Storm opened up an early lead, they couldn’t hold on to it as the game went on, eventually leading to St John’s falling just behind later on. A late flurry from our side stunted Connecticut momentum and the players’ efforts in the closing stages were enough to see the Red Storm home 71-65.
All in all, my first basketball game was a huge success. A wonderful venue, a blistering atmosphere and a winning score line, all combined for an excellent evening out in Manhattan. Well, except for the relatively minor inconvenience of paying $5 for a bottle of water, the game went off without a hitch, and an evening watching the St John’s basketball team is certainly one that I will be taking the opportunity to do again.