Madness spills into the crowd in St. John’s Garden finale

If you thought the performance of our St. John’s Red Storm was ugly in last week’s ConAgra Big East Championship Tournament, you should have seen the disgusting showing that took place off the court. Certain fans as well as the green jacket brigade (aka the Madison Square Garden security staff) managed to overshadow the 20-point defeat that our Johnnies suffered at the hands of the Fighting Irish in a horrible display of control.

It all began at about the 7-minute mark of the second half. The atmosphere at the Garden was one of disappointment as the Irish pulled away, but the crowd was relatively calm, as many in attendance knew the Storm had already locked up a berth in the NCAA Tournament with its win over Seton Hall the night before. However, things turned ugly real quick.

A fight broke out between about eight middle-aged men, some wearing the red of St. John’s, others Connecticut blue, thus proving the heated SJU vs. UConn rivalry does not die upon graduation. We have all witnessed fights at sporting events: two intoxicated individuals engage in a heated discussion resulting in some pushing, but it always seems to be broken up fairly quickly by others in attendance. That was not the case last Thursday. It became an all-out brawl.

Punches were not only thrown but they were consistently landed. Grown men were throwing each other to the ground as showers of beer rained down on them. They were bleeding and bruised. Who needs Ali vs. Frazier when you have angry college basketball fans?

It seemed to be a good five minutes before the mighty MSG security could begin to get the situation under control and escort the individuals out of the arena. At most stadiums, security is on the scene 15 seconds after the first words of an argument are heard. Not the guys in the green jackets. Unfortunately for the St. John’s student section, the fight took place just one section to the right of us and somehow a student became involved in this battle. This particular student added fuel to the flame when he refused to leave the stands, leading to an exchange of blows between himself and numerous members of security as they physically removed him from the arena. As a result, our entire student section was surrounded by the green jackets even though none of us had anything to do with the initial fight.

As the minutes continued to tick down on one of the most embarrassing home losses of the year, the attitude of the student section turned from disappointment to frustration. Things were said to the surrounding Notre Dame fans that probably should not have been said, but certainly nothing worse than most of us have heard or said at stadiums across the area. But suddenly it was grounds for removal from the arena. Seems as if we were getting punished for a fight we had nothing to do with.

It was the student section vs. Garden security. But instead of trying to calm the situation, the green jackets made it worse. They began to forcibly remove students from the section for simply trying to reason with the guards. They were pushing people who were not even involved in the situation, including the female students seated in the section. Guards knocked students to the ground, chairs were thrown – the student section became a war zone.

As I was being pulled out of my row and escorted from the arena for simply trying to settle the situation, as many of the students were, I was thinking to myself, what the hell just happened?

I did not write this column to simply vent my anger at the Garden personnel for throwing my friends and me out of the arena and embarrassing our school, but to address an obvious concern for our St. John’s community. I do not want to see the University sever its ties with Madison Square Garden, but St. John’s needs to investigate this issue to find out what went wrong and why it went so far. I will guarantee you that Garden management will say that their security guards handled the situation properly and that we as students were unruly. But believe me there are countless other people that will support the opposite claim, that the students were simply targeted and attacked.

Security guards should not throw the first punch. They should not have to be held back by other guards from attacking students much smaller than they are. I had some guards telling me to calm my friends down, while others were attempting to throw me out of the row. They were not interested in what you had to say, but more interested in exerting their power.

Does this sound like proper procedure to you? I don’t think so.