"Halleujah. Noel. Be it Heaven or Hell.
The Christmas we get, we deserve."
"I Believe in Father Christmas" By Greg LakeFor the longest time, I truly believed in those words in "I Believe in Father Christmas" (kind of also helped that I am a huge ELP fan). There were a couple of years in the early Nineties where I spent Christmas alone, due to what I now wrongly believed was what I deserved for mistakes of the heart.
And around the holiday season is a great time to see college basketball games in New York. There's the annual Holiday Festival at MSG, the new tradition, the Barclays Center Brooklyn Hoops Winter Festival and a good number of local New York teams that are home during the holiday season break.
But this time of year also reminds me of what I miss about the rest of the college basketball season now that I am a resident of Columbia, South Carolina.
Writing for Mid Majority in 2011-12 as part of the 800 Games Project, from a commuting standpoint, it was relatively easy and quick to get to a college basketball game (well except parking at Manhattan College). It helped greatly in my coverage of fifty nine Division I men's basketball games that season.
But it's more than just the proximity of local teams I miss. It's the camaraderie that is lacking. Thankfully, I have my color analyst, aka my older son Matthew to now go to games with here in South Carolina. That helps a good deal. But it doesn't make up for not seeing my friends on a regular basis.
First, Hofstra home games were something out of "Cheers". After twenty four years of being an administrator on campus, I knew a good number of people at Hofstra who I would see on a regular basis there; my former boss and longtime friend Howard Graves, my good friend at the University Computer Center, Marty Gross, my colleagues and friends from the Plant department, Paul Romano and Kenny Tyler, and many others. I even got to know former Hofstra coach Mo Cassara, one of the true good guys in the coaching profession, who was always kind enough to see if I needed a ticket for a road game. Glad he is doing well as analyst for ESPN.
|University of Delaware Concessions Barbeque. YUM!|
Through Beach, I have got to know several other Hofstra folks like Lee Warner and the lovely Missy Van Brocklin, who I hope will make baked goods again for us when I am there on December 30. There's Bob, a season ticket holder who I used to sit across from (and my friends still do, since I still have Hofstra season tickets) and we would trade travel stories and betting lines for other games during the Hofstra game. And of course, there is nothing like rival blogger trash talk with Beach during a Hofstra game.
Also, due to my friendship with Jerry and my coverage for the Mid Majority and local NY hoops, I have become friends with many NYC college basketball beat writers like the omnipresent Jaden Daly of Daly Dose of Hoops, Ray Curren, the one man force that is the Mid Majority this season, the stat machine Jon Templon, founder of Big Apple Buckets and the dynamic Iona Women's basketball broadcast duo of Nick Guerriero and John Stanko (Nick is now at Dartmouth).
One of my all time favorite Hofstra memories is from the 2004-05 season, when I was still sitting in Section 102 ( We moved to Section 111 after the 2005-06 season). There was an older gentleman who sat by us who use to occasionally fly off the handle, often at the expense of Pecora. Adrian Uter was in his first season with Hofstra, after two years of JUCO and came off the bench for the Pride, er Flying Dutchmen (sorry, Jer). In one game, during one particular stretch, Uter was blocking every shot in sight and tearing down rebounds with authority. Inexplicably, Pecora took him out of the game. This older gentleman blurts out loud "PECORA, WHY ARE YOU TAKING UTER OUT? HE'S AN ANIMAL!" Our whole section burst out laughing to the point of tears.
Eight years later, it still sticks out in my mind. That's what you get in a mid major game, fans making comments like that you will always remember. Mind you, Frank Martin makes up for some of that in Gamecocks' games, because you can often hear him as clear as a bell. But it's still not the same.
We even traveled to Marist to see them play in a gym right out of Hoosiers. So many memories.
But it's not just the Hofstra or Iona home games I miss with Tieff and Mal. It's the countless road trips to Delaware (complete with Delaware Concessions Barbeque!), Towson, Drexel, Iona, the train rides into MSG, the long annual trips down to Richmond to the CAA Tournament, including one year going to Atlantic City before the CAA Tournament ("DO YOU THINK I PLAY CRAP HANDS!" - only Mal and Tieff will understand that one) and heck even our trip to Raleigh to see the now famous Stephen Curry Show at the NCAA Regional in 2008.
to see our good friend Bo's Seton Hall Women's team play South Carolina, as well as take in a College of Charleston game and the Florida-USC football game, it was like the three amigos were back in business, albeit for one weekend. Those are things that I miss most about being down here in South Carolina.
Perhaps someday, I will have that camaraderie here at South Carolina. The road trips to Davidson, Wofford and Charleston are fun, but it's not the same. Plus now that I am a Little League Baseball coach, so the college basketball season seems shorter to me now.
But this holiday season though has some sadness. My sister in law's husband, a great guy, lost his mom last week due to cancer. Only a few months prior, he lost his dad to cancer as well. It will be good to see my sister in law and him and hopefully my family will bring them some much needed cheer to their Christmas.
Also on Tuesday night around midnight, I woke up to the sound of fire trucks. My neighbor's house across the street was on fire. My neighbor, Richard, an older gentleman who's on disability, happened to be in the hospital for heart surgery, for a stroke he suffered only a few weeks back. His daughter thankfully was not hurt. But their house seems to be either a total loss or at least needs major work. They won't be able to spend Christmas at home this year.
In my case, I am just happy that I will be back in New York for the holidays with my family, to bring warmth and consolation to loved ones, to spend time with friends I haven't seen in a while and see some college basketball with good friends that I miss. It will be good to be back in a "New York State of Mind", albeit for a brief time.
To everyone, as Greg Lake was so correct in singing - "I wish you a joyful Christmas. I wish you a brave New Year. All anguish, pain and sadness leave your heart and let your road be clear".
And if you can, catch a live college basketball game. No better sport to watch live.
Happy Holidays from The College Hardwood!