On this past Sunday, this amateur blogger got setup via Cal Women's Basketball with a press pass (Thanks Cal Women's Basketball!) to the premier college women's basketball event that was the Maggie Dixon Classic. I made the trip from the DC area where I reside to up to New York City to watch the matchup of two Final Four teams from 2013. It was my 3rd Cal Women's Basketball game of the year, and the 3rd game that the team had played here on the East Coast after an earlier trip to DC for two games (at George Washington and at Georgetown) back in November.
As they say, "a picture is worth a thousand words". In the spirit of our esteemed CGB leader in TwistNHook, here is a whole bunch of pictures that hopefully give you a behind the scene look at my experience being at "The World's Most Famous Arena" that is Madison Square Garden.
When I first got to Madison Square Garden, they showed an ad of the Maggie Dixon Classic. I waited patiently for about 15 minutes for that ad to be played again so I can take a picture of Cal being promptly advertised, but that did not happen. This was also when I realized that there were actually scalpers working this particular tournament. What I was able to capture instead is an ad for a Harvard-Yale hockey game as MSG. Coming off the NCAA title, I guess Yale hockey is now high profile enough to play at a neutral site. Given how 'Furd has dominated the recent Big Games, at least Cal is not quite in a drought as bad as Yale football is in the Game.
It is nice of MSG to list Cal in the most prominent spot (thanks to being early in the alphabet) amongst "THE BEST TEAMS IN THE NATION" that is playing at the Garden this year for college hoops (both sexes).
Once I got my media credential taken care off, I found my way into the press room where they offered a variety of media sheets. In the nicely printed guide for the Maggie Dixon Classic, you can see how Gennifer Brandon is prominently listed as a starter for Cal.
Then, I finally made my way over to get my very first look at the famed arena (the first game between Texas A&M and St. Johns had just started).
I eventually found a seat chart that has California Golden Blogs listed (in lower left) along with slightly more famous media outlet like the NY Times. Apparently the traditional newspapers get the first row, while online folks get the second row.
That's a pretty decent look of the action.
Even when the first row is filled up. Also, this is photographic evidence that Cal was better than UConn in women's basketball for a few minutes. 4-2 was the last lead that the Bears would have on the day.
Here is the team ready to come out of the tunnel as they watched the end of an exciting St. Johns - Texas A&M game that came down to the last possession.
The coaches exchanging friendly greetings before the game.
They didn't bother dimming the light for the starting lineup introduction. Here is Brittany Boyd being introduced.
Bears huddle up after the starting lineup has been introduced.
It's apparently a UConn tradition for the fans to stay standing until UConn has scored. In this particular case, the fans had to stand for an extended amount of time (~4 minutes of game time).
Kyra Dunn made her Cal debut after transferring from University of Pittsburgh. She had a pretty solid game.
The Cal bench was really into the game (basically the entire game long). They provided many vocal reminders to their teammates to keep their hands up. On the flip side, UConn bench only started to show some sign of life when it was the starters being rested with them cheering loudly for their backups in garbage time.
As we all know what happened, after a solid first 10 minutes of limiting UConn (but the Bears also struggled to convert their layups), Breanna Stewart took over the game and basically single handedly beat the Bears. A historic win was not meant to be for Cal on this day.
Brittany Boyd at the line.
Boyd being worked on toward the end of the game (you might also see Cal AD Sandy Barbour had made the trip in the background there).
This unfortunately was the final score and the final stats (Cal is on the wrong end on all of them).
After the game, I found my to the press conference, which was pretty pack for the UConn session that came first.
Coach Geno Auriemma and the player of the game Breanna Stewart represented UConn. Breanna Stewart set a season high and tied for a Maggie Dixon Classic scoring high of 29 points.
This is followed by the Cal press conference with Coach Lindsay Gottlieb, Brittany Boyd, and Hind Ben Abdelkader (who got her career first start). I thought about asking Hind about her first start, but didn't try hard enough to be recognized. I also considered asking Coach G about the play of Kyra Dunn (making her Cal debut), but some key people needed to go so the press conference came to an end. I posted my videos for this in the recap post that you can find here.
Maggie Dixon Classic
I should write a few words here on the Maggie Dixon Classic, whose main focus is "to promote excellence in women's college basketball and to improve awareness and screening for college athletes and the community as a whole."
Maggie Dixon was a former rising star coach who brought Army to the NCAA tournament in her first year there but lost her life way too soon (before she turned 29) due to an arrhythmic episode to her heart. Her brother is the head coach of Pitts's men's team, Jamie Dixon (who is being interviewed below).
Part of the Maggie Dixon Classic is this Heart Health Fair by an organization called Community Outreach and Cardiovascular Health or "COACH". They included activity such as teaching kids how to do CPR.
I don't know much about fashion but since MSG just borders the Fashion Institute of Technology, I'll write some comments here about what appears to be a new trend in basketball jersey (and I don't mean the sleeves). A silhouette of something in the back is apparently a new trend in (Nike) college basketball jersey. The new Cal jerseys this year have that a large (and brand new) Bear logo.
UConn's gear is also sponsored by Nike. They too have an animal logo on their back but it is much smaller and below the number. There are a whole bunch of other things going on back there.
Of course, what would be very nice for Cal to eventually emulate their UConn counterpart is this patch on the UConn warmup jacket (even though it is possibly too large and a bit clunky).
Madison Square Garden
As much as I have heard about the magic of MSG, this was my very first time there. Walking around the arena and seeing the various memorabilia displayed, it does remind me how the New York Knicks have not really won much in their history. They apparently devoted a big section to "The Dunk".
That is a dunk of John Stark (no relation to Ned and the family from Winterfell) during the '93 playoff against the Bulls. The dunk might have turned around a game, but Michael Jordan and the Bulls went on to win the series and the World Championship that year.
They also had a special recognition to Kobe.
Kobe set a MSG single game record when he dropped 61 points on the Knicks, which was also the year that Spike Lee made that documentary of "Kobe Doin' Work" for ESPN.
The press room at the Garden is named after John Condon, who was an executive/promoter/announcer who had a part in the Ali-Frasier fight that took place in the Garden.
Later that day, there is a Rangers-Wild hockey game taking place on the same floor. The arena undergoes an immediate transformation after the end of the Cal-UConn game. By the time that I left the arena at around 5 pm, MSG is not quite ready for hockey yet.
That's the kind of random behind the scene look that you only get from CGB.
Holiday in the Big Apple
Of course, New York City is kind of a magical place to be at for around Christmas time. Here is a picture of MSG with the nearby Empire State Building that is lit up with Christmas color.
Another nearby attraction to the Madison Square Garden is the famed Macy's from the original Miracle on 34th Street (and pretty much the remake although it is technically not a Macy's). This Macy's has some special window displays for the Holiday season. Here is my interpretation of the message that it is trying to convey to us (taken out of order and out of context...dyslexic not I am, write Yoda-like I do).
Our story begins with a privileged boy named Jonah who is in a cardinal-colored sweater. The boy is holding his beloved teddy bear but dreaming off a time (as shown inside the framed drawing) when he can ride his bear.
Into the magical dream land, Jonah goes.
His enlarged bear "friend" did not take too kindly to the idea that he should be exploited by Jonah and his new money grabbing business of offering a bear ride, that is how Jonah eventually found himself inside the belly of a (Golden) bear.
The moral of the story? Don't wear red. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
HAPPY HOLIDAYS AND GO BEARS!