Game 022: Columbia 64, Canisius 58Thursday, December 30, 2004
Madison Square Garden - New York, New YorkWhen the Columbia Lions men's basketball team got stuck in traffic earlier this month on the way to Hofstra, prompting the postponement of their game against the Pride, I made mock. I poked fun. I made play. Little did I know that Hoop God would make sure I'd get mine just three weeks later. After this ordeal that nearly cost me a 100GP game, I promise never to make fun of anything, anyone, ever again.Thursday, 2:20 PM
OK, I've checked out of work early, and I'm ready to go up to New York for the big Holiday Festival championship and consolation game! I'm finally going to get to see the new-and-improved Columbia, who are getting all sorts of attention
recently! They'll be playing Canisius in the third-place tilt, which starts at 6:30.
If you live in the Northeast, you might have heard about one of the "best-kept travel secrets" around, the Chinatown bus. For just ten dollars, New Century Bus Travel
will whisk you from Philadelphia to New York in a "most comfortable deluxe motorcoach." I've purchased a ticket for the 3:00 PM bus - that should get me into town at around five, I can take the subway from Chinatown up to Penn Station, grab dinner, and watch warmups. It's a perfect plan.
And did I mention that it's only ten bucks? after all, it's cheaper than the $66 Amtrak (it was $32 in 2001), or even the $17 NJ Transit commuter train. On New Century's website, it says to show up half an hour early. So I will. I'm out the door!2:25 PM
On my way to the subway, I see injured Drexel
center Sean Brooks at the 7-11. He's standing in line while I'm buying a pack of Reese's Sticks. Two observations: a.)
he seems to be walking just fine, so watch out Colonial Athletic Association; b.)
he asks the clerk for a plastic-tipped cigar. I have no idea
why anyone would want one of those smelly things (especially a finely-conditioned athlete), but then I remember: right! You can mix cocktails
with them.2:40 PM
Okay, I'm at the station. It's not really a bus station, it's a storefront at 11th and Market Streets, and everyone waits on the curb near the bus loading zone. There are a lot of people standing there, but nobody seems to know where the line begins or ends. This is causing quite a bit of snippiness and a general lack of holiday joy amongst the assemblage, which despite the urban legends about Chinatown buses, is a rainbow mix of all races and colors.3:00 PM
The scheduled 3:00 bus hasn't even arrived yet, and we're all standing here.3:20 PM
An empty bus pulls up. The driver steps out, says something in Chinese, then gets back on the bus and drives away again
- with no passengers.3:37 PM
Another bus arrives at the curb, but it's full of people coming in from New York. It empties, and the driver once again drives away without loading any passengers. A number of people start complaining to the ticket agent, who responds with, "I no understand English good! Bus come soon!"3:50 PM
A bus pulls up, and opens its door - there's a mad rush to get on. I am the last person standing at the bus door when the driver closes it and drives off. The ticket agent is running around on the sidewalk yelling, "Two bus! Two bus!" Five minutes later, the promised second bus pulls up and allows some more people to board. I'm one of the lucky ones this time.4:31 PM
Heavy traffic on the northbound New Jersey Turnpike, we've only made it to Exit 5. Dusk sets in, and so does the pain in my knees. This bus wasn't designed for 6'2" folks.5:13 PM
At the Joyce Kilmer travel plaza, we pull off the Turnpike and head straight for the Sunoco area. That's right, we are stopping for gas
. I'm in a right-side window seat, so I see the digits on the pump twitch and whirl. Gallon upon gallon of diesel fuel pour into the bus, and the final bill is $175.00, or 17.5 passengers' fares. I'm into the second disc of Miles Davis' The Complete Plugged Nickel 1965
on Corinne the iPod, and might get through the whole eight-disc set if the battery holds up.
|I'm trapped on a Chinese bus (stop).|
Send help (stop).
We're off the Turnpike at Exit 14, and my iPod battery is dead. A girl in the seat behind me is screaming into her cellphone, "I don't know where we are! Somewhere in Jersey! I dunno how far away we are, just please don't leave without me!
" I'm resigned to the fact that I'll be late to the game.6:16 PM
We're in a huge traffic standstill on US 1, and I've written off the first half. I don't know why we're on US 1. The Holland Tunnel, which I assume is the preferred method of getting to lower Manhattan, was just three exits away on the Turnpike and traffic had eased up. Does the driver know a super-secret way I don't?6:47 PM
Nope, here we are at the mouth of the Holland Tunnel - after spending almost an hour on Route 1. I estimate that at the rate we're going, I could have taken my bicycle and rode the 100-mile distance from my place to Madison Square Garden in equal time. I'm in good shape, I can keep a 20 mph pace. This is, of course, assuming a bike path from Philly to Manhattan. At if it was about 30 degrees warmer than it is. When you have the luxury of theory, anything is possible.7:02 PM
On West Broadway, I climb down the aisle over the stray baggage, and ask the driver if I can get off. We're close to the Franklin Street 1/2/3/9 station, and I saw people leave buses between stops all the time when I rode the Greyhounds. The driver pulls over at a bus shelter, gets up out of his seat, goes down into the stairwell, and unfastens ten or twelve bungee cords that are holding the door closed
. I pick up my chin off the floor just in time to leap off the bus, but the delay has made me Mr. Unpopular - I see a few flipped birds in the window as the coach drives off. Hey, I
wasn't the one who fucked up the door.7:24 PM
A Metrocard swipe and a ten-stop ride on the 1-line, and now my travel is complete. Over five hours after I left home, I am now at MSG - this is an all-time record for slowness under any conditions, and I usually come up here at least 12 times a year to watch the Rangers (I split a season ticket in 423 with three friends). I clear security, get my ducat from the booth, and dash up the five flights of stairs. When I enter the bowl, it's halftime, and Canisius is up 33-26. If I'd arrived after the second half started (as I would have if I hadn't got off the bus early), I'd feel guilty for counting this game against the hundred - but I really, truly earned this one.7:39 PM
The St. John's fans are trickling in for the second game, and as I look out at all the empty seats that are soon to be filled, I think about how I'm probably the only neutral fan in the building who cared as much about getting to see this contest. I honestly don't understand the average college hoops fan sometimes - people who ignore mid-majors say they're only interested in seeing "good basketball," but they really mean "basketball with future NBA stars." Case in point to close the case: I came here to MSG last December to see a Saturday afternoon doubleheader of Texas
. It was sold-out, but after the first (nationally televised, Duke blowout) game the escalators were jammed with people trying to escape the Garden. Even Dickie M-F'ing V left instead of watching two future Tournament teams go at it. I was able to move up from the 400 level down to the seats with the personal TV's and white-glove food service. Pathetic and disgraceful.7:49 PM
Halfway through the second, this is a nip and tuck game in the low forties, and it's because of countervailing forces. The Griffins are absolutely slaughtering Columbia on the boards, but aren't making their shots. The Lions are making baskets just enough to stay in it: the big scoreboard says they're shooting 41%. 8:09 PM
Columbia goes on a massive 15-0 burst and have taken control of the game at 56-48. Brett Loscalzo is a little freshman guard who gets high in the air and swishes threes with perfect precision, and he's on fire. He put up three identical open-look treys, and nailed them all. I've never seen a Columbia team with an extra gear, and this is exciting.8:27 PM
After a desperate effort in the final two minutes to trey-and-foul their way out of a six-point deficit, Canisius gives up and concedes the win: the final score is 64-58. The Lions can take the subway home; the Golden Griffins lost both games of the Holiday Festival and are slinking back into MAAC play with a 1-8 record, and have a long bus ride back upstate.
I just hope their bus driver isn't Chinese.Photo Gallery (Games 022/023)