Game 037: at Northeastern 77, Boston University 75Wednesday, January 19, 2005
Matthews Arena - Boston, MA
Folks might think that when your humble narrator married The Official Wife Of The Mid-Majority™, it would have been a big hoops-themed ceremony - you know, with a wedding cake shaped like a net, mini foam basketballs for all attendees, and Darryl Dawkins
officiating. No such event occurred. We weren't even really officially engaged.
After three years as acquaintances and friends and lovers, we found ourselves standing together on an subway platform in Boston, on our way to see a Northeastern
hockey game at Matthews Arena. Who said what is lost in the mists of time, but the out-of-the-blue exchange went something like this:
"Do you think we should get married?"
"Yeah, let's do it."
The rest of the evening was routine - Chinese food for dinner, a hockey game, and then a long train ride back to her place. The great plunge we'd mutually agreed upon was little-discussed but thick in the air; there would be plenty of time later to discuss the challenges facing our impending marriage. We'd have to continue commuting 300 miles every weekend until one or both of us was able to uproot themselves, and we'd ahve to hold off on finding a domicile together until we'd accumulated the financial means.
Our insistence to get our bond formalized led to an elopement to Delaware, so Matthews Arena was the closest thing to a church we'd see. That fateful night, the strange and simplistic inscription over the old barn's doors held extra weight: "All things are possible if we try."Matthews Arena
was once known as the Boston Arena, and since its opening in 1909 it has been steeped in Beantown sports lore. It served as the incubator for the Boston Bruins and New England Whalers (now Carolina Hurricanes) hockey teams, as well as the fiercely-contested four-team Beanpot tournament. The B.A. was also the site of the first-ever Boston Celtics game, and hosted many Saturday twinbills as the league now known as the National Basketball Association struggled to get off the ground.
The Northeastern basketball team shared this hall with the hockey Huskies for many years. But ever since the Reggie Lewis era ended, the Husky hoopsters have suffered through 13 years without a Tournament berth, and the severely cramped quarters of Solomon Court have acted as their home. When Northeastern's upward mobility takes the program to the Colonial Athletic Association next season, they will play all their home games at the more spacious Matthews, in order to satisfy the CAA's homecourt seating requirements.
But for now, the Huskies are still in the America East conference, playing its final yearly home-and-home with bitter crosstown nemeses Boston University
. This game was moved to Matthews to accommodate the extra fans attracted by the rivalry, and drew a boisterous crowd of over 3,000 that would have included over a thousand rafter-hangers had the game been played at tiny Solomon.
Both teams came into the game off to quick 5-1 starts in league play, feeding off the America East's teeming ocean-floor whilst taking losses against mighty Vermont
. The Terrier squad, which specializes in halfcourt lockdowns, quickly found itself playing Northeastern's uptempo game, as former MMBOW Jose Juan Barea
singlehandedly took control of the proceedings. Terrier coach Dennis Wolff clutched his head with both hands and screamed at his charges to stay tough on defense.
On the hardcourt, Barea resembles a conductor given the task of producing beautiful Beethoven symphonies with a rag-tag volunteer orchestra. The little Puerto Rican point guard is surrounded by players of varying quality, but he points them to the right places on the floor and gets them the ball - when he's not changing his mind about the whole thing and launching a deadly three-point shot. After a first half that ended in the high thirties, the Terriers were able to clamp down on Barea for nearly 15 minutes of the second, but were unable to launch a run of their own.
Finally, Barea cracked the shackles fastened on him by the Terrier defense and three quick ticky-tack foul calls. With the help of backcourt-mate Marcus Barnes and shot-blocking expert Shawn James, NU regained control of the game. Barea would score the Huskies' last four points after a gamebreaking stolen pass and layup by Barnes, and finished with a game-leading 30 with a nine-assist garnish. A scattershot Husky defense prevented BU's Etienne Brower from a game-tying layup as time expired. As the buzzer sounded, the overwhelmingly Northeastern-supportive crowd erupted in cheers - some even stormed the floor. A few fans even dared to whisper about renewed Tournament dreams.
You need a conversational crowbar to get any info out of The Official Dad Of The Mid-Majority™ in regards to his four years as an undergrad at Boston University, but go ahead and ask him about his memories of the Boston Arena. His eyes will light up, and the stories will flow as from a hot-water faucet. You see, back in the day he was as much an intrepid basketball traveler as his son would grow to become.
One night in 1950, when my father was a mere boy of 12, he snuck out of the house to attend a Basketball Association of America doubleheader. The main event featured the Celtics against the Knickerbockers, with the Tri-Cities Blackhawks and Rochester Royals as the opening act. He used the same transportation mechanism to get to the Boston Arena that The Official Wife™ and I would years later, but back then they called it the Huntington Spur and not the Green Line.
He found himself the only passenger on his ride back home to Everett, there in the midst of a black winter night like this one, in a rickety old car with mesh wiring over the windows to shield from kids' rock-throwing. The conductor asked him his toughts on the game, and he enthusiastically complied. He launched into a detailed description of key plays, replete with the heroics of the Celtics' hot young rookie, a little guard out of Holy Cross
name of Bob Cousy
"Hey kid," the smiling conductor said. "Want to drive the train?"
And so a pre-teen boy received the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to captain a Boston subway traincar all the way from Symphony Hall to Boylston, manipulating a wooden handle to speed the car up and slow it down.
"This was a different time in a world that doesn't exist anymore," my father told me. "I didn't have to worry if the guy was a pervert or anything. He was just trying to relax at the end of a late shift, and decided to give a kid a thrill. And it wasn't a contrived moment, like some contest where you shoot a halfcourt shot and win a free lunch. He really let me drive it."
"How did that feel?" I asked him.
"Well," my father responded. "I was a 12-year-old kid driving a MTA train, I didn't know what mediocrity was, and the possibilities were endless."Photo Gallery