"I was sure you'd be on foot because you always say public transportation is for losers."
- Marge Simpson (to Homer)
The original plan, in place for a few weeks now, was to drive to Newark, N.J. on Saturday afternoon to see New Jersey Tech against Texas Pan-American and do a cool story on the Great West conference (complete with jokes such as, "The Great West Conference is neither great nor west. Discuss."). Then, I was to finish up with a nightcap between Columbia and Cornell in Manhattan.
But the forecast all week was poor, and as Saturday broke, a few inches of snow coated the roads here in New Haven. I could take my Toyota Camry and give it my best shot. In my younger era, I would have. Back in my college days, I once took a Plymouth Caravelle through a lake effect blizzard from Syracuse to Cincinnati. In retrospect, I'm not entirely sure how I made it through. I can tell you definitely it wasn't because of great driving.
There are two kinds of crazy, though: someone who gets naked, runs out into the forest and barks at the moon and someone who does the same thing in my living room. The first one I don't care about, the second I'm forced to deal with.
Anyway, long trips in the car Saturday were out.
There was no way I was sitting around the house all day, though, so I hatched a seemingly convoluted but brilliant Plan B. The trains from New Haven to New York run even in blizzards (I've made a couple of trips to Madison Square Garden to see Syracuse in historic blizzards, including last year), and St. Francis was playing Mt. St. Mary's in Brooklyn at 4:30 p.m.
Although I've probably driven through, I've never really been to Brooklyn in my 37 years on Earth, kind of sad having lived most of that time about 80 miles away.
It also occurred to me that in more than a decade since the 9/11 tragedy, I hadn't been to lower Manhattan. I had been to the top of the World Trade Center as a youngster, but most of my trips to Manhattan in the last two decades involved Times Square, MSG, and maybe visiting a couple of friends that lived uptown.
So, could I pull it off? Visiting the sites in lower Manhattan, getting to Brooklyn, and then back to Columbia, by myself, with a rudimentary (at best) understanding of the subway system? It was already 9:45 a.m. Let's go run out into the city and bark at the moon. In New York, unlike Hickory, I'm not sure anyone would have batted an eyelid.
The short ride to Union Station in New Haven confirmed that is was the correct choice to not try to drive to Newark. Normally a 5-minute drive, it took 15, some of which involved sliding and narrowly avoiding parked cars.
But the trains were indeed running on time, and I was on the 10:30 to Grand Central Station, and found my way on the 6 Train down to the Brooklyn Bridge.
(By the way, for the rest of this, it might help to have this on in the background. I had it on my I-Pod on repeat for much of the train ride down.)
With a little time to kill, I slid (it was still a little icy in Manhattan) toward Wall St. where, much to my chagrin, I saw no one occupying anything.
Then, I approached the World Trade Center memorial site. With no ticket (and not much time), I didn't get to see a lot of the memorials, but I did get to see St. Paul's Church, and I paused to just stand there for a moment, soaking in what it must have been like that day, and how many people were affected by the acts of so few.
While looking for lunch, I stumbled upon Engine Co. 7 of the New York Fire Department, which isn't exactly on the tourist trail, but looked like this in the days after 9/11.
I'm hoping to make it a few more decades, but it's never too early for a "bucket list," is it? If I had one, walking across the Brooklyn Bridge would have been on it, and it would have been summarily crossed off Saturday afternoon.
Sadly, while walking across the Bridge, it's wasn't Billy Joel that was stuck in my head, but the long-since-forgotten 3rd Bass', "real cool, 'cause Brooklyn's cool, Friday June, the last day of school." (this is absolutely high comedy now, but when I was 14, these guys were awesome. At least I thought they were. Remember that, youngsters, when you're filming yourself and your friends now. Two decades from now, that might be your reaction.)
As it turned out, St. Francis College wasn't that far from the Brooklyn Bridge, so I kept on truckng, right past a park where a bunch of young kids (none of whom were 10, meaning they weren't even born on 9/11, which scares me) were making snowmen.
I unknowingly walked right by St. Francis the first time to get some food and scout out exactly just how I was going to find the right subway to make my great escape and get to Columbia as quickly as possible. At the "Shake Shack" (which indeed had tremendous shakes), I saw a problem. The St. Francis game was actually at 5 p.m., not 4:30.
Oh, well, there wasn't a heck of a lot I could do about it now, and there was a women's game going on, so might as well check it out.
I vacillated between the two doors that said St. Francis College on them, as neither looked like it housed a gym. Finally, I picked one and asked the receptionist, "Do you know where the basketball game is?" I got a friendly but puzzled response, "It's right there."
I thought I was heading into some super-secret entrance for VIPs, but, no, that was the way in to the Geneveso Pope Physical Education Facility and Peter Aquilone Court, a name that might take you longer to read than it would take to the count the number of seats inside.
I kid about the size of the place, but familiarity (this is the third time I saw the Terriers) has not brought contempt, but admiration. How could there be bigger underdogs than these guys? They are in the same division as Kansas and North Carolina and Kentucky? I love it.
They watched their women's team throttle Wagner (raising their record ,I found out later, to 2-16) from the bleachers like it was a high school JV game, and got dressed to take on Mt. St. Mary's. I even got to charge my phone under the basket between games (how many Division I arenas can you say that about?) as the teams warmed up.
It's not exactly an "all of us, each of us" thing, but the Terriers have had a great vibe in the last two games I witnessed. They were extremely loose in warm-ups, with a couple of Serbians, a kid from England, and a bunch of kids from the city who were probably overlooked multiple times by a host of different college coaches.
This game was never close, as St. Francis pummeled hapless Mt. St. Mary's 79-60. I felt bad, because the Mountaineers and I go way back (more on that later in the week), but my loyalty is firmly with St. Francis at this time of the season.
The Xaverian High band filled in and did a good job impersonating a student section with stuff such as "We got Milk," for instance, in honor of sophomore center Matt Milk.
With shooter Ben Mockford cold and held to eight points and Akeem Johnson with just four, Stefan Perunicic stepped up with 21, while Jalen Cannon and P.J. Santavenere - pretty much invisible the first two times I saw St. Francis - both gave Glenn Braica big minutes off the bench, and each had a big-time #omgdunx. Cannon was so excited, he promptly got T-ed up for taunting (luckily his team was up 33-13 at the time), while Santavenere's killed a mini-run for the Mount midway through the second half and pretty much ended the competitive portion of the contest.
St. Francis is now 6-2 in an improved NEC, and although they'll have to get through the likes of Long Island and Wagner to get to the NCAA Tournament, the guys with the little gym are playing extremely well.
Mt. St. Mary's coach Robert Burke did not have his best day, frustrated by his team's early start, he got an early technical, and continued on the officials for most of the day.
More importantly, he also drew my ire by making the end of the game - a blowout - seemingly interminable (St. Francis didn't help with needless plays, either) by calling all of his time outs, pressing, and fouling at every opportunity.
at SAINT FRANCIS (NY) 79, MOUNT SAINT MARY'S 60 01/21/2012
MOUNT SAINT MARY'S 4-15 (2-6) -- P. Richard 11-20 3-4 28; J. Norfleet 5-9 3-5 14; J. Castellanos 4-15 1-2 10; D. Thompson 0-2 1-2 1; X. Owens 3-5 5-8 11; C. Holley 3-5 4-7 10; R. Barber 0-1 0-0 0; K. Krajina 3-3 0-0 6; K. Parker 2-5 1-2 5; D. Kenny 0-1 0-0 0; J. Wells 1-1 1-3 3; O. Brown 0-2 0-0 0; A. Brown 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-49 16-29 60. SAINT FRANCIS (NY) 9-10 (6-2) -- S. Perunicic 7-8 3-3 21; B. Jones 4-6 4-4 13; J. Cannon 5-7 0-0 10; B. Mockford 2-6 3-4 8; M. Milk 1-3 0-0 2; P. Santavenere 3-5 3-4 11; A. Johnson 2-6 0-1 4; T. Nichols 2-6 0-0 5; J. Newton 0-0 0-0 0; K. Douglas 0-0 4-6 4; M. Trivic 0-0 0-0 0; L. Ulmer 0-0 1-2 1. Totals 26-47 18-24 79.
Three-point goals: MSM 2-14 (O. Brown 0-2; J. Castellanos 1-7; J. Norfleet 1-3; C. Holley 0-1; X. Owens 0-1), SFNY 9-16 (S. Perunicic 4-5; B. Mockford 1-4; T. Nichols 1-3; B. Jones 1-1; P. Santavenere 2-3); Rebounds: MSM 21 (D. Thompson 4), SFNY 29 (J. Cannon 11); Assists: MSM 7 (C. Holley 3), SFNY 14 (B. Jones 6); Total Fouls -- MSM 21, SFNY 20; Fouled Out: MSM-None; SFNY-None.