- Jay Z, Brooklyn (Go Hard)
It may not be the most heated rivalry, neither school may be adorned with national titles, hell neither school really even has a campus, at least in the traditional sense. But when you can walk from one of their Division I gyms to the other in less than 20 minutes without so much as breaking a sweat, that's unique.
St. Francis Brooklyn and Long Island University-Brooklyn have both gone out of their way to emphasize the word Brooklyn in their school names in the past few years, part of a marketing plan that has them going after the same types of students.
Because you can never have enough Brooklyn, can you?
When this challenge came up, I was headed to St. Francis Brooklyn for a game, so I decided to make the walk between the two "campuses". I timed out at about 21 minutes. Coming back on the 2 train, it was two stops or about three minutes from start to finish.
Every large city has its neighborhoods or sections, but in New York, there is a distinct difference between the boroughs, a discrepanc'y that the NBA (and now NHL) have picked up and tried to take advantage of. The brand new $1 billion Barclays Center - home of the Atlantic-10 Tournament - sits closer to LIU than St. Francis, but it's all relative when you're talking about a couple of blocks difference one way or the other.
The Barclays Center adds another level of intrigue for two schools that have been playing since 1928 on different levels. They'll play there Sunday (Feb. 10) and will likely do so once a season (they played once last year at Madison Square Garden as well). In a way, it's a perfect neutral venue, but there's also obviously no chance of filling the place, which takes away the atmosphere of the small gyms (and both Brooklyn schools have two of the smallest venues in Division I).
LIU has had the upper hand of late, winning the last two NEC titles and capturing five straight games (and 9 of 11) in the rivalry. Which makes the St. Francis folk even more bitter because the Terriers are one of five teams that have been in Division I since it was created more than 60 years ago, but have never competed in the NCAA Tournament.
The Blackbirds also have the newer venue, with the opening in the Wellness, Recreation, and Athletic Center (WRAC) being a Battle of Brooklyn on February 27, 2006. They had played a few games at the WRAC before that, but to truly "open" the place, it had to be against St. Francis.
Although they had played for five decades before any formal name, the official Battle of Brooklyn began in 1976, with both teams joining the NEC in 1981 (yes, it's been around that long). Only one meeting counts as the "official" Battle, with the MVP getting the Lai-Lynch Trophy, named for the athletic directors of the two schools at the time, respectively.
If the Battle of Brooklyn rings a bell
, it might be due to your history classes growing up. There was a real Battle of Brooklyn in the Revolutionary War in the summer of 1776, and George Washington and the Americans got beat down pretty good, with the British outflanking them and eventually taking all of New York (things surely looked slightly different in New York back then).
However, with the Americans pushed back to Brooklyn Heights (they didn't have a Brooklyn Bridge to cross back into Manhattan then), Washington engineered one of the great escapes in American history, not too far from where the current St. Francis "campus" sits. The entire American army escaped, lived to fight another day, and the rest is American history.
As I alluded to before, walking through Brooklyn has a completely different feel than doing the same through the skyscrapers of Manhattan. The people here are mostly true New Yorkers, born and bred working-class people, proud of their home. And that's what may cool this rivalry off just a tad. Brooklyn folk have to stick together after all, especially when they have so much in common.
So if you're ever visiting Manhattan and looking for something cheap to do (not easy, surely), take a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge to Brooklyn Heights and check out the Pope Physical Education Center. Yea, it's not much, but we're not judging the size of our homes here at the Mid-majority, are we?
When you're done, stroll down Fulton or Willoughby Street, listen to the music, maybe buy something (a book, perhaps) from the people selling things on the sidewalks, turn into a deli for a tremendous sub, waltz on by the Barclays Center and just say "one-billion dollars" over and over to yourself, and then walk past the blackbird statues into the WRAC.
It will take you maybe half-an-hour (with built in times for stops). You don't need a tour guide for that one.