Monday, March 31, 2014

7th and 33rd

By 1:30 yesterday the scene at 7th and 33rd had changed considerably from the way it had looked just a couple of hours earlier.  When I walked by there then I had been asked several times if I "needed any" meaning did I need any tickets. My sense then was that the scalpers might be holding onto a lot of tickets come game time.

At 130 I still believed that some tickets for the 220 start would not have any takers.  The change, however, was eye opening.  At 130 the area from 7th and 33rd to the Garden was just swarming with scalpers.  I walked from the intersection and told myself to count how many people asked me if I needed tickets.  I lost count.  I can count to one hundred for those who are snickering, but the inquiries from the salesfolks were coming from all sides and I just could not keep track. In addition to those blatantly blurting "who needs any" or "who wants 'em" there were at least ten others just standing in place holding tickets in the air.  Occasionally, such holders would be approached and asked about price.  I saw a couple of transactions, but more often the would be buyers walked away from the holders without a ticket.

I mentioned in an earlier blog that I'd gone to the ticket window at about 1130 to inquire about buying a ticket legitimately.  At that time I was told that the only tickets I could purchase were behind the hoop in a seat in an enclosed suite or seats in a similar suite at center court. The former was selling for 100 dollars, the latter at about 150.  Afterwards I went on stub hub and the cheapest seat was selling for 140 something.

So, the only tickets sold at the box office were for suite seats in an enclosed space at a minimum of 100.  But on the street no more than a couple of hundred strides away, at least 200 seats were available being sold by scalpers. And there were a bunch being sold on stubhub.

I stood on the corner of 7th and 33rd for a half hour watching the dynamics.  Two holders were standing right near the street sign. One had a single ticket, another had two tickets.  Another scalper came up to the holders and offered to buy the tickets--each with a face value of 100.00 for 40. They laughed at him.

But, there were not many who approached the holders on the corner.  At one point a wave of UConn and MSU fans crossed the street on their way into the arena.  This prospect seemed promising, but nobody stopped. Every one of the fans appeared to have a ticket. .

A few minutes later at about 2 a potential buyer approached the holder with the single ticket.  He asked how much.  The holder said, "240.00"

"240?" the customer said incredulously. "the face value is 100."

The holder responded with a composite of indignation and incredulity himself. "Hey, I'm a scalper." as if to say, (a) were you born yesterday buster and (b) this is my line of work.

Something wrong here. At 1130 you cant buy tickets at the box office. At 130 you can buy tickets right outside the box office for over two times the face value.

I should have stayed around to see what would happen at 220 when the game started.  But it was cold and I had to get to the airport.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

sweet suite?

The scalpers are out there now.  I walked to Madison Square Garden at around 11 and before I crossed 7th Avenue a fellow asked me if I needed any tickets.  The short-hand is "need any".  When I crossed to Penn Station there was an army of fellows asking if I "needed any."  I have a sense that the scalpers are having some trouble today. Could be wrong with Connecticut playing and the loyalists only a short train ride away, but the Garden is a big place, and I have to think there are tickets the scalpers are hoping will be hotcakes, but are likely to be seen as cold toast.

I went through MSG Security to see if there were any tickets left at the box office. This was more out of curiosity than a strong desire to get in.  With the weather iffy I'm likely to try and get an earlier plane to Boston.  I have to write up my notes from this sweet sixteen weekend, and attend to assorted other university tasks before I head to Minneapolis on Wednesday and then Dallas.  I am not a world traveller but it seems that way these past few months. There is a conference in Minneapolis and I have a paper there about this research project.  The wisdom of having coupled the twin cities conference with the Dallas final four was derived from the 22 year old head that this 64 year old professor occasionally hauls along.  A young man opened a door for me today as I walked gingerly down some steps. Respecting his elders.

Good boy.


The MSG lobby at noon was remarkably empty. I thought there would be more of a crowd.  Almost nobody there. The doors looked open and the security very much in place.  There were more scalpers outside than there were patrons inside. Only one window was dedicated to the game.   The box office attendant looked up when I arrived semi-pleased that he had something to do. I asked for the price and location of the cheapest single ticket for today's Elite Eight game.

The price was 100 dollars.  The scalpers on Friday were getting 500 for someone sitting on the moon. These seats, the fellow told me, were not on the moon. In fact, they were relatively high up but not all the way north and in newly constructed suites that ring the circumference of the arena. The 100 dollar ticket got me a suite seat behind the hoop. For 150 I could get a suite seat on center court.

"A suite?" I said.

He told me yes, these were indeed suite seats located in an enclosed space. There were no amenities like the corporate suites that are purchased by big companies for the better part of a fortune.  These were just enclosed areas within which there were approximately 18 seats. I, if I purchased a ticket, would have one of the 18 seats in the enclosed space.

I passed.  My primary reason was, as mentioned, less to do with the value of the seat and more to do with my need to make sure I did not get stuck at LaGuardia overnight with flight delays because of weather.

But the more I thought about it, the less attractive the 100 dollar suite seats seem to be. Never mind that they are behind the hoop;  there are only 18 people that I would be with.  There is something about going to a game in a stadium and listening to the roaring masses that would be lost in the suite.  On a freezing cold day I am sure sitting in a football suite is not bad, and I have twice been to Fenway Park in a corporate suite, both occasions were quite nice. At Fenway however, a suite does allow you to watch as if you are in a living room, but you can also go out of the enclosed place and sit in what amounts to a box with the rest of the fans.

I will be pulling for MSU today because I just don't have a good emotional reaction to the UConn's men's team (I do like watching the women's team).  But I think I will save the 100 dollars, watch the game on the tube, get back to Boston in time to put my pajamas on and maybe even do a quick work out.  I don't think the suite experience in the Garden will be as sweet.

All The Way

Yesterday afternoon, before my expedition to Big Apple Badger country, I went to the theatre district and got a single ticket to see the 2 pm matinee of All The Way.  The title is based on the 1964 presidential campaign slogan of Lyndon Johnson--All The Way with LBJ.  

It is a long, but excellent show which earned every bit of the standing ovation at its end.  Nobody reluctantly bounced up at the end, this standing ovation was like 90 per cent of the audience jerked up as if they had been pricked by a pitchfork.

The lead in the show was Bryan Cranston--the Breaking Bad guy--and he was on stage for the entire three hours discounting, of course, intermission.  Cranston as Johnson interacts with Martin Luther King, Hoover, Humphrey, Lady Byrd, his assistant, Katharine Graham, George Wallace, Mississippi's James Eastland, and assorted others. He is on stage and the center of the dialogue for the entire three hours.

What is most amazing about what I saw, though, was not the play--which was really good if you like politics and that era--what is most amazing is that I saw the matinee and Cranston was--just three hours after he finished a three hour play--going to do it all over again for a Saturday night audience.  You had to see how much energy was involved in his performance to marvel sufficiently when considering that he would do this twice in one day.

Not everything is related to sports, but I think that in theatre and in sport there is this one similarity. The great ones get it up every time they get on stage or get on a court.  John Havlicek, a great-- sometimes unfortunately forgotten Boston Celtic--used to say that in the playoffs particularly, he would go "as hard as I can for as long as I can".

Whatever we do, it would be good to keep in mind what Bryan Cranston and Havlicek did by example. Give everything you got, every time you have to do it.  More than the show--which was terrific--I think that message is what I will take away from seeing the matinee yesterday and knowing he was coming back to do it again three hours later.

You do the math

The little Irish dancers are trickling in at 7 a.m.  I see them in their costumes as I walk out of the hotel. Others are in their own costumes ready to roll early on this Sunday morning: The bell hop answering questions he must have heard 100 times.  The airport pilot in his duds I see on the elevator.  On the street there are the sad sights of a fellow waiting in rags for a bus in the damp early morning and I see he has one tooth in his mouth, and nearby there is a similarly clad man pushing a shopping cart with bags of what I imagine to be all his belongings taped poorly around the cart.

I go across the street to Madison Square Garden to see if the scalpers are out there early. They are not, but security presence is assembling for the 2 20 game.  I walk into Penn Station and see a coffee/bakery shop called Zaros.  There I pay 2.75 for a paper cup filled with what is passing for coffee.  The two young women at the cashier have opened Zaros at 530 this Sunday morning.  I am the lone customer right then so after they give my change they have time to talk to each other about their hair coloring.

It is happening in the lobby of my hotel, what with the people waiting for Lindy's to open at 7 am, the Irish dancers sitting on the couches waiting for the proper time for them to make their way to the 18th floor, the assorted tourists with their maps of New York, and guys who just seem to be busy moving around doing what I can't figure out.

There is no line at the front desk so I go up and ask about checking bags. I have to come back, I am told, when I am ready to leave. I need to then wait in line, officially check out, and then pay for the bags to be checked.  I muse that the line at check out time is likely to be long. The attendant who clearly speaks English as a second language says something I, at first, can't quite understand.  Eventually, I figure out what she has muttered.  "You do the Math" she has said.

I did the Math last night.  I took a cab to the Wisconsin Badgers bar identified on line as a Big Apple Badgers game watching location. There are two of them.  I took a cab to the one that looked like it would be closer. I did the math wrong.  This place was very close to the Williamsburg bridge through the ungridlike lower east side section of New York.

 I arrive at around 730. The first game is on the tvs, but the Wisconsin game will not start for two hours. The bar has a strange set up.  Against the wall are some tables, but at the bar itself there are no seats.  So instead of sitting, I stood at the bar and glanced back at the Wisconsin garbed Big Apple Badgers anxiously waiting for the game.  There were probably about sixty at the time awaiting tip off.

I get myself a salad which is not bad at all for bar fare, munch on it, and half way through the meal begin to feel jostled.  I look behind me again and the place is now filling up.  By the time I finish the last piece of lettuce, the space between the bar and the seats is packed.  A fellow with a Wisconsin basketball jersey draped over his long sleeve gray tee shirt leans into me, "Are you pumped" he says. I tell him I am pumped.

An announcement is made on a microphone telling all that the third floor is now open. The Big Apple Badgers can now make their way to the third floor.  I ask the bartender if that means the area where I stand will now be closed.  He says, no, that the third floor is where fans can go if they want to see the game with the sound on, as opposed to seeing the game with music on and the sound off. I nod, and turn around and see that the place is emptying out.  I wait a spell, settle up with the bartender, and grab what is left of a beverage and make my way to the third floor.

It is about a half hour before tip off when I get to the third floor. It is very crowded.  The people look very young and I am guessing that the Big Apple Badgers are those who just recently graduated and live in NY because there does not seem to be a soul more than thirty. Young men and women greeting each other with big hugs and kisses as if they were members of the same classes in Madison.

I have a decent view of one of the monitors. It seems like a long wait before the game starts and by the time it does I can barely move.  Every time Wisconsin does the slightest thing right the crowd erupts. When the amassed feels there has been a bad call there is a collective groan or worse.  It is a madhouse there on the third floor.  Some poor guy who is serving food is trying to get through to a table and he is pushing his way. A Big Apple Badger is making his way with a pitcher of beer and how he is not spilling the suds on me is a mystery.

The game is only six minutes into it and I look around and I, who typically do not get this way, get a little nervous.  I can do the Math sometimes and if there was ever any problem like a fire this could be a disaster. I can't move without pushing people and I am smack in the middle of a herd of Badgers.  I've been at college parties where you had to hold your mug in the air to avoid losing your drink.  I remember once being in a place where I felt my legs were not touching the ground it was so crowded. This seems as bad as anything I'd ever experienced.  There are two old staircases leading down to the first floor.  It would be crazy if people felt a need to get going.

When the clock gets below twelve minutes in a college game that is televised, and there is a stoppage of play, there is a mandatory television time out.  I wait until there is a deadball after the twelve minute mark and I attempt to get skinny and slink my way out.  I do with effort after bouncing off several others who seem to be nearly connected. When I reach the stairs I am relieved. I get to the first floor and see that there are some non Wisconsin adorned people dancing there and a few Big Apple Badgers watching the game in the quiet of a relatively vacant area.  I leave, take a cab back through the pouring rain, and get back to Penn Station.

I can only imagine the scene with the Big Apple Badgers when the game goes into overtime and then the Badgers prevail 64-63 in that overime period.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Sweet Sixteen

In New York for the Sweet Sixteen.  Last week in Buffalo for the first round.  Still frozen from the walk from my hotel to the arena in downtown Buffalo. It is raining here in New York.  If I don't develop pneumonia, next week I'll be in Dallas for the final four.

There is an Irish dancing contest going on all day today and tomorrow at the hotel where I am at, directly across from Madison Square Garden.  The dancing contest is on the 18th floor. I am on the 17th. Kids are practicing their kick dancing in the area outside the elevators. Parents are coaching. Quite a scene. If I look up from outside my room windows--which last were cleaned during the Hoover administration--I can see kids all done up in costumes waiting to Irish dance their way to a trophy.

A different scene out on the street. I arrived last night around an hour before the Iowa State//UCONN, Michigan State--UVA doubleheader.  The scalpers were dancing happily like the kids on the 18th floor.  The scalpers, however, were doing the shekel dance.  Tickets were going for over 500 dollars a seat.  Bobby and I decided that even for research, that was too steep.  Instead we scouted out bars where the supporters of teams would be congregating.

There are enough Iowa State supporters, we discovered, for a place called Foleys to be a dedicated watering hole. While I waited on the Boston runway for my flight to take off--after having switched my 3 o'clock flight for a 2 o'clock flight, then hearing that the 2 was postponed, so switching back to the 3, and then getting on the 3, to hear that there was a delay on the runway till 4, and then enduring predictable Friday evening rush hour traffic from LaGuardia to Manhattan--Bobby had ample time to scout it out.  At 6, he could not get in to Foleys.  Place was too jammed over an hour before tip off with Iowa State rooters. He then went to the Michigan State tavern, a place called the Mercury Bar where he grabbed a table and waited for me to arrive.

I got to the hotel, dumped my bags and headed for the Mercury Bar.  As I walked away from the Garden I saw an army of Iowa State, UCONN, Michigan State, and UVA fans walking in the opposite direction. I knew they were fans because they all were adorned in their school colors.  Troops and troops of them were going to the Garden for the Sweet Sixteen. (Last week in Buffalo the joint was similarly packed with fanatics. I will blog again about my experience there subsequently).

Michigan State was not playing last night until about 10, but it was all my brother could do to save a table for my arrival.  What a joint. The band playing so loudly that we could not hear a word the other was saying.  It was packed at 7, and then inexplicably, it got more packed before tip off.  It was so crowded with MSU supporters (and never let it be said that MSU supporters do not like to knock them back) that we could barely see the screen.  The place felt like it was literally hopping with semi-inebriated fanatics who, in some cases, did not seem to be looking at the screen as much as hugging their fellow alums.  The two of us, not wearing any MSU garb, periodically were getting high fives from strangers apropos not of what was transpiring on the screen, but because the quaffers were just greeting those they assumed to be their comrades.  One woman, clearly not able to determine the score--leaned over and told me, then my brother, then people at adjoining tables, that she had decided to divorce her husband. At least two men came by to whisper advice about who knows what since I could barely hear them.  In each case I nodded agreeably.

We left the Mercury Bar at half time because my ears were ready to split open and we could no longer see the screen what with the numbers of people breaking all fire laws for occupancy.  We went to Foleys where Iowa State fans were still imbibing two hours after their team had played ignominiously losing to UConn earlier. However, the place had emptied sufficiently so we could get in.  A ruckus surfaced in Foleys when, at about 1130 pm, two blockheads from the University of Connecticut came in to rub it in and shout the praises of UConn to the assembled Iowa State fans.  For the first time in my life I saw a bouncer, literally, bounce two guys in UConn sweatshirts outside the bar.

Today, elite eight begins.  Tomorrow across the street UConn will be playing Michigan State for the right to go to Dallas.  The tickets ought to be more reasonable. I will go to Foleys later and see if some Iowa State supporters who optimistically bought tickets for the final will sell a ducat or two.