Sunday, March 30, 2014

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.

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