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Just Off-Camera

"They respect you if you write. The dumber the world gets, the more the words matter." -Dan Jenkins

Friday, January 23, 2004

Enemy Territory?

A few weeks ago, seeing that the Flyers were coming to Madison Square Garden on one of my off-days, I went and picked up a pair of tickets on eBay. Going to see the Flyers play a road game isn't new for me. But seeing them at MSG is. You hear stories about New York fans.

I planned to wear my Flyers jersey, but I wanted to hear what some other people had to say about the idea.

The hockey expert at the ESPN research department: "Do not wear your jersey at MSG."

My boss: "I just want you to be able to come into work on Friday."

A friend: "Just because you haven't got your ass kicked before doesn't mean you won't get your ass kicked this time."

Another friend - a Rangers fan - whom I went to the game with: "The Rangers have been so bad the past few years, I don't think anybody will care."

One out of four ain't bad. I wore the jersey. Fortunately, the Rangers fan was right.

It was not a problem at all. From the moment I got out of my car in the garage to when I pulled out of the garage, I didn't get anything thrown at me besides a handful of snickering comments. Actually, I got more praise from fellow Flyers fans than derision from New Yorkers.

As it turned out, the section I had seats in was mostly Flyers fans, who were loud enough to start multiple "Let's go Flyers" chants and drown out the surrounding Rangers fans. It didn't hurt that the Flyers played superior hockey and won, 4-2.

When the Flyers scored their fourth goal just after the start of the third period, one Rangers fan who had been taunting the Flyers crowd for most of the game was serenaded with a chorus of "Ass....hole! Ass....hole!" I felt like I was back in Philly.

While I had worried whether or not wearing orange and black would get me in trouble, another Flyers near us had the opposite idea. He was wearing a Red Sox hat and a Princeton t-shirt, so I asked him how someone wearing that was a Flyers fan. He explained that he was from Center City Philly, and he had a Red Sox hat specifically to wear to sporting events in New York, "because this pisses them off." Next to this guy, my Brashear jersey might as well have been a white flag.

Since this was my first time at MSG, here are my impressions of the joint.

For a place that bills itself as "The World's Most Famous Arena," it was kind of dumpy. I know it's a few decades old, but how about some decent lighting? The ice had something of a yellowish tint to it, and I think it was because the lighting just wasn't very good.

Also, what's up with the color scheme? The lowest section of seats is purple, the rest are teal. What happened to blue? Both the teams that call MSG home wear blue, but apparently the designer was a Charlotte Hornets fan...

Two more gripes: get some decent music, please. It should be a federal law that at least one AC/DC song is played at every major sporting event. Whatever the MSG crew played was atrocious...it was a weird combination of several mediocre '80s rock songs mixed together to a techno beat. I guess the World's Most Famous Arena stole a couple DJs' CDs from an old East German nightclub.

Finally, hit the bathroom before you venture into the upper deck. I guess people didn't complain as much when MSG was built as they do now. In Philly, fans raised hell when they found out that waterfountains were left out of the Linc. At MSG, I guess nobody found it annoying that they had to go down one level to use the bathroom. Although, that might explain the occasional smell that drifted our way in the nosebleeds.

Before they address all that, though, they should work on putting a quality product on the ice. The Rangers played like a beaten team from the moment the Flyers scored their first goal. Down two goals with a minute and a half left, they didn't even pull their goalie when the had the opportunity. I agree with the Rangers fans who started the "Fire Sather" chant midway through the third. Maybe the Blueshirts should bring in Isiah Thomas to work on their team after he's done remodeling the Knicks. He couldn't bring the Rangers any further down in the division. Well, they are ahead of Pittsburgh. But I think even Isiah could keep the Rangers ahead of the Penguins.


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