I’ve always been one for the sports bucket list. Sitting around and thinking of where I want to travel, what venues I want to visit and what major games I want to see. I have been lucky enough to work in sports and see some amazing games and amazing venues. There are always those places that sports fans want to experience. Whether it is a baseball parks tour across the US, a SEC football weekend, a Sunday at Augusta or sitting in the top of a RV on the infield at Daytona…everybody has their trip.
Mine was the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden, emphasis on the was part. The Big East as I knew it was gone quicker than a Kentucky freshman.
Being born in Connecticut and having your earliest sports influences being Ron Francis and Jim Calhoun meant something to me. The Boston Celtics would play a few games a year at the Hartford Civic Center but my dad taught me at an early age that we didn’t really like the Celtics, and that was fine with me because, (1.) they weren’t from Connecticut and (2.) we liked the Denver Nuggets (I liked chicken nuggets so this was cool).
Growing up I lived and died by UCONN basketball. We moved to Florida but I still read the sports page every morning in the winter and spring searching for UCONN box scores. I followed the great 90’s teams with Donyell Marshall, Donny Marshall, Kevin Ollie, Doron Scheffer,
Jesus Shuttlesworth Ray Allen and Travis Knight. I cut out news clippings and AP polls the first time UCONN was ever #1 and I hated Kerry Kittles and Villanova for years for knocking them off the following week.
We moved to Colorado and the only thing that changed was that I could watch the Big Monday games 2 hours earlier. I remember watching Ray Allen knock off Allen Iversen and Georgetown while putting my room together as an 11 year old. I also remember all the devastating tournament losses and wondering when/if UCONN would get break down the door to the Final Four and a National title for Jim Calhoun. I have been lucky to have been to a first round game in Denver in ’99 and the Final Four in San Antonio in ’04 to witness 2 great Husky teams and some amazing players. I was never lucky enough to make it to the Garden…
Sports Illustrated recently wrote an article that highlighted the tournament from the coaches perspectives…most sound like they’ll miss the old Big East. They’ll miss runs like UCONN’s in 2011 led by Kemba Walker, Ben Gordon on the big stage, 2006 Cuse run by McNamara and friends, the epic 6 OT Cuse-UCONN game, Brandin Knight and Pitt, John Thompson and Georgetown, conference domination of the 80’s…they’ll miss that the Big East tournament was the hardest to win and that it isn’t a gambling bracket, it’s a basketball tournament and they’ll miss the bright lights of the Garden.
The Big East shaped my love for basketball my entire life. I’ll miss the rivalries and the relevancy.
I guess I can check it off my bucket list…