For 10 years, I’ve been going to Mavericks games.
I’ve seen two playoff games between the Mavs and Spurs, which is always fun. I saw Dirk Nowitzki notch his 20,000th point against the Lakers in 2010. I witnessed LeBron James bump Erik Spoelstra at the beginning of the 2010-11 season. There was Dirk’s 48-point game in Game 1 of the 2011 Western Conference Finals. I was there for Rajon Rondo’s Maverick debut (okay, c’mon, at the time it was a big deal).
Monday night’s game against the Knicks in New York was nowhere near those other games, of course. It was exactly what the box score indicates: a bad basketball game between two floundering teams that shows a twisted view of what both really are.
But this was also the first time I saw the Mavericks play live away from the AAC. And there’s no better place to see your favorite team than Madison Square Garden in New York City.
For some context, I’m living in New York for the six months and was ecstatic when I realized the Mavs would make their annual trip to the World’s Most Famous Arena during my time here. I bought tickets last week. There was no way I was missing this.
I went to the Garden once before for a Kanye West concert in September. This, however, was completely different. And it’s completely different from the AAC experience from before you even arrive.
I was running late at work and left my office when the game had already tipped off. Luckily, New York’s public transit system is incredible. My office is near the World Trade Center, and I hopped on the E-Train that took me to New York’s Penn Station in 10 minutes. I walked out and was literally at the Garden’s door.
Getting to a Mavs game in Dallas can be difficult, depending on where you’re coming from. The DART exists, but you’ve likely still got to drive to a station and then hop on a train. Getting to a sporting event with relative ease was refreshing.
By the time I arrived, the game was already in the middle of the second quarter, so I was naturally in a rush. I figured it wouldn’t take too long to get in, but what I didn’t expect was the long line of people still waiting to get past security and in the arena.
Here’s the thing: for a city that’s fast paced and never sleeps, New Yorkers are perpetually late to everything, it seems. Everyone here has something to do, and something else coming immediately after that. Yellow cabs and the subway system make it easy to get around, but the crowdedness of the city just leads to tardiness.
Once past security, it was time to find my seat, which is essentially like trying to find sunken treasure in an ocean. This isn’t like the AAC, where you walk in and you’re on the concourse, which has easy to navigate. The Garden has multiple ‘towers’ where spectators go up to get to their seats.
I had no idea which tower I needed to go to, so I just ran to the one that was closest. I mean, I was already late. They scanned my ticket and off I went onto what seemed like 30 sets of escalators. Finally, I saw a sign for the 400 sections (listen, I’ll take what I can get) and got off.
I walked around, but found no sign of the 400 sections. So I went up to an attendant.
“Excuse me, do you know where section 418 is?”
“Walk all the way around and take a right. You have to go to the next tower.”
My soul was crushed, but I made the trek to the next tower and, finally, found my seat and met up with my other colleague from work who arrived before me. Our other co-worker arrived shortly after that. Basketball time!
But let’s talk about my seat. I had a clear view of the court, but I was sitting where the roof of the Garden begins to curve. I was literally right underneath it, which means half of the scoreboard was obstructed from view. That really made me miss the AAC’s openness.
The vibe was pretty weird, at least compared to all those AAC games. The AAC is so bright to the point where it’s noticeable on TV. Mavs home games are family friendly with a ton of funny videos and on-court bits. The PA guy is always screaming about something.
There are no such antics in the Mecca. The lights are dim, the PA guy only speaks when someone scores, and even then it’s hard to hear him sometimes. They turned off the lights completely and had a concert at halftime with some band I’ve never heard of. But still, a halftime concert!
That’s went I got up to grab a beer and a hot dog. Beer at the AAC probably averages around $6.00. This thing was $11.00. What the hell, man? Nothing in this city is cheap. Literally nothing. Luckily the person at the counter forgot to charge me for the beer and only charged for the hot dog and popcorn I got. God is good, y’all.
The details of the game itself are irrelevant. You know what it happened and it wasn’t good. I got back to my seat where my two coworkers (one a Celtics fan and one a 76ers fan) started asking a few Mavs questions and making some comments.
“Dorian Finney-Smith starts for y’all?”
“Who’s No. 9 and No. 50?”
“This lineup is a bunch of players that were really good in college but not in the NBA.”
This all made me sad, as did the fact that Dirk didn’t play. Seeing Dirk play at the Garden for one of the last times would have made the fact that Mavs are bad feel better. No such luck. Instead, I got to see the Dirk clone that scientists created in lab known as Kristaps Porzingis. And let me tell you, that crowd cheers for literally ANYTHING he does.
Carmelo Anthony had a nice third quarter and helped the Knicks blow the game open. Meh. Kristaps hit that one Dirk-like fadeaway jumper in the third quarter and the place lost its mind. Remember when they booed him draft night? I remember.
Overall, Knicks games are like a show. It’s theatre, and the environment completely reflects that. Don’t get me wrong, I love the AAC and I love Mavs home games. But the Garden is unique in that it feels like a true event from night to night. Maybe it’s the history or tradition, or maybe it’s just the atmosphere.
I left happy that I had seen my favorite team play at the World’s Most Famous Arena live. And I also left more convinced than ever that the NBA would be so much more fun if the Knicks were good and the Garden was buzzing.