FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Say what you want about the Garden, but it does know how to throw a party. And when the top brass at the New York Liberty wanted to jazz up an otherwise drab mid-summer Saturday game, they did it in top form.
By relocating their conference matchup with the Indiana Fever to Arthur Ashe Stadium, the Libs made an otherwise a forgetful game a must see event, complete with stars, a fireworks show, and a fan fest during the pre-game. And neither the humid weather nor a flat Liberty effort could sadden the impressive crowd of 19,393.
That’s because this was more than a game. Rather this was a way of promoting a sport. Back in 2004, when the Garden was being used for the Republican National Convention, the Liberty played six games at Radio City. That was out of necessity and although the hallowed halls of the Music Hall provided a nice backdrop, it was poorly equipped to host a basketball game.
This time, it was all about the sport. With the Liberty floor covering the tennis court nicely, the team came out to a fireworks celebration. Dancers entertained the crowd, while Garden stars Boomer Esiason and David Lee sat in the stands. Even Menudo performed a nice rendition of the National Anthem in front of a giant flag to put everyone in the mood.
But the Garden has a history of fine shows. It retires numbers and honor players, better than anyone. And it can giveaway food and put on performances just to mask the stench of the team on the court or ice.
This was no exception.
The 71-55 final score was more of a concern for the diehards in the stands rather than the curious. A Liberty win would be nice, but the team is still in third and holds a 12-10 record with plenty of basketball left to play.
The season is a concern for another day. Saturday night was about the franchise and how they can win over fans in a unique way. Taking a page from the NHL – of all places – and putting a basketball game outdoors is an original idea and even can be considered daring. Although it was hot and humid, the day could have become a disaster if rain came and postponed the event, or worse, caused a delay during the game. Also, the possibility of a player getting hurt was heightened. Not used to playing in the hot weather could have caused a cramp or a muscle pull which could have ruined either team’s season.
Yet, that didn’t happen and the Garden looks like a champ. A long time ago, MSG put on outdoor events in Queens all the time. Back in the 1930s when the arena was on 50th street and the name Dolan didn’t strike fear into New York fans, the Garden owned the MSG Bowl in Long Island City. Mainly a boxing venue, it was famous for James Braddock’s defeat of Max Baer, which was romanticized in the movie Cinderella Man.
The Bowl was torn down a long time ago and today the Liberty played in a tennis stadium and although the lost the game, the party was a major success.