Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Tuesday's Starting Five

1. The Employees at Madison Square Garden. Last night could have been a disaster. Both on the court (which it was) and off the court. But it wasn't. The Knicks were giving out free food and non-alcoholic drinks as part of Fan Appreciation Night and it was the strangest, most polite atmosphere I've ever encountered at a Knicks game. There was more than enough food and more than enough staff to dole it out. It really seemed like the generosity of whomever decided to give everything away really trickled down to each member of the staff. I mean, I was walking back to my seat eating an ice cream bar when I hear a vendor calling to me. "C'mon and grab a bottle of water," he hollered from behind me on the concourse. "I know you're going to want some water after you're all done with that ice cream." And, he was totally right. I turned around and he flipped me an unopened bottle of water to take back to my seat.

2. The Denver Nuggets. They're in the playoffs. By virtue of the Warriors loss last night (to Phoenix) the Nuggets have clinched the 8-seed in the Bestern Conference. I don't know what is going to happen to Carmelo since he was busted for DUI the other day, but I also don't know who would want to play a team that can score 135 points a night and boasts the Defensive Player of the Year.

3. Former Sonics Owner Howard Schulz. Though this likely falls into the too-little, too-late department it's still worth some plaudits. The CEO of Starbucks (who used to own the Sonics) is filing a lawsuit against Clay Bennett and the Oklahoma City Slickers who are attempting to steal this franchise from the city that loves it. Schulz's suit will contend that the sale should be reversed since the deal was predicated on the new ownership group making a good-faith effort to stay in the Emerald City.

4. Former MSG Prez Dave Checketts. In attendance at the game last night (perhaps for the free chicken fingers), Checketts did not hold back about his feelings on the Knicks when talking with Andrew Marchand of ESPN Radio. He was honest and merciless in his assessment of Isiah and the state of the organization. My favorite quote, by a long shot, is what he had to say about Zach Randolph: "You see Zach Randolph shoot an airball from three, come out of the game and get congratulated by everybody. I think Jeff Van Gundy would have spit on him. That's too dramatic, but there is not an environment that demands winning, that expects winning and the kind of character guys that want to win."

5. Jackie Robinson. It was 61 years ago today that Jack Robinson jogged out of the dugout at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn for the very first time. He took his place at first base (where he played before switching to second in '48) with the weight of the world on his shoulders and he played the game as if he was lighter than air and quicker than lighting. Just by playing baseball he managed to change this country to the point where someone like myself cannot really, truly ever understand what it was like before him. I can spout facts about race relations and recall events from the Civil Rights Movement until I'm Dodger-blue in the face but I will never know in my belly what it was like before him. That's how much of a difference this man (along with so many, many, many more) made.