New York State of Mind



I didn’t see a single pitch over baseball’s opening weekend. Didn’t witness a solitary putt — or double eagle — over the final three rounds of a memorable Masters. And I missed the Grizzlies’ big win over the reigning NBA champs Saturday night. Those who have known me for, say, 15 minutes might assume I came down with a dreadful virus and spent the weekend comatose in a hospital without televisions. How else to explain a blind spot on one of the year’s biggest sports weekends? Happily, I spent the three days in quite the opposite of a stupor. Matter of fact, my family and I dove headlong into the center of the universe and have returned with stories to tell. For Easter weekend, we called New York City home.

View from the Empire State Building.
  • View from the Empire State Building.

There are elements to a major sporting event on a perfectly average day in Manhattan. Starting with the crowds. Stroll along 5th Avenue on Friday afternoon and you’ll be dodging foot traffic as though the Final Four and Super Bowl had just been held across the street from each other. The beauty and magic of Manhattan, of course, is that millions of people can occupy a space of 24 square miles and manage to get from one block to another without street fights breaking out. You learn to side step. You learn to stop abruptly for the pedestrian in front of you who needs a picture of the sign at Tiffany’s. You learn to tolerate bumping, jostling, even pushing. We learned a lesson in missing a train on the subway (at Chambers Street). A New York subway car, we learned, will fit as many people as are able cram, push, and jostle their way in ... before the doors close. We made the next train, but not before my 9-year-old daughter nearly screamed at the possibility of her dad being cut off by those closing doors. I’ll never complain about a “crowd” at FedExForum again.

Like a sporting event, Manhattan has its share of icons. Fans shell out big bucks to say they’ve seen Kobe Bryant in uniform or Peyton Manning throw a touchdown pass. Likewise, millions fly countless miles to say they’ve been inside St. Patrick’s Cathedral or endured the lines to the top of the Empire State Building. Why? Because there is only one Kobe Bryant, and only one Empire State Building. (Which begs a question: Would Kobe’s ego fit inside the Empire State Building?) Visitors to Manhattan discover iconography by accident: the oversized, "floating" Apple logo outside the computer giant's NYC headquarters or a bronze Charles Schwab logo longer than a taxi cab. The corporate names we grow to love or loathe ... they live and breathe in New York City.

And the state of sports in the Big Apple? It really begins and ends in Yankee blue. There’s a shop devoted solely to New York Yankee gear and memorabilia at Times Square. (The only Mets hat I saw in three days was on a pedestrian in Harlem, not far from Alexander Hamilton's restored home.) The Giants and Knicks have a presence, but building custodians wear Yankee jackets, street vendors wear Yankee caps. Tim Tebow may be a Jet now, but the only green I saw in Manhattan were the shrubs (in the shape of an Easter bunny) at Rockefeller Center. And Linsanity? We discovered a small basketball court in Little Italy, with kids working on their dribbling skills. One child was wearing a Knicks jersey: that of number 7, Carmelo Anthony. Where have you gone, Jeremy?

I may have missed a weekend of sports, but I took in some heroics of the first order. Having grown up reading Spider-Man comics, I made the current Broadway hit, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, the primary hook for taking my daughters on their first journey to the Great White Way. They’re each old enough to appreciate the web-slinger, and each wise enough to see the kid Spidey brings out in their dad. So we sat in the balcony of the Foxwoods Theater Saturday night (easily within range of the Green Goblin’s pumpkin bombs), cheering the good guy in his rigorous pursuit of happiness (and true love) and booing (if silently) the bad guy and his efforts to stall a victory for hope and decency. No score was kept and no trophy was awarded. But the crowd that spilled into Times Square after the curtain dropped had smiles equal to any you’ll find at Yankee Stadium.

Now, time to YouTube that Bubba Watson shot.


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