Dec. 20, 2010
Northwestern men's basketball senior Jeff Ryan is sharing his thoughts with NUsports.com throughout the 2010-11 season. Here's a look back at the Wildcats' first day in New York City as they prepare to participate in the Madison Square Garden Holiday Festival on Monday and Tuesday.
Good morning Wildcat Nation,
This blog entry will be a comprehensive look at a travel day for our team. It's Sunday morning and we're off to New York City to play two games at what is arguably the most famous basketball arena in the world, Madison Square Garden.
7:12 a.m. (CST): I sleepwalk into the locker room to do some last-minute packing, only to be greeted by a scene that immediately snaps me back into full consciousness. Reggie Hearn is feeding his fish. Actually, the story is that Reg agreed to take care of his friend's two betta fish (a.k.a. Siamese fighting fish) during winter break. He's been carrying around the small fish tank in a large bucket, back and forth between practice and the hotel where he and the other dorm dwellers are living for the next couple of weeks. From what Reg told me, betta fish are pretty feisty--there is a wall in the tank that separates them (and I think, keeps them both alive). Reg seems to be growing attached to the fish--he's been spending a lot of time with them. I guess the holiday spirit is alive and well in the King of Northwest-Hearn.
7:28 a.m.: Breakfast in the N Club. It's a great spread this morning and the best part is that we're here before the football team. Now, we've got a few guys who eat every meal like it's their last, but some of these football players are on another level. So it was nice to be first in line for everything this morning.
8:17 a.m.: On the bus. Nap time...
...Scratch that. Already at O'Hare. I'll have to catch some Z's during the flight.
9:53 a.m.: Relatively smooth check-in and trip through security. Of course, we get a lot of stares since we're traveling in a big group. Later, when I'm walking with Juice and John (or I should say, John and Juice, the moniker given to the duo by the Big Ten Network that recalls a certain Snoop Dogg song) a couple of security guards ask us if we're football players. It's definitely because Juice is wearing at least three jackets and looks like a middle linebacker, but I still take it as a compliment. The guys quickly answer their own question when they turn to John and say, "Oh, basketball."
Coach Hardy's daughter (who I'm very jealous of because she's a way better dancer than me) just showed me some of her toys, so I said hello to Ernie and Elmo. I babysit every once and while with my girlfriend, so I guess I've stayed in tune with the Sesame Street scene.
11:16 a.m.: A bit of a delay, but we're on the plane now. I'm sitting next to Coach Vujic so it's going to be a battle for leg room.
2:18 p.m. (EST): I wake up to the wheels of the plane touching down in New York City. I'm basically in the fetal position against the window, as Coach Vu has taken up all of the neutral leg room and some of mine. Not comfortable.
2:53 p.m.: No air travel experience would be complete without a baggage mishap. Supposedly, John and Juice's luggage got put on a later flight. Luckily, I think we have enough backup equipment to get them through practice this afternoon. More updates later...
3:29 p.m.: Coach Hardy, John and Juice just hopped off the bus on East 57th St. to get some basketball shoes for practice. Niketown was in the vicinity. No Adidas Store in sight. Coach Hardy might be able to do some Christmas shopping on the way. Not sure how they're getting to practice. With all of this traffic, they could probably beat the bus by walking.
5:50 p.m.: Just finished practice at the New York Athletic Club. It was quite an experience. Took us a while to navigate our way to the court on the sixth floor. John and Juice found some shoes, borrowed jerseys and shorts, and practice went as planned. We'll check into the hotel now and then get ready for dinner.
7:30 p.m.: On the bus, heading to Carmine's. Very excited. Very hungry. John's bag has arrived. Juice is wearing Mike Pepple's shirt and Joe Kennedy's pants. There wasn't a good match with anybody on the team. Still don't know how tall he really is.
10:07 p.m.: Back on the bus after a great dinner. Felt like we were back in Italy, in terms of how the food just kept coming and coming. It was fun to drive through Times Square, but I think everyone has their mind on the Garden.
10:36 p.m.: It's been a long day, as travel days usually are for us. We got some good work done at practice and had fun going out to dinner with the whole group. Now it's time to get some rest because tomorrow is game day. Coach reminds us of what we came here to do as we pull up to the hotel. I think the team has a good focus on what lies ahead.
Signing off from NYC. More to come later.
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