This Sunday, the Royal Rumble emanates live from Madison Square Garden, the world's most famous arena. In honor of this momentous occasion, here's the story of my pilgrimage to the arena appropriately nicknamed the Mecca.
Monday, November 26, 2007, got off to a pretty rough start. I woke up at about 3 AM with an unbearable ache in my back, but managed to get some sleep after moving to the couch. At work I discovered I would need to redo nearly all of the scanning I had done to that point (almost two weeks' worth) because of a stupid mistake I had made. Plus, I finally got up the courage to ask Dave Ortiz, the Columbia digitizing specialist I work with, if he ever got hassled by New Yorkers because of his name, and he didn't have any good stories to tell.
So I was very pleased to leave work, even more so because I knew where I was going. The Jazz were in town to play the Knicks at MSG that night, and I wanted to cheer on my team. I got a little lost trying to make my way out of Penn Station, but I eventually found the arena and the people I was looking for: the scalpers.
I said "yes" to the first guy who asked me if I needed a ticket, and he walked me across the street away from the cops to try and make a deal. He tried selling me a courtside seat, but that was just a LITTLE out of my price range (season tickets for those seats go for about $1500-$5500 PER GAME). I told him I wanted to get the best seat I could for $40, since that's all I had (which was true, not counting my snack money). He seemed pretty put out, and kept trying to get me to buy a pricier ticket. I told him I couldn't afford it, and that I'd just go and buy a nosebleed seat at the box office for $11. He told me the game was sold out, which I knew wasn't true.
As this was going on, other scalpers started gathering around me and offering their seats. My guy kept trying to shoo them away, and I kept getting more and more worried that all these scalpers were in on some scam together and I was going to get taken advantage of somehow. At one point, a guy in a wheelchair offered me a really good seat for my $40, and I took the deal, as much to get out of there as anything else. Then the other scalpers started yelling about how I was taking advantage of a crippled man, and they took the ticket back from me. "Yep, here's their scam," I thought. But they did actually give me my money back.
I told them I didn't want to deal with it anymore, and started to walk away. The first guy caught up with me and offered me a $95 seat for $40. I took it gladly and walked towards the arena. So I played a little unintentional hardball (if he had a $40 seat I would've been glad to pay full price for it) and got a great deal--assuming the ticket was authentic. I had no idea what the real tickets looked like.
It was legit, thank goodness. For the first time in my life, I was actually inside Madison Square Garden.
I'm making a concerted effort to keep my posts shorter, so it looks like we've got another to-be-continued here. Check out my next post for all the details from the game: celebrity sightings, hostile New York fans, low standards for jersey retirement, my review of MSG concessions, and of course, in-depth game analysis for the thousands of hard-core hoops fans who read my blog.