One of our vendors at work gave us tickets to a skybox at Madison Square Garden for tonight's Preseason NIT championship games. Liz had to work, so I was joined by our friend Todd and my boss, his wife, a few of his relatives and their friends, and the vendor's sales rep for an afternoon of basketball and free beer at the "World's Most Famous Arena." I'd never been in a skybox before, but I knew a little about what to expect. Even so, I was still impressed with the amenities and the service. MSG has a separate entrance for the skyboxes, so we didn't even have to go through security with the rest of the crowd. The suite had its own bathroom, several TVs (one providing the feed from the arena's video screen, the others with regular cable TV), a refrigerator filled with beer and sodas, and a spread of sandwiches, chicken wings, chips, pretzels, and cookies. The box was near the end of the court, so we looked almost directly over one basket and an excellent view of plays at the opposite end. We spent most of the first game talking instead of watching Michigan and Providence, but we thoroughly enjoyed the second game, the championship, matching Wake Forest against Arizona. I'm not sure if it was the holiday or football commitments but none of the four schools brought their pep bands, and only Arizona bothered to send any cheerleaders (four -- two guys and two girls). But there were more fans of the championship game schools than I expected, given that Wake Forest and Arizona are so far from New York. Throughout the game both sets of fans cheered back and forth as Arizona took an early lead and Wake clawed their way back. We were pulling for Wake Forest as my boss and his wife both have North Carolina roots, and though we wavered in our support during the first half, the team came back to take the lead for good with about 10 minutes left in the second half.
Watching a game from a skybox hasn't ruined me for sporting events the way that flying in business class spoiled me for coach, but it is great to have all the free food and drink you could want and no line for the bathroom. There's even a waiter who checks on you periodically and from whom you can order cocktails and more food. Liz had asked me if there would be shrimp, and while there wasn't any when we arrived I'm sure we could have ordered some. It occurred to me that skybox patrons never get the t-shirts, win the contests, or even appear on camera when they show fans in the stands. And with good reason: I can hardly imagine the overwhelming chorus of boos and howls of protest that would ensue if they announced that the person in skybox 1063 with ticket A5 had won a free dinner for two or whatever else they give away with those promotions. It would be like the "Simpsons" episode where Mr. Burns wins a car at a baseball game and the fans show their displeasure by throwing Marge's pretzels onto the field, injuring Whitey Ford. We also noticed that some of the other suites had more seats and possibly better amenities than we had. Next time Todd and I want the MSG suite equivalent to the "Ted Danson plane" that George insists on in the final episode of "Seinfeld." Why should we settle for any old skybox? We want the best they have to offer!