This past week I embarked on a trip to the Big Apple to cover the Zags for the Gonzaga Bulletin (@GonzagaBulletin) in the NIT Season Tipoff with my co-Sports Editor, columnist and photographer extraordinaire Riley Peschon (@rpeschon7). The Zags took on Georgia in the semis last Wednesday and St. John’s Friday in the finals, winning both games.
Four basketball games brought us across the country to the bright lights, but limiting the experience to just that would be a disservice to what the city had to offer and the eye-opening happenings outside of the games. Aimlessly walking through the blocks of Manhattan, we stumbled on something bigger than basketball and as a matter of fact a lot bigger than sports.
This photo essay courtesy of Riley will help me dive into the week’s notable highs.
“Black lives matter”
November 25, 2014. New York City, New York, USA. As the crowd grows, a protester holds high a message of equality among a sea of New York Police Department officers in Times Square. PHOTO CREDIT: Riley Peschon.
Going into our first day in the city, we established the grounds that while indeed blatant tourists and shockingly obvious Pacific Northwest dwellers (courtesy of our flannels and beanies), any food consumed must be from a strictly hole-in-the-wall foreign joint. So after a full day spent perusing Manhattan, hitting the landmark attractions fueled by the awe-striking tastiness of Cuban sandwiches (via hole-in-the-wall) we meandered back to Times Square.
At first, the stunningly lit square caused us to take time to just bask in the eye candy but after a while a group of protesters caught my eye. I walked over to the Father Francis P. Duffy statue that stands erect at one side of the square and watched as a handful of sign-bearing protesters stood in nonviolent disagreement with the ruling in the Michael Brown case. After talking to several protesters, it was made clear to me that (like mid-American Revolution Patriots) the demonstrators were very different people with different viewpoints yet banded together for the cause of raising awareness for a united goal.
One man cried to hell with society and the other prayed for answers. A woman wept while the lead protester yelled.
Just 15 minutes after arriving to the square, a group of over a hundred demonstrators (it’s hard to put my thumb on an exact number initially) flocked into the square and uniformly occupied the middle area around the Duffy statue, known as Duffy Square.
Protesters chanted cries for justice for the death of Michael Brown and an end to, and I quote, “police brutality.” Soon enough, NYPD squad cars brought sergeants, riot squads and a large number of officers who patrolled the protesters to ensure they were doing so lawfully. After multiple officers declined to talk to me on record about what entailed “unlawful protest,” a police woman smiled and said, “they’re not doing anything wrong.”
I want to make sure and say that this was not a riot. There was no violence, just lots of police patrol, bystanders and newspersons as the demonstrators were attracting lots of attention. We were present for around a half hour, and this is what we saw.
“Maybe the sidewalk is a better call”
November 25, 2014. New York City, New York, USA. A man among a crowd is detained by NYPD shortly after officers warned protesters not to obstruct traffic. PHOTO CREDIT: Riley Peschon.
Shortly after realizing how largely the amount of demonstrators present had increased in a short amount of time, Riley and I decided that as college sports writers, our duty had been served garnering a little extra information and live action from the demonstration. Surely, neither of us had ever been so close to, let alone in the middle of, a protest so big.
A police sergeant continued to announce with a megaphone that the demonstration had begun to illegally impede traffic resulting in an essentially parking lot-looking street. As a result, the protesters appeared to be angered by the police officers telling them what to do, and there was no organized movement to leave the streets. While the goal of protesting is to raise awareness in a nonviolent way, a number of individuals found themselves in the tumultuous situation of being detained by officers.
On our way out of the square, the situation above coincidentally happened right in front of us. Now, it was really time for us to leave.
Time to find the greasiest calzone in all of Manhattan (Italian, of course. We had a pact to stick by).
“Everybody was Kung-Foo fighting!”
November 26, 2014. New York City, New York, USA. Gonzaga backup guard Josh Perkins braces himself after taking a leg to the face from Georgia’s Kenny Gaines. Perkins is out indefinitely after suffering a broken jaw. PHOTO CREDIT: Riley Peschon.
Alas, we get to basketball. Did I mention we were here to cover basketball games, not become Anderson Cooper wannabes and independent journalists? Minor discrepancy, read the fine print.
We arrived at the monumental freaking block of lit up land that Madison Square Garden is at night and were immediately blown away. So much history, so many iconic moments happened in the very structure we were about to go into, and as a college kid I was speechless. Mind you, that we had not even entered the building.
After locating the press entrance, we grabbed our press passes and endured almost as much security entering the building as there was in JFK airport. An elevator to the 6th floor took us to the media room where we grabbed our seat assignments and headed down to the game. Again, totally obviously giddy college kids. Funny enough, as we sat down courtside to enjoy the St. John’s-Minnesota semifinal game, it hit us that we were in the wrong seats. How? Our seats were labeled “Luke Winn, Sports Illustrated and Chris Johnson, Sports Illustrated.” Better yet, Winn was sitting next to us probably a tad bit confused as to why two “kids” swooped his spot.
We then looked on as St. John’s mounted an impressive comeback to top Minnesota. Enough with the appetizers, it was time for an entree of Zags basketball.
After watching an assuring show of offensive explosion, as Kyle Wiltjer led GU to an 88-76 win over the Bulldogs of Georgia the only particular moment to stand out was the fast-as-lightning karate display Kenny Gaines put on breaking Josh Perkins’ jaw. Not only was that the nastiest pump-fake I have ever seen, but Perkins also gets to sleep with the discomfort that his he was too powerful for his own good.
It was the single most gruesome hit I had ever see in person, and Riley happened to by sitting in the photographer spot five feet away from the action. This picture was taken moments after the hit.
To the fans ridiculously calling for Gaines’ head after that foul, one, ask yourself if you have ever personally targeted someone or thought about hurting someone or something using your inner thigh as a weapon. Two, was there malicious intent? Highly doubtful seeing as though Gaines made a reckless play that was so defensively terrible that it made him look foolish for selling out so hard on the close-out.
Oh, and that kick was fast as lightening! Apology refused.
“Wait, I have to actually work?”
November 28th, 2014. New York City, New York, USA. Andy Buhler types up the game recap after Gonzaga took down Georgia 88-76. PHOTO CREDIT: Riley Peschon.
The biggest difference between covering the Zags at home and at MSG are the spectators. In the row behind us the The crudeness in the first couple of rows behind us was a new experience, but I loved the character. It sounded like Pauly Walnuts and Silvio telling each other to (expletive) off in an episode of the Sopranos.
Arguably the best part about covering sports is that at the of the day, it’s work. So amidst running amok in the six dollar cups of coffee and the drivers with no regard for any remote sense of safety, yes there was work involved. Covering a game is different yet just as enjoyable than spectating at one.
“It’s a wrap”
November 28, 2014. New York City, New York. The Gonzaga Bulldogs pose for the country after winning the NIT Season Tipoff. PHOTO CREDIT: Riley Peschon.
Knowledge is best gained through experience. Going out into the world and doing is priceless when put up against the dollar sign behind education. They are as impeccable of compliments as an all-American point guard is to a team full of scoring weapons. It was a pleasure watching the Zags take home the NIT Season Tipoff title and even more of a pleasure giving trying to bring readers back there with me through this piece.
The trip began on the premise of covering the Zags. The adventure turned into a great learning experience in a part of the country that is very different than the Pacific Northwest. While an aimless college student packed his bags for a fun Thanksgiving week, I hope my experience and my story shed light onto a first-hand experience just one of the many protests around the country this past week. Fellow citizens are enraged, and are trying to call out to the rest of the country. Listen, and you may like what you hear. If you do not, well, then at least you learned something.
This afternoon, I received an email from a member of Gonzaga’s Sports Information team asking if I am sending anyone to Tucson this weekend as the No. 9 Zags take on No. 3 Arizona…
Until next time.