Mazurek: Madison Square Garden unbeatable as best venue
Marek Mazurek | Thursday, November 17, 2016
For once, I agree with the sentiments expressed in yesterday’s column by Zach Klonsinski. When determining the world’s greatest sports venue, one must consider the venue’s location, importance, tradition and aesthetic beauty.
However, that’s where the agreement stops.
When taking these four criteria into account — location, importance, tradition and aesthetic beauty — it becomes clear that the best sports venue is none other than Madison Square Garden.
I will admit, AT&T Stadium has more grandeur. It’s a fantastically extravagant stadium and I’d love to spend a week or two exploring it.
I’ll also admit that venues such as Fenway Park, Wrigley Field and Augusta National Golf Club may have more tradition. I may even have argued for Wrigley as the greatest of them all, but the recent renovations have taken away from its tradition and aesthetic.
But if taken holistically, Madison Square Garden comes to the top as the best of all possible worlds.
In terms of tradition, there has been a Madison Square Garden in New York City since 1879. Today’s Garden is the fourth iteration of the venue and since 1968, it stands on Pennsylvania Plaza in downtown Manhattan which is, to quote Lin-Manuel Miranda,“the greatest city in the world.”
Visually, Madison Square Garden is stunning. Augusta National is certainly gorgeous for the one week a year we see it, and your local watering hole doesn’t even exist during most of the year. But all year round, Madison Square Garden presents a beautiful facade with light displays and video boards. It doesn’t have the opulent look Jerry Jones went for in “Jerry World,” but it doesn’t have to. Simple yet elegant, MSG stands out for its straightforward design in an area where none of the surrounding buildings are fewer than 10 stories tall. It’s aesthetic, like the arena itself, is timeless.
But where MSG really distances itself is in its cultural significance. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is certainly unique, but racing unfortunately doesn’t have the following it used to. Augusta is the pinnacle of the golf world … but it’s golf.
Just looking at sporting events, the New York Rangers, New York Knicks and New York Liberty all call MSG home. In addition, MSG hosts the Big East basketball tournament each year — remember that six overtime games between Syracuse and UConn? — as well as countless boxing and wrestling matches.
Madison Square Garden saw the epic Game 7 of the 1970 NBA finals, in which Walt Frazier put up 36 points and 19 assists to give the Knicks their first NBA title. It saw the Patrick Ewing-led Knicks teams of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. It saw the “Fight of the Century” between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier when The Greatest suffered his first-ever loss. It saw Wayne Gretzky’s last NHL game, and let’s not forget the Westminster Kennel Dog Show, which has been held in MSG annually since 1877.
Just this week, a sell-out crowd at MSG witnessed Conor McGregor become the first UFC fighter to win two division belts.
And that’s not even taking into account the concerts and shows MSG hosts regularly. Few, if any, venues transcend beyond the sports world into popular consciousness, but MSG does so in spades.
MSG is where Marilyn Monroe sung her coquettish “Happy Birthday” to President John F. Kennedy. It’s where George Harrison’s concert for Bangladesh in 1971 brought Southeast Asia into the homes of millions of Americans. It’s where the Concert for New York City in 2001 helped raise millions for the victims of 9/11.
If you don’t quite remember Marilyn Monroe, MSG is a favorite watering hole for Billy Joel, U2 and Elton John, not to mention comedians like Louis C.K., Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock.
I defy you to find a sports venue that has impacted as many lives as Madison Square Garden. All year round, MSG is relevant and most importantly, it transcended sports so that it is not simply the best sports venue in the world. It is the best venue in the world, period.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.