Jim Delaney, in all his BTN and conference expansion brilliance, still looks at NYC like a dude at the bar that won’t be able to pull the 10, but is still pining away night-after-night, buying martinis and getting kissed on the cheek.
Delaney has earned all (besides Rutgers) Big Ten schools more riches than they could have possibly imagined, and allowed for super football complexes and basketball arena expansions — and kudos to him for allowing Illinois to ride the coattails of such a sporting juggernaut. What he hasn’t figured out yet, and probably never will, is how to make New York City care that the Big Ten is here.
The Los Angeles Rams get ragged on for not drawing flies. Well, there is much more to see and do in New York than LA, so you’ve got to have deep seeded roots.
To give the midwesterners amongst us some perspective, the same pathetic way that Northwestern claims to be Chicago’s Big Ten team and we all think it’s hilarious and mock them? Yeah, Rutgers does that for New York City. Imagine that. And for some insight, the 18,000 people who attend Northwestern football games are much more Chicago than the small caravan of Rutgers fans. There are 8.7 million people in Manhattan. You could draw out the people interested in seeing Rutgers sports, and have them share a Honda Accord Uber down to Piscataway.
While the Big East Tournament used to own New York for one week in March, there isn’t a competitive college sports team within 120 miles of New York. Penn State football is a day-trip, and Syracuse basketball is a dangerous icy trek. This town was raised on Knicks basketball, Rangers hockey, and Yankee baseball, and swaying attention to Maryland and Illinois on an early Saturday afternoon is a tough task. And that’s the steady drip of Big Ten that New York has got since mighty Maryland and Rutgers joined the league.
Delaney found a similar challenge while trying to lure fans to the Big Ten Tournament last February/March. You should have seen the faces on the scalpers, sitting there with a fistful of garbage, just trying to recoup beer money for the night. Sure, it’s New York, and there are good numbers of alumni from any college, but just not enough to create a buzz in a city that literally has a buzz (subway) emanating from your feet.
New York has shown the willingness to show out for one of its native sons as well. Kemba Walker could draw 4,000 people to watch him play softball in Central Park. Carmelo Anthony grew up in the DMC, but said he was born in NYC, and was able to carry the city (despite ruining its major hoops franchise) for years. Alan Griffin needs a few more minutes and a bunch more buckets before people start to rep Stepinac in Westchester County. Giorgi Bezhanishvili is getting buckets, but only played one year at The Patrick School in Newark, New Jersey, and was really an unknown commodity without the cult following.
So while this basketball Mecca can make you feel brand new, and the bright light lights might inspire you, Delaney’s flirtation hasn’t been reciprocated. And although Big Ten basketball will occupy the Garden for a brief afternoon, the most concerned fans will be trying to find diamonds in the rough for the struggling New York Knickerbockers. And then filter out through the streets, in search of underground comedy shows starring Jerry Seinfeld and Dave Chappelle, and the world's best wonton soup (Wo Hops on Mott Street).
Editor’s Note: Ian is a Jersey native who now works in New York. So when he says this isn’t really working, this really isn’t working.
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