December 2011 Sports Calendar
by Jonathan Zeller, 11/23/2011
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If the names of upcoming sporting events are any indication, December is bound to be a classic month in New York City athletics. Five of the competitions listed below have "classic" right in their monikers: the Big Apple Classic, the Double Dutch Holiday Classic, the Jimmy V Classic, the Carquest Auto Parts Classic (featuring Duke) and the Maggie Dixon Classic. Even a number of happenings that lack an explicit titular declaration of classic-ness should nevertheless be plenty entertaining. For example, the Rangers—recently reunited with Sean Avery—and Islanders will revive their intense rivalry at Madison Square Garden. Also at the Garden, Miguel Cotto will fight Antonio Margarito for a title. And at MetLife Stadium, the Jets and Giants will battle for bragging rights and playoff position in a late-season clash that may well turn out to be a classi…er…we mean, a game of recognized value that serves as a standard of excellence. For the rest of the month's sports highlights, read on.
Mayor's Cup Wheelchair Basketball Tournament
December 3, 8am; Draddy Gymnasium, Manhattan College; December 4, 9am; Horace Mann School Gymnasium
Take someone to a wheelchair basketball game for the first time, and they may be surprised by what they find—a fast-paced, physical battle that's like a cross between NASCAR and the NBA. The smell of burnt rubber, the sound of screeching tires and the sight of determined athletes jostling for position under the boards often make fast fans out of newcomers. Plus, it's free to watch all the weekend's action at both venues. For more info, visit the official NYC Mayor's Cup Facebook page.
Miguel Cotto vs. Antonio Margarito (Boxing)
December 3, 7pm; Madison Square Garden
Defending WBA World Light Middleweight Champion Miguel Cotto lays his title on the line against Antonio Margarito, who defeated him in 2008 (just one of two blemishes on Cotto's professional record). Fights on the undercard include the WBA World Lightweight Championship. For more info and tickets, visit radiocity.com.
Double Dutch Holiday Classic
December 4, 1pm; Apollo Theater
In the Double Dutch Holiday Classic, a talented international cast of teams elevates the childhood jump-rope game of double Dutch to a form of art. Competitors fuse dance and gymnastics into a dazzling, high-speed display of creativity, athleticism and coordination at Harlem's venerable Apollo Theater. Over the years, it has become one of NYC's most anticipated annual sporting events. For more information, visit nationaldoubledutchleague.com.
Big Apple Classic
December 4, 3pm; Madison Square Garden
Division II Virginia State and Virginia Union square off in the first half of this doubleheader showcasing teams from historically black colleges and universities. Howard and Hampton, both of the Division I MEAC, battle in the second game. In 2001, Hampton pulled off one of the NCAA tournament's biggest-ever first-round upsets, downing second-seeded Iowa State. No matter what happens on the court, the dazzling drumline competition alone is worth the price of admission.
More College Basketball
Various dates and times; citywide
New York City's local men's and women's college hoops squads continue their seasons this month in gyms throughout the five boroughs. Division I teams St. John's University, Manhattan College, Wagner College, Long Island University, St. Francis College, Fordham University and Columbia University all harbor hopes of reaching the Big Dance, while Division III New York University and representatives from various CUNY schools aspire to qualify for their own lower-profile postseason hoedown. Check out our season previews for all the locals.
Jimmy V Classic
December 6, 7pm; Madison Square Garden
Missouri faces Villanova in the first game of this doubleheader, and Marquette takes on two-time defending Pac-12 tournament champion Washington in the nightcap.
Carquest Auto Parts Classic
December 10, noon; Madison Square Garden
Duke plays another game at the Garden; Washington—back at MSG for the second time in one week—would love to spoil the Blue Devils' return to NYC. In the second matchup, Oklahoma State of the Big XII takes on Pittsburgh, who is still, for this season at least, in the Big East.
Heisman Trophy Presentation and Gala Dinner
December 10 and 12; Best Buy Theater and New York Marriott Marquis
Not only is New York City now home to a college football bowl game (see below), it's also the place where the Heisman Trophy is presented to the National Collegiate Athletic Association's most outstanding player as judged by members of the press, former Heisman winners and fans. Top contenders this season include Stanford's Andrew Luck, Boise State's Kellen Moore, Alabama's Trent Richardson and Houston's Case Keenum. We should note, though, that "expensive" is an understatement as to the price of these tickets (the only way for the public to get into the televised ceremony is to pay for a $10,000 package). Unless you're one of the finalists and have an NFL contract coming in a few months, you may want to watch on TV. For more information, visit heisman.com.
Maggie Dixon Classic (Women's)
December 11, 11am; Madison Square Garden
The City's biggest women's college basketball tournament always delivers compelling matchups and big names, and this year is no exception. Game one of the doubleheader pits St. John's against Baylor—led by the 6'8' Brittney Griner, whose dunking ability has made her a YouTube favorite. The second game pits coach Pat Summitt—whose battle with dementia made news this off-season—and the Tennessee Volunteers against the DePaul Blue Demons.
Holiday Festival Presented by Foot Locker
December 17, noon; Madison Square Garden
For years, the Holiday Festival had been a two-day tournament, but now it's a single-day doubleheader. While no team will be able to declare itself champion (as St. John's did last year), the two games—St. John's vs. Fordham and Rutgers vs. Stony Brook—still give four local programs a chance to prove their mettle before shifting their focus to conference schedules. It's a particularly big deal for Fordham and Rutgers fans to get to see their teams at the storied Garden—and St. John's is likely looking for revenge after Fordham's stunning upset win when the teams played last winter.
Major League Dreidel Spin the Dreidel Tournament
December 17, 6:30pm; Knitting Factory
It might be surprising to see the words "Major League" before a seemingly noncompetitive staple of Jewish childhood, but that's far from the only incongruous aspect of this Brooklyn shindig. The celebration also features Gods of Fire, an outfit that shreds Hanukkah-themed metal songs, and Category Sixx, the self-proclaimed "World's Greatest Air Band." Plus, the version of dreidel that "major leaguers" play doesn't have much to do with the traditional game; instead of Hebrew letters determining who wins gelt (gold-foil-wrapped chocolate coins), players compete to see who can keep their dreidel spinning the longest. The action takes place in a so-called Spinagogue (a miniature stadium for spinning). For more info, watch this commercial from the event's creators, which features brash, anthropomorphized dreidels.
Rangers vs. Islanders
December 22 and 26, 7pm; Madison Square Garden
Sports rivalries don't get much nastier than Rangers vs. Islanders, a grudge match that often produces vulgarity in the stands and—while we would never condone it, we must report it—spirited pugilism on the ice. Chants reference heroes and villains of long ago (Rangers fans frequently use salty language to demean Denis Potvin, who is more than two decades removed from his time as an Islander), and the atmosphere is always charged, regardless of the standings. Tickets sell out quickly, so the official Rangers TicketExchange and StubHub might be your best bet for seats.
Jets vs. Giants
December 24, 1pm; MetLife Stadium
This intrastadium grudge match could have massive implications for New York City's area football teams, both of whom find themselves in the thick of their division races. Who will prevail: Mark "Mr. Handsome" Sanchez and his dashing Jets, or Eli Manning, whose penchant for leading the Giants to fourth-quarter comebacks has, frankly, just become ridiculous at this point? For Jets and Giants fans, a win on Christmas Eve may be the only holiday present they need. Check the Jets' and Giants' schedules for a full list of upcoming games.
New York Knicks vs. Boston Celtics
December 25, noon; Madison Square Garden
Merry Christmas; the NBA is back! The Knicks' opening game is a doozy—a chance for Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire and company to exact revenge against Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and the Boston Celtics, who spoiled their return to the playoffs last year.
New Jersey Nets vs. Atlanta Hawks
December 27, 2pm; Prudential Center
A couple of days after the Knicks open their regular season at the Garden, the Nets do the same across the river in Newark. They hope to start on a winning note against the Atlanta Hawks. Come get to know Deron Williams and the rest of the promising young squad before their move to Brooklyn next fall.
WWE Raw Holiday Tour
December 27, 7:30pm; Madison Square Garden
World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) has become one of America's most popular and enduring pastimes, hooking generations of viewers through an in-your-face mixture of athleticism and theatricality. On December 27, some of TV wrestling's biggest personalities clash at the "World's Most Famous Arena." Highlights include a steel-cage match with John Cena, Alberto Del Rio and CM Punk. For tickets and more information, visit thegarden.com.
New Era Pinstripe Bowl
December 30, 3:30pm; Yankee Stadium
It's a rumble in the Bronx: the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers battle the Cyclones of Iowa State for postseason glory. For more info and tickets, visit pinstripebowl.com.
Emerald Nuts Midnight Run
December 31; festivities at 10pm, race at midnight; Central Park
Get a head start on your New Year's resolution. While many folks are eating, drinking and reveling to extremes that may have them feeling guilty the next day, run four miles starting the moment the clock strikes midnight. Wherever you finish, savor the satisfaction of knowing that, so far, you've exercised every day in 2012. For more info, visit nyrr.org.
Pro Bull Riders Madison Square Garden Invitational
January 6–7, 8pm; January 8, 1pm; Madison Square Garden
While a bull-riding competition in New York City might seem as incongruous as a kosher deli in Alabama, this Pro Bull Riders (PBR) showdown has become one of the City's most anticipated annual sporting events. It's fast and tough, and involves trying to hold on to a one-ton bucking bull for eight seconds. For details about how pro bull riding works—as told by one of the sport's greats, Ty Murray—check out our article from 2010's PBR Madison Square Garden Invitational. For tickets, visit thegarden.com.