February 2012 Sports Calendar
by Jonathan Zeller, 01/18/2012
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New York City's sports fans get a little extra February in 2012, as it's a leap year. An astronomical year—the time it takes the Earth to circle the sun—is approximately 365 and a quarter days long, not a precise 365; if we stuck to the "common year," over centuries the calendar would eventually skew so much that it would no longer match up with the seasons. Little changes, over time, can mean a lot.
As such, let's take February to think about how tiny variations in sporting events can change outcomes in major ways. In the NBA, we're well past opening day and far from the Finals—but the results of this month's Knicks vs. Nets matchups could make a crucial difference in the standings come the end of the regular season. The Rangers, too, know that every single point matters as they chase home-ice advantage in the playoffs. At the Millrose Games, as in all track events, a fraction of a second could be all that stands between the ecstasy of victory and the agony of defeat. And fans of the leap year will certainly enjoy the wacky antics of the Harlem Globetrotters, whose high-flying new star Jacob Tucker makes up for his slight 5-foot-11-inch frame with a 50-inch vertical leap. For more of the month's sports highlights (plus a few from early March), read on.
Knicks vs. Nets
February 4 and 20, 7:30pm; Madison Square Garden
It's early yet, but as of press time the Knicks and Nets have had uneven starts. Nevertheless, they both have reason to hope things will turn around soon—the Knicks' frontcourt, with the addition of Tyson Chandler, may be the league's most talented; and Baron Davis, when he arrives, should help shore up their guard play. The Nets, meanwhile, have a solid young core and are counting down the days until next year's opener, when they move to Brooklyn. These should be spirited contests. If the dates don't work for you, however, check the Knicks' and Nets' schedules for the full slate of games.
New York Road Runners Gridiron Classic
February 5, 8am; Central Park
For most of us, the point of Super Bowl Sunday is to remain stationary on our couches (or elsewhere) eating fattening food while watching others perform incredible feats made possible only by peak physical strength and conditioning. This year, though, it couldn't hurt to break a sweat yourself. If you feel so inclined, the Gridiron Classic is a prime opportunity—competitors strive to hurl a football as far as they can and run a four-mile race. There's no better way to work up an appetite for hot wings and/or Buffalo-style imitation-chicken tofu product. For more info, visit nyrr.org.
Super Bowl XLVI
February 5, 6:30pm; TV sets everywhere
It's the day the snack-food industry, commercial lovers, Roman-numeral enthusiasts and, of course, football devotees look forward to all year: the National Football League's championship game. NYC fans obviously hope that the Giants will prevail over the New England Patriots, but this occasion transcends petty provincial attachments. No matter who is your favorite team, you'll want to watch at home, check it out at a friend's place or, better yet, catch the action at one of these NYC bars and restaurants showing the game. And just a reminder: in 2014, New Yorkers will be able to watch the Super Bowl live and in person at MetLife Stadium.
New York Knicks vs. Los Angeles Lakers and Many More Chances to See Jeremy Lin
Lakers game: February 10, 8pm
Other games: February 15, 17, 19, 20, 22 and 29, various times; Madison Square Garden
It seems everyone in New York City has caught "Linfluenza"—the inability to stop talking and thinking about point guard Jeremy Lin. The Harvard grad was largely unheralded before he more or less singlehandedly led the Knicks to a three-game winning streak. According to ESPN, he's the first player since LeBron James to tally 20 or more points and eight or more assists in his first two NBA starts. If he can help his team topple Kobe Bryant and the Lakers on national TV, there won't be a high-schooler in the City who's not wearing his jersey. For tickets, your best bet is probably StubHub. If you can't get into this game, check out the Knicks' full schedule.
February 11; first events at 4pm, opening ceremony at 7:05pm; New Balance Track & Field Center at The Armory
Over the years, such stars as Carl Lewis, Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Gail Devers have shone at this storied meet. In 2012, the event moves uptown from Madison Square Garden to the New Balance Track & Field Center at The Armory. The comparatively intimate setting means that fans should expect the place to be packed and loud as Bernard Lagat races the 5,000 meters, Allyson Felix competes in the 60-meter dash and Jennifer Simpson aims to win the first-ever Wanamaker Metric Mile for Women. For tickets and more info, visit armorytrack.com.
The Westminster Kennel Club 136th-Annual Dog Show
February 13–14, 8am; Madison Square Garden
Many athletes engage in a figurative battle to be named "top dog," but this is the real thing: about 2,600 dogs representing 179 breeds and varieties cram into Madison Square Garden in pursuit of fame, fortune and fancy ribbons. As far as MSG events go, this one offers an unusual level of access. Spectators are welcome in the backstage benching area, where they can see the dogs up close and even talk to breeders. For more info, visit westminsterkennelclub.org.
February 18, 7:30pm; Madison Square Garden
Having read the words "Harlem Globetrotters," chances are you already have "Sweet Georgia Brown" (their whistled jazz theme music) in your head. Such is the indelible impact of the Globetrotters. The team—known for its irrepressible tomfoolery (most basketball teams don't dump colorful confetti on the opposition) and outlandish winning percentage (more than 98%, boosted by a schedule heavy on the weekend's opponents, the Washington Generals)—seldom fails to elicit oohs, aahs and smiles from its adoring public. For tickets and more info, visit thegarden.com.
National Girls and Women in Sports Days
February 22, 11am; IS 49, Staten Island
February 25, 10:30am; Chelsea Piers
Bring your daughter to these days of instruction and inspiration. Activities will include tutorials in basketball, team handball, floor hockey and soccer—and at Chelsea Piers there will be healthy snacks and a free shirt and bag for each participant. Get details at the Parks Department's pages for the Staten Island and Chelsea Piers events.
CUNYAC Men's Basketball Finals
CUNYAC Championship: February 25, 5pm; CCNY Nat Holman Gymnasium
March Madness starts a bit early in Division III; at City College's Nat Holman Gymnasium, the two surviving teams from the CUNY Athletic Conference will compete for an automatic bid to their little version of the Big Dance—even though, yes, it's still February. At this level, there are no scholarships, no sneaker deals and no TV contracts—just a lot of sweat, hard work and love of the game. Get a seat close to the action and cheer for two squads that probably play harder than any others you've watched all year. Plus, admission is free! For more info, visit mogotix.com.
More College Basketball
Of course, there's plenty of other college-basketball action taking place throughout the City this month. First, let's offer shout-outs to the teams that have made New York "Upset City"—Wagner, who took out then–no. 13 Pittsburgh on the road; and Fordham, who knocked off then–no. 21 Harvard at Rose Hill Gym. They both hope to make some noise this month in the run-up to conference tournaments and the NCAAs, but they're not the only ones. Long Island University and St. John's have faced some roadblocks, but still haven't given up on making returns to the Big Dance, while Manhattan College and St. Francis (NY) also hope to establish strong position before conference tourney time. For the Johnnies, a win over no. 1 Syracuse on February 4 would help their case. Columbia, meanwhile, only gets an automatic NCAA bid if they win the Ivy League—a tall order, to be sure. If they are to have any hope of reaching that goal, they'd better top Brown and Yale at home on February 10 and 11. On the Division III side, New York University (ranked no. 23 as of press time) wraps up its home schedule in February.
New York Rangers vs. New Jersey Devils
February 27, 7pm; Madison Square Garden
So far this season, Ryan Callahan, Marian Gaborik and the Rangers have been among the NHL's elite—as they demonstrated to a national audience with their win in the Winter Classic. It's always a battle when the hated New Jersey Devils, the Rangers' rivals from across the Hudson, come to town—so expect a charged atmosphere for the game at the Garden. For more game dates, see the Rangers' full schedule.
Brooklyn Aviators Hockey
Various dates and times; Aviator Sports & Events Center
The Rangers aren't New York City's only professional hockey team. The Brooklyn Aviators, one of NYC's best-kept sports secrets, play in the Federal Hockey League—which is about the equivalent of single-A minor-league baseball. The Aviators are affiliated with the ECHL's Wheeling Nailers, who, in turn, are affiliated with the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins and Montreal Canadiens. The young, hungry players put on a great show, and ticket prices are wallet-friendly. For more info, visit brooklynaviators.com.
Breaking the Color Barrier in Major League Baseball
Through June 17; The Metropolitan Museum of Art
There will be no pitches thrown, bases stolen or homers hit at this Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition; if you try, you'll certainly be, ahem, thrown out. It does, however, offer a welcome dose of baseball history for fans driving themselves crazy waiting until pitchers and catchers report to spring training. Come look at baseball cards depicting the legendary Jackie Robinson (who broke the color barrier in 1947), Larry Doby, Satchel Paige and others. The collection ranges from 1887 through 1959—the year the Boston Red Sox became the final Major League team to integrate, signing Elijah "Pumpsie" Green—and includes Negro League and Major League players. For more information, visit metmuseum.org.
2012 Yoga Asana Championship
March 2–4, various times; Hudson Theatre
Isn't yoga about anything but feeding the ego? Might the very idea of a yoga "championship" be fundamentally antithetical to the ancient wisdom at the heart of the revered discipline? Perhaps. But take a gander at these incredible athletes bending themselves into cool-looking shapes! Regardless of what some purists have to say about the notion of competitive yoga, this event surely has much to offer from an entertainment standpoint. And for the amateur yogis among us, the competitors' achievements can serve as an inspiring reminder of how much improvement is possible with hard work, persistence and patience. For more info, visit the event's website.
AT&T American Cup Gymnastics
March 3, 11:30am; Madison Square Garden
The AT&T American Cup will draw some of the world's foremost gymnasts to New York City as they prepare for the London 2012 Olympic Games. Local hero John Orozco—who hails from the Bronx and was a 2011 World all-around finalist—is among those hoping to join a pantheon of former winners including Mary Lou Retton, Paul Hamm and Shawn Johnson. For more info, visit thegarden.com.
BNP Paribas Tennis Showdown
March 5, 7pm; Madison Square Garden
Usually, people think of the US Open when they link tennis with New York City. For fans who want something to tide them over during the long wait until August, this showcase promises ample excitement. Boldfaced names—Roger Federer vs. Andy Roddick, Maria Sharapova vs. Caroline Wozniacki—combined with one of the most famous venues in sports, mean that, for one night, the tennis spotlight will certainly return to NYC. For more info, visit thegarden.com.
Big East Basketball Championships
March 6–10, various times; Madison Square Garden
This just may be the last year for the Big East Tournament (and, indeed, the Big East itself) as we know it. Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia already have one foot out the door, while non-eastern newcomers Houston, Southern Methodist and Central Florida are on their way in. So do yourself a favor: go see this dramatic, intense New York City tradition while you still can. You might catch something like Syracuse's legendary six-overtime win—and, no matter what, you'll take in some of the nation's best basketball players and most passionate fans, all on the world's biggest stage.