January 2012 Sports Calendar
by Jonathan Zeller, 12/21/2011
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The New Year is a time to start fresh—for New York City's sports teams as much as anyone. At the dawn of a new NBA season, the Knicks have parted ways with steady veteran point guard Chauncey Billups in order to make room for center Tyson Chandler, whose arrival gives them what may be the league's most intimidating front line. As the Nets get ready to make a clean break for Brooklyn, they hope to stock their roster with top talent including Dwight Howard (meanwhile, the team's owner, Mikhail Prokhorov, wants to become president of Russia). The Jets and Giants have had up-and-down years, but if they can just get to the playoffs, it'll be a whole new season. Some may find inspiration to fulfill their New Year's fitness resolutions in Bernard Lagat, who's slated to run the mile in the U.S. Open Track & Field event at Madison Square Garden. There are also a couple of entertaining marquee events: the Pro Bull Riders Invitational at Madison Square Garden and the squash J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions in Grand Central Terminal, both of which put their sports' top performers in unconventional settings. For more info on these and other big athletic events happening early in 2012—an assortment of intersecting plots that would make Gary Marshall proud—read on.
Various dates and times, citywide
New York City's local college hoops squads begin conference play in earnest this month. Key matchups include St. John's vs. Louisville (ranked no. 4 by ESPN/USA Today at press time) on January 3 at Madison Square Garden (with an undercard of Siena and Iona), Wagner vs. Long Island University in Staten Island on January 21, and Fordham vs. Harvard (no. 25) on January 3 and Xavier (no. 15) on January 7 at historic Rose Hill Gym. Manhattan College, St. Francis (NY) and Columbia are all in action, too—the Jaspers and the Lions are both off to strong starts. On the Division III side, New York University hosts Emory (ranked no. 5 by d3hoops.com) on January 13, while representatives from various CUNY schools battle for position in the CUNY Athletic Conference.
Big Apple International Handball Tournament
December 31: amateur games begin at 9:30am; January 1: tournament third-place game at 10:30am, professional all-star game at 12:30pm and tournament title game at 2:30pm; Riverbank State Park
Usually an afterthought for American sports fans and media, team handball has a feverishly dedicated following in Europe. Watch some game footage, and it's clear why: the fast-paced sport looks something like a hybrid of basketball, soccer and hockey. If you're wondering what you're missing, this is a good time to check it out—the all-star game will feature a number of top performers, including players from Germany's Bundesliga. That match is at 12:30pm on January 1. Admission is free. For more info, visit usateamhandball.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 on 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.
New Jersey Nets vs. Miami Heat
January 7, 7:30pm; Prudential Center
Miami's big three—LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh—butt heads with Deron Williams and a Nets team that doesn't want to wait for a blockbuster acquisition (say, Dwight Howard) to start winning big games. If owner Mikhail Prokhorov is willing to take on Vladimir Putin, it's safe to say these guys aren't afraid of anyone. Can't make it out to see the Heat take their talents to Newark? The Nets play a full slate of home games throughout the month.
NFL Playoffs: New York Giants vs. Atlanta Falcons
January 8, 1pm; MetLife Stadium
Having successfully spiked the Dallas Cowboys in two crucial late-season games, the Giants are in the playoffs. Even better, by virtue of their NFC East title, they'll host a first-round game against the Atlanta Falcons. It's been an up-and-down season for Big Blue, but they looked strong down the stretch, and the Falcons face the unenviable task of trying to thwart the Eli Manning–to–Victor Cruz connection. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan likely isn't looking forward to dodging the G-Men's intimidating defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, either. Your best bet for tickets is probably StubHub.
New York Knicks vs. Orlando Magic
January 16, 1pm; Madison Square Garden
With new addition Tyson Chandler joining Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks may have the best frontcourt in the NBA. The Magic boast one of the league's premier big men themselves, but Dwight Howard may not last much longer in Orlando (see above). In any event, the Knicks should be fun to watch—provided they sort out their backcourt situation. For more Knicks games, consult their full schedule.
Breaking the Color Barrier in Major League Baseball
January 18–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.
New York Rangers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
January 19, 7pm; Madison Square Garden
Sadly, Sidney Crosby's concussion symptoms have returned, and he may not make it to the Garden for this tilt. Still, for Rangers fans, this remains a good evening to head out to the game as the Blueshirts take on a division rival and look to maintain their strong start. If this game's not convenient for you, here's the Rangers' full schedule.
J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions Squash
January 20–26, various times; Grand Central Terminal
The 2012 iteration of the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions Squash is a bit meta. For a couple of years, we've been saying that the gorgeous glass-walled squash court in the middle of Grand Central looks like a miniature Apple Store, and now there is an actual Apple Store in Grand Central. Weird. In any event, it's free to watch the games (though fans can also buy premium seating right up against the court), and the action moves at a blistering pace as players fling themselves back and forth and sometimes onto the playing surface. Their ruthless jostling for position might remind passing commuters of their own daily routine, and the matches could draw more foot traffic than the iPod and MacBook emporium itself.
For Australian star David Palmer's tips on how to follow squash, read our article from the 2010 J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions. For tickets, visit tocsquash.tix.com, or just show up and watch through the glass.
New Balance Games
January 21, 9am; New Balance Track & Field Center at The Armory
High school athletes and some elite professionals race on one of the world's fastest indoor tracks. For more info, visit armorytrack.com.
Colgate Women's Games
January 28, 10am; Madison Square Garden
In the Colgate Women's Games Finals, girls and women compete for trophies and educational grants-in-aid. The athletes may be amateurs, but some of the meet records are impressive. (An elementary school–age girl can run 800 meters in two minutes and 18 seconds? Seriously?) The event is free, but tickets are required; get them at colgategames.com beginning in January 2012.
U.S. Open Track & Field
January 28, 7:30pm; Madison Square Garden
The exceptionally fleet-footed Bernard Lagat plans to compete in the one-mile race at this new event, which ensures that top-flight track and field will remain at the Garden even as the Millrose Games move to the more intimate New Balance Track & Field Center at The Armory. He'll be among a number of elite athletes preparing for the London Olympics later this year. If you can't make it in person, the meet will be televised live on ESPN. For more info, visit thegarden.com.
NYC Mayor's Cup Indoor Track & Field Championships
January 28, girls' races begin at 8:30am, boys' races begin at 1:30pm; New Balance Track & Field Center at The Armory
High-school athletes run, hurl and leap their way to glory and bragging rights as "Best in the City." For more info, visit the NYC Mayor's Cup Facebook page.
NYC Mayor's Cup Wrestling Championships
January 28–29, 9am; 369 Harlem Armory Center
Grapplers from high schools throughout the five boroughs compete to call themselves—that's right—"Best in the City." For more info, visit the NYC Mayor's Cup Facebook page.