Monday, April 23, 2012

Madison Square Garden

Madison Square Garden, New York city.  If walls could talk, you'd hear whispers of prestige and awe.  The blood, sweat and tears of championships won and dreams lost add to the aura.  The countless hours of work and dedication all lead to this one moment.

The Garden first opened in 1879 and has since changed venues four times.  Regardless of the location change, the Garden has been host to everything from political conventions to boxing championships.  What I enjoy most are the competitions held here to determine the best of the best, earning it the status of "the world's greatest sports arena."

Madison Square Garden at night.
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My first exposure to the Garden was in high school when I competed as a junior handler at the Westminster Dog Show.  Not lacking in prestige, Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show began in 1877 and is "America's second longest continuously held sporting event" with the Kentucky Derby being the longest.

Westminster Dog Show qualifying Junior Handlers at
Madison Square Garden.
I was showing a dog I had just met because my dog was unable
to show for medical reasons.
Can you find me?

To show at Westminster, your dog must be a top-ranking member of its breed.  The purpose of the Junior Handler dividion is to prepare you to become a professional handler.  As a junior handler, your dog is not judged, but instead you are judged on your handling skills and how well you present your breed accordingly.  To enter Westminster, you must qualify with 10 first place wins within the year in the Open division and be 9-18 years old (you have to qualify to compete in the Open division, as well).

Pride N Joys Clean N Up, aka "Chamois."
Chamois was my juniors dog for a long time. She showed so
well she brought tears to my eyes.
This was one of the qualifying wins to show at The Garden.
Chamois is now 14 years old.

Side Pride N Joys Summer Glory TD RN OA, aka "Glory."
Glory was Chamois' mother, my best friend and the best creek buddy you
could ask for growing up.
Here we just earned a new title in Open Agility with 3 qualifying runs, at the National Specialty no less!

It just happens that my next passion would also hold a premier event at the Madison Square Garden.  This year, there was much controversy over the decision to move the Millrose Games to the Armory after 98 years at the Garden.  While the Armory boasts fast times, one of the biggest draws of Millrose is to race where so many other great athletic accomplishments have taken place.  

For example, while he did race at Millrose,  Bernard Lagat, 8-time Wanamaker Mile Champion did not have a presence in the historic Wanamaker Mile this year at the Armory.

Bernard Lagat takes the win.
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The Millrose Games is not the only sporting event to leave the Garden.  The Alltech National Horse Show began in 1883 and first made its appearance at the Garden in 1926.  Since then it has moved from the Garden a few times, most recently in 2011.  

One of the greatest examples of hard work and believing came in 1958 when Snowman, a horse destined for slaughter, won the Triple Crown at the National Horse Show.  Bought for eighty dollars, the old plow horse nurtured back to vitality by Harry de Leyer, became a legend.

Snowman easily clearing a jump.
Photo by 

Just a couple of the many memorable athletic moments that have taken place at The Garden.

The Fight of the Century.
1971...Joe Frazier versus Muhammad Ali.
In our country at this time, tensions were high and
each fighter essentially represented opposing opinions on the Vietam War.
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Reggie Miller scored 8 points in 9 seconds in 1995 to lead the Indiana Paces to an upset win over the New York Knicks.  In the final 18.7 seconds, the New York Knicks had the lead 105-99.

Of course great sports accomplishments happen all over the world, but one can't argue against the special atmosphere the Garden has established in over a century's worth of competitions.

Super Bee is glad she doesn't have to be
groomed & fluffed for hours.

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