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Painting MSG Red: The Frozen Apple Proves Legitimacy of Ivy League Athletics

There is a notion, a somewhat prevalent one, that Ivy League Sports are not well supported. There’s a general belief that Ivy League sports don’t bring out the rah-rah spirit in their alums and fans like that traditional big state schools. That places like Cornell are for studying, not school spirit.

Penn State, we know they have that kind of school spirit that can send Happy Valley into a frenzy. But for Cornell, it could be a question. When I ran into Penn State’s radio team for the Frozen Apple they were wondering if their guys would have the majority crowd support. I told them it would likely be Cornell. That didn’t immediately check out. Penn State is nearly three times as big, and how was an Ivy League school going to show them up?

The first period was all Penn State, as they took 1-0 lead. But as the game wore on, it tilted towards the Big Red. A John Knisley goal and Joel Lowry tally later, the Big Red had their lead in the third period. The third period was hectic, and the Nittany Lions threw puck after puck at Mitch Gillam. But they couldn’t break through, and Cornell sealed their win with an empty net score, planting a Cornellian red flag in Manhattan.

Well whoever thinks Ivy League sports are second rate was not in Madison Square Garden on Saturday Night, November 29th when Cornell came back for a 3-1 win over the Nittany Lions of Penn State. Or maybe they didn’t hear the world’s most famous arena “oooh” and “aaah” every Cornell scoring chance. Or maybe the “Penn State” sucks chants in the first period escaped their attention. Or maybe they didn’t hear the Garden, with some 15 thousand strong fans, come to life after Joel Lowry’s game winning goal in the third period as if Cornell fans were waiting all night to explode.

The atmosphere in the Garden was incredible, and if you closed your eyes you could make yourself believe you were in the much more cozy and confided confines of Lynah Rink. The chants were the same. The fans were faithful to all the typical Lynah traditions. Chants, calls, and even jingling keys. Of course when you opened your eyes, there was no mistaking where you were. This was a palace of a major league sports. The Knicks and Rangers banners were all hanging from the rafters, (although the Knicks could use some more recent banners) and the ice was painted with the Rangers logo. But no, the Big Red players didn’t get to use the Rangers locker room. Instead of the homey comfort and charm of Lynah, it was a modern and slick monument to sports. Even Penn State’s losing head coach, Guy Gadowsky, had to concede, “Honestly, it was pretty cool.”

But before we go any further, let’s reflect on Madison Square Garden. Yes, it is an amazing facility and building like most major league arenas. But it’s unique in its history. The Manhattan arena not only has housed the Rangers and Knicks for so long (and not nearly enough wins), but has seen the full range of sports at the highest level – classic boxing matches, the former Big East tournament, and the NIT, among others. Not to mention the concerts that have been there. Now for Cornell athletics, it’s a stamp of legitimacy. It’s great for the university and recruiting. Madison Square Garden and Cornell flow. It’s natural for a school with a big New York City base. It also allows alumni and their families to have an opportunity to support their team besides a potentially very out of the way trip to Ithaca, and the high profile setting keeps Cornell sports in their conscience. It’s a way to have a little Ithaca in Manhattan, and not the other way around.

To get right down to it, Cornell fans painted MSG red. They took over the iconic arena. Just think about this for a second. At Cornell, none of the students athletes have scholarships. But they still put on a game worthy of the occasion. The Frozen Apple is more than just your standard college team plays in closest pro arena. With a place like Madison Square Garden, it’s a stamp of legitimacy. It’s recognition that Cornell and Ivy League can play big time sports, be well supported, sell a lot of tickets and deliver a big time show.


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