<---SORRY I MISSED YOU MIKE!
Strong Island Sound 104 Vermont Frost Heaves 98
I couldn't figure out why the hell the Long Island ABA team plays their games way out in Suffolk County. I hopped on the LIE in Queens and seemed to be driving for hours. After a while I began to realize that they put it there because it would make them the only show in town. There is no minor league baseball out there in the winter, except for Hofstra there are no division one college sports to speak of, the Islanders are alright but who likes hockey anymore?
Seeing my first ABA game couldn't have been for a more terrible reason. I was there doing more research on the life of Chris Sandy, a story I hope will run someplace. Suffolk Community College was tucked up, in and under a corner in the darkest part of anywehre I'd ever been. Exit 62 could have very well been Vermont, where the visting team was coming from. It's important to say that I left the city at 5 o'clock on Friday to make a 6pm door opening, however traffic had it's way and I arrived about five minutes until tip-off for a 7:30 game.
A pretty smooth put together tickett booth/gift stand in what is an above average gym, considering the Long Island Primtime of the USBL played in the dusty-old Elmcore Center in Corona, Queens. However there were no hot dogs, just pure-sugar snacks like Starburst and Skittles, and logo glittered boxer shorts in their place.
As typical, the most entertaining part of the evening was the basketball. The Sound didn't seem to be trying too many tricks. Which might be bad. The ABA and USBL seem to be about even when it comes to attendance. It was a mostly vacant crowd except for friends, family, staff, some white trash kids and a few alcoholic grandfathers.
The game started off tight and competitive. The only player I'd ever heard of on the Vermont team was Kevin Mickens, who played for my brother at George Mason, who played very well but didn't start. For the New York team, Tommie Eddie and Raphael Edwards really stood out for the Sound. Eddie, a massive power forward, nailed a few 3-pointers from out on the wing.
The game started off competitive and then the Sound maitained a ten point lead pretty much the entire game. No real outstanding performers, other than Eddie or Edwards, who worked quietly. It was a really competitive game and I can honestly say the ABA could have picked off the USBL a few years ago if they'd run their league in the Spring.
I think true hoops fans, who know their local players (especially the New York teams) would love the ABA. If you can except the teams on a basketball basis, instead of as "the future stars of tomorrow's NBA," then you'll enjoy the close games and tremendously talented players that exist outside the NBA like: Daryl Dorsey, Homicide Williams, Chris Sandy RIP, Anthony Glover, Mike Campbell (who, pictured above, signed with a team in Belgium on Monday and left the Sound before I saw them) Louis White (who is a really talented guy from Baltimore playing outside the league) Brian Chase, and Garnett Tompson, most of these guys spent time in the ABA. The problem isn't the players, it never has been, but selling a minor league basketball league to the public has been very tough over the years. Now that there are 3 winter leagues and 3 spring leagues it will be interesting to see who remains at the end of the day.
At the half the Sound were up by 10 and up by as many as 19 in the second half. Somehow the Frost Heaves managed to fight back and send the game into overtime. The drama of those last few minutes couldn't be duplicated or replaced by celebrity guest players, coaches or special rules. I mean, for God's sake, one of the cheerleaders was celebrating their 18th birthday. So, Note to Joe Newman: Teach Your teams how to recruit and promote! You've got something here! Stick with the basketball product, market that, and make sure you have hot dogs!
<--- I got to speak with Alex Wolf the owner of the Vermont Frost Heaves. He writes a regular column for Sports Illustrated's website, SI.COM, about his experiences as the owner/operator of the team called "Alex in Wonderland." He was sitting right in the stands and was a really nice dude.