Behind The Scenes

NYC sports a Garden in bloom

NEW YORK – Wednesday night, the Rangers are coming home. On Friday, so are the Knicks.

New Yorkers have got their swagger back, thanks to their teams home stints in the NHL and NBA playoffs, respectively.

Fans are itching for that rumble to return back to Madison Square Garden, and it’s a force to be reckoned with.

This is a busy time of year for ESPNNewYork.com, not only with the action at the Garden. The Yankees and Mets’ seasons are underway, and the NFL draft unfolds next week at Radio City Music Hall.

ESPNNY.com’s Executive Editor Leon Carter shares his thoughts covering sports in the city that never sleeps.

FR: In a city that has been home to many historic sports venues, what makes the Garden stand out?

Carter: It’s Madison Square Garden, which calls itself the World’s Most Famous Arena. Great fights have been held there. Great concerts. Great Knicks and Rangers games.

Just saying the words, “I’m going to the Garden tonight,” or telling a cabbie “Take me to the Garden,” sounds special every time you say it or hear it.

When you get there, the Garden still feels special even though it’s an old arena. Because it’s old, the lights appear to put a spotlight on the floor and the crowd appears to sit in dimly lit seats. It gives you a theater-like feel.

FR: In your opinion, what does it mean to the city of New York to have the Knicks and Rangers back in the playoffs?

Carter: The playoff buzz is back in the city. The focus is taken off Mets and Yankees for a while and put on the Knicks and Rangers. For the local sports fan, it’s great.

There’s plenty to debate on Twitter, in text messages, on ESPN 1050 Radio, on team pages, etc. Can the Knicks win their first playoff game in a decade? Can the Rangers beat the Caps?

Will the Garden sound like the old playoff days? Will it roar and put fear in opponents?

For Knicks fans, it has been such a long time. We all remember the great battles between the Knicks and Pacers. Spike Lee vs. Reggie Miller. And the Knicks-Heat epic games. The Allan Houston shot that knocked the Heat out of the playoffs.

The ’90s were great to be a Rangers and Knicks fan. The Rangers won the Cup. The Knicks were a contender. You could feel the playoff fever in the air on game days. New Yorkers want those days back.

FR: How is ESPNNewYork.com covering both teams?

Carter: ESPN New York is covering Rangers and Knicks. We have a special Rangers module on the index page. We have a special page devoted to the Knicks. You can’t give sports fans enough at this time of year.

To accomplish this, we are in my “Flood the Zone” phase. We give sports fans all we can give them: stories, features, columns, podcasts, videos, web shows, polls, chats, team pages, etc.

FR: Is this the busiest time of the year for ESPNNewYork.com?

Carter: It’s busy, but we are managing it so far. If the Rangers and Knicks play on the same night — so far they have not — it could get pretty crazy in the office, particularly if the Mets and Yankees are also playing.

FR: What would your Back Page headline be if the Knicks won the NBA Championship or the Rangers won the Stanley Cup?

Carter: Not sure. You have to look at a few things. The star of the game. The circumstance.

Then you try to come up with a clever headline that captures the moment.

What I do know is this: If the Knicks ever won, the headline may be something as simple as ‘Hallelujah’ because they have not won a title since 1973.

If this team wins it with Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony with the decisive game in the Garden, the headline may be ‘Miracle on 33rd Street’ because the Knicks are long shots this year.

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