When I was just a teenager, the name “Madison Square Garden” was magical. I would use just about any excuse to get there. My friends and I would take the train in from New Jersey to Penn Station, and there was always excitement in the air, along with soot and exhaust fumes.
The Garden was the Taj Mahal for rock bands. And it also housed the New York Knicks and New York Rangers, along with thousands of memories. You couldn’t say “The Garden” without taking a slight pause for reverence.
But even the greatest architectural wonders suffer the abuse of time and the elements. Even the most illustrious venues are susceptible to decay.
Today Madison Square Garden is but a house of ill repute rife with carnys and freaks. It is a leper colony, only without the cachet. It is a cauldron of human incompetence. It is Norma Desmond from “Sunset Boulevard,” desperately seeking the respect she once enjoyed but instead recoiling from the harsh glare of a modern klieg light.
The Garden, and all it represents, has been sliding toward this abyss for some time. But it reached its sleazy nadir Tuesday when a jury decided that Isiah Thomas was guilty of sexual harassment and ordered Madison Square Garden to pay $11.6 million in punitive damages.
The plaintiff, Anucha Browne Sanders, had claimed that Thomas “refused to stop his demeaning and repulsive behavior and the Garden refused to intercede.”
Back in January of last year, shortly after the suit was first filed, Thomas was defiant and said this:
“It is not their name, it’s not their family, it’s not their career and it’s not their reputation that’s being hurt.”
He was talking about himself, of course. Thomas has always been a party of one. But inadvertently, he was describing the once-proud organization he works for, which he sullied with his dopey blunders and incoherent basketball judgment even before Sanders came forward with her charges.
Sanders accused Thomas of referring to her as a “bitch” and a “ho” and of making unwanted advances toward the married mother of three. And when she complained to Steve Mills, her supervisor and the president of Madison Square Garden, she said he did nothing. Mills later said, “I am appalled by Anucha Browne Sanders’ outrageous allegations.”
Apparently the jury didn’t think they were so outrageous. And frankly, I’m a little shocked. We’ve seen instance after instance where celebrity wattage combined with unlimited funds equals a scot-free result. I thought for sure Thomas would be able to grin his way out of this one like he grinned his way into a job with the Knicks for which he is completely unsuited.
But maybe the legal system isn’t so easily suckered after all. In this case, perhaps the evidence that MSG, under the imbecilic stewardship of James Dolan, has degenerated into a place where anything goes — except winning — was too overwhelming to ignore.
PBT: LeBron James took over the 4th quarter, Ray Allen hit a huge three to force OT and the Heat survived to force a Game 7.
Thomas: 'I am innocent'
Oct. 2: A jury ruled that New York Knicks coach Isiah Thomas sexually harassed a former executive, but also ruled he does not have to pay punitive damages. NBC's Savannah Guthrie reports.
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