Competition in basketball and hockey is not the only activities to witness at Madison Square Garden, open to the fans and general public, if so desired. During these events, the personnel at the Garden stage various promotions to get the spectators more involved in what is going on.
For instance, almost every month during the season, a Sweetwater Clifton City Spirit Award is presented by former Knickerbocker player John Starks. He did so during a recent game between the Knicks and Denver. This award is named after a former Knick player, Nat ‘Sweetwatcer’ Clifton, the first African American to compete for the Knicks.
Actually the award, for the month of January, went to Orlando, a seeing-eye dog who helped his owner from a train accident. This incident came on Dec. 17, 2013 when its owner Cecil Williams of Harlem began to feel faint near the edge of a subway platform in Harlem and fell onto the tracks. Orlando jumped onto the tracks and started barking, gaining the attention of bystanders as an express train approached. Orlando covered Williams on the tracks.
Two subway cars passed over them before the train stopped. Williams and the dog escaped without serious injury, thanks to the actions of Orlando.
Talking about the subway incident right before the start of the Denver-Knicks game, Williams said “Miracle! It made me believe in miracles more so than ever. Certain things happen out of my control… And I’m here today!”
“The feeling (came) more or less when I woke up. When it happened to me I blacked out. He (the dog) took over, everything happened. I realized the train went over me and I had to have five staples on my head. We (the dog and I) were safe under the tracks.”
“It was awesome to me-a miracle. I can’t describe it in other words. I believe that the Knicks will win another championship….(He didn’t say about this year). Sooner or later we’ll rise to the top. There will be changes here in New York.
“It happens. It’s like chemistry (Miami has it). Here Carmelo can’t carry all the points. It’s the team that plays together and contributes all the time. It takes a while and doesn’t happen over night.
“Receiving an award during Black History Month means we still have a way to go.
“We have (Barack) O’Bama as president. For me it means the last should be first. He does a wonderful job and doesn’t get credit for the things that he does. We have to go through struggles. I’m not knocking anyone.”
As for basketball now, Williams wants to get out there (on the court) and try to shoot, because he used to play the game.
“I know that I can dribble; the only problem is I got to navigate and negotiate the difference,” he went on. “Being that I can’t see, I have to get on the line and if I can shoot may be 10 times and somebody can give me the ball, I can do it. I get frustrated because the person who has sight can shoot so easily. It’s like starting all over (again).”
In 1995, he was diagnosed with diabetes. “It was in my family and I didn’t know that then,” he recalled. “It took away from my eye sight. From that point on I (walked) with a cane before I got a dog.”
This award recognizes individuals who have made a significant difference in the lives of others. Each month a winner is chosen by members of the team’s front office and recognized at a particular game at Madison Square Garden.
The recipient receives a $2,000 donation in their name made out to a charity of their choice. Williams will donate the money to Guiding Eyes for the Blind, an internationally accredited guide dog school providing greater independence, dignity, and new horizons of opportunity.
Williams was a basketball and a soccer player in his younger days. He attended elementary school in Westbury, Hempstead High School and New York City School of Technology.