over nine and a half hours, five home-city teams, and three games made
for one crazy Saturday of men’s college basketball in Philadelphia. It
is not often that hoops diehards get an opportunity to attend a trio of
games in one day, but December 2, 2006 brought just that.
Unfortunately, I was only able to go to the nightcap due to a massive
amount of work and no access to a car. But in a perfect world, here’s
what my day would have looked like…
10:30am : My cell phone alarm sounds to the ring tone of Blind
Melon’s “No Rain.” Shockingly, my usually nocturnal roommate is already
gone. I turn on Sports Center, check my e-mail, and eat my Cinnamon
Life cereal out of the box.
11:23am : Dressed in jeans and my maroon sweatshirt, I start the
car’s ignition, crank up the heat, and head north to the Liacouras
Center—the nest of the Temple Owls. After the short drive from West
Philadelphia, I buy my ticket. I immediately regret my decision to
shave: it is “Mustache Day” in honor of Temple’s new head man, former
Penn coach and infamously mustached Fran Dunphy, and anyone boasting
facial hair between their nostrils and upper lip gets a five-dollar
discount. I buy a hot pretzel and take my seat for the noon tip-off
between the Owls and the Long Beach State 49ers.
12:03pm : Temple just allowed five points in the contest’s first minute. The crowd gets restless, anticipating a long afternoon.
12:47pm : So much for that opening minute. The 49ers offense turned
anemic, scoring only eight points the remainder of the half. Meanwhile,
a native Philadelphian brought the Owls some early holiday cheer, as
sophomore Dionte Christmas led a 26-2 charge. Dominating 43-13 at the
half, Temple is already viewing film for Tuesday’s bout with Western
1:34pm : If there is any chance of me catching part of the first
half of the Saint Joe’s versus Drexel game at the Palestra, I need to
leave now. There is nothing to watch here, anyways. The radio voice
confirms the Temple slaughter, 74-49, good for Dunphy’s second win on
2:15pm : Having finally thwarted West Philadelphia’s attempt to deny
me a parking space, I run through Penn’s Engineering campus to the
historic Palestra. Despite being a Quaker at heart, I seem to bring the
Dragons good luck. Seeking revenge against the Big 5, Philadelphia’s
‘other college basketball team’ breaks the game open with a 21-2 run,
and ends the half leading 32-23.
3:08pm : My school’s neighbors have emerge victorious from neutral
turf, as Frank Elegar and Drexel drop St. Joe’s 72-56 in a game tainted
by sloppy turnovers. With the victory, the Dragons improve to 4-2 on
the season and 6-42 all-time against the Hawks.
5:59pm : After an afternoon of writing analytical essays, I am
devouring a rack of Chili’s baby back ribs (barbecue sauce) with some
friends before my most highly anticipated game of the day: the
Villanova-Penn game. We look up at the TV to see "that other
Philadelphia sporting event" today is now over; for the fifth year
straight, Navy sinks Army, 26-14 at Lincoln Financial Field. I refocus
on my plate, wanting to get to the Palestra early to heckle the
6:44pm : The Palestra is packed for Penn’s Big 5 opener—Quakers fans
to the west, Wildcats fans to the east. Clad in matching navy blue
shirts (all with the Penn "P" and the words: "The Palestra, A Tradition
Since 1927"), the Quakers fans taunt throughout the pre-game warm-ups,
shut up during the national anthem, then jump up and down, projecting a
deafening chant that resonates through college basketball’s oldest
venue in preparation for the opening tip.
8:06pm : Media timeouts and whistle-happy refs make for a lengthy
first half. The home crowd cannot be too displeased trailing Villanova
by only 7 points, despite turning the ball over almost two dozen times.
Only Mark Zoller’s 22 points are keeping Penn in the game.
8:47pm : This time is an estimate—I was too busy losing my voice.
Thanks to infallible shooting and an array of Wildcats fouls, the
Quakers have overcome a double-digit deficit to take a three-point
lead, with their star Ibrahim Jaaber at the line shooting two.
(Two minutes later) : Jaaber missed both, Nova is on a roll. Things suddenly don’t look so good.
9:34pm : Villanova gives Penn a clinic on free throw shooting,
missing just one down the stretch, and returns to the suburbs 99-89
victors. Maybe the Wildcats will finally get some respect in the
national rankings, while Penn now looks to rebound at Navy Thursday
evening. The triple-header is over. Back home for me to recover!