Okay, let's get this out of the way: the Palestra is magical, historic, a fantastic place to watch basketball, etc. You do not need me to tell you this, because you are a fan of TMM and therefore you know about the ghosts, the rollouts, the soft pretzels, the charming custodians who make you want to quit your job as a lawyer and sweep the floors of that incredible place forever. However, there has been a new development in Palestra history: giant video screens. At the end of last season, the university announced that they'd be replacing the old school scoreboards with fancy new video screens. Naturally, this was met with skepticism. When I saw the screens for the first time this September at the "Battle of I-95," (an NBA summer league "game" featuring LeBron James and resembling basketball the way a fast food chicken nugget resembles chicken) my immediate reaction was that the screens themselves were pretty okay. I am not sure if they are an improvement, but they aren't an abomination. However, like all technology, it's what you do with it that really determines its value.
So, what has Penn done with it so far? Mostly stuff you'd expect: video intros for the players, halftime stats, ads. The Palestra faithful in my area seem a bit confused about what to do - during the anthem, do you face the small-ish actual flag on the wall or the giant flickering animated flag on the other end of the arena? (Luckily, most folks eventually got that one right.) During the player intros, do you watch the players or their onscreen avatars? (Less unanimity there - screens are distracting, and Tyler Bernadini's California-perfect shaggy hairdo from his freshman year picture is unmissable!) The hype video at the beginning of the intros may perfectly reflect the Ivy League's somewhat fraught relationship with televised basketball: much of the footage of great moments in Penn hoops history were recorded in such low definition that even on the big fancy screen, it's almost impossible to identify the players or even the teams involved.
During an early media time-out at last Monday's game against Temple, Tony Kornheiser came on screen to exhort the crowd to use good sportsmanship, which was a bit random, but ok - sports, tv, it makes sense.
When Penn took on Robert Morris on Saturday, however, things veered out of the realm of the expected. Robert Morris coach Andy Toole, Penn class of 2003 (be sure to scroll down for the picture -aww!), had his team ready and they jumped out to a 10-0 lead. Penn coach Jerome Allen called a time out, and the Quakers subsequently went on a big run to get back into the mix.
After all that anxiety and excitement, onto the big screen comes Maury Povich.
Maury Povich. Penn class of 1962, apparently. Just when I'm thinking "how could I possibly have not known that I share an alma mater with Maury Povich?" he proceeds to stymie me again by asking an absolutely unanswerable trivia question about a Penn basketball player from his era who went on to write a book. I admit I'd never heard of this person or his book, and I can't remember either now even after having been told the answer by Maury Povich. (I'll note that there was a suspicious-looking exchange between the Quaker mascot and the poor girl from the student section who was asked to answer this question on camera. She got it right.)
Nevertheless, this made me wonder if the rest of the season we'd be treated to a series of trivia questions from various Penn alums. I think I'd prefer if the questions were related to their own work, though, so here are a few suggestions:
Noam Chomsky(BA '49, MA '51)
Which of the following do babies and kittens have in common?
A. Inductive reasoning skills B. Universal grammar C. Inexplicably better for internet meme-ing than puppies
Dick Wolf ('69)
Which of the following is not an actual Law & Order spinoff?
A. L&O: UK B. L&O: Los Angeles C: L&O: Trial by Jury D: L&O: A New Hope
Which of the following Muppets have I performed with?
A. Rowlf the dog B. Hoots the owl C. Fergie
Big screen skeptics will be converted before the beginning of Ivy play, I predict.
at PENNSYLVANIA 66, ROBERT MORRIS 60 11/19/2011
ROBERT MORRIS 2-1 (0-0) -- C. Williams 5-12 0-0 13; R. Johnson 5-11 0-0 13; V. Jones 6-13 3-6 16; L. Bridges 1-3 1-2 3; L. Thompson 2-6 6-8 10; A. Myers 0-3 2-2 2; L. Jones 0-1 1-4 1; B. Herman 1-5 0-0 2; K. Armstrong 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 20-56 13-22 60. PENNSYLVANIA 3-1 (0-0) -- Z. Rosen 7-12 0-2 19; M. Cartwright 5-9 0-2 12; T. Bernardini 6-12 5-6 19; R. Belcore 2-4 2-2 7; M. Howlett 1-2 5-6 7; F. Dougherty 1-1 0-0 2; H. Brooks 0-1 0-0 0; C. Crocker 0-1 0-0 0; M. Kukoc 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 22-43 12-18 66.
Three-point goals: RMU 7-21 (V. Jones 1-4; C. Williams 3-5; R. Johnson 3-7; A. Myers 0-2; B. Herman 0-3), PENN 10-20 (T. Bernardini 2-6; R. Belcore 1-1; Z. Rosen 5-7; M. Cartwright 2-5; M. Kukoc 0-1); Rebounds: RMU 29 (L. Bridges 7), PENN 30 (T. Bernardini 8); Assists: RMU 11 (V. Jones 7), PENN 15 (Z. Rosen 10); Total Fouls -- RMU 21, PENN 20; Fouled Out: RMU-R. Johnson; PENN-None.