Diet books are always hot. There are ones by doctors and chefs, amateurs and professionals, savants and charlatans. But there is no diet book yet that allows you to lose weight by watching basketball. My book, The Palestra Hot Box Diet, will be the first. This diet works. It will be a hit.
Allow me to explain: The Palestra is the University of Pennsylvania's basketball gym in West Philadelphia. Opened in 1927, it's hosted countless college, high school and even professional basketball games. It's the best gym in the country. Although its glory days are behind it, it's entered into its mythical stage: Old-timers recount famous doubleheaders played within its walls. Basketball legends speak of it with reverence. Allegedly, ghosts walk the corridors at night. Countless sportswriters have extolled its virtues; one lunatic even slept over one night.
It's also hot. Very hot. There's no air conditioning. In the winter, it's hot. When it's empty, it's hot. When it's full, and summertime -- as it was for a game with pro players during the NBA lockout last year -- sweat pours down your body like a waterfall. It's getting hotter, too. I've been attending games at the Palestra for over 20 years, and it is hotter now than it's ever been. The fans at the Palestra sweat as much as your average NBA player.
I think you get where I'm heading.
It's not always the summer, and it's not always a full house of 8,722 fans. But let me share an anecdote from a recent game I attended, one with only 3,864 fans, that shows why The Palestra Hot Box Diet will be such a hit. Even a game in a lesser postseason college basketball tournament, one that wasn't a classic, was a blast.
Two friends and I attended Penn's final game of the 2011-12 season, hoping to see one more game in the Palestra this season (and shed some pounds before the Spring). The Penn Quakers took on the Butler Bulldogs in the College Basketball Invitational Presented by Zebra Pen, a relatively new postseason tourney that was, we were reminded every five minutes, presented by Zebra Pen. Every piece of literature, every announcement, every ad up on the big screen reminded us that Zebra Pen was the one presenting the College Basketball Invitational Presented by Zebra Pen. There was even a contest: Tweet a photo of yourself at your seat at the CBIPbZP and you had the opportunity to win a free pen. Yes, if you shamed yourself by shilling for a pen company in a tweet, you had the chance to win a pen.
Many sportswriters who wax poetic about the Palestra talk about "all corners," when the gym is completely filled. The game against Butler was the far more common "no corners," where absolutely no one was sitting in those four quadrants. Butler led Penn at the break by just three, 20-17, a slow game that seemed even slower. At one point a Butler player threw a pass to no one, but Penn didn't capitalize; the ball just bounced around near midcourt before another member of the Bulldogs went over to grab it. The heat was a factor even for these young men in impeccable shape.
The second half picked up, probably due to the possibility of free pens, and my Quakers led early in the second half. Butler eventually pulled away, and the final minutes dragged on, as if Penn wanted to continue its season as long as possible even in a loss. The teams combined to shoot 40-for-107 from the field, and my alma mater lost. And it was oh-so-hot. But we still had a great time, like I always do at the Palestra, joking with my friends -- one of them used his phone to bet the under on the second half at halftime -- eating surprisingly great pretzels and watching Zack Rosen as a Quaker one last time.
Best of all, two-plus hours in that hot box took me down another pants size. The Palestra heat should be unbearable, but it's always so entertaining the sweat is worth it.
This season is over, but the Palestra beckons for another year of hoops. If we sell this diet book starting next fall, we can make a mint. We could even sell it with ticket packages to Penn basketball!
I eagerly await your reply.
University of Pennsylvania, '04
Roughly 70 Palestra games attended, roughly 218 pounds
BUTLER 63, at PENNSYLVANIA 53 03/19/2012
BUTLER 22-14 (11-7) -- C. Hopkins 5-11 4-4 15; R. Nored 2-7 7-9 12; R. Jones 4-8 4-4 12; K. Marshall 4-13 6-9 14; A. Smith 2-4 0-1 4; A. Barlow 0-2 0-0 0; K. Woods 1-5 0-0 2; E. Fromm 2-2 0-0 4; C. Stigall 0-1 0-0 0; G. Butcher 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-53 21-27 63. PENNSYLVANIA 20-13 (11-3) -- Z. Rosen 3-10 4-4 11; M. Cartwright 5-15 1-4 12; R. Belcore 3-8 3-3 9; F. Dougherty 4-5 1-2 9; M. Kukoc 1-5 0-0 3; S. Esprit 2-5 0-0 5; H. Brooks 2-6 0-0 4; C. Gunter 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-54 9-13 53.
Three-point goals: BUTL 2-7 (R. Nored 1-1; C. Stigall 0-1; C. Hopkins 1-4; A. Barlow 0-1), PENN 4-20 (R. Belcore 0-3; Z. Rosen 1-4; M. Cartwright 1-7; M. Kukoc 1-4; S. Esprit 1-2); Rebounds: BUTL 42 (K. Marshall 13), PENN 26 (R. Belcore 8); Assists: BUTL 8 (R. Nored 6), PENN 10 (R. Belcore 5); Total Fouls -- BUTL 14, PENN 22; Fouled Out: BUTL-None; PENN-None.