Game #9-311: Saint Joseph`s Hawks at Pennsylvania QuakersJanuary 19, 2013 5:00 pm
PHILADELPHIA - "Everyone is disappointing the more you know someone."
I watched Synecdoche, New York after I read that prologue from Kyle
. As the quote would probably lead to you believe if you didn't know better, it was pretty depressing, which is likely the reason it tanked at the box office. No one likes to be depressed
, at least while they're trying to be entertained.
That quote has resonated strongly with me plenty since I first came across it, particularly so this week as the images of Lance Armstrong and Manti Te'o were ripped from their pedestals like so many others before them in the sports and entertainment world. The vultures seemed exceptionally happy to take Armstrong and Te'o apart for some reason this time around, they must have been especially tasty morsels.
As I made my way across Philadelphia from Temple to The Palestra, the quote was stuck in my head. How could the ancient building, the Cathedral of College
Basketball, live up to the excessive hype that I had built for it? It was only an 85-year-old piece of brick and stone after all.
Finding the place, or more accurately, finding an appropriate place to park for the place, was a struggle, so I finally sucked it up and went into a garage. I was surprised how close
The Palestra was to Drexel, who is not part of the Big Five, and as veteran Mid-majority readers know, has its own nice arena just a few blocks away.
I was worried that I may not get a true feel of The Palestra, after all this was a mid-January non-conference game featuring Penn, which the Quakers coming in at 3-13. And their wins were over not-so national powers Maryland-Baltimore County, Binghamton, and New Jersey Tech. Saint Joseph's, their opponent on this afternoon, had been faring a bit better, but surely had to have its sights squarely set on Atlantic-10 play, which is sure to be brutal enough without worrying about a game against an Ivy League team.
My first hint that my fears were horribly unwarranted were the buses. It was 45 minutes before tip-off and the buses, many of them painted with "Saint Joseph's" on the side. Every one was full. Or at least they were until the students spilled out and made their way toward the building. It reminded me of the final scene from Field of Dreams. If you play a game here, they will come.
Once inside, I took a lap around to see the history and there was obviously plenty to be had, including a running tally of the 214 games of the Penn-Princeton rivalry (the Tigers added another to their total last week).
But the real stunning view came as I walked to my seat near center court (ironically only several seats away from TMM legend Jen Ahearn). I looked to my right and saw a sea of red. And I mean a legitimate swath of three sections of red, complete with a band, cheerleaders, and - of course - The Hawk (yes, this website really says "to request
the Hawk's appearance at a wedding", love it).
It was still 30 minutes until the game was to start.
If it's a basketball game, they will come, indeed. That's the way it should be, of course. There was no talk of Bracketology or RPI numbers or even advanced strategies. Throw out the records is perhaps the biggest cliché of all-time, but two teams from the Big Five were playing and therefore it was a big game.
To those outside of Philadelphia, it might not make a whole lot of sense. But isn't that what college basketball was, before there were billion-dollar television contracts, before conference realignment, and before everyone was worried about their tournament profile? Have we gotten to a point where we worry so much about the destination that we've lost sight of how fun the journey can be? Not at The Palestra.
Penn had one of the unique and stellar souvenir stands, which sold game-worn uniforms from former Penn athletes. Like decade-old stuff, which meant I had to purchase an old soccer kit.
Giving time for some late arrivals, by the time the game was about five minutes old, every one of the 8,722 seats in The Palestra were full. The Penn student section was dwarfed by Saint Joe's (part of the reason being this was technically a Saint Joe's home game), but in most venues I go to, I would have been able to call the Quakers well-represented, especially as poor as they've played, but not on this day, I guess.
The Big Five is tough on Jerome Allen and Penn, especially when they're struggling. The Quakers played their seventh straight game without leading scorer Fran Dougherty (mononucleosis), and had to deal with suspensions that were rumored to be because of a failed drug test
, marking the second time in 24 hours that marijuana and my basketball travels coincided. Again, college kids these days, I tell you. Shocking, that never would have happened in my day. Riiiight.
The Saint Joe's students mocked Penn with a banner that read simply, "Quake and Bake". Penn answered with an historical message, "In 1740, Ben Franklin hunted Hawk for fun. Nothing has changed."
I think the Hawks won that battle as well, no?
Penn, behind a very good performance from freshman Darius Nelson-Henry, was able to look good in the opening minutes, tying the game at 17 with 7:30 left in the opening half. But it was soon downhill for the Quakers as Allen went through all kinds of facial contortions and gesticulations on the sidelines. Langston Galloway, who seems to play well every time I see him, was heating up, and a couple of #superhoops
gave Saint Joe's a 32-21 lead over the offensively challenged Quakers at the half.
Allen and Penn were able to tread water for the first 10 minutes of the second half with some hustle and guts, but it was only a matter of time before the Hawk run came and come it did. Galloway's #superhoop
sent the Saint Joe's student section into a frenzy and when Ronald Roberts followed with a putback, it was 57-37 with 9:15 left and Allen was searching for his white flag behind the bench.
As I alluded to earlier, it was a long final nine minutes for the Quakers and their fans and alumni (poor Jen), as they were forced to endure the spoils (i.e. chants) of the victors. Finally, mercifully, after suffering the ignominy of the opposing teams' walk-ons hitting #superhoops
in front of 2,000 of their students, it was over, a 79-59 loss. Next up for Penn? Why Temple, of course, Wednesday night.
I told you the Big Five was no fun when you're struggling. Especially for the fans.
As you'd expect, as the game concluded, some kids ran around on the court, and the old building slowly began to empty. The Saint Joe's students walked back to their buses on the way to celebrate across town. Many of the Penn faithful were off to drown their sorrows in one of the several establishments a few blocks away.
For the second time this season, I couldn't pass up purchasing a stupid doll. But like Big Red at Western Kentucky, the Hawk is a legend that will look just fine on my coffee table, even it will produce more questions than answers there.
I walked past Franklin Field through part of the Penn campus back to the garage where my car was waiting to get out of Philadelphia and off to the next stop.
But before I got out of sight, I turned and looked one more time at The Palestra. I fretted that the old friend, previously just a legend in my mind, would not live up to my lofty expectations. It was ancient, run-down, it couldn't stand up to some of the modern buildings I'd been to in the last few months.
I learned a valuable lesson, though, from the college basketball fans of Philadelphia. Because The Palestra, just like the rest of Our Game, is not about the physical structure or how the seats are structured or even how old the facility is.
It's about the people that come to watch the games, doing so in thick and thin, in times of sickness (for their teams) and health. Why? Because it's college basketball, silly. And it's awesome.
Now that I know more about the Cathedral of College Basketball, I'm not disappointed at all. In fact, I understand.
SAINT JOSEPH`S 79, at PENNSYLVANIA 59
SAINT JOSEPH`S 10-6 (1-2) -- L. Galloway 7-12 0-0 20; C. Jones 4-10 5-5 15; C. Aiken 3-6 2-2 9; R. Roberts 8-11 0-0 16; C. Wilson 2-4 0-0 4; D. Quarles 3-5 1-2 7; P. Ndao 0-2 0-0 0; I. Miles 0-1 2-4 2; T. Trevisan 1-1 0-0 3; C. Coyne 1-1 0-0 3; C. Kelly 0-0 0-0 0; E. Kindler 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 29-53 10-13 79.
PENNSYLVANIA 3-14 (0-1) -- D. Nelson-Henry 8-12 1-6 17; M. Cartwright 4-10 1-2 9; G. Louis 3-7 0-0 7; J. Lewis 1-5 0-0 2; S. Rennard 1-5 0-0 2; T. Hicks 2-7 2-4 8; H. Brooks 4-10 0-0 8; C. Crocker 0-3 1-2 1; P. Lucas-Perry 2-5 0-0 5; D. Jok 0-1 0-0 0; C. Gunter 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-65 5-14 59.
Three-point goals: SJU 11-27 (C. Jones 2-5; C. Aiken 1-4; L. Galloway 6-10; D. Quarles 0-1; T. Trevisan 1-1; P. Ndao 0-2; C. Wilson 0-2; C. Coyne 1-1; I. Miles 0-1), PENN 4-21 (M. Cartwright 0-3; D. Jok 0-1; S. Rennard 0-2; C. Crocker 0-3; G. Louis 1-2; P. Lucas-Perry 1-4; T. Hicks 2-4; J. Lewis 0-2); Rebounds: SJU 34 (R. Roberts 12), PENN 30 (G. Louis 7); Assists: SJU 16 (C. Wilson 5), PENN 16 (M. Cartwright 4); Total Fouls -- SJU 12, PENN 15; Fouled Out: SJU-None; PENN-H. Brooks.