Friday, January 20, 2017

How to Go to a Big Five Basketball Game

Presuming you haven't been arrested by Trump's secret police, tomorrow, you can participate in a counter-demonstration in Washington.

You could also attend the Penn-St. Joe's game at the Palestra -- but only if you already have tickets, or want to deal with scalpers: It's sold out.

Before You Go. Philadelphia is just down the road, so it's in the Eastern Time Zone, and you don't have to worry about fiddling with various timepieces. And the weather will be almost identical to what you'd have on the same day in New York. Still, check the combined website for the Philadelphia newspapers, the Inquirer and the Daily News, before you head out.

For the moment, it looks like, for tomorrow, temperatures in Philly will be in the mid-50s in the afternoon, and in the mid-40s, with today's rain being past. Wear a winter jacket.

Tickets. Officially, the Palestra has a seating capacity of 8,725. That's not much for a big game, although it's usually more than enough for an Ivy League game. But, as I said, this game is sold out.

Price LevelPremium GameNon-Premium Game
Lower Sideline$38.50$33.00
Upper Sideline$22.00$17.00
Lower Baseline$22.00$17.00
Upper Baseline$17.00$11.50
In addition to tomorrow's hosting of St. Joe's, Penn plays away to La Salle this coming Wednesday. St. Joe's visits La Salle on Saturday, February 18. Lower seats are $25, upper seats $20.

Temple has no further home games against Big 5 teams this season. Their next home game is also this Wednesday, against the University of Memphis (formerly Memphis State). They are now in the same conference. Seats in the lower level, the 100 sections, are $35 between the baskets and $25 behind. Seats in the 200 level are $15 throughout.

A week from tomorrow, La Salle visits St. Joseph's. Due to demand, with St. Joe's' recent success, and needing to pay off the recent renovation of Hagan Arena, all seats are $50.

Villanova does things a bit differently, partly because they divide their home games between their on-campus facility, Nevin Field House, and the 76ers/Flyers arena, the Wells Fargo Center.

Getting There. It's 99 miles from Times Square in Manhattan to City Hall in Center City Philadelphia. (In fact, there's a cheesesteak place on 3rd Avenue in the East Village named "99 Miles to Philly.") This is close enough that you could spend an entire day in Philadelphia, and, hopefully, you've already done this. Having done so many times myself, I can tell you that it's well worth it.

If you are driving, you'll need to get on the New Jersey Turnpike. If you're not "doing the city," but just going to the game, take the Turnpike's Exit 4 to NJ Route 73 West, to NJ Route 90, over the Betsy Ross Bridge. Then take Interstate 95 South to Center City.

From anywhere in New York City, allow 2½ hours for the actual drive, though from North Jersey you might need only 2, and from Central Jersey an hour and a half might suffice. But you'll need at least another half-hour to negotiate the last mile or so, including the parking lot itself.

If you don't want to drive, there are other options, but the best one is the train. Philadelphia is too close to fly, just as flying from New York (from JFK, LaGuardia or Newark) to Boston, Baltimore and Washington, once you factor in fooling around with everything you gotta do at each airport, doesn't really save you much time compared to driving, the bus or the train.

And I strongly recommend not taking the bus. If you do, once you see Philadelphia's Greyhound terminal, at 10th & Filbert Streets in Center City, the nation's 2nd-busiest behind New York's Port Authority Bus Terminal, you'll say to yourself, "I never thought I'd say this, but thank God for Port Authority!"
The Philly terminal is a disgrace. I don't know how many people are in Atlantic City on an average summer day, when both the beaches and the casinos are full (I'm guessing about half a million, or one-third the size of Philly), but it has a permanent population of 40,000 people, compared to the 1.6 million of Philadelphia, and it has a bus station of roughly equal size and far greater cleanliness than Philly's. Besides, Greyhound service out of Newark's Penn Station is very limited, and do you really want to go out of New Jersey into Manhattan just to get across New Jersey into Philadelphia?

If you can afford Amtrak, and that will be $110 round-trip between New York and Philly, it takes about 2 hours to get from Penn Station to the 30th Street Station at 30th & Market Streets, just across the Schuylkill River from Center City. Unlike the dull post-1963 Penn Station, this building is an Art Deco masterpiece from 1933, and is the former corporate headquarters of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Ironically, it never had the official name "Pennsylvania Station" or the nickname "Penn Station." You might recognize its interior from the Eddie Murphy film Trading Places. (If you can't afford Amtrak, or if you can but you'd rather save money, I'll get to what to do in a minute.)
West front of 30th Street Station, with Center City in background

Interior of 30th Street Station

Like Philly's commuter-rail and bus systems, their subway system is run by SEPTA, the SouthEastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority. You might recognize their "S" logo from Trading Places, and the bus that hits Tommy Morrison at the end of Rocky V. You'll have to exit 30th Street Station and cross 30th Street itself to get into the 30th St. station on the Market-Frankford Line.

Philadelphia and Toronto are the only 2 cities left on the North American continent, as far as I know, that still use tokens rather than farecards (or "MetroCards" as New York's MTA calls them) or tickets for their subways. But this past February, they began an experiment with "KeyCards," and will probably phase the tokens out.

One ride on a SEPTA subway train is $2.25, cheaper than New York's, but they don't sell single tokens at booths. They come in packs of 2, 5 and 10, and these packs are damn hard to open. Two cost $3.60; five are $9.00, and a ten-pack costs $18.00. They are also available for bulk purchase.

If you don't want to take Amtrak, your other rail option is local. At Newark Penn, you can buy a combined New Jersey Transit/SEPTA ticket to get to Center City Philadelphia. Take NJT's Northeast Corridor Line out of Penn Station to the Trenton Transit Center. This station recently completed a renovation that has already turned it from an absolute hole (it was so bad, it made Philly's bus station look like Grand Central) into a modern multimodal transport facility. At Trenton, transfer to the SEPTA commuter rail train that will terminate at Chestnut Hill East, and get off at Suburban Station, at 17th Street & John F. Kennedy Blvd. (which is what Filbert Street is called west of Broad Street). Getting off there, a pedestrian concourse will lead you to the City Hall station on the Broad Street Line, and then just take that to Pattison.
A SEPTA train at 30th Street Station

Because there will be a lot more stops than there are on Amtrak (especially the SEPTA part), it will take 2 hours and 10 minutes, but you'll spend $52 round-trip, about what you'd spend on a same-day purchase on Greyhound, and less than half of what you'd be likely to spend on Amtrak. However, again, time will be an issue: The last SEPTA Trenton Line train of the night that will connect to an NJT train leaves Suburban Station at 11:57 PM (and the NJT train it will connect to won't get to Penn Station until 2:46 AM), so this might not be an option for you this time, either.

The subway's cars are fairly recent, and don't rattle much, although they can be unpleasant on the way back from the game, especially if it's a football game and they're rammed with about 100 Eagles fans who've spent the game sweating and boozing and are still loaded for bear for anyone from outside the Delaware Valley.

SEPTA is now becoming the last major transit authority in America to phase out tokens, although the switch to KeyCards (as they're calling them) is still in progress, so if you have any tokens left over from your last visit, you can (and should) use them.
Once In the City. Philadelphia is a Greek word meaning "brotherly love," a name given to it by its founder, William Penn, in 1683. So the city is nicknamed "The City of Brotherly Love." The actions and words of its sports fans suggest that this is ridiculous. Giants coach Bill Parcells was once caught on an NFL Films production, during a game with the Eagles at the Vet, saying to Lawrence Taylor, "You know, Lawrence, they call this 'the City of Brotherly Love,' but it's really a banana republic." And Emmitt Smith, who played for that other team Eagles fans love to hate, the Dallas Cowboys, also questioned the name: "They don't got no love for no brothers."
Center City, with the Ben Franklin Bridge in the foreground

On a map, it might look like Penn Square, surrounding City Hall, is the city's centerpoint, but this is just geographic, and only half-refers to addresses. Market Street is the difference between the north-south numbering on the numbered Streets. But the Delaware River is the start for the east-west streets, with Front Street taking the place of 1st Street. Broad Street, which intersects with Market at City Hall/Penn Square, takes the place of 14th Street.
The William Penn statue atop City Hall

In the Colonial and Revolutionary periods, Philadelphia was the largest city in America, before being overtaken by New York. As recently as 1970, it had about 2 million people. But "white flight" after the 1964 North Philadelphia riot led to the population dropping to just over 1.5 million in 2000. It has inched back upward since then. The metro area as a whole -- southeastern Pennsylvania, South Jersey and most of Delaware -- is about 7.2 million, making it the 7th-largest in the country, behind New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston and Dallas.

The sales tax is 6 percent in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (Massachusetts, Virginia and Kentucky are also "commonwealths" in their official State names), 8 percent within the City of Philadelphia.

ZIP Codes in Philadelphia start with the digits 191. In the suburbs, it's 189, 190, 193 and 194. The Area Code for the city is 215, and the suburbs 610, with 267 overlaying both, and 445 being added in 2018.

Going In, By Driving:

Penn: Take Walnut Street west from Center City, across the Schuylkill River, and follow the signs for Penn parking. The Palestra is at 223 S. 33rd Street. A mile and a half west of Center City.

Temple: Take Broad Street north from Center City, to Oxford Street. Turn left, go 3 blocks, then right on Sydenham Street. The parking garage for the Liacouras Center is 2 blocks north. The Center's address is 1776 Broad Street, across Montgomery Avenue from their 3,900-seat 1969-97 arena, McGonigle Hall. 2 miles north of Center City.

La Salle: Take Interstate 76 West to Exit 340B, US Route 1 North -- or, if you're in New Jersey, simply take Route 1 South all the way -- to Germantown Avenue. Right on Wister Street, right on Olney Avenue. Or take Broad Street north from Center City, to Belfield Avenue, right on Wister, right on Olney. Or take Broad straight to Olney, although the other 2 should be faster. 1900 W. Olney Avenue. 6 miles north of Center City.

St. Joe's: Take I-76 West to Exit 341, Montgomery Drive. Right on Belmont Avenue, left on Wynnefield Avenue, right on Old Lancaster Road. 5400 Overbrook Avenue. 5 miles northwest of Center City.

Villanova: A bit further out, not actually in the City of Philadelphia. Take I-76 West to Exit 331A, to Interstate 476 West, to Exit 13, US Route 30 East, about 2 miles. 11 miles northwest of Center City. If it's at the Wells Fargo Complex, take Broad Street south to Pattison Avenue. 3601 S. Broad Street. 4 miles south of Center City.

Going In, by Public Transportation:

Penn: You could walk west on Market Street, and make a left on 33rd Street. It would take only 15 minutes. If it were a nice afternoon, I would recommend it. But at night, you might e better off taking a taxi, as taking the "Subway-Surface Line" to 33rd Street won't really save you much walking.

Built in 1927, The Palestra is the arena aptly nicknamed the Cathedral of Basketball. It even has stained-glass windows. (I swear, I am not making that up.) The home gymnasium of the University of Pennsylvania (or just "Penn"), it also hosts some games of Philly's informal "Big 5" basketball programs when they play each other.
Penn, a member of the Ivy League, has one of the nicest college campuses anywhere, but do not be fooled by its Ivyness: In Philadelphia, even the Ivy Leaguers are tough.
Temple: Take the Broad Street Line uptown to Cecil B. Moore (formerly Susquehanna-Dauphin) Avenue.
La Salle: Take SEPTA's Regional Rail Trenton or Chestnut Hill East Line (the former R7 or R8) to Wister, then a 12-minute walk up Wister to Olney. Their on-campus Wister Hall became too small after their 1954 National Championship, so they played at various Philly arenas: The Civic Center, The Palestra, The Spectrum, the Wells Fargo Center, and, finally, building the arena named for their greatest player, from the 1954 title, and the coach who restored them after a terrible scandal in the late 1960s, Tom Gola.
St. Joe's: Take SEPTA's Regional Rail Cynwyd Line (the former R6) to Bala, then a 10-minute walk down City Avenue and 54th Street.
Villanova: Take SEPTA's Regional Rail Paoli Line (the former R5) to Villanova, then a 10-minute walk. If it's at the Wells Fargo Complex, take the Broad Street Line downtown to AT&T (formerly Pattison) station. Jake Nevin Field House was Villanova's home from 1932 to 1986, with The Pavilion built following the 1985 National Championship, due to the Field House's tiny capacity of 1,500, which is why they preferred to play big games at the Palestra, and later The Spectrum.
Villanova Stadium, with Jake Nevin Field House above it to the left,
and The Pavilion above it to the right (the triangle-dotted building)

Built: Penn's The Palestra (a Greek word for a rectangular enclosure for watching sports), 1927; St. Joseph's Michael J. Hagan Arena (named for a graduate and major donar, formerly Alumni Fieldhouse), 1949: Villanova's The Pavilion, 1986; Wells Fargo Center, 1996; Liacouras Center (named for Peter J. Liacouras, the University President who built it), 1997; Tom Gola Arena (named for the former star player and coach), 1998.

Seating Capacities: Tom Gola Arena, 3,200; Hagan Arena, 4,200; The Pavilion, 6,500; The Palestra, 8,725; Liacouras Center, 10,206; Wells Fargo Center, 21,600.
Wells Fargo Center

Food. From the famed Old Original Bookbinder's (125 Walnut Street at 2nd, now closed) and Le Bec Fin (1523 Walnut at 16th) to the Reading Terminal Market (Philly's "South Street Seaport" at 51 N. 12th St at Filbert) and the South Philly cheesesteak giants Pat's, Geno's and Tony Luke's, Philly is a great food city and don't you ever forget it.

All of these college arenas have small concession stands, so you might better be off stopping at Pat's on the way in and a Wawa on the way out. The variety of food available at the Wells Fargo Center is not merely better, but unbelievable. Little of it is healthy (no surprise there), but all of it is good.

On the lower Main Concourse Level, the South Jersey restaurant chain P.J. Whelihan's has stands behind both goals. Tim Hortons, the Canadian donut chain founded by the Toronto Maple Leafs legend, has stands at all 4 corners. Chickie's & Pete's, whose main outlet is nearby at 1526 Packer Avenue (near the also-famed Celebre's Pizza), has stands on the west side and in the northeast corner, to sell their fish and their "crab fries" -- French fries with Old Bay seasoning mix, not fries with crabmeat. The northeast corner also has that wonderful junk food staple of Pennsylvania Dutch country (and the Jersey Shore), funnel cake. The legendary South Street pizzeria Lorenzo & Sons has stands on both the east and west sides. Each of these brands can also be found on the upper, Mezzanine Concourse Level.
Team History Displays. The Wells Fargo Center has lots of banners for the 76ers and Flyers, but not Villanova, inside. It has statues outside, of Wilt Chamberlain, Julius Erving, Kate Smith (due to her singing of "God Bless America" as a "good luck charm" for the 1970s Flyers), and "Score!" depicting Gary Dornhoefer's overtime goal against the Minnesota North Stars in the 1973 Playoffs. It bears a striking resemblance to Bobby Orr's "Flying Goal" that wont the 1970 Stanley Cup for the Boston Bruins. The statue of Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa has been moved back to the Museum of Art, adjacent to the steps that Sly/Rocky ran up.

Penn has banners down the east baseline of The Palestra, along with banners of the other Ivy League teams and the other Big 5 teams.

They were retroactively awarded pre-NCAA National Championships for 1920 and 1921. They reached the Final Four in 1979, under coach Chuck Daly. They and arch-rival Princeton have dominated the Ivy League. Penn has won 38 Conference Championships between 1906 and 2007, including 25 since the official formation of the Ivy League in 1954.

They have no retired numbers. Their legends include East Brunswick, New Jersey native Dave Wohl, Tony Price and Matt Maloney. The school is much better known for their football legends, including John Heisman, John Outland, Bert Bell and Chuck Bednarik, all of whom have had notable trophies named for them; and Jim Finn, who played for the Giants in Super Bowl XLII.

Temple's banners are at the open end of the horseshoe of the Liacouras Center's seats. They won the 1st NIT in 1938, which retroactively made them National Champions for that season. They reached the Final Four in 1956 and 1958, but not since, although they made the Elite Eight 5 times from 1988 to 2001. They've won 20 regular-season conference titles from 1937 to 2016, and 9 conference tournaments, the last in 2010.

Temple has not retired any numbers, but it's had some great players over the years, including Guy Rodgers, Eddie Jones, Aark McKie and Mark Macon; plus legendary coaches Harry Litwack and John Chaney.

La Salle also has banners behind one of the baskets. They won the National Championship in 1954, Philly's 1st title under the NCAA brand, and reached the Final again in 1955; won regular season conference titles in 1984, 1988 and 1989; and conference tournaments in 1975, 1978, 1980, 1983, 1988, 1989, 1990 and 1992.

La Salle has retired 4 numbers: 15, guard Tom Gola '55; 33, forward Kenny Durrett '71; 32, forward Michael Brooks '80; and 22, forward Lionel Simmons '90.

St. Joseph's has a string of banners along each baseline. Along one is banners of their league's teams; along the other, banners with photos of team legends. They reached the Final Four in 1961, but the NCAA vacated it due to rule violations. They reached the Elite Eight in 1981 and 2004, in the latter year going undefeated until the game that could have gotten them into the Final Four. They've won 26 regular-season conference titles from 1959 to 2010, and 6 conference tournaments from 1981 to 2016.

They've retired 4 numbers. Number 4 has been retired for 4 separate players: 1920s guard Bill Oakes; 1940s brothers George and Paul Senesky from the 1940s (George was a guard), and 1960s guard and 1980s coach Jim Lynam. Number 30, Cliff Anderson, was a mid-1960s forward. Number 44, Mike Bantom, was an early 1970s forward. And Number 14, Jameer Nelson, was the star of the 2004 Elite Eight team that also included fellow guard Delonte West.

Villanova's banners are all in The Pavilion. They are the defending National Champions, having also won the title in 1985 under head coach Rollie Massimino, a.k.a. Daddy Mass, in the legendary Final upset of Georgetown. They also reached the Final in 1971, losing to UCLA, but, like the 1961 St. Joe's squad, had to vacate that year's achievements due to rule violations. They've also been to the Final Four the 1st time it was run, in 1939, and in 2009.

They've won 10 regular-season conference titles from 1978 to 2016, and 4 conference tournaments, in 1978, 1980, 1995 and 2015.

Only 1940s legend Paul Arizin has actually had his number retired, 11. They honor other notable figures with banners showing jerseys, including their numbers if they were players. Non-players honored include head coaches Massimino, Kraft and Al Severance.

Severance was head coach from 1936 to 1961. Ironically, he died the day of the National Championship win, April 1, 1985. Jake Nevin, trainer for 50 years, was also dying, from Lou Gehrig's disease, but was able to attend the Final. He was also honored with a banner, with the Number 1 on it. Kraft took over as coach from Severance, from 1961 to 1973. Massimino got the job then, and held it until 1992.

Other honorees: 1950s player Larry Hennessy (14); 1960s players Hubie White (14), Wally Jones (24, who later converted to Islam and changed his name slightly to Wali Jones) and Bill Melchionni (25); 1970s players Howard Porter (54), Chris Ford (42), Keith Herron (33) and Tom Ingelsby (24); 1980s players John Pinone (45) and Ed Pinckney (54); 1990s player Kerry Kittles (30) and 2000s player Randy Foye (2).

Arizin, Hennessy, La Salle's Tom Gola, and St. Joe's' George Senesky all played on the 1956 NBA Champion Philadelphia Warriors. Jones and Melchionni played with Wilt Chamberlain and Billy Cunningham on the 1967 NBA Champion Philadelphia 76ers. Melchionni played on the 1974 and 1976 ABA Champion New York Nets.

Stuff. The Flyers have a team store, run by Forty Seven Brand ('47), in the northwest corner of the lower concourse, which is also open on non-game days. The 76ers have a Fan Gear Store, at the opposite, southeast corner.

Books about the Big 5 include: 

* General: Philadelphia's Big Five: Celebrating the City of Brotherly Love's Basketball Tradition, by legendary Philadelphia broadcaster Skip Clayton and Phillies public address announcer Dan Baker.

* Penn: Jumping Through Hoops: Why Penn Wins, by Harold I. Gullan.

* Temple: Chaney: Playing for a Legend, by Donald Hunt and John Chaney.

* St. Joseph's: Tales from the St. Joseph's Hardwood: The Hawk Will Never Die, by Jack McKinney and Bob Gordon.

* Villanova: The Perfect Game: How Villanova's Shocking 1985 Upset of Mighty Georgetown Changed the Landscape of College Hoops Forever, by Frank Fitzpatrick; and Long Shots: Jay Wright, Villanova, and College Basketball's Most Unlikely Champion (about the 2016 title, although the 1985 team was certainly an unlikely titlist), by Dana O'Neil and Jay Bilas.

I couldn't find any books about La Salle basketball, not even a biography of Gola. 

During the Game. You may have heard about, or even experienced, trouble at an Eagles or Flyers game. At a Big 5 game, just stay away from the interaction between the students, and you'll be fine.
Temple's Liacouras Center

As a boy, I thought Temple was a Jewish school, but that was only because of the name. As a teenager, I thought, well, La Salle, St. Joe's and 'Nova are Catholic schools, maybe Temple is, too. While it was once private, and founded in 1884 by a Baptist minster, meeting is his Baptist Temple, as a night school -- hence, its students were nicknamed "night owls," and the Owl name stuck -- it has never been controlled by a church, and is now public, catering significantly (but not entirely) to Philly's black population.
La Salle's Gola Arena

La Salle, St. Joe's and 'Nova embrace their Catholic faith, to the point where the SJU-'Nova rivalry, like Boston College vs. Notre Dame and the Mormon rivalry between the University of Utah and Brigham Young University, is known as The Holy War.
St. Joe's' Hagan Arena

Legend has it that, one year, 'Nova went undefeated against the other 4 schools, with St. Joe's being the last. The Wildcat fans chanted, "We own Philly!" The Hawk fans, knowing full well that the 'Nova campus was 5 miles northwest of City Avenue (Route 1), chanted, "You ain't Philly!" Their mostly-white student body, with the notable exception of their basketball team, has gotten them tagged "Vanillanova."
Villanova's Pavilion

Penn's teams are known as the Quakers, but they don't have a Quaker mascot. La Salle is named for a late 17th Century priest, Jean-Baptiste de La Salle, the founder of modern Catholic schools, and not his contemporary and countryman, René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, who explored the Mississippi Valley and claimed it for France. Yet their teams are called the Explorers, although they don't have an Explorer mascot.
Stella the Owl

Temple has a live female owl mascot, Stella, and a guy in a suit, Hooter the Owl. Both are brought to basketball games at the Liacouras Center and football games at the Eagles' Lincoln Financial Field.
Villanova has a Wildcat mascot, Will D. Cat, who appears at football games at Villanova Stadium, and basketball games at The Pavilion and the Wells Fargo Center.
Since Penn doesn't have a Quaker mascot,
Will D. Cat eats Quaker oats.

And St. Joe's has a hawk named simply The Hawk. The Hawk mascot flaps his wings throughout the entire 40 minutes of basketball games. The reason he never stops flapping is because, in their reworking of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," "Glory, glory, hallelujah, the Hawk will never die!" It's now a Twitter hashtag: #THWND

The 1st time I saw a Big 5 game live, ironically, wasn't in Philadelphia. It was 60 miles to the southeast, at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, as Temple and St. Joe's played each other in the Final of the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament. As St. Joe's built up a huge lead, the Hawk kept flapping. Several times, inside the stuffy old auditorium (it was March 15, 2008, but it was hot inside), the guy in the suit needed a drink. But as he drank from his water bottle with one hand, he kept flapping the other, because The Hawk Will Never Die.
Well, in the 2nd half, Temple came roaring back, and the guy playing Hooter did a lot of swooping around the court with their cheerleaders during timeouts. As the minutes ticked down, and Temple caught up, the Temple fans chanted, "The Hawk must die!" The final score was Temple 69, St. Joe's 64, and the St. Joe's cheerleaders and The Hawk ran off the court, real fast, completely humiliated. Too late: The Owl fans were already chanting: "The Hawk is dead! The Hawk is dead! The Hawk is dead!"

When I walked into Boardwalk Hall, it was daylight, and fans on the Boardwalk, with their hats and shirts and jackets, seemed to be about 7-1 in St. Joe's' favor. When I walked out, it was night, and the support was about 50-50. As I got back to the casino to take my bus back home, I realized: Of course, St. Joe's led in the 1st half, and Temple won it in the 2nd, because the Hawk is a day bird, and the Owl is a night bird!
T-shirt sold in the Temple University Bookstore

After the Game. Philadelphia is a big city, with all the difficulties of big cities as well as many of the perks of them. Temple is a little into North Philly; La Salle, even more so. You should get back to your car/public transit stop as quickly as you can. For Penn, St. Joe's or 'Nova, this is considerably less urgent. As with any of the 5 schools, it's not the home fans you need to worry about.

The legendary Pat's and Geno's Steaks, arch-rivals as intense as any local sports opponents, are across 9th Street from each other at Passyunk Avenue in the Italian Market area. My preference is Pat's, but Geno's is also very good. Be advised, though, that the lines at both are of Shake Shack length, because people know they're that good.
Also, Pat's was the original "Soup Nazi": You have to have your cash ready, and you have to quickly order your topping, your style of cheese, and either "wit" or "widdout" -- with or without onions. I haven't been there in a while, but I've been there often enough that I have a "usual": "Mushroom, whiz, wit."

Both Pat's and Geno's are open 24 hours, but, because of the length of the line, unless you drove down to the game, I would recommend not going there after the game, only before (if you can make time for it). Broad Street Line to Ellsworth-Federal, then 5 blocks east on Federal, and 1 block south on 9th.
Yes, Pat's and Geno's are both open 24 hours a day.

The Tavern on Broad, at 200 S. Broad Street at Walnut, seems to be the headquarters of the local Giants fan club. Another supposed Giant fan spot is the Fox & Hound, at 1501 Spruce in Center City. Revolution House, in Old City at 200 Market Street, is supposedly Jets country. A particular favorite Philly restaurant of mine is the New Deck Tavern, at 3408 Sansom Street in University City, on the Penn campus.

You can also pick up a sandwich, a snack or a drink at any of several Wawa stores in and around the city. If you came in via Suburban Station, there's one at 1707 Arch, a 5-minute walk away; if the game lasts 3 hours or less, you have a shot at getting in, getting your order, getting out, and getting back to the station in time to catch your train.

If your visit to Philly is during the European soccer season (which is in progress), you can probably watch your favorite club at Fadó Irish Pub, at 1500 Locust Street in Center City. Be advised that this is home to supporters' groups for Manchester United, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Celtic FC; so if you're not particularly fond of any of those teams, you might want to stay away.

Sidelights. The Philadelphia sports complex once included 3 buildings that have all been replaced and demolished: From north to south, the Vet, the Spectrum and JFK Stadium. The arena now known as the Wells Fargo Center was built on the site of JFK Stadium. Citizens Bank Park, the new home of the Phillies, was built to the east of The Vet. And Lincoln Financial Field was built south of the new ballpark, and east of the Spectrum.
The old version of the Philly sports complex, on a 1980s postcard.
Top to bottom: The Vet, The Spectrum, JFK Stadium.


The Philly sports complex, prior to The Spectrum's demolition in 2010.
The site of the Vet is now a parking lot, and JFK Stadium has been replaced
by the Wells Fargo Center. On the right, Citizens Bank Park and Lincoln Financial Field.

The A's played at 33,608-seat Shibe Park from 1909 to 1954, the Phils from 1938 to 1970, and the Eagles in 1940, and from 1944 to 1957. The name was changed to Connie Mack Stadium in 1952. A fire gutted the place in 1971, and it was demolished in 1976. It remained an empty lot until Deliverance Evangelistic Church was built on the site in 1991. Across the street is Dobbins Tech, a high school known for its great basketball program. (Remember the story of Hank Gathers and Bo Kimble? They went to Dobbins. So did Dawn Staley.)

Be advised, though, that this is North Philly, and the church is easily the nicest building for several blocks around. 21st Street & Lehigh Avenue. By subway, use the North Philadelphia station on the Broad Street Line, and walk 7 blocks west on Lehigh.

The Phils played at Baker Bowl from 1887 to 1938, and the Eagles from 1933 to 1943 (though sometimes moving to Municipal Stadium, the one renamed for JFK). The Phils won one Pennant there, in 1915. It was also the Eagles' 1st home, in the 1933, '34 and '35 seasons.

Southwest corner of Broad Street and Lehigh Avenue, 8 blocks east of the Connie Mack Stadium site. Same subway stop as Shibe/Connie Mack. The A's original home, Columbia Park, was at 29th Street & Columbia Avenue, but I wouldn't recommend going there. If you're going to any of these, do it in daylight.

Franklin Field is right next to the Palestra. The oldest continuously-used college football site, Penn has played here since 1895 (which is also when the Penn Relay Carnival, the nation's premier track-and-field event, began), and in the current stadium since 1922. That year, it supposedly hosted the first football game ever broadcast on radio (a claim the University of Pittsburgh disputes), and in 1939 it supposedly hosted the first football game ever televised (a claim New York's Columbia University disputes). The amazing building in the west end zone is the University administration building.
The Eagles played here from 1958 to 1970, including their last NFL Championship, December 26, 1960, beating the Green Bay Packers in a thriller, 17-13. Half a century. Penn's football team has been considerably more successful, having won 14 Ivy League titles since the league was formally founded in 1955.
The stadium is in surprisingly good shape (must be all those Penn/Wharton Business School grads donating for its upkeep), although the playing field has been artificial turf since 1969. Same trolley stop as the Palestra.

The Philadelphia Civic Center complex included the Convention Hall, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Wendell Willkie, Harry Truman and Thomas E. Dewey received Presidential nominations. The Beatles played here on September 2, 1964. Pope John Paul II said Mass here. The Philadelphia Warriors played here from 1952 to 1962, when they moved to San Francisco (and now the "Golden State Warriors" play in Oakland), and the 76ers from 1963 until the Spectrum opened in 1967. Titles were won here by the 1956 Warriors and the 1967 76ers.

So many Philly area greats played here, in high school, college and the pros, but you need know one name -- pardon the pun -- above all others: Wilt Chamberlain. I saw a concert here in 1989, and the acoustics were phenomenal, with a horseshoe of seats and a stage at one end, much like Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City and the building once known as the Baltimore Civic Center.

Built in 1931, it was demolished in 2005 to make way for the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine. an addition to the University of Pennsylvania Hospital. 34th Street & Civic Center Boulevard. Same stop as the Palestra and Franklin Field, which are a block away.

Built in 1920, the Philadelphia Arena was the first home of the NBA's Warriors from 1946 to 1952, and site of some 76ers home games as well. The Arena made its name hosting college hockey: Penn playing there was understandable, but, at the time, Princeton and even faraway Yale did not have their own rinks, and used the Arena as home ice.

The worst team in NHL history played there: The 1930-31 Philadelphia Quakers. After 5 seasons as the Pittsburgh Pirates, they clowned their way to a record of 4 wins, 40 losses and 4 ties, making them about as bad as the worst team in NBA history, the 1972-73 76ers (9-73). They were strapped during this 2nd indoor sports season of the Great Depression, and went out of business thereafter. Although several minor-league teams would play at the Arena -- the Arrows, the Comets, the Ramblers, the Falcons and the Rockets -- it would not be until 1967, with the opening of the Spectrum and the beginning of the Flyers, that Philly would have another NHL team.

Baseball pitcher-turned-evangelist Billy Sunday delivered sermons there in the 1920s, and Charles Lindbergh used it for an America First speech in 1940. Early in his career, Elvis sang at the Arena on back-to-back days, doing 2 shows each on April 5 and 6, 1957.

Philly's ABC affiliate, Channel 6, formerly WFIL and now WPVI, built its studio next-door. It still stands. The Arena does not: It caught fire on August 24, 1983, and had to be demolished. A housing project is on the site today. 4530 Market Street. Market Street Line to 46th Street.

Built in 2010 for the expansion Philadelphia Union of Major League Soccer, and named PPL Park until last year when PPL was bought by Talen Energy, Talen Energy Stadium it seats 18,500 people, on the bank of the Delaware River in Chester, under the Commodore Barry Bridge (U.S. Route 222), linking it with Gloucester County, New Jersey.

1 Stadium Drive, in Chester. SEPTA Wilmington/Newark Line train to the Chester Transportation Center, then shuttle buses will leave for the stadium every 20 minutes. If you're only going for a visit, not a game when there would be plenty of police protection, do not visit at night: Chester can be a dangerous city.

Philadelphia's 1st pro football team was the Frankford Yellow Jackets, who played at Frankford Stadium in Northeast Philly from 1924 to 1930, winning the 1926 NFL Championship, before a fire on the eve of the 1931 season forced them into Baker Bowl and then into folding.

The stadium was on a plot bounded by Frankford Avenue, Devereaux Avenue, Hawthorne Street and Benner Street. An AutoZone (at 6137 Frankford) and rowhouses are on the site now. Market-Frankford Line to Frankford Transportation Center, then transfer to SEPTA Bus 66 Frankford & Harbison Avenues.

In addition to the Yellow Jackets, another ill-fated team played in Eastern Pennsylvania in the NFL's early days. The Pottsville Maroons played at the 5,000-seat Minersville Park, at the intersection of Sunbury Road and Prison Road, 106 miles northwest of Philly, from 1920 to 1928. They claimed the 1925 NFL Championship, but may have been "robbed" of the title.

From 1924 to 1991, the Broadwood Hotel stood at the intersection of Broad and Wood Streets, just north of Center City. From 1924 to 1946, its ballroom was the home of the Philadelphia SPHAs -- a basketball team run by the South Philadelphia Hebrew Association, even though it wasn't in South Philly. This team would evolve into the Warriors. A parking deck for Hahnemann University Hospital is on the site now. Broad Street Line to Race-Vine.

Temple has have played football at the South Philly complex since 1978, first at The Vet and now at the Linc. From 1928 to 1977, they played at Temple Stadium, a 20,000-seat facility on the city's northern edge. It was demolished in 1996, and, like Shibe Park/Connie Mack Stadium, the site is now home to a church. 2800 Pickering Avenue at Vernon Road. Broad Street Line to Olney Transportation Center, then transfer to the Number 18 bus toward Cedarbook Mall.

Philadelphia is home to Independence National Historic Park, including Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. The Visitor's Center is at 6th & Market Streets: At this complex, there will be people there to advise you on what to do. 5th Street on the Market Street Line.

Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence at what's now known as Declaration House, at 599 S. 7th Street, although the front of the building would be 700 Market Street (which would suggest 1 S. 7th Street).

The President's House -- that's as formal a name as it had -- was where George Washington (1790-97) and John Adams (1797-1800) lived while Philadelphia was the national capital before Washington, D.C.. It was demolished in 1832. When digging to build the new Liberty Bell Center, the house's foundation was found, and somebody must've asked, "Why didn't anybody think of this before?" So, an exhibit has been set up, at 530 Market Street at 6th. The new Liberty Bell Center is between it and Independence Hall (Chestnut Street between 5th and 6th). Be advised that since 9/11 -- and since the movie National Treasure -- they're understandably a bit finicky about security there.

The oldest surviving Presidential residence (chosen specifically for the President, not counting homes like Mount Vernon or Monticello) is the Germantown White House, which still stands at 5442 Germantown Avenue. George Washington and John Adams used it to escape the heat and, more importantly, the yellow fever epidemics of what's now Center City Philadelphia, making it less "the first Summer White House" and more "the first Camp David." SEPTA Chestnut Hill West Line to Germantown, then 3 blocks down Armat Street and a left on Germantown Avenue. Definitely not safe at night.

Speaking of George Washington, Valley Forge National Historical Park is just an hour's bus ride from Suburban Station. On JFK Blvd. at 17th Street, board the SEPTA 125 bus. Valley Forge Casino Resort and the King of Prussia Mall are a short drive (or a moderate walk) away. The fare is $4.75 each way ($9.50 total).

Philadelphia's answer to the Museum of Natural History is the University of Pennsylvania Museum, at 33rd & South Streets, across from Franklin Field. (Same trolley stop.) Their answer to the Hayden Planetarium -- and a better one -- is the Franklin Institute, which is also the national memorial to Big Ben, the man who, more than any man made any city in the Western Hemisphere, made Philadelphia. 20th Street & Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Number 76 bus. 76, get it? The bus is nicknamed "The Ben FrankLine."

At the other end of the Parkway, at 25th and Spring Garden Streets, is Philly's answer to the Metropolitan, the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The Rocky Balboa statue is here, and it doesn't cost anything except sweat to run up the steps.

Not surprisingly for a city of its size, Philadelphia has had a few TV shows set there, but not many actually filmed there. Boy Meets World was filmed entirely at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank. (Its sequel series, Girl Meets World, featuring Cory & Topanga Matthews and their kids, is set in New York.) Neither does It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia film in Philly -- and it is not always sunny there. Nor did Thirtysomething film there. Nor did Body of Proof. And, being a cartoon, Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids didn't have to "film" anywhere.

The 1960s flashback series American Dreams did some filming under the Market Street Elevated Line, but most of it was filmed in L.A. The films PhiladelphiaThe Philadelphia Story and The Philadelphia Experiment had a few Philly locations put in, but all filming was done in Southern California. For chronological reasons, the film version of the musical 1776 couldn't be filmed on the streets of Philadelphia, or even inside Independence Hall -- although National Treasure used the Hall, and the Franklin Institute, and the Reading Terminal Market.

Probably the best-known film set in the city is Trading Places -- except a lot of it was filmed in and around New York! The New York Chamber of Commerce Building (65 Liberty Street) and the Seventh Regiment Armory (643 Park Avenue) stood in for the Heritage Club. Mill Neck Manor for the Deaf on Long Island stood in for the Duke Brothers' estate. And, of course, the climactic scene was set at the New York Mercantile Exchange, at 4 World Trade Center, which was at destroyed in the 9/11 attacks. Locations in the film that were absolutely in Philly were: 30th Street Station; Duke & Duke, at Fidelity Bank at 135 S. Broad Street, 2 blocks south of City Hall; and Lewis Winthorpe's residence, with exterior shots at 2014 Delancey Place at 20th Street, near Rittenhouse Square, which is where Eddie Murphy pretended to be a blind, legless Vietnam veteran. (This is a private residence: Walk down there if you like, but leave the residents alone.)

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So, to sum up, I would definitely recommend to New York Tri-State Area basketball fans to take the trip to Philadelphia to see a Big 5 game. It'll probably be considerably safer than an Eagles, a Flyers, a Phillies, or even a 76ers game.

2 comments:

Unknown said...

Umm...Trading Places best know film filmed in Philly!? Rocky ring a bell, 13 monkeys, sixth sense, unbreakable just off the top of my head and many many more...

Uncle Mike said...

It's 12 Monkeys, dummy. And with the exception of the Rocky films, none of those comes close to Trading Places for popularity or a satisfying story.