Tearing Down the Spectrum, DIY Style

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The desire to obtain a keepsake, a memento, of a cherished place, roots deeply in the human heart. The entire picture postcard and souvenir industry relies on this need.

Sports fans in particular cherish the arenas, the stadiums, in which their teams do battle. What baseball or football fan (gridiron and association) doesn’t seek out a grass clipping or artificial tuft of astroturf from the field of honor?

Last Stroll at the Wachovia Spectrum by Doug Kerr on flickr.com via a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license.

Ice hockey fans have a slightly more difficult task, since ice melts and goals are inconvenient to get home. But with the impending demise of the Spectrum in Philadelphia, the current owners have decided to let people loose. Tomorrow, November 6th, you can enter the Spectrum floor for the low cost of $25 and have the run of what’s left for three hours:

Items available for the “If You Can Carry It, You Can Keep It” event include Spectrum folding chairs, used televisions, some office furniture, couches, computer equipment, and other collectibles. Items are first-come, first-served. Patrons will be allowed to take as much as they can carry (up to four chairs per person) with no re-entry into the arena. Tools and hand carts are prohibited.

The Flyers’ last game in the Spectrum is long since past, so perhaps with this controlled ransacking there’s no chance of the demolition Phillies’ fans wrought on Connie Mack Stadium on October 1, 1970, in the last game played there, when fans carted off bleacher seats. It doesn’t look like fans will be able to get into the actual stands and take railings, signs, and the likes, making this event more of a glorified garage sale than a smash ‘n’ grab, but it’s still a fitting way for the old arena to go out, Philadelphia style.

(Image courtesy of Doug Kerr via a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.)

(via Deadspin)

A Fan's Dilemma: Union or United?

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In every major American sport, I root for the team from Philadelphia. Flyers? Orange and Black courses through my veins. Phillies? I wore a Phillies cap to elementary school in the midwest when everyone else was wearing a Royals cap (that should date me somewhat). Sixers and Eagles? Love me some Mo Cheeks and Doc and Jaws.

But soccer? Other than the defunct NASL Atoms and Fury, I had no specific allegiance, because there was no team from Philadelphia.

That changed this year. Philadelphia Union begins play this season as the latest Major League Soccer expansion team, and given Movement Point‘s focus on the Philadelphian, it should be easy for me to root for this team, to be a fan of Union. Not so simple, though.

But they sound so similar. Do I have to choose?

When MLS started up in the 1990s with a franchise in DC, where I’ve lived for some two decades, I followed DC United in the absence of a Philadelphia entrant in the league. I was happy when United won, I kept track of the scores and the players, went to a few games over the years, and even tailgated with the Screaming Eagles and sat in their nest occasionally, courtesy of Movement Point buddy Jan Spoor.

And yet, I’m considering abandoning them.

Am I a faithless fan of DC United, or just a fickle follower? How do I reconcile my support for United over the years with a new, arguably more valid, contender for my cheers in Union?

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Fan-a-Delphia: An Analysis of Philadelphia Sports Fans

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Phillies World Series Pep Rally: Franklin Square by Vincent J. Brown on flickr.com, via a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-No Derivatives license.With all four of Philadelphia’s professional sports teams in action at present, Philadelphia sports fandom is in full swing, pass, dribble, and slap shot. And with most eyes on the Phillies and their quest for a repeat World Series championship against the Yankees, the New York Times has posted a nice piece on the essential character of the Philadelphia fan.

Mike Tanier’s “In Philadelphia, Heroes With a Lunch Pail” (Saturday, October 31, 2009) proposes the “Schmidt-Schultz Fan Appreciation Axis,” with the cooly reliable Mike Schmidt, a star by any measure, less appreciated than Dave “The Hammer” Schultz, who helped the Flyers win consecutive Stanley Cups with his grit (and his fists):

Most cities would treasure Mike Schmidt, a three-time most valuable player who led the Phillies to their first World Series title. Philly old-timers, however, swear that Schmidt stank in the clutch, his 548 home runs somehow producing only 274 runs batted in.

Philly fans preferred Greg Luzinski, a portly slugger who played left field like a brontosaurus flailing in a tar pit. Schmidt was aloof and sensitive, Luzinski flabby and fun.

While Mike Tanier interjects a few incendiary jabs typical of most writing about Philadelphia sports fans—”Philadelphia’s most beloved sports legends provided hooliganism and success”—the article nonetheless provides a fair look at the social and emotional context surrounding sports’ finest, most passionate fans.

(Image courtesy of Vincent J. Brown via a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-No Derivatives licence.)

From Here to Boo-ternity: The Boo in Philadelphia Sports Culture

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By my quick calculations, the 2008 World Series winning Philadelphia Phillies were only World Champions for fifteen pitches before being booed again in the second inning of the first game of the new season.

From Andy Martino’s recap of the game in the April 6, 2009, Philadelphia Inquirer:

[A]t 8:27, rightfielder Jeff Francoeur hit Myers’ first pitch of the second inning into the left-field stands. Some in the crowd, so boisterous during the pregame ceremonies, voiced the first boos of 2009.

At 8:30, centerfielder Jordan Shafer, in his first major-league plate appearance, hit a 3-1 pitch into the stands in left-center field, and the booing became louder and more widespread.

Phillies Opening Night on flickr.com by furnstein, via a Creative Commons Attribution License

Sounds about right. As a fan of Philadelphia sporting teams myself, I understand the love-hate relationship that exists between the fans and the teams in the much-maligned City of Brotherly Love.

But it’s an easy trope to trot out, a broad brush to paint a city’s fans with, this whole “Santa-booing boors” thing, and many point to the city’s relative paucity of championships in the past few decades as deriving from the apparently negative atmosphere the fans create. Perhaps a fair point.

No doubt there are athletes who do not perform well when they are derided for their efforts, who prefer to play in comforting arenas filled with unstinting supporters. They don’t tend to do well in Philadelphia, and perhaps they have played below their potential while there because of their rough treatment. But for every athlete who wants to get out of town, there’s another excited by the prospect of playing there.

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Bill Lyon on the Phillies

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If ever a city had its Boswell, Bill Lyon serves that role for Philadelphia, encapsulating something of that city’s soul in print. The retired Inquirer columnist tends to re-appear at junctions of great moment in the city’s emotional life, and after the Phillies captured the World Series title last night, ending Philadelphia’s 25 years without a major sports title, he returns to help us make sense of it all:

And thus ended one of the most bizarre and controversial games ever played in the World Series, complete with a 46-hour wait between innings, and how fitting that was, for this is Philadelphia, after all, cradle of liberty, acid reflux, angst, anxiety and the sure and certain belief that we are doomed forever to walk along the Boulevard of Busted Dreams.

But not now. Not this time. No, you can go ice skating in Hades now. The Phillies have broken the Hundred Season Drought. The franchise of 10,000 losses is a winner.

The air already smells cleaner. The women are beautiful. Food tastes better. The shroud of dread has been pulled away.

To be on Broad Street tomorrow for the parade will be magical, an event that might not happen again for a long time, the fates being what they are. If you’re there, savor it.
Phillies Win!, on flickr.com, by melingo wagamama, via a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial License

The boos will start again soon enough, this being Philadelphia and we being Philadelphia fans, and we’ll bemoan the Flyers’ goaltending and the Eagles’ offensive line and the Sixers’ poor rebounding and, eventually, the lack of a winger with pace on the new soccer team, but for now, we’re happy, in our own way, just like Bill Lyon said.

(Image courtesy of melingo wagamama, via a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial License.)

Bill Lyon on the Spectrum

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The Spectrum, on flickr.com, by Cavalier92, via a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivatives License
Bill Lyon returns to print with another column for the Philadelphia Inquirer today, reminiscing about the Spectrum, which is scheduled to be demolished in 2009.

There’s something sad about losing the Spectrum, as iconic as any featureless, parking-lot-bound arena could be, and with his usual grace, Bill Lyon captures the emotions involved with this significant piece of Philadelphia’s psychic architecture. The “boo birds” might have roosted in the Vet (and now perch in the Linc), but Flyers fans had their own ways of celebrating, and berating, their heroes at the Spectrum:

When a Philadelphia team was playing, you could stand out in the parking lot and the crowd noise would tell you how the home team was faring—if they were winning, the passion was as raw and bone-deep as a January night, an unrelenting, urging surge of support.

And if they were losing . . . ah, well, then it was a mournful wail, so haunting that wolf packs a thousand miles away lifted their muzzles to the heavens and bayed at the moon in sympathetic reply.

In the end, I guess it is just an old building lacking in amenities sitting on valuable land, but they can’t raze the memories.

(Image courtesy of Cavalier92 via a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derviatives License.)