Favorite Spot: The Palestra
Neighborhood: University City
Address: 215 S. 33rd Street
I Am: Writer, producer and editor for Philly.com Sports
Years in Philly: 10, including four years at Penn. Originally from Washington DC
Current Home: University City
My Love Note:
I know I don’t really need to write a love note to you, because we’ve known each other for quite a while. But I’m doing it anyway, because I’m coming to pay you a visit again soon and I just wanted to say a few things.
I fell for you a decade ago, on the first day I ever made that turn off 33rd Street to walk towards your stately arches. I have boxes worth of tickets, press credentials, rally towels and posters I’ve acquired from when I’ve visited you over the years.
I know you’ve been in relationships with a lot of people. Thousands in one night, sometimes. I get that. I’m even cool with it.
Maybe I’m not any different from anyone else who’s ever told you that they love you. But I hope we’re close enough now that you’ll read this letter, instead of throwing it in the closet with Dan Harrell’s mop and John McAdams’ microphone.
After all, I have slept on you a few times… wait, that sounds kind of awkward. I’ve slept on your floor. That’s better.*
So what things do I love about you? Well, let’s start with your curves… I mean… your ceiling. I love the great sweep of your big steel arches, especially during the day. Some people look better at night, but I think you’re at your prettiest when the sun comes streaming through those big windows in the ceiling. And those banners are so pretty. I miss the now-hidden Big 5 and Ivy League school banners, though. I hope you bring them back, even though I know it must be tough to wear things to big occasions that you’ve had for a long time.
I love your collection of old photos and artifacts on the concourse. To know that I’m walking where so many college basketball legends have walked before is a true honor.
I love the fact that you look good from so many angles. You can be anywhere in the Palestra, from courtside to the back rows of the corners, and there’s not one bad seat. The Wells Fargo Center may have all the glitz and fancy makeup, but I can tell when someone’s being superficial.
You aren’t pretentious, though. You’re real. I know that isn’t easy, given who lives in your neighborhood, but you’ve resisted having a big ego for 85 years now. You aren’t built of fancy materials, for the most part. You’re brick, steel, a bit of glass and a lot of honesty. That’s how it should be.
(But I love that fancy new accessory you got from Shoemaker Green. The grass and trees are so much prettier than the old tennis courts.)
Yeah, I know you have a modern video board now. But people don’t come to you to be distracted by bells and whistles. They come to watch basketball. There’s no overly hyper public announcer, no flashing lights or canned music during play. Just the stands, the court and two basketball teams. I don’t need anything more than that for my relationship with you to be fulfilling.
That doesn’t mean you aren’t passionate, though. I know how you really feel. The action inside you generates noise and color and atmosphere and intensity that has no equal anywhere in Philadelphia, and maybe beyond. Especially for a Big 5 game, when your allegiance is split right down the middle between two teams vying for your affection.
And when that happens… yeah, I’ll say it. You’re hot. Literally. When it’s 20 degrees outside, I wear short sleeves inside. That makes the experience even better.
Now I have to admit something to you. I write about a lot of things, and some of them even help me make a living. But I’m really bad at writing about romance.
I made the effort for you, though. You mean that much to me, and I know you mean that much to a lot of people in Philly and beyond.
So I’ll close with this:
May you always be hot when it’s cold out, may you always be loud when it’s quiet out, and may you always be college basketball’s most historic gym.
(* – It’s true, though. I spent overnights in the Palestra a few times to get Penn basketball season tickets as a student.)