Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Spectrum memories

AP Photo
Security workers take a photo of the Spectrum prior to
the building being demolished on Tuesday.
Today, I say farewell to another part of my youth.

More than six years after watching the implosion of Veterans Stadium, a wrecking ball will be sent through The Spectrum as the building once known as "America's Showplace" gets demolished to make room for an entertainment and retail area in the South Philadelphia sports complex.

I don't have as many great memories from The Spectrum as I did from The Vet, but I saw dozens of events there, mostly basketball games. For a stretch covering 16 years, two of the greatest players in NBA history -- first Julius Erving, then Charles Barkley -- called The Spectrum home.

I didn't see a concert at the venue, but I do remember in college taking a trip to The Spectrum to watch a World Wrestling Federation card that featured WWF champion Bob Backlund fighting to retain his belt against Big John Studd.

And on those rare occasions our seats were in the third-level, the smell of marijuana wafting through the air.

There are a handful of moments that standout, but only a few games that are etched in my memory. So here are my top 3 Spectrum memories, in ascending order:

No. 3: Feb. 17, 1979. This was the first -- and only -- Flyers game I saw at The Spectrum. The Flyers were playing the hated New York Rangers when the blade of an errant stick jammed through the eye opening on the mask of Flyers' Hall of Fame goalie Bernie Parent. Parent's eye was permanently damaged and he had to retire.

No. 2: May 16, 1980. Unfortunately, another negative for the home team. It was Game 6 of the NBA Finals between the Sixers and the Los Angeles Lakers. Lakers center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had sprained his ankle in Game 5 and didn't make the trip to Philadephia. So Lakers rookie point guard Magic Johnson volunteered to play center and had one of the best games of his career 42 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists in the Lakers' series-clinching 123-107 victory. It was a tough blow for a soon-to-be 17-year-old kid.

No. 1: March 28, 1992: This one I just watched as a college basketball fan. It was the NCAA East Regional championship between Duke and Kentucky. The seats were great. Fourth row on the floor to the left of one of the baskets. The only thing better than the seats was the game itself. It went into overtime, and with Kentucky leading 103-102 with 2.1 seconds left, Duke's Christian Laettner took a length-of-the-court pass from Grant Hill, dribbled once, turned and fired a shot that hit nothing but net in the basket just feet away from our seats to give Duke an improbable 104-103 victory. Laettner was perfect for the game, shooting 10-for-10 from both the field (including a 3-pointer) and the free-throw line for 31 points. For many experts, it it considered the greatest college basketball game of all time. Duke went on to win the title.

So farewell, Spectrum. And thanks for the memories.

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