Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Definitive 1000

We are going to be counting down the Definitive 1000 things. Why are they Definitive? Because The Friendly Friends have deemed them as such.

968 - The Wachovia Spectrum

It's dumpy. It's small. Its roof wouldn't stay on.

But it is also front and center in so many memories for the Friendly Friends.

The Philly papers and websites are filled with rememberances for the old barn. And they all center on the same few things: Flyers and some basketball teams' championships, Olga Korbut, Bruce, Billy Joel, Christian Laettner's shot and the Grateful Dead.

But those are the party-line, let's shine it up and make it look good memories.

The Friendly Friends would like to celebrate the life of this old building through the eyes of the common man. Not through the eyes of the Comcast PR department. So without further ado, and in no particular order, here are some random thoughts and memories of times spent with the Spectrum.

From Sweaty:

Going to a Philadelphia Phantoms game with FFMatt. The game itself was uneventful. But for the first and only time in my life, I caught a sling shotted t-shirt launched towards us. FFMatt positioned himself in front of me as a pick. The shirt was launched; I reached for it and snagged it with one hand! Yes! I rule! The guy behind me did take a chunk of skin out of my hand with his disturbingly long fingernails, but it was worth it. The shirt, I wore until it disintegrated. There were also two tickets to a future Phantoms game inside the shirt. To complete the circle, I went to that game with Jewbacca. He and I had seats right behind the goalie. They were little folding seats, and Jewbacca and I are on the larger side, so we decided to go sit up in the cheaper seats.

Is this the guy that scratched Sweaty?

From Jewbacca:

First and foremost, the Spectrum will always mean Flyers hockey to me. Both live and on PRISM (Philadelphia Regional In-Home Sports and Movies). How cool is it that Flyers games from the Spectrum were broadcast exclusively on a cable channel called PRISM? My earliest sports memories with my dad have nothing to do with the usual American, Norman Rockwell baseball scenes. They all involve the Flyers. My dad would get 4 or 5 games a year to go to and he'd take me to one, The Mighty Malagan to one and usually my mom to the others. We'd sit in the first row of the second level and use the ledge in front of us as a table for our sausage sandwiches and sodas. He'd explain the finer points of the game and why we had to whistle every time Ron Duguay touched the puck. He made sure that we left that Nordiques game at the end of the second period with the Flyers down 3-0 since it was a school night. We listened as the Flyers came back to win 4-3 in OT.

We battled about bedtimes when the Flyers were on. Home games meant 7:05 and at least half the game before bedtime at 8:30. They also meant Ed Van Impe from the bowels of the Spectrum interviewing someone between periods who would get a gift certificate to some men's store or a watch. Those intervies dragged for an 8 year old who only had until 8:30!

But seeing the colors in the Spectrum logo at center ice in person, or on PRISM, was always awesome.

My god. That hair. How could you not wolf-whistle at that?

From Sweaty:

The Sixers Dancer I named "Candy". Watching the dreck that was the Sixers at the time, including Jeff Hornacek (AKA K.D. Lang), Jeff Malone and Clarence Weatherspoon was all worth while thanks to that little blonde vixen.

Candy?? Is that you??? Did you get all of my voicemails and text messages? You did? What's this? A restraining order?? Exactly how far is 500 yards anyway....

From FFMatt:

Besides the years of Flyers games and childhood Ringling Brothers Circus experiences, and Wiggles concerts for my kids I was at the Flyers season opener after the strike ended. HUGE pumped crowd, insane energy and it all quickly devolved into E-A-G-L-E-S EAGLES chants as the Flyers stunk up the ice with a season opening loss. Back where we belong!

Sweaty will always have Candy and FFMatt will always have these guys...and thousands of drunk idiot Eagles fans.

From Jewbacca:

In sixth grade a new sport dawned into my puberty fevered brain. The Eagle League Pro Box Lacrosse outfit (now the MILL or the MLL or NLL or something) came into existence with the Washington Wave, the Baltimore Thunder, the New York/New Jersey Saints and most importantly the Philadelphia Wings. This was earth shattering to a young Jewbacca. As soon as I was old enough to drive, me and the Malagan would go to the Showcase store (an offshoot of the Spectrum and Spectacor) at the Willow Grove Park Mall and we'd get TicketTron tickets to every single home game the Wings played. We'd usually get two extra and invite friends along. We'd all pile into my 1981 Chevy Impala and cruise down to the Spectrum, blasting our good luck mixtape, which inexplicably contianed 3 songs from Achtung Baby, 3 songs from Queen's Greatest Hits (the blue one) and some other songs long forgotten.

We'd enter the sports mecca and settle in for a couple hours of the best parts of all sports: the hitting and fighting of hockey, the speed of...well hockey again, the high scoring of....well this time I'd have to say early 80's hockey and the shot clock of basketball. We'd scream our lungs out for the Gaits, Dallas Eliuk, John Nostrant, Tony Resch (who incidentally was my buddy Jim's math teacher at Penn Charter), and anyone else wearing the silver and black. We even got to sit next to Chopper at a pre-season Wings/Pittsburgh Bulls game.

Without missing a home game (pre-, regular and post-season) for four years, we still managed to miss all four of the Wings' championships, but did see them lose one to the Buffalo Bandits in OT. We also saw a game called against the Detroit Turbos since every single player on both teams got into a major bench clearing brawl. The Turbos disappeared after that.

This is Chopper. He leads his entire side of the arena in a W-I-N-G-S Wings(!) chant and taunts opposing players coming to the box. He is a god.

From Sweaty:

Going to my first ever Wings game with Jewbacca and his brother Malagan. I had always scoffed at the Wings as a secondary sport, but I was truly entertained and have since been to many games. I was dazzled by the Gait brothers and the sprawling saves of Dallas Eliuk. The Wings, as it turned out were right...I paid for the whole seat, but only used the edge

From Jewbacca:

Fine. You want a basketball memory of the Spectrum? My hatred of basketball notwithstanding, I do have two minor Spectrum related basketball memories. My dad's friend scored Sixers-Celtics tickets in 1984 or 1985. They had four and I guess no one else could use them so the Malagan and I got to go. I remember two things from that night: 1) when my dad's friend drove his Toyota mini-bus/van thing over a cement island to get around a traffic light (red by the way) and 2) walking through the Spectrum lot wearing my Celtics painter's cap that I specifically asked for when my dad was in Boston on business. I hated the Sixers then and since the Celtics were one of their biggest rivals, I'd proudly wear that. Being ten and in South Philly wearing a Celtics hat I was treated exactly as I thought I would be: by having my life endangered by taunting Sixers fans until my dad ripped the hat off my head and pocketed it.

My Celtics painter's cap looked just like this. Except it was a hat and not a hot cheerleader. It was mostly green though.

From Sweaty:

Going to a Sixers game with Mighty Malagan, again, with a horrible Sixers team and sitting close enough to the Sixers bench that they were within earshot. How did I know they were within earshot? Because Jewbacca's brother kept yelling out the name of Rex Walters. Rex Walters could have been up for 12th man of the year in basketball. A poor little white guy who found himself the last man on the bench. Malagan kept calling his name...for 48 minutes. While sitting on the bench, while he stood near the sideline...Malagan called "Rex! Rex Walters!” A fruitless pursuit right? Wrong. Low and behold, the final team timeout of the game, Rex is standing in the team huddle pretending to be paying attention, as if he had anything to do with the play being drawn up. Malagan is still hoarsely yelling his name...then it happens. Rex Walters raises his eyebrows and looks up at Malagan and gives him a head nod acknowledgement. What does Malagan do? He giggles like a school girl and shuts up for the last 40 seconds of the game.

I did a GIS for "Rex Walters." I got a picture of Gemma Atkinson. Which would you have put here?

From Jewbacca:

I saw my first ever concert, the best concert I've ever seen and had the most fun I've ever had at a concert all at the Spectrum.

First concert: Midnight Oil on the Blue Sky Mining tour in 1991. Peter Garrett is a very, very intense man. He did a dive off of the top of a stack of Marshalls during a cover of "What's So Funny 'bout Peace Love and Understanding" that would have killed a mere mortal.

Best concert: Peter Gabriel on the Us tour in 1992 or 1993. Sweaty can back me up on this one, but I think he did three separate encores, the last of which was after the lights and house music came back up. He came out and talked to the crowd for about 5 minutes, thanking Philly for all their support during his career. It was the most theatrical concert I've been to, and also one of the best all-round musically.

Most fun at a concert: Barenaked Ladies, New Year's Eve 1999(98?). Possibly the best stage presence of any band I've ever seen (and I've seen a lot having worked Event Staff security for 4 years at the Tower, the Mann, the Civic Center and even the Spectrum). Sponataneous rapping, unbeliveably strange dancing and a midnight phone call to Kevin Hearn in the hospital back in Toronto to countdown to the new year all made it memorable. Plus, Mrs. Jewbacca got me the tickets for Christmas that year. I had Kraft Macaroni and Cheese in my shoes when I got home!

From Sweaty:

Early in the summer of 1993, I was adjusting to the freedom of now more mandatory formalized education. Released from the shackles of Springfield High school, I was looking forward to the summer of love...or, as it turned out for me, summer of I like you but not in that way.

But before the weekend trips to the Jersey Shore would take place. Before drunken nights passing out in Turkey Clubs (the sandwich, not a night hot spot), before working 1 day in an Ice House and 2 weeks as a beach tagger in Sea Isle City...I and other Friendly Friends such as Jewbacca had to kick the summer off right with my first ever concert! I am proud to say that my first concert ever still holds up as one of my favorites as Peter Gabriel came to town promoting his new album Us. The Spectrum was arockin' that night my friends. Peter Gabriel knew how to put on a show, and he made sure to include Solsbury Hill to appease the Gods. The Gods being me & Jewbacca. As I said, still one of my favorite concerts of all time and the only one I saw at the Spectrum. Pissah was there as well, and shockingly, he found something to complain about. Because he never complains about anything!

So there you have it folks. Some of the Friendly Friends' memories of the Spectrum. Of course there are more, but these are the ones that stand out.

Unfortunately my most recent visit (Phantoms game this past spring) left a bad image for me. They've let the place run down quite a bit. It was clear at that time that they had stopped trying and knew it was only a matter of time before a soul-less, corporate, Disney-like "entertainment" center was built over its grave. I guarantee you, I won't be making that just-long-enough-to-be-extrememly-annoying-not-long-enough-to-risk-my-life-at-Fern-Rock-to-take-the-subway trip to this new complex. Maybe if I'm at the Center or the Bank I'll brave the crowd of annoying South Jerseyans long enough to check it out.

But for the memories it invokes and the times we've spent there, the Friendly Friends are proud to add The Spectrum to the Definitive 1000!

[Feel free to leave your memories in the comments. Thanks to for the picture of Chopper.]

Did you know that "Spectrum" is actually an acronym for Sports-Entertainment-Concerts-Theater-rum. The "rum," as in Auditorium, was all the rage in 1967 for newly built arenas (see Centrum, Worcester)


Sir Vicks said...

One time after a night of WWF wrestling featuring Hulk Hogan, the Iron Sheik, et al, a homeless guy tried to sell my mom a t-shirt. Nevermind that it was a sleeveless wife beater that said, “Pac Man Fever” on it. What did that have to do with wrestling? When she declined, he offered her a dollar to poop in his hand. She said it would take a lot more than a dollar for her to do that. To this day, I still wonder if she was kidding. Now, some 20 years later, my wife affectionately refers to my pleadings for her to poop in my hand as me having “a case of the Pac Man Fever.” And it doesn’t cost me a dime.

Thanks for the memories, creepy perv from the Spectrum. I hope you found someone to buy your t-shirt and/or poop in your hand that night.

Anonymous said...

Might Malagan here: I totally forgot about the Rex Walters night! I too have many memories, but since my brother (Jewbacca) gave me about 5 minutes to come up with them, they will not be posted.

Anonymous said...

Malagan: AND I resent the low blow on South Jerseyians

FFJewbacca said...

Dear Sir Vicks,

You have won one internet.