Monday, January 30, 2012

The Fighting City Of Philadelphia

TigerBlog's theory is that if you ask anyone - well, 95% of people - who have seen all of the Rocky movies, or at least I, II, III and IV what their favorite scene is, they'll give one of two answers:

* the training scene in Rocky
* the scene from Round 14 where Rocky gets knocked down through the end of the fight, especially the part where the announcer says "Apollo can't believe it."

How could those two scenes not be 1-2, if for no other reason than the music? Plus, at the time, they were very original, and there isn't anyone who watched the movie back in 1976 who didn't see Rocky run up the steps of the art museum who didn't want to fight Apollo Creed right then and there.

Whoever came up with the idea of having Rocky first fail to be able to run up the steps in the original "Philadelphia morning" scene and then use that as a symbol of his physical and emotional growth hit upon something that was pure genius, something that gives TigerBlog chills every time he sees it, which by now must be north of 1,000 times.

And the fight scene? TB loves the part where Rocky knocks Creed down in the first round and the look of total bewilderment that he has. Still, it's Round 14 into 15 that is the best part, when Rocky is down, Mickey is telling him to stay down and Apollo can't believe anyone could actually get up.

And yet Rocky needed to get up. It was at that moment that he realized that if he didn't, he'd be "just another bum from the neighborhood."

Beyond those two scenes, though, TB is relatively sure that if he asked 100 people what their next favorite scene is he'd get 50 different and wildly varied answers.

So that's what TB did last week. And he wasn't surprised that there was little consensus.

For instance, one of the people that TB works with said his next favorite scene is the one in Rocky II where, after waking up from her coma, Adrian tells Rocky that she just wants one thing from him.

TigerBlog Jr., who has watched every second of all six Rocky movies and who rarely goes a day without throwing out at least one line from the franchise, prefers the scene in Rocky IV where Drago first starts to bleed.

Still another person TB asked said that the best scene is the one in Rocky III where Apollo and Clubber Lang almost get into it before the second fight starts. Or when Paulie throws the turkey out the window on Thanksgiving, as part of the whole first date.

Or maybe it's just any scene that Rocky is in.

For TigerBlog, his favorite "other" scene is also in the original Rocky. It's the one where Mickey comes to Rocky's apartment to talk him into letting him be his manager, only to get the bitter wrath that has built up in Rocky through the years. Then, just when it looks like Mickey is being sent away, Rocky realizes that Mickey was right all along, that he "had the talent to become a good fighter, but instead of that, you became a leg-breaker for a cheap, second-rate loan shark."

And so Rocky swallows his pride and runs down the street chasing after Mickey. And again, in a moment of pure genius, the scene is shot from a distance, so their words cannot be heard. All that is known is that Rocky puts his arm around Mickey, says something to him and then they shake hands. It's as good as any moment TB has ever seen in a movie.

Anyway, the subject of Rocky movies is never that far away here in the OAC, where some Rocky-related conversation/quote/reference is on average uttered more than once per day.

TB won't be able to avoid thinking about Rocky later today as he drives along the Vine Street Expressway past the side view of the art museum across the Schuykill River, on his way to the Palestra and Princeton-Penn men's basketball.

For most of the last 30 years, Princeton at Penn has been TigerBlog's favorite annual sporting event. He's seen the rivalry first as a Penn student, then as a "neutral" sportswriter and now for nearly 20 years as a Princeton Athletics employee.

TB spent much of that time as the men's basketball contact, during a time when Pete Carril, Bill Carmody and John Thompson went head-to-head with Fran Dunphy, knowing full well that one or the other would win the league and go the NCAA tournament.

For those with no memory, let's keep in mind that Ivy League basketball did not start with Cornell's team of a few years ago or with the current Harvard team that is ranked in the Top 25. Or, for that matter, let's also keep in mind that it was Princeton who represented the league in the NCAA tournament a year ago.

So, for those who forget or never knew, here are your all-time Ivy men's basketball titles since the official formation of the league:

Princeton - 26
Penn - 25
Cornell - 4
Dartmouth - 3
Yale - 3
Harvard - 1
Brown - 1
Columbia - 1

Between 1963 and 2007, it was either Princeton or Penn in the NCAA tournament for the Ivy League every year except for three. That's a sustained record of competitive dominance that is unrivaled.

For tonight's game, Princeton is 1-1 in the league while Penn is 2-0. Harvard is the lone unbeaten at 4-0, including a very impressive win at Yale Friday night, leaving the Bulldogs tied with the Tigers with one loss.

Princeton hasn't played since Jan. 14, while Penn has only played once since then, with an 84-80 win over St. Joe's on Jan. 21, nine days ago.

It's a huge game for both.

Plus, there will always be something special about Princeton and Penn at the Palestra.

Maybe TB is a bit more lacrosse-centric these days, but he hasn't forgotten all of the great Princeton-Penn moments he's seen, after "we" won or lost, even though "we" hasn't always meant the same time.

And he definitely hasn't forgotten Ivy League basketball history.

Hey, that was his major at Penn, back when the Quakers were "we," something that changed years ago.

1 comment:

Brian McD said...

The 44 year run (with 3 exceptions) of Princeton or Penn representing the Ivy League in the NCAA basketball tournament is amazing, but there is one other sport that could claim to have a similar level of "unrivaled competitive dominance" within the Ivy League. In Men's Swimming and Diving, Princeton or Harvard has won or shared the Ivy League Championship *every* year since the 1971-72 season and this will be true this year as well, yielding a total of 31 consecutive years, with no exceptions. While there seems to be more parity in Ivy League hoops these days, in the pool it is still a duopoly.