Ethan Alter | Dreaming of a white Palestra
January 19, 2012, 12:04 am · Updated January 23, 2012, 2:14 am·
Laura Francis | DP
Pack the Palestra. Such was the title of a Daily Pennsylvanian editorial from Feb. 4, 2011.
Penn was about to play Harvard for control of the Ivy League and the DP asked students to fill every seat in the house.
The game was one of the best played at the Palestra in recent memory as Penn fell in double overtime.
And the Palestra, she was rocking.
The official attendance number was 6,283. Not packed, per se, but pretty close. According to a currently blacked-out Wikipedia entry about the Palestra, the total capacity is 8,722.
As a junior, I’ve never known a packed Palestra, with one exception. Remember that time Lebron and Co. decided to play pickup basketball in the Palestra and Tyreke Evans dazzled the crowd with his smooth handles?
The Palestra was very full (and very hot) then. But for Penn basketball? Not so much.
As a sportswriter, I’ve heard many stories, wistful and otherwise, of Ivy and Big 5 games hosted at a Palestra packed with Penn students screaming themselves hoarse.
These days, the Penn band, Quaker Girls and cheerleaders seem to form the majority of the student contingent at many home games.
If Penn were winning most of their games, with high flying players like Ibby Jaaber, would student attendance return to the way it was in the old days? Or is there something else missing? Is Penn as an institution doing a disservice to one of the most historic basketball arenas in the country?
Penn Athletics and the Red and Blue Crew are certainly making a big push for Penn’s final Big Five game of the season on Saturday against St. Joe’s. If their efforts don’t pay off, it certainly won’t be for lack of trying.
Penn Athletics is hoping to lure students with free white shirts to ‘white out’ the Palestra with senior standouts Zack Rosen and Tyler Bernardini interacting with students around campus with a “Hoop Helmet” to get them excited.
The Quakers are 2-0 in the Ivy League so far this season. Their tough non-conference schedule, part of Jerome Allen’s coaching philosophy, seems to be paying off. Penn looks ready to make a run at the Ivy title.
Will they be welcomed home to the Palestra by thousands of screaming Penn students who have come to see their peers defend Penn’s honor against all comers and to, as a certain marketing slogan goes, “protect this house?”
We’ll see. If Penn’s winning ways continue, I suspect the Palestra could be getting a bit cozier at the upcoming games.
But packed? Packed like a can of sardines? Lebron packed?
A guy can only hope.
ETHAN ALTER is a junior history major from Los Altos, Calif. He can be reached at dpsports@theDP.com.