I grew up with Big Five basketball. The five colleges in the metropolitan Philadelphia area make up one of the most proud, prestigious programs in the country. Every matchup is a battle and every game has the city’s pride on the line. I grew up a Villanova fan and chose to be an Owl, and still every game means more than the last.
This weekend was one of the marquee matchups on the Big Five schedule, the annual game against the St. Joseph’s Hawks. The rivalry is intense and came to a head last February when the Wild Cherry, Temple’s student section, threw a funeral for the Hawk. It was one of the most passionate games I’d ever been to. Each student was given a black “R.I.P. the Hawk” shirt, one I now look forward to wearing each year for the matchup. The whole premise took advantage of a down year for the Hawks with elaborate tombstones, tissues, and terrific posters.
This year, we lined up nearly three hours before tip-off, the cherry and white line snaking around the corner of 15thand Montgomery Streets. When we entered the arena an hour and a half before the tip and stood amongst the cherry seats, I watched the players warm up on the court, following the numbers, names, faces, and personalities I have memorized by heart. My nerves set in and I feel like I’m out there on the court with them. The goosebumps seeing the large Temple ‘][‘ painted on the maple resonated with me as much as they did the first time I ever walked into the Liacouras Center as an Owl. Waving our cherry and white pompoms, I had a feeling it would be a game we’d remember.
A staple of the Big Five matchups is the infamous rollout posters, painted by the respective student sections in advance. From “The last time you beat us, our freshmen were freshmen…in high school” to “Only Tebow can save the Hawk,” the competition takes place as much on the court as it does between the two student sections. At the end of the game, we alter our typical “I Believe that We Have Won” chant to scream “I Believe the Hawk is Dead.”
The game might not have been the most heavily contested of the most-played rivalry in the Big Five, but the enthusiasm of the Wild Cherry didn’t dwindle and even swelled when Coach Dunphy put in the Parliament, the three bench players responsible for hyping the team. It’s the time I’m most proud to be an Owl; to see passionate alums, students, and future Owls cheering unconditionally for their squad.
I love basketball, I love Temple basketball, and I never miss a game. But walking out of the Liacouras Center tonight, I couldn’t even rank this match among the incredible games I’ve witnessed as an Owl. There have been too many good ones and the passion of the crowd and the boys on the court makes each game my favorite. We don’t have superstars; we have Owls, each one as important as the last. Every game I watch from that student section, the more I’m convinced I’m choosing the right career in sports journalism.