Monday, March 06, 2006

Philadelphia's Catholic Glory

Last night was the annual Catholic League Basketball Championship here in Philadelphia.

No, this Catholic League has nothing to do with Wild Bill Donahue, thank God.

The Catholic League -- comprising the teams of the archdiocesan and private Catholic high schools -- is a Philly tradition dating back to the '40s, as the church's numbers grew here and its high schools blossomed in the city and newly-burgeoning suburbs. At its peak, there was an annual "All-City Championship" between the winner of the Catholic crown and the champions of the Public League. Then the racial divide got to the point where such a game would incite riots, so the All-City was scuttled in the early '70s.

Just to give you all a sense of perspective, several members of my family were Catholic League ballplayers at one time or another. All of my relatives went to the archdiocesan high schools -- except your humble servant, who would've probably short-circuited the system.... I'm the lone "public" (read: black sheep) of the family.

Anyways, last night's Boys' Championship pitted Ss. John Neumann-Maria Goretti -- a newly-consolidated co-ed entity whose single-sex predecessors educated my clan across six decades -- against Roman Catholic (known 'round here as "Roman"), the oldest diocesan Catholic high school for boys in the country, founded in 1890.

And, in the tradition of my Uncle Frank -- who socked a referee in a 1977 CL playoff game, and ended up on the front pages for it -- a brawl broke out after Neumann-Goretti scored a 3-pointer to clinch the game and the title.

(For those who may be interested, Uncle Frank, still an intimidating, perpetually tanned presence at 70, is still widely known in these parts as "Elvis." Or "The Ox.")
A total of 7 people are facing charges from Saturday night's bottle-throwing brawl at LaSalle University.

It happened after a three-point buzzer beater that gave Neuman-Goretti a 44-41 win in the catholic league boy's championship.

Then the trouble started. Pushing, shoving... Police were called.

A 14th district officer was cut on his forehead when a thrown bottle hit another officer, then him.

Charges against those arrested range from disorderly conduct to aggravated assault.

Seconds after Neumann Goretti point guard DJ Rivera hit the winning shot the scene turned chaotic. Eyewitnesses say Rivera began taunting Roman Catholic fans. Goretti followed suit, and tempers flared.

Fearing a riot, Philadelphia police called a citywide assist. Soon more than a hundred officers were on the scene.

One officer had to be taken to Einstein Hospital after suffering a cut to the head from a thrown bottle.
You see why I love this town and its traditions so much.