I left you yesterday at the Palm, with former Municipal Court Judge Georganne Daher asking me to return a Flyers Stanley Cup hat from the 1997 championship, while my lunch mate, former Inquirer editorial Bill Marimow sat with an amused expression on his face.
Did I remember getting the hat? No, I told the judge.
“But if I have it, I will return it,” I told her, with the term “Indian giver” not even entering my mind (because that once-popular term would now be considered harmful, if not racist).
Damned if I didn’t find that cap deep in a walk-in closet. I also found a couple of awards that had been hanging in my office at the newspaper when I had an office at the newspaper. Stuff happens.
A couple of days later I dropped the cap off at Judge Daher’s Center City condo building, but not before being whisked back almost 20 years to the Flyers humiliating 4-0 sweep by the Red Wings. I saw every game, or parts of them anyway.
The first two games were in the CoreStates Center and I was credentialed up the ass. The Daily News had more than adequate actual sportswriters. I was there to do the color and the celebrities, which were few and far between — unlike the 2001 NBA Finals I covered, because the Sixers were playing L.A. and the Lakers have a star-studded fan base.
First and second Flyers game, I would arrive at the Center early, cruise around, talk to people and look for celebs. Because our deadline was early, I left in the second period — Broad Street subway direct to Spring Garden — write my column on the 8th floor at 400 N. Broad, while watching the game on a wall-mounted TV. Ditto game two.
And then I flew to Detroit ahead of the team to reconnoiter. As you know, Detroit was flat on its ass. I am a product of a big city — Noo Yawk — and I love them and don’t like to see them hurt. I somehow button hooked the mayor at a public event — he was wary, suspecting the usual dump-on-Detroit hatchet job — but I wrote a sympathetic piece about Detroit. The only dumping I did was on the Flyers, because they were playing like crap.
I did a fun piece on a suburban Detroit bar that was a Flyers safe space behind the Red Wings’ lines.
Next thing you know, I’m the idol of Motor City.
I was not really thinking about the internet — but my columns in the Daily News were all over Detroit.Suddenly, I’m on Paul W. Smith’s top-rated radio explaining why I wrote the Flyers played like crap — because they had, and how come I liked Detroit. (I knew Paul slightly when he ran a morning talk show out of Philadelphia.)
And so Mayor Dennis Archer invited me to join him in the mayor’s box at the Joe Louis Arena for the final game of the series.
In the runup to the finals, Detroit TV carried public service announcements from sports stars begging fans to celebrate victory without violence, rioting or arson.
While that was smart, even smarter was having Detroit’s Finest standing shoulder to shoulder along the streets leading away from the Joe. I was staying a short walk away at the gleaming Renaissance Center, where guests had to show ID to get in the locked front doors. Security was tight as a drumhead.
Detroit did not burn and I decided not to buy a Red Wings Stanley Cup victory cap, because I had my own Stanley Cup cap at home, courtesy of Judge Daher, and this is where you came in.