An Ode to the Spectrum

On February 1, 1992 I officially became an NFL free agent after spending the previous season with the Green Bay Packers.  We had opened the season at Lambeau Field against the Philadelphia Eagles and though we lost, I had returned a punt 62 yards - I had weaved my way through the entire Eagles punt team and broke a couple of tackles, but their special teams ace, Ken Rose, tripped me up at the two yard line.  That game was more memorable for the fact that my Packer teammate, Bryce Paup, knocked Randall Cunningham out of the game and the season with a torn knee ligament.
Apparently, the Eagles coaches on the other side of the field that day were impressed enough and remembered my punt return that in February, they invited me to visit Philadelphia during the free agent signing period.
I had commitments to play in celebrity golf tournaments the first two weekends of March, then a visit to the Cleveland Browns on Friday and Saturday March 20-21.  The Eagles arranged through my agent to fly me into Philly on Friday afternoon, March 27 and work me out the following day March 28.
March was so frenetic because I was traveling each weekend to play golf at teammmate's tournaments and visiting prospective employers that I hadn't paid much attention to the college basketball tournament.
But when I arrived at Philly International that Friday afternoon, it was a sea of blue.  It was nearly impossible to distuinguish between Duke blue and Kentucky blue.  Clearly, I stepped off the plane into the eye of the storm.  The Eagles, as all NFL teams do when they're courting a free agent, had flown me from my Phoenix home in First Class.  It seemed everyone from First Class to the back of the plane were decked in blue - either Duke or Kentucky alumni.  The guy sitting next to me was a fairly young oral surgeon who was a Duke alumnus practicing in Scottsdale.  He excitedly showed me his single game ticket for the following evening against Kentucky at the Spectrum.
I checked into my room at the Double Tree on Broad Street - again filled with Duke and Kentucky fans.  Trying to relax in preparation for my workout the following day, I took a taxi a couple blocks from my hotel that evening to the Forrest Theater on 12th Street and purchased a single ticket at the window for the Mezzanine Level to watch "Phantom of the Opera." 
The next morning, an Eagles official named George Azar picked me up at the hotel lobby, with another free agent named Toi Cook, who was a defensive back with the New Orleans' Saints.  We chatted nervously on our way to Veterans Stadium.  Again, it was hard to ignore the waves of college basketball fans wandering around the Stadium complex.
The workout went well.  In fact, so well that the Eagles' General Manager,  Harry Gamble, asked if I would consider skipping my return flight that evening so we could work out a deal.  I knew the Eagles had problems in the return game the previous season and because they had the best defense in the NFL, I was certain to field a lot of punts.  I agreed to fly home Sunday morning. 
Perhaps as a reward for my willingness to stay an extra day, Mr. Gamble reached into a folder, pulled out an envelope and slid it across his desk.  I opened it and in it was a ticket -- exactly like the one my seat mate on the plane had shown me the previous day -- Duke vs. Kentucky; 7pm Saturday March 28, 1992; The Spectrum.
I was blown away.
My seat was in the upper deck.  From that perch, I watched what is considered by many to be the greatest college basketball game ever played.
My nose-bleed seat was behind the baseline from which Grant Hill threw the "hail Mary" pass to the opposite end with 2.1 seconds that was caught by Christian Laettner, who dribbled once, spun and hit the buzzer beater heard 'round the world.  Duke 104 Kentucky 103 in overtime.
When I returned to my hotel room, the message light was on.  Two messages.  The first one from my agent informed me that the Eagles had agreed in principle to the figures we were looking for and that the contract was at the front desk for me to sign, if I wished.  The second was from GM Harry Gamble welcoming me aboard as an Eagle.  Then, he asked if I enjoyed the game.
I wasn't here for either of the Flyers' Stanley Cups in the '70's, or the '83 Sixers' NBA title run or championship boxing matches or endless concerts by Elvis, Bruce, Michael, Billy or Elton. 
But I was there for one of the greatest and most memorable college games in history.  Duke-Kentucky.  1992. 
The Spectrum.
Truly, America's Showplace.

Contact Us