Crimson Journeys to a Soft Pretzel of a City

Inner Toobin

PHILADELPHIA--Two old women are sitting under the clock at Wan-namakers department store. "I'm so proud of my son," one says. "He's a Congressman, you know."

"Oh, what's his term?"

"Four years. Three with good behavior."

The City of Abscam has a rough time.

Even before most of its public servants began heading off to jail, jokes stuck to Philadelphia like flies stick there I go. Philosophies abound about the origins of the city's meagre reputation: The uncompetitive Quaker faith; the Erie Canal; bad karma, and of course W.C. "On the whole, I'd rather..." Fields.


Of course, Philadelphia's sports teams have all contributed mightily to the city's inferiority complex. The Phillies losing the final six games of the season in 1964; the 76ers winning but eight games in 1973; the Eagles collapsing after Norm Van Brocklin's departure. And Penn football...always.

Philadelphia has a bum rap, and the world is beginning to notice.

In appearance, livability and general ambiance, few locales can top this soft pretzel of a city. (Typical of Boston arrogance, Hub natives think they invented mustard and soft pretzels. Wrongo, Brahmin-breath. The combo was born here.)

It is a city that takes its stomach seriously: the native hearth of Breyers and Basatt's ice cream, and, of course, Tasty-cake. People have laughed at Philly but never at Tastycakes.

And even though the city's rival to the north, Pittsburgh, calls itself the City of Champions, Philadelphia has certainly taken over as the nation's premier sports city. The Phillies finally won the World Series this year; the Eagles, 76ers and Flyers all currently lead their respective divisions. So start saying it to yourself "Philadelphia: City of Champions." Doesn't sound right, does it? Sort of like "New Jersey: Land of Milk and Honey."

At least one team continues to uphold the local tradition of ineptitude. And luckily for Harvard, that is the Penn football team. Benjamin Franklin founded the University of Pennsylvania and rumour has it around here that the last time the Quakers had a winning season Old Ben himself led the cheering. The Penn seniors who have played for three years have won three games and lost 22.

But, like the city, Penn can surprise you. Sure, the Quakers are 1-7 this year (1-5 Ivy), but they held Yale to an 8-0 win at the Yale Bowl, and gave Princeton a 28-21 scare. This team is not going to any bowl games, but it won't roll oer and play dead.

And Harvard, on the other hand, is primed for an upset. After hearing that Yale was losing to Cornell, the Crimson fell asleep against William and Mary, barely holding on for a 24-13 victory. The gridders knew then that all they would have to do is defeat Penn and Yale the next week, and a share of the Ivy crown would be theirs. The tendency to think a week ahead and ignore the matter at hand is overwhelming. And perhaps fatal.

Penn runs a version of the Wishbone that has come to be called the Multi-bone. Quarterback Gary Vura runs the option and pitches to halfback Steve Rubin (426 yds. in only five games) or fullback Rick Beauvais. Vura throws badly. The Penn defense is not very good either.

So Harvard should have little trouble today. Flanker Ron Cuccia returns to the lineup after a three-game absence due to a hamstring pull. Halfback Paul Scheper should play as well. Coach Joe Restic has a virtually injury-free squad for the first time this season, so he will want to polish the Multiflex to a high finish in preparation for The Game next week. He also wants to give sophmore q.b. Don Allard some work--but only if the Crimson can put together a comfortable lead.

To the predictions:

HARVARD 35, PENN 10: Harvard hasn't lost to Penn since 1972, and they probably won't today. But the gridders might if quarterback Brian Buckley can throw five interceptions like he did last week. Harvard captain Chuck Durst and linebacker Brad Stinn will be testing injuries suffered last week. They can't lose to Penn, can they?

BROWN 20, DARTMOUTH 17: I still think Dartmouth is overrated. The best thing that could happen for Harvard is a tie. Then, if Cornell loses to either Columbia or Penn, Yale loses to Princeton, Princeton loses to Dartmouth and Harvard wins its last two, the Crimson wins the title outright. Don't count on it. CORNELL 34, COLUMBIA 10: The Big Red is getting better each week, and so are the Lions. But if the armies of France and Fiji were to improve at the same rate, you'd bet on the French wouldn't you? YALE 23, PRINCETON 20: After their loss to Cornell last week, the Elis are reeling. Their superb nose guard Kevin Czinger is sick with the flu and probably won't play. But Carm Cozza's teams have too much class to fold. Look for halfback Rich Diana to come up with a big performance after an off-day last Saturday.

Recommended Articles