Sparky Takes Philadelphia

By Darla Burns

"In da Club", by 50 Cent, my favorite song to date (brought on by Lax World's Corning, NY crew aka Club 3 South Chester), blares through the speakers of Kim McQueeney's Four Runner as the four of us head out for yet another trip, expected to be a level 5 hurricane predicted by Doppler Darla. If you're just tuning in, this is always the case when you throw fifty-inch sub-woofers and Team Sparky in the mix.

By the way, the aftershocks are rumored to be a doozie as well. This song is fitting for pick-up truck, however the SUV is roomier, so we head to Philly to check out the return of Kevin Finneran to his native, in a different uniform, and the Notorious W-I-N-G-S.

The Wings hosted the Toronto Rock in what was a much-anticipated event at the First Union Center, adjacent to the middle of nowhere, but well within means of a cheap cab ride to the city and the famous cheese steaks. Before embarking on this road trip I was warned to take precaution on what I was about to see. Nothing could have prepared me for the spirit of Philadelphia. We took a cab to Wings Territory and were pretty surprised to see a swarm of people bobbing and weaving through human traffic to get into the game.

These guys (Jeff Ratcliffe and a First Union usher)are Wingnuts...

There was an hour to kill until go time so we headed to the Beer Garden (shocker) which came equipped with what might be the greatest invention next to the Sparky Burns Bobblehead and Six Tribes Uncle Wierdy Flops (soo comfortable!). You may have already guessed what I am talking about if you read my Hawaii column. That's right people, I am talking about one of my many trademarks, the mechanical bull. And guess who headed straight for the border? After I signed my release form, I asked the instructor for his cowboy hat, and before you know it, I was hootin' and a hollerin', never to be bucked! The onlookers went wild, just like the roar of a Sunday Crowd. Eight seconds felt like an eternity, and as Garth Brooks would say, they call the thing Rodeo.

...but this guy is really a Wingnut. Get me?

After the preamble to the game, me and my partners in crime, Carolyn Murray, Kim McQueeney, and Amanda Moculski, made our way to our seats only to discover the die hard fanatics surrounding us. Fans like the PWFC (Philadelphia Wings Fan Club) Road Warriors, whose slogan remains "Loyal, Loud, and Proud" loves the Philly organization. Ann Gioia, one of the tribe members, favors a tremendous trifecta of wicked nasty talent featuring Dallas Eliuk, Tom "Hollywood" Marachek and Jake Bergey who unfortunately is out for the season due to a knee injury. The pride of this crowd of 13, 000 however, bears a season ticket right behind the penalty box, a prime location to talk smack to the opponent. He leads the whole stadium in chants, and his name is constantly heard over the loudspeaker. The fans love him and it just wouldn't be Wings lacrosse without the man they call Chopper.

Chopper never stops!

This guy loves the Wings so much he actually proposed to his wife here at First Union on Valentine's Day, 1992. You can't miss the guy, he's got a hard hat on with his face painted in black and silver. Despite the Oakland Raider fan resemblance, make no mistake, he might be one of the nicest people I had the pleasure of meeting that night. After all, the Wings did end up losing, but did he go out and loot the streets? Nooooo. More than likely, he was having a pilsner with Kevin Finneran, after a well played round of some healthy competition. Despite the mediocre reception for Finneran from the crowd, Chopper remains loyal. And that's why the Crease Monkey told me Chopper is his favorite fan. As I revel in the passion Chopper has for Wings Lacrosse, the Rock takes the field. After every introduction, the crowd follows up with "SUCKS!" Naturally the Wings receive a much more warm response and when Tom Ryan is announced the whole stadium yells "Dude!"

Kevin Finneran's homecoming to Philly

Between the floating Maggiano Meatball that encompassed the crowd, and the two fans a game that get the honor of sitting on toilet bowls by the players' entrance, I can't tell you which scenario I think is more fascinating. As an added bonus for our fun filled weekend I surprised my posse by getting their names on the Jumbo-Tron, but the only way to get them up there was by proposing marriage or celebrating a birthday, so happy faux belated to Amanda, Carolyn and Kim.

The best dressed cheerleeding fan!

Now here's another reason you just gotta love the Wings. This will melt your heart and make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Busza, a former Wing, took time out of his busy schedule a while back to have dinner with a fan on her 12th birthday. Tom Ryan can be seen repeatedly taking pictures with his number one fan the audience likes to refer to as "Mini-Dude", and after the games, the players happily mingle with their fans and unwind with a little side chatter. Last, but definitely not the tail end of importance, I just want to say that where else in a professional sports league can you find two teams that just competed against each other hanging out afterwards sharing war stories and a bojolais. Anyone ever see the movie Youngblood?

"Dude" and his number one fan "Little Dude"

After a most exciting game that went in Toronto's favor, the night was still young, so we ventured our way back to the beer garden where the post-party took place. I must say that these lacrosse players are quite the gentlemen and carry themselves in such humble ways. On my way to the bar, I ran in to MLL retired player Reid "Say It Ain't So" Jackson who politely informed me that he remembered me from Hawaii and followed up with, "yeah, you were the hyper one!" I like to think of it as "the positive one", or "the half-full" one. He then told Moculski, (who I call MaJERKski) that he remembers her cause she looks like Brooke Shields. I always get the shaft. Where's the love, Reid! All in good humor, 'cause Reid is definitely in my top 5 nicest people I met that night and in Hawaii. Another guy who is up there in the category is Team Canada Captain and Rock player Pat "King" Coyle. He was a very personable guy and by the way, when the RIT grad was asked what song gets him pumped before a game he responded with "Can't Stop the Rock" by Stryper. If I have to explain why, then you should be shot.

Reid, TR and an obvious admirer (left)

So after schmoozing with players and fans for a while, Team Fifty Cent ventured to go to the bar that was apparently rented out by a member of the Wings for Finn's Homecoming Party. I don't know why we expected a cab to just be sitting outside waiting for us but we did. I guess my foreshadowing will tell you there was no cab. At this point we were getting desperate, so we asked a few police officers circling the parking lot to give us a ride. Just when we thought our luck was about to run out, a limo pulled up with the Toronto team inside. They told us to get in and I almost pulled a "the town's back that way" Dumb and Dumber moment by saying "but there's no room". Thank God for my friends who offered me a nice warm glass of shut the *&%^ up. So thank you to Toronto's Liam Brown, Matt Duane, Rodd and Kim Squire, Jake Elliot, Chaz Comeau, and Chris Gill for saving us from the long walk home. We thanked them with a shot of "how's your father" and promised them a road trip via Road Rules Campus Crawl part deux, the latter years. Wish we had more time to hang with you all. Hopefully we will cross paths once again!

Heather Bentley & Mo Duffy with Crease Monkey Grand Poobah Harry Mazaheri

Once we arrived to the designated locale, we met Mo Duffy (notorious for her game winning shot in Hawaii) and Amy Weinstein (notorious for double fisting pitchers in Hawaii) from NYAC aka the Monkeyettes. After some adult beverages, I think I told them that I was gonna bring them down to Chinatown at the Mardi Gras Tournament, representing The Greene Turtle. I am just gonna pretend I broke my leg. Sike. Those cats are always fun to be around. Harry Mazaheri-the grand prize winner of the nicest guy I came across that night. If you ever get the chance, tell em Sparky sent ya, 'cause he is a heck of a cat to be around.

Sparky, the reporter, interviews Reid Jackson while Majerksky looks on looking like Brooke

Philadelphia, I must say, was an evening well spent and I had a blast. I met some really cool people, but I'm not surprised, after all, it is the lacrosse community. Any friend of theirs is a friend of mine... A little note to boot: Good luck to all of your lacrosse teams this season, especially to my old stomping ground, Frostburg State, and Andrea Duffy. Tune in for the next column as I go on location with Team "What Happens in New Orleans Stays in New Orleans" to bring you what juicy details I can of one of the fastest growing Lax Tournaments. Yeah Mardi Gras!

With Love from the City that Reads,



Heather Bentley, Tom Ryan, Amy Weinstien

Toronto Coach Les Bartley and re-located star Kevin Finneran

Darah Ross with a Penn classmate

Carolyn Murray, Darla "Sparky" Burns and Kim McQueeney

Carolyn Murray, Sparky, Kim McQueeney and Amanda Moculski

Darla rules the table

TBDM (To Be Determined, Maybe)

Mike Ryan & Les Bartley share a Finn story


Did you enjoy that?

February 15, 2003

All Photos by John Strohsacker.