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PRO SPORTS ...
What's the BIG Deal?

Later Works ... Christianity
Interpretations of the ark narrative
played an important role in early
Christian doctrine. The First Epistle
of Peter (composed around the end of
the first century AD) compared Noah's
salvation through water to salvation
through water in baptism.
St. Hippolytus of Rome (died 235)
sought to demonstrate that "the Ark
was a symbol of the Christ who was
expected," stating that the vessel had
its door on the east side-the direction
from which Christ would appear at
the Second Coming-and that the
bones of Adam were brought aboard,
together with gold, frankincense, and
myrrh (the symbols of the Nativity of
Christ). Hippolytus further stated that
the ark floated to and fro in the four
directions on the waters, making the
sign of the cross, before eventually
landing on Mount Kardu. Hippolytus
explained further that the lowest of the
three decks was for wild beasts, the
middle for birds and domestic animals,
and the top level for humans.
Early Christian artists depicted
Noah standing in a small box on
the waves, symbolizing God saving
the Christian Church in its turbulent
early years. St. Augustine of Hippo
(354-430), in his work City of God,
demonstrated that the dimensions
of the ark corresponded to the
dimensions of the human body, which
according to Christian doctrine is the
body of Christ and in turn the body of
the Church. St. Jerome (c. 347-420)
identified the raven, which was sent
forth and did not return, as the "foul
bird of wickedness" expelled by
baptism; more enduringly, the dove
and olive branch came to symbolize
the Holy Spirit and the hope of
salvation and eventually, peace. The
olive branch remains a secular and
religious symbol of peace today. *

B

ryce Harper, No. 3, Jersey sales at the top of the charts! Much respect to Harper for
not choosing No. 34, which was worn by Roy Halladay. Harper wore No. 34 during
his first seven big-league seasons with the Nationals. He now has an awesome new
number. We should expect to see some "Babe Harper" signs around Citizens Bank Park.
Babe Ruth, of course, wore No. 3, because he typically batted third in the lineup. The last
Phillie to rock No. 3 was David Lough in 2016.
There is a temptation, a natural one, to suggest that the core of the story that shook
Philadelphia - Bryce Harper's decision to sign with the Phillies - is without precedent
in the city's sports history.
Harper arrived having already established himself not merely as one of Major League
Baseball's best players, but as its biggest star at the apex of his abilities, as the face of his
sport. Harper is young, talented, famous and established. He graced the cover of Sports
Illustrated in 2009, when appearing there still carried remarkable pop-culture cachet, as a
16-year-old. He has been named to six All-Star teams, the National League rookie of the
year and MVP.

This is as BIG as it gets ... and you have to go back nearly 43 years
to find an appropriate comparison.
A man who could FLY ...
Bill Melchionni, out of Bishop Eustace in Pennsauken, out of Villanova University, a
rookie on the 1966-67 NBA-champion 76ers, was a month into his new job, as the GM of
the ABA's New York Nets, when the phone calls about Julius Erving started.
At the same time, Roy Boe, the Nets' owner, was moving the franchise to the NBA,
and he needed money to pay a territorial fee to the New York Knicks. Erving was Boe's
meal ticket with three ABA championships, three scoring titles, four MVP awards with the
Virginia Squires and the Nets, the perfect Afro, the nickname "Dr. J.," and soaring slam
dunks that had to be seen to be believed. Erving was as much myth as man!
In the fall of 1976, Melchionni began fielding the phone calls; they were of two types;
one type from NBA executives who wanted to schedule exhibition games against the Nets,
at $50,000 per game, because Erving was a gate attraction. The other, NBA executives who
wanted Erving to play for their teams.
At the time, the NBA was not the global, billion-dollar behemoth that it is now. The
ABA was even more rag-tag, though its talent pool, relatively unknown, was nearly as deep.
The ABA had no national-television contract. Pro sports had a small-time feel to it, but
there was an element of mystery to it all, especially to Erving and the sequence of events
that led him to the Sixers, that 24-hour news and social media have long since eradicated.
A lot of people had not seen Doc play throughout the country, they had only seen
snippets of "this Julius Erving." Pat Williams, the Sixers' GM, had however seen more
than snippets, and knew that Erving had held out of Nets training camp over a contract
dispute. So, Williams called Melchionni and threw it out there, "If things ever deteriorate
to the point that you have to trade Julius Erving, please let us know," then hung up and did
not think any more about it.
Two weeks later, Melchionni returned Williams' call. All concerned parties
subsequently met in New York and soon thereafter, sealed the deal. It was a thunderbolt
then, yet so modest now. The Nets agreed to sell Erving to the Sixers for $6 million: $3
million to Boe, the Nets' owner, and $3 million to Erving over a six-year contract.
How much has professional sports changed and just how big has the business become?
The Phillies and Harper agreed to a 13-year, $330 million contract. Even in 2019 dollars,
adjusted for inflation, Erving's six-year deal would total just $13.3 million. A bargain, in
any era, for someone who could walk the sky. *
Winter 2019

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