On a cold winter night, last Thursday, March 6, 2014, in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, the two titans of the prestigious Philadelphia Greek Basketball League (PGBL) came to play before a packed house for the covenant title of PGBL Champions.
Danny’s Boys (13-3), led by league scorer, Pete Kathopoulos, triumphed over Wolfpack (15-1), led by the captain of the ship, Louie Karapanagiotidis, and playmaker, George Vlahos. The two sides battled admirably and in the end, the score was 99 to 85, but the entire game was filled with nail-biting excitement and passion-filled play by all of the athletes.
As Jim McKay use to say in Wide World of Sports, it was the “thrill of victory and agony of defeat.” But we’re not here to critique the game and discuss what plays were missed, or who had a great game and who didn’t. If you want to know the details of the game and see highlights, our team at Cosmos Philly did a great job covering not only the championship game, but the entire season. Go to the sports page on Cosmos Philly’s website to learn more.
What we’re talking about is the PGBL and its future in our Greek-American community. The PGBL was founded by John Vasiliou and Bill Zonios seven years ago. Their friendship and their mutual passion for basketball helped them form this league of Greek-American young men, from throughout the Delaware Valley, who fiercely compete each week from October through March.
The PGBL is the wave of the future in bringing our young Greek-Americans back into the fold. Many of our societies were first established by our forefather immigrants to unite Greeks from a certain geographical area of Greece – Macedonians, Andriotes, Cypriots, etc., and societies were even established for people from a specific village or town. But these men and women have long since retired, or passed on, and the younger generation seems to have no real interest, for whatever reason.
Many of these players in the PGBL competed in the GOYA basketball league and had to stop when they reached eighteen. During their GOYA days, they established friendships from other communities and after they ended their days with GOYA, most of the friendships simply faded away. The PGBL gave them a chance at not just healthy competition and playing the game they love, but to renew friendship and make new ones. It is exactly what our Greek-American community in the Delaware Valley needed. The PGBL is the new Greek-American society.
It’s not just the players who are benefiting, but others as well. From our very young children who come out to the games and treat the players as if they are NBA stars, to the friends and relatives of the players who cheer them on, and to the older members of the community who come out to see their friends, catch up on the latest news, and of course, watch great games. Many businesses sponsor the league and this year, there was a big boost in sponsorship when AHEPA Power District #4 was added and a PGBL AHEPA Chapter was created for the players to join.
By now you’re asking yourself, what does spanakopita have to do with the PGBL? For those of you not from this area or have not had the pleasure of attending a PGBL game at St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church’s hall, when you go see a game, besides the exciting action on the court, the first thing you notice are the fans… all eating spanakopita. Since the Church helps out the league by not charging for the rental of the hall, they make up the expenses by operating the snack-bar and what two items are the most popular sellers? You guessed it, spanakopita and tiropita. Don’t laugh. In the beginning, this is what brought people out to the games and now, people come for the games and enjoy a spanakopita. And we’re not talking the pre-made, frozen type either. This is the real stuff. These are made with filo dough rolled out by the hard-working grandmothers of the Church. Yes… real spanakopita and tiropita, like your yiayia use to make.
The PGBL is growing each year. With the help of Cosmos Philly, word has spread around the globe of what is going on in Upper Darby each Thursday and Sunday nights. People who moved out of the area, some across country to California, and some back to Greece, keep up to date each week’s games, and other news and events, by logging on to Cosmos Philly. Even the New York Greek-American newspapers show the action-packed photographs of the games taken by PGBL Hall of Fame, Stelios Lambrou. The saying must be true, “all roads lead to Upper Darby.
”Hat’s off to the three co-commissioners of the PGBL, John Vasiliou, Bill Zonios, and Vasili Rousseas for bringing excitement back into the community. Thanks to the players and their coaches for being role-models to our young and giving us something to cheer about. Thanks to all the fans that come out to the games and support the PGBL. Thanks to the sponsors for helping to defray the costs. And thanks to the members of St. Demetrios Church for helping support a great endeavor… and making the best spanakopita this side of Athens! See everyone in October for the start of the 2014-2015 PGBL season.