Thursday Trivia (on Friday!): “The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh”

The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh is a funky movie, in every sense of the world. Starring Julius Erving as Moses Guthrie, star player on the then-struggling, then-Pittsburgh Pythons, The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh is an out-there basketball film with a few touches of astrology and a downright fantastic soundtrack back from the days of funk and disco. But one of the coolest scenes is in the final throes of the film, when the Pittsburgh Pisces, the team renamed after wild success for a lineup centered around Moses’s astrological sign, when the team enters the Pittsburgh Civic Arena through its retractable roof via hot air balloon.

The Civic Arena is no more – the Consol Energy Center has since replaced it – but it’s important to note why, exactly, the arena had a retractable dome. (No, it wasn’t to play arena football outside for the stupidest oxymoron ever.) The arena’s original tenant was the Civic Light Opera, who used the retractable roof to perform  under the stars in good weather (which they did from their inception in 1946 to 1958), and in an enclosed theater in bad. They performed at the arena from 1961 until 1969 (in spite of what would seem to be downright atrocious acoustics), afterwards leaving the Pittsburgh Penguins and Pipers ABA team as the building tenants.

Four more facts related to The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh after the jump!

  • Use of astrology and other unorthodox techniques in sports, though not as extreme as building an entire team based on being a Pisces, is not unprecedented. Back when he owned the Oakland A’s, Charlie Finley hired an astrologist named Laurie Brady (along with signing track runner Herb Washington as a professional pinch runner and making young Stanley Burell – the future MC Hammer – as a batboy), and in what really amounts to an unsurprising move given their track record as owners, Frank and Jamie McCourt employed a Russian healer to send the team “V Energy” from Boston from 2004 and 2009.
  • Stockard Channing appears in the film as Mona Mondieu, the astrologist who helps bring the team to victory; she later appeared, of course, as Rizzo in Grease and became a fictional First Lady (and, just to provide the optimal alliteration, was at that point a future former fictional First Lady) on The West Wing, earning an Emmy for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama for her performance as Abigail Bartlet.
  • Among the professional basketballers in the film, along with Dr. J: Bob Lanier, famed Harlem Globetrotter Meadowlark Lemon, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
  • This isn’t really trivia, but the Pisces’ ridiculous blue court seems like it was an influence for the University of Oregon’s court design last year.

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