Watching All In The Family as a kid, it never occurred to me that a La Salle was a car.
At the start of every episode of Norman Lear's top rated sitcom, which ran on CBS from 1971 to 1979, Carroll O'Connor and Jean Stapleton, as Archie and Edith Bunker, sat at a piano facing the audience singing "Those Were The Days."
The lyrics, written by Lee Adams (with music by Charles Strouse) waxed nostalgic for the good times of yesteryear, putting a tune to Archie's famously bigoted view on social upheaval. "And you knew you you were then, girls were girls and men were men / Mister, we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again."
But as a fan of Big 5 basketball in general and three-time Big 5 player of the year Kenny Durett in particular, I always got a kick out of the curious last verse: "Didn't need no welfare state / Everybody pulled his weight / Gee, our old La Salle ran great / Those were the days!"
Funny, I thought then, that Archie and Edith were also La Salle basketball fans. But it kind of made sense to my middle school mind. Even then, in the years when fast breaking strategist Paul Westhead coached the team to two NCAA and one NIT appearance between 1970 and 79, partly thanks to the prowess of Kobe's father Joe "Jellybean" Bryant, the La Salle Explorers did run great.
Just as the Explorers - who, led by speedsters Ramon Galloway and Tyrone Garland, will do battle with the Wichita State Shockers tonight in their quest for a berth in the NCAA touranment's Elite 8 - do now, under the direct of Dr. John Giannini.
And my guess would have been, just as Tom Gola's Explorers, who won the NCAA title in 1954 (and lost in the championship game in 1955), must have back in the Eisenhower era. Which would sure have qualifed in Archie's mind as the pre-countercultural good old days Archie was longing for. He probably liked Tom Gola as much as he was annoyed by Meathead.
It was only the other night, as I was getting ready to watch La Salle beat Ole Miss with Garland's already legendary Southwest Philly Floater, and the All In The Family theme song popped into my head, that the idea that the LaSalle they were signing about that ran so great might have been something other than a basketball team.
Like a car, made by General Motors from 1927 to 1940, and devised as a companion make to a Cadillac. Apparently the one Archie and Edith own back in the honeymoon years really ran great. Just like Tom Gola, Kenny Durrett, Charlie Wise, Stevie Black, Lionel Simmons and Ramon Galloway and Tyrone Garland.
So as Archie and Edith themselves might say: Let's go Explorers!