The Curse Of William Penn
I’ve always said that this was a heartbreak town. The first time I lived here, I lost a wife, a life I didn’t want much to do with and a very, very cool kitten. All within the space of a couple of weeks. And, for the most part, that’s how things seem to run around here. For a few weeks or months, you’re living high. “Sky’s the limit, Ma…” and you feel unstoppable. Then the rug comes out from under you and the next thing you know you’re penniless and broken. That’s one of the beautiful things about this town. You may be destitute and desperate… but there’s nowhere to go but up. It’s almost as if Philadelphia only exists to remind us that there is Hope in the world. Because, believe me, if we didn’t have Hope in this town, no one in their right mind would live here.
Sport in Philly works the exact same way. More often than not I have seen a team fumble in the pre-season, only to come out strong and sure of them selves as they start to gel and coalesce into something that the media will always describe as “Unstoppable” or “A Legacy in the Making”. And they’ll play great ball until their sudden, and quite inevitable, loss. And that’s what always gets me. In this town, it’s never a series of small missteps that lead up to the sudden crushing defeat. It always comes down to one game or one stupid thing that sends the entire season into a tailspin.
According to the old(er) bastards around here, there was a time when being a Philadelphia sports fan wasn’t a life long lesson in getting your hopes up only to suffer a crushing defeat. Most of the city simply believes that we’ve just had a string of bad luck that somehow managed to last for 23 years or so. There are a few stalwarts, however, that believe something entirely different. They believe, it’s a curse.
For most of this grand city’s life, we had a few simple rules. Don’t say “Wop” in South Philly. Never, ever get into a debate about who has the finest cheesesteaks with your best friend. There is not and never will be a 14th St. And you shall not build a building that stands taller than Billy Penn. You see, old Bill stands atop City Hall, gazing down upon the City he worked so long and hard to develop and build. It was his reward, you see, for his years of dedication that he would be allowed to look out upon his city every day and survey his handiwork.
All that changed in 1987. Liberty One (one of the taller structures in the city) was finally completed. Liberty One stands a full four hundred or so feet taller than Old Bill and ever since, there’s been a steady decline in our glorious team’s track records. It’s almost like Mr. Penn is taking this personally and taking it out on our beloved sports teams (There’s a fantastic movie available that covers this whole theory in a little more detail.).
The Fightin’ Phils have been in a steady decline for years, the Flyers are officially the worst team in the NHL and even the almighty A.I. can’t save the Sixers from taking an early playoff vacation. Hell, my beloved Eagles fought like titans this past year, after Donovan McNabb got dropped like sack of potatoes. And they made the playoffs. Once the town rallied around Jeff Garcia, for a few weeks, we had something to look forward to. A new QB, an new excitement for the team and suddenly we’re winning games. Did we win the Big Game ? Or even the playoffs ? Aw, hell no.
But really, did you think we were going to ?