I went to the Phillies victory parade today. It was an outstanding experience. Let me say that I do not consider myself a huge sports fan. I love the Philadelphia Eagles, mainly because my family always has. Despite growing up almost in the shadow of Veteran’s Stadium, I never really took to baseball. I attended games as a kid because they were cheap. $4.00 for General Admission in the 700 level or “nosebleed section” as we called it, and plenty of opportunity to sneak down into better seats after the 7th inning stretch. For all that, however, baseball games were an activity, not a passion for me.
So why did I go to the parade today? Why I am I so excited about the Phils’ World Series win? Because of the effect it can have on my city. There is an urban legend in Philadelphia. The Curse of Billy Penn. It goes like this.
For many years there was a gentlemen’s agreement not to build any building higher than the hat on the statute of William Penn that sits atop City Hall. Shortly after Philadelphia’s last major sports team win – the Sixers in 1983 – the gentlemen’s agreement was broken, and the tall buildings known as Liberty One and Liberty Two were built in Center City. Local legend has it that the spirit of Billy Penn was none too pleased, and he made his displeasure known by dooming Philadelphia sports for a quarter century.
It would have been bad enough if our teams just outright sucked for 25 years. Being the “losingest” city in the country, with 100 chances for victory across our four major teams, would have been enough. But no, Philadelphia teams have so often been good, coming so close so many times – the Phils in 1993, the Flyers in 1997, the Sixers in 2001, the Eagles in 2004 – and never managing to clinch victory.
Late last year, after the close of the 2007 baseball season, a new tall building opened in Philadelphia. The Comcast Building towers over even Liberty Place. This time, however, the builders did right by Mr. Penn, and put a new statute of Pennsylvania’s founder on its roof. Voila. 2008 World Series Champions.
So the curse is over. Hooray. But why do I care? Because when that final out happened on Wednesday night, my hometown went wild. Not just screaming and drunken chanting – yes, there was and is plenty of that outside – but with hope. We were no longer the biggest losers in the country. We were somebody again, a city of the first order. The most common refrain I’ve heard over the last three days is “I can’t believe it!” Well, believe it. We did it. More correctly, they did it. And they did it for us. So go thank the Phillies, hold your head high, and get out there, today, next Tuesday, and every day, and remember that you and each of you now know the awesome feel of victory.
And now, the pictures: