Saturday, January 25, 2003

BLAME WILLARD ROUSE: As the City of Brotherly Love decides if we can even watch this game tomorrow, one loyal reader suggested that this was time to revisit a pet theory some of us have had as to why no Philadelphia team has won a major sporting title in 20 years.

I refer you to The Curse of William Penn.

Atop Philadelphia's City Hall stands a 37 foot tall bronze statue of William Penn, Philadelphia's founder. The statue, designed by Alexander Milne Calder, is the tallest to top any building in the world, making the building as a whole 548 feet high.

(Interestingly, it was mounted facing northeast, commemorating Penn's "walking treaty" swindle of the Delaware Indians, as opposed to facing south, as Calder desired, which would have given Penn constant sunlight.)

By gentleman's agreement, no building would eclipse the top of the statue for most of the twentieth century, so that Penn could preside over the city he founded. Then, in the mid-1980s, real estate developer Willard Rouse persuaded City Council to allow him to break that agreement, allowing for the construction of One Liberty Place and now several skyscrapers which now dwarf Penn and diminish his place in the skyline.

And how has the ghost of William Penn responded? Think about it. Since Liberty Place opened in 1987...
The Phillies have had two winning seasons in the past fifteen, and have won no titles;

The Sixers set an NBA record with six straight years of losing more games each year than the next, drafted Shawn Bradley, and have won no titles;

The Flyers made it to the Stanley Cup finals twice, but have won no titles; and

The Eagles saw beloved defensive end Jerome Brown die in an offseason car accident, the Buddy Ryan and Rich Kotite eras, Doug Pederson, Izel "Toast" Jenkins, no Super Bowl trips and, of course, have won no titles.

Not only that, but none of the local college teams have won a national title since then -- not in basketball (Villanova '85 was the last), not in football (ha!), no title, nowhere, no how.

William Penn may have been a Quaker and a nonviolent man, but that doesn't mean he doesn't he doesn't understand the meaning of the word revenge. Even a pacifist can have a retributive side, and we have angered our city's founder.

There's only one solution. We need to dismantle all the offending buildings, one by one. Every single one of them, from Liberty Place to the Blue Cross Building to Bell Atlantic Tower. For until we do, no Philadelphia sports team is safe, and neither are Philadelphia fans.

Is it an extreme step? Sure. But did you watch that game last Sunday? We can't let this go on another year. I can't take it.

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