Will Bunch: “The day Philly stopped being a joke”

Will Bunch: “The day Philly stopped being a joke”:

Everyone said the real problem was that Philadelphia — the nation’s sixth largest city and fourth largest TV market, birthplace of both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution — was a victim of a strange condition: low civic self-esteem. And what brought that on? A lot of things, some of them self-inflicted like our “corrupt and content” political culture — but there was also a severe case of sibling jealousy, the sibling being our colonial cousin of New York City.

Even at the start of the 19th Century, Philadelphia was still the center of the nation’s culture and higher learning — and then the Industrial Revolution hit. Philly plunged right in, manufacturing everything under the sun, from steam locomotives to Stetson hats. New York decided instead to manage — and occasionally gamble — the profits. You know how that worked out (when was the last time you wore a Stetson hat — or were transported by a steam locomotive?) Just 100 miles to the northeast, New York became a black-hole-like force, sucking the energy from Philadelphia, stealing everything from our talented college grads to foreign tourists who never even saw the nation’s founding city as they whizzed down the New Jersey Turnpike from the Statue of Liberty to the Washington Monument. New York got Broadway, the UN, the World’s Fair…and baseball. The Yankees won more World Series’ than any other team, while the Phillies lost more games than any other franchise in America — in any sport. Even the Mets, who didn’t exist until 1962, won a World Series before the Phillies finally did in 1980.

Bad behavior became the mask for a city’s collective anxiety. It wasn’t just the notorious 700 Level at the dank, concrete Veterans Stadium, where wearing an opponent’s jersey meant maybe sparing your life…maybe. Here at the Philadelphia Daily News, back when the Eagles became title contenders (but nothing more, of course) in the 2000s, we had a regular feature that inside the newsroom was officially known as “hater’s guides” to the cities that the Eagles were playing that week, even if the “city” was actually a Wisconsin Nice burg like Green Bay. You didn’t need Sigmund Freud to diagnose the pathology of Philly’s “haters guides.”

Then there was a day when everything seemed to change.

Read the whole thing. It’s fantastic.