Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Curse of Superstition

I would have thought that the Phillies' 2008 World Series victory would have ended these ridiculous superstitions surrounding William Penn. But alas, reason might not have won the day.

Apparently, a tiny statue of William Penn was placed atop the new Comcast Building, currently the tallest skyscraper of Philadelphia. So now Mr. Penn once again reigns supreme over the City.

For those of you unfamiliar with "The Curse of Billy Penn," here's my abridged version. William Penn, Jr. was the founder of the Province of Pennsylvania. A 37 foot statue of Penn was placed atop Philadelphia's City Hall at some point, and for many years there was a "gentleman's agreement" that there would be no building taller than this statue EVER erected. Human shortsightedness knows no bounds, apparently.

In 1987, One Liberty Place opened, the first structure to rise above the statue. Since that time (actually, since the Seventy-Sixers' NBA championship in 1983), no Philadelphian sports team had won a title. Looking for any explanation that would exculpate the professional organizations and athletes in question, someone somewhere came up with this brilliant idea that Billy Penn was pissed about his statue not being the tallest thing in Philadelphia and exacting his revenge on ALL of Philadelphia (not just the builders of One Liberty Place or the Commission that approved its height) by denying its sports franchies (actually, only the four major professional sports--other area sports have won several championships during the curse) professional titles.

No, he didn't avenge himself by spreading a pox, by killing the first-born child of every family, by poisoning all the soft pretzels and cheese steaks, etc. Penn focused his energies on the Sixers, the Flyers, the Eagles, and the Phillies. I guess that was supposed to be more poetic or something.

Anyways, for some reason, Penn thought a curse of 21 years was long enough, and the Phillies were permitted to win the World Series. Or, he was placated by the placement of a tiny statue atop the new Comcast Building. Who knew that Penn suffered from short man's syndrome?

As it turns out that Billy Penn was not a vindictive man ( He was a Quaker, who founded Pennsylvania and instituted free and fair trial by jury, freedom of religion, freedom from unjust imprisonment, and free elections. The Count of Monte Cristo he was not.

There are plans for a new skyscraper, the American Commerce Center, that would be 500 feet taller than the Comcast Center. I'll try not to be disappointed if someone puts a statue of Penn atop that.

If I played for the 2008 Phillies, I would have been a little bothered by all of this. After all, it wasn't all the hard work they put in as a team or the skill and talent they brought to their sport that got them a championship--it was someone's placement of a Penn figurine atop the Comcast Center.

But seriously, congrats to the 2008 Phils!

No comments: