This Sunday night looks to be another classic match-up between a heavy favorite and a hapless underdog. No, not the 49ers and the Ravens—the Super Bowl itself vs. Downton Abbey, Britain’s upper-crust costume drama on PBS. On display will be two radically different views of the culture. One, mired in the past, fetishizes assets inherited at birth and glorifies the over-privileged few. The other, as modern as can be, rewards personal achievement and stresses fair play.
I want to KO Rocky Balboa. And maybe—just maybe—so do you. For 36 years, the Kensington palooka has been the symbol of this city’s beleaguered spirit: Scrappy underdog, hopelessly overmatched, kinda stupid. Well, it’s time to hit the showers, champ. Philadelphians are tired of feeling down about their town, and outsiders are starting to notice just how nice it is here, too.
That’s the takeaway fromTravel + Leisure’s 2012 “America’s Favorite Cities” survey, which ranks 35 U.S. cities on various quality-of-life measures. Slicing and dicing urban living into 66 categories, T+L presumes to have uncovered America’s top places for things like cultural attractions, public parks, music scene, shopping amenities, best times of year to visit and a whole bunch of food categories (of those, we cracked the top five for pizza and “street food”).
I was a Republican before I was even old enough to vote for one. Thank (or blame) Alex P. Keaton for that. As a child of the 1980s, I fell hook, line and sinker for Michael J. Fox’s charmingly smug personification of the Reagan revolution on Family Ties. I wanted to be, like Alex, a smirky realist who rejected the naive idealism of the Baby Boomers. I wanted, like Alex, to go into business and make a lot of money. I wanted, like Alex, to date Courtney Cox.
I really wished I’d had my man purse with me the night I met Darren Daulton. (How often does a guy get to say that?) He was doing a live event at Chickie’s & Pete's, and was nice enough to sign autographs for a bunch of us. But that left eight guys walking around a bar holding collector’s-item autographed photos we didn’t want to fold up and shove in a pocket or leave on a sticky table. Know what would have been great in that situation? A small bag, preferably with a shoulder strap. But men aren’t allowed to carry bags. Oh, maybe a laptop bag or a briefcase. But not something small and lightweight. And you damn well better not call it a purse.
Hating on our city has been a popular pastime for decades, but the tide might finally be turning. Last week, the Pew Charitable Trusts issued a report on the city with sobering statistics on our weak local economy, mediocre schools, high crime rate, yada yada—all the usual problems. And on cue, the national media wasted no time writing Philadelphia’s obituary. Lost amid the melodrama was a refreshingly upbeat vibe among residents. The Pew survey shows public sentiment at a turning point: Although 35 percent of respondents felt the city had gotten worse in the last five years, 59 percent expect it to change for the better in the next five. And among newer city residents, the margin was even better: four to one in favor of a positive outlook.
Philadelphians are finicky about the names we adopt for our institutions, as anyone who’s ever looked in vain for “the Blue Route” or “the Lakes” on a map can attest. When the official name doesn’t suit us, we coin our own. If naming is a perennial crapshoot, Comcast just rolled snake eyes.
When news broke two years ago that the Spectrum would be replaced with an entertainment complex, we mourned the loss of a beloved arena but welcomed a reason to linger in the stadium district after an event. That is, until we heard the name: Philly Live! Yes, the exclamation point was part of the moniker.