You gotta’ like a guy like Philadelphia ‘s Mayor Michael Nutter. Philadelphia’s not an easy city to love and Nutter loves it. Mayor Nutter doesn’t like his city treated like a poor country cousin to New York, and why should he? Aren’t the Phillies the division champs?
Even so, Philadelphia’s an acquired taste. When I lived there and worked downtown at the federal building at 6th and Arch Street, I acquired the taste. The “taste,” in my case, had a lot to do with the Italian restaurants of South Philly, to which I was introduced by a South Philly bleach-blond Italian girl named Judy (decline to give her last name.)
Judy T. had the cubicle next to mine. We got to be friends as I learned she was a warm, intelligent, and enthusiastic person in spite of a certain brassiness which you noticed first. One day Judy came in teary-eyed. She brushed me off at first when I asked what was the matter, but later in the day when I asked her again, Judy burst out bawling.
“I can’t believe it. I can’t believe it! They killed Chickie Narducci last night!”
Judy held both hands to the side of her head, a look of utmost anguish on her face. Apparently, she had been in the crowd that saw the reputed mobster’s body lying half-curbside half sidewalk beside his car.
Chickie Narducci was one of Judy’s neighbors; he was also the man rumored to have been behind the nail bomb explosion that blew mobster Phil Testa off his porch in South Philly. Judy described Frank “Chickie” Narducci as a most wonderful man, telling me that was a sentiment shared by others in the neighborhood. That’s Philadelphia, too.
Later on, I saw a different part of the city when I trained amateur boxers and spent time in North Philadelphia and Kensington boxing gyms. I’d been in some beat-up gyms, but none so bleak as the unheated in winter un-air-conditioned in summer back alley gyms where Philly boxers trained in dank cellar dungeons or musty converted industrial spaces.
In Philly, I’ve seen street fights where I wanted to run up and offer to train the guy, absolutely certain I could turn him into a world champion. Of course, I was afraid to. My mama didn’t raise a fool.
But that’s another side of Philadelphia-it scares some people, and that includes the people who live in the toughest parts of town. A denigrating moniker you sometimes hear applied to the city is “Killadelphia.” You could put the name to Detroit, Camden, Memphis, Compton, and various neighborhoods in the five boroughs of New York City, too.
While traveling to Philadelphia neighborhoods, I went to boxing gyms where even the thugs didn’t walk around alone. Everyone seemed to keep company in threes on the street. You kept your head down, and minded your own business.
Philadelphia is a place where even the city’s aristocrats speak plainly, and don’t engage so much in the dodginess which characterizes dialogue in many other places. New York has only one Carl Paladino; Philadelphia has many.
From the historic brick buildings which line the cobblestone streets in the Old City and Society Hill to the wide steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, there is no allure like the allure of a fall day in Philadelphia. Philadelphia has trees, people, food, architecture. It also has great cultural performances, universities, and some of the best hospitals in the country.
Mayor Nutter was rightly miffed that the Philadelphia Phillies weren’t given the prime time slot in Major League Baseball’s television coverage. The Phillies got the 5:00 time slot in their first playoff game against the Cincinnati Reds while the New York Yankees (my second favorite team) got the 8:00 prime time slot in their contest with the Minnesota Twins.
The Philadelphia Inquirer quoted Mayor Nutter as follows:
“The Philadelphia Phillies have the best record in major league baseball. It seems to me they should be in prime time.”
Mayor Nutter is perfectly right about that. I’m the sort of baseball fans which phanatic Philly fans like to hate. I only watch the big games and not all the time. By coincidence, I caught only part of the last inning of the recent historical no-hitter pitched by Roy “Doc” Halladay along with the help of catcher, Carlos Ruiz, and a bunch of other people.
Nutter doesn’t like it that the national media gives the city short shrift, nor do I. It doesn’t matter to him or me how Major League Baseball spokesman Matt Bourne justifies the slight-everyone knows it’s about the Benjamins. Nutter backed up his Philadelphia love with some facts, telling the Philadelphia Inquirer that “the Yankees are a wild-card team and had a worse record than the Phillies who won their division.”
New York City is the center of the financial world and money commands big media attention. Case in point: the Wall Street Journal some months ago added a dedicated New York section to its otherwise national and international coverage. The Journal also hired a bunch of New York oriented writers like Jason Gay who wrote an entertaining piece (It’d Be No Halliday Beating the Phils) comparing the Yankees and New York to the Phillies and Philadelphia. In it, he says “Yankee fans act as if the World Series trophy is a birthright that accidentally winds up in the hands of another city once in a while.“
In so many words, the writer channels Mayor and Philadelphia Ambassador Michael Nutter-give Philadelphia some respect. Interestingly, Jason Gay mentions that the end of Roy Halliday’s no-hitter occurred at 7:41 p.m prime time when “If you wanted to call a friend and tell him or her to turn on the TV to see Mr. Halladay, you could do it without their looking at their phone and assuming you were in jail and needed bail money.”