Sunday, May 11, 2008

The curse of Billy Penn

I introduced the Curse of Billy Penn last week: when Philadelphia City Hall was built in 1901, a Gentlemen’s Agreement said that no building in Philadelphia should ever be higher than William Penn's statue on top of the City Hall. A series of successful years for the four sport teams from Philadelphia ended in 1983, while the construction of Liberty 1 (the first building to rise above City Hall) started in 1985. Some people believe that breaking the Gentlemen's Agreement led to a curse on Philadelphia's sport teams. A collague told me some more details - it's a great example of the American culture:

Let´s start with the statistics (something that people in the US love – especially when you talk about sports): until 1983, the big teams of the four major sports (baseball, ice hockey, American Football and basketball) were quite successful. In 1980, all four teams were in major national finals! The Phillies were able to win championships in '80 and '83, the Flyers won the Stanley Cup in '75 and '76, the Eagles were in the Superbowl and the 76'ers won the NBA in '83.

In 1984, the government approved the construction of Liberty 1. The construction started in 1985 and the first building that was higher than William Penn was finished in 1987. And since 1983, no sport team in Philly has won a title!! By now, Philadelphia has the longest time without a championship for a big city in the US. Enough people started believing in the curse n 1993: when the Phillies came into the World Series, a Phillies cap was put on William Penn's statue. Unfortunately, without a success. They did the same thing in 1997: when the Flyers played the Stanley Cup, William Penn was dressed up with a Flyers Jersey. Again, no luck… (By the way: William Penn´s statue is still the largest statue on top of a building, so you would say ´what is he complaining about?´)

In 2007, the Comcast building was finished, which is the first building higher than Liberty 1. The CEO of the construction company thought he had the solution for Philadelphia: put a statue of William Penn on top of it! William Penn is able to look over the city again. And, look at the result: the Phillies are number 1 at this moment, and the Flyers are in the playoffs of the Stanley Cup. Maybe the curse has finally come to an end?

the original statue, with Liberty 1 on the background:

William Penn’s new statue: