Wait 'Til PhillyNext Year!

(October 2011)

Another Phillies season has come and gone with our fondest baseball wishes unfulfilled. Of all the Phillies memorabilia I own, the one item that always makes me pause is a set of World Series tickets from 1964. While the tickets pre-date my birth and the great collapse has since been eclipsed by two World Series victories, they will forever represent to me -- and to so many Philadelphia sports fans -- the cross we collectively bear. Generations of Philadelphians understand that we are somehow undeserving of success, not only for our sports teams, but for our city. I submit that it is past time to put that mindset behind us and embrace the idea that we can make Philadelphia the city we know it should be.

Before the Phillies' recent resurgence, when our boys of summer played on fake grass in a concrete toilet, things were ugly -- literally and figuratively. Our stadium was dreary. Our fans were surly. Our owner told us we were a small-market team. Our star left us because he did not think our team had a commitment to winning.

But, with resources from a new ballpark (thank us very much for the millions in public stadium-finance dollars) and a new mind-set among the team's owners, Philadelphia baseball became quite attractive. Our ballpark is lovely, our fans are adoring, our owners are intent on winning, and stars even take less money to come to Philadelphia to play. Our Phillies made the transition from not-so-loveable losers to the team to beat.

The remarkable shift in attitudes concerning our ball club is exactly the kind of shift that can happen for Philadelphia in general if we stop wallowing in self pity and start working to make the next Philadelphia the best Philadelphia.

In so many ways, Philadelphia is a city that is trapped by its history. For so many, Philadelphia remains "corrupt and contented;" the city that "booed Santa Claus;" the city that is "not as bad as Philadelphians say it is."  It may be that over time, we became a city content to lag behind -- or worse, one which fears and resists progress. In 1916, Harper's Magazine declared, "The one thing unforgivable in Philadelphia is to be new -- to be different from what has been." Nearly a century later, that could be the city's epitaph -- if we allow it.

We should demand better. Philadelphia was founded, not just as a city, but as an idea and an ideal: a city of brotherly love and a holy experiment of tolerance. This was once a city of firsts: a city that hosted events and innovations that changed the world; the birthplace of American democracy; witness to the dawn of the computer era; home of the cheesesteak.

Philadelphia's next generation of leaders is not corrupt and -- most important -- not content with the status quo. When we look at our city, we see what could be and refuse to take no for an answer. Our generation of leaders can embrace the legacy of Philadelphia as a "city of firsts" and build the city of opportunity and hope we need.  Just blocks from Independence Hall, the entrepreneurs of Indy Hall are building a community of innovation; the din around Temple University's McGonigle Hall is a renovation that is remaking the urban university; and surrounding City Hall, the energy of Occupy Philadelphia shows that this revolutionary city still has fight left in us to push for liberty and justice for all.

What can the next Philadelphia be?  Join us on Facebook (search for PhillyNext) for an ongoing conversation about making Philadelphia the city we know it can be.

And as for those of us who bleed Phillies red?  Just wait 'til PhillyNext year!