Ah, the curse of Billy Penn. A time in Philadelphia that many would like to forget. But — since it’s the anniversary of the when it all began, we’re going to take a look at it.
What better place to start than the beginning, right?
Long ago (May 13, 1985), construction officially started on the One Liberty Place Skyscraper. This building, along with its counterpart, Two Liberty Place, were soon-to-be the tallest locations in Philadelphia. This officially broke the “gentlemen’s agreement” that noted no one should build taller than City Hall — with the highest point of the building being a statue of the city’s founding father, William Penn.
Well, the concept was brushed off and the buildings were completed — the first officially opening their doors in March 1987 … and thus sending the Philadelphia sports world as we know it into one of the worst droughts in history — and I wish I was talking about rain.
It wasn’t long before things went sour and the previous decade and a half of titles, trophies and parades became a distant memory.
Just two months after opening, the Flyers lost in the Stanley Cup Finals in a seven-game series against the Oilers. Ten years later, they found themselves back in the Finals for the first time since and had no luck at redemption — losing terribly in a four-game sweep by the Red Wings.
It took 13 years for the Phillies to make it back to the World Series after winning their first title in 1980 and fans were looking for a turn for the best. Nope. In one of the most gut-wrenching losses in city history, the 1993 Phillies lost to the Blue Jays in a six-game series on Joe Carter’s walk-off three-run home run.
The turn of the 21st century happened before the Sixers found themselves in the Finals once more. Even with the Lakers defending their title and went in as series favorites, Philadelphia fans still held on to hope because of Allen Iverson — the league’s MVP for the season. The Sixers fell on their home court in five games.
The tides almost looked like they were beginning to turn when the Eagles made it to the NFC Championship game for four straight years (2001-04) and finally made it to the Super Bowl in that fourth year. Let’s just say, they got sick under the pressure and long story short — they lost to the Patriots by three stinking points.
For 25 years there was a whole lot of … nothing. Fans couldn’t take it anymore and longed for a celebration that called for banging pots and pans in the streets and partying with friends and family through all hours of the night.
Luckily for everyone, the Comcast Center had an opportunity to turn things around. On June 18, 2007, the final beam had been raised to complete the latest and tallest addition to Philadelphia.
What was on that beam? A small figure of Penn. Soon enough, if felt like things were being restored (you know, after it was replaced when the first one was stolen, but that's a whole other story).
Pretty sure you all know what happened next — but since I listed the bad, it only makes sense to cover the good as well. It’s called balanced, people.
Just over one year later, the Phillies won the 2008 World Series. The curse had been broken, hope had been restored to the city and suddenly, sports were fun again.
The trend continued — and rightfully so — to add a Penn statue to the top of every new building that sets a record in height. On November 27, 2017, the Comcast Technology Center that currently holds the title as the tallest building in Philadelphia, had the small figurine placed at the top once more.
Soon after, the Eagles went on to win the first Super Bowl in franchise history. February 4, 2018. 41-33. A day that will go down as one of the most memorable within Philadelphia.
The best part of this journey through the curse though? Fans remained devoted to their city, even after a quarter century of losing. Why can’t people talk about that instead of us throwing snowballs at Santa? Philadelphia is consumed by the most loyal fans in the country. They bleed when their team loses, they boo when they know players have more fight in them and they sure as hell know how to celebrate once the dust settles and they come out as champions.
Now, it seems like the curse has turned into a trend — with a new tallest building (with the statue, of course) comes another championship.
So I don’t know about you … but if it takes another skyscraper to see Claude Giroux lift the Stanley Cup … I’ll go and do it myself, though help would be appreciated.
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