This is Philly, where no step toward advancement isn't met by a wall of obstacles steadfastly supported by a peer group. The sad thing is, (new mayor-elect and La Salle grad James) Kenney should be above such silliness ... and he isn't.
Am OK with the scrutiny on its surface.
With my alma mater, Temple University, fueled by still relatively new president Neil Theobald and his grandiose ideas for his football program, pushing to get an on-campus stadium that will affect the surrounding neighborhood along North Broad in Philly, hey, by all means, the city’s new mayor-elect, James Kenney, has every right to take an interest, to want to know what the details are, to “get involved,” as intimated by an Inky columnist.
Kinda seems his public-service responsibility, ya know.
In theory, it makes sense. Even seems right.
Besides, the Owls already play in a quality facility, renting space from the Eagles on fall Saturdays at Lincoln Financial Field, just a stinky, sweaty, 20-minute bus ride from the school.
Still, there is this sneaking suspicion swirling around in the cerebellum, or somewhere closer to the equator, here that maybe, just maybe, this has more to do with this internal jealousy thing that seems to permeate and percolate within the city’s limits when one entity starts to strive for something beyond the pack, to reach beyond what has been the tried and true, to, gasp, break free, if even just a bit, from the comfy, familiar status quo.
We see it all the time here. Especially when it comes to sports. If one team does well, the others in town it has surpassed feel this innate need to paint it as Ivan Drago instead of Rocky Balboa. From high school to pro, this goes on all the time – which is kinda pretty weird since this is supposed to be the City of Brotherly Love, and even promotes itself as this great bastion of competitive sport, forever beholden to backing those from here.
Puh-leeze. You think any supporters of the fellow Big Five schools grasped Villanova’s jump into truly big-time college basketball three decades ago as anything other than an affront to them? Or Saint Joseph’s run at the Final Four a decade ago as something other than a reason to be jealous?
Flyers fans don’t follow the 76ers, and Eagles fans still fume over the Phillies getting so much love during the Utley-Rollins-Howard days.
Which brings me back to Kenney. Sorry, Jim, but the jig is up. That La Salle U grad label stamped forever on your forehead kinda, sorta besmirches your credibility. Frankly, it does the same for a Philly Daily News columnist, whose well-written, well-researched piece on Temple’s stadium proposal seven weeks ago had all the bases-covered focus of a Sam Hinkie-driven analytics report.
Good thing he wrote a follow-up this week to hammer home the point.
No, the sudden, all-points-bulletin emergency status Kenney gave this topic was, well, downright bizarre, and certainly reeked of the dog-eat-dog mentality so entrenched in Philly that the idea of another school or another team from the city than the one a person, even the mayor-elect or a supposed unbiased “voice,” supports either outwardly or in cloak-and-dagger silence eats away at those individuals, ya know, the victims of such “what about us” blasphemy.
Theobald, not knowing the etched-in-concrete culture of his current residence, miscalculated what would happen here. He picked the week of the Notre Dame game to really let the cat out of the bag on this venture … and, much to his surprise, the wolves started circling.
Yeah, sure, he thought people would get on board, rally behind the school in its attempt to better not only itself, but its football program, the surrounding neighborhood that no one seemed to care about until now, and, hopefully, the entire city – because, ya know, in sane world, having a big-time college football program to represent the nation’s No. 5 metro seems like a pretty positive thing. Only sanity doesn’t live within the confines of that No. 5 metro.
No doubt, there is – and should be – legit concern about such a costly venture ($100 million), especially one whose reach will extend far behind the campus. But none of that needs to be related to prejudice, which, sorry, it’s pretty apparent most of this is – even as those preaching loudest against the stadium utilize legit reasons to fuel their arguments.
Thing is, this is not some new idea at Temple. Former coach Al Golden was pushing for an on-campus facility as far back as 2006, when he was salvaging the football program from the dumpster fire and making it a legit, winning entity at the FBS level, albeit within the middling-to-less-than-middling Mid-American Conference. He pitched a 35,000-seat stadium, stated how it could impact the Temple and North Broad communities.
That was brushed under the rug just as quickly as Golden skipped town, thinking brighter and better things awaited him at Miami.
Since then, the Owls have won a bowl game, rejoined the Big East, morphed into the American Athletic Conference, dropped 10 games in a season and now won 10 this season. Clearly, the school’s administration had 2015 in its sights to pounce on the stadium possibility. If the team could take advantage of visits from Penn State and Notre Dame, play well and genuinely be worthy enough of drawing attention, if not fans, then it had something.
The team not only did that, it exceeded those hopes, and stands on the cusp of a program-record 11-win campaign if it can succeed in Tuesday’s Boca Raton Bowl.
But Philly wasn’t ready for it. Nor was its new mayor-elect.
The sample size of what the program can be, really, is too small to just automatically green-light a stadium and OK its plans and grant full-steam ahead on property adjacent to city-owned blocks. Basically, it comes down to this season, and head coach Matt Rhule’s new contract that runs through 2021.
Is that enough to give pause? Yes.
Is that enough to get those “afraid of change” jealous sorts to badmouth the idea? Obviously.
This is Philly, where no step toward advancement isn’t met by a wall of obstacles steadfastly supported by a peer group.
The sad thing is, Kenney should be above such silliness … and he isn’t.
Gut instinct never lies.
- Jack Kerwin | firstname.lastname@example.org
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