2008 was a remarkably terrible year for just about everyone in America, from mesh-capped pluggers to Learjetting CEOs to doomed arena quarterbacks. Philadelphia has been far from immune from the pain, of course, but a few unexpectedly bright moments have ensured that our year wasn't a total catastrophe.
'08 began with the long-awaited removal of John Street's ossified corpse from City Hall--and ended with the vilification of his successor, who sought to locate Philadelphia's vanishing finances with a rusty budgetary hatchet. With southeastern Pennsylvania's rich lode of swing voters, the presidential candidates were a constant, grinning presence: gladhanding at The Melrose, bullshitting at the Irish Pub, and awkwardly ordering steaks at Geno's. Unfortunately for them, the election was an anticlimax here, coming just days after the Phillies delivered sweet tears to the jaded eyes of grown-ass men throughout the city.
A few of the year's most notable events:
Nutter: Year One: On January 7, Michael Nutter took office, saddled by the sense that he might actually have the goods to deliver on his promises: lower crime, better schools, less-sketchy government. Like the man himself, his first months were politically quiet and a tad boring--but towards the end of the year, long-dreaded budget predictions had mutated into a billion-dollar reality. Nutter, like thousands of mayors across our fading country, responded with cuts: to libraries, firehouses, snowed-in side streets. Planned tax reductions bit the dust, swimming pools were drained, and Nutter himself took a pay cut--a bleak moment, coming just 11 months after the rosy-eyed hopefulness of his swearing-in.
Obama's Clutch Speech: While Philadelphia was momentary host to a number of presidential hopefuls--from the Riddleresque Giuliani to the sorry-assed Edwards--it was Barack Obama's March Constitution Center speech that will forever link our city to the 2008 campaign.
At a time when Rev. Jeremiah Wright's YouTube-ready rant-bites threatened to thwack his candidacy, Obama delivered a speech that was moving, eloquent, and calibrated to the consonant to save his political ass. And in defusing the furor head-on, the ass was saved: Hillary Clinton is our next Secretary of State--not our next President--and John McCain is slouched in one of his living rooms, muttering at Rio Bravo in a pair of yellowing BVDs.
Comcast Center Reigns, For a Minute: In June, the flash drive-y temple to nobody's favorite company opened its giant glass doors, becoming the latest building in our fair city to sneer down at William Penn's hat. However, the distinction appears short-lived: in December, zoning changes to erect an even pointlessly taller monolith right next door zipped through City Council. The only thing that might slow our march towards a big-dick Chicago skyline is some sort of global economic meltdown--but fortunately for skyscraper fiends like Darrell Clarke, such an event seems highly, highly unlikely.
Vince on Trial: Power broker. Kingmaker. Preening goon with a luxury-vacuum jones. In September, Harrisburg powerhouse Vince Fumo's corruption trial began, and it didn't take long for his yacht-commandeering, worker-degrading, gentleman-farming lifestyle to be exposed for all the commonwealth to see. Whether or not The Vince winds up sharpening a toothbrush in a white-collar lockup, or again menacing the streets of Fairmount, the deep brown stain of the trial--the second of his career--will be particularly difficult to remove. But thankfully, Mr. Fumo has a handsome fleet of Orecks on hand for just such an eventuality.
Phillies. Phillies!: You may not have heard this, but back in October, the Phillies--the team of Patsy McGaffigan, Mike Rogodzinski, and Steve ".210" Jeltz--brought the city its long-craved championship. And it wasn't even close: Only the sight of Bud Selig's stupid, wet-rat face could add any stress to the Phils' breezy autumn dominance. In the space of a few Hamels-and-Victorino-fueled weeks, 25 years of local fan misery were forever stamped out. And by "forever," we mean, "'Til the Eagles tied the fuckin' Bengals three weeks later."
The McNabb That Wouldn't Die: Less than two weeks ago, it seemed certain we'd be waving our hankies towards Donovan McNabb right now, and rightfully so: he had just finished his biweekly zombiewalk, this time lurching though a deadening choker's delight against Washington. The odds, 25-1, said that the season finale against Dallas would be meaningless, his last in midnight green. Yet after a comically thorough ass-whipping of the 'Boys and victory in, incredibly, for his 13th playoff start--and wondering when the hell we'll ever done with this guy.
Not for another couple of games, hopefully. We'll talk about that when 2009 is through.
Jacob Lambert runs PhillyTurkey.com.