A selective guide to arts commentaries in print and websites elsewhere.
Introduction to Broad Street Review, plus biographies and contact points for our editors and contributors.
See a list of coming appearances by BSR's writers.
The ‘Inquirer’ contemplates Rendell’s TV tantrumBY: Dan Rottenberg 01.11.2011
What would old-timers who remember Mayor Dick Dilworth— both of us— make of the Inquirer’s coverage of Ed Rendell’s TV temper tantrum? And who at the Inquirer remembers the greatest moment in Philadelphia sports history?
Calling all simpletons, or:
When droves of seasoned Inquirer journalists took early retirement buy-outs around the turn of this century, some of us worried that Philadelphia’s leading news organization was destroying its institutional memory. Our worst fears have been realized in the past few months, and not merely because the Inquirer of December 22 characterized its new editor, Stan Wischnowski, as a “seasoned journalist” and a “veteran journalist.” This grizzled old veteran is all of 48 years old.
Of more serious concern is a breathless January 8 front-page article reporting that Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell momentarily lost his temper during an interview on “Sixty Minutes.” Pressed repeatedly by CBS interviewer Lesley Stahl about casinos and the money they extract from addictive gamblers, Rendell finally lost it, waving his arms and sputtering, “You’re not getting it. Those people would lose that money anyway. Don’t you understand that? You guys don’t get that. You’re simpletons. You’re idiots if you don’t get that.”
The article was accompanied by a large color photo of an angry Rendell baring his incisors, Dracula-style, on national TV. The article itself— the work of not one but two reporters— consumed 35 column-inches and enterprisingly provided insights from author Buzz Bissinger, Comedy Central’s blog site, a Republican spokesman in Harrisburg, a family therapist, Rendell’s former press secretary, two Tweeters, and a psychologist who specializes in anger management.
Missing from the article was any insight that might have put Rendell’s outburst in a historical perspective. To wit:
When Rendell was mayor of Philadelphia back in the Pleistocene Era— i.e., the 1990s— he was widely described as the city’s best mayor since Richardson Dilworth in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. Dilworth remains the gold standard among Philadelphia mayors, but like Rendell he was a man of great passions who relished controversy and rarely hesitated to speak his mind. He was also an alcoholic who tended to blow up when he drank, and sometimes when he was sober. (Finding himself unable to reason with angry South Philadelphians who loudly insisted on parking their cars in the middle of South Broad Street, Dilworth once shouted, “Greasers!” at them.)
He was a great mayor nevertheless— the first in the 20th Century to persuade corrupt and contented Philadelphians that the past need not dictate the future. Had any of the Inquirer’s old hands who remembered Dilworth— not to mention the notoriously short-fused mayor Frank Rizzo— been in the office when Rendell’s angry mug appeared on the TV screen, I can imagine what they would have said:
“Stop the presses! Ed Rendell is a fallible human!” Or: “Stop the presses! TV is a shallow medium!”
(Full disclosure time: While I wouldn’t call myself a friend of Ed Rendell— a longtime acquaintance is more like it— the fact is that I’ve known Rendell longer than anyone in Pennsylvania. He was a year behind me in elementary school on Manhattan’s Upper West Side; in high school we were sports publicists for rival prep schools; and he was a year behind me at Penn as well.)
Forgotten sports event
But let’s move on to more important news judgments. Twice in recent months the Inquirer’s sports staff has invited readers to choose the greatest moment in Philadelphia sports history, helpfully providing the most likely candidates:
Was it DeSean Jackson’s winning punt return for the Eagles on the final play against the New York Giants last month? Roy Halladay’s no-hitter in the first game of this year’s baseball playoffs? The 76ers’ 20-point come-from-behind second-half rally against Los Angeles that enabled them to sweep the 1983 National Basketball Association playoffs? Tug McGraw’s final strikeout that won the Phillies the 1980 World Series, their first ever? Or even, back in the Stone Age, Chuck Bednarik’s game-ending tackle of Jim Taylor of the Green Bay Packers, which sealed the Eagles’ National Football League championship in 1960?
Let me suggest one other moment that occurred B.R.H. (before recorded history, by Inquirer definitions). That was the Athletics’ walk-off victory in the fifth game of the 1929 World Series— a game in which they trailed the Chicago Cubs by 2-0 entering the bottom of the ninth inning. Had the Athletics lost that game, as they seemed likely to do, the Series would have returned to Chicago with the Athletics clinging to a 3-2 lead in games. Instead, the Athletics pushed across three runs in the bottom of the ninth and ended the Series right then and there. Nothing like that has ever happened in Philadelphia sports, before or since.
And who were the Athletics, you ask? Well, you see, until 1954 Philadelphia had two Major League Baseball teams, and one of them was, uh…
Oh, the hell with it. I’m too old for teachable moments. The Philadelphia Athletics don’t exist; therefore, they never existed. To paraphrase a certain irascible departing governor, you’re not getting it; don’t you understand?♦
Respond to this Article