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March 29, 2016

Why Philly shouldn't host parade if Villanova wins NCAA tourney

Geography, finances and history nix any reason to have a parade in the city for the school from the suburbs

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney doesn’t want to become a mush by discussing a potential parade in the city he was elected to lead should the Villanova Wildcats win the NCAA men’s basketball tournament on Monday night.

When asked about that prospect, he cited the Flyers jersey placed upon the William Penn statue atop City Hall prior to the team getting swept out of the 1997 Stanley Cup Finals as his mum’s-the-word rationale.

Fair enough. There’s a bunch of voters amongst his citizenry with ties to Villanova, “a private university located in Radnor Township, a suburb northwest of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania within the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.”

I, on the other hand, don’t mind inviting jinxes into the mix for several reasons.

One: They’re gonna lose 72-69 to the North Carolina Tar Heels in the championship game, so the discussion itself is essentially moot.

Two: Of course they should have a parade if they win. That’s how fans commemorate their teams’ ultimate successes, so acknowledging they should have a parade falls into that moot category, too.

Three: The City of Philadelphia should not host a parade if the Radnor team ends up winning its first championship since 1985. This one’s important because if it goes unsaid until next week, too much time will have elapsed to reverse the “secret” planning discussions I’m pretty sure are already underway.

Part of the reason is geographic.

You see, Radnor is not the name of a neighborhood within the city limits. Nope, the school itself is 11.7 miles away from City Hall (and six from the border) via Lancaster Avenue. If one of the four city-based Big Five members win it, different story. Parade on! But nope, not in this case. Some say that’s just a matter of semantics, but it’s really just a matter of fact.

Part of the reason is historic. 

Sure, as Twitter’s Captain Lou pointed out, there was a Center City parade when the Cats somewhat-miraculously won 31 years back. But Philadelphians have long – if not entirely accurate – memories. The old yarn about Villanova big-timing the Big Five by scoffing at scheduling difficulties intrinsic to honoring local-rivalry doubleheaders while aspiring to national rankings and greatness is a hard one to shake. You thought you were too good for us back then? Well, we're too good for you now.

For me, at least, that speaks to a revulsion to classism, even perceived. It also enables me to diss Villanova without leaning too heavily on its football rivalry with my alma mater, the University of Delaware. (That latter angle ain’t gonna get too much drag with fans at Temple, La Salle, Penn and Saint Joe’s.)

Part of the reason is fiscal. 

Fresh off the shifting (read: unexpectedly increasing, after-the-fact) costs of Pope Francis’ visit last September, and at a time when Kenney needs to hike the cost of soda cans to help fund universal pre-K, justifying any expense to celebrate a suburban school’s athletic achievement would be folly.

Sure, they can say private donors will step up to cover the costs of a Center City parade, but that’s what they said before the pontiff arrived. Yeah, yeah, yeah, we’re talking small figures in the grand ledger of things, but between the attention from the pope’s visit and the DNC heading to town this summer, the “brings positive attention to the city” angle just doesn’t work. We’re doing just fine without it.

Listen, a Villanova national championship would be a great thing for the region (and, as a result of being located in that region, the city itself). And sure, it’d be a nice pick-me-up at a sporting time when the only other bright spot is the Flyers’ unexpected Gostisbehere-fueled renaissance.

But Villanova is not a “Philadelphia school” any more than Rutgers-Camden is, and the argument that you should root for a Big Five rival over someone else is just silly unless, of course, you root for the Cowboys, Giants or Redskins after the Eagles are annually eliminated from Super Bowl contention. (In which case, there's no getting through to you.)

Should the Wildcats again shock the world on Monday night (and, hey, let's hope that happens, because this is a difficult team to root against what with their Philly-lunchpail ethos and Jay Wright's suave bridge-rebuilding), SEPTA can increase the number of Regional Rail trains on the Paoli/Thorndale Line

That way, the good people of Radnor deal with the costs involved in celebrating one of their own on their home turf. 

I’m sure true Villanova fans won’t mind ponying up the fare to celebrate amongst themselves. After all, it's just a half hour away from Jefferson Station.