Phanatic praise and ‘Idol’ worship help

After years of fighting a reputation of being dangerous, dirty and unattractive, Philadelphia is finally getting positive attention.

Recently, named the Phillie Phanatic as the top mascot in the country. The decision was based on the characters’ appeal, endorsement and trendsetting, among other things. Though there was never any question about this city’s love for the furry, scooter-riding Phanatic, national recognition isn’t something to shy away from. If the Phillies can’t win the World Series, at least local sports fans can be proud of the mascot.

If a loveable mascot wasn’t enough to bulk up Philly’s reputation, the city has also received tons of free publicity from its recent stint on American Idol. The national exposure Philly received as its residents sang their way to fame or shame was worth more than $2 million, as reported in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Just a few months ago, Travel + Leisure magazine ranked Philadelphia as one of the most unattractive and unfriendly cities in the country. Our high murder rate also drew national attention.

Having a top mascot and getting free advertisement might be a step in the right direction for Philadelphia, but those factors may not have enough weight to counteract people’s negative view of the city. Though the survey done by Travel + Leisure might have been poorly conducted, as sociology professor David Elesh pointed out in an interview with The Temple News, there are enough people out there with negative perceptions of Philadelphia to have an impact on the city.

Affectionately referred to as “Filth-adelphia” by outsiders – and some residents – years of bad publicity, corrupt politicians and enough murders to scare off Charles Manson have created quite an obstacle for Philadelphia to overcome.

Another factor working against Philly is its residents, who are notoriously cynical and self-deprecating. No matter how many advancements the city makes, residents either don’t notice, or they want more. The only thing Philly can count on is that its people are aware of the city’s shortcomings. We might be unattractive, but at least we’ll be the first to point it out.

Philadelphia is definitely improving. In the past few years, the city has initiated various programs devoted to the betterment of several communities. New Mayor Michael Nutter and Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey have already surpassed the former ones simply by speaking proper English. Dropping John F. Street can only bolster the money tourism brings to Philadelphia, some $28 million per day, according to a representative of the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation in an interview with The Temple News.

Unfortunately, these small doses of positive recognition aren’t enough to revive the city. Bigger things need to happen in order for Philly to turn itself around in the eyes of others. The Phanatic may be popular, but he’s not a miracle worker.

Shannon McDonald can be reached at

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