- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 6, 2005

PHILADELPHIA.

The City of Brotherly Love might have spent yesterday’s offday still reveling in the Phillies’ Opening Day win over the Washington Nationals before the series continues today, but that’s the small view. The broader picture on Broad Street reveals it is a heck of a lot better to be a Nationals fan today, tomorrow and for years to come than a Phillies fan.

Why?

Washington will have a better ballpark than Philadelphia. The new ballpark along the Anacostia waterfront will be a leader of the next generation of stadium design, while Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia is one of the last, tired entries in the line of Camden Yards replicas. (“It has all the pizzazz of a suburban office park,” the Philadelphia Inquirer architectural critic declared upon its opening last year.)

Talk about a waste of money. This is a city that has not one but two rivers running through it and no shortage of waterfront property downtown, yet it built a new ballpark right next to the old Veterans Stadium location. So people come to the games and then leave. There is nothing else down there and little chance of any economic development to come.

Philadelphia Mayor John Street praised the building of the stadium (and the Eagles’ Lincoln Financial Field) despite an outcry against the $458 million, publicly financed ballpark.

“Stadiums don’t last forever, and if we didn’t step up and help make it happen for our teams, I don’t think they’d all be here,” Street said.

Stepping up, though, would have meant putting the ballpark downtown as originally planned. Instead, the city settled for far less.

To his credit, Mayor Anthony A. Williams didn’t do that when critics wanted the new ballpark to go where RFK Stadium is now. It would have shown a similar lack of vision (though maybe it would not have been a good idea to put the Phillies’ ballpark near the water, what with the possibility of drunk fans falling in and perhaps tossing in opposing fans as well).

Speaking of Mini-Mayor, that’s another reason Nationals fans have it better than Phillies fans. The Nationals have a better No.1 fan. The Phillie Phanatic recognized that Monday when he kneeled down and kissed Williams’ feet.

Reason No. 3: Charlie Manuel is not the Nationals’ manager. He may be a lovely guy, but the Gomer Pyle routine is going to wear thin quickly in Philly once the Phillies start to get left behind in the National League East by the Atlanta Braves and the Florida Marlins. Fans will be calling talk radio doing Manuel imitations. “You’ve got to get that first win,? Manuel declared after Monday’s 8-4 Opening Day win. He also threw in a ?got to play them one at a time” reference.

That’s an improvement from his tenure in Cleveland, where he once declared before the season started, “That’s what’s good about this game. Especially when the season starts, it seems like there’s a lot of other days left.” He may be a players’ manager, but in Philadelphia, you had better be a fans’ manager because they run the show. They were booing on Opening Day, for crying out loud. And they were winning at the time.

The people of Philadelphia are still licking their Super Bowl wounds. Patience is not considered a virtue here. Then again, if you are a Philly sports fan, virtue is not a word you particularly care about, anyway.

Charlie Manuel vs. Frank Robinson - Please. You won’t hear any Hall of Fame answers from Manuel as you will from Robinson, who, during spring training, made the distinction that while Gary Carter was in the Hall of Fame, he, meaning Robinson, is a Hall of Famer. The closest Manuel ever will get to Cooperstown is whatever Stuckey’s is nearby.

The Phillies will finish ahead of the Nationals this year. They have better players, though not good enough for this town. By the end of this season, if you woke up W.C. Fields from the grave and asked him, he would probably say, “All things considered, I’d rather be in Washington.”

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