It’s that time of year again when we contemplate those in our region who made life more enjoyable over the past year, and, of course, the biggest boneheads of 2013.
Broomall Fire Department: Sure, these volunteer firefighters are heroes on an everyday basis, since they routinely do things contrary to human nature, like running into places everyone else is trying to escape. And yes, they are always kind enough to give Santa Claus a lift around Marple Township on their fire truck so they can spread much-anticipated Christmas cheer. But this year, they did something extra special.
As Santa was passing by, a beautiful girl with special needs came running down the street with her grandfather to catch a look. Her eyes twinkling with excitement, her smile a mile wide, she was thrilled to have been so close. But as she stood there in awe watching the truck move away, it got better. Much better. The driver stopped the truck, turned around and came back. The whole crew — and Santa himself — then gave the girl the gift of a lifetime, inviting her to ride along with them throughout the neighborhood. There wasn’t a dry eye to be found.
Seeing acts of kindness like that rekindles faith in humanity and restores the true meaning of Christmas where it belongs — in the heart.
Opera Singers At Fellini’s Cafe in Media: It’s all too easy to get caught up in the immense negativity that surrounds us, but dinner at Fellini’s on Opera Night, where the singers — literally right beside you — belt out songs of passion while hitting notes seemingly not possible, makes the bad things immediately melt away. The singers, some of whom rush back to service their tables after performing, leave patrons breathless, stunned by how beautiful, how intense, and how intimate an opera song can be.
Being in downtown Media at Christmastime is spectacular; eating fantastic food even better. But leave it to the passionate Italian opera singers to make that experience priceless.
St. Joe’s Prep High School football team: The underdog Hawks routed a three-time state champion from Pittsburgh to win it all, earning the No. 1 ranking in Pennsylvania and good enough to be 38th best in the country.
And hey, if a Catholic school wasn’t going to win the championship, the Jesuits are the next best thing!
So kudos to the Hawks and best wishes for continued success. Perhaps next year, they will be able to accomplish the one goal that has eluded them — beating my alma mater, Malvern Prep.
Chip Kelly and the Eagles: Truth be told, the Eagles would have made the Winners list even if they had lost to the Cowboys. Kelly has the team, and just as important, the fans, believing again — something that had been woefully lost during the last years of coach Andy Reid. Kelly led the last-to-first transformation with creativity and guts, and now, the Iggles are going to be a very, very tough team to beat, especially in cold Philadelphia weather.
And here’s the best part: Chip actually says more than three words at press conferences. That alone makes him a huge winner in Philly’s book.
Delaware County: Delco scored big by attracting corporate powerhouse Sunoco, which will be vacating its offices in Center City and moving into the Ellis Preserve in Newtown Square.
Gee, I wonder why. Could it be that Delaware County has lower taxes, safer streets, lower taxes, better schools, free parking, lower taxes, easier access, and did we mention lower taxes?
Though, to be fair, Delaware County Council has to watch itself on the tax issue, as businesses and residents have seen a considerable tax spike over the last several years. Take a lesson from Philly. If you want less of something, tax it. Be careful.
It wasn’t too "taxing" to it figure out this year’s biggest loser, which certainly takes some of the fun out of it. That dubious honor goes to:
Gov. Tom Corbett: He was sitting at a 17 percent approval rating before pushing for, and achieving, a signature item: giving Pennsylvanians what will be the highest gas prices in the nation (an increase of 30 cents per gallon when fully phased). Talk about the gift that keeps on giving. And that’s his answer to win people over?
At least he achieved pension reform before the whole system exploded. Oh, wait. Sorry. He didn’t. Nor did he achieve what should have been a slam dunk — privatizing liquor, an issue on which almost all Pennsylvanians agree. Nor did he lower the country’s second-highest corporate tax rate to attract companies — a win-win since it would have also added union jobs. Instead, he kept trying to outsource the lottery to a foreign firm while consultants (and campaign contributors) reaped millions in taxpayer-financed fees.
But above all, Corbett is the biggest loser because he again deliberately failed to answer questions on the most pressing issue on many inquiring minds — and what will be the most decisive issue of the 2014 election — his handling of the Jerry Sandusky investigation while attorney general.
The Tom and Jerry Show is far from over, and legions of Penn Staters are salivating at the chance to make their voice heard on this issue — at the ballot box.
Philadelphia: What a shame that Philly makes this list every year. A city in a prime location with not one but two major river systems that could be tastefully developed (yet won’t be) continues to stagnate, as its residents and businesses continue their exodus to greener pastures. Sunoco, Citibank and countless others have fled, and with them, Philadelphia’s best and brightest.
And Mayor Nutter’s answer? Tax more, invent new taxes, ignore the pension bomb that will soon explode, and throw more money at a failed school system, all while leading a bloated, massively inefficient and downright hostile government.
It’s gotten so bad that Nutter makes John Street look good. What a legacy.
Weatherpeople: It’s one thing to make a lot of money being wrong so often. But what makes weather anchors so despised is how they overhype every single "weather event" (whatever that even means) to the point where many viewers are downright frightened, especially senior citizens. Ironically, news directors and the weather-morons haven’t yet figured out that their formula is a recipe for disaster. The more they cry wolf, and the more they needlessly scare people in their misguided quest for ratings, the more people tune out — and decreased ratings mean lower ad revenue.
So what are the chances of less babble about radar double scans and Alberta Clippers (seriously, who cares?) and more straight talk on the weather? Sorry to rain on that parade, but a snowball’s chance in hell.
(Look for Freindly Fire’s national winners and losers next week).
Chris Freind is an independent columnist and commentator. His print column appears every Wednesday. He can be reached at [email protected].