The Villanova Wildcats are national champions! They are also the first championship team this city has seen in years. In years. So, of course, there is going to be a parade, and it’s going to be in Center City.
Mayor Jim Kenney announced today that a five-block long parade will take place Friday at 1 p.m. and go from 20th and Market streets to Dilworth Park at City Hall.
Is that a good idea or not? Here is a case for, and against.
The case against…
Villanova is in Radnor. It is not in Philadelphia. That alone should be enough for Philadelphia to have no interest in paying for and holding a parade for the national champs, and for Villanova to have no interest and celebrating its greatest sporting accomplishment in 31 years in a foreign city. But apparently its relatively small — but loud, ahem Ed Rendell — number of alums, as well as people who just want Philly to cheer about something sporty, so here’s a few other good reasons.
Parades in college basketball are relatively rare. Duke apparently didn’t hold one in 2015, and neither did North Carolina in 2009. In 2012, Kentucky held its parade in Lexington… not 70 miles west where its alumni live in Louisville. College celebrations are meant to be a bit lower key and for the students and athletes, most of whom have no connection to Philly.
About 78 percent of Villanova’s students hail from out-of-state. Compare that to 52 percent out-of-state students for Saint Joseph’s and 39 percent for La Salle. Aside from occasional trips to the Wells Fargo Center for basketball games, no current Villanova student has much of a reason to come to Philly.
Villanova, of course, has bucked the trend before, holding its celebration in a city where its campus doesn’t reside in 1985. About 100,000 people were estimated to have shown up around City Hall. Who were they?
Yeah a lot of them, according to the New York Times at least: “Prim, trim suburban mothers with toddlers in tow.”
Villanova’s championship was amazing. The game will go down as one of the greatest in the history of the sport. The students and staff and suburban moms should be able to celebrate the accomplishment with a parade. But near their campus. Which is in Delaware County.
— Mark Dent
The case for…
Everyone loves a parade, and with Villanova technically a city school, it stands to reason the parade should be inside the city limits. Sure, Villanova’s campus isn’t actually in Philadelphia, and the alums have made that distinction abundantly clear over the last 31 years, but the Wildcats basketball team is every bit as Philly as the other City Six schools. More so, given the fact that parades aren’t exactly a regular occurrence in these parts and none of the other college teams, football, basketball or otherwise, are closing down city streets for a celebration anytime soon. The bandwagon may be loaded with pastel shorts and cardigans, but there’s plenty of room for the rest of us too.
Heck, Connecticut had a parade in 2014 for both their men’s and women’s team down in Hartford, and that’s further than Villanova is to Center City. Plus, Hartford is barely even a major city!
On the professional side, the Philly parade probability is bleak. Should we give the Flyers a parade just for making the playoffs? The last time a professional team in the city even did that it was two years ago. The Eagles may have the best chance to give the city a parade sometime in the next decade and they’ve turned over their entire staff and front office this year. The Sixers are in a perpetual state of rebuilding (Trust. The. Process.) and the Phillies…well, we’ll always have 2008.
And that’s the point, if we count up the seasons of the professional and major college teams in the city, it’s been more than 90 collective seasons since a Philly team won a championship. (Note: this doesn’t include the Soul, Wings or Kixx, if any of those teams still exist.)
So, sure, a parade for a college team is kind of strange when they could easily have a rally on campus (like the one they are having today at 5 p.m.). And, yes, the money the city will have to pay for police and security and parade cleanup will only serve to shed light on 1) why those on the Main Line aren’t footing that bill and 2) how Kris Jenkins, Ryan Arcidiacono and the Wildcats players aren’t making a dime while the city drops a million bucks on ticker tape. But everyone loves a parade! And if they’re going to have it, why not have it in the city where the most people can be a part of it? Now is not the time for geographical battles. We won something! Let the city be happy for once this decade.
— Dan Levy