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Comcast Helps Break A Curse

The Philadelphia Phillies won the World Series!

And so ends one of the lesser-known sports curses, perhaps with a little help from hometown cable giant Comcast.

The City of Brotherly Love hadn’t had a professional sports championship since 1983, and sports fans there, being a suspicious bunch, attributed the drought to “The Curse of William Penn.”

For years, there was an unwritten rule no building in the metropolis would be taller than the hat worn by the city founder and pacifist Quaker, a bronze of whom stands atop the historic City Hall.

But a taller downtown building called One Liberty Plaza was completed in 1987 and the curse kicked in. The Phillies lost the World Series in 1993 to the Toronto Blue Jays, while the Comcast-owned Philadelphia 76ers dropped the National Basketball Association title to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2001. That same year the National Football League’s Eagles team began a three-year run in which the club lost National Football Conference championship. In 2004, the Eagles broke through, reaching Super Bowl XXXIX, only to fall to the New England Patriots in pro football's title game. 

So how did the operator come into the picture? Last year, when the 58-story Comcast Center was topped off, William Penn once again resumed his place at the top of the tallest building in Philadelphia. MLB broadcast carrier Fox mentioned the curse during its coverage of the Phillies' Game 5 clincher.

Comcast spokesman John Demming provided more details. Demming said it was executive vice president David L. Cohen’s idea to have a small statue of the city father affixed to the final beam that the ironworkers put in place during the topping off ceremony on June 18 — in homage to City Hall and as a “lighthearted attempt to break the curse,” he said.

But wait, there’s more. The original, two-and-a-half foot statue at Comcast Center disappeared — perhaps a competitive sports fan among the union men? — but was replaced with the current, five-and-a-quarter inch replica. Comcast reps said it even faces in the same direction as its prominent elder. (Which, by the way, was pretty much on eye level with Comcast’s former executive offices at 1500 Market St.).

Whether his idea broke the curse or not, Cohen was a popular man the day after the Phillies’ Oct. 29 victory, visiting sports radio station WIP-AM to talk about the win.