Vice, Vice Baby!

A whole lot of Philadelphia’s needs are financed through vices. I just wish that the upfront costs weren’t so high.

Photo by Chris F

In case you’ve been hiding under a rock or somewhere so far away that you’ve been totally incommunicado, the Philadelphia Eagles are playing a significant football game on Sunday.

The Eagles and the Kansas City Chiefs will be playing in Super Bowl LVII at State Farm Stadium on Sunday in Glendale, Arizona. Former Eagles coach Andy Reid is leading the Chiefs these days. And in a bit of Black History Month irony, this will be the first time that two Black quarterbacks — Philadelphia’s Jalen Hurts and Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes — will face off for football’s biggest prize.

(I could get into the history of the Black quarterback in the NFL, but that’s my husband Chris’s area of expertise. Because Hall Monitor is sponsoring his coverage of LVII, that will be among the things we ask him about when he comes on the show on Wednesday. You might also want to check out William Rhoden’s awesome book “40 Million Dollar Slaves” for some context.)

Now under normal circumstances, the Super Bowl isn’t something I’d talk about in this space. Although I used to cover the Eagles when I worked at WRTI-FM in the early 90s, and Chris is probably the only sportswriter you’ll ever meet with a degree in political science, we don’t play in each other’s sandboxes much.

But on Tuesday, I went to Live! Hotel and Casino’s second anniversary festivities at the hotel’s event center. All of the usual suspects — Mummers, city officials, Casino executives — were there as the Cordish Companies, owners of the casino, gave the city $750,000 toward fixing up the Myers Recreation Center in South Philadelphia as part of the city’s Rebuild Program.

While it’s great that Cordish is giving the city money to help fund the kinds of things that studies show will help give young people alternatives to gun violence, I can’t help but think that this is the least they can do.

Why? Because right now as we speak, there is probably someone who doesn’t really have the money to do it placing a bet on the Super Bowl at Live! Casino as we speak.

One of the things that we often talk about here at Philadelphia Hall Monitor is the fact that Philadelphia is the poorest city of its size in America. Because of this, when Mayor Jim Kenney says stuff like the city will spend “whatever they need” on an Eagles victory parade should they win, it makes me more than a little mad.

It also makes me mad when I think about the fact that a lot of the money that the casino gave back to the city for Rebuild came from people looking for a way to afford the kinds of things that folks who can afford a Super Bowl ticket take for granted.

(My understanding is that those tickets are $4,000 a shot. Add in the cost of a hotel room, airfare, food, souvenirs and other incidentals, and the sticker shock would make the average person pass out. Think of it as a dude’s version of a ticket to a Beyonce concert.)

What’s always bugged me a little about how we finance such things as schools, recreation centers and the like here in Philadelphia is our reliance on vices. We have a liquor-by-the-drink tax that relies on people consuming alcohol. We have a sweetened beverage tax that relies on people consuming overly sweetened, unhealthy drinks.

We have casinos that rely on people losing their hard-earned dough. Super Bowl Sunday is one of the busiest days for sports betting, which the NFL has decided to seriously encourage this year. At Sports and Social, the sports bar at the Live! Casino, you can go to the Fan Duel Sports Book and bet on everything from who will win the coin toss at the beginning of the game to whether or not Rihanna will have a wardrobe malfunction during her halftime show performance.

(No. I’m not kidding.)

It’s a complicated dance that’s necessitated by the fact that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania decided a long time ago that funding the city that is essentially it’s ATM wasn’t something it was interested in. Not even billions in federal COVID funds have changed the Commonwealth’s mind about this, although everyone hopes that the combination of the House of Representatives under Democratic control and new Gov. Josh Shapiro might signal a change of heart.

So, while almost everyone here in Philadelphia is hoping that the Eagles will emerge victorious — I say ‘almost’ because there are quite a few people here in Philly who identify as fans of a certain team from Dallas that has treated it’s fans to 27 years of mediocrity — being able to finance city needs on something other than vices would be the true victory.

But that said, Go Birds!

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