With the announcement of Roy Halladay’s retirement yesterday, I was reminded of Robert Frost’s bittersweet poem, “Nothing Gold Can Stay.” If you watched the ace labor through every start last season, you saw the end was coming, and in this case, a walk into the sunset is merciful and just. But not everyone knows when it’s time to call it quits. In tribute to Doc, here’s a list of Philly-connected folks who would follow his lead if they knew what was good for them. Read more »
Ever wonder what it’s like to be on the receiving end of the Cole Hamels stare? You know the one — that withering look he’s known to give on occasion when the home plate umpire’s being stingy with strike calls, or an outfielder makes a bonehead play. I felt that same chill as Cole looked me in the eyes and said, “I’m not talking about the kids.”
I have met the devil I didn’t know, and his name is FiOS.
After nearly 13 years of living in Center City, I moved to the ’burbs in September. Along with ample parking and more Wawas than I know what to do with, the relocation also brought a new kind of freedom — release from the shackles of Comcast for my television entertainment needs. I’ve taken my shots at the cable giant on this site, usually after receiving an enormous bill or enduring a lengthy customer service call. If only Verizon’s FiOS was an option, I’d say to myself (and sometimes, loudly, to a Comcast phone operator). This fall, my wish came true. I’m almost three months into living my fiber-optic dream.
And guess what? Sit down for this, because it’s a real shocker:
Heidi Hamels will hate the way this story begins.
But this is where her story must begin, because without it, the farm girl never becomes a celebrity, which is how she meets a handsome young man with a wicked changeup who asks her to marry him, and that handsome man doesn’t win a World Series, or tell his wife that her passion is his passion and yes, to take briefcases full of his money and create a foundation that will, without exaggeration, save the lives of children in a far-away country he’s never stepped foot in, and to adopt an orphan from another far-away country, and while she’s at it, to give a little hope to the rundown public schools in the city they now call home.
So the story starts here: Heidi Strobel, as she was known then, standing on a wooden perch in the middle of a blackwater river in the Amazon, hungry and exhausted in the way that makes you do strange things, preparing to take her clothes off for Oreo cookies and peanut butter and a soda in front of what would later be a national television audience. To everyone watching—maybe even herself—it seemed as though she’d traded her dignity for a snack and a morsel of fame, without knowing she was actually about to take her first step toward something much bigger. Naked and unafraid, Heidi jumped.
Heidi Hamels would prefer to begin just about anywhere else, like the first time we meet. Though she usually avoids the word “celebrity,” that’s what she is, and has been, to varying degrees, since her appearance on season six of CBS’s Survivor 10 years ago. We are introduced at XIX, the restaurant high atop the Bellevue with stunning views of the skyline, where Heidi has just been honored as one of the city’s most fashionable women by Nicole Miller Philadelphia. The 35-year-old looks the part—perfectly put-together in a silvery-gray dress that shows off her toned figure, kleig-light smile, blond hair extensions spiraling across her slim shoulders. When Heidi stands up from her table to greet me, she shimmers. “Would you like some food?” she offers, before ordering steak frites and a glass of cabernet. “Do you mind if I eat while we talk?”
By her side is G-N Kang, the director of operations for the Philadelphia office of the Hamels Foundation, the nonprofit Heidi and her husband, 29-year-old Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels, launched in 2008. G-N opens her chrome-shelled MacBook and scrolls through photos from the foundation’s latest trip to Malawi, in September. The African nation holds a number of unwanted distinctions, including more than half a million children orphaned by AIDS and the title of eighth poorest country in the world. I know these things because Heidi tells them to me in a breathless burst, like a five-year-old who just can’t wait to tell you a story! Her passion project is a $3.5 million primary school her foundation is building in the village of Namunda, where young girls are more likely to become prostitutes than high-school graduates. Many Malawian children are raised by their grandparents, because their parents are dead. Every graduate of a Hamels Foundation school will have seven skill sets that will hopefully translate into jobs someday. G-N finally speaks, explaining that the act of fetching water there requires a five-mile walk, then five more back home. “Great point, G-N,” Heidi says. “Such a great point. Glad you brought that up.”
Some people would describe Heidi as a “force of nature.” Others might call her simply annoying—so unrelenting with all the Africa stuff. Okay, yes, we get it, you’re saving the world. But consider that Forbes recently named the Hamels Foundation “an athlete charity that actually works,” because 100 percent of the money it raises is invested in Africa and the places Heidi and Cole have called home—San Diego and Philadelphia and Springfield, Missouri. Of all the athletes and their wives in this town, only two other couples—Chase and Jen Utley and Jimmy and Johari Rollins—have achieved such name-recognition status. They also run their own worthwhile charities. But the Hamelses have both local and global goals, and live like they preach—last fall, they adopted an orphaned baby girl from Ethiopia. Their annual “Diamonds and Denim” fete has become one of the city’s must-attend social events. Heidi and Cole are the closest thing Philadelphia has to Brangelina. As Heidi later tells me, “I hate to even use another celebrity in an interview, because you don’t want to take their idea as your own, but Angelina Jolie one time said, ‘I hope nobody remembers me as an actress. I hope everybody remembers me as a U.N. ambassador.’”
Yes, she says “another celebrity,” as if she and Angie are in the same club. Perhaps you find that distasteful or laughable—or honest, because it’s true, to a degree. Heidi doesn’t really care what you think of her, as long as the foundation’s mission—her mission—is understood. Somewhere in the middle of her Malawi filibuster at XIX, Heidi shares two anecdotes that help tell her story, to explain how she went from reality-TV star to international do-gooder. We’ll save one tale for later. The other happened after she’d finished Survivor, when she asked the show’s host, Jeff Probst, why she’d been selected to compete.
“He said they picked me because I was strong and tough,” she says, “but that the GP—that’s the general public—wouldn’t believe a pretty blonde could be smart. That’s when I knew I was in trouble.”
A year ago, most football fans couldn’t pick Riley Cooper out of a lineup. In July, he made national headlines after he was caught on video using the mother of all racial slurs, the “n word.” Since then, Cooper has transformed from borderline practice-squad player to an essential weapon in Chip Kelly’s offensive arsenal.
About the offensive part — some fans seem to think it’s time to move past his vulgar choice of words and simply be thankful Nick Foles likes throwing to this guy. But just as the Cooper controversy seemed to fade away, that word kept making headlines in the sports world. Exiled Miami Dolphin Richie Incognito used it as a tool in his seemingly bottomless toolbox of harassment against teammate Jonathan Martin. Last week, Los Angeles Clippers forward Matt Barnes dropped it on Twitter after being ejected from a game. (The tweet has since been deleted.)
Good things tend to happen when DeSean Jackson scores a touchdown. When the speedy wideout finds the end zone, as he did Sunday in Green Bay, the Eagles’ record is 24-5. There’s no denying the impact he can have on the game. Unfortunately, catching passes isn’t all Jackson likes to do. He showboats. He disappears when things aren’t going his way. And he talks.
After the team’s win over the Packers, Jackson spoke to reporters about the upcoming matchup with the Washington Redskins in Philadelphia, where the Eagles are winless in 10 games — a franchise record for futility. “We gotta get it going,” Jackson said. “Hopefully, we can … win in front of our home fans. But [we’ve] gotta be supported by everybody. Can’t be coming into the game, first quarter, getting boos and all that type of stuff already. You just got to work with us throughout the game.”
The NFL Network’s documentary series A Football Life is must-watch viewing for any fan of the sport. If you’ve seen the excellent episode on Jerome Brown and Reggie White, you know what I’m talking about. (And if you haven’t, check your local listings and stock up on Kleenex.) That tradition continues tonight at 9 p.m. with a look at Randall Cunningham, who was arguably this city’s first superstar athlete—Sports Illustrated cover boy, flashy, infinitely quotable, and a mind for marketing long before every pro saw himself as a brand. Whether you’re a die-hard Eagles nut or a casual fan, here’s why you’ll want to spend an hour with #12.
Do Philly sports fans deserve their lousy reputation? That’s the heart of an upcoming feature story, as one lifelong hometown fan tries to set the record straight once and for all.
But we want to hear from you. Based of years of cheering at the Spectrum, booing at the Vet, tailgates, parades and crushing disappointments—what’s your opinion on the state of fandom in Philadelphia?
After the jump, take our poll. Results will be published in the January issue.
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One thing you have to credit Chip Kelly with is this—the guy can stick to a script. After his Eagles turned in their second horrifying performance in a row—Halloween ain’t got nothing on these Birds when it comes to scary stuff—Kelly faced some tough questions in yesterday’s press conference.
He deflected most of them with relative cool and a certain grace under pressure that’s admirable, considering the dismal state of his team. Then Kelly was asked about the problems with his offense, aside from the rotating cast of guys under center.
“You just hope if you’re a little unstable at quarterback, we can kind of lean on something else that can help us get through those murky waters,” Kelly said. “That’s where, as a group, we’ve got to do a better job… take a little bit of pressure off.”
Coach, if there’s one phrase to avoid in your post-game comments, it’s “we’ve got to do a better job.” See also: “time’s yours.” And avoid throat-clearing whenever possible.
River Boat Tours
Misc. Nocturnal Frivolity | Docks at Rittenhouse and Penn’s Landing
Whether you prefer your cruise of the Schuylkill or Delaware to be narrated or self-guided, boozy or low-key, privately chartered or filled with new friends, Patriot Harbor Lines has your ticket to ride. Our fave: the seasonal “Different Night, Different Lights” tour, highlighting the evening glow of Boathouse Row and the downtown skyline—the city at its prettiest.
Bluegrass at Fiume
Music | 45th and Locust Street
If you think all music must be amplified, you need to get to Fiume, a tiny (and we do mean tiny) bar on the second floor of West Philadelphia restaurant Abyssinia. The bourbon-scented room gets packed (and we do mean packed) every Thursday including the devoted followers of the Citywide Specials. If you close your eyes, you might swear you’re in Kentucky circa 1921. Alas, the drink prices will remind you that you’re not.
Games | 1200 S. Broad Street
Say goodbye to snooty upscale bowling alleys and behold the stripped-down glory of Pep Bowl: six lanes, 1950s furnishings, beer coolers encouraged. (It’s BYOB and BYOFood.) And just like fans of The Big Lebowski, the clientele ranges from blue-collar to hipster, everyone abiding each other just fine as they drink and roll through the night, till as late as 1 a.m. on Saturdays.
First Friday at the Arden
Arts & Culture | 40 N. 2nd Street
Not the sort of person who goes to the theater? Not even for free beer? Every First Friday, the Arden Theatre Company presents edgy, top-notch acts—Bearded Ladies Cabaret, the Dali Quartet, Headlong Dance—at both its headquarters and a nearby performance space, to lure those who are “not our typical demographic,” says marketing manager Leigh Goldenberg. Did we mention free beer?
Blues at the Twisted Tail
Art Alliance Cave Casts
Dance | 251 S. 18th Street
Part music master class and part intimate club night, DJ Brian Cassidy’s live podcasts at the Art Alliance are performances unto themselves. The host interviews an expert on a genre, artist or era, who provides the soundtrack for the evening’s live podcast. Then the dancing begins, sometimes going all night. This season’s lineup focuses on surf rock, Philly soul and sampling.
The Happy Rooster
Karaoke | 118 S 16th Street
Where is everyone in Rittenhouse getting drunk on Thursday nights? At the Happy Rooster, where the crowd skews young and fun. Expect to hear Madonna, “Sweet Caroline” and No Doubt.
Art After 5 at the Art Museum
Arts & Culture | 2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Kick off the weekend at the Great Stair Hall as international and local artists turn the otherwise staid space into a live-music party. Nibble on Starr snacks, hit the bar, and take guided tours of select galleries. Just exercise moderation—if you break it at Art After 5, you can’t afford to buy it. Fairmount, 215-763-8100; Fridays.
Food | 2229 Grays Ferry Avenue
Why in-the-know up-all-nighters prefer Grace Tavern: The kitchen serves the entire menu until 2 a.m., not just some puny list of snacks. Open till 2 a.m. Monday to Sunday.
Hot Yoga After Dark
Misc. Nocturnal Frivolity | 1520 Sansom Street
Yoga gets cool—and really, really hot when this Bikram studio hosts a special evening session set to amped-up music, with refreshing nonalcoholic drinks, like mint-infused coconut water, to cool you down afterward. The class officially ends at nine, but sticking around to hang with your sweaty new friends is encouraged (and inevitable).
Martha Graham Cracker Cabaret
Arts & Culture | 624 S. 6th Street
Dig, if you will, the picture: Jared Leto in a linebacker’s body, wrapped in a flapper frock, strutting across the 624 S stage, leading his band through a samba version of “Paint It Black” and “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” R&B-style. He’s the genre-bending, gender-bending Martha Graham Cracker. Two guarantees: a Prince cover and a funky good time.