Philly’s 10 Big Winners of 2013

From Chip Kelly to Focused Deterrence to the PAWS Instagram to the Zoo's big cats, Philly had plenty to be proud of, too.

NFL: Detroit Lions at Philadelphia Eagles

My editor asked me to write this article as a companion piece to Victor Fiorillo’s Biggest Losers of 2013 article, and I must admit I’m a little stuck. First off, Victor recently caused a stranger to tell the news, “The world is still kind.” I haven’t reunited anyone with their stolen Christmas cards this year. That do-gooder gets to write the negative column and I have to do the positive one!

Still, a column is a column — and it shouldn’t be too hard to find a bunch of Big Winners from the city I love. I guess a winner is largely someone who creates a “good news” story about Philadelphia. I can do this. Let’s dive in.

Chip Kelly

Easy ones first. When the Eagles hired Kelly, he had legions of detractors: This college boy won’t make it in the NFL. Even the best analysts, like former Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski, said Kelly’s offense wouldn’t work! And, two months into the season, the detractors were gloating. (Not Jaws, he’s too classy.) The Eagles were 3-5, they’d scored just 3 offensive points in consecutive losses to Dallas and the Giants and Matt Barkley was starting at quarterback.

Since then, the Eagles have won 6-of-7 games. Nick Foles tied an NFL record by throwing 7 touchdown passes. The Eagles have the second-best offense in the league by yards per game, and their rushing offense is 20 yards per game better than anyone else! After years of Andy Reid‘s passing attack, Eagles fans have a team that rushes the ball!

To make things even better, if he chooses so, Chip Kelly can scour the Internet and find this page chronicling the tweets of his detractors. (Obviously, none of these comments were made by the fair, rational crew at Birds 24/7.)

Then Kelly went out and beat Dallas in a win-or-go-home game in the last week of the season and won the NFC East title. It was a little closer than Eagles fans would have liked, but, eh, who cares. The Eagles were the worst team in football by the end of the season last year, and are in the playoffs this year. Chip Kelly for mayor. Chip Kelly for president!

Hall & Oates

This Philadelphia duo overcame constant steroid allegations being from the 1970s and ’80s to make the Hall of Fame! Sure, they’re going in with Kiss, but that’s pretty cool. Several writers here at Philly mag chronicled their reasons for Hall of Fame worthiness this year, and I think they still hold up.

Here’s Darryl Hall doing “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do)” with Cee-Lo.

Aww, yeah.

The Philadelphia Zoo’s Big Cats

Obviously the best animals at the zoo are the big cats: Lions, tigers, cougars, mountain lions, Nittany lions, pumas, panthers, mountain cats, catamounts, et cetera. (If you disagree, you’re wrong. Winners of every year: Big cats.) And now with a $6 million grant from the William Penn Foundation, the Zoo will be able to build “a first-in-the-world animal trail system — including big cat crossing, an overhead passageway allowing the Zoo’s big cats to travel and explore far from their usual habitats.” This is such a big deal the mayor commented on it (well, in a release). “This new trail system and other improvements will redefine what it means to be a ‘world-class’ zoo,” he said, and I can only imagine he made the finger quotes around “world-class” like Austin Powers.

Curio Theatre

To normal people, a lesbian version of Romeo and Juliet is just a different twist on Shakespeare. I saw a King Lear with two fools; literally anything is possible. Thanks to a Philly mag story on the Curio Theatre’s lesbian version of Shakespeare’s classic play being linked on Drudge, we learned that this is apparently controversial. 1,231 comments! More importantly for Curio, the play was generally well-received to boot.

Austin Seraphin

This Philadelphia resident has been blind since birth, but now can “see” thanks to echolocation. In a fascinating piece by Newsworks’ Zack Seward, Seraphin explains how it works: “By making a simple tongue click — *click, click* — I can actually see visual forms around me.” This is just too cool.

The People Behind Philadelphia’s Focused Deterrence

Some general good news: Philadelphia’s on track for the fewest homicides since 1967, at about 250. Two-hundred fifty is still an unfathomably sad number. It’s still too high. But the huge drop is an achievement, and part of it is due to a relatively new system of police enforcement in South Philly. The Philly authorities call it Focused Deterrence.

As explained by Mike Newall in the Inquirer earlier this year, the idea works like this: Cops build cases against a large number of gang members — 45 at once, in the Inky story. Instead of just charging everyone, the cops instead make an offer: Clean up your act or we’ll throw the book at you. It gives people the real chance at job training — but arrests anyone who attempts to return to the drug corner. It destroys open-air drug markets, drops violence and legitimately gives people a chance to improve their lives.

It’s a program that has cut homicide counts in other cities, but it’s complicated: If some of the groups involved — “social service, law enforcement, and community outreach,” according to criminologist and program architect David Kennedy — aren’t committed enough, the program can collapse. But so far in Philadelphia, it’s working, and the people involved deserve a ton of credit.

The Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society’s Instagram account

Look how cute!

Lauren Lipton

Look, there are three whole pages of Positively Philadelphia reports this year. Now that’s some good news!

Bernard Hopkins

In March, Bernard Hopkins, 48, out-pointed Tavoris Cloud to break his own record as the oldest man to ever win a professional boxing world championship. Then, in September, he similarly won a unanimous decision over Karo Murat. That’s two title fights and two wins: Sounds like a winner to me!

Philadelphia’s running scene

I wrote a stupid article I thought might (might!) amuse my friends and it turned into an actual 31-mile run. This is the best city ever. Everyone’s a winner.

Follow @dhm on Twitter.