We Got the Pope. We Got the DNC. Now Bring Us the Super Bowl.

All signs are pointing to Philadelphia emerging as a world-class city. So why shouldn't we host the biggest sporting event in America?

Photo illustration | Alyse Moyer; Photo credits | Super Bowl banner, Ken Durden; Super Bowl Logo, Leonard Zhukovsky; Lincoln Financial Field, Ffooter; all Shutterstock.com

Philly, maybe it’s time to admit it: We’re a world-class city.

Our leaders have touted that as an aspiration for years, generally to much mirth and eye-rolling from the citizenry — and for good reason: We know ourselves too well to take the pomposity of a such a statement too seriously. We know we’re a long way from being perfect.

But it’s time to admit that despite our shortcomings, we’re good enough, we’re smart enough and … you know the rest. This fall, Pope Francis is going to conduct Mass for a million-plus people on the parkway. The summer after that, Democrats will come here to nominate their choice to be the next Leader of the Free World.

We’re on a roll, and we should make that roll pay off with one final big event: The Super Bowl.


A year ago, the Super Bowl seemed as much a pipe dream as some other events that Philly was thought to be aiming for. (The others? The papal visit and the Olympics. We scored one, and as Patrick Kerkstra explained the other day, we’re probably better off ignoring the Olympics and pursuing the Democratic National Convention.) It was an easy idea to pooh-pooh at the time, but there are three reasons to think we could pull it off.

  • Jeffrey Lurie wants it. The Eagles owner would be the host of any Philadelphia Super Bowl, and he’s long been on record saying he wants to do it. Philadelphia and Chicago are the two biggest cities never to host the big game.“There’s no reason that Philadelphia — with all its facilities, hotel rooms, venues for big events — couldn’t handle it and do a great, great job,” he said last year. “If the league wants to go there, we’ll be ready and willing.”
  • Cold-weather Super Bowls work. Last year’s New York-New Jersey Super Bowl went off pretty well, except for some postgame problems with transit. There’s reason to believe that NFL owners are amenable to a cold-weather game every half-decade or so. So why not us? “The New York Super Bowl worked out great,” Lurie said. “I think New York was a great host leading up to it. It was a lot of fun being there.
  • We’ll have the confidence. This is the biggest difference between now and year ago. We now know we can attract big-time events. The Super Bowl is one of the biggest.

Once we’ve done a bang-up job hosting the million people the pope brings to town — and we will, Philly, we will — the Super Bowl, with its mere tens of thousands of people it attracts to a host city, will be a snap. It might be the biggest event in American culture, but the World Meeting of Families? Bigger. So we can do this. Soon, we’ll have proven ourselves.

There’s only one good reason we shouldn’t shoot for the Super Bowl. As the Daily News’ Will Bunch pointed out last week: “We shouldn’t let a few tidbits of good news make us forget that there’s a large high school in Philadelphia with no biology teacher, or that the city of presidential and papal dreams also has the highest rate of deep poverty of any large American city. Maybe the next 17 months aren’t a time for patting ourselves on the back, but for getting our house in order.”

He’s right. But I also believe we can — and should — walk and chew gum at the same time.

World-class cities don’t just host a couple of high-profile events in a year, then return to the sideline. They keep thinking big, and they expect to be rewarded for that thinking. It’s why New York — the Cobra Kai of cities — got so snotty the last couple of days after losing the DNC to us: They expect to win these kinds of events every time they put their minds to it.

Philly will be its best self when we can match the big thinking but leave the self-satisfied entitlement behind.

The league selects finalist cities for the 2019 and 2020 Super Bowls in May. If we think we’re ready, we can apply. If we want to wait and see how we handle the Pope’s visit, we can wait and shoot for 2021. I’m confident we’ll come out of the event ready and able to make the effort.

We’ve got the Pope. We’ve got the Dems. Let’s go get the Super Bowl.

Follow @JoelMMathis on Twitter.