THIS IS IT. My last column of 2011. As I reflect over the past 12 months, I can't help but think about some of the valuable lessons I've learned about our city and the broader world. Here are a few:
Andy Reid has compromising photos of Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie: That's the only thing that could explain the organization's dogged commitment to a coach who repeatedly manages to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. For 13 years, Reid's resistance to change and poor clock management, and refusal to run the football, have been the primary reasons why the Eagles have been unable to bring home a Lombardi Trophy. This year, Reid added to his resumé of missteps by hiring Juan Castillo, the worst possible choice for defensive coordinator this side of Jerry Sandusky. As a result, our much-hyped Dream Team failed even to earn a playoff slot. Now, all sources indicate that Castillo will be fired. While this is a logical move, it also buys coach Reid yet another disappointing year at the helm.
Hip-Hop Lives: Despite all the naysayers who predict hip-hop's death, this year has produced a slew of incredible albums that testify to its vitality. Artists like Jay-Z, Kanye West, Bad Meets Evil, Slaughterhouse, Talib Kweli, Common and Akua Naru all dropped albums in 2011 that will rotate well into 2012..
Locally, renowned artists like The Roots and young talent like Meek Mill continue to make Philly a relevant spot on the hip-hop map. Of course, there were several disappointments, like Lil Wayne's underwhelming "Carter IV" and Drake's emo/R&B mashup "Take Care." Still, 2011 was proof that tales of hip-hop's death have been greatly exaggerated.
Activism still matters: Through our collective refusal to accept the status quo, substantive change was made around the globe. From the Arab Spring movement that led to revolutionary change in the Middle East, to the Occupy Movement that shifted our national discourse on wealth and poverty, 2011 was definitely the year of the activist. Hopefully, 2012 will produce even greater results.
You never really know a person: Like the rest of the world, I was shocked by the Penn State sex-abuse scandal, and more shocked to hear about the irresponsible behavior of Joe Paterno who, at best, failed to exhaust all options to stop Sandusky.
None of that, however, comes close to the shock I felt to hear that my Daily News colleague Bill Conlin had been accused of child molestation. Although I don't know Bill well, nothing that I'd ever seen or heard gave the slightest hint that he was the monster that he's accused of being. My only hope is that more victims come forward and name accusers, and that we change our social and legal systems to allow us to address the crisis of sexual abuse.
Philly is the best place to be a columnist: Without a drop of hyperbole, I can honestly say that writing for the Daily News has been an incredible experience. I consider it an honor to have the opportunity to share my vision of the world with an informed, engaged and critical audience of readers. And I'm not just talking about the fans of my work. I'm also tickled by the people who write in and declare my column racist, even when I'm writing about uncontroversial topics like bookstores and bagel shops. I'm routinely amused by the 15 readers who write the paper every week to declare that they'll never buy another newspaper as long as I'm on staff. I love all of it. And I love all of you. And I can't wait to continue the conversation in 2012.