"FOR better or for worse, this individual has done the most to influence the events of the year."
So reads the preamble to Time magazine's annual Person of the Year distinction, conferred yesterday on Ben Bernanke, the Fed chairman.
It isn't an "award" in the traditional sense, but an acknowledgment that an individual, group or movement made headlines and influenced people throughout the world in ways nobody else had.
As the definition notes, that can be for better or for worse. Churchill, Roosevelt and JFK were chosen. But so, too, were Hitler, Stalin and Khomeini.
It got me thinking. What if we applied the same standard to Philadelphia? This year would have produced a bumper crop of nominees. Here are mine.
Bonnie Sweeten. She claimed she was carjacked and abducted by two black men in Upper Southampton. That turned out to be a hoax, and Sweeten turned up in Florida with her 9-year-old daughter. Now she's facing accusations of sabotaging her ex-boss' law practice and stealing from the firm's clients.
Charlie Manuel. The manager nobody wanted five years ago suddenly has the best winning percentage of any Phillies skipper who served for at least four seasons. That the Fightins' fell to the Yanks this year doesn't diminish his accomplishments. Nor should it obscure his role in changing the city from one defined by sports cynicism to one full of towel-whipping phanatics.
John Duesler. At the very least, Duesler must be the front-runner for quote of the year: "There was a concern that a lot of kids would change the complexion . . . and atmosphere of the club." His words launched a racial debate that rivaled the James Crowley-Henry Louis Gates episode in national fascination.
Jose Carrasquillo. "Justice, community-style," a Kensington resident was quoted as saying. "It's a beautiful thing."
Not everyone agreed after neighbors recognized Carrasquillo, then a person of interest in the rape of an 11-year-old girl, and beat him (to the point of hospitalization) until police arrived.
The lesson in vigilante justice made national headlines. Less attention was paid to the fact that nobody among the mob was charged. In fact, two of the neighbors on the scene split the reward for Carrasquillo's apprehension.
Michael Nutter. Mayor Nutter swept into City Hall 215 after a solid victory in the Democratic primary and a general-election cakewalk featuring more man-love than machine politics.
Two years later, Hizzoner has narrowly avoided implementing a so-called Doomsday Budget, threatened to close libraries and raised the sales tax a penny on the dollar.
Michael Vick. The Vick Experiment is just beginning to pay dividends on the field, but the story of No. 7 is as much about what happens away from the game.
The experiment was worth it for at least one thing: Watching Andy Reid talk about second chances was as compelling a glimpse into the notoriously elusive Eagles coach as we've gotten in 10 years.
Susan Finkelstein. The self-proclaimed "gorgeous tall buxom blonde" who, Bensalem police allege, offered an undercover cop sex in exchange for a couple of World Series tickets.
That the story made international headlines was a case of good news/bad news for Finkelstein. A local DJ ended up giving her a pair of Phils-Yanks tickets. But her company fired her, saying her "professional reputation" had been "marred" by the incident.
Vince Fumo. "At the end of every storm, there are calm seas." So read the invitation sent for Fumo's engagement party, held just days before he began serving his 55-month sentence for corruption and obstruction of justice.
His conviction was a triumph for federal prosecutors, even if the sentence left the goo-goos and editorial boards clamoring for more. Even after resigning as the most powerful pol in the legislature, Fumo still managed to whip up a storm.
Willie Brown. Hard to believe that little more than two months ago, nobody in the city and suburbs knew the "bullet-shaped" president of TWU Local 234. Now it's hard ignore the guy who referred to the mayor as "Little Caesar" and confessed to having "no problem" being "the most hated man in Philadelphia" during last month's six-day transit strike.
And my winner is . . .
It's gotta be Fumo.
Listen to Michael Smerconish weekdays 5-9 a.m. on the Big Talker, 1210/AM. Read him Sundays in the Inquirer. Contact him via the Web at www.smerconish.com.