Nice piece in yesterday's paper by Ashley Fox about Bernard Hopkins and his North Philly (Strawberry Mansion-ish) roots.
He remembers the gang wars over territory, and how, even as a little kid, he couldn't wander past a certain boundary in the neighborhood. It wasn't until he was a little older that Hopkins started robbing people, an offense that landed him at Graterford prison, where he ultimately honed his boxing skills, got his GED, and committed himself to becoming something other than a "401(k)" for a prison guard.
"We had a high homicide rate and a lot of gang war when I was coming up, a lot of drugs," Hopkins said. "We're talking about the mid '70s, late '70s. It was really bad in Philadelphia, especially Diamond Street, Norris Street three blocks away. Everything was so close, so that's why there was always confrontations. You didn't have to go three miles to go here, four miles to go there. You could be walking or playing basketball four or five blocks over, and you'd be in a different territory. A lot of people were getting fired on and ambushed.
(Picture by Michael T. Regan ran with a column I'd written about his Tarver fight. Brother Naazim is the dude who got Antonio Margarito jammed up.)
It was almost enough to make me overlook the DirecTV magazine, Access, which, in a story interviewing coverboy Cole Hamels -- "They booed me," he recounts of the fans' reaction to him not serving up Ken Griffey Jr's 600th homer -- the magazine's crack research team found that Cole:
-- is "getting cheered by fans so brutal they once booed Santa," and
-- he "just bought a condo in a hip downtown Philly neighborhood."
Psst, we pelted Mr. Claus with snowballs and, well, isn't Center City technically the lone downtown neighborhood? I mean, I guess you could argue that downtown is Fairmount to Bella Vista-ish. Or could you?