Powerball: Another Philadelphia curse?

Winning the big one hasn't come easy around Philadelphia.

Not in major-league sports.

Even though Sandra and John Belawsky of Cape May County had to share a $330 million Mega Millions jackpot with three other winners last summer, their take was more than anyone in Philadelphia or its suburbs ever won.

And not in lotteries either.

No one from Philadelphia or its surrounding counties has ever won a jackpot a third as large as tomorrow's $275 million Powerball prize.

Yet gigundo jackpots have been hit all around us - Cape May County (half of a U.S. record $390 million last March), North Jersey ($258 million in September 2005), York County ($110.75 million in December 2003), and southern Delaware ($214.7 million in October 2004).

All but the Cape May win were hit by a single ticket.

The closest we've come? In May 2004, a ticket bought in Bucks County hit what was then a record Powerball jackpot of $213.2 million.

Now wait for the catch ... The winners were from North Jersey. Steve and Kristine White took their $110 million cash back to Skillman, north of Princeton.

Could the Curse of Billy Penn - yo, thou putteth up taller buildings behind my back! - go beyond the Eagles, Phillies, Flyers and Sixers?

That legend creatively connects two historical dots: In 1987, One Liberty Place rose higher than the City Hall statue's tri-cornered hat. In 1983, the city snagged its last major championship, when Dr. J and Moses Malone led the Sixers to an NBA crown.

But the area wasn't exactly blessed with loads of sports luck before that.

The Eagles haven't won a title since 1960, and the Phillies 1980 championship was the team's only one in its more-than-10,000-losses history.

Of course, with lotteries, only winning lesser prizes is hardly sound grounds for a pity party.

It's like fans grumbling because the Phillies only offered Ryan Howard $7 million in arbitration.

How dare they!

We should all be so lucky to win as much as Ed Varley of Hatfield, for example.

In September 2002, for example, he hit for $30.7 million in cash right after Pennsylvania joined Powerball.

That's well short of Powerball's current cash prize - $135 million - but at the time Varley's win was the biggest ever in the state.

In May 2004, brothers Jim Hare of Philadelphia and Tom Hare of Drexel Hill hit a jackpot worth $26.9 million in cash, before taxes.

On the other side of the river, an anonymous Cherry Hill group, calling themselves the "Trunks Up Partnership," raked in $32.9 million in August 2001, their half of a cash jackpot split with about three dozen Pathmark employees from Brick Township, north of Tom's River.

Feeling better now?

Then it probably wouldn't be polite to point that bigger wins have graced the Pittsburgh area ($171.4 million in December 2004, $130.6 million in July 2003). Or to mention a couple of North Jersey wins we left out ($165 million in July 2002, $163 million last December).

Or to bring up winners of some huge split pots. Like the Cape May couple who won a quarter of a $330 million Mega Millions jackpot last August. Or the North Jersey couple who won a third of a $331 million Big Game pool in April 2002. (Powerball is played in Pennsylvania, Delaware and 27 other states; Mega Millions, which replaced the Big Game in May 2002, is played in New Jersey and 11 other states.)

No, it wouldn't be polite.

Let's not harp on the past.

Let's think positive about the present.

Let's fantasize: Hmmm, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie wins Powerball and buys the top 10 picks in next month's NFL draft.

And the front office doesn't blow the picks.

Where's that Lombardi Trophy?

For the latest lottery information, go to http://www.philly.com/philly/news/lottery.


Contact staff writer Peter Mucha at 215-854-4342 or pmucha@phillynews.com.