The True Confessions of the Misunderstood Philly Fan

Philadelphia sports fans made national headlines once again at the opening of Citizens Bank Park last Saturday for the Phillies exhibition game against the Cleveland Indians. This time it was for booing Mayor John Street.

Before we add this to the master list of events that will still be mentioned 50 years from now when bashing our beloved city, let’s take a moment to dispel some of the other myths that still haunt us:

Philly fans booed Santa Claus and threw snowballs at him.

Writing about this event must a prerequisite to passing journalism 101 because every sports writer brings this back to life when blasting the Philadelphia fan. This event, which happened at an Eagles game in 1968, has been so blown out of proportion, and those who still use it against us are providing the real snow job.

Those who attended the game have stated that the man in the Santa suit was poorly dressed and inebriated. While that may not excuse poor behavior, it also happened 36 years ago. Perhaps it’s time to let it go.

Philly fans threw batteries at J.D. Drew.

They weren’t triple A’s either. Fans threw the jumbo D sized batteries at the man who refused to sign with the Phillies after they drafted him in 1998. Or did they?

Let’s see, there were 50,000 fans at the game that day, and two punk teens threw two batteries at J.D. Drew. It’s not as if the entire stadium stoned him with a barrage of batteries, as the urban legend claims. Two kids, two batteries, 50,000 fans. Can you name any city in America that doesn’t have at least two stupid teenagers who would do the same thing? Sadly, every city has its share of losers.

Philly fans are so out of control that Veteran’s Stadium has a courtroom and a jail on sight to immediately deal with unlawful behavior.
Veteran’s Stadium did have Eagles’ court and a jail for fans that got unruly at football games. Not our proudest moment, but it seemed like an efficient solution to a time- consuming problem. It reduced court backlogs, saved taxpayer’s money and served as a deterrent.

Now that the Eagles have made the move to Lincoln Financial Field, the jail and court are out of session. Could it be we’ve entered the era of the genteel Eagles’ fan?

Philly fans booed Scott Rolen right out of town.

Scott Rolen left Philadelphia because he’s a small town guy who didn’t appreciate big city mentality. He also didn’t believe the Phillies management had the desire to build a winning franchise.

Ironically, his departure paved the way to build that winning franchise by signing Jim

Thome. One year later, we’re the proud fans of other major acquisitions such as Billy Wagner. When you add the rest of our fine team, I’d say we have the makings of a dream team. Looks like management is pretty committed to me.

Remember, fans booed Scott Rolen only after he made it clear he didn’t want to be here. Scott is obviously better suited to St. Louis, which is near his Indiana hometown. And Philadelphia fans are better suited to Jim Thome, already a fan favorite, who could easily be elected mayor if he chose to run.

And speaking of mayors—

Philly fans booed Mayor John Street at the opening of Citizens Bank Park.

This event is currently being discussed on many of the message boards throughout the MLB community, and was the inspiration for this column.

Here’s part of what is being said:

“…the mayor, whether he pushed it or not, gets a relentless booing after the city helped replace their cookie cut crapola park with a brand spanking new stadium; another example of their low quality following.”

I’ll reserve my political assessment of Mayor Street’s performance for another day. For now let me say there is nothing low quality about the deep political commitment Philadelphia residents have for their city. Philadelphia is, after all, the birthplace of democracy, and its citizens clearly understand their right to express their dissatisfaction.

Defending the Right to Boo

“People boo everywhere, it’s just overly criticized in Philadelphia,” says one lifelong and often frustrated Philadelphia fan, who feels he’s earned the right to boo. “It’s a wonder Philadelphia fans don’t boo more. Instead, we are loyal to our teams, coming back year after year, season after losing season.”

It may be true that booing comes more quickly in Philadelphia than in other places. Philly fans are demanding, but they are usually fair in their demands. Players who are hard working and humble usually aren’t booed here. Take Pat Burrell, for example. Fans hardly ever booed him despite his horrendous production last year. It’s the seemingly aloof players, like Mike Schmidt, who typically receive boos.

Some fans also believe there are good boos and bad boos.

“People like Joe Carter understand that concept,” says a fan from the Washington D.C. area, who grew up in Philadelphia and still supports her hometown teams. “When Carter was booed at the 1996 All-Star game in Philly, he smiled and said he understood that booing was actually a sign of respect.”

They Didn’t Happen in Philly

The following events made national headlines, but were forgotten the next day because they didn’t occur in Philadelphia.

In Chicago, a man and son ran onto the field at Comiskey Park and attacked a Kansas City Royal coach in September 2002.

In 1997, the home opener at County Stadium was nearly forfeited by unruly Milwaukee fans who threw baseballs onto the field. Deputies arrested a record 119 people for violations such as battery, drunkenness, and public urination. Sort of puts Eagles’ court to shame, don’t you think?

In 2001, there was a mess in Cleveland, when a late buzzer during a replay ruling robbed the Browns of an effort to keep their playoff hopes alive. As a result, fans threw bottles and other debris onto the playing field.

A few weeks later, a cluster of fans in New Orleans reacted to a questionable pass- interference call on the Saints by throwing objects near where the play occurred.

I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point. Human nature is the same in Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Cleveland, and even in Timbuktu.

To paraphrase W.C. Fields, all things considered, I’d rather be in Philly.

Written for http://www.mvn.com – April, 2004

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One thought on “The True Confessions of the Misunderstood Philly Fan

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