The Most Memorable Fan Jeers in Sports History
Philadelphia vs. New York. The Hundred Years' War. The Cain and Abel of professional sports towns. The territorial bloodline for Eastern supremacy rooted firmly in mutual disrespect.
If there was a spitting definition of an ideological East Coast sports town, these two would be synonyms.
Whenever the Eagles and Giants, or Flyers and Rangers, or even the Phillies and Mets butt heads, they have an endearing knack for making the Battle of Gettysburg look like a rural tea party.
It’s a cliché about as old as Tom Coughlin to say that fans are just as vital to sporting events as players and coaches. But Philly and New York are the eternally rare professional fanbases that can actually have an impact on the outcome of a game, regardless of whether they’re playing each other.
Outsiders scoff at the notion of Philadelphia as the “City of Brotherly Love.” But it’s a tight-knit fraternity. And the love never extends outside the family, leaving fair-weather outsiders to simply thumb their high and mighty nose at these slimy, grimy, East Coast "Boobirds."
These are the same outsiders who have never made an un-hittable pitcher shake in his boots, who have never undid the well-coifed haircut of a chummy rival coach, and who have never defaced a fraudulent holiday icon.
Whoops, I gave away too much.
But it’s OK, Los Angeles—you go ahead and fraternize with the opposing stars.
We’ll be busy sticking gum below their feet.
Don’t take offense—it’s a Philly and New York thing. So before I make like a foaming-at-the-mouth chipmunk and release another spoiler, here are the 10 most memorable fan jeers in professional sports history.
A realm that, as you'll soon find out, these East Coast blue bloods have truly perfected.
10. 2008 NLDS Game 2, Brewers at Phillies: "CC Sucks!"
While this one is easily overlooked on a national scale, it's still one of those rare fan nirvana moments when the crowd essentially dictates the outcome of the game.
CC Sabathia came into Game 2 with an 11-2 record and 1.91 ERA since being traded to the Milwaukee Brewers in July. He was the hottest pitcher on the planet, and one of the hottest baseball had seen in years.
Naturally, the Brewers were expected to roll over a Philadelphia Phillies team that sent out the erratic Brett Myers to oppose Sabathia.
But in the midst of being stripped naked by a heart-pounding chorus of “CC sucks” chants, Sabathia unraveled like a piece of wet Play-Doh.
In the bottom of the second, Myers famously worked about a 207-pitch walk before Shane Victorinio bopped the first grand slam in Phillies playoff history two batters later to give the Phils an insurmountable 5-1 lead.
The Phillies didn’t win the World Series until a few weeks later. But they may as well have clinched it that night.
9. 1989 NFL Week 13, Cowboys at Eagles: Death of Jimmy's Hair
Before they won two Super Bowls and regained their status as “America’s Team,” Jimmy Johnson’s Dallas Cowboys were an unmitigated 1-15 disaster in 1989, his first season.
For that reason, the baby ‘Boys were ripe for the picking against Buddy Ryan’s ferocious “Gang Green” Philadelphia Eagles defense. Apparently, so was Johnson’s picturesque golden-boy haircut.
In the wake of rumors that Ryan put a bounty on former Eagle-turned-Cowboys-kicker Luis Zendejas during the team’s first matchup in Dallas, the snowy rematch in Philadelphia turned into an ugly brawl-fest that culminated when Eagles fans made Johnson the second-most famous snowball victim in the city’s rich slush-chucking history.
With the Cowboys in the sad state they were in, it remains one of the happiest days in Eagles history.
8. 2009 NFL Week 8, Vikings at Packers: Favre Returns to Lambeau
This was a spine-chiller simply because no player had ever been more synonymous with a team and a town.
As much of a backstabber as Brett Favre may have been, no one truly expected the venerable Cheesehead Nation to do their best sinning "Boobird" impression.
Well, like Frank Caliendo doing John Madden, it was spot-on.
7. 2011 NFL Draft: Roger Goodell Reps His League
While this moment would undoubtedly rank higher if last summer’s lockout had cut into the regular season, it’s still a sobering reminder of just how much NFL football has engulfed our collective interest and passion.
The best part is Roger Goodell’s defeated acknowledgment of the inconvenient truth he was still being forced to deny at the time: the seesawing and potentially fatal state of the NFL’s popularity.
Luckily, the dispute was resolved before the league’s public image had to be held on life support.
6. 2002 NBA All-Star Game: Kobe's Unhappy Homecoming
The ultimate boo-hoo moment.
Only irrational Philly haters (and there are a lot of you) felt sorry for Kobe Bryant when he voiced his postgame displeasure about being booed at an All-Star Game in his hometown.
But no native son has ever Julius Caesared his hometown in the back in quite the way Kobe has, who famously refused to get tickets for his former Lower Merion teammates to the 2001 NBA Finals because “They’re all Sixers fans.”
5. 2004 ALCS Game 2, Red Sox at Yankees: "Who's Your Daddy!?"
Ever since the turn of the millennium, the increasingly corporate New York Yankees crowds have lost that famous edge that pushed both opponents and hometown stars alike to the brink of mental exhaustion.
But for one throwback night in October 2004, they couldn’t help but remind Pedro Martinez who his self-proclaimed daddy was.
They tried again when Martinez returned in the 2009 World Series as a member of the Phillies.
But for obvious reasons, 43,000 sober CEOs in the plush new Yankee Stadium simply couldn’t reignite the aura and mystique of the drunken diehards in the old ghost yard.
4. 2008 NHL Playoffs First Round Game 7 Bruins at Canadiens: Inferiority Complex
You knew this was coming sooner or later. The Montreal Canadiens have always resented the NHL’s American bias, which makes perfect sense.
No group wants to feel like second-class citizens in a sport they invented and perfected, especially to the pesky alpha sibling they share a continent with.
It seems only fitting though that it was the Canadians, the eternal symbol of hockey fortitude, who carried the flag in this case.
3. 2004-05 NBA Regular Season, Pacers at Pistons: Malice at the Palace
When it was all said and done, nine players were suspended for a cumulative total of 146 games.
The players lost $11 million in salary money and five were charged with assault and sentenced to a year of probation and community service.
Five fans also faced criminal charges and were banned from Detroit Pistons home games for life.
And it all started with but a single slip of the beer. Yeah, I’d say that’s the most society-altering jeer in the history of anything.
2. 1994 NBA Playoffs Game 5, Pacers at Knicks: Reggie vs. Spike
A front-row seat at an NBA basketball game is the best seat in sports for obvious reasons.
Every fan who’s wealthy enough to enjoy this privilege dreams of abusing it to the point of pushing an opposing star to his mental tipping point.
While it’s a noted pipe dream, few ever actually attempt to penetrate the outer shell of a locked-in rival. The ones who do, typically get ignored.
Heck, Kobe Bryant won’t even ham it up with Jack Nicholson for Christ's sake, and Jack is rooting for the Lakers. This is what made the Reggie Miller-Spike Lee rivalry such compelling Broadway theatre.
1. 1968 NFL Regular-Season Finale, Santa Claus at Philadelphia: Birth of Boobird
To this day, this grainy 1968 urban legend is still the most iconic fabrication of a story in sports history.
Never has such a trivial, seemingly miscellaneous display of frustration come to define a civic region in such a way.
No one’s denying that it happened, because it did.
But for the love of God, Mr. Morally Conscious American, please educate yourself on the finer details before you jump to yet another shallow-minded conclusion.
Follow me on Twitter @JarradSaff.
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