I am a Philadelphia Sports Fan. I am passionate, knowledgable and resolute in my opinions. I boo when the team or an individual is not giving their best effort.
Do I not have that right? I have paid large amounts of money to see my favorite teams compete. And when they don't compete I don't get any portion of my money back. I am simply voicing my displeasure. Lets call it The First Amendment Part 2: The Freedom of the boo.
I do not get in fights in the stands, throw snowballs at visiting teams or soak opposing fans in beer. If I see an enemy jersey sure I will heckle a little. Nothing disrespectful, I don't know that person. Just a little witty jab about that person's team. And I can honestly say that I am the prototypical Philadelphia Sports Fan.
Sure there have been some bad moments in our history, but as is the way of the journalist, they have been made into stories of infamy.
Throwing snowballs at Santa for instance. If I hear Joe Buck bring it up one more time my head will explode. December 15, 1968 is rarely explained in context. The last game of the season against the Minnesota Vikings and the Eagles were 2-11.
They were an awful team that had won the last 2 games and taken themselves out of contention to draft future hall of famer OJ Simpson. Rarely mentioned is that more than 54,000 fans showed up in a blizzard with temperatures in the 20's and winds gusting to 35 mph's to see their last place Eagles.
The halftime show was set to begin after an Eagles turnover led to a Vikings touchdown. The plan was to have Santa parade around the field but due to the inclement weather he was unable to reach the stadium.
So a replacement was found. A skinny gentleman donned a dirty Santa suit and a straggly fake beard.
Some witnesses claim him to be intoxicated.
Needless to say, 54,000 wet, cold fans viewed this poor excuse of a Santa as a symbolism for their down and out franchise and miser owner Jerry Wolman. As Santa circled the field to a chorus of boos a lone snowball flew. 1 turned to 100 and Santa was running for cover. And so the reputation was born.
How about the JD Drew exaggeration? Drew was drafted by the Phillies as a can't miss prospect but refused to play, sat out a year and re-entered the draft. After signing with the Cardinals he made his first visit to the Vet in 1999.
While in the outfield a fan threw a D-battery near him. Then another. The PA announcer issued a warning of forfeit and that was the end. There were 48,000 in attendance, 2 batteries, 1 or 2 morons. The story is retold like Drew was in Pearl Harbor, not centerfield.
Sure we cheered Michael Irvin when he lay motionless on the Vet stadium turf. We threw snowballs at Jimmy Johnson's perfectly manicured coiffe. We beat down the Blues when they came into the Spectrum seats and battled Tie Domi in the penalty box when he squirted water on us.
Our finest moments? Hardly.
Did our emotions get the best of us? Definitely.
When the Dallas Maverick fans harassed family members of the Denver Nuggets during a recent playoff tilt ESPN's Skip Bayless likened it to a Philadelphia like scene. Mr. Bayless' comment surely stems from his years as a Dallas Cowboys reporter.
When rowdy fans are discussed no one seems to mention the Piston fans who fought Pacer players in the stands. Or when Giants fans threw snowballs and sent an assistant coach to the hospital? Or Browns fans throwing Beer bottles on the field at replay officials?Or a Broncos fan threw a battery at his own player?
Last year in Detroit, after the Red Wings won their 4th Stanley Cup in 11 seasons there was large scale riots and looting. Cars were overturned and burned.
The Phillies brought home the City's first championship in 25 years. That is 100 seasons for the City's 4 professional franchises. Philadelphia was in pure adulation. No rioting, no looting. Everyone was family. Hey Detroit...ever here of the phrase "Act like you been there before"?
As a Philadelphia Sports Fan do I embrace the reputation? Maybe a little. This town certainly has a chip on it's shoulder when it comes to New York. And if visiting teams and fans are a little unnerved by our reputation maybe that's a good thing.
There is a reason we have all four major professional sports franchises as well as AHL hockey, Arena Football, Indoor soccer, Indoor lacrosse and a new MLS team. We are passionate about sports. We show up every night. We came with our dads now we come with our sons. We care, maybe too much.
But don't make us the poster child for rowdy fans and hooliganism. I know it's easy for irresponsible journalists around the country to point their finger at us and retell exaggerated accounts in their stories.
I wonder if in 40 years the Palace at Auburn Hills brawl will be exaggerated to the point where Ron Artest was beaten by 13 year olds with pillow cases filled with soap.
The Vet was imploded on Valentines Day, 2007. Ironic. Not for the reasons most people think, but for the love that Philadelphians showed for their teams there.
Tears were shed. Memories were shared. As the Vet fell so should the reputation. We are not the only ones who made mistakes and let our emotions get the better of us. A few bad apples doesn't spoil the bunch.
Get over it...