Philly Fans Will Be Singing the Blues

Mark KriegelCorrespondent IOctober 21, 2008

Sarah Palin, billed as "America's best known hockey mom," was roundly booed upon her introduction at the Wachovia Center, where she recently dropped the ceremonial first puck for the Philadelphia Flyers.

At long last, then: legitimate cause to believe in the media's liberal bias. The real wonder (and here goes a shoutout to our boys in the Secret Service) is that she wasn't hit with a double-A battery. But booing? That's not a story. Everybody gets booed in Philadelphia. Even Santa.

Actually, Santa was more than booed. He was pelted with snowballs. You will no doubt be reminded of this fact as the World Series heads to the unsuitably-monikered City of Brotherly Love.

Philadelphians have been dealing with the Santa stigma for years. Glen Macnow and Anthony Gargano (a dear friend, I'm obliged to add), authors of The Great Philadelphia Fan Book argue that, "No event has been used to tar-and-feather Philadelphia fans as much."

It was Dec. 15, 1968. The Eagles, on their way to a 2-12 season, were playing the Vikings. The halftime show, advertised as a Christmas pageant, was scrapped due to inclement weather. Instead, fans got a hastily conscripted Santa. Their reaction, the authors argue, owed not to Philadelphians' odium of St. Nick, but to their frustration with Eagles management.

This argument does not constitute a denial. Fact: Santa was booed and pelted. Actually, Gargano once went so far as to tell me (scream at me, really) that "that was a raggedy Santa."

As if raggedy-ness were justification to abuse a 19-year-old kid in a red-velvet fat suit.

But that's Philly. It's not like the other cities. Philadelphians don't have a chip on their collective shoulder. It's more like a case of Schmidt's. That may not be an entirely bad thing—pelters and booers might actually provide a counterbalance in the era of luxury boxes.

But to pretend that the fans are, well, normal, is folly. It doesn't help that a city with four major sports hasn't won a championship in a quarter of a century. The Phillies aren't likely to buck the trend, either.

The fans' belligerence is documented across generations. In 1983, they set upon Chief Zee, the Washington Redskins unofficial mascot, sending him to the hospital with a broken leg. In 1997, a municipal court judge had to be assigned to Veterans Stadium for football Sundays.

I had read about this malignant phylum—the indigenous strain of Crazy White Guy—in the work of Pete Dexter, who himself was almost killed by a bat-and-crowbar-wielding mob in the aptly-named neighborhood of Devil's Pocket.

The reader is well-advised to procure Dexter's novels of course (especially Brotherly Love), but also his collection of columns, Paper Trails. On page 56 of the hardcover, you will find his famous account of Mummers Day and its aftermath. It begins with a chorus of young girls examining the fallen body of a man in a pink dress pulled up around his neck. Before losing consciousness, he had painted himself green.

"That's Mark's brother," one of the girls says nonchalantly. "I think he's dead."

I recall a comparable moment—the worst thing I've ever seen at a ballgame—right after Game Three of the 2001 NBA Finals. I had just begun a column about the Lakers' beat down of Allen Iverson when authentic violence broke out a few feet from the press section. It was a horrific, old-school stomping, just several rows off the floor. This poor guy kept getting kicked in the head. You didn't see this kind of carnage in the money seats at high-end events in other cities.

He fell, as I recall, near retractable aluminum steps. An actual pool of blood formed, an uneven circumference around his head. He just lay there, motionless. I remember calling for a cop. And I remember the cop couldn't do anything.

I was sure the guy was dead.

Eventually, though, he got up. Under his own power, I might add. His face was a ghastly crimson mask. But he brushed himself off, and went on his way.

If I didn't see it myself, I'd sooner believe in Santa Claus.

On the Mark

First, Brett Favre advises the Cowboys' Tony Romo how to play with a broken pinkie.

Now, according to Jay Glazer, we find out he's consulting with the Lions.

And from what I saw of the Jets game, he's got to be working for the Raiders, too.

Good thing Janikowski hit that winning field goal. The way I'm hearing it, Tom the Cable Guy was about to be replaced by Joe the Plumber.

Speaking of politics, Obama has raised so much money, I'm thinking Scott Boras is working for the Democrats.

If this managing thing doesn't work out, Charlie Manuel could star in a remake of "The Bear Bryant Story."

Baseball players still think these titanium necklaces can ward off stress and pain.

"Oh," says the L.A. Woman. "You mean like Harry Winston for guys?"

Exactly. And while we're at it, honey, that bag is So Toguchi.

The Rays' Carl Crawford tells the New York Times: "It gets kind of tough in high school — it seems like, that's where all the black kids get weeded out. It seems like they don't want black kids to play in high school, like they do everything to try to run them off the field."

Hold up. It seems like? Who's they? And what's the everything they do to run black kids off the field?

If you're going to throw out stuff like that, back it up.

In the meantime, I have an idea: How about a white middleweight?

Bernard Hopkins schools Kelly Pavlik, and you're hearing that American boxing has lost another white hope.

Truth is, it's lost any hope.

When the 43-year-old beats the 26-year-old, that's a pretty good indication that your farm system sucks.

Eddy Curry is taking a lot of grief for bursting an exercise ball.

But the real question is: Did he do it in seven seconds or less?

Adam Jones finally went into rehab. In other words, by Thanksgiving, Dr. Jerry Jones will proclaim him to be miraculously healed.

By the way, when do we get to call him Pacman again?

Can't believe all these financial guys want taxpayer bailouts. You'd think they ran ballclubs.

Doesn't bother me that Terrell Owens only caught two balls on Sunday. But I am a bit let down that he didn't continue with his postgame Elton John theme.

This is how I see it ending for the Cowboys, with a teary-eyed T.O. at a karaoke bar in Fort Worth:

"Romo, my Q-B, you are younger than me, do you still feel the pain ... "


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