In 2011, GQ did a top ten list of the worst fans in America. The top two spots they assigned to Philadelphia, calling out both Eagles and Phillies fans.
The Meanest Fans in America
Over the years, Philadelphia fans have booed Santa Claus as well as their own star players. They’ve even booed a guy who just helped the city win a friggin’ World Series title—while he was getting his ring. Boooo! Admittedly, there are some things fans have cheered. Like Michael Irvin’s career-ending neck injury and a fan being tased on the outfield grass. Things reached their nadir last season, when Citizens Bank Park played host to arguably the most heinous incident in the history of sports: A drunken fan intentionally vomited on an 11-year-old girl. The truth is this: All told, Philadelphia stadiums house the most monstrous collection of humanity outside of the federal penal system. “Some of these people would boo the crack in the Liberty Bell,” baseball legend Pete Rose once said. More likely, these savages would have thrown the battery that cracked it.
You must know this is true. Every ESPN announcer repeats the refrain at every opportunity, usually with a knowing smirk. It’s sports gospel. So true it’s possible to reaffirm with a mere wink.
I’m thinking of it now because my birthday present from my wife was a trip to Citizens Bank Park to see the struggling Phillies, now 11 games under .500 heading into the All Star break. The Phillies were playing the Washington Nationals, whose roster includes Jason Werth, the player cited above who was booed when he got his World Series ring.
He got booed again Saturday night. My wife was sitting on my left. She booed loud and long. The man on my right cheered. The second time he did it, I exchanged words with him. I reminded him that Jason Werth was beloved in Philadelphia, that he left for a $30 million contract, and has done little to earn the money since. “It’s a business,” the guy said. “It isn’t all business,” I said. “I watched Mike Schmidt, the greatest 3rd baseman in history, play his whole career in a stadium that compared to this one was a back alley asphalt basketball court. He could have left. But he was a Phillie.” The guy looked at me. “I did too,” he said. Which was demonstrably a lie. He was at least 10 years younger than me, probably more, meaning Schmidt’s career was mostly history to him, and he was wearing bright white sneakers, the ineradicable stamp of the eternal 9 year old. “Like Jimmy Rollins,” he added. No. Not like Jimmy Rollins. Who is milking a fat contract and doing absolutely nothing to earn it.
I didn’t mention that. I told my wife only later about the exchange with my seat mate on the right. She said, “I didn’t boo about the $30 million. I booed because he trashed Philadelphia fans the first time they asked. Because he thought it would endear him to Washington fans.” You see, Phillies fans routinely come close to outnumbering Nationals fans at Washington home games. They’ve even gone so far as to refuse to sell Nationals tickets to Philly zip codes. Because we’re such awful fans.
Why are we so awful? We boo. We don’t throw batteries at players. That would be a New York thing. We don’t beat opponent fans into a coma in the parking lot. That would be a San Francisco thing (“arguably, the most heinous incident in the history of sports”?!!) We just boo when we don’t approve of what’s going on.
[Vomiting happens at every stadium when people have enough cash to get drunk on $8-12 beers. Einstein is dead. No one can explain this particular mystery of the universe. But it’s hardly confined to Philadelphia. Maybe GQ never sat in the bleachers of Fenwick Park. : ). Tasing is fun btw. And Michael Ervin trashed Philly plenty before he flopped in that game. Get a grip.]
And actually we’re slow to boo, though we all know exactly what’s going on. A couple minutes after right seat guy dared to compare Jimmy Rollins to Mike Schmidt, Rollins executed a swinging bunt that died at the plate and the ump called it fair. The catcher was caught off guard and groped for the ball. Rollins made no attempt whatever to run toward first base. The silence in the park was sepulchral. I heard a sharp intake of breath from right seat guy. He only expressed himself verbally when the next batter, Chase Utley, manfully tried and failed to beat out a grounder at top speed on his aged legs. “Way to run it out,” he said.
The next time Werth came to the plate he didn’t cheer.
The next time Rollins came to the plate, no one booed. Except in our hearts.
See, Philadelphia fans know their sports and they care, care, care about them.
The Phillies have no chance this year. They suck. But on Saturday night the park was nearly full. They’re our team. We love them. No team in professional sports has ever lost more games than the Philadelphia Phillies. Fact. But they’re our team. And we support them.
But all we hear about is booing Santa Claus. Which happened 48 years ago. Any Philadelphian under the age of 60 couldn’t possibly have consciously participated in this sacrilege. The booed Santa was a skinny, drunk, unofficial fella who phinagled his way onto the sidelines and got booed for a bad act. That makes us permanently, inveterately mean?
Really? Why is a bad Santa half a century ago more significant than the present reality of, arguably, the best mascot in professional sports? (Hockey doesn’t count and the San Diego Chicken is just plain lewd; explain his act to your kids.)
Some PR hack a few years back decided to expiate the ancient sin by bringing Santa to another Eagles game. He got booed. We don’t like being patronized or played for fools. We boo when we detect fraud, lack of effort, lack of sports sense. And we don’t kill people in the parking lot.
For the record, our experience at the game was outstanding. Beautiful facility. Everyone polite. At the 200 level where we were, I didn’t hear a single shouted obscenity.
I ask you, not rhetorically, when’s the last time you went to a sporting event and didn’t hear the F-word? When? I can’t even say that about an Ivy League football game.
But Philly fans are brutish Neanderthals, right? Unless they aren’t.