I was hoping that my first Phillies column would be about how the Phightins have a 5 game lead over the Atlanta Braves and have the opportunity to stretch that lead to 7 or maybe even 8 games by the end of the weekend. I was hoping that this column would be about how the Phillies swept the Cubs at Wrigley field for the first time in 25 years. I was hoping that this column would be about the addition of Cliff Lee or the state of the team. It’s not.
The abhorrent actions of a Cubs fan on Wednesday night prompted me to write about a different topic altogether – bad fan behavior and why do Philly fans seem to have such a bad reputation as misbehaved? This is a complicated question to answer. I will do the best that I can to explain why I think we have a bad reputation in 500 words or less.
In case you missed it on Wednesday night, a Cubs fan launched a cup of beer at Shane Victorino while Shane was trying to field a ball hit to the warning track in centerfield. Shane literally received an unexpected beer shower at the same time the ball plummeted into the webbing of his glove. Being the pro that he is, Shane made the play almost unfazed. Bad fan behavior is pretty simple to explain. I think it is easy to say that alcohol is responsible for 97%-99.9% of bad fan behavior. While the behavior that was displayed the other night can be explainable as intoxication, it is inexcusable. I hate when individuals try to use alcohol as an excuse for their mindless actions.
Alcohol explains why fans display rotten conduct. It doesn’t explain why Philly fans have such a bad reputation when it comes to incidents like the one in Chicago the other night. When a fan in another city does something like the other night, it seems to get very little national attention. When a fan in Philly does something like the other night, it invariably makes national headlines. I feel like the national media would have made you believe that Armageddon is right around the corner if the same thing happened in Philly instead of Chicago. Why?
A father and son assaulted the Kansas City Royals’ first-base coach in Chicago. A bond trader in Chicago attacked a Cubs relief pitcher for allowing a home run. A fan in Chicago stole the cap of a Dodgers catcher prompting the Dodgers teammates to run into the stands. Finally, Chicago is the place where thousands of fans rushed the baseball field igniting bonfires and starting riots on Disco Demolition night. Has anything like that ever happened at a Philly sporting event? No.
Giants fans set a car on fire and demolished another one with a baseball bat in the parking lot of the Meadowlands during the aftermath of a playoff loss to our beloved Eagles last season. Cleveland fans lobbed beer bottles at their own football team. Let’s not forget ten cent beer night either, where Indians fans rushed the field and threw beer and hot dogs at the opposing team when a bench clearing brawl broke out between the two teams. A Pistons fan was responsible for instigating what is now known as the infamous Artest melee.
When is the last time Phillies fans have started a riot on the field? When is the last time a Philly fan started a riot in the stands of a basketball game? When is the last time cars have been demolished in the parking lot after a loss? Sure, a very small number of Phillies fans threw batteries at J.D. Drew. Sure, Eagles fans have thrown snowballs at Jimmy Johnson and his Dallas Cowgirls, regrettably, I was one of them. None of these events come close to measuring up to what has happened in other cities though. I didn’t even bother to get into Raiders fans or Mets fans.
For some reason the Philly fan got his bad reputation one miserable Sunday afternoon in December of 1968 at Franklin Field. On that day in history, the 2-11 Eagles were playing the Minnesota Vikings. A Christmas show featuring the Eagles cheerleaders and Santa Claus was scheduled for half-time. Due to the bad weather that caused a traffic jam on the very well engineered Schuylkill Expressway, Santa Claus was not able to get to Franklin Field in time for the show, so the decision to use a substitute Santa had been made. I think we all know what happened at half-time, the Philly fan booed and threw snowballs at Santa Claus. Out of this incident was born the bad reputation of the Philly fan. Why?
Think about how you would feel if you were at a football game. It had snowed the day and night before and is snowing during the game. The QB flat out stinks—a rating of 51.8 says enough—it is the last game of a 14-game season, your team has only won two games so far, and is likely going to lose the game you are at. How would you feel at halftime when the substitute Santa is a skinny, drunk fan from the stands that was picked because he happened to be wearing a Santa costume? I think the actions of the Philly fan were justified on that day. Yes, he was throwing debris onto the field, but it was relatively harmless debris (snowballs) that was naturally accumulating on the field from Mother Nature.
I can only imagine what Joe Buck’s or Suzyn Waldman’s reaction to that scene at Franklin Field would have been like.
The point is that the Philly fan got this terrible reputation that day when in the whole scheme of things it is only a misdemeanor offense compared to the various offenses of Chicago fan, Giants fan, Cleveland fan, etc. As a Philly fan I’m sick of being wrongly associated with borderline criminal episodes of lousy fan behavior. At the risk of sounding like an 8 year old…It just isn’t fair.
The reaction of the ESPN anchor to the Victorino incident was, “C’mon Chicago, you’re better than that.” Once, just once, I’d like to hear someone say the same thing about Philly, but I won’t because we already ARE better than that and always HAVE been. Philly fans are simply more passionate and knowledgeable about their sports and their teams and know when they see pig slop being pedaled out onto the playing field in place of gold and we won’t accept pig slop as willingly as Pirate fan or Bungle fan will. It doesn’t taste good. Since we don’t like to eat pig slop we have been stricken with the label of being bad fans when we aren’t.
Other fans have rioted, ignited bonfires, and burned cars. All Philly fan did was boo and throw some snowballs at Santa Claus. The other fans don’t have to live with the stigma that a Philly fan does. The only reason I can fathom for the stigma that Philly fan has to live with is that everyone else is just plain jealous. Jealous of what, I’m not sure, because it isn’t like we have been able to celebrate many championships over the course of history. If it’s not about championships then it must be that they are jealous over the fact that we ARE simply more PASSIONATE, more KNOWLEDGEABLE and more LOYAL. If that is why I have to live the rest of my life labeled as a bad, unpleasant, ornery, or tough fan, then so be it. It’s worth the price to pay to know that everyone else doesn’t like you because you are simply the best.