Sunday, October 12, 2008

Palin and Philadelphia Phans

So you have likely heard by now that GOP vice-presidential candidate (and most notorious hockey mom in America) Sarah Palin was booed lustily by Philadelphia Flyers fans as she dropped a ceremonial puck at center ice last night.

Clownish conservative Flyers owner Ed Snider probably thought this was a good idea, but pretty much every newspaper and wire service except the Philadelphia Inquirer (which stated this morning that she was greeted by "cheers and boos" before changing it up this afternoon to emphasize the booing) has played up the cacophonous catcalls. (And check out the video above. The moment that Palin is announced, but before a deafening wall of music kicks in -- 12 seconds into the video -- the booing can be heard in all of its passionate intensity.)

The Passion of the Palin in Philly has also provided an occasion for the (many) detractors of the notorious "Phanus Philadelphianus" to squawk once again about just the nasty dispositions of those who follow sports in the City of Brotherly Love.

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. We've heard it all before. The booing of Santa Claus. The snowballs rained on Jimmy Johnson. (Among those throwing snowballs? Now-governor of Pennsylvania Ed Rendell.) The jeering of injured Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin. The booing of Beyonce and Destiny's Child at the NBA playoffs because on of the singers wore a Lakers jersey.

It's not that Philly fans aren't bad. But I think the notoriety of Philly fans depends on what sport you're speaking about. There are no better college basketball fans than Philadelphia fans -- and no better college hoops city than Philadelphia. Everyone is passionate about their Big 5 team (St. Joseph's, Villanova, Temple, Penn and La Salle --and throw in those Drexel Dragons), but there's a healthy respect for the opponent (John Cheney's infamous tirade about "sending in the goons" to foul St. Joe's players in 2005 being the rule-proving exception) and even the hard-boiled college fans in Philadelphia understand the concept of "student athlete." (And there's no better place to watch college basketball than the Palestra.)

Some of that feel-good attitude spills over to 76er fans. The mildest of the breed. But as a lifelong Eagle fan who's grown quite weary of the team and the plutocratic and often-inhuman qualities of the NFL in general, I can say that Eagles fans bow to no one in their knowledge of the game and are exceeded by no other pro football fans in their relentless, vicious negativity. Veteran's Stadium when I was growing up was a cauldron of hate (or "Nest of Death") when an NFC East team came in.

My favorite story about watching an Eagles game in the 700 level of the Vet -- which was razed to the ground a few years ago -- was trying to warn a security guard about a battle brewing at halftime of a bitterly cold Eagles/New York Giants game. The maelstrom began when a 10-year old Eagle fan gave the finger to two Giants fans walking back to their seats. The Giants fans unwisely decided to clamber up a few rows to confront the child, which led to a human wave of green-clad fans mobilized to confront the blue-clad enemy.

I pointed out the bubbling conflict to security guard, who stood watchful but impassive. "I can't do anything until someone throws a punch," he said.

The Flyers fans that booed Palin are also pretty boorish, though it's not the first time they've weighed in on politics. Their cascading boos came in handy as a weapon in the Cold War in the 1976 "Super Series" against the Soviet national team, when the Flyers (literally) clobbered the Russians off the ice. Flyers coach Fred Shero's quote at 1:06 into that video is echt Philadelphia sports attitude: "If we win, I'm going to be sky high. If we lose, I think it it will be worse than dying."

And the surging Phillies, now two games away from the World Series? Well, I agree with shortstop Jimmy Rollins that Phillies fans are front runners. When the team is losing, there is no worse place to be than at a Phillies game. You'd need Scrubbing Bubbles to cleanse the place of its deep and curdled stain of misery. But when the team is winning, Phillies fans are positively uplifting to the team. That '93 Phillies team that made the World Series run was carried by the fans. The scrappiness of the '08 Phillies has likewise been rewarded of late --though it took the fans a while to buy in.
And on that note: Go Phillies! Until you choke, you losers!

Note: This is also probably a good place to point out that that my brother -- Delaware sportscaster extraordinaire Tom Byrne -- is blogging again at Unobstructed View.


Confluence City said...

I've always enjoyed seeing baseball in Philly and used to go sit with the Wolf Pack when Randy Wolf was on the squad. The Wolf Pack were no front runners. They were not sane, but neither were they front runners!

Lives in Washington DC said...

Chris, my friend, we agree on the Wolf Pack. Insane, and great fans.