Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Why I Hate Philly Sports

It is worthwhile to note that I am not a West Chester native. I moved three times in my early childhood before coming to Dub C, and I was a Packers (and Mets, for that matter) fan long before I came here from New Jersey. However, allegiance to some prior place of residence is not why I don’t support Philly area sports teams. West Chester is easily my favorite of the various places I’ve lived, and Philadelphia is a great town that I am proud to come from.

So why not the Eagles? Firstly, the idea that supporting your local athletics teams means being loyal to local athletes is flawed. In high school, this makes sense; the members of the Bayard Rustin football team attend Bayard Rustin, and since I go there too, supporting the team means supporting people from my school and area. I’m down for that. But members of the Eagles aren’t actually from Philadelphia! The NFL, MLB and NBA, have eliminated any way that a team’s players “represent their city” through things like free agency and the draft and trades, etc. If locals were truly being loyal to their area by supporting players representative of their area, they’d root for East High School graduate Matt Schaub, who’s the QB of the Houston Texans.

Rather, the only logical motivation to support your home town team is the practicality of being able to conveniently attend their home games. For most fans, this is a sufficient motivation, and for many sports, this is how I chose who to support. I root for the Flyers, Soul, Union, etc. mostly because I don’t care as much about those sports as I do about football and baseball, was pressured into supporting those teams by local fans, and had (at the time) no reason NOT to like them. For the Union, I was also here when the team was created, and everyone likes the excitement that a new sports franchise creates, so I happily became a fan.

Not so for the Eagles. My first impression of Philadelphia sports was a negative one. Since I had already been supporting the Packers when I came here (for reasons to be explained below), I felt no reason to switch when I came here in 3rd grade. And as a result, as I entered a new elementary school, I was literally bullied. Taunted, harassed, harangued. In 3rd frikin’ grade! I have vivid memories of being literally terrified to come to school the Monday following the 4th and 26 game, because the taunts were so abundant. This was my first exposure to sports fandom in Philadelphia. So deep runs the hatred of outsiders that even elementary school students were indirectly brainwashed to attack, attack, attack. That is not a good thing!

Truly, I don’t mind the Eagles themselves. I support Michael Vick, and I kinda like guys like Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, and Stewart Bradley. With a few exceptions (cough cough Desean Jackson), there’s nothing about the Eagles which annoys me more or less than any other team. Same with the Phillies, for that matter; for every annoying, arrogant douchebag on the Phillies (Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Cole Hamels) there are classy guys that I like to root for (Ryan Howard, Raul Ibanez, Jamie Moyer, etc.). All in all, I don’t actually mind Philadelphia sports teams.

It’s the fans I can’t stand.

To someone who has been born and raised near Philadelphia, who has spent their entire lives immersed in this culture of obnoxious fandom, it is probably difficult to understand my point of view. But to everyone else, it is painfully obvious that Philadelphia has, as a whole, the worst sports fans in the whole country. I don’t mean that as an insult to Philadelphia fans individually. Most are fine, and all are passionate. But all too often, in Philadelphia, that passion takes the place of reason. Too often, Philadelphia fans forget that supporting your team is not an excuse to harm others, or break the law, or just generally act like a douchebag.

So many Philadelphia fans have this brazen, pompous swagger to them that they unfortunately portray even the reasonable fans as assholes. They do this by throwing batteries at JD Drew because he didn’t sign with the Phillies; not one or two drunk nutjobs, mind you, but an organized group of people who got together beforehand and decided that was a reasonable and clever way to show their “passion”. They do this by cheering the near paralysis of Michael Irvin, getting louder and louder the longer he stayed down and becoming even more vocally elated as they brought out a stretcher to carry him off. They do this by climbing into the penalty box to fight with a Maple Leaves defender. They do this by vandalizing cars in the parking lot with a rival’s logo on it (my friend once witnessed a group of guys pissing on a Giants-fan’s windshield after the Giants beat the Eagles). They do this by pouring beer on the broadcasting dashboard of the other team’s television crew at a Flyers game. They do this by beating an opposing fan to death in the Phillies parking lot because he spilled his beer on them. They do this by intentionally puking on an 11 year old girl because she dared to wear the jersey of the other team in “their house”. It is actions like these which forced the city of Philadelphia to have a courthouse, judge, and jail built into Veterans stadium. Poor decision-making is present among sports fans of all cities, but what other city is forced to take such extreme measures to curtail it?

In other cities, when a tiny majority of fans do get out of hand, the rest of the fans admonish the behavior. They have enough self respect to know that the actions of that select few peers reflect poorly on their city, and they reject them. Not here. Nowhere is the culture so tolerant of obnoxious fans than Philadelphia. Locals aren’t embarrassed by these things, they’re proud of it! “Yeah, we cheered when Michael Irvin broke his neck!” fans have told me, “He was a Cowboy!”

Twice I’ve gone to Lincoln Financial Field to watch the Packers play the Eagles, wearing a Packers jersey and a cheesehead on both occasions. The first time I was in middle school, and the Packers lost. The second time I was a Senior in High School, and the Packers won. Both times, I have been heckled by group chants from the entire section. The first time, a drunk man screamed obscenities at me until my Dad told him to back down (remember, I was in middle school). The second time, a the fan siting behind me repeatedly knocked off my cheesehead simply because he was bitter at the loss. Another man threatened to fight me outside the stadium. That is not passion. That does not mean you’re from a “blue collar town”. That makes you an asshole. It’s even worse when I wear my Mets stuff to a Phillies game. But what’s worse is that when I complain about this to my Philly fan friends, not a single one of them has any sympathy or is at all embarrassed by these actions; in fact, they seem to boast about them, and say it is my fault because I “disrespected Philly”. “Don’t go to Philly wearing another team’s stuff, or that’ll happen” they say, shaking their heads and puffing up their chests. “It’s rough there.” That tolerance of obnoxious behavior and pride in the reputation for violence is what allows it to continue, why Philly is still plagued by one embarrassing episode after another.

It is wonderful to have passion for your favorite sports teams. Anyone who has ever seen me screaming at the TV during a Packers/Mets game or heard me reciting their full depth charts by heart knows I support passion. This passion is strong in Philadelphia, and that’s good. But it is not an excuse to act like a buffoon. Attending a sporting event is not an excuse to treat people differently than you should treat them on any other occasion: with respect. You can respect opposing fans even if you don’t choose to associate with them on game day. You can respect Ryan Howard even if he strikes out. You can express your fanhood without using violence or intimidation. You can boo your players, or the other team’s players, without screaming “You fucking such, dickwad!”. And if you see others doing these things, you can call them out on it without being a traitor to your team. In short, you can be an educated, passionate sports fan, without being an obnoxious, violent moron. The sooner Philly fans learn this distinction, the sooner I’ll root for their teams.

PS - As for why I chose the teams I did, look for a blog post titled "Why You Should Root for the Packers this Sunday" posted back in February.

1 comment:

  1. It's spelled Maple Leafs, not leaves its supposed to be wrong