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October 7, 2004

Understanding the Philadelphia Sports Fan

Many people from the New York Metro area don't understand Philadelphians.

Especially when it comes to the Philadelphia Sports Fan. In New York I am surrounded by New York fans, and I hear them always crow how we are the worst fans in the country and they usually site one of three semi-famous incidents:

1. We threw snowballs and booed at Santa Claus.

2. We threw batteries at J.D. Drew.

3. We cheered when Michael Irvin was lying on the field at Veterans Stadium and sustained a career ending neck injury during a Dallas/Eagles game.

So here is the deal. First take your religion. Then combine it with your politics. Then combine it with sports. There you have it - that is what sports are to people in Philadelphia.

Now lets top it off with a few problems with Philadelphia sports teams:

1. We haven't had a championship team since the 1983 Sixers.
2. We have had a lot of Paper Champions - how many Flyer teams start the season with a GREAT looking team only to have a key injury or a complete collapse in the playoffs?!
3. We get to the late round of the playoffs or finals only to self destruct (1993 Phillies; 2001 Sixers; 2001, 2002, 2003 Eagles).

Plus we are in Philadelphia. Its a city that is only 75 miles away from New York City and another 90 miles away from Washington. Its a city that has the middle child syndrome. We are like the Jan Brady of NorthEast Cities.
Yankees, Yankees, Yankees!

The Philadelphia fan of "Generation X" basically grew up watching the Broad Street Bullies (they were slightly before my time, but I did get to see the 1979 29 game unbeaten streak) & the Philadelphia 1980 Championship team & Dr. J and the Miracle of the Meadowlands (I was at this game with my father, believe it or not) - then for the next 23 years of their lives been waiting for SOMETHING. But every year during the offseason they have messageboards, email lists, radio talk shows analyzing what their team needs to do to fix the problem.

Everyone has a different opinion, it really sickens me - even as a Philly fan. Lets take the Eagles, my favorite team, as an example. Last year we lost the 2003 NFC Championship team to the friggin Panthers.

The Panthers.

The same team that was 1-15 only 2 seasons ago. They have a cinderella season and beat us 14-7 in the Championship game. Of course I made a mistake that day of watching the game with Giant fans at a friends house. They were cheering the Panthers and laughing at the Eagles and to me, just like every other Philadelphia fan - its like they are laughing at your friends - and I get defensive about that.

I was steaming, but tried my best to not get into any arguements. I do an "exit-stage-right" after the game and quickly leave. Here I am - all worked up after the game - like I, myself, just lost the game. Also i'm also thinking how I have to go another season of hoping for the Eagles to do it again - make another run, hope that key people don't get injured - its nerve wracking.

That is how it is for me, and many other Philadelphians after every season for the last 23 years - for four sports! A constant feeling of either being let down, year after year or, with the Phillies, never even having a team you can really cheer - The Phillies have been a sub .500 team for 15 of the last 20 seasons.

Does that make it right for a Philly fan to punch other fans? No.

Does that make it right for us to throw batteries at sports stars - No.

I, myself, would never do that and think i'm good natured about my passion for the game. I do get angry over it, and it taunted to the extreme I could see myself throwing a haymaker. But I don't see myself just walking up to a Giants fan and punching them for wearing a Giants jersey (this happened to my friend Tom only a few years ago while visiting Veterans Stadium).

The problem with the Philadelphia fans is also the reputation they have is also self perpetutating. The media harps on how tough our fans are - and I think some people almost want to live up to that tough fan image.

So we will see over the next few weeks how good natured I remain, right now the Eagles a 4-0, and I will say what I say every year with the Eagles, "I am cautiously optimistic for this year".

Posted by Furey at October 7, 2004 12:37 PM

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