Sunday, September 16, 2007

Act lacking of tact hard to defend

By Jeff Glauser
The Phanatic Magazine

Here’s a sordid confession: I love being a Philadelphia sports fan.

To many, that may sound the same as proclaiming my love for root canals, but it’s true. There’s something endearing about rooting for a perennial underdog, something so uplifting about how ardent supporters unite when hope peaks its head out from behind the dark clouds. It’s truly authentic, filled with genuine emotion; perhaps something we locals take for granted, because it’s all we know.

For a decade, I lived far away from my native land. What I learned in my time away - to the surprise of few, I’m sure - is a Philadelphia fan carries with it an off-putting image. We boo too much. We complain too much. We’re fickle. We are unrelenting in our criticisms – both of the opponent and the home club. We lack tact.

During my extended sabbatical without a support system, I often single-handedly took it upon myself to defend my fellow misunderstood brethren to the core.

I tried to explain that booing was caring. It was hard to convey that message to the populace in Miami, whose fans routinely get outnumbered by those who come to cheer for the opposing team.

I tried to explain that we have a right to complain. Because we’ve endured more than can expected in 25 years of unfaltering financial and emotional investments to see no return. Because, seriously, how fair can it really be that the fairweatherd, apathetic residents of South Florida get to celebrate two World Series in six years when we get to view one in 124 from the losing franchise in all of sport?

And we are certainly not fickle. Fickle is having to flip a coin to decide between a Heat playoff game or martini specials at South Beach (yes, Miami sports fan, you get the brunt of my wrath once more). It’s not, however, fickle to criticize your team’s ownership because not enough is being done to advance the organization from merely competitive to unquestionable contenders. If a player making millions suddenly forgets how to put the puck in the net, the ball in the basket or the pitch in the strike zone, we’ll attempt to remind them.

I even defended our alleged lack of tact. Sure, we’re expressive, but again, that’s an attribute of having passion. Personally, I feel sorry for all the tin men out there who don’t know what it means to have a heart.

However, this weekend, as I ventured out to a Phillies-Mets game at Shea Stadium, following the team for a crucial late-season series like a passionate Philly fan does, I encountered something that was indefensible. It happened often and grew in volume as the day progressed.

What was it, you ask, that had me hanging my head in shame and sheepishly shrugging my shoulders in response to confused Met fans?

E-A-G-L-E-S, EAGLES!!

First of all, we’re at a baseball game. An important one at that, despite what a stadium-wide “wave” in the late innings might infer. Why a chant for a football team? If I’m at Citzen’s Bank Park and a group of drunken New Yorkers begin shouting “J-E-T-S, JETS, JETS, JETS!” I would laugh at them. At them, not with them.

Which is exactly what the New Yorkers did. They found these people (notice I didn’t write “us”) ignorant and foolish.

As did I.

What did that irrelevant - and irreverent - chant accomplish, other than showing that regardless of how well the Phillies may play down the stretch and what the playoff implications might indicate, football is what really matters in our town.

If that’s the case for this group of embarrassing idiots, why even show up? Why not stay at home, call into WIP (where it’s all Birds, all the time!) and continue a debate on, say, whether Donovan McNabb’s newest hairstyle is conducive to West Coast Offense success?

Instead, they showed up to Flushing. In droves.

And, for a true, loyal, prideful and long-suffering Philadelphia sports fan such as myself, I finally found something that I was unable to defend.
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