Monday, September 29, 2003

Until I'm Boo in the Face

Ah, the self-referential world of blogging. The Baseball Crank links to this post and writes, "Tom of Phillies blog Shallow Center defends the meanness and negativity for which Philadelphia fans are famous."

This prompted a couple of comments to the Crank. Flem Snopes offered, "i love this kind of thing. the philly 'fan' takes his drunken malignant sociopathic attitude and makes it a VIRTUE. yeah, we had a magistrate hold misdemeanor court in the old Vet but it was a GOOD THING. it demonstrated philadelphians' commitment to law and justice after all. the O! so knowledgeable philly fans 'demand better' of their teams. gotcha. so please explain, Tom of Philly: why did you punks boo the best third baseman, ever -- the venerable Mike Schmidt, Esq. -- on the day the franchise honored his entry into the Hall of Fame? my own take is a bit different from Tom's. it is this: philly fans are a gooey undisguiseable herpes sore on the face of professional sports."

For a less hysterical (and better punctuated) opinion, this from John Salmon: "Shallow Center is one of my favorites, but I really can't agree with the point he's making. Booing Jose Mesa before he even throws a pitch isn't exactly productive, and the treatment of Scott Rolen when he was in town recently was shameful and frankly, embarrasing. It must be added, though, that fans in Boston and NYC are only marginally better, if at all. Ted Williams swas routinely booed in Boston, and I'm not sure I'd want to try to make the case that it was all his fault."

I should have been clearer in my original post in the distinction I draw between illegal fan behavior and legitimate, performance-related complaints by paying customers.

So: I in no way condone illegal fan behavior. (Way to take a stand, huh?) People who threw batteries at J.D. Drew should have been arrested and prosecuted. The anarchy that raged in the 700 level of the Vet during Eagles games was a civic embarrassment. Flyers fans who dump beer on a guy who happens to be wearing a Rangers jersey in the Wachovia Center are tools of the highest order.

But to equate those example of abhorrent behavior with booing -- with paying ticket holders expressing their displeasure over the performance of the losingest team in American professional sports history (no, really) -- is lazy reasoning. We boo not because we're mean or overly negative but because we want to win so bad. We boo because decades of losing hurts so damn much. We're in love with our teams, with the Phillies, the Eagles, the Sixers, and the Flyers, and when they reciprocate with subpar efforts and lame excuses, we call them on it. So sue us.

That said, yes, it can go too far. Mike Schmidt should have been treated much better than he was here. Likewise Scott Rolen, who played as hard, day in and day out, as any Phillie I've ever seen. (For more on Philadelphia's unfair abuse of Rolen, click here and scroll to "Boos' Clues.") Mesa, on the other hand, never gave us a chance to like him, brushing off reporters' attempts to interview him and even shoving the Inky's Jim Salisbury after one especially heinous outing.

John Salmon says fans in New York and Boston are only "marginally better." I'd argue that they're just as bad as we are. But because we in Philadelphia have been typecast as the booers, because the media -- and the national media in particular -- are too lazy to really take a hard look at things, our reputation continues. Big, big props, though, to Fox's Tim McCarver, a former Phillie, who on Saturday's broadcast of the Phils-Braves game contradicted his play-by-play man (it wasn't Joe Buck, but I don't recall who it was) and said that Phillies fans have treated Pat Burrell with incredible warmth given his disastrous season. McCarver may be an insufferable know-it-all at times, but he showed lots of guts in going against the pigeonholing and telling the truth on national television.


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