Philadelphia fans earn their reputation - again
The list just keeps getting longer. You know the highlights: booing Santa, cheering Michael Irvin's apparent paralysis, a stadium that required its own courtroom to handle the volume of arrests for drunken hooliganism. You can't help but know them, because they are recited like a litany every time some national broadcaster or journalist or blogger wants to take an easy shot at Philadelphia and its sports fans.
The list just keeps getting longer.
You know the highlights: booing Santa, cheering Michael Irvin's apparent paralysis, a stadium that required its own courtroom to handle the volume of arrests for drunken hooliganism. You can't help but know them, because they are recited like a litany every time some national broadcaster or journalist or blogger wants to take an easy shot at Philadelphia and its sports fans.
Two incidents Saturday reinforce the city's national image and raise, for roughly the billionth time, the question of why Philadelphia seems to be the epicenter of horrific fan behavior.
The more serious and tragic episode, of course, was the beating death of a 22-year-old man named David Sale in the parking lot outside Citizens Bank Park. Two men were charged yesterday in connection with Sale's killing, which occurred in the midst of a brawl that began inside McFadden's Restaurant and Bar during a Phillies game.
The other incident seems trivial by comparison but really is not. Saturday's game between the Phillies and St. Louis was stopped by umpires because a fan apparently used a laser pointer on several Cardinals. This is juvenile and stupid but also more dangerous than it first appears. Bad things can happen when a batter is distracted while a 90 m.p.h. fastball is coming at him.
The laser pointer belongs in the same class of idiot as the guy who shot a flare from the upper level of Veterans Stadium during an Eagles game.
The thugs who turned a baseball game into an excuse for brutal violence and death are in an entirely different category.
So why do these things happen here and not elsewhere?
The answer no one cares to hear is that they do indeed happen elsewhere. In April, a fan was killed - inside the ballpark - as fans left a Los Angeles Angels game in Anaheim. After the Dodgers' home opener a few days later, a fan was seriously injured in a stabbing in the parking lot. In 2003, a Dodgers fan was shot to death after a quarrel in the stadium's parking lot.
So what is the national stereotype of Southern California fans? They're laid back, more interested in celeb spotting and leaving early to beat traffic than in the outcomes of the games. A few savage beatings, stabbings and shootings aren't going to change that.
That is the reverse of Philadelphia's situation. To the rest of the world, we are the city that booed Santa, that throws dangerous objects at professional athletes, that brawls and boos and urinates in sinks, and intimidates fans of other teams, whether they're visiting here or attending games in their own home stadiums.
It would be naïve and dishonest to pretend we didn't earn the reputation, at least in part. And if you spend any time around Philadelphia fans, you can tell the rep inspires a sort of twisted pride as well as resentment at being stereotyped by outsiders. We're like those old-timers who talk about growing up in the roughest part of town as if it's a badge of honor.
But there's also an element - a small minority, usually fueled by adult beverages and childish impulses - that strives to live up to the rep. These are the people who can't see that line between passion and pride in your team and ignorant brutality. They can't see it, most of them, because they don't understand that it even exists.
Philadelphia fans probably can't change their image, at least not any time soon. But we can start acting to take the ballpark and the stadium and the arena and the parking lots back. If it really is true that most fans are responsible and well-behaved and passionate, and I believe (and hope) that it is, then they are the ones who have to take control.
You should be able to take your kids to an Eagles or Flyers game.
You should be able to enjoy a couple of lagers at the Bank without getting any spilled all over you by the overserved, underevolved guy in the row behind you.
You should be able to park your car and reach the stadium without fear of physical harm or verbal abuse, even if you're a woman.
A few months ago, there were reports about a system that allowed fans to alert stadium security with an anonymous text message. It seemed like something right out of Orwell. After this weekend, it doesn't seem like a bad idea at all.
If fans saw the imbecile with the laser pointer, they should have had him or her ejected long before the game was stopped.
The killing of a young member of a bachelor party is a tragedy beyond comprehension. While it is true that it could have happened anywhere - in any bar, in any city, on any Saturday night - the fact is that it happened at a baseball game in Philadelphia.
If that doesn't get us thinking and talking about what we're willing to accept and endure in the name of sports fandom, then David Sale truly died in vain.
4 Reasons People
Hate Philly Sports Fans
This is the seminal event that is referred to ad nauseam every time Philadelphia sports fans are being discussed. It happened at an Eagles game in 1968. Can we move on, please?
Judge Seamus McCaffrey decided it was more efficient to process rowdy fans right on site at Veterans Stadium rather than transport them to the precinct house. The jail and courthouse in the stadium's bowels became shorthand proof that Philadelphia was the Wild West.
There's no getting around it. Eagles fans cheered the career-ending injury sustained by the Cowboys wide receiver and made matters worse by adding an extra roar when an ambulance came onto the Vet turf. This looked bad because it was bad.
ASSAULT WITH BATTERY
A few months before the Irvin incident, Phillies fans rained boos and debris on J.D. Drew, who had spurned the home team and gone back into the baseball draft. At least one fan threw a battery at Drew. Again, there's no getting around this one.
- Phil Sheridan
ARRESTS: Police say fight started over spilled beer. A1.
KAREN HELLER: Another black eye for Philly fans. B1.