Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell writes a weekly sports column for the Daily News from a fan's perspective. His column appears Wednesdays.
WHEN I HEARD about the ridiculous booing of Cole Hamels during his first start last week, I almost was sorry I had called our fans the "best in the country" in my response to GQ's bashing a few weeks ago.
However, upon reflection, I realized that there is no book, no authority on the proper etiquette. Emily Post wrote the definitive book on manners and social graces. ("It is OK to eat hot food when it is served, you do not have to wait until everyone has been served . . . ")
So I mulled over the possibility of writing it myself, but then I realized I hadn't finished my first book about my life in politics. (I plan to give Daily News readers a discount.)
But who would be the right person: Angelo Cataldi? No, too hot-blooded and mercurial; Bill Conlin, the great dean of Philly sports writers? No, brilliant but at times a little cranky; John Gonzalez? No, incredibly funny, but too much of a contrarian. Then it hit me. Of course it had to be someone with a long history in Philadelphia whose fairness and integrity is beyond question - Stan Hochman.
Now, I realize Stan is busy, so I put together a few thoughts of my own to get him started.
* Good-natured booing is always allowed. It's always OK to boo if it's in fun. The perfect example is our recent booing of the beloved Phanatic for dropping a foul ball or when a fan at a basketball game airballs a shot during a contest.
* Booing for lack of effort is always commendable. Fans pay a lot of their hard-earned money to see a professional sporting event and if a player dogs it - doesn't run out a grounder, alligator-arms a pass over the middle or doesn't hustle back on defense - they are fair game.
* Booing a politician is always acceptable. As I said recently, elected officials and sporting events don't mix, and someone running for office is an even more deserving target (e.g., Flyers fans' rousing booing of candidate and notorious "hockey mom" Sarah Palin).
* Booing a player who didn't want to play in Philadelphia is always OK. If you say you don't want to play here, don't come here or do so at your own peril (J.D. Drew). And if you say you want out, be advised not to come back (Scott Rolen). We take being trashed very seriously.
* Booing an injured player is never acceptable. It is the crassest and most classless thing you can do - even if the injured player is a hated Dallas Cowboy (Michael Irvin).
* Booing one of our own because he is not a warm and fuzzy Philly guy is understandable, though not acceptable. We Philadelphians are somewhat insular and we like players who are similar to ourselves - hardworking, blue-collar grunts - the Bill Bergeys, Pete Roses and Gary Matthewses. The aloof, supertalented players like Mike Schmidt who make it look so easy can become targets. This phenomenon is certainly a reason why Cole Hamels, a great pitcher and World Series MVP who has given his all to the Phillies, is booed, while Joe Blanton, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cliff Lee are not. Cole is cool and glamorous - a real Californian. No one looks like Cole at K & A. So it's somewhat understandable, but not forgivable. C'mon guys, do you really care about how someone looks or what his lifestyle is, as long as he is a gamer and gets good results?
* Booing a player who insults the fans is OK even if we deserve it. I'm sure you remember the late Jim Croce's lyrics, "You don't tug on Superman's cape, you don't spit into the wind, you don't pull the mask off that old Lone Ranger and you don't mess around with Jim." A lyrical way of saying don't taunt the tiger. Well, memo to our players - don't criticize the fans even if they deserve it. It will only bring on a pitched battle. Schmitty once described the fans as a "mob scene" that were "beyond help," and this might have been true given the irrational booing he received. Jimmy Rollins, who was and still is one of our favorites, engendered our wrath when he called us "front-runners." Fortunately, because Jimmy is such a gamer, he was forgiven fairly quickly. Players would be smart to follow the advice of someone who may well have been one of the three original wise men, Charlie Manuel, who said, "If they pay money to see us, and they feel like they don't like something, they'll let you know or whatever, and you've got to handle that."
Well, that's my best. Go to it, Stan, and dedicate the book to all of us who booed Santa Claus.
Congratulations to Charles Willis, the winner of the Final Four contest from my column a few weeks ago. We asked you to pick the Final Four, the finalists and the winner before the brackets a few weeks before the field was set. This year, it was hard enough to do that even after the brackets were set. Charles was the only one to even have a team that made it to the Final Four on his entry.
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