Saturday, January 22, 2005

Philadelphia Fans, Defined 

I have no problem with the City of Brotherly Love (irony entirely unintended, apparently), nor with any of its sports teams. Nonetheless, it's clear that Philly fans are, well, scum of the earth. Sometimes people ask me, "Hey, Goldberg, why do you say Philly fans are so bad?" After my auto-response, viz., "Do I know you?" I usually tell the story of Michael Irvin, or, even better because it's less evil than simply mean-spirited, the whole Buddy Ryan bounty-on-various-Dallas-kickers story (which has little to do with the fans, but they did support said bounties).

But, today, via my mom, I get a newspaper article that explains this whole situation much better than I ever could. So, in more of the blatant copyright infringement you've come to expect at G&G, read this:
Eagles Can't Win With Philly Fans
Brutal Home Crowd Puts Pressure on McNabb & Co.


One of the great misconceptions in the world is that the New York media are the toughest on the planet, that they'd just as soon whack you with their laptops as type on them.

How did such an absurd notion ever get started? I'm not sure, but whoever did it never picked up a sports section in Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia media are a rough and tumble bunch. And they're not alone. Philly crowds are tougher than a bar-time steak at Denny's. The first three words a baby learns in Philly are mama, dadda and boo.

When they say they'd boo Santa Claus in Philly, they're not kidding. To wit: The old boy once tooled around Veterans Stadium in a convertible, whereupon he was pelted with snowballs.

How tough are Philly fans? Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin sustained a career-ending injury there and the paying customers cheered like they had just won the Pennsylvania lottery. Phillies third baseman Mike Schmidt got booed every time he didn't hit one of his 500-plus career home runs.

Crowds are so rowdy at Eagles games, a judge used to hold court in the basement at Veterans Stadium, meting out instant justice, a la Roy Bean, to every drunk who showed up wearing handcuffs and a bloody T-shirt.

Why the attitude? There's probably a lot of deep-rooted psychoanalytical gobbledigoop involved, but we needn't go there today. Besides, in the end, the answer is simple: Philly teams never win.

No wonder Donovan McNabb, in the days preceding Sunday's NFC Championship Game, said, ''I'm not going to guarantee a win or anything like that.''

Of course he isn't. This is the Eagles we're talking about. This is Philly we're talking about. Philly athletes don't win championships. They screw up, they get booed, and they get run out of town. It's a way of life in Philly, right up there with cheesesteaks and summer sojourns to the Jersey Shore.

OK, so it's not like Philly teams never win.

The Phillies won the World Series in 1980 and the Sixers won the NBA championship three years later. Then, of course, there's Villanova, which shocked the sports world in 1985 by beating Georgetown for the NCAA hoops championship.

That's it for the current generation of Philly fans. Other than that handful of teams, they've seen nothing but losers. The futility is so widespread, it goes beyond humans. Smarty Jones, the pride and joy of Philadelphia Park, seemingly had the Triple Crown wrapped up last summer, only to come up short at the Belmont.

Hey, stuff happens in Philly. The Phillies had a six-game lead with 10 to play in 1964, but didn't win the pennant. The Eagles, the team Philly fans pull for harder than any other, haven't won an NFL championship since the weeks following the Kennedy-Nixon debate in 1960.

The Eagles have played in one Super Bowl - one fewer than the Bengals, for crying out loud. Sure, they were a dominant team back in the day, but it was so long ago that sports writers used scrolls. What, you think I'm kidding? Among the teams those Eagles beat out for the NFL championship were the New York Bulldogs and the Chicago Cardinals.

Even Wilt Chamberlain, who once averaged 50 points a game, couldn't win in Philly. He spent most of the '60s getting beat by Bill Russell and the Celtics. But at least Wilt made the playoffs every year. That's more than the '72-'73 Sixers could say. They finished 9-73, to this day the worst record in NBA history.

Now come the Eagles of the 21st century, the Eagles of McNabb, the Eagles who've played in three straight NFC championship games with nothing to show for it. I'd love to tell you they're going to beat the Falcons Sunday. I'd love to tell you they're going to wipe away all those decades of futility in the span of three hours. But I can't.

Who knows? Maybe they'll win. For that matter, maybe Terrell Owens will come back and they'll win their first Super Bowl. But just so you know? If any team can screw it up, it's one from Philly.
The only thing he gets wrong is the causal relationship between losing and being a dick. Cleveland fans haven't won anything since, what, the 1964 NFL Championship? Then again, after Nickel Beer Night and the bottle-throwing of a few years ago, maybe Cleveland fans should not be my paragon of virtue.
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