Written by: Ray Hagan (@rayhagan19)
I attended an Arena Football game tonight. I am a proud Philadelphia Soul season ticket holder. After hearing national attention once again being brought to Philadelphia fans in a negative light, I got to witness what makes Philly fans so great.
An official at the game found themselves sandwiched between a Mustang player, Soul player, and the boards. The official, a female, was left hunched over the boards clearly in pain. Once she had recovered, the fans stood and cheered that she was ok. There wasn't a single "that's why girls shouldn't be on the football field" comment within earshot of me. No boos for slowing down the game. The fans let out "oohs" of genuine concern seeing the replay, and thunderous applause upon seeing that she was ok.
I, like every other Philadelphia fan with a beating heart and functional brain, once again found myself disgusted with my fellow less-than-insightful fans during Game 3 of the Sixers/Bulls series. If you are unaware of what happened, Sixers fans cheered at an ankle injury to Joakim Noah. Noah is one of the NBA's great agitators; he is vilified by most fanbases outside of Chicago for his constantly running mouth and aggressive play. He does not, however, deserve the treatment that was showered upon him by the Sixers faithful on Saturday night.
The Philadelphia fans that care about how those actions affect our reputation are not the ones who would boo Noah, and sadly, the ones who did boo have no care for how we are perceived. Many of the moments that the national media like to use to tout how bad the Philadelphia fanbase is are simply not covered accurately. For instance, national media outlets love to bring up how "the Philly fans" booed Donovan McNabb when he was drafted. As an actual Philadelphia fan, I can tell you that's the furthest thing from the truth. The actual scenario is that a local Philadelphia radio host, who desperately wanted the Eagles to select Ricky Williams (which would have been horrendous in retrospect), selected 30 of the most drunken and offensive fans he could find in a radio contest to take a bus trip and boo McNabb. 31 idiots with an agenda doesn't represent a fanbase.
They also love bringing up a Flyers fan going after Tie Domi after Domi squirted him with a water bottle. Does anyone consider the Detroit fanbase awful for the Artest melee? No, they blame the player for instigating a horrific incident. Domi instigated that situation as well. Another favorite incident is a man at a Phillies game intentionally vomiting on the 11 year old daughter of an off duty cop. That was a terrible situation for sure, unfortunate last I checked, that man was from New Jersey, not Philadelphia. If a Philly fan ventured to, for instance, Boston, and did the same at Fenway, it wouldn't be an example of Boston fans being awful. As a matter of fact the national media would be sure to point out it was another reckless Philadelphia fan on the prowl. Surely someone not from Philly coming into our ballpark can't be held against us.
Fans in general have ugly incidents. There's Montreal fans cheering Zdeno Chara's injury, and let's not forget Cleveland fans throwing beers during 10 cent beer night causing an Indians forfeit. How about Twins fans throwing hot dogs at former Twins-great-turned-New-York-Yankee Chuck Knoblauch? Do we need to be reminded of the recent incident of a San Francisco Giants fan beaten to the point of brain damage by Dodgers fans? Or the time the Dodgers forfeit a game because their fans wouldn't stop throwing souvenir baseballs on the field? Not every Cleveland, Los Angeles, or Minnesota fan is an idiot like the ones responsible for those incidents. Just like not every Philadelphia fan is an idiot like those who cheered Noah's injury. My point here isn't to excuse the classless nature of the incident at the Sixers game. As a Philadelphia fan, as a sports fan, I'm disgusted by what happened there. The point here is to realize that all fanbases have idiots in them. There's not a professional team in existence that doesn't have some unruly fans. It's the nature of the beast.
What irks me is that the national media doesn't seem to define other cities by ugly fan incidents the way they do Philadelphia. I don't have the platform to defend myself and similar likeminded Philadelphia fans the way that certain pundits do to tear us down. I am willing to use this small piece of the internet to try sway even one person into understanding that Philly fans shouldn't be defined by our worst fans anymore than a family should be defined by its worst members. If you're a proud sports fan in any city, you should stand up and applaud yourself. You should also recognize that most of us in Philadelphia are just like you. We're proud, we bleed our teams' colors. We boo the opponents and we cheer for our boys. We also recognize and shake our heads when our fans do something stupid like the Sixers fans did with Noah. I'm sure you do the same when your fans do something dumb. Don't let the national media fool you into believing that Philly fans are all bloodthirsty psychos without a conscience.
Instead of letting those fans that threw snowballs at Santa, booed McNabb and cheered the injuries to Michael Irvin and Joakim Noah be the face of the Philadelphia fan...I'd like to nominate myself and the thousands of other fans like me to be the face of Philadelphia sports. Perception is reality, and starting with this writing, I hope I've changed at least one perception of what a Philadelphia fan is.
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