(Mike Schmidt, arguably the greatest third baseman to ever play the game, a career Phillie and a hometown hero. In this photo, he’s in comic disguise to hide from Philly fans.)
Look up the phrase “philly fan” in the online “Urban Dictionary” site and you will see adjectives like “obnoxious,” “juvenile,” and “unruly.” It can be rough for visitors to our sporting events…well, it can be rough for home teams as well (see Mike Schmidt above), but visiting teams and their fans know that Philadelphia may be a great place to live, but you don’t want to visit. To a great extent, the reputation of Philly fans are over-rated. Are they full throated? Yes. Obnoxious? Sure. Homicidal? You bet. But if you’re wearing an opponent’s jersey and happen to visit The Link (Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Eagles) or Citizens Bank Park (home of the Phillies), there’s a decent chance you’ll survive the visit. A bit bruised, maybe.
Whenever someone discusses Philly sports, though, you know the Santa-snowball incident will be mentioned even before you hear the word “cheesesteak.” Let’s put that story in perspective: Philadelphia fans at an Eagles game booed and snowballed a man on the field in a cheap Santa costume, beard falling off, in 1968. That last part is important. 1968. That was like…(OK, 2013 minus1968…carry the one…0 becomes a ten…) 45 years ago. Here’s what 45 years looks like:
Not to mention, it wasn’t even really Santa.
There have been some awful moments in Philly fandom, however, and we who bleed green and red have to learn to accept that fact or else we’ll be red-faced and throwing punches in every city we visit. Here are some defining moments…but maybe skip the first one.
1. Matthew “Pukemon” Clemmens.
This is the worst story. Boast about a horrible fan your team has, and I’ll always go you one better. A suburban cop brought his two daughters to a Phillies game in 2010. Two guys behind them were rowdy and yelling obscenities, so the older girl (15) asked them to stop. One of the guys spit on her. The cop get the attention of security and the spitter is removed. Then Matthew Clemmens, the other guy, was seen by the officer reaching his fingers down his throat and intentionally vomiting on the other daughter, aged 11. Here’s a picture of him–I believe the father did that to his eye.
It’s worth mentioning that Clemmens was from Jersey. Not to cast aspersions on Jersey people, I just mean to deflect aspersions from Philly people.
2. Michael Irvin’s breaks his neck…yes!
Michael Irvin was as great a receiver in his day as he is an awful person. A career receiver for the hated Dallas Cowboys, he had been a thorn in Philly’s side for years when in October,1999, he landed awkwardly catching a Troy Aikman pass and spent 20 minutes motionless on the ground. A roar of approval rose in Veteran’s Stadium, the Eagles old home, and the cheer lasted the whole time until the stretcher came out, when the cheers grew louder. That behavior certainly reflect poorly on Philly fans, but the most important part of the story is always overlooked: the Eagles won that game 13-10.
3. Eagles Court.
I don’t know if Philly was first, or if this phenomenon had been repeated since–that would take research–but Veteran’s Stadium actually had its own Municipal Court Judge who held court (literally) in the stadium and passed sentence on the drunk and unruly. The Judge went on to be a Pa. Supreme Court Judge.
4. J.D. Drew gets batteried.
When St. Louis visited Philly in August 1999, they brought along JD Drew, a Philly prospect who shunned the Phillies and went to St. Louis. Before the game, Philly fans rained down D-batteries on the field. More recently, the Philadelphia Inquirer noted that Drew was coming back and was close to retirement, so fans should get their D batteries ready for one more chance. Most of the media outside Philly missed that the Inquirer suggestion was a joke.
5. 17 Year-Old Fan gets Tazed
There’s not much to this story. A 17 year old Philly fan told his Dad that he would be running out on the field during a Phillies-Cardinals game, and his Dad offered this sage advice: “Don’t,” thereby assuring that the boy would. He ran out on the field, and Sheriff Buford T. Justice gave what chase he could before out the Taser came out. This is more a story of lazy policework than unruly fans. After it happened, there was much speculation that the fan could have meant the team harm, to which I reply, look at him.
Of course, there’s more. Sarah Palin was booed at a Flyer’s game–wait, sorry, that was a good thing. There was another snowball incident in the 80’s. But the stories above stand out as particularly defining moments in Philly fandom.
It’s not all a tale of shame for fans of the Philadelphia teams. We sold out Citizen’s Bank Park from 7/7/09 – 8/6/12, and those 257 games represent the National Leagues’s longest ever soldout streak. We even have our own curse, since we refuse to be out-dumbed by Boston and Chicago. In the late eighties, when the building called Liberty Center climbed higher in the sky than William Penn, whose statute stands atop City Hall, all Philly teams entered a hole which no championships could illuminate until the Comcast corporation came to the rescue, erecting a Wiliam Penn statute atop their building in 2007.
The Phillies went on to win the World Series in 2008. Just saying…