I tend to be a little long-winded, so I’m going to just get to the point up front so you can decide whether or not you want to bail on this post: I’m done defending Philadelphia sports fans. In the past, whenever the national media would jump on a Philly-related piece of bad fan behavior, Jeff and I would talk about how the national media always seems to ignore that it happens in other cities as well, but only Philadelphia fans get the national scorn.
“But…but…Caps fans threw a beer bottle at the Flyers’ Jeff Carter during a post-game interview once!”
“But…but…Bruins fans called the Caps’ Joel Ward the n-word after he scored a game-winning goal against them!”
“But…but…wearing another team’s gear in L.A. or San Francisco is almost an invitation to gangland violence!”
I don’t care. I don’t live in those areas, so I don’t care about those teams or their fans. What I do care about is the fact that when I’ve gone to other areas of the country and told people I’m from the Philly area and a fan of those teams, people talk about us like we’re some sort of invading Mongol horde. That conversation has happened many times and that perception didn’t appear out of thin air. There was no national convention of sports writers someplace where somebody stood up and said, “You know who’s on their high horse a little too much? It’s those damn Philadelphians, let’s knock them down a peg or two.” Nope, we earned it on our own.
By now I’m sure you’ve figured out that I’m a little riled up by our most recent foray into the news with the wristband-throwing incident during the 3rd period of last night’s Flyers game. What’s bothering me one day later is some of the cavalier, “no big deal” defenses I’m reading about it on Twitter from some fans and some writers I respect. I get it, nobody was killed or injured because of it. I saw a retweet of a Philly cop talking about how nobody wanted to talk about actual crimes that happened overnight, instead focusing on people throwing wristbands, and in the grand scheme of things, that’s certainly understandable. But shouldn’t the expectation be that people can go out in public and behave like adults? Because from what I’m seeing, the current low expectation that we have for ourselves is: well, nobody got hurt, so no biggie! And I don’t care if it was only about 100 people throwing the wristbands, as the Flyers PR department has stated, because it was still enough that Flyers public address announcer Lou Nolan had to implore fans a couple of times to stop. This was a nationally-televised game, so people around the country aren’t going to care whether it was 100 or 10,000 wristbands that were thrown. We look bad all the same.
Now let’s get into how it affected the game a little. If you were there and paying any attention at all, you’d know that the Flyers’ penalty kill unit had no answer for the Capitals’ power play all night. Yet when Nolan comes on and warns fans that if they don’t stop, the Flyers will be assessed with a penalty, you continue to do it anyway? Wow, really helping the team there! And then, when you keep it up and the penalty is levied, you actually cheer. What a bunch of goddamn crybaby losers. “Waaaaah, the Flyers didn’t play well. Waaaah, the refs are against us. I’m going to throw things like a toddler whose mommy refused to buy them a toy.”
This kind of stuff makes us look bad amongst other fans, but what about with players? As some of you have probably read by now, 21-year-old free-agent forward Drake Caggiula was a guest in the Wells Fargo Center press box for the game. Caggiula just wrapped up his senior season at the University of North Dakota, winning the 2016 NCAA Championship and the NCAA Frozen Four most outstanding player award. On a night where it was painfully obvious how much help the Flyers need on offense, it would’ve been nice to show a guy like that what a great atmosphere Philadelphia is to play in. I’d venture to say that some of the fans failed pretty miserably there. You know who else was a Frozen Four most outstanding player? Everybody’s favorite new Flyer, Shayne Gostisbehere, won the award in 2014. So it’s not a big stretch to say that those guys are players you’d like to have in your organization. Caggiula played for Dave Hakstol at North Dakota, so hopefully that gives the Flyers an inside track on signing him (the current finalists are Philly, Chicago, Vancouver, Ottawa, Edmonton, and Buffalo). With that said, if I’m Caggiula sitting in that press box and I see the home fans working as a detriment against their own team, I’m calling my agent and asking who else is interested.
Look, I’m not going to run down the list of incidents where Philly fans have looked bad in the national eye. We all pretty much know them by heart by now, God knows we’re reminded of them enough. But when you know this is the case, why hand out more ammunition? In addition to all that, maybe I feel this way because it’s quite possible that I’m lumping in plenty of things I’ve seen at Philly sporting events that haven’t made the national news. I haven’t been to a ton of Eagles games in my life (those tickets are expensive, man), but I’m pretty sure I remember noticing a fight in the stands at every one of them.
For now though, I’m done defending the behavior of some of our fans. The old “other cities do it, too” excuse doesn’t fly. I’m reminded of my mother always saying, “if so-and-so jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?” If we’re that damn worried about what happens in competition, shouldn’t we be competing to be better than other fan bases?