On Punching Bags

These past few days have not been kind to the city of Philadelphia. Aside from losing Hall of Famer and all-around great guy Robin Roberts at the age of 83, the city has received two black eyes in the form of nitwit fans trespassing on the field of play. Many in the mainstream media used it either as a jumping-off point or directly as reasoning for a screed against Philly fans.

You see, Philly fans are a boisterous bunch. They hurl batteries all the time, and they absolutely hate Santa Claus (insert Bill O’Reilly’s “War on Christmas” crusade). Men laden in replica Phillies and Eagles jerseys stampede towards local malls to pelt Santas with snowballs. And when they’re done, they regurgitate yesterday’s lunch on the nearest kid.

Were you to believe the narrative painted by the media, you would have no choice but to believe that this is the modus operandi of Philly fans. Must not sleep, must annoy others.

Are Philly fans really as bad as the media claims? The Santa incident was in the 1960’s, the J.D. Drew battery incident was in the 1990’s, and the puke and trespass incidents came within mere weeks of each other after more than a decade without incident. In fact, 99 percent of Phillies games come and go without incident. 99 percent of Eagles games come and go without incident. 99 percent of Flyers games come and go without incident. And the Sixers don’t draw a crowd, so there is no chance for an incident. (Zing!)

Does fandom of Philadelphia teams or simply residence in the Philly area predispose one to act boorishly? I fail to see a correlation. After all, was it not New York football Giants fans who, during a Giants-Saints game shortly after Hurricane Katrina, pelted New Orleans fans with insults such as “Where’s your swimmies? I hope you have your swimmies!” and “You deserve what you got. New Orleans people are stupid.” How about the Mets fan who killed his mother because his team lost? Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad had “a well-worn Mets cap” in his Connecticut apartment. Are all New York Mets fans insensitive, temperamental, homicidal sociopaths?

As much as it pains me to admit it: absolutely not.

A fan in Oakland tossed a cherry bomb that burned an eight-year-old boy’s leg in 2003.

Then-Royals coach Tom Gamboa was assaulted by two fans — father and son — in 2002 who ran onto the field.

Then-Astros right fielder Bill Spiers was assaulted in Milwaukee in 1999 and suffered a black eye, a bloody nose, and whiplash.

Outside of baseball, former tennis star Monica Seles was stabbed by a Steffi Graf fan during a match in Hamburg in 1993. Ron Artest and Stephen Jackson fought with Detroit Pistons fans in 2004.

Many other examples abound and there is no common sports-related thread linking them. Philadelphia isn’t even the only city that has field trespassers. They’re in Pasadena, Washington D.C., and even Minneapolis. The problem instead is a meme bolstered by the confirmation biases of millions of people. Most likely, you had forgotten about or had never even heard of many of the incidents listed above, but you will certainly not forget the Philly-related incidents. Philadelphia has a reputation and any little thing that happens becomes further evidence that the conclusions about the city are true.

The truth is, there are attention-seekers all over the country. Philly doesn’t have them in any greater numbers percentage-wise than any other metropolitan city. But because of the reputation, when a Philly fan gets out of line, it’s a country-wide incident. When a San Diego fan gets out of line, it’s yesterday’s news.

The media is mostly to blame for this as most sensationalize these events in an effort to inspire click-throughs or self-promotion (both on a company and individual level). Readers/viewers/listeners have no choice but to believe that Philly is a safe haven for malcontents given the way the issues are presented by the media.

A few days ago on Twitter, I wrote:

If you hate people because they come from different country, you’re a xenophobe. But it’s okay if you hate someone from a different city. ??

There is no basis for the habitual lashing Philadelphia gets in the media. It is outright ignorant and lazy. Rivalries are fun. City-to-city xenophobia is a different story. It is not necessary to paint with such a broad brush. Most Mets fans I have spoken with either in person or via the Internet have been kind people. I’m sure most Mets fans can say the same about their interaction with Phillies fans. Can we at least admit that?

We are better than this. If you truly think Philadelphia is a terrible city, send Mayor Michael Nutter a letter with your suggestions for improvement.

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  1. Sophist

    May 06, 2010 09:46 PM

    Just so we’re clear here, the Northeast scored highly in


    and low in


  2. John

    May 07, 2010 04:44 AM

    Wasn’t it in Philadelphia where the fan jumped into the penalty box to fight Tie Domi, and Philly’s football fans have been criticized for cheering injuries.

  3. Bill

    May 07, 2010 06:22 AM

    Yeah, the Tie Domi thing is true, but Domi did pour a bottle of water on the guy if i recall, so that’s not exactly Philly fan bad behaviour alone…

    I always see this argument when people defend Philly sports, and it’s mostly right… but there is some element at games that isn’t there in other cities, that sort of insane passion that produces people who throw batteries at outfielders who won’t sign with their team.

  4. Bob R.

    May 07, 2010 06:48 AM

    Didn’t Minnesota fans throw batteries at Knoblauch when he returned there with the Yankees? The nonsense about some cities having more violent or more knowledgeable or more anything fans is just that-nonsense. I have been to games all over the country, major league and minor league, and the range of types is pretty much the same everywhere.

    Incidentally,I say this as a native New Yorker who attended Yankee and Mets games regularly and now do the same in the Tampa Bay area. The notion that NY fans are more sophisticated about the game or more informed or insightful than fans elsewhere, including new major league cities like St. Petersburg, is plain silly, just as is the notion that Philly fans are more boisterous or boorish is silly.

  5. Shoeless Mo

    May 07, 2010 06:52 AM

    I seem to remember an Eagles or Phillies game in which a “special” children’s choir sang the national anthem and got booed off the field. Anyone else remember this? I can’t find anything about it, but the memory is pretty clear. It could have been a different team or maybe even a different city, but I am certain that this happened.

    Anyway, agreed on your main point

  6. Pull T

    May 07, 2010 08:24 AM

    “99 percent of Eagles games come and go without incident”


  7. Juskimo

    May 07, 2010 08:29 AM

    Nationals Opening Day was overrun by Phillies fans who went out of their way to boo everyone, including the Nats training staff, Zimmerman receiving his awards, and pretty much everything else.

    While much of the blame lies with the Nationals for selling out Opening Day to the Phillies fans in the first place, their behavior lived up to a lot of the stereotypes.

  8. Dan

    May 07, 2010 09:29 AM

    There’s such a thing as accepted behavior for fans. At Cornell, my fellow hockey fans and I were absolute jerks and most of our cheers revolved around being jerks. We had a reputation for being rowdy and mean to opposing teams and we threw fish (Harvard), toothpaste (Colgate), and newspaper (everyone else) at the opposing team every game.

    Other stadiums and other teams don’t tolerate this kind of behavior. College football isn’t exactly a polite sport, but Gators games I’ve been to had cheers focused on Florida and not necessarily on being jerks to the opposing team. In Philadelphia they encourage a rowdier fan and the reputation enables rowdy personalities to be rowdy to fulfill stereotypes.

    Caveat: I hated all the Phillies fans at Nats Park for Opening Day this year, but they were absolute joys to be around when I went to a Marlins game at Citizens Bank this year. There are many types of fans in a fanbase and not all of them are jerks.

  9. Michael M

    May 07, 2010 09:33 AM

    “after more than a decade without incident” Beating a fan to death in the parking lot is not an ‘incident’?
    Every team has incidents involving moron fans; unfortunately, Philadelphia many more than the others.

  10. Tech Rules

    May 07, 2010 09:56 AM

    A friend of mine told me that when he lived there, he had season tickets for the Eagles but had to stop taking his son because of the behavior of the “fans” around him.

  11. Bill

    May 07, 2010 10:19 AM

    Booing somebody shouldn’t be held against any fan. If they paid to get in, they’re certainly allowed to boo or cheer.

  12. Jeff

    May 07, 2010 10:32 AM

    So it’s OK for us to behave badly because everybody else does it?

    I agree that most of us aren’t as bad as advertised, these are outliers, and these could happen anywhere.

    But we remain the only city ever to have opened a stadium courthouse. And we do continue to exhibit bad behavior. (Some of which has been started by our public officials.)

    We’ve made our bed, time to lie in it.

  13. Mike B.

    May 07, 2010 10:56 AM

    “Wasn’t it in Philadelphia where the fan jumped into the penalty box to fight Tie Domi”

    Wasn’t it in Boston where a Yankee player (Sheffield?) was assaulted when he played a fly ball against the wall? Wasn’t it Chicago where Shane Victorino had a beer dumped on him as he played a fly ball?

    And I’ve heard plenty of other cities’ fans cheer injuries. But no one notices that.

  14. James

    May 07, 2010 11:05 AM

    “Beating a fan to death in the parking lot is not an ‘incident’?”

    Uh, that incident happened outside of a bar near the stadium.

    And if you want to talk about fans killing other fans, I point in the direction of Los Angeles were by my count, there have been 4 such incidents in the last 10 years alone.

  15. JD

    May 07, 2010 11:10 AM

    The public “incidents” are icing on the cake. The meat and potatoes is the classlessness of the majority of Philly fans that the rest of us encounter whenever our teams play them. It’s NOT the same as other teams. Not close. Philly deserves its reputation and then some.

  16. Max

    May 07, 2010 11:21 AM

    I cheered when M.Irvin got hit at the Vet many years ago, and I’d cheer again. The man was video taped buying drugs and talking to children during the purchase of those drugs. F him they could have dug him a hole and buried him right there for all I care. I Pee’d in the sink at Nationals stadium for opening day, just so I could mark my place, cause that might as well have been citizens bank park south with all the Phils fans there. If a fan parks next to me with Dallas stuff anywhere visible I key his/her car after they walk away.

    I am Philadelphia

  17. Chareth

    May 07, 2010 11:27 AM

    Having attended sports games all over, I do believe it is regional. I do think Philly is bad, but no more so overall than New York, for example.

    However, I will say this: I have never seen a more boisterous crowd than the old 700 level during an Eagles game. It was absolutely ridiculous. Every time I sat up there, I probably saw an average of 2 or 3 people arrested per game, and many more who should have been arrested.

  18. MikeC

    May 07, 2010 12:42 PM

    Philly fans are rough, no doubt about it. But they’re not the only rough fans; and I’ve heard too many stories about batteries being thrown at Fenway and players actually being assaulted by fans on other fields to think we’re the worst.

    I suppose cheering M. Irvin’s injury was rather boorish; but it is not the norm for Philly. That man was a thug and a punk, and I have always thought that was the reason.

    I was at Nationals Park on opening day this year; I thought the booing was something of a joke. In my section they were giving a Mets fan a hard time; again, I thought it was mostly funny (though I wish they would come up with something more creative than @ss-hole to chant). I may be giving people too much credit, but that was what I thought.

    Plus, consider this: I was at the Vet years ago when we gave an aged Gaylord Perry a standing ovation for hitting a home run against us. I was too young to understand; I asked my dad why we were cheering the other team, and he said “because that man is going to be in the Hall of Fame”.

    Trying to make Philly fans “good” or “bad” is too simplistic. We can be rough, even boorish. But we respect effort and honor greatness and class whenever we witness it.

  19. Tomato Tim

    May 07, 2010 02:47 PM

    I think its interesting how right after Bill wrote that the media typically over-reports incidents of Philly fans behaving poorly, half the comments here are about how people don’t hear about incidents in other cities. Did you people even read the article?

  20. Rory

    May 07, 2010 09:44 PM

    You have a courtroom and jail built into your football stadium. You are as of 2009 the only NFL stadium to have such a thing. Do I have to say more?

  21. jaroslav hasek

    May 07, 2010 11:41 PM

    after reading this article, i would add insecure whining to the list of terrible traits philly fans posses.

    city-to-cty xenephobia? are you kidding me? who thinks of nonsense like that?

  22. David

    May 07, 2010 11:44 PM

    Whether or not it’s still true that Philly fans are any worse than others, the reputation is definitely deserved historically. Newsworthy incidents may have occurred at the same rate as in other cities and stadiums, but Philadelphia and particularly Phillies fans have historically been some of the nastiest and most unpleasant fans, not just to opposing teams, but to their own. Philadelphia (because of both the fans and the players) was considered by Jackie Robinson the worst place he had to play as he broke the baseball color barrier.

    Keep in mind that the Phillie Phanatic – who parodies the idea of the Philadelphia fan – is a complete and utter menace, though in the best possible way. He is the only mascot who has an enormous beer belly, flashes unsuspecting women, humps small children, runs over opposing players, attempts to bribe umpires, steals from vendors and routinely crossdresses – and also gets away with all of it.

  23. Juancho

    May 08, 2010 05:36 AM

    In my experience, the farther away from the West and South you get, the ruder and nastier the people are. In Denver, Phoenix, Atlanta, or Kansas City, you’d never see the stuff you see in the Northeast.

    Philly, New York, and Boston fans are all about equally obnoxious. Philadelphia lacks the glamour of the other two cities, who both consider it inferior. So Philly is scorned by both the Heartland and the rest of the Rust Belt.

    I have three words for any Philadelphian who disagrees: Camden, New Jersey.

  24. Bob R.

    May 08, 2010 06:35 AM

    I am curious in what way(s) the mind-set that characterizes fans in a particular city based on reported or remembered (mis-remembered?) anecdotes or “commonly known facts is any different from any other form of bigotry.

    How is labeling Philly, Boston or NY fans as boorish or obnoxious or violent or whatever different from labeling Jews as cheap or Muslims as violent or Japanese as wily or Blacks as lazy or Southerners as stupid or Germans as cruel or Irish as drunks or-well you can fill in the blanks?

    It seems to me the same essential approach, the same kind of mind even if the particulars are less dangerous.

  25. Juancho

    May 08, 2010 04:48 PM

    Violent, lazy, cruel, stupid, drunk – kind of sums up Philadelphia, don’t you think?

  26. Dallas

    May 08, 2010 10:29 PM

    Did you forget about this?


    Frankly as a fan I would be afraid to go to Citizens Bank Park with my wife with my teams gear on for fear of Philly Fans. I dont just hear this from the media but from other people I know that have gone to Philly sporting events or are from Philly

  27. Bake McBride

    May 10, 2010 11:53 AM

    I’ve been to Citizen’s Bank once. Opening Day 2006. Cards over Phillies. I saw 1) a fan run onto the field near the LF area and get tackled/escorted out 2) a stone-drunk man shuffle his way in front of me and my son with a monster brew in hand, stop, then collapse into the rows in front of us, 3) a woman flashing herself about 20 rows behind us, and 4) a constant stream of profanities from guys behind us to a couple wearing Cards shirts about 5 rows in front of us.

    Never have seen anything remotely close to this at NY (both old stadiums), DC, Boston, STL, Cincy, Detroit, Wrigley, Milwaukee, KC. For me, Philly fans are the scum of the earth and any news of their asinine behavior is, if anything, underreported.

  28. jaroslav hasek

    May 10, 2010 12:35 PM

    rob r is right. calling philly fans jerks is as racists as it gets. clearly the solution is to cry about it, as so many philly fans on this blog have done. crying and whining about unfair treatment from the press is the best way to go about changing people’s unfair stereotypes. good luck on your campaign, youre all off to a great start!

  29. Chris

    May 11, 2010 06:11 AM

    You know what..it is all true. But we, the great people of Philadelphia can take it. Yea, we booed Santa, but he was in a horrible slump and deserved it. I remember going to an Eagles game and seeing ice chunks hitting the cowboys(actually dented Jimmy Johnson hair) Yea, we had a courthouse and holding cells in the Vet, everyone else is just mad cause we thought of it first! So everyone can keep sling arrows at Philly fan, we don’t care. We wear it like a badge, just as someone from Compton, or Hells Kitchen would.

    And if you don’t like it #@*&$% off!

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