by Keiana Williams, blogger for brandon on sports and life long 4 for 4 Philly sports fan.
It was my destiny and I did not have a choice. There are plenty of fans that later on get into sports in their lives. Not me. I was born into a family of die hard Philadelphia sports fans and as a young child I was taught to think a certain way. I was taught to shower my sports teams with unconditional love and to shower their hated rivals with fury and rage. I was taught to “boo” when pissed off, and I was struck with the notion everyone was always out to get us. “Philadelphia has always been the underdog,” my dad told me. He also told me that a LOT of fans in Philadelphia apply that to their everyday lives. Why? We literally live and breathe sports. There are a lot of sports towns with great fans who are knowledgeable. Philadelphia is different. There is a higher level of emotion and dedication. It takes strength, thick skin, patience, and a ceiling high level of sanity to do what we do. It’s easy to love sports towns and teams that are rich with championship titles, and plenty have way more than Philadelphia. Few have as much passion.
I was 6 years old when I suffered my first Philadelphia heartbreak. 1993. World Series. Blue Jays VS the good guys. As a 6 year old I did not understand the game, much. All I knew is that I wanted the Phillies to win, and the Blue Jays were the evil team in the way. I literally thought we lost the world series after game 1, after Curt Schilling pitched a less than impressive effort. I burst into tears, until my father reminded me that it was a best of seven series. The rest of the series was a blur but I was one excited child, geared up and wearing an old school Phillies sweatshirt through it all. Game 6 was a thriller. Late in the game, Mitch Williams came in to close with a Phillies lead. I called him “the guy with the hair” and I thought he was the coolest person in the world. Mitch Williams was superman to me. He was a hero. The guy that was supposed to shut the “bad guy” Blue Jays down. My dreams were shattered when Joe Carter served up a Williams 2-2 fastball into the seats in Toronto. Now I didn’t quite understand baseball terminology at that age. I didn’t know what a “walk off win” was. I remember Joe Carter jumping around like a maniac and his Blue Jays teammates mobbing him. I looked at my father who was almost a little teary eyed and asked, “did we lose?” He responded “yes,” and Mitch Williams was no longer my hero. He’d blown it. The Philadelphia Phillies crushed my dreams. I still had a lot to learn, and a lot more to experience. As I grew up I became used to in fact being the “underdog,” and losing all the time. I noticed that a lot of Philadelphia fans almost took pride in it, because it was the one thing they were known for. Winning seasons and titles were a rare treat, and at that point I had not seen one in my lifetime. I had the feeling I was in for a long wait.
The next decade brought more heartbreaking losses. The Philadelphia 76ers fell short to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2001, and the kicker was the fact that I was so riled up from the surreal game 1 victory. I knew it was the Sixers year. I believed it. I was hurt when the Lakers won the next 4 games. The Flyers blew chances to hoist the Stanley cup. There were 3 consecutive NFC Championship game losses by the Eagles. When the Eagles lost to the St. Louis Rams, I was excited about what the future held. When the Eagles lost to the Carolina Panthers, I wrote it off as bad luck. When the Eagles lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, I felt cheated. It was unfair. I can’t tell you how much I cried that day. The truth is that I felt that was our year and I’ve never gotten over it, as the loss in the 2004 Superbowl to the New England Patriots. When Greg Lewis snagged the late 4th quarter touchdown pass from Donovan McNabb in the redzone, I remember hearing Merril. “And there’s life! THERE’S LIFE! Hang on folks, this isn’t over.” Unfortunately I believed it was. During the Eagles onside kick attempt I actually went up to my room, pushed my face into my pillow and cried for hours. Believe it or not, with all the heartbreak Philadelphia fans have had, we’re experts at healing. We’ve seen so many losses, more than most sports towns. To a certain extent we were almost “numb” to it, yet we remain optimistic about the future if any of our 4 teams are in contention.
All times weren’t bad. Despite losing the 2004 Superbowl, the Eagles championship win over the Atlanta Falcons was one of the best days of my life. Seeing my fellow fans out in the cold, standing there for their team made me proud to be a fan. It taught me that we forgive and forget, and good things and rewards come to those who wait. Who said life lessons can’t be learned from sports? Philadelphia fans were rewarded in 2008, when the Phillies won the world series over the Tampa Bay Rays. From Cole Hamels statement game 1 start and the rain shortened game 5, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. I was happy and so were the people around me. Philadelphia had it’s championship, and ended it’s drought. The Flyers or Eagles hadn’t won, but they were becoming successful again. This city began to get noticed as a town of contending sports teams.
Unfortunately Philadelphia fans were perceived the same way. We’re the “jerks” that threw snowballs at Santa Claus at Franklin Field in 1968. We’re the “asses” that booed Donovan McNabb in 1999 on draft day. We’re the “classless idiots” that have fans run on to the field during our various team sporting events. We’re the “thugs” that vomit on children during Phillies games. Even in 2011, these stereotypes remain to be reused. It drives me. It motivates me to show the world what true Philadelphia sports fans are and represent, and that we cannot be labeled by all of the actions of certain individuals. I respect the Raider fans in the black hole in Oakland and the relentless Chief fans at Arrowhead in Kansas City, but Philadelphia sports fans take the game to a whole other level. There is a different energy. Despite the stereotype, we don’t boo our teams during games because we hate them. We boo them because we want them to strive for the best. We want more than an 100% effort. We want our guys to care, love the game, and love us back. We value strength, and a blue collar work ethic. We’ll let you have it if you don’t run out a routine ground ball. We’ll boo you if you make ridiculous statements to the media. We’ll boo you if you don’t hustle on the ice during a power play or if you don’t make an effort to catch a pass on the football field. I’ve heard ignorant statements such as “you guys boo your teams when they’re not winning.” That is certainly NOT the case. We can deal with losing, as long as we know our guys have tried their best. We don’t boo players at the draft in particular. We boo the franchise because we disagree with the pick. We have to put up with crap from rival fans about how much our teams lose, and how they are ring-less “chokers.” How do we respond? We stand strong. Right, wrong, or indifferent we fight back. There is no backing down in Philadelphia, and we will fight with with rivals until they’re tired. Go ahead. Use the “rings argument.” Tell us we’re “losers.” Tell us that we’ll never win. As far as I’m concerned, those are tired and reused statements. I personally believe it indicates rivals have nothing to bring to the table in a sports argument or debate. Sure, we’ll complain about bad calls during a game. We will tell the world that the media and sports world is out to get us. We’re entitled to that within good reason. No one takes the time and effort to understand us.
I talk to Philadelphia fans on a daily basis and I am here to set the record straight. We’re not naturally angry. We’re not irrational without reason. Furthermore, we are NOT an un-knowledgeable bunch. We take time and give 100% devotion, buying in 365 days a year. We stand up for our teams through it all, through heartbreaking losses and thrilling victories. We will never leave because we are TIED. I always say that being a Philadelphia sports fan is like joining the mob and once you’re in, that’s it. Never will we switch teams or fan-bases, and shower more love to teams that are not our own. We are the fans that give our players outrageous nicknames. We get kicks out of the Phanatic antics at a Phillies game. We eat up hilarious post-game quotes and in game gestures from our players. We enjoy Charlie Manuel dishing it out to an umpire, and Andy Reid digging the nails into his players if they make a mistake. It warms our hearts when the players give off the field, and have fun with their teammates. We will shower a new player with the biggest standing ovation, yet shower a rival with the biggest boo. I’ve been touched by the fans around me. They inspire me and I’m honored to be a part of the sports city. Now that our teams are improving, our confidence is mistaken as arrogance from the outside world. We are excited, as we have every right to be. We have gone through a lot, and this is a golden age for us. Let us have our fun. Let us bask in the glory. Outsiders may not understand, but I have 10 reasons why they should: 10 fingers on 2 hands that I will use to fight anyone who disagrees. Put the stereotypes to rest. We’re better than that.