From Here to Boo-ternity: The Boo in Philadelphia Sports Culture

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By my quick calculations, the 2008 World Series winning Philadelphia Phillies were only World Champions for fifteen pitches before being booed again in the second inning of the first game of the new season.

From Andy Martino’s recap of the game in the April 6, 2009, Philadelphia Inquirer:

[A]t 8:27, rightfielder Jeff Francoeur hit Myers’ first pitch of the second inning into the left-field stands. Some in the crowd, so boisterous during the pregame ceremonies, voiced the first boos of 2009.

At 8:30, centerfielder Jordan Shafer, in his first major-league plate appearance, hit a 3-1 pitch into the stands in left-center field, and the booing became louder and more widespread.

Phillies Opening Night on flickr.com by furnstein, via a Creative Commons Attribution License

Sounds about right. As a fan of Philadelphia sporting teams myself, I understand the love-hate relationship that exists between the fans and the teams in the much-maligned City of Brotherly Love.

But it’s an easy trope to trot out, a broad brush to paint a city’s fans with, this whole “Santa-booing boors” thing, and many point to the city’s relative paucity of championships in the past few decades as deriving from the apparently negative atmosphere the fans create. Perhaps a fair point.

No doubt there are athletes who do not perform well when they are derided for their efforts, who prefer to play in comforting arenas filled with unstinting supporters. They don’t tend to do well in Philadelphia, and perhaps they have played below their potential while there because of their rough treatment. But for every athlete who wants to get out of town, there’s another excited by the prospect of playing there.

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Ice Hockey in Post-Apocalyptia

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Love it or hate it, Bethesda Softwork‘s decision to have every line of non-player character (NPC) dialogue in Fallout 3 accompanied by voice acting leads to a certain degree of immersion. From random townsperson to monomaniacal despot, everyone speaks. Even the two-headed mutated cows make noise.

Given the cast of hundreds, actors invariably voice multiple NPCs, often noticeably so. Too, the reliance on recorded dialogue means that once the dialogue is recorded, no late changes are feasible, and there are points in the game where I wish one NPC would acknowledge some huge event that took place in his or her life that was directly affected by my character’s actions. Even on big budget title like Fallout 3, there’s a limit to the voice acting funds, and I’m sure they had to decide to cut off dialogue trees at some point, where a non-voice acted title would have been able to add additional text branches to cover more permutations and outcomes.

Don't quit your day job. Because it's cool.

Still, imagine my surprise learning that the voice actor for an early antagonist (or protagonist, depending on your character’s moral inclinations) is . . . the announcer at Verizon Center for the Washington Capitals.

(Only the most minor of Fallout 3 spoilers follow.)

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Bill Lyon on the Spectrum

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The Spectrum, on flickr.com, by Cavalier92, via a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivatives License
Bill Lyon returns to print with another column for the Philadelphia Inquirer today, reminiscing about the Spectrum, which is scheduled to be demolished in 2009.

There’s something sad about losing the Spectrum, as iconic as any featureless, parking-lot-bound arena could be, and with his usual grace, Bill Lyon captures the emotions involved with this significant piece of Philadelphia’s psychic architecture. The “boo birds” might have roosted in the Vet (and now perch in the Linc), but Flyers fans had their own ways of celebrating, and berating, their heroes at the Spectrum:

When a Philadelphia team was playing, you could stand out in the parking lot and the crowd noise would tell you how the home team was faring—if they were winning, the passion was as raw and bone-deep as a January night, an unrelenting, urging surge of support.

And if they were losing . . . ah, well, then it was a mournful wail, so haunting that wolf packs a thousand miles away lifted their muzzles to the heavens and bayed at the moon in sympathetic reply.

In the end, I guess it is just an old building lacking in amenities sitting on valuable land, but they can’t raze the memories.

(Image courtesy of Cavalier92 via a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derviatives License.)

Bill Lyon on the Flyers

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Today’s Philadelphia Inquirer plays host to a great column by the retired Bill Lyon on the current second round NHL playoff series between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Montreal Canadiens.

It’s not excessively objective, but neither is it a “homer” screed; it’s just a very good piece of hockey journalism that manages to recap last night’s game with style:

Goalies are not fair game, no matter how far they roam. But Downie cannot resist. He aims for the goalie’s legs and, using his stick like an oversized spatula, he flips Price. The Canadiens take outraged exception, and the Flyers must retaliate, of course, so soon the ice is littered with gloves and sticks, and unkind things are being said about ancestry. The population of the penalty box goes up by four.

Orange Out, on flickr.com, by MattP33, via a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike License
Perhaps I’d like the column less if I were a fan of Les Habitants, but I hope not. It’s simply good sports writing, so rare these days and rarer still since Lyon’s retirement a few years back.

(Image courtesy of MattP33 via a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike License.)

In Defense of Flyers Fans

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Freddy the Flyer
I am a Philadelphia Flyers fan.

Am I going to throw my expensive arena beer on you when your team scores a goal? Am I going to heckle you because of the name on the back of your jersey? Am I going to spew profanities for three periods and two intermissions, including choice comments about the mental status of the Mighty Mites playing hockey before the Zamboni comes out? Am I somewhere between a camp follower of Genghis Khan and an oarsman on a Viking longboat on the civility scale?

To judge by the perceived reception that Flyers fans have on hockey blogs and forums, the answer has to be a resounding “Yes!”:

We all know we do… Who else hates flyers fans. They are loud, annoying, rude and just disgusting. […]

I’ve always thought they were annoying, but the game they had today was awful, lucky me, i was sitting between a bunch of them spilling beer all over the floors and being really rude to other people, they were all screaming at people 5 rows above, banging the glass etc…. maybe I always just get bad impressions of them. But so far every single time I see them they drive me nuts. […]

I hate the Flyers and their fans. Their fans are fat ugly idiots who know nothing about hockey.
(“Who else hates them?“)

Or, from this past Sunday, in the comments of Tarik El-Bashir’s solid Capitals Insider blog on washingtonpost.com, courtesy of “Jill”:

Oh, how I loathe the Flyers and their fans. I hope very few of their fans are in our house for Games 1 and 2, but I just know they will find a way to get their greasy little paws on our tickets. Let’s just hope our boys can shut down the Broad Street Thugs.

And “TimDz”:

Flyer fans are the worst. I was at the old Cap Centre years ago and was taking a leak with my Cap’s hat on (backwards). A Flyer fan knocked it off and made a nasty comment about my choice of teams…
So I did what any good Cap fan would do: I turned from my urinal and completed my business on his shoes. He took a swing at me, drunk as he was, but missed and hit the wall…I pushed him back and left him to defend himself against all my Cap’s breathren…the cops came in and took him out in cuffs…I blew him a kiss as he was lead out.
(“Caps to Host Flyers (Updated)“)

Lovely. But how accurate a depiction of the typical Flyers fan is this rather boorish portrait?
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The Ritual of Goodbye: How Traded Athletes Speak

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Trade and transfer deadlines in professional sports always see a flurry of activity, as teams look to bolster their ranks for playoff pushes, make a last effort to stave off relegation, or, sensing the inevitable, sell off assets and look to the fabled “next year” when things will certainly be better. Fans eagerly devour news of transactions, following rumors and refreshing the trade pages on the major sports sites all day long on the day of the deadline.

Go Huet! by Big Swede Guy, via a Creative Commons Attribution/Non-Commercial/No Derivatives licence

Tucked into many quickly posted news items about breaking trades is a comment from a just-traded athlete, and most such comments adhere to the same basic pattern: Reaction to the trade, regards for the team and fans being left, excitement at the prospect of playing for the new team, expectation for what the player will accomplish in the future.

The National Hockey League trade deadline this year was on Tuesday, February 26th, and the athletes moved around like game pieces pretty much followed the call-and-response pattern. To wit, goaltender Cristobal Huet, on his trade to from the Montreal Canadiens to the Washington Capitals, per a Canadian Press wire report (Feb. 27, 2008):

“I expected the unexpected, but I was shocked,” said Huet, who met with the media at the Bell Centre before heading to Washington. “I had three great years here. It was a lot of fun. I can’t say anything bad. I would love to have finished the job here but it was a little difficult. I didn’t play well enough the last three weeks so I guess I didn’t help my cause. Now I have a chance to join another team and try to help them jump into the playoffs.”

Now, in Huet’s case, he was essentially kicked out of Montreal in favor of a young goalie (20 year-old Carey Price) and traded away to Washington for a second round draft pick at next year’s draft. Washington ostensibly brought him in to take away the number one goaltending spot from a revered but slowing goalie (Olie Kolzig) who spent his entire career there and stuck with the Capitals during their several seasons’ long rebuilding effort. Not an ideal situation to wake up to on a Tuesday morning, but Huet remained sufficiently composed to provide the ritualized response. Montreal fans most likely appreciated the gesture, and Washington fans can look forward to a team player joining up.

It’s when athletes diverge from the pattern that you sense something is awry.

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