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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