What should’ve been a glorious day at Lincoln Financial Field was slightly clouded by a pregame incident involving Sixers’ forward Mike Scott. Video footage confirmed an altercation between Eagles fans and Scott. The video shows Mike Scott backing out of a tailgate with multiple Eagles fans in his face. It’s clear that someone said one word too many, and Mike had had enough. Fists were thrown by both parties. Mike eventually walked away and proceeded on with his afternoon at the game, but the incident, one in which the city’s own player used violence against Philly fans, served as fuel to the national perception of Philly fans as some of the worst in sports. As someone who is passionate about this city’s reputation, I felt the need to shed some light on the perception versus the reality.
Outsiders see loud boos as fickle, short-sighted behavior. We see it as accountability. Accountability is an important potion to the scientific concoction of winning championships. We demand that the players–who we save money to go watch in person, whose jerseys we buy, who we defend like our own children–give us their best effort on every play. Not performance, effort. We understand the ups and downs of a full season, and we will stick with our players through their worst. But we demand they never stop showing us that they care about what it is that they do.
I invite you to look at markets such as Detroit, Phoenix, Minnesota, Milwaukee, and Washington and ask yourself why they have minimal success in their athletic histories. A significant reason for that lack of success is the “aww shucks” mentality of their fans. When the teams in those cities fail, the message conveyed by the fans is “aww sucks, we’ll get ’em next year.” A lack of accountability by the fans, as expressed by their lack of voiced displeasure, is a part of why the players don’t feel the need to give their best at all times and why management doesn’t feel the need to make marked progress towards contending at any given time.
Philadelphia is not the only city with misbehaving fans. Every city has them, some more so than others. It comes down to the size of the market. Big markets are always going to have some fans that conduct themselves poorly. When there is a fanbase as big as New York, New England, Philly, or Dallas, for example, there are going to be volatile individuals in the mix of fans. Those few, however, do not represent the whole.
Remember the good moments
Yes, there are incidents that the Philadelphia fandom isn’t proud of. We can’t change things that have happened in the past. While it’s fair to hold that against us, remember that those instances–whether it be the fellow who intentionally vomited on an 11-year-old girl at a Phillies game or the fan who threw a beer bottle at Ryan Howard–involved a single perpetrator. Those individuals do not represent the whole. So, while you have the right to use those infamous times against us, remember the time when 20,000 fans actively willed Markelle Fultz into taking and making his first career three-pointer, or the time when hundreds of fans got tattoos to honor a role player. Through it all, the most honest judge will admit that Philly has a prideful moment for every woeful one.
Allen Iverson stood on the stage at Fan Fest next to radio host Mike Missanelli and told a crowd of 16,000 people that they “loved too hard.” It’s true, we do. But it is our love and passion for the teams in this city that make us crazy. Those emotions sometimes cause us to act in ways that we are not proud of. But that craziness is what makes us a great fanbase. It makes us a massive family.
While the actions of a few made us all look bad today, I’m proud of our response to this incident. We do not condone whatever took place to provoke Mike Scott to use violence to protect himself. He is the victim, not those fans who misrepresented this city. The overwhelming majority of us are embarrassed by those fans’ failures to welcome Mike to Lincoln Financial Field with brotherly love. They misrepresented the passion of the Philadelphian. We take tremendous pride in that passionate bond, for it’s one that no outsider will ever understand.