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Eric Karabell (Philadelphia) is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Eric has covered fantasy sports for ESPN since 2001, specializing in baseball and football. He frequently appears on ESPNEWS, hosts a national ESPN radio show, and contributes to ESPN the Magazine. Eric grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs and formerly worked for the Washington Post and Philadelphia Inquirer. He lives in the Philadelphia area.
Excerpt from The Best Philadelphia Sports Arguments
Are Philadelphia Sports Fans the Best... or Worst?
Say what you want about Philadelphia sports fans-and everyone pretty much has, by the way-but you can't deny the passion. The fans demand winning and, if forced, accept losing, but most importantly you've gotta put it all on the line, every time, or they'll let you hear it. Philly fans are truly misunderstood as sick, evil malcontents who booed Santa Claus and root for opponents to suffer misfortunes.
Yeah, so what? At least we're not apathetic. If you don't like it, you must root for Dallas or New York or Washington or Pittsburgh. This is Philly, a tough town where the athletes are doing more than swinging a bat and throwing a football. They represent Philadelphia when they're in battle, and if someone misses a block or doesn't skate as fast as they can, that's when trouble occurs. Because there is something worse than finishing second in Philadelphia and it's finishing second while not giving extra effort. Philly fans are smart and knowledgeable, and while that comes off as overly critical at times, to home and road teams alike, so be it. The stadiums aren't empty for big games, and neither are the parking lots before them. Eagles games are events, not just from one o'clock ET until the game ends, but for the entire day, the weekend, the season. When the Eagles made it to Super Bowl XXXIX, generations of fans came along for the ride to Jacksonville. It had been 24 seasons since the Eagles were in the biggest game. Not everyone could get tickets, of course, but Eagles fans stormed the Florida city and turned it green.
You want loyalty? Philly fans don't stop loving-or hating-their favorite teams in bad times, of which there are many. They demand the very best from the players. When the teams are good, there's no better time to be in the city and hop along for the ride. Kids wear the jerseys of their heroes proudly, and not only Donovan McNabb, Jimmy Rollins, and Andre Iguodala. How about Chad Lewis, Jim Thome, and Kyle Korver? Sure, the names change, because sports aren't like the 1970s anymore, but the passion doesn't end.
Philly fans get a bad rap nationally, but they don't care. In fact, the Philadelphia sports fan considers the notoriety an honor, a badge of overwhelming spirit to be passed on from generation to generation. There's no apathy here! If you're not from Philly you wouldn't get it, and you know what? It's your loss. That's what the Philly fan believes. They don't want your sympathy or forgiveness for the bad things that have happened over the years. Fair or unfair, consider Philly guilty for some wretched and raucous acts. There's no point in naming the bad events again, because you wouldn't understand our thinking. Hey, Michael Irvin walked again. J. D. Drew doesn't have scars from the batteries. And Santa Claus-look, that guy just plain deserved it.
Yeah, yeah, so we've booed our own, even the Hall of Famers. Well, maybe if Michael Jack Schmidt had talked to us once in a while, let us into his life, maybe we'd understand him better. Similarly, if you don't want to be here, Scotty Rolen and Curt Schilling, then get out. It's not just that Philadelphia fans demand more than 100 percent effort, you've gotta look like you're trying as hard as the fans would if they got that chance for one shining moment. Athletes get paid a lot of money to use their gift, and a tough town like Philly certainly recognizes that along with that gift comes a duty.
Philadelphia has enjoyed fantastic moments, unforgettable games, but for the most part the city has had to deal with bad teams more than good. That just makes us stronger, able to enjoy the good with a fervent zeal more than other towns. It's been 25 years since Philadelphia celebrated a winner, but in reality, we celebrate every day. Philly teams are rewarded with unbridled loyalty through thick and thin. That's a sports town. Without even knowing the politics, Philly fans would elect any number of sports people mayor if they could. That's how much sports mean. Dick Vermeil has been gone for 25 years, but remains a beloved personality for what he accomplished as Eagles coach. Pete Rose might never make it to the Hall of Fame, for other reasons, but in Philadelphia, he got us over that proverbial hump. He caught the carom off Bob Boone's glove. He was a winner who never gave less than 100 percent. Bobby Clarke and Maurice Cheeks didn't get booed in Philadelphia when they were players, that's for sure. They were the little guys out there, the overachievers who made their teams better.
There's a rich history of sports in the City of Brotherly Love, and the fans have been through all of it. They care. More than you know. It's called passion. And it's what makes the Philly sports fan second to none.