It’s Time to Stop Stereotyping Philadelphia Fans

The scene in the Wells Fargo Center’s upper deck during Game Six on Tuesday isn’t a black eye to the fans of Philadelphia, as much as it is to humanity. Unfortunately, fights breaking out at sporting events are not all that uncommon these days. But as the “typical Philly” comments come out of the woodwork, it’s time to be honest; all fan bases have an obnoxious fringe. But for some reason, the general public justifies their “morality” by unfairly stereotyping Philadelphia fans.

Despite being one of the most loyal fan bases in the NHL, Philadelphia fans are often unfairly stereotyped.
Despite being one of the most loyal fan bases in the NHL, Philadelphia fans are often unfairly stereotyped. [photo: Misha Vaksman]

Are Philadelphia Fans the Worst?

For those who may not have heard about Tuesday night’s incident in Philadelphia, a fight broke out between a few Flyers and Rangers fans. While the video captured would lead one to believe that fans of the Broad Street Bullies were “bullying” a fan who just happened to be cheering for the other team, the account of those who were present tell a different story. According to several witnesses, the fan fight at the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday night was anything but a hazing routine. Here is what one reader of Deadspin turned into the website:

“The kid wearing the Blue Rangers jersey with the letters going diagonal down his chest was egging the crowd all game taunted screaming, acting like a typical drunk teenager. Usher came up to calm him down, didn’t listen. The real security guards attempted to pull him out of his seats where he resisted and that’s where he flailed his arms (not in video) and hit a flyers fan. Brawl ensued. The kid who was wearing the jersey and hat fled the scene and left his friends to get their asses beat, after doing nothing.”

While the video shared below, depicts a Rangers fan standing his ground to the severe injustice he’s subjected to, the truth more than likely lies somewhere in the middle. Nobody with clear logic would justify what happens to this fan, but that doesn’t excuse anyone acting a fool among a mass group of strangers. And although incidents like this happen at all kinds of sporting events around the country, when it happens in Philly, it’s “par for the course.”

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Again, the fans that physically participated in this act of violence are embarrassing to American culture, not just the city of Philadelphia. Furthermore, those who cheered this savagery are equally guilty. These “fans” aren’t doing their city any favors, especially when they’re usually the first ones who point out “despicable fans” from other cities. This makes them utter hypocrites, and a group I want no affiliation with as a Flyers fan myself. This does not, however, excuse other violent acts carried out by fans throughout various sporting events. Here are some incidents in other cities, who coincidentally, dodge the “scum bag Philly fans” label bestowed upon fans in eastern Pennsylvania.

Last season, a fan in San Francisco was stabbed for wearing an L.A. Dodgers hat.

“A 24-year-old man wearing a Dodgers hat died Wednesday from a stab wound suffered in a fight between fans of the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers following a game between the two teams at the Giants’ AT&T Park…” — Sports Illustrated

In 2011, a Dallas Cowboys fan attacked a New York Jets fan with a taser.

“A 59-year-old man named Leroy McKelvey, who was wearing a Cowboys jersey at the Jets game, was charged with three counts of aggravated assault and two weapons counts for using the taser, which is illegal in New Jersey.” — Pro Football Talk

In this year’s NBA playoffs, fans in Chicago brawled in the stands as the hometown Bulls continue to struggle against the Washington Wizards.

“The fans in Chicago are not happy.

“Their Bulls just lost in the first round to the underdog Washington Wizards, and it appears the spectators in the United Center took their frustrations out on one another by brawling in the stands during the series-deciding Game 5.” — NBA Digest

When it comes to the sport of hockey, various NHL venues have seen similar incidents. Earlier this year, fans of the Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens exchanged punches over the outcome of a game between the two teams.

“After Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban scored in overtime to give the Habs a 5-4 win in a game that featured just four combined penalty minutes, a scuffle broke out in the lower level at Ottawa’s Canadian Tire Centre. It’s not clear what prompted the fight — perhaps it was Subban’s over-exuberant goal celebration, or maybe just the fact that these two fan bases don’t like each other very much — but either way, there were some solid haymakers being tossed around.” — NESN

During a game in Ontario in 2012, a fan threw a banana at Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds.

“Philadelphia Flyers winger Wayne Simmonds was the victim of what has been described as a racist attack after someone threw a banana at him during a pre-season game in London, Ont., Thursday night.” — Toronto Sun

In 2011, fans in Vancouver rioted over their team’s Stanley Cup Finals loss to the Boston Bruins.

“Weeks of well-behaved crowds watching the Vancouver Canucks march toward Game 7 of the NHL final ended abruptly in violence and vandalism that erupted even before the 4-0 loss to the Boston Bruins was officially over.

“The riot shattered the wholesome legacy of the nightly parties hosted on the same streets during the 2010 Olympics — an experience that had the city’s mayor and police chief confidently proclaiming Vancouver had ‘matured’ since similar riots in 1994.” — TSN

These are just a handful of examples confirming that Philadelphia fans aren’t the only fan base susceptible to a few bad apples. But because fans booed a man dressed up as Santa Claus in 1968, these type of episodes are magnified when they happen in Philadelphia.

Are Philadelphia Fans Hospitable?

It’s not difficult to find a plethora of lists dedicated to most “annoying,” or “obnoxious” fan bases on the internet. The problem is, though, the greater number of these lists are subjective; they’re based on the author’s own bias, which is determined by his or her own fandom. To be fair, I can only speak of my own experiences and objective perceptions.

While some fans are beyond a doubt more hospitable than others, every group of fans as a whole have good people. The optimist in me will even take it a step further and declare that the good in every team’s fan base far exceeds the bad. But much like the evening news, the few who make the most noise will receive the bulk of the attention.

I’ve been to several different NHL venues to see the Flyers as a fan. While adhering to the age old motto of “You know what to expect when wearing the opposing team’s colors,” I’ve taken many benign insults in stride. But does that make it socially acceptable to berate a complete stranger who shares the same rights and freedoms as yourself for simply not sharing your own rooting interest? If everyone were to share your rooting interests, the league would not only cease to exist, but life for that matter wouldn’t be interesting.

“Sports teams are just like wives … you can only have one wife, you can only have one sports team, and for the love of God, I will not argue about this.” — Bill Simmons

A lot of fans bring escalated circumstances on themselves when they find themselves the subject of opposing fans. A year ago, I attended a Flyers-Lightning game in Tampa. After the Bolts defeated the Flyers in a close contest, one Lightning fan began to heckle me as my friends and I were on our way out of the building. Because I was fully aware that the game was a means of entertainment, and that I had no control whatsoever on the outcome of the game, I responded positively, complimenting the team and arena in Tampa. The domino effect of my actions worked in my favor as the heckler magically transformed into a sympathetic fellow human being.

Understanding that competition is a large makeup of our culture has aided me in understanding the roots of defending one’s home territory. After all, few are more competitive than I am. But while I hate losing at anything, I am grateful for the understanding I have of where the line is clearly drawn.

In 2010, I attended a Flyers-Penguins game at the now deceased Mellon Arena. This was my first trip to Pittsburgh to see the Flyers and I was set on enjoying the game. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Not only did the Pens bludgeon the Flyers, I was accosted by a rather large Pens fan who appeared to be intoxicated. As the Pens piled on the goals, making Brian Boucher seem invisible, my personal space was violated by screaming and middle fingers in my face. Is this type of behavior protected under the unwritten code mentioned above? Clearly, that is myopic rational.

Instead of reacting like the fans involved in the Philadelphia fight, I endured this rude fan’s behavior, wondering what his home life growing up was like. What mystified me even more was the lack of security and people willing to condemn this man’s actions. Even after the massacre on the ice ended, I had empty beer cups thrown at me by this reprehensible individual. And before anyone places the blame on me for not leaving in a timely manner, it should be taken into consideration that the tickets (lower bowl seating) weren’t cheap.

This experience alone is enough to make someone believe that a particular fan base is repugnant and evil. But this was one person; a person who has issues, but a single person nonetheless. And while I’m not naive enough to believe there aren’t others who are alike, I refuse to label a mass group as “scummy” based on the minority within their group.

Labeling Philadelphia Fans

Philadelphia fans have packed the Wells Fargo Center since it opened in 1996.
Philadelphia fans have packed the Wells Fargo Center since it opened in 1996. (Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)

If Philadelphia fans are to be labeled, they should be according to their steadfast loyalty and affection for their teams. The Flyers’ average home attendance has never dipped below 19,000 since moving into the Wells Fargo Center, and has been a consistent mainstay within the top 10 in yearly average attendance, never dropping below 10th since the inception of the franchise.

While it’s easy to support a winner, as the Flyers have consistently been, Philadelphia fans kept their attendance numbers near the top of the pack even throughout their five-year playoff drought from 1989 to 1994. The love affair Philadelphia fans has isn’t exclusive to the Flyers. After the Eagles qualified for the NFL playoffs last season, fans wasted no time in gobbling up tickets for their first-round playoff game within two days.

“It’s overwhelming,” said Eagles president Don Smolenski. “I think it speaks to the fan base and it speaks to the sports city that is Philadelphia. Philadelphia and the people of Philadelphia, whether it’s the Flyers, the Phillies, the Sixers, the Eagles, they’re there, and they’ve been there through the good times and through the not-so-good times. All the teams know that. They appreciate it. They respect it. They’re grateful for it. It makes you feel proud.”

But nevermind that. Don’t you recall how they booed Santa Claus that one time? Didn’t you see the fight with Rangers fans? Unfortunately, some things never change.

2 thoughts on “It’s Time to Stop Stereotyping Philadelphia Fans”

  1. Very well said…I will be sharing this with my fellow Flyers Fans…we are a passhionate group and no matter what we will alwasy be there for this team!!!

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