Make Philly Fans Love You With This One Weird Trick
An open letter to our city's professional athletes.
Dear Philadelphia Pro Athletes:
This isn’t complicated.
We are passionate about these games and we want to see that you are passionate about these games too.
That’s it. That’s really all you need to know. But some of you don’t get it, so I’ll expound.
Before you joined a professional Philadelphia sports team, you likely had some preconceived notion of what we’re all about. It was probably based on lazy takes from national media folks. They say we’re mean, we’re volatile, we’re drunk, we’re angry. They say we’ll turn on a player in a heartbeat if they struggle. “Something something something snowballs at Santa,” they’ll continue. Blah blah blah. “Here’s some footage of cheesesteaks on a grill.”
And sure, like any fan base, we have some true weirdos. In 2010, a Phillies fan intentionally vomited on an off-duty police officer and his 11-year-old daughter. In 2016, some fool chucked an aluminum beer bottle at Ryan Howard. Just this year, we caught some heat for throwing hot dogs around Citizens Bank Park.
None of this constitutes acceptable behavior. (Except maybe the hot dogs, that shit is funny.) But weirdos doing weirdo things aren’t exclusive to Philadelphia. You can find some true horror stories about other fan bases. The Philly stuff gets amplified because of preexisting expectations about our behavior. We’re like the kid in class labeled “bad” by their teacher on day one. We get disproportionate attention and we never get the benefit of the doubt.
That doesn’t mean we’re the same as fans in other cities. We are not.
But the national stories about us fail to explain why we’re different: we aren’t meaner people than you find elsewhere; we aren’t inherently awful; we don’t drink more per capita than other fans; and, Jimmy Rollins I love you, but we’re not “frontrunners,” either.
We are more passionate than other fans. That’s all.
We are incredibly invested in these games. Financially invested, of course—in terms of tickets, merchandise, etc. But more importantly, we are all-in emotionally. A late-inning Phillies collapse will ruin our night. An Eagles loss might fuck up our whole week. The Sixers’ game seven loss to the Celtics has kids online questioning the meaning of life. And talking to a hardcore Flyers fan nowadays feels like comforting the widow at a funeral.
If questioned, I don’t think many of us can explain why we care so much. We just do. Our personal and civic pride very much depends on our sports teams. It can be a beautiful thing when those teams are winning. And it can be an ugly thing when those teams disappoint. As a professional Philadelphia athlete, you might have an entire metropolitan area naming babies after you, or you might have thousands of your own fans booing you at the plate.
It’s kind of wild. I get that.
But let’s set the record straight.
We will never hate you for losing.
We will hate you if it feels like we care more than you do.
Our passion is a sensitive topic. As fans, except for occasionally rattling a pitcher or causing a false start, we don’t have any control over the outcome of these games. Logically, a losing team shouldn’t significantly impact our lives. And a winning team doesn’t mean we personally accomplished anything. It’s embarrassing to admit that our mental health is in the hands of people who we will probably never meet.
And if a professional athlete on one of our teams seems like they don’t care as much as we do? Well, damn. Talk about a gut-punch.
Don’t pierce that bubble. Nobody wants a reminder that our emotions are misplaced, that we care too much about things we can’t control, or that we should probably focus more on other, more self-directed aspects of our lives.
Athletes wouldn’t make a dime if fans didn’t care. The bazillion-dollar sports entertainment industry wouldn’t exist without our passion. You may be the guy blessed with the ability to throw a 99 mph fastball, but that’s only a marketable skill because we all bought in to the idea that your fastball is important.
Picture the grown-ass man in the stands with your name on the back of his jersey. The one who paid hundreds of dollars to take his kids to your game. He’s drinking a $14 beer and you’re losing 8-0 to the Mets in the third inning. His phone is exploding with texts from his NYC buddies. He’s gotta go to work tomorrow and face the asshole Mets fan IT guy who’s been running his mouth all week. You walk in another run. 9-0. He’s pissed. He might have something to say. He might boo you. A lot of people might boo you.
You are trying your best, probably. And maybe the boos feel unfair. But there’s usually not any true venom behind those boos. It’s just disappointment, and you’re always one play away from winning us back. We’re still right there with you. One game-winning hit, one great touchdown pass, one clutch three-pointer, and you’ll hear the cheers again.
But, holy hell. Do not, under any circumstances, tell fans that it’s just a game. Don’t tell us life goes on, or we should be quiet, or there are more important things to worry about. Maybe you are right, but your entire profession collapses if we start to believe those things. If we stop caring.
Let us be passionate. What are we even doing here if nobody cares?
And if you are not passionate, you will make our passion feel ridiculous. There’s no coming back from that. That’s when you will get the real boos. The nasty ones.
Once you understand the concept of matching our passion, our behavior starts to make sense. Why do we love Allen Iverson when he never won a championship? Because he overflowed with emotion. His heart was on full display. He played hard, outperformed expectations, and pulled his small frame up from the floor every single time some seven-foot monster knocked him to the ground. He showed up in the biggest moments. He made us proud. We could see his passion. It felt like we were in it together, and we understood when the Shaq/Kobe Lakers were too much in 2001.
Why do we love Brian Dawkins when his Eagles teams repeatedly failed to live up to expectations? What did fan favorite Aaron Rowand ever accomplish with the Phillies after running into a wall to make a catch? Bryce Harper has delivered some incredible moments since arriving in Philadelphia, but he hasn’t won a championship. Why is he already in the conversation for all-time most-beloved Philly athlete?
It’s all about passion.
B-Dawk was the definition of passion. You could hear it in his voice and see it when he came leaping and roaring out of the tunnel. Rowand’s passion convinced him to sacrifice his face. Harper would be respected as a superstar no matter what, but his passionate attitude brings everything to another level: he’s desperate to win; he worked like crazy to return from Tommy John surgery in record time; he won’t tolerate any disrespect towards his teammates; he (somewhat recklessly) stretches singles into doubles more than most any player we’ve ever seen.
These are the guys fans would go to war with.
On the other side of the spectrum, there’s Ricky Watters (“For who? For what?”). There’s Ben Simmons showing zero desire to improve his game. There’s Von Hayes (“[Phillies fans] can do whatever they want. I’ll still be eating steak every night.”) There are unnamed 2018 Phillies playing video games in the clubhouse during a September collapse.
These are the guys who make fans feel ridiculous for caring.
In between, there are some players who get unfairly maligned. Bobby Abreu is a borderline Hall of Famer, but his playing style gave many fans the impression that he wasn’t giving his all. Some Sixers fans criticized Joel Embiid and James Harden for looking like they didn’t care enough in Sunday’s disaster against Boston. Aaron Nola has a complicated relationship with the Philly Phaithful, and his poker-faced demeanor probably has something to do with that.
Fans should be careful when lodging accusations that players don’t care. I find it hard to believe all these guys can get as far as they have in their careers without caring intensely. Not everyone wears their heart on their sleeve, like Iverson or Harper. Some people are just wired differently.
But no matter how you’re naturally wired, if you’re playing in Philadelphia you might want to consider showing some passion. That’s the One Weird Trick That Will Make Philly Fans Love You. Show us you care, show us you love the game, show us you want to win as badly as we do. Then we’ll stay with you every step of the way.
Winning championships matters too, of course. Do that and all is forgiven, no matter what your prior relationship with fans looked like. People like winners, and that’s certainly not unique to Philadelphia.
But when we can see players’ passion, we’re with them through the hard times and beyond. Iverson and Dawkins never won it all in Philly, but you still see their jerseys everywhere. The 1993 Phillies didn’t win the World Series, but they left it all on the field, and some fans will tell you it’s still their favorite team of all time. Jalen Hurts lost the Super Bowl last year, but his grit and determination were on full display. Hurts may be the only Philadelphia superstar ever with a 100% approval rating among fans. But others could get there too.
Just show us you want a championship as badly as we do.
It’s really not complicated.
Exclusive new artwork from Ragnaroktopus Ink.
Nick Castellanos this season: .314/.363/.500, 5 HR, 25 RBI
Exclusive new artwork from Dhwani Saraiya.
Bryce Harper this season, returning 160 days after Tommy John surgery: .325/.400/.550, 2 HR, 1 SB
Tweets of the week.
Phillies fans are not happy with Bailey Falter.
Bryce Harper is not happy with trash-talking Rockies player.
Bryce Harper is not happy with trash-talking Rockies fans.
Nobody is happy with the 76ers.
Nobody is happy.
This week in 2008.
The 2008 Phils were 22-19 at the end of May 14.
On May 8, they wrapped up a four-game series with Arizona with an 8-3 loss. Brandon Webb threw a complete game for the win. He’s 8-0 this season with a 2.41 ERA.
The next night the Phillies opened up a 3-game series in San Francisco. Jimmy Rollins returned from the DL and went 3/5 with a home run and 3 RBI. They dropped the next two against the Giants.
On May 13, the Fightins hosted the Braves, winning 5-4. Jayson Werth went 3/4 with 4 RBI. Brad Lidge picked up his 10th save.
Braves got them back on May 14, lighting up Brett Myers and winning 8-6. Chris Coste went 4/4 in the loss and Chase Utley hit his 14th home run.
Phillie you forgot about.
Tyler Cloyd, 2 seasons with the Phils (2012-2013). 19 games, 17 starts, 112 innings pitched, 5.98 ERA, 4.76 FIP, 1.59 WHIP, 32 BB, 71 K.
Congrats to twitter handle mikiej2013 on winning the autographed Ranger Suarez 8x10. Shoot me a mailing address via email or twitter DM.
More memorabilia, Phillies tickets, t-shirts on the way.
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Thank you for reading. Go Phils!