Obsessive Fandom

The behavior of Eagles fans has been under scrutiny for years. (Ron Cortes / Staff Photographer)

Thinking a lot about obsessive fandom today, for a couple reasons. One is this report from High&Inside about Montreal Gazette writer Pat Hickey's car being vandalized during or after Game 1 of the Canadiens-Flyers series. Really not cool. Though Pat -- a very decent guy I knew back in my days as a hockey scribe -- thankfully is being very cool about it, not piling on to the "Philly fans are pigs" bandwagon. He knows this kind of stuff, sadly, can happen anywhere.

Serendipitously, today also is the publication date for a book about being an Eagles fan, called "Bury Me In My Jersey, A Memoir of My Father, Football and Philly," by Roxborough native, LaSalle grad and Temple lecturer Tom McAllister. It's an interesting book, but one that sometimes is as painful to read as it must have been to write.

Despite his academic background, which includes the incredibly presitigious Iowa Writers' Workshop, McAllister is the sort of Eagles fan who ... well, let's just go to McAllister's narration of his behavior at the end of a loss to Jacksonville at the Linc in 2006. Keep in mind while reading it that this is the first game his fiancee has attended as she attempts to decipher the rituals of Eagles fandom.

"As the Eagles strolled complacently off the field at the final whistle, I kicked the seat in front of me repeatedly until the cupholder snapped off and sprayed cracked plastic over the people in front of me. (A guy dressed as) Elvis yelled at me to settle down and I flipped him off. LauraBeth grabbed my hand and pulled me toward the concourse, shaking her head. We filed out of the stadium in silence."

That might not have been as cringeworthy as the scene set the previous year, at an Eagles win in Kansas City, when McAllister taunted and then smacked the foam hat off a Chiefs fan, and expressed puzzlement over the midwesterners' attempts to make him feel welcome.

The redeeming feature here is that the book is an attempt to come to grips with that behavior, by a man who has come to understand how childish and silly it was, some of it fueled by the death from cancer of his Eagles-obsessed father. 

On the final page, McAllister writes: "Rather than handling my problems myself, I've been looking for the Eagles to solve them, to help me cope. My football obsession may have b rought me closer toDad, but now it is driving me further from the man he wanted me to be. I've used football as an excuse for immaturity, used it as a mask when I was afraid, hid myself from the real world."

The folks over at Igglesblog have an interview with McAllister today that is illuminating.