Sunday, January 25, 2015

We boo, therefore we are

Phillies fans hold up a sign reading "It´s Ruben´s fault." (Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
Phillies fans hold up a sign reading "It's Ruben's fault." (Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

Philadelphia sports fans everywhere were appalled when Eagle-turned-Redskin DeSean Jackson recently used his week's worth of experience in D.C. to evaluate his new fan base. All in all, the comments were pretty mild. The worst of it came when he remarked:

"In Philly, sometimes things could get a little negative. They booed their own players."

The fans were filled with rage. How dare he? If you listened to Philadelphia sports-talk radio over the last few days, you'd think he cursed the spirit of Reggie White or something. All he really said, though, was that we boo.

He's right.

We boo our opponents, but we boo our own players, too. Why shouldn't we? As fans, we're not given on-air minutes or behind-the-scenes time with the athletes to whom we've tied our heartstrings. It's not just Jackson who earns our boos. Everybody gets them from time to time. After all, if we want to say something to the Flyers' Kimmo Timonen, the Phillies' Ben Revere, or the Sixers' Joel Embiid, we have to shout it from the stands. That's hard to do.

Philly fans know that the games they love and the depth of their message are vaster than a simple cheer or boo. Unfortunately, their analysis doesn't carry well at the stadium.

I can't take my seat at Citizens Bank Park and scream, "Hey, Ryan, we recognize your contributions to the club over the last decade, but we need more consistency! We want to love you again, but these are the same issues we've seen for years. Call Mike Schmidt. He'll help. In the meantime, lay off the sliders."

No, if we want to send our message - and we do - then we have to bottle it up into something that will reach the players' ears, and sometimes that bottled-up comment sounds like a boo.

What Jackson didn't mention was that we cheer, too. We might even cheer too much (forgive us, Michael Irvin), but that's because sports are tied so integrally into our cultural fabric. On Sept. 30, 2012, I watched Lincoln Financial Field explode into chaos as Brian Dawkins joined the team and ran onto the field one last time.

As his highlight reels ran over the big screen, the stadium was in awe. We went on a roller-coaster ride with the team as the Giants put in a game-winning field goal, only to realize a timeout had saved the day. When the second attempt looked good but fell short, a wave of jubilance crashed over the seats. We were on top of the world and we let Jackson (and everyone else) hear it.

Sadly, the 3-1 Eagles stalled out almost immediately thereafter. They didn't win a home game for over a year. We were hungry for a win. We were frustrated. So we booed.

But our cheers are so much louder than our boos. Donovan McNabb hits Freddie Mitchell on fourth and 26. Claude Giroux puts it in the net to win Game 3 in overtime against the Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup finals. Andre Iguodala hits back-to-back baskets to go up five against the Celtics and tie the series. Every fan in Citizens Bank Park stands for nine innings as Roy Halladay throws a near-perfect game against the Reds in the 2010 playoffs.

No, sir, you can't say we don't cheer. In fact, it's our cheering that gives us the right to boo. We're hard on our players, but when they give it their all, we cheer until we're hoarse and never forget them (I'm looking at you, Aaron Rowand). Cheers and boos are the only language of the fan, and any player who expects us not to use them can't love the game as much as we do.

Perhaps the most frustrating part of what Jackson said isn't what he said, but that he got to talk at all. We fill stadiums with fans who have something to say, and yet we're stuck listening to a guy who just doesn't get it.

That's all right, though. Not everybody understands. As for Jackson, he'll visit us in September, and the stands will be packed. We'll explain it to him then.


Daniel Taylor is a freelance writer in Secane.

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