Philly fans get a black eye, yet again.

Eagles fansI have lived in the Philadelphia area (in Southern NJ) for almost 21 years. I am also an avid sports fan in general, but am particularly passionate about two NY teams–the Yankees and the Giants. As a result I am not a Philly sports fan and never will be. Therefore, you can dismiss my comments as those from a biased interloper from Northern NJ and then defensively claim how rude some New Yorkers are. That may be true, but the issue that Philadelphia faces is the crude behavior of a small minority of fans in this region and the devastating impact it has on the perception of the market. Philly fans claim to be passionate, but when that passion turns into ugly behavior, the market suffers.

Last week’s incident happened at a Phillies game. I have nothing against the Phillies. In fact I respect them. I don’t however have the same respect for the Eagles and their fans–I’m actually thrilled the Phillies stole the Eagles thunder by breaking the market’s non-Championship skid. Tell me Eagles fans, exactly how many Super Bowls has your “Gold Standard” team won?

Unfortunately, last week’s fan ugliness at Citizen’s Bank Park was an all-time Philly low— far worse than throwing snowballs at Santa (yeah, we still love to bring that up). The ugliness du jour stemmed from a Cherry Hill kid, Matthew Clemmens, who purposely vomited on an off-duty police officer and his children. It doesn’t get cruder or stupider than that. While this is not the fault of the Phillies, and does not reflect the 99.9% of decent fans,  the market does get yet another perceptual black eye throughout the nation for crude fan behavior.

Worse yet, in the April 17 Philadelphia Inquirer writer John Gonzalez in his article, Philly doesn’t deserve this black eye, takes the easy way out by trying to dredge up ugly fan behavior in other markets, which I assume is supposed to excuse the ugliness of the incident. To compound the defensiveness of the article, since the Clemmens kid came from Cherry Hill, surely Philly should not be blamed says Gonzalez. He wrote,Clemmens isn’t from Philadelphia or even Pennsylvania—he’s from Cherry Hill. Apparently, we’re now not only responsible for the isolated bad behavior of residents, but we’re accountable for the actions of those who come in from other states”. Please tell me Gonzalez doesn’t really believe this, and he’s just pulling our leg. This comment is either moronic or lousy humor. For the paper’s sake, I hope it’s just lousy humor.

Philadelphia, despite its moniker, has not been known outside the market as a place of Brotherly Love, and it still carries the stigma of a place of crude “700 level” behavior. The market has worked and continues to work very hard in many ways to reverse this image. Philadelphia is a wonderful place to live and work, but there is an ugliness to many of the sports fans, and incidents like this one do major perceptual damage. It’s foolish to think otherwise. To really address the perception it will take proactive reaction by the market, and recognition that stuff like this really hurts the market’s image, and reinforces old stereotypes about Philadelphia and its fans. The market needs outraged people who say “We’re mad as hell about this and we’re not going to take it anymore”. We need a more substantive reaction than stupid comments like “other towns have ugly fans too and the kid was from Cherry Hill anyhow”.

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