SportsProf

(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.

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Monday, June 01, 2009

Booing in Philadelphia

I don't boo much at Citizens Bank Park, because my general belief is that the manager and players are trying to do their best. I didn't boo Barry Bonds during his steroids-induced batting binges, and I didn't boo the Tampa Bay Rays either. (At times I would have booed the ownership, but they have made amends, haven't they?).

The fans boo the Marlins' Wes Helms because he was a Phillie, which is odd because Helms is a likable guy. I suppose they boo because he disappointed during his tenure in Philadelphia (heck, they booed Rod Barajas when he was a Phillie, and he's redeemed himself with some decent seasons in Toronto and actual got my 25 All-Star votes this year). They boo Scott Rolen because he turned down a lucrative long-term deal with the Phillies (who ended up trading him for a pitching machine, a bag of baseballs and some AAAA (that's not a typo) prospects, but Rolen was right in his frustration with Veterans Stadium (which wore his body down) and the Phillies' front office (which had to have worn his psyche out).

Yes, booing is legion. And I confess that there are two and only two people I boo at Citizens Bank Park. The first is J.D. Drew, the well-traveled outfielder (whom Tony LaRussa openly disliked in Buzz Bissinger's good book Three Nights in August) because Drew (with Scott Boras as his agent -- and I suppose I would boo Boras if he were to show up at CBP) told the Phillies he wasn't interested in signing with them and opted for the independent Northern League before re-entering the draft next year. I mean, yes, Drew did tell the Phillies before the draft that they shouldn't have taken him (and Phillies' fans were rightfully frustrated with the front office for calling what turned out not to be a bluff), but Drew dissed the city -- he didn't want to come here. For that he deserves a loud, lusty boo.

The corollary problem, though, is that Phillies' fans don't limit their J.D.-derived derision to J.D. They actually boo his brother Stephen, the shortstop for the Diamondbacks, when his team plays in Philadelphia. I don't boo Stephen drew, even if at times I took some amusement from this form of creativity from the Phillies' faithful.

I also boo umpire Joe West. Apparently years ago he once body-slammed a Phillies' player, and, well, outside the great ball-strike calls of Dutch Rennert, I haven't appreciated umpires with a swagger. West has a swagger, and I believe over the years has drawn unnecessary attention to himself despite practicing a profession where the fans know you've done a good job precisely because you've done nothing to get you notice. So, because of his histrionics and one-time disrespect of the hometown nine, yes, I boo Joe West. Otherwise, the men in blue (they actually wear black) get a pass from me, but I confess that there are times when I do yell "C'mon blue" when I believe the home plate ump has missed a call. Then I remind myself that so long as he's missing calls for the other team in equal proportion, that's all I can ask.

This from a city where legend has it they once booed Santa Claus, but truth be told (or so the explanation has it), Santa appeared at an Eagles' game in the early 1970's drunk and disheveled, so the fans weren't actually booing Santa Claus, they were booing the young man who pretended to be Santa for disrespecting the institution. Yes, this from a city where the now-Governor of Pennsylvania participated in a snowball fight at the Vet where fans ended up pelting the Cowboys with snowballs.

I haven't attended many Eagles' or Flyers' games, and, of course, as a diehard 76ers' fan, one must boo the Boston Celtics because, well, we've booed the Celtics, despite some superlative artistry, for over half a century. Traditions like that, of course, must continue.

Still, like most fans, we love winning more than we hate losing. Prime evidence of that fact (it's not a contention) is the parade that followed the Phillies' World Series victory. As Charlie Manuel put it, the team didn't know how much they meant to the city until they participated in the parade, and it's something they'll never forget.

Cheering, after all, is a lot more fun that booing.