Posts Tagged ‘Philly sports’

El Pescadito Returns to Pennsylvania

February 28, 2011

Last week, the Philadelphia Union signed 31 year-old Guatemalan international forward Carlos Ruiz, a.k.a. “El Pescadito” (“the little fish” in Spanish), throwing a confusing curveball to Philadelphia sports fans. My guess is we’ll be hearing the nickname more around here, since the Phillies already have a Central American player named Carlos Ruiz on their roster (he’s their catcher, hails from Panama, and is nicknamed “Chooch,” which I’m guessing we’ll be hearing a lot more around here now as well).

The Philadelphia Union logo.While the Guatemalan, soccer-playing Ruiz has competed all over the world and is well known in his homeland as the country’s all-time leading goal scorer in international competition and is well known among Major League Soccer fans in this country from his days with the L.A. Galaxy and FC Dallas, what people might not know is that he’s played in Pennsylvania before — in central Pa., particularly.

Way back in 2000, when he was a promising 20 year-old playing professionally for Municipal in Guatemala and a member of the country’s U-23 national team, the North American qualifying tournament for the Summer Olympics was held, bizarrely, in Hershey, Pennsylvania, of all places.

Unlike the World Cup, the Olympics are contested by countries’ U-23 teams, rather than the full national teams. I was actually lucky enough to have met Ruiz back then, as each of the colleges and universities near Hershey basically adopted one of the national teams and hosted all of their training sessions. I was in charge of athletic communications for the school that got Guatemala, and I got to work with them quite a bit in coordinating local media coverage.

HersheyPark Stadium

The scene of the 2000 Olympic qualifiers.

That wasn’t an easy task, as the head coach was a little more than slightly paranoid about anyone from the other teams turning on the local TV news and seeing anything that might potentially give away the tiniest detail about their training sessions and game strategies. For the first day or two, they were more like the Brigadoon national team, as they would mysteriously vanish when cameras approached, and then magically reappear when they retreated. Eventually, we got things sorted out.

On the whole, though, it was a great experience, especially since at the time I was still in my first year out of college and was the same age as nearly all of the players on the team. Carlos Ruiz certainly stood out back then, but I never would have guessed that in another two years he would jump from Municipal to the Los Angeles Galaxy and end up as the MLS Most Valuable Player his first year in the league, nor would I have guessed at the time that he would eventually become Guatemala’s all-time leading scorer in international competition.

His signing now is definitely a good pickup for the Union. After an offseason largely spent finding ways to plug up the obvious defensive holes from their inaugural season, bringing in Ruiz fills another big need, which is taking some opposing defensive pressure off Sebastien Le Toux and Danny Mwanga. Even if he isn’t quite at the same level as a goal scorer he was when he played for L.A., he’ll be a helpful presence in relieving pressure. Also, having Le Toux take corner kicks, which seemed kind of strange for much of last year when he was the team’s only reliable scorer, would make more sense now with Ruiz on the field at the same time and Mwanga with a year of pro experience under his belt.

Besides, I’m of the opinion that he still has quite a few productive years left. While he struggled to score in the first half of the 2010-11 Greek Super League season for Aris Thessaloniki, somebody doesn’t score three goals in a handful of Europa League games over that same span by being washed up. Context is certainly going to be key for Ruiz’s scoring opportunities, and potentially having Le Toux and Mwanga on the field at the same time will definitely create opportunities for him.

Philadelphia-New York, the USA’s Answer to Millwall-West Ham

October 18, 2010

If there is any place in the United States most likely to spawn legions of angry, bitter, European-style soccer hooligans ripped to the gills on Yuengling and setting fire to stuff just for the hell of it, it’s probably Philadelphia.

— Me, almost three years ago (then, in the comment section to that post, some wag humorously predicted that Philly would someday be the site of the first MLS fan fatality).

The time is right to trot out that blast from the past after yesterday’s final Philadelphia Union home game of the club’s inaugural 2010 Major League Soccer season, which took the form of a 2-1 win over the stupidest soda commercial of all time New York Pink Cows Red Bulls.

The reason it’s fitting to bring up is because of the security measures taken by the Union’s management for that game, which were unprecedented in the entire history of sports in Philadelphia. Here’s the Philadelphia Inquirer:

The roughly 400 New York Red Bulls fans who made the trek to PPL Park on Saturday were herded like cattle into the visitors’ section . . . Once they were in, they were there to stay – surrounded and confined in that area by security for the duration . . . They had their own concession stands, their own restrooms, their own smoking area. “These fans hate each other,” noted one Union security guard.

Right now, Philadelphia and New York probably share the most intense — and ugliest — soccer rivalry in the United States, and probably one of the craziest in all sports in the U.S. (although if I had to guess, I’d say it will probably be superseded by Seattle and Portland next year once the Timbers begin playing in MLS).

How the bad blood between Philly and New York escalated so quickly to the point that the Philadelphia Union felt the need to add extra security and keep the entire contingent of RBNY supporters groups physically separated from the rest of the stadium to such an extent that they’d even have segregated concession stands and bathrooms is an interesting story.

Millwall fans in their natural environment, surrounded by cops in riot gear.

Millwall fans in their natural environment, surrounded by cops. From guardian.co.uk.

Long before the Philadelphia Union existed, and well before MLS even announced in February 2008 that the city would get an expansion team, a group of soccer fans from the Philadelphia area decided that if the region was ever to get a local team for them to cheer on, they would have to first demonstrate that a robust fan culture was already in place. So, they created a supporters’ group, the Sons of Ben (SOBs for short, with typical Philly grace), for a team that didn’t even exist and wasn’t even on the drawing board yet. These are the magnificently crazy people who today fill up the entire River End of PPL Park in Chester. One of their regular activities in those early, pre-Union days was heading up to the Meadowlands en masse, where the Red Bulls played back then, and spending the entire game taunting the home team and its fans.

Of course, this didn’t sit well with the long-suffering fans of New York which, despite being one of the original MLS teams that began playing 15 years ago, have yet to win a single title. No MLS Cups (the playoff championship), no Supporters Shields (awarded to the team that finishes first overall in the regular season standings — the equivalent of a league title in Europe), and no U.S. Open Cups (like the English F.A. Cup). The Red Bulls are 0 for 45 in opportunities to win a trophy — actually 0 for 46 if you count their hideous performance in the continent-wide CONCACAF Champions’ League last year. They’re practically in Chicago Cubs territory already.

Red Bull New York logo.

Someone should keep them away from the vodka.

So, it’s the New York fans who actually became the first to transform into “angry, bitter, European-style soccer hooligans,” although I doubt they’re drinking Yuengling. After years of hearing these weird Philadelphians calling themselves SOBs and pointing out that their non-existent team has won as many championships as their own has, something snapped in Red Bull Nation’s collective mind when the Philadelphia Union played New York for the first time.

As the teams played each other twice over four days in April at the Red Bulls’ home stadium (first for the MLS regular season, then for the U.S. Open Cup) New York fans threw rocks and bottles at a bus carrying Philadelphia fans and managed to shatter one of the windows. So, at the teams’ first meetings, the tension between their fans had already escalated from verbal taunting to physical violence.

Adding insult to injury, this year the Red Bulls were knocked out of the U.S. Open Cup by the USL-2 Harrisburg City Islanders, a Philadelphia Union third tier minor-league affiliate.

Fast-forward to July, when the Union hosted an international friendly match against Scotland’s Celtic F.C., and a group of people from — you guessed it — New York City, decided to light a bunch of flares in support of Celtic in PPL Park near the end of the game.

So it comes as no surprise that, given the history of violence that already exists, said the Daily News, “police and event staff littered the Red Bull area with a keen eye on anything that went beyond insults. Union president Tom Veit felt the need to keep things safe required extra vigilance.

‘”It’s necessary. We have an obligation to our fans to keep it safe and enjoyable,” Veit said. “So with that said, I’d rather have a lot of guys standing around doing nothing, than a few having to do something.”‘

While the source of the violence so far has clearly been from New York fans, I suspect the decision to partition the stadium yesterday was also probably rooted in a desire to prevent any reprisals from Philadelphia fans, who naturally had the New Yorkers heavily outnumbered.

I can only wonder what’ll happen next year.

[Not So] Great Scots!

July 20, 2010

Three New York residents apparently comprising some of the Glaswegian diaspora’s finest, described by The Philadelphia Inquirer as “boneheads,” Philadelphia Union president Tom Veit as “idiots,” and Chester Police Chief Joseph Bail as “fools” running on “brown bottle courage,” took it upon themselves to set off some flares (a big no-no in any stadium in the United States) in support of their team’s losing effort in the Philadelphia–Celtic F.C. friendly Wednesday night.

The story interested me at first because, for once, here was some stupid, loutish, alcohol-drenched behavior taking place at a Philadelphia-area sporting event that wasn’t the product of local fans. My immediate reaction was, “HOLY CRAP!!! IT WASN’T US!!!” That’s right up there with “Man Bites Dog.”

It interested me even more once I saw the video of the incident and noticed that it took place just a couple of rows directly behind where I sat during PPL Park’s previous game between the Union and San Jose just four days prior. That makes me feel safe . . .

Who wants to bet they’ll be back when the Red Bulls come to town?

Philly Sports Fans Behaving Badly

April 28, 2010

I’m not sure how on Earth I missed this one from nearly two weeks ago, but here’s an incident at a Philadelphia Phillies game that’s bad even by our standards:

Cops: Man Purposely Vomited on Girl at Phils Game

Apparently an off-duty cop from Easton, Pa. took his kid to a Phillies game. He said this: “When I say disgusting, there was not only insults and vulgarities directed at us, but also beer was thrown at us . . .  I actually heard the individual behind me say, ‘I’m gonna get sick’, then I couldn’t believe what I saw. He actually had his fingers down his mouth and into his throat to make himself vomit. He vomited and lurched forward and it was hitting my daughter.”

On behalf of Pennsylvanians everywhere, I’d like to take this moment to point out that the alleged perpetrator was from Cherry Hill, New Jersey. New Jersey is, as we all know, now most famous for being the home of exemplary individuals like “Snooki” and “The Situation” and, perhaps soon, this guy.

And it wasn’t even ten-cent beer night in Cleveland.

Independence + Union = 1970s Oakland Raiders?

April 21, 2010

A “criminal element.” That was Pittsburgh Steelers’ head coach Chuck Noll’s description of the Oakland Raiders’ defense in 1977.

After seeing last week’s games on TV, it’s my belief that maybe, just maybe, Philadelphia’s two professional soccer expansion teams, the Union and the Independence, are supposed to be the respective MLS and WPS equivalents of the Raiders teams of yore.

The Union of Major League Soccer have been getting into card trouble from the very beginning; we all know that. From piling up three ejections in a preseason game against FC Dallas, to the season opener at Seattle where it took the team less than 40 seconds to get its first regular-season yellow card and less than a half of play to get its first red, it became very obvious very quickly that this would be a rather physical team, to say the least.

Still, I don’t think anybody would have predicted that defender and team captain Danny Califf would deliver an on-the-run clothesline to Dwayne De Rosario to get a red card in the first half against a sad-sack Toronto FC side Thursday night, thereby helping to blow a game the Union really should have won. You can see it close up in the video below at around the one minute mark.

Upon watching the replay, Califf said, “After seeing it, I would have thrown myself out.” The thing that Califf was lacking on that play was the wiliness of Philadelphia Independence defender Heather Mitts.

I admit that, at first glance, the roster for the Independence of Women’s Professional Soccer did not scream, “goon squad.” Sure, one of the team’s defensive starters didn’t get to play in their opening game because she had to serve out a suspension from getting red carded in the WPS title match the previous season. Sure, they’ve also got a player who’s nicknamed “The Beast.” Sure, in their opener against Atlanta, the Indies racked up a lot more fouls than the visitors, but it didn’t seem like an overly physical game. Then they went to Boston on Sunday.

It took just six minutes or so into the game for Mitts to outdo Califf, as she managed to get former Breakers teammate Kristine Lilly in a brief headlock, spin her around, and pull her down, all in one quick motion, and all in the box. And here’s the best part: while the referee immediately called a penalty kick for Lilly, the call was reversed right away. Turns out Lilly was offside just before the Mitts mugging occurred. The result? Philadelphia got the ball, and Mitts got away with the whole thing. That’s how you play defense, kids.

Take a look at the foul that somehow didn’t end up as one in the beginning of the video below, and “recognize awesome” (although probably not in quite the same manner the WPS marketing folks hoped you would):

At around 4:15 in the same video, you can see another Independence player, Jen Buczkowski (who happens, like Califf, to be a team captain), flatten a Boston player for her second yellow card in the game, resulting in an automatic red card and ejection. The difference between Califf’s red and Buczkowski’s is that latter occurred so late in the game that it didn’t have a chance to make an impact on the final score, which was a 1-1 tie. Once again, the Independence seem to indulge their violent impulses more intelligently.

It’s probably fitting that the Philadelphia teams are playing in such an aggressive, and perhaps overly-aggressive, style. After all, if there’s anything sports fans have historically loved around here, it’s goons and teams that are basically a collection of oddballs and psychos. Plus, one of the things MLS and WPS have been lacking is a team in a villain role, one that everyone — except its borderline sociopathic followers — loves to hate.

Every great pro sport needs a Snidley Whiplash, and Califf and Mitts came close to at least supplying the whiplash part. American soccer fans, it appears your old-school Oakland Raiders are here at last.

Update: The apparent essence of Philadelphia soccer has been distilled into a single image. The Independence front office actually just posted the photo below on the club’s Facebook page with the caption, “Okay, we can admit it…we may have gotten a liiittle lucky with the offsides call on Sunday.”

Heather Mitts gets Kristine Lilly in a choke hold.

From the Philadelphia Independence Facebook page.

It’s a Big F#$&ing Deal

April 8, 2010

I have no idea how the Philadelphia Union has managed to get Joe Biden to be part of the opening kick ceremony during the club’s first ever home game at Lincoln Financial Field Saturday night, but they somehow pulled it off.

The Philadelphia Union logo.

Joe the Biden in the house, y'all.

The upside to this is that no matter what your political leanings may be, you have to admit this is probably the highest recognition domestic professional soccer has ever received in the United States. The fact that the Vice President is doing the opening kick at a Major League Soccer game is a watershed moment for the sport in this country. No matter what you may think about the guy, this is a big f#$&ing deal. Heck, I’d be excited about it even if the Vice President in question was Sarah Palin (shudder).

The downside to this is that the security presence at the game, as well as in the area surrounding the Linc, is going to be a big f#$&ing nightmare.

The upside to the downside is that the rumors I saw on Facebook of some people who will be in the same section as me wanting to bring flares into the stadium probably won’t pan out now, so at least I no longer have to worry about my hair getting lit on fire by beer-lit pyromaniacs. Still, it would have been fun to have that extra element of Euro-craziness at the game.

A Philadelphia Hat Trick

March 16, 2010

Presuming that the 2010 Major League Soccer season actually gets a chance to begin (hopefully on time as well), the new Philadelphia Union may fit in quite nicely with the gloriously ignominious tradition of Philadelphia’s professional sports history.

The Philadelphia Union logo

The Seaport Drive Bullies?

In the first ever game against an MLS opponent, a pre-season “friendly” (in name only) against FC Dallas a few days ago in Florida, Philadelphia lost 2-0. In the process, the Union racked up three red cards.

When one player scores three goals in a game, it’s commonly called a “hat trick.” It doesn’t happen often. When three players from the same team get ejected in the course of a game, that’s a uniquely Philly variation.

The fact that this ugliness broke out in a game against a team based in Dallas, Texas (home of the infinitely hated Cowboys of the NFL) just makes it even more uniquely Philly.

Oh well. If you can’t beat ’em, at least you can beat the hell out of ’em.

Let’s Please, Please, Please Not Screw This Up

March 9, 2010

One encouraging sign in the ongoing fiasco/soap opera that is the Major League Soccer collective bargaining agreement negotiation process is the fact that both sides have now agreed to bring in a federal mediator.

Another encouraging sign is the fact that tonight, the first competitive match of 2010 will take place as scheduled, even without a new CBA, when the Columbus Crew hosts Toluca in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals. MLS owners have declared that they won’t lock players out under any circumstances this year and are willing to play the 2010 season even without a new agreement, and while the players’ union has not made a similar commitment not to strike, the fact that the preseason and now, international competition continues to go on as scheduled without a new agreement — an almost unprecedented thing in pro sports here — seems to indicate a lack of willingness to strike — for now.

The problem is that, unlike many labor/management conflicts, in this case both sides have really, really good points that are largely incompatible with one another. From the ownership standpoint, it probably is the strict adherence to the MLS single-entity model that has allowed the league to survive, expand and prevent an NASL-style flame-out over the last 15 years. And the owners do have a very strong case that this still is a very young league that isn’t yet on firm financial footing, so the single-entity system must be continued for now.

From the players’ standpoint, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the lack of free agency the single-entity model creates just isn’t right. No other professional sports leagues in the US and Canada do this, nor do the other soccer leagues globally. It is ridiculous that if a player is signed by one team, because his contract is technically owned by the league, if he gets cut from that team, he has to hope the team that cuts him is able to work out a trade with another team in the league that wants him in order to keep working, because he is not allowed to sign with another team as a free agent after being cut.

But, that’s part and parcel of the single entity model. Trying to work out a compromise between these two positions is something akin to squaring a circle, and I don’t envy the negotiators nor the mediator one bit.

But they must get it done somehow. A work stoppage now would not only likely halt all the momentum the sport is building here (MLS has now leapfrogged the NBA and the NHL in average per-game attendance, TV revenues are up and TV exposure of soccer in general is way up, the U.S. men’s national team is actually starting to get taken seriously by the rest of the world, etc.), it would likely lead to the destruction of top-level pro soccer here for another generation. AGAIN. Which, I think, is why both sides have so far been so unwilling to engage in posturing and brinksmanship and will hopefully remain unwilling to do so.

Which brings me to why I’m writing all of this. I’m from the Philadelphia sports market. I was born in 1977. Philadelphia hasn’t had a top-level men’s soccer team since 1979, when the Philadelphia Fury of the NASL pulled up stakes and moved Montreal after the season concluded. The NASL itself went belly-up in 1984. I was too young to remember any of this. By the time Major League Soccer began its first season in 1996, I was in college. We got an all-too-brief taste of pro soccer here on the women’s side from 2001 to 2003, when the Charge played in the absurdly mismanaged WUSA.

Now it’s 2010. Philadelphia is finally about to get both women’s and men’s teams again. I’ve actually already bought my ticket for the first-ever WPS game for the Philadelphia Independence April 11. I’ve made arrangements to be able to go to the first home game for the MLS Philadelphia Union April 10, but I haven’t taken the plunge and purchased a seat for that one yet, no matter how much I’ve wanted to, and no matter of the fact that I’ve been looking forward to that hypothetical day for years.

I’m holding off. As a stay-at-home-parent raising two kids in a family with one income, I am absolutely not willing to blow money on a ticket for a game that may or may not end up happening. And, I’m sure I can’t be the only one in the Philadelphia area who’s been hesitant to do so, either. Actually, I’m pretty sure that I speak for a lot of soccer fans around here who have been waiting years for this moment when I say that if it is snatched away right at the start like this, it will be unforgivable.

So, for now I continue to wait to see if a new collective bargaining agreement gets signed between now and the start of the MLS season March 25, or if one doesn’t get implemented, whether or not the players decide to go ahead with the season anyway. Hopefully, there will still be some tickets available at the Linc by that point.

“Jungite aut Perite”

May 12, 2009
The Philadelphia Union logo, from Wikipedia.

The Philadelphia Union primary logo, from Wikipedia.

I’m really digging the “Don’t Tread on Me” snake. While “Philadelphia Union” wasn’t the name I voted for, it was much better than most of the other options. They’ve done a bang-up job with the logos, as well as with the club motto.

Now, if only Zolo management can do just as well when it comes to putting together a solid side… A Seattle Sounders-type start next year would be lovely, but that’s probably wishful thinking.

So Philadelphia’s Getting a Major League Soccer Team

February 29, 2008

It’s official. Philadelphia will be getting its very own Major League Soccer team, set to begin play in the 2010 season. I’m not sure how I feel about this.

On the surface, it is certainly a good thing. Currently, the closest MLS teams to here are in New York City and Washington, D.C., so it will be good to finally have one close by. If there’s any place that desperately needs the money flowing into its community from a stadium being located in its boundaries, it is the long-rotting burg of Chester, located just outside Philly on the I-95 corridor where the new team’s stadium is to be built.

On the other hand, if there is any place in the United States most likely to spawn legions of angry, bitter, European-style soccer hooligans ripped to the gills on Yuengling and setting fire to stuff just for the hell of it, it’s probably Philadelphia. Plus, because this new MLS franchise will be a Philadelphia team, one can’t help but get that sinking feeling that it will quickly fall into the dreary annual cycle of doom, loathing, disappointment, and recrimination that defines the life of the typical Philadelphia sports fan.

Being a Philadelphia sports fan, as well as a Manchester United fan, soccer has thus far been the one sport blissfully free of that dreadful annual spiral of ruination. I always knew it would only be a matter of time before Major League Soccer gave Philadelphia an opportunity to violate that sacred space in the sports calendar.

For those across the pond who read this and are probably wondering what on Earth I’m talking about, people from most other places in the U.S. would probably look at the prospect of getting an MLS team as getting another shot to win a championship in something each year. In Philadelphia, though, it’s getting another opportunity to fail spectacularly each year. Philadelphia has gone longer than any other city in the U.S. with four major professional sports teams without winning a title in any of them — a drought that is about to hit the quarter-century mark in length. At 30 years of age, I’m too young to remember the last time a Philadelphia team won a championship in anything.

In a review of the glorious history of professional sports in Philadelphia, let’s begin with the oldest team: baseball’s Philadelphia Phillies. Having played continuously since 1883, the Phillies possess the honor of having lost more games than any other team in the history of Major League Baseball. In 125 years, the Phillies have won exactly one championship, having taken the World Series in 1980. That makes them due for another one in 2077. In the 20 years in which the Phillies played prior to the World Series’ existence, they were never able to win a National League title, either. Granted, they somehow won the NL East Division crown and made the playoffs for the first time in 14 years last year, and heading into spring training, it appears that at least on paper, they may be one of the best teams in the NL this year. However, let’s not forget that they are still the Phillies, and my faith in their ability to find a way to louse things up is bottomless.

Turning our attention to American football, there’s the Philadelphia Eagles of the NFL. Playing since 1933, they have won three NFL titles, all of which pre-date the beginning of the Super Bowl, with the last of them having come in 1960. About 12 years ago, the team was finally bought by an owner who genuinely seems to like winning as well as making money. The result of that change in management has not yielded a championship, however. Instead, it seems to have turned the Eagles into something like the football equivalent of the pre-2004 Boston Red Sox — year in and year out, they’re generally pretty good, which makes their inevitable collapse somewhere either during the playoffs or at the end of the regular season hurt all the more. I could be wrong here, but it seems to me that in recent years, the Eagles have become increasingly popular among people not from the Philadelphia area, probably due to the same combination of fanatical masochism and pity that used to draw people to the Red Sox in baseball, or to Arsenal in English soccer’s Premier League.

Speaking of typically being good enough to make a team’s eventual choking in the playoffs hurt all the more, ice hockey’s Philadelphia Flyers have played since 1967, and they have actually managed to establish a pretty decent history. They’ve only missed the playoffs eight times in their history, and they’ve made it to the Stanley Cup finals seven times. Unfortunately, the last time they managed to win the championship was in 1975. The Flyers are also notable to non-sports fans for their appearance in The SimpsonsTreehouse of Horror IV,” where the Devil’s “Jury of the Damned” consisted of John Wilkes Booth, Lizzie Borden, Blackbeard, Benedict Arnold, the starting lineup of the 1976 Philadelphia Flyers, and Richard Nixon. The team in those days was nicknamed the “Broad Street Bullies” because of their over-the-top goonishness. As a general rule, Philadelphia sports fans tend to prefer teams that make up for lack of talent with sheer brutality.

In basketball, the Philadelphia 76ers are actually the oldest team in the NBA, predating the league itself, although they began life in Syracuse, New York in 1939 before moving to Philadelphia in 1963. The 76ers last won the NBA title in 1983, and didn’t make it back to the NBA championships again until 2001, upon which they lost. They’ve only ever won two NBA championships while in Philadelphia, with the other one coming in 1967.

And then there are the Philadelphia sports fans themselves, also known as “boo-birds.” Other people may applaud, cheer, or sing. Philadelphia fans boo. One former Phillie is said to have once remarked, upon returning to the city, something like, “I forgot it was Philadelphia until I heard the boos.” Hell, they even booed Santa Claus one time back in the ’70s. Occasionally, there will actually be athletes that Philly fans like, but they tend to be very blue-collar guys who tend to run off their mouths without thinking about they’re saying first, a la Charles Barkley and John Kruk.

And it isn’t just booing; sometimes things get physical, too. Just ask the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys in 1989. One of the Philadelphia Eagles’ more colorful head coaches was a guy named Buddy Ryan, who allegedly paid off one of his players to injure the Cowboys’ placekicker in a game on Thanksgiving in Dallas that came to be known as the “Bounty Bowl.” In the middle of December, the Eagles and the Cowboys faced each other again in Philadelphia in a game hyped as “Bounty Bowl II.” As for a description of the game, I’ll let Wikipedia take over here:

The Veterans Stadium crew didn’t bother removing the snow that had piled up for several days. The volatile mix of beer, plentiful snow, the “bounty” and the intense hatred for “America’s Team” [the Cowboys] led to fans throwing everything within reach. Fans threw snowballs, iceballs, batteries, and more onto the field, pelting players, officials, cheerleaders, coaches, cameramen, broadcasters, policemen, and each other. Notable targets included back judge Al Jury, who was knocked to the ground by a barrage of snowballs; Cowboys punter Mike Saxon, who was targeted in the end zone; and Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson, who was bombarded mercilessly with snowballs, ice, and beer as he was hastily escorted off the field by Philadelphia Police. Johnson later called the fans “thugs”. Verne Lundquist and Terry Bradshaw worked the game for CBS, and they spent the afternoon denouncing Eagles fans and dodging snowballs aimed at the broadcast booth.

Interestingly, present in the crowd that day and gleefully taking part in the “festivities” was future Philadelphia mayor, future Pennsylvania governor, and rabid Eagles fan Ed Rendell. He is alleged to have bet somebody $20 that they couldn’t hit the field with a snowball from their seats, a bet which he is said to have lost. All that is known for sure is that stuff was definitely flying en masse from that part of the stadium that day. Political opponents tried to make that incident a character issue in elections, however it seems to have backfired every time, as most of us around here just like him more for probably having chucked ice balls at the Dallas Cowboys.

As a result of that incident, a full-fledged courtroom was set up to operate in the basement of Veterans Stadium, the Eagles’ old home, during subsequent home games. How many other cities can claim that honorable distinction?

Throwing dangerous crap isn’t just the purview of Eagles fans. Years ago, the Phillies drafted a young outfielder named J.D. Drew. He refused to sign with the team, preferring instead to play for the St. Louis Cardinals. After he came up to the major leagues with the Cardinals, his first few road games in Philadelphia saw batteries whizzing past his head in the outfield.

So, congratulations Major League Soccer, and congratulations Philadelphia, upon the unveiling of the 16th MLS team the other day. I hope you both know what you’re getting yourselves into. I heartily second this name rejection, by the way. Here is the current temporary website for the yet-unchristened team.


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