Defending the Flyers

Well, I did it. Brought hockey into my lesson. Not relatable to Henry V, unfortunately. That would have been amazing.

I’m making my 10th and 11th graders learn vocabulary. They hate it, I love it, so it’s a win-win. Our word a few days ago was acrimony, which means bitterness or animosity. In an effort to help them learn, I used it in a sentence, making it up right on the spot.

“I have a lot of acrimony when I constantly have to defend why I’m a Flyers fan. To everyone.” (Right, so it’s not the most eloquent of sentences, but I was improvising.)

Defending your team might not happen to those who call Philadelphia home, but for those of us outside the city of Brotherly Love, it’s a battlefield.

::hums Pat Benatar::

I’ve been to Philly at least twice. I have this vague recollection of being there as a kid for some vacation because I swear I’ve seen the Liberty Bell, but neither I nor my folks can remember well enough to confirm this.

But I went to Philly last October to see Pam and go to my first NHL game: Flyers against the Leafs. Brian Boucher was in net and if I remember correctly, we did beat them rather mercilessly. But other than my awe and wonder about my first real game, another event stands out.

There were some Flyers fans in front of Pam and I. Drunk. At least, I assume they were with the way they were acting. I hope they were drunk. Anyway, the Leafs must have scored or something equally worth celebrating (if you’re a Leafs fan) and there were a few Leafs fans in a nearby section that appropriately jumped up and cheered.

The drunk fans in front of us immediately shouted at them, “Go back to Canada!”

I stood there, a bit perplexed. One, because my geography is so bad that I had no idea Philly was so close to New Jersey and these fans had the stereotypical Jersey accents. And two: I leaned over to Pam and said:

“They do know 90 percent of the Flyers are Canadian, right?”

Pam just shrugged and went back to paying attention to the game.

In the South when I went to games in both Nashville and Atlanta (can’t even talk about this, still pisses me off), fans of the home teams usually were pretty good-natured that I was cheering on the visiting team and were just excited to talk hockey with someone. I loved this camaraderie because I love the game.

“You’re a Flyers fan?” (please read this in the most patronizing voice you can conjure)

I’m in Blackhawks territory now and it’s annoying as hell to have people who love hockey like I do just look at me like I’m an idiot. There is this stigma about Philly and its professional sports. I’ve been wracking my brain about why since I first became a fan and was quickly mocked for it. I’ve come up with a few ideas.

Possibilities to why we fans are so persecuted:

  • Broad Street Bullies – First impression for the Flyers came in the seventies when they fought, beat and destroyed their way to the Stanley Cup twice. First impressions are lasting. It doesn’t matter that there are so many more rules about the aggression of the game and our players are far more conscientious. For a lot of people, the Flyers are brutes still.
  • Philadelphia – It’s a hard city to play in. The fans are dedicated and the players are intense. Are the fans supposed to bow down and allow the other team to win? Of course, citizens are going to get up in arms over losing or winning. Would you want a city not to be dedicated to its team?
  • The Goalie Situation – I have a friend (who I love most days, but when he’s like this, I want to strangle him) who was talking about how Philly ruins goalies and doesn’t have much hope for Bryzgalov who he concedes is a good goalie. Like there’s a curse on the city and the goalies that come in. I refuse to believe this. Good goaltending requires more than just luck, fate, or curses. This probably makes me incredibly naïve, but I accept that.
  • The Fans – This might be the main reason. Fans, actually, people in general, can be a stupid lot. People as a group are dumb, rude and often terrible to be around. This is no different for any city and any team. But Philly fans in general, and Flyers fans specifically, get a bad rep for past incidences (something about snowballs and Santa?) and as a newer fan, to be lumped into that group is insulting. But here’s my issue: WHY WOULD YOU JUDGE A TEAM ON ITS FANS??? So what that Flyers fans can be uneducated and downright rude? People all over the place are like that. There’s no reason to mock or put down the team or the individual players because the fans can be derelicts. Stupid fans don’t take away from the talent of the players.

So, yeah, this is a particular soapbox of mine. I feel like I’m defending perfectly good loyalty for a perfectly good team that has as much right to compete as another other team. I don’t see how ‘trash talk’ somehow increases the pleasure of being a sports fan of any kind.

It’s hockey. It’s a damn good game and I like the guys in Black and Orange.

Deal with it, people.

(I would like to point out that I would lacerate my students for using as many rhetorical questions and all caps in their papers as I just did in this post. :) )

  • Pam

    Awesome article. You brought up some good points. And I still remember those drunkards at that game, I almost sort of felt bad for the Leafs fans lol. Richie scored a goal that game, didn’t he?? Sigh. My Captain.

  • Pam

    Awesome article. You brought up some good points. And I still remember those drunkards at that game, I almost sort of felt bad for the Leafs fans lol. Richie scored a goal that game, didn’t he?? Sigh. My Captain.