When Chase Utley heads to the plate during what may be his final series at Citizens Bank Park this week, I hope Phillies fans give him a lengthy standing ovation, then proceed to boo the ever-living shit out of him.
I think that’s always been the blueprint for beloved former athletes. We show our respect for what those players did in Philadelphia, then shift gears to remind them that they’re now wearing the wrong colors and playing for the wrong team. The stakes are higher as two first-place clubs meet on the diamond, and the meaning is amplified since Utley is retiring at the end of the season, so I’d expect heightened senses and louder volume tonight.
Chase is a competitor, so I can see him as a guy who would appreciate and understand that kind of treatment. After all, he saw it on display for many years, enjoying the wonderful home field advantage that Phillies fans provided at CBP and oftentimes also at Nationals Park and Citi Field. The savvy fan respects the past while understanding the present.
So I think Utley’s situation is very cut and dry.
I’m more interested to see how Manny Machado is received tonight, a guy who was the subject of incessant Philly trade rumors, but ended up in Los Angeles instead.
For starters, it’s not like Machado chose to go to the Dodgers over the Phillies. Here’s a player on an expiring contract that the Orioles shipped out to the highest bidder for the best crop of prospects they could get. The Phils get another crack at Machado in the winter, so I think booing him tonight serves absolutely no purpose whatsoever.
But I don’t know if cheering for him is necessary, either. What message does cheering send? We like you? We want you to come here? That feels a little forced and fake to me. I’d think you just treat him with indifference.
If anything, I think the reaction to Utley is more relevant to the Machado situation than anything involving Manny himself. That thought goes something like this:
- Phillies fans go crazy for one of their all-time greats
- Machado sees that and appreciates that
- he says to himself, “hmm these fans are great, maybe I do want to come play here next season..”
Far fetched? I don’t think so. Of course, I don’t know much about Machado as a player or person, so maybe he already has his mind made up as to where he wants to play next year. Maybe he wants to play for the Yankees or maybe the Dodgers make a run at the World Series and he feels like signing a long-term deal with Los Angeles is his best bet to win a ring.
Either way, I think you can impress Machado by filling the stadium, showing a lot of love for Utley, and illustrating what the atmosphere can be like at Citizens Bank Park when Phillies fans are locked in, selling out the venue, and getting behind their first-place team.
Those situations seem rather straight-forward compared to what happened at Talen Energy Stadium this past Saturday, when a sold out arena was packed with Zlatan Ibrahimovic fans who didn’t give two shits about the Union but showed up in their PSG and Manchester United jerseys to cheer for an opposing player instead:
Never mind the guy with the New York Giants bucket hat and Temple long sleeve combination, I’m focused on the three jabronies who popped up on the broadcast after Ibra scored the Galaxy’s game-winner.
And look, I understand the Union are utterly mediocre and have done nothing to deserve the support of the casual Philadelphia fan, but something just really bothers me about the local who shows up to cheer for the opposing team or a specific player from that team. It was ATROCIOUS watching the Sixers play the Warriors at home this season, as the arena was 20% filled with Steph Curry “fans” who I’m pretty sure have never been to California. It was just as bad when the Lakers were in town and Kobe jerseys were all over the place and LaVar Ball was walking around outside of the locker rooms yelling and laughing and just running his big fat mouth in general.
To that end, I’ve always agreed with the parochial Philly sports idea that if you grow up here, you pull for your local teams. It’s just about staying true to your roots and remembering where you’re from. The Dallas Cowboy fan who grew up in Maple Shade simply has no geographic or cultural connection to North Texas. It’s the same with the Duke fan from Fleetwood who went to Penn State Berks.
It’s a bit different in soccer, where a lot of people enjoy foreign leagues and foreign players and might not give a shit about MLS. The guys in the photo above probably never got to see Zlatan play in Europe, so here they are cheering for him in Philly. That’s nice, and I get it, but it’s the same thing I wrote above. I’m 99% sure these guys have zero cultural or geographic connection to PSG or Ajax or AC Milan. Here they are then, disrespecting the Union fans sitting around them by showing up in Euro jerseys to support a single player from the opposing team.
The most sane comment I saw on Twitter regarding this stadium-wide embarrassment came from a guy named Andrew, who explained how he and his brother handled the conflict of being Philly sports fans who also supported Steven Gerrard and Liverpool:
“There was never a question of who to root for.”
Jesus Christ, this makes too much sense.
God forbid you could just hold on to your Steph jerseys and then seek him out for an autograph after the game.
If you grew up in Montana or your dad knows Nate Newton personally, or if you were part a transient military family, then I understand that the things that define fandom for you might be different. I can understand how you might end up a Seahawks, Cowboys, or Dolphins fan. I’m not sitting here trying to be the one-man sports tribunal, judging whether or not your fandom is legitimate.
But I can speak for this region, and for all of the rudimentary “four for four” nonsense that gets spewed around here, Philly does know a poser when it sees one. They were all over the place at Talen on Saturday. I hope none are at Citizens Bank Park tonight and I hope some of the “lifelong” Warrior and Laker and Cowboy fans leave their shit at home the next time those teams are in town.
Thanks for understanding.