Old narratives often die hard in network television. Especially when it comes to sports broadcasting.
Game in New York, you’re almost guaranteed to see an aerial shot of the Statue of Liberty or Times Square. Redskins play on a Thursday night, Lincoln Memorial. Chicago, Lake Michigan scenic shot. Philadelphia, cheesesteaks being fried on the grill at Pat’s and Geno’s or the Rocky statue. You can almost book it.
What you can also bank on is a producer in New York or L.A. (usually not from Philadelphia) pre-producing a package that week leading into a nationally televised game in which snowballs being thrown at Santa Claus or something of that ilk is referenced. If it’s not done in the package, the subject is injected or introduced to the lead broadcasters in the production meetings leading up to said game. The old Philadelphia-fans-are-knuckle-dragging-cretins angle.
It’s tired. It’s lazy. It’s predictable. And it’s gone on for years. It’s the easiest way to push the buttons of a Philadelphia sports fan. But there may be an end in sight to the false narrative.
Take the last couple of years for example. Let’s go back to the 2017 NFL draft, held at the Ben Franklin Parkway. It was a game-changer for the league. The outdoor setting was perfect, the weather could not have been better, but it was the fans that stood out. They came out in droves. They lustily cheered on anything the Eagles did. They had fun with the commissioner, booing him upon first sight — and Roger Goodell played along beautifully. They jeered Drew Pearson, who attempted to give them the business. Brian Westbrook responded in kind the next day. Philly fans showed the world what passion was those three days. The NFL noticed. So did virtually every national broadcaster.
Fast-forward to last season with the Eagles and the absolute domination by the fans at road games. This was nothing new but it was taken to a different level in 2017. Exhibit A, the Chargers' game in L.A. was an absolute takeover; it was an Eagles home game. Other cities do not travel that way.
Then on to the Super Bowl championship parade. Broad Street and the Parkway covered in a sea of green with a jolly green giant dressed in a Mummers suit speaking for all those misrepresented fans who didn’t have that platform. It was epic.
To the baseball team over the course of the last month. Chase Utley returned to a three-day love-fest. And this past weekend, a stirring, heart-wrenching speech from Brandy Halladay, the wife of the late Roy Halladay, about how this city has embraced her and her family through their most trying time. The weekend was capped off by nothing but cheers for prodigal son, Jayson Werth. Instances like Werth’s introduction — if it was anything but warm — would have been chum for the national narrative that Philadelphia fans are the worst.
Lastly was Brian Dawkins' induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Not surprisingly, his devotees showed up in droves, outnumbering any other group. Dawkins closed his speech acknowledging and thanking them. It was a perfect ending to an emotionally draining oration. Oh, by the way, 40,000 people showed up for a practice Sunday evening at the Linc.
Who knows if any of the above evidence will end the false perception put forth by the Michael Wilbons, Colin Cowherds and Skip Baylesses of the world. Not to mention those network suits.
Perhaps it was Union supporters, Sons of Ben, echoed by esteemed philosopher and poet, Jason Kelce, who put it best:
“We’re from Philly, f------ Philly, no one likes us, we don’t care.”