Roy Halladay

It's time to change the narrative about Philly sports fans

It's time to change the narrative about Philly sports fans

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.”

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This weekend in Philadelphia sports reminds us of the power of nostalgia

This weekend in Philadelphia sports reminds us of the power of nostalgia

What a weekend.

We got to honor Dawk and Doc and the 2008 World Champions of baseball. We got to see our favorite athlete ever get immortalized. We got to shed a tear for our favorite workhorse. We got to remember the team that broke the championship curse. And then we got to see the Super Bowl champions back in their nest.

Nostalgia is such a powerful thing in sports, and this weekend was full of it in Philadelphia.

Think about everything that went down:

• Brian Dawkins went into the Hall of Fame and on a day he was honored, made his speech about helping others struggling with depression (see story). Of course he did.

• Roy Halladay and Pat Gillick were inducted into the Phillies’ Wall of Fame. Halladay was honored posthumously and there wasn’t a dry eye at Citizens Bank Park.

• The 2008 Phillies celebrated the 10th anniversary of their World Series win and brought back most of the members from that team. Even Jayson Werth, who fell out of favor with fans after going to the Nationals as a free agent, returned to a deserving hero’s welcome. It was a touching moment from an intelligent fanbase.

And then we saw these first-place Phillies pull off a sweep (see story).

• And the weekend was capped by thousands of Eagles fans showing up for an August practice to see the defending Super Bowl champions at Lincoln Financial Field. It was the first time the Birds were all together at the Linc in uniform since the NFC Championship Game that became a blowout party and sent them to Minnesota.

Sometimes, as sports fans, we get caught up in nostalgia. We remember things from the past fondly and sometimes even neglect the present. But this weekend, it was impossible to not get caught up in the magic. And, man, it was fun.

This weekend reminded me of why we’re all sports fans in the first place. These teams and these players connect us. How many people watched Dawk’s Hall of Fame speech with their dad or brothers or sisters? How many families watched the opening of Saturday’s Phillies game and shed a tear together remembering Doc?

How many folks double dipped on Sunday, getting a chance to see the last World Series champions at Citizens Bank Park and then walked down the street to see the Super Bowl champs at night? That had to be a great day.

A lot of times, we push sports to the back burner in the summer. We go to the beach, we go on vacation, we sit by the pool. But I’m guessing a lot of people this weekend pushed those other things aside and had themselves a great sports weekend.

There will be plenty of new memories to make and heroes to crown. But over the last few days, it was nice to remember the ones who came before.

Pat Gillick and Roy Halladay touched Philadelphia Phillies forever with their greatness

Pat Gillick and Roy Halladay touched Philadelphia Phillies forever with their greatness

Pat Gillick and Roy Halladay have much in common. The two men earned their baseball chops in Toronto then came to Philadelphia to finish off their wonderful careers.

On Saturday night, they will share another common bond when they are honored with a place on the Phillies’ Wall of Fame. It will be an evening where celebration and poignancy intersect. Gillick was the general manager of the 2008 World Series champion Phillies and he goes onto the Wall of Fame during a weekend celebration to honor the 10-year anniversary of that team.

Halladay, who pushed for a trade to Philadelphia because he admired the core and style of play of those great Phillies teams of Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, was not part of the World Series championship team. He came to Philadelphia before the 2010 season and in just four seasons left an indelible mark on the franchise with his greatness, his intensity, his legendary work ethic and, of course, a perfect game, a playoff no-hitter and a Cy Young Award.

Halladay goes onto the Wall of Fame nine months after he died in a plane crash, way too young at the age of 40. His wife and two ball-playing sons will be on hand for the celebration.

Gillick was the architect of a Blue Jays franchise that Halladay eventually became part of and for which he won a Cy Young Award in 2003. Gillick arrived on the ground floor and took the Jays from expansion status to back-to-back World Series championships in 1992 and 1993. He is honored on that team’s Level of Excellence. He is also a member of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and the big one, the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

After his time as Blue Jays general manager, Gillick stayed on and did some scouting for the club.

He remembers peeking in on a high school pitcher from Denver in the spring of 1995. He reported back to the organization that the kid was special, worth keeping an eye on.

That kid was Roy Halladay.

“It’s really an honor to go on the Wall of Fame,” Gillick said.

He mentioned how much it meant to him to be just the second Phillies executive to earn the honor, joining the legendary Paul Owens. Gillick recalled that the first trade he ever made as a GM was with Owens. He acquired Tommy Hutton in a cash deal.

“But to go on the Wall with Roy is really special,” Gillick continued. “He is someone who is legendary for the way he prepared for games, physically and mentally.”

Gillick had already had a marvelous career when he arrived in Philadelphia in the fall of 2005. He’d been GM in Toronto, Baltimore and Seattle, taking all of those teams to the postseason. Gillick was between jobs and not ready to retire when club president David Montgomery asked him to fly to Philadelphia to meet in the fall of 2005. Montgomery and Gillick chatted for five hours at a hotel near the airport. The next day, Montgomery offered Gillick the job. Gillick was also being pursued by the Dodgers. He chose the Phillies.

Gillick’s decision was a difference-maker in the rise of the Phillies and his own career. He made some tweaks around the edges of a promising and improving roster, brought in Jayson Werth and Brad Lidge, two players who had run out of time in other organizations, and the Phillies won the World Series in 2008. Gillick, class man that he is, has never failed to share credit for the team’s success. To this day, he praises the work of his predecessor, Ed Wade, and his lieutenants, Ruben Amaro Jr., and Mike Arbuckle, for the role they had in constructing the club. He credits his go-to scout, Charley Kerfeld, for convincing him to bring in Lidge, the closer who went 48 for 48 in save chances that season. Gillick still raves about the managing job that Charlie Manuel did. Funny thing, Gillick could have made a managerial change after the 2006 season. He stuck with Manuel and says it was the best move he made in Philadelphia.

Gillick received baseball’s highest honor when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in the summer of 2011.

It never would have happened if he didn’t come to Philadelphia.

Coming to Philadelphia and winning that third World Series ring put him over the top.

“Winning the World Series in 2008 gave me the opportunity to be elected,” he said Friday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park.

Beyond their common Toronto roots and baseball greatness, Gillick and Halladay have something else in common. If the Philadelphia experience put Gillick over the top for election to Cooperstown, it will probably do the same for Halladay. He was on a Hall of Fame track when he arrived in Philadelphia and his time with the Phillies — the Cy Young Award in 2010, the second-place finish in 2011, the perfect game, the no-hitter, the two postseasons — only enhanced his candidacy.

It’s not difficult to envision Halladay joining Gillick in Cooperstown some day. In fact, it seems like a slam dunk.

On Saturday night, we get to see them take their place on the Phillies’ Wall of Fame and that’s pretty special, too.

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