PHILADELPHIA — This is supposed to be the City of Brotherly Love but the citizenry has strayed from the ideals espoused by its founder, William Penn.
Over the years, the city’s sports fans have earned a reputation as boorish fanatics. These are the folks who booed Santa Claus at an Eagles game.
“Why do people keep bringing that up?” asked John Monaghan, who was dispensing drinks Sunday night at Kelly Monaghan’s in neighbouring Essington, Pa.
Probably because some Philadelphia fans — not unlike fans in other cities including Montreal — have never learned that there’s a fine line between supporting a team and criminal behaviour.
I was disgusted by the latest riot in Montreal following a Canadiens’ victory over Pittsburgh. While Quebec Premier Jean Charest assured us that the miscreants weren’t Canadiens’ fans, Michael Farber of Sports Illustrated asked the question: “Who do they root for? Are they Penguins’ fans? Colorado fans?”
There was certainly an element which took advantage of an opportunity to do some after-hours shopping at the liquor store and Foot Locker but I saw dozens of photographs in which the out-of-control revellers were wearing Canadiens jerseys. And, while the team won’t admit, the decision not to show the first two games of the Philadelphia series on the series on the giant screen at the Bell Centre, was made with an eye toward avoiding more trouble.
There were several incidents at Game 1 of the Flyers-Canadiens series in Philadelphia Sunday night. I saw fans in Canadiens’ jerseys heckled which is fair game. I also saw several of them being bumped around which isn’t acceptable.
Some vandals pulled the plug on a pre-game telecast by Radio-Canada and another Canadian TV crew was harassed.
I found myself the unwanted centre of attraction when I went to my car after the game. One tire was flat, the bug deflector had been ripped from the hood, a hubcap had been snapped in two and the trunk and roof of the car were littered with beer cans. The windows were covered with beer and soda.
These were minor inconveniences. I bought a new tire and took a run through a car wash. And when you have 565,000 kilometres on a 1999 Honda Accord, you don’t worry about a bug deflector.
But my biggest concern was that some yahoo tore off my license plate. I spent three hours Monday, shuttling between police stations before I was able to fill out a report on the theft. I’m hoping that the report will help me clear customs Tuesday.
The attitude of some Philly fans — I have a lot of friends in the city and made some new ones on this trip — was in stark contrast to the fans in Washington and Pittsburgh who were gracious throughout the first two rounds of the series and far more civil than the Montreal fans who booed the U.S. anthem.
Prior to Game 1, the Flyers passed out T-shirts with the motto: Relentless in the pursuit of history.
Relentless in the pursuit of idiocy would be a better slogan for a city whose history includes abusing Santa Claus.
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