Monday, May 19, 2008

To Boo Or Not To Boo, That Is The Question

Merriam Webster dictionary defines the word fanatic as "marked by excessive enthusiasm and often intense uncritical devotion". In the City of Brotherly Love, uncritical is not in our nature.

I live in Philadelphia and have been a sports fan for as long as I can remember. A die hard Eagles and Phillies fan, I have been through thick and thin with these teams. Becoming a true sports fan off the bat of Joe Carter in 1993 and with the legs of Rhonde Barber in 2003.

I believe in Booing, it's in my nature. I have booed on opening day, I have booed in the midst of a Super Bowl run. It's what we do.

As a sports fan I usually attempt to be as objective as possible when it comes to Philadelphia sports. Looking at all the angles to determine the right opinion is a difficult thing in a town like this one. With the loss of the Flyers this week, Philadelphia sports are about to incur 100 combined years without a championship. It has created a bitter group of hateful fans towards anything remotely negative and unfortunately for this town right now that negative is Ryan Howard.

In 2004, Philadelphia was graced with a new ball park and the hopes of a new future for its Phillies as they looked to rebuild and become a contender. They brought in names like Millwood, Wagner, and Thome. Brought up prospects like Floyd, Madson and Geary. None of which gave the fans the answer they were looking for.

Four years later, things are a bit different. Now Utley, Rollins and Howard have the spotlight. Hamels, Lidge and Romero bring us hope and yet Philadelphia has found something to boo. But are they directing their attention in the right spot.

Sure Ryan Howard is in the biggest slump of his short career, looking to break his own personal and major league record of strikeouts in a season which currently stands at 199. He is currently on pace to achieve 228 strikeouts this season as he sits with 64 Ks in 45 games. His average has not been over .200 since the first week of the season. Yet he has amount 10 home runs in the span which puts him on pace for 35 for the year. Not bad for a slumping season. But is it worth the $10 millions Howard is being paid this year?

How quickly fans forget the fact that Howard is the quickest player ever to reach 100 home runs and has amounted more homers in the previous two seasons than any other player. All while making the rookiee maximum of $300,000 a year. He has accomplished a feat which only two other players have in baseball history in becoming the Rookiee of the Year and MVP in consecutive seasons. In 2006 he single handily carried the Phillies to their 86 wins and brought life back to the ball park with his all time Phillies home run record.

Yet does all that give him a free pass? Unfortunately for Howard, fans in this town have a short memory. "What have you done for me lately?" seems to be the motto of this town.

How quickly we forget that Pat Burrell practically stole $60 million from this franchise, only really starting to play now that his contract is up. Burrell has consistently been booed on opening day for the past four seasons. Yet for the first time I can remember talk of All-Star ballots run through the stadium every time he steps up to the plate. How does he all of the sudden get a free pass? He has the same number of home runs as Howard and just 7 more RBIs. Does that wipe away 4 years of sub-par play?

And yet we have players like Aaron Rowand who literally bled for this town for two seasons. A hard working attitude and no concern for his body made him a fan favorite throughout the Phillies push to the playoffs in 2007. What did he get in return? A standing ovation when coming back to town as an opponent a year later.

This town is a difficult place to play any sport. A town with a short memory for some and a good memory for others. We still boo J.D. Drew when he visits town and cheer Jim Thome. Either perform or suffer the consequences, no matter what your past record has been. Booing is a choice, in this town it's a tradition.

How fanatical this all seems...

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