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Opinion: Merion Golf Club Fans Set New Standard for Philly Fans


santa claus must die. For close to half a century, his booing and beaning with snowballs have defined Philadelphia fans. One episode, with or without merit, has besmirched our collective fandom.

I’d like to offer up a new poster child for Philly fans: those well-behaved souls who attended this past summer’s U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club. Now, one may argue that not everyone in attendance was from Philadelphia. But, based on the amount of area sports teams represented on hats, shirts and tote bags, I’d say there were plenty of locals.

The 2013 U.S. Open may well have been one of the Philadelphia region’s finest sporting endeavors, for many reasons. They said the venue was too small, that there would be too many logistical nightmares, and that the pro players would eat it alive. But the little course (that could) and the event’s planners rose to the challenge, pulling it all off without a hitch (cue Rocky music, please).

As fans, we came, we cheered, we oohed, we aahed, we ate, we drank, we shopped. We kept all comments about Billy Horschel’s pants to ourselves, and we were even nice to Sergio García during his pre-swing tics. We braved downpours, mud pits, humidity, concession shortages, and multiple suspensions of play. It was Woodstock along Golf House Road.

Yet the national media is too lazy to see another stellar example of the better angels of our nature. For them, it’s a lot easier to perpetuate the decades-old “Boobird” image. You know, the buffoon engaged in a full-throated war cry, with pieces of cheesesteak spewing forth, sneakers swinging from the electrical wires in the background as he lies in wait for the next Jolly Old St. Nick who dares to cross his path.

Within our fan base, have there been isolated episodes of sophomoric behavior? A big, fat yes. But we are as human and fallible as the rest of the country.

Baltimore fans are lovingly portrayed as Boy Scouts in the national media—yet one of their faithful brutally beat a visitor wearing a Yankees cap last season. Two Dodgers fans—those laid-back California-cool types that come late and leave early—just received prison sentences in the near-death beating of a visiting San Francisco Giants fan. The Houston Texans fans actually cheered their own QB when he got hurt last season. (We may have been guilty of cheering Michael Irvin’s injury, but at least he played for the other team!) Most cities’ fans have had their ignominious moments, but they’re not defined by them. You can bet these events won’t still be a talking point for the next 50 years like our indiscretions are.  

What the national media doesn’t understand is that we don’t boo because we hate—we boo because we love.

If someone or something you care about is failing miserably, do you just politely sit by and do nothing? Not in our town. We get in your face and say, “C’mon! You can do better, and we’re not taking your lame-ass excuses.” 

With us, all you have to do is give 100 percent—and we will forgive you for anything (just ask Allen Iverson). It’s tough, but it’s love nonetheless.

And we express that love by always showing up, filling the stadiums, lining the fairways—passion in all we do. The Atlanta Braves have won the NL East for the past 100 years, it seems, but they rarely sell out. Even the canonized Green Bay fans struggled to sell out Lambeau Field this year for a playoff game.  

The day of the infamous Santa episode, the Eagles were 2-12 for the season, the weather was frigid, and there were still 50,000-plus at Franklin Field (the part of the story that the ESPN talking heads always leave out).

So let the Merion faithful be the new face of Philadelphia fans—those cherubic greenside worshippers, being quiet when they were asked to and cheering when appropriate. Where seldom was heard a discouraging word. (And, no, that wasn’t booing. We were acknowledging a great shot by Boo Weekley.) For the record, not one fictitious holiday icon was harmed in the staging of the event.

So what’s the likelihood we will have swayed the national lynch mob to look at us in a whole new light, granting us some well-earned time off for good behavior?

Snowball’s chance.