Last week, Kevin Garnett called the Sixers fans “fair-weather fans.” I’m all for “to each his own,” but KG couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve lived in Philly for a decade, off-and-on, my whole life. So take it from the most biased view you’ll get; KG’s dead wrong.
I’ve been here while the Phils couldn’t make the playoffs, when the Sixers couldn’t recover after losing Allen Iverson, when the Eagles lost the Super Bowl because our quarterback threw up in the huddle, and while Flyers hockey was struggling to live up to the Broad Street Bullies of old. But I’ve been here through the good, too. I’ve stayed here when the Eagles made the playoffs so easily every year that we never thought they’d lose, when Allen Iverson called himself “Answer,” and for a long while, for the Sixers, he really was as they made the NBA Finals in 2001. I was showered in champagne at the ballpark, singing “High Hopes,” when the Phils won the pennant in 2008 (best game of my life, by the way), and cried a few weeks later, watching the boys of summer parade down Broad Street in a ticker-tape parade after winning the World Series (yep, we were World-effing-Champions). I was here, learning Kate Smith’s rendition of “God Bless America” before every home Flyers playoff game, before I even knew how much it meant.
We’re not fair-weather fans. We’re sports fans. And the most passionate ones you’ll find. Simple as that. Philly fans aren’t scared to rag on their teams, to criticize their teams, and to boo them when they aren’t playing to standard. But they’ll reward you if you give this town all your heart.
Exhibit A: One of my favorite players on the Phillies is Aaron Rowand. And I will always love Aaron Rowand, no matter what team he plays for. Know why? Because he ran into a fence in centerfield to save a fly ball and broke his face. Yeah. His face. He caught the ball, by the way, and he caught the heart of this city on the same play.
Exhibit B: Lavoy Allen. Voy went to the high school next to mine, Pennsbury, and he was the sole reason my school never beat his. I’d watched Voy for years, and when I chose Temple, I got two more years with the Bully. He always was criticized for not being vocal enough on the court, not being passionate enough, but he was good, he was a leader, and he was a team player. Voy went out for the NBA draft after graduation last summer, and everyone said he wouldn’t get drafted. One of the first nights of Owl Team, we all sat there, watching the draft, and long after most people had tuned out, the few of us still up shrieked as Lavoy was selected 50th to the hometown Sixers.
When ESPN ranked the players in the NBA this summer, Lavoy was 500th. Out of the 500 players in the NBA, ESPN said Lavoy was the worst. Just yesterday, they issued an apology to him, as Lavoy Allen has become one of the integral players on this squad. They’re just seeing what we’ve known for years. He’s a local kid, he’s making a difference, and he’s good. Really good. I was never worried that the cherry and white would be the last uniform I saw on him. Lavoy is Philly. He’s the underdog, but there’s something to be said for the intangible. No matter how impartial you think you are, you’ll play harder for your hometown team than for anyone. Because you don’t just love the game. You love the team, the people, the city.
We may be passionate, vocal, and insane, but we’re not fair-weather. So that rousing round of boos that KG got in Game 6 at the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday? In my opinion, well-deserved. You can knock the team, the talent. The game on the court is one thing. But if you knock the sixth man, the fans, you’re gonna hear it. Philadelphia is one heck of a sports town. And Philadelphia’s the reason I want to watch and write about sports for a living. Because I can’t imagine living without that passion. So instead of giving it up, I’ll follow it, I’ll follow sports, I’ll follow the passion behind it, anywhere.
A fair-weather fan I am not.