Now the fans can’t boo? . . . . . Really?

Now the fans can’t boo? . . . . . Really?

     In the early weeks of the exhausting book tour for my memoir, LOUD, I have asked people what they would like me to sign, and often they leave the inscription up to me. I always sign the same thing:

     Be LOUD,

     Be Proud

     Why? Because it’s the reason I wrote those 92,000 words, to honor the passion of Philadelphia sports fans. They are loud in good times with cheers that rival any city in America, and with boos that have made our sports city infamous.

     The point is, we show our emotions with our voices. It is our inalienable right to do so, and has been for all of our lifetimes.

     Except now, that credo is under assault. It happened again earlier this week in San Antonio when Gregg Popovich, the sanctimonious, blowhard coach of the Spurs, decided to quell the booers who were harassing ex-Spur Kawhi Leonard by grabbing the PA microphone and saying:  “Excuse me for a second. Can we stop all the booing and let these guys play? It’s got no class. It’s not who we are. Knock off the booing.”

      My response would have been: “Shut up and coach.”

      The fans felt – accurately – that Leonard had quit on the Spurs at the end of his seven-year tenure in San Antonio, but Popovich tried to remove their right to express their feelings directly to him.

      Now that I am the author of this book, I feel I understand booing better than ever. And I couldn’t endorse it more vehemently. In fact, one reason I moved to Philadelphia 40 years ago was because the fans and media here did not suffer fools like Gregg Popovich and Kawhi Leonard.

      It is in our DNA to express approval when a player helps our team, and disgust when he doesn’t. Self-absorbed jerks like Popovich think they can have it their way – millions and millions to play (or not play), and then not a discouraging word from the fans when they fail to meet expectations.

     Screw that. And screw this new epidemic of pampering sports figures. I have had enough. Call me a dinosaur if you must, but more than ever – as the media softens in this country – it is the responsibility of the fans to hold the players accountable.

      The most despicable line in that rant is: “Can we all stop booing and let these guys play.”

      Should the fans at Veterans Stadium have stopped booing when their roar was so loud, it nearly knocked Dodgers pitcher Burt Hooton off the mound in the 1977 playoffs? That is the most famous moment in our sports history, but there are countless others, including the boo inadvertently promoted by me and my Dirty Thirty at the 1999 NFL draft, when the choice of Donovan McNabb drew our wrath.

      Boo, Philadelphia. Never, ever stop booing.

      It is your birthright.

      It is the correct way to respond to failure.

      Above all, it does something coaches and the media have stopped doing – holding players accountable.

      I have already been asked many times how often I missed being on the air during the first nine months of my retirement from WIP. There were two times.

      One was when we all found out the man who ruined the Super Bowl last season, Jonathan Gannon, was negotiating a deal to coach the Cardinals instead of doing his job as Eagles defensive coordinator. He should be persona non grata in Philadelphia forever. Boo!

      And the other was a campaign launched by the producer of the WIP afternoon show, Jack Fritz — who once served as my intern! —  to give Trea Turner a standing ovation last August even though he was horribly underperforming his #300-million contract. If I were still at WIP, I would have done everything I could have to sabotage that idiotic plan.

     I know, I know. The strategy worked, at least for a while. Turner turned his season around. He even gave the fans credit for the dramatic change, no doubt enhancing the chances of this becoming a tradition in Philadelphia for free-agent busts.

     In the end, of course, the Phillies flopped in the NLCS, responding to the deafening cheers of their fans by choking under the pressure in the final two games here at Citizens Bank Park.

      But my point is simple here. Cheering failure is stupid, a sad reflection of our softening of heart and head. Especially head.

      The next time someone in sports tells you not to boo, pay it back by howling louder. The Gregg Popoviches in sports cannot win this fight. They need to stay in their lane, or face the consequences.

     Why do you think I named the book LOUD?


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