As the Blackhawks close in on the playoffs again, a year after their Stanley Cup triumph, fans are jubilant and gracious. They cheer the Hawks and the possibility of another championship to underscore the greatness of the city we all love.
Moving here from Philadelphia to Chicago several years ago I started to notice a few things right away. People said hello. And when I asked someone on State Street for the time, he didn't respond with, "Time for you to get a watch, foo'!"
Where I come from, sports fans are rowdy at their best and outright rude and belligerent at their worst. Last year we heard about Phillies fans getting tackled and tasered on the field. Not to mention another vomiting on a visiting fan. (For the record, that guy was from New Jersey).
On average, we Flyers fans try to show up somewhere in the middle between rowdy and belligerent, landing around abrasive and unwelcoming.
Still, if you missed it, GQ Magazine just named its "Worst Sports Fans" in the April issue. Of course the top two "worst fans" spots were awarded in tandem to Phillies and Eagles fans. Philly fans love the Flyers too, but I've always thought that hockey's technicalities demand better knowledge and closer attention from NHL fans. Regardless, Flyers fans wanted the 2010 trophy to take up permanent residence at the old FU Center on Broad Street.
After the Blackhawks won it last summer, the championship parade was a great time. As we all know, it was the first championship for Chicago since the White Sox in 2005. Black and red was ubiquitous as Blackhawks jerseys were donned on fans' backs everywhere and celebratory banners lined streets of the Loop. Nobody caused problems.
The last parade I went to in Philly was the annual Mummers Parade on New Years Day. It's not officially a sports parade, but might as well be, given that you see every color and league represented from the big four sports to the occasional Villanova basketball shirt.
That New Years Day there must have been a troop of parade marchers dressed like "lady Eagles fans" since I saw one 6 foot 2 guy in an Eagles jersey, with a blonde wig, a skirt, and a purse hanging off his arm. Visably beer buzzed, Ms. Philadelphia approached a wall of a historic building and lifted up his skirt to relieve himself in public.
I didn't have a camera but this pic would have made a great tourist postcard, since it sums up what the rest of the world thinks about Philadelphia sports fans: that they're a rude, crude, badly behaved, badly dressed public nuisance.
Sure, Hawks fans, you probably have much better manners and better aim. And you're much warmer and less threatening. But Blackhawks fans, you are no angels. Your halos bend a bit when the playoffs get going. I'm certain this weekend you'll fill the UC with the regular chants of "DE - troit SUCKS!"
I even got to witness this first hand within my own household. I took my 4 year old (born in Chicago) to the Hawks/Flyers game, spending $75 on tickets and $50 on a mini-Hawks jersey. He thanked me by voicing his opinions, unsolicited, which were that "the Flyers stink" and "I hate the Flyers".
For a second perspective and some fun, I consulted a church pastor and Hawks fan I know about "hate" and whether my kid's sentiment was a potential sin. Pastor Josh responded by saying, "God speaks his wisdom through our children".
If the Flyers and Blackhawks do meet again in the Stanley Cup finals, I hope to see some more of the polite, well thought-out jibes from Hawks' fans in earnest. Flyers fans have heard it all before, and it won't phase us.
But spirited trash talk, I believe, always adds to the fervor and spectrum of any sports experience. Especially when it comes from the mouths of the clergy and 4 year olds.
Andy Frye writes about sports & life here, and obsesses about sports throughout the day on Twitter at @MySportsComplex. Get yer blades on.