The Philadelphia sports fan has long held a special place in the American cultural landscape.
No matter how boorish people may act in New York, Chicago or anywhere else, they are novices when compared to their brethren in the City of Brotherly Love. No one knows how to cross the line between passion and insanity with quite so much flair as Philadelphia.
We were reminded of that this week when Matthew Clemmens entered sports lore as the guy who intentionally vomited on an 11-year-old girl. Clemmens, apparently angry that the girl's father had reported another group of unruly fans to an usher at Citizens Bank Park, walked up behind the family, stuck his fingers down his throat and let fly with his foul projectile in a moment that will live in infamy.
Will it live in enough infamy to displace one of the other memorable moments in the history of Philadelphia sports fandom, though?
Fighting Through the Ring Ceremony - Mike Schmidt was regularly booed by home crowds during his career. In trying to understand that and other instances of brutal treatment of home players, some have opined that years of losing is what turned Philly fans into such a loutish lot. How, then, do you explain booing former Phillie Adam Eaton at the ring ceremony honoring the 2008 World Series champions? Sure, Eaton wasn't a particularly good player but only a masochist would focus on the negative on such a happy occasion. Or, perhaps, a drunk. Judging by the fights that broke out at the park that day and at the championship parade, the latter seems like the likelier explanation.
Ed Rendell Makes a Bet - It's hard to blame Philly fans for occasionally playing the fool when the city fathers are right there with them causing trouble. In 1989, Ed Rendell, now governor of Pennsylvania but then district attorney in Philadelphia, bet fans in the notorious 700 level of Veterans Stadium $20 that they couldn't hit the field with snowballs. He lost the bet and later apologized for egging on the kind of behavior that led the city to install a jail underneath the former home of the Eagles and Phillies.
Sex For Phillies World Series Tickets - Like we said above, there's a fine line between passion and insanity. Susan Finkelstein flew right over it in 2009 when she went on Craigslist and described herself as a "gorgeous tall buxom blonde" willing to get creative in exchange for two seats to a World Series game. An undercover cop answered the ad, Finkelstein allegedly offered him sex for seats and the whole thing wound up with her getting convicted of attempted prostitution.
Booing Santa Claus - This is a controversial inclusion because fans who were there on that fateful day in 1968 swear that the management of the Eagles, not St. Nick, was the real target of their anger. Frank Olivo, the man who was in the suit that day, remembers being booed and pelted with snowballs. He also refused a return engagement the next year in fear that it might not snow and he'd be hit with beer bottles instead. The Eagles were awful, though, and Olivo, at 5'6" and 170 pounds, was no one's idea of the jolly Christmas icon.
Cheering Michael Irvin's Injury - This is another moment shrouded in some ambiguity but what's undeniable is that Eagles fans cheered when the Cowboys receiver was laid out in 1999 with what turned out to be a career-ending neck injury. They then began to boo as he lay motionless on the turf. Some say they were merely cheering the hit by one of the home team's defensive backs while others say that antics by Irvin's teammate Deion Sanders were the real target of their anger. It led to condemnations of their behavior from Rendell and Donovan McNabb, himself no stranger to dark local hearts, and there really isn't much excuse for cheering another man's pain. And, yes, that includes the Cowboys.
The verdict? The vomiting not only deserves a spot on this list, it's probably number two with only cheering Irvin's demise representing a fouler moment for the city's fans. Congratulations, Matthew Clemens, you are Philadelphia's number one fan!