Booooooo! To outsiders, that sound is a war cry, a clarion call for action, a howl of barbarism. For Philadelphia sports fans like me, the boo feels like home. On this October afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field, I’m walking into an Eagles game, as I’ve done more times than I can count. But there’s something about the boos today that feels wrong. I ascend the stairs into section 211, high above the southern end zone, and the faithful all around rise up, like a tidal wave of green and white. They cup their hands and scream like hell. There’s no action on the field right now.
Today, those jeers are for me.
Nothing inspires more sports hatred in this town than the star that is the Dallas Cowboys logo. That symbol can be seen prominently on either side of my head, thanks to the silver-and-blue Mexican wrestling mask I’m wearing for today’s contest against America’s Team. In case it wasn’t already clear from my Tony Romo t-shirt, I’m rooting for the visitors. I am not a masochist. I didn’t lose a bet. This is the final act in a theatrical—and potentially life-threatening—investigation I’ve dubbed the Ultimate Philadelphia Fan Experiment.
My idea, misguided as it now seems, was to dress up in the garb of a rival team for each of the four major sports. I’d stay in character—cheering for the visitors, trash-talking when trash needs to be talked—to determine whether the reputation of Philly fans as a bunch of brutes and savages is deserved, or whether we are, as I’m hoping, unfairly maligned. No team inspires more venom than the Cowboys. This game is my grand finale.
It’s also beginning to feel like my funeral.
I’m here with my cousin Bill, who’s wearing his vintage Eagles jersey (Andy Harmon, defensive tackle, ’91-’97) to make it clear that he doesn’t share my rooting interests. He’s my protection should this scene get ugly, which it does rather quickly. We find our section, but pick the wrong stairway—our seats are at the opposite end of the row. We pardon and excuse ourselves, forcing everyone to stand and let us walk by. I’m so close to these fans that I can smell the mix of light beer, nachos and bile on their breath when they shout directly in my face as we file past:
The only security guard within hailing distance is a sweet bespectacled woman who will be of little use if I get gang-tackled. Later, a thick-necked lug in camo pants and aviators sitting a few seats over walks past us to fetch beer. It’s not his first drink of the day. “Fuck you,” he says to me, nose to nose, before turning to my cousin. “And fuck you for bringing him here.”
I fear that, ironically, I may be the victim of the next story that gives Philadelphia’s fans a black eye…