University of Nebraska football coach Bo Pelini is under fire this week after a nearly 2-year-old audio recording of him bashing the team’s fans surfaced.
The tape, obtained, as such things usually are, by Deadspin, quoted the coach as saying, “It took everything in my power to not say, ‘F— you, fans. F— all of you.’ F— ‘em,” after Nebraska fans left a game early en masse. He later added “Our crowd. What a bunch of f—ing fair-weather fucking—they can all kiss my ass out the f—ing door.”
First of all, it sounds like the Eagles hired the right college coach.
Secondly, they don’t always have the F-bombs, but there have been all sorts of instances, over the years, of athletes here in Philly having negative things to say about the fans of their team. For the purposes of this exercise, I’m going to leave out comments by players’ family members—because really, Mrs. Ryan Madson has been through enough—and while Donovan McNabb has violated this taboo more than once, it’s his jersey retirement week, so we’ll give him a break for once.
And yes, there’s something of a double standard in which fans and media members can rip athletes at will, often in extremely personal terms, but players can’t ever return the fire. But still, the local teams’ PR departments are unanimous, I’m sure: The correct answer whenever asked about the fans is to praise them and call them “passionate.”
Some Philadelphia athletes who did the opposite:
Mike Schmidt, Phillies, 1985
The Quote: “I’ll tell you something about my playing in Philadelphia—whatever I’ve got in my career now, I would have had a great more if I’d played my whole career in Los Angeles or Chicago, you name a town, somewhere where they were just grateful to have me around.”
The Aftermath: Schmidt had an often-rocky relationship with both fans and press during his long career in Philly, but most fans rightly recognize him as an all-time great, and that quote is barely remembered.
Ricky Watters, Eagles, 1995
The Quote: “I don’t care about the crowd (booing),” Watters said. “I don’t play for them. I play for my teammates. . . ”
The Aftermath: That quote, which came after Watters’ disastrous first game with the Eagles, was followed by the more notorious “for who, for what.” Those four words are what most local fans associate with the running back’s name, but Watters enjoyed a decent tenure with the Eagles and a pretty long NFL career. Also, the game story refers to “Jon Gruden, the freckle-faced 32-year-old offensive coordinator.”
Shawn Bradley, 76ers, mid-1990s
The Quote: “The problem with Philadelphia fans is that they want you to play every game like it’s your last one.”
The Aftermath: The 7’6″ Bradley is generally regarded as a huge disappointment and one of the worst draft picks in Sixers history. But he lasted 12 years in the NBA, and made just short of $70 million.
Billy Wagner, ex-Phillies, 2006
The Quote: “Those people, it doesn’t matter how successful you are. I don’t get it. They boo you. They scream at you. Anybody who’s going to boo you when you don’t hit 100 miles per hour, what does that tell you?”
The aftermath: The former Phillies closer’s quote drew fire because he had signed with the rival Mets, and because he didn’t seem to understand the radar gun thing was sarcastic. At any rate, Wagner is now best known as the other Astros import who closed for the Phils, before Brad Lidge.
Jimmy Rollins, Phillies, 2008
The Quote: [When asked on an appearance on The Best Damn Sports Show, Period, if Philly warrants its reputation as a tough sports town]: “It can be, yeah. There are times, like, it’s one of those cities … I might catch some flack for saying this, but, you know, they’re front-runners. When you’re doing good, they’re on your side. When you’re doing bad, they’re completely against you.”
Jimmy Rollins, Phillies (again), 2011
The quote: [After the Phils' shocking elimination from the playoffs]: “Fans were waaay too quiet tonight”
The Aftermath: Rollins stands a good chance of being remembered as much for his various controversial comments than for his play on the field. The 2008 quote was easily forgiven when the team won the World Series two months later, but the 2011 one cut deeper, coming days after that heartbreaking playoff loss. Rollins’ worst judgment of all may have been agreeing to appear on The Best Damn Sports Show, Period.
Jason Avant, Eagles, 2011
The Quote: “We look at home games like road games… We like to get booed by our fans. We realize it’s going to be just these guys in the locker room, that’s the way we take it. We don’t want people jumping on our bandwagon now. We want people to go out and still talk bad about us.”
The Aftermath: Avant caught flak at the time, but it died down, and he remains with the team. Other Eagles wideouts, as you may have heard, have said worse things lately.
Jeremy Roenick, ex-Flyers, 2011
The Quote: “Do you remember when Tie Domi of the Maple Leafs was playing the Flyers and he was in the penalty box and that Philadelphia fan dove through the glass into the penalty box after the guy. … That is messed up fans. Philadelphia fans, crazy, crazy sons of bitches.”
The Aftermath: Appearing on a Jay Mohr-hosted show called Master Debators (yeah, I know), Roenick also didn’t raise his voice when another panelist stated that Philadelphia fans “threw snowballs at Michael Irvin on a friggin’ stretcher.” Roenick’s comments were pretty bad, but they came years after he retired.
Ilya Bryzgalov, Flyers, 2012
The quote: “I live in New Jersey and come to Philadelphia only to play and exercise. No reason to not try to go ride. I have lived in Philadelphia and a half months before we bought the house. I do not really like that sort of town.”
The Aftermath: That interview was just one of many strange things Bryz said and did in his time with the Flyers, and he was out the door not long after. Though in his defense, that interview was translated from Russian and may not have sounded so bad in its original tongue. Also, in the same interview, he praised Stalin.