Requiem for a Boobird

For decades it's how I've responded to our sports teams' screw-ups. But the boos end here

I used to boo.

Not regularly, not with a vengeance and never all boozed up and in a homicidal mood.

Those guys were special. To be avoided. Carefully stepped around.

If they were sitting anywhere near my section I’d get up and find a place to stand. And stay there all three hours if I had to.

The Vet, 700-level, Birds against the Cowboys? [SIGNUP]

There, booing was the mere appetizer; mayhem the four-course entrée that would arrive like clockwork just before the close of the half, no matter the score.

If you were ever there, you undoubtedly bear the scars.

My boos were different, more a part of the legendary Philadelphia chorus, low and rumbling, like white noise, the sound you’d hear in the background all the time when you’d turn on the TV and things weren’t going well for the Phillies heading into the seventh.

Booing, for me, like so many others, was borne of decades of losing frustration, of being victimized by second-rate syndrome, of watching how our fathers reacted to similar decades of ineptitude.

I booed Schmidt, because he sometimes didn’t seem to care, and Jaws and Randall and Donovan, too, whenever they’d throw some weak-kneed interception when we so desperately needed a first down.

Over the years, I booed scores of Phillies pitchers when they couldn’t get anybody out and any number of second-rate Sixers when they would throw in the towel early and simply start waving their hands on defense.

Booing was in my DNA. It was my birthright as a Philadelphian. I paid for my ticket. I could make any sound I wanted.

But I’ve made the vow: never again shall I cup my hands in the shape of an oval and let the sound of disapproval cascade down on our sports teams.

I’ve booed my last.

It would be easy to conclude my new non-booing status is tied directly to the wonder and glory that overtook us all this week when word came that Cliff Lee would be suiting up in red and whites again.

Granted, it was nothing short of miraculous, a pinch me damn hard moment—again, one more time, please—an event on par with the curing of lepers, the turning of water into wine and word that John Street had urged Sam Katz to run for mayor.

Though getting Cliff Lee may have helped solidify my non-booing vow, I’d been in the throws of reforming my fan behavior for some time, even biting my tongue when Ryan Howard was whiffing time after time in the recent October twilight past.

Watching how younger local sports fans relate to our teams has shown me the way. It’s made me see booing as a dated form of Philadelphia expression, a cliché, like a nationally televised shot of cheesteaks being chopped up at Geno’s during a commercial break, a custom far more suited to the way we used to be—tired and unchanging and gloomy—than what we are now, or at the very least, what we’re trying to become.

The new Philadelphia sports fan has a more likable ethos than the boobirds of old while still every bit as savvy and smart about the play of our teams as the fans that came before them.

Our local sports bloggers are the perfect example. They react less angrily and viscerally to sporting failures and lapses in judgment, viewing them as opportunities to work smart and wry comedic bits, preferring inspired Photoshops and laugh out loud headlines over calling sports radio and blubbering half-baked opinions.

It’s better. More sporting. More winning. More about what we’re becoming.

Maybe even worthy of a lusty Philadelphia cheer.

Tim Whitaker (, is the executive director of Mighty Writers, a nonprofit program that inspires city kids to write.