Opinion

A Reunion Gone Wrong

I had an interesting experience yesterday afternoon. On the one hand, the rain largely held off, great day at the ballpark, found out a lot of the people I interact with on Twitter actually exist in real life, and, most importantly, I got to see an impressive comeback win on Opening Day.

But I have to say, I was disappointed, Nation, in the conduct of our fans. It wasn’t the two drunk men (and a woman!) who got into a fracas a few rows away in the 400 level. And it wasn’t that after seven or eight innings, the crowd began streaming for the exits–the game had been pretty dull to that point, it was cold and wet. It’s not what I would have done, but I understand the logic.

Mostly, it was that during a burgeoning comeback in the bottom of the 9th inning, with at-bats being drawn out and momentum gathering slowly, the very kind of comeback that feeds on the enthusiasm of the crowd. The Opening Day crowd, already thinned by despair and bad weather, seemed to think it was at a church service, not a baseball game. Cheers would start, then thin out in a matter of seconds, leaving Phillies hitters to bat in virtual silence, not the kind of earth-shattering roar that could rattle an opposing pitcher.

But that’s not the only thing that bothered me. I was truly shocked by Phillies fans’ treatment of this man:

Brett Myers was always one of my favorite Phillies. Was he hot-headed? Sure. Petulant? Absolutely. Irresponsible or worse, at times, off the field. But he played with great passion, great intensity, and great skill–from 2005 to 2008, Myers won 40 games, saved 21 more, and struck out 643 batters in 672 innings. In that gap between Curt Schilling‘s departure and Cole Hamels‘ ascent to dominance in 2007, Myers was the top pitcher in the Phillies’ rotation and a key member of the 2007 and 2008 playoff teams (to say nothing of his spectacular postseason performances in the 2008 title run) before injuries derailed his 2009 campaign.

So when Myers returned in a Houston Astros for yesterday’s season opener, I intended to cheer him in the manner one would greet an old friend who’s moved away. After all, Brett and I have been through a lot together–he started (and won) my first Phillies road game in Baltimore when I was 16. I was there to cheer him on when he returned, in 2006, from that unpleasantness in Boston. I mean, I wasn’t going to cheer Brett Myers as he mowed through six innings of Phillies hitters, but for his service, I feel like he deserves a round of applause every time he comes back, at least, before the game starts–this isn’t J.D. Drew we’re talking about.

So as I was ready to cheer Myers as the game started, I was shocked to hear a crowd that, three hours later, couldn’t be bothered to eke out so much as a whimper for a 9th inning comeback, booing longtime Phillie Brett Myers. Booing lustily, I’d say. I was furious.

What the hell is wrong with you guys? And what gets me is that J.A. Happ, who will pitch for Houston on Sunday, will get nothing but love when he makes his Sunday afternoon start despite pitching for in Philly for a fraction of the time Myers did and at only a fraction of the effectiveness.

I guess my point here is that if we’re going to gripe about being the consensus “Worst Fans in The World Ever,” (though I have a hard time taking people seriously when they blame me for things done by people who, 40 years ago, lived near where I live now), then let’s do something about it. The idiots on 610 fetishize the “Philly type of guy,” who plays with great effort and great intensity. Myers epitomized that kind of person, warts and all, for the better part of a decade. The least we can do is extend him a little courtesy.

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