If the Press Cheers, Does Anyone Care?

Would cheering on Chooch and Doc be a mortal sin from the box? (Photo: AP)

It’s burned into their/our brains. Don’t cheer. Don’t show any sign of emotion. Don’t root for the team and make it appear there is any sort of bias.

My buddy John Gonzalez from The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote a great column a few Sunday’s ago about not being part of the cheering section that sits just feet away from the press box. The topic was broached after the unwritten journalistic law was breached at the Daytona 500 – many writers cheered for 20-year old winner Trevor Bayne, but only one admitted it. He was fired.

As Gonzo notes, you’re taught from a young age that being a fan and being a journalist won’t mix. If you sit in that box, you’re automatically given a stick to jam (you know where). Not that it’s boring up there (it’s not as dead and cold as some believe – there are hot dogs) but the missing element of fandom is evident. And that’s a shame.

Each and every one of the people who sit in that box has a rooting interest in the game. They may not root particularly for that team, but generally speaking, each writer or tv/radio personality fell in love with sports and writing, married the two, and made a living out of it. Yet, we are taught not to let that cloud the picture.

Clearly, my rooting interests lay with the Phillies and all other Philadelphia sports teams, as well as a few others I’ll save for another time. Gonzo is the same – he roots hard for the Philly squads, although that hasn’t stopped him from ripping them or praising them, when need be.

It all brings me back to the NLDS Game 1, Roy Halladay’s playoff no-hitter. For a fan like myself, and for Gonzo who sat next to me for the game, and for many others who grew up around this team and franchise, this should/could have been one of the most magical sports moments of their lifetime. Instead, many were comatose, or acting that way, in an attempt to uphold the sacred rule that says “No Love for the Game Here.” And that’s a shame.

As Halladay entered the top of the ninth, my flip cam was ready to rock, patiently waiting for the last out. My heart was aflutter – not only because I respect the hell out of Halladay and his peers, but because this was a moment to savor for someone who grew up aspiring to be on the field like Doc, and later, in the press box like Conlin, Ford, or Fitzpatrick. Clearly, my life went one direction (the under-athletic end up watching from behind home plate) but my passion for sport went nowhere.

After Carlos Ruiz picked up the dribbler in front of home plate to throw out Brandon Phillips at first base for the final out, I half-expected Bill Conlin (who was sitting just in front of me to my left) to start one of those cinematic slow-claps, setting the trend for most of the press box to join in on the hat-tip to Halladay and his performance.

It never came, not that I honestly believed it would.

But if the press can’t celebrate an honor so remarkable, so seldom seen, then I guess there is no real hope for the future. We’ll have to sit like drones, eating our free ice cream and hot dogs, while looking for nothing but a story inside this beautiful game.

Now, I’m not saying we should stand up and clap whenever someone touches home plate – I’m not sure I do that as a paying customer. What I would like to see is a special moment like a perfect game or playoff no-hitter, celebrated by people who supposedly enjoy the game.

I could just be talking in circles here. Maybe you as a fan don’t realize, or care, about what goes on in the press box. And that’s exactly the point. Who would it hurt should we observe an incredible moment?

Many of us at were fans one time. Maybe it’s time we started acting like it again. At the time of the Halladay no-hitter, I wished that to be true, at least a little bit. There could have been some emotion.

Tom Bowles acted like a fan, and he was fired for it. And that’s a shame.

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