Sports fans in Philadelphia have a bit of a reputation. It's a fan base perhaps best known for hurling snowballs at Santa Claus and booing injured opposing players. It also may have just one upped itself. Or, better yet, one lowered itself.
During a stoppage of play in last night's game between the Canucks and the Flyers in Philadelphia, an advertisement was shown to the fans in attendance to solicit donations to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. And the fans in attendance responded by booing... The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
To be as fair as possible to the vociferous fans at the Wells Fargo Center, they were likely intending to boo a hated rival and not the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Even the folks who chucked those icy projectiles at St. Nick would cringe if that were really the case. The cascade of vitriol flowed from the stands during the promo because the athletes speaking on behalf of the society were Jonathan Toews of the Blackhawks, Ryan Miller of the Buffalo Sabres, and public enemy No. 1 in Philadelphia, Sidney Crosby.
Flyers fans have long harbored animosity for the star player of the intra-state rival Pittsburgh Penguins, and they've let that be known over the years by mercilessly booing him any chance they get -- even it seems, during anti-cancer commercials. In 2009, Crosby described how playing in Philly is no joke.
"Those are intense games. Every time you're out there, [the Flyers] want to hit you," Crosby told Pittsburgh Live. "And the fans want to see you get hit, so that's not a funny atmosphere."
From a distance, it also doesn't seem very funny if a crowd's Pavlovian jeer response overrides the sort of decorum or respect that should accompany such a public service announcement. After all, the Flyers weren't playing against the Penguins (or the Sabres or Blackhawks for that matter), they were playing against the Vancouver Canucks.
Greg Wyshynski of Puck Daddy happened to side with Philly fans in this instance: "Sidney Crosby is as hated as any pro athlete is in Philly. Jonathan Toews skated the Stanley Cup on Flyers ice. Ryan Miller helped push the Flyers to a Game 7 in last year's playoffs," Wyshynki opined. "Fighting cancer, finding homes for kittens, working in a soup kitchen … who cares? We'd be disappointed in any fan base that didn't exhibit this Pavlovian response to seeing a rival on their big screen."
Whether or not Wyshynski's belief that the visage of a rival could and should elicit such a knee-jerk response, it's entirely possible that this wouldn't seem such an egregious misstep if it had occurred in another arena. Undoubtedly, the aforementioned reputation of fans in Philly proceeds them. In fact, it's so entrenched that it seems possible that they'd boo an anti-cancer charity.
In fairness to the Flyers organization, they do hold various activities in support of cancer research and rehabilitation such as "Hat Trick For Kids" where fans throw hats on the ice, which are donated to children with cancer. On October 21st, the Flyers will host the Leukemia & Lymphoma in support of cancer awareness. Odds are that Crosby will not be invited to help collect donations.