In all of sport, there is nothing quite like the Phickle Phans. It would be unfair to suggest they would boo Mother Theresa if she bobbled a bundle of food. But not too, unfair.
Today, they managed to overshadow anything on the field during the Eagles' first playoff game here in 20 years. Quarterback Ron Jaworski sinned twice -- and he could not have been treated much nastier if he had declared kinship to the ayatollah.
Jaworski won the Phickles back again almost as quickly as he lost them -- and the Eagles whipped the Bears, 27-17. But the mood during and after the affair was such that Coach Dick Vermeil could present the game ball to Philadelphia one moment and scold Philadelphians the next.
"I said to myself," said Vermeil, referring to the height of the ugliness, early in the third quarter, "These fans have been losers for so long that they better not turn back to losers too soon, before this game is over.'
"Some teams are losers because the fans are on them. It should be a lesson for them, too. We battled out of a hole just when they were turning on us."
Part of the crowd began to boo when a Jaworski fumbled snap helped the Bears increase a four-point lead to seven just before the half. Still, he had completed seven of 10 passes for 95 yards and a touchdown.
But what have you done for us this half, Ron? the Phickles were saying five minutes into the third quarter. Honestly, he had done little. He was closing in on Mike Phipps for sustained awfulness, with three straight incompletions and an interception one Bear could have caught and another did.
So when Jaworski trotted off the field, he was greeted not with encouraging cheers, as one might expect from a town so long without a football winner, but with: "We want Walton. We want Walton. We want Walton."
One thousand Phickles here can sound like 20,000. Against St. Louis five weeks ago, they were in a similar mood. And Vermeil nearly was convinced, though by Jaworski's arm rather than the Phickles' lungs.
"He tried my patience," Vermeil said that day. Like today, though, Jaworski rammed the ball down more throats than the opposition's. He was quicker about it today, throwing 29 yards for the tying touchdown the series after the interception.
And the next time the Eagles touched the ball -- after a Phipps interception on second and goal from the Eagle nine -- he was lucky enough to complete a three-yard pass that Billy Campfield turned into a 63-yard touchdown.
Considering what had taken place before, the most interesting -- and perhaps revealing -- aspects of Jaworski's touchdown passes were not the throws, but his reaction to them.
What he did not do was rather amazing.
Some veteran quarterbacks -- and Billy Kilmer immediately comes to mind -- would have been wildly emotional after the tying and winning passes. With one finger, Kilmer could be exceptionally eloquent.
But Jaworski simply trotted toward Harold Carmichael after the first touchdown and off the field after the second. Outwardly, he was unemotional. Later, when he had a chance to be bitter, he admitted only frustration.
"I have too much respect for the fans to do that," he replied to suggestions he should have been as Phickle as the Phickles. He laughed. "Maybe that respect's not mutual, but they have been good to us this year.
"And they always seem to fire up the other guys on the offense. It's amazing in the huddle after something like that. The guys usually aren't emotional, but after a good booing -- and you've got to be deaf not to hear it -- they'll be patting me on the back.
"It's great motivation."
Jaworski has a sly humor that belies an exceptionally bland face. He accepts the Phickles. In fact, he expects the worse.
"I've talked about it (the quarterback's fate to be praised too much in victory and blamed too much in defeat) with some other vets, (Jim) Hart and Terry (Bradshaw)," he said. "And they've told me about being cheered while being carried off the field on a stretcher."
In the final minutes today, it was the Phickles who were being carried away. Or shooed off the dugout. Where else but here could a people-watcher see Santa, a fellow wearing an especially ugly rubber mask and a shirt advertising "Bergey's Brawlers" and three bare-chested men dancing in a 20-foot area?
They were throwing their hearts toward Jaworski today. Other times they have thrown the cruelest abuse. And golf balls. Once somebody placed a 10-foot bone behind Jaworski on the sideline.
Generally, the city has been enthusiastic about the Eagles this season. With that and the boos also still fresh in his mind, somebody wondered if Jaworski's perception of Philadelphia had altered.
"I'd be lying if I said it didn't, he said.
Then he talked about what went well for him earlier, which was considerable. He had run 20 yards for a first down once when the team needed 15 -- and plunged into three tacklers, instead of sliding safely out of bounds. He had completed 12 of 23 passes for 204 yards and three touchdowns -- and admitted he expected numbers of that magnitude before the game.
And he was talking about next week, about playing the Bucs in Tampa Bay "before a hostile crowd" when a Pittsburgh reporter could not resist a line Jaworski will savor.
"Seems like," John Clayton said, "you went against a hostile crowd today."