A booing crisis has now enveloped 50 percent of the NFC East’s teams, as both Washington and Philadelphia are riven by story lines involving fans expressing vocal displeasure for the home team when it plays poorly at home.
Washington’s debate was prompted by Josh Norman’s lengthy Sunday evening exposition on why he’d rather play every game on the road, since Redskins fans “just boo everything and aren’t really behind us.” A quick check of the facts reveals that Washington’s previous home game was a 38-14 demolition in which, it’s true, some of the home fans were left slightly unhappy. Maybe Norman’s exhortation will convince more fans to cheer the next time the home team is down by 24.
But that was nothing compared to the situation up I-95, where the Eagles were booed off the field Sunday night for at least the second time this season, this despite last year’s Super Bowl title. Which has prompted something of a debate about how long good feelings should last, and how best to encourage a struggling team to play better, and the propriety of booing in general, and whether there’s something a little bit awesome about having a reputation for being loudly depressed. (There is.)
You’ll recall that some Philadelphians were displeased by the team’s first game of the season, which included an offense-optional three-point first half.
Then came Sunday’s loss to the Cowboys, when the booing again caught the attention of NBC’s Al Michaels.
“Well, it’s Philadelphia. What have you done for me lately?” Michaels said, according to Philly.com.
(Before you complain about our excessive booing coverage, have you heard about The Post’s new motto? “All the Boos that’s fit to print.” Oh man, that’s good.)
(Like they always say about journalism, it’s the first rough draft of hissssstory. Oh man, that’s even better.)
The true peak of the debate, though, came after the game, when NBC’s Peter King named Eagles fans his “Goat of the Week” for “booing the Eagles off the field at halftime in Week 10.”
“It hasn’t been the season you’d want in Philly,” King acknowledged. “And you’re losing to the Cowboys, toothlessly, 13-3. But booing the crap out of the team that delivered a stirring Super Bowl win nine months ago? Bush league.”
Criticizing fans for being critical? Calling them bush league for being mad? This topic, like many bushes, is evergreen. And so this, wondrously, led Philadelphia to defend its booing.
“You just called the Eagles toothless, and the Eagles fans are supposed to golf clap?” WIP’s Rhea Hughes responded to King, again via Philly.com. “You know what the problem is with Peter King and Al Michaels? They haven’t paid for a ticket, in a long, long, long time. They don’t have a clue. They’re not sitting in the stands, they’re not paying for those tickets. They have no clue.”
“I would expect to be booed after a performance like that,” said NBC Sports hockey analyst Keith Jones. “It should be [like that] in every city. Unfortunately it’s not. But Philadelphia does it the best.”
The defenses came in written form, as well.
“Look, the Eagles won the Super Bowl nine months ago, and that’s great,” wrote NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Dave Zangaro. “But Eagles fans weren’t booing the Super Bowl team on Sunday night. They were booing a team that has been consistently disappointing this season, a team that was supposed to live up to a ‘new norm’ and has fallen short in every way imaginable. Of course the fans booed; they should have booed louder. Maybe some fan bases would give the organization a pass right now. I’m proud of Eagles fans because they haven’t.”
There’s probably no great way to scientifically determine whether Eagles fans are in favor of booing, or whether Eagles fans think the Super Bowl win ought grant a longer grace period than nine months, or whether Eagles fans will be super happy to see another headline involving “Philadelphia” and “booed.” (Probably, yes, they will be, based on past experience.)
But know this: There were plenty of Eagles fans online who immediately defended the booing, and who defended it again after King teed off on them, and who appreciated Zangoro and others speaking out on behalf of the booers and the booing, and who said last season’s glory need not make a fan base fat and happy and content.
Lessons? Well, here’s one: If the defending Super Bowl champs are getting booed at home, Josh Norman probably shouldn’t be too hurt by fans getting frustrated with a team that hasn’t won a title in 26 years. Here’s another, and it’s a cliche, but it’s true: It’s easy to criticize fan behavior from the press box, but when it’s late and you’re cold and you paid a lot of money for seats and your team looks like a dead Hydrangea, booing might not be bush league: It might just be natural. Here’s a third: Growing up in the NFC East is like growing up on the playground; it’ll hurt your feelings but make you stronger. Or at least teach you a lot of dirty words.
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