On second thought, maybe Eagles fans really aren't so bad after all

August 18, 2006|By PETER SCHMUCK

Apparently, there has been a big misunderstanding. I went out of my way to welcome Philadelphia Eagles fans back to Baltimore the other day, and my effort seems to have been misconstrued as some kind of insult to the good, football-obsessed people from the City of Brotherly Love.

I certainly didn't get much love after my column was posted on some Eagles fan sites. I got about a hundred angry e-mails, most of them summed up in this line from a reader who - understandably - did not want to be identified: "I don't have anything against people from Baltimore, but ignorant people like you belong in Hell."

That's a little harsh, don't you think? I mean, maybe I should spend some time in purgatory for intimating that Philly sports fans are a bunch of drooling, belligerent drunks, but eternal damnation should probably be reserved for our worst criminals and maybe Terrell Owens.

Still, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I probably have not been fair to the Philly faithful, who are the most passionate, loyal, insightful and knowledgeable drooling drunks in professional sports. They've gotten a bad rap because of the jail cell at old Veterans Stadium and that time they booed Santa Claus (who actually was a belligerent drooling drunk), but they stand by their teams through thick and thin, and a few of them even showed up for last night's preseason game against the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium.

It seemed like a perfect time to mend fences, so I dug out the officially licensed Eagles jersey (No. 81) that I keep in my desk for just such occasions and headed down to the stadium to see if I could crash an Eagles tailgate party and commune with some authentic "Iggles" fanatics.

Frankly, I thought they would be easier to find, but maybe that's because I've grown so used to seeing hordes of visiting fans at Oriole Park. It's a little tougher to get tickets at M&T, because Ravens fans are pretty optimistic about the upcoming season. Either that, or the Maryland State Police have set up their Labor Day sobriety checkpoints a couple of weeks early.

I trolled the "B" lot in my jersey, hoping to be invited for a beer and a brat (or even, Austin Powers fans, a "schmoke and a pancake"), but something clearly was amiss. The few Eagles fans in the lot were less than welcoming, some openly displaying disdain for a fan who was proudly displaying their colors.

"That jersey better say Avant on the back of it," growled Bill Greenwell of Bel Air, a Wilmington transplant who attended last night's game with his kids and grandkids.

Apparently, T.O. is no longer held in high regard in Philadelphia. His number now is worn by rookie Jason Avant, a young receiver who doesn't even have his own Web site yet. The proper etiquette would have been to cover up Owens' name on the back or, better still, allow the Greenwell family to place the jersey on the ground and set fire to it.

This was explained to me while Bill Greenwell Jr. glared at me from across the parking lot. He had read my Wednesday column and didn't find it particularly amusing. In fact, Bill Sr. told me that on the way to the stadium, Bill Jr. had told him that if he saw my "fat face" at the game he might do something he'd regret.

Turns out, the whole Greenwell family, including Bill Jr., was a classy bunch that invited me to join them for a brat, but only after explaining to me - at significant volume - why Eagles fans are the greatest football fans in the world.

I'm not sure if I agree, but I was ready to give peace a chance.

"The thing about Eagles fans is, they are very passionate," said Mike Ryan, another Eagles fan from Bel Air, "and they take it personally. The thing about Ravens fans, they really have to consider themselves lucky. They've been around 10 years and they have a championship. The Eagles haven't won a championship since 1950 [actually 1949], but these fans stick with them no matter what."

There's no doubt they're faithful, fearsome and surprisingly literate. My inbox still is filling up with angry e-mails about Wednesday's column, most of them pointing out the obvious fact that my last name fits me to a tee.

My favorite came from Mike Jackson of York, Pa., who wrote that "I actually feel dumber for having read your article." This came as a shock to me, since I didn't think it was possible for an Eagles fan to feel dumber, but I had to give Mike credit for being a good sport and setting me up for that line.

I also got dozens of vitriolic messages that featured various references to Baltimore's status as one of the most troubled and crime-ridden cities in America, only a handful of them from Governor Ehrlich.

No doubt, there will be more to come and I will try to answer each one of them in a way that conveys my deep respect for the Eagles and their great fans. That's just the kind of guy I am.


"The Peter Schmuck Show" airs on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon on Saturdays.

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