Friday, August 15, 2008

Levels of Booing

Booing does not help someone perform better. Yet Philadelphians boo their teams and players constantly, at the drop of a hat. You could call it being passionate and die-hard, I call it being fickle and selfish.

I have railed against our proclivity to boo before, but I am going expand on that, because not all boos are created equal. Some are acceptable, and some are not.

Level 0: Booing opposing teams, players, and fans

Not even open for debate. Something Philadelphians excel at.

Level 1: Booing for lack of effort

This is totally acceptable, and something I am proud of Philadelphians for. We do not tolerate a lack of hustle, or even a supposed lack of hustle. This comes up most often in baseball, where players like Mike Schmidt and Bobby Abreu, both all-stars, never really fit in because of their supposed lack of hustle (in truth, the game just came naturally to them, they made it look easy).

Best example: Booing Freddy Garcia for not running to first on a groundball. After the game he said his job was to pitch, and I knew right then and there Freddy would never do his job in Philadelphia again.

Level 2: Booing for failure to do one's job

Fans take some things in sports for granted: chip-shot field goals and sacrifice bunts both come to mind. When a player is unable to do what we believe is easy, we will boo that player. If Chris Coste cannot get the runner to second because he popped up his bunt, we will boo him for that. Will it get him to bunt better next time? No. But this is a boo out of frustration, and although not very supportive, I can defend it.

Level 3: Booing a coach's decision

Sending out the punt team? Defensive replacement for Pat Burrell? Yanking the goalie? Boo. It's the coach, not the players fault. I'm sure it doesn't raise the player's spirits, but this one is still okay in my book. Sometimes a boo is used to send a message, and this can be one of those times.

Level 4: Booing a player or team's failure

When the Eagles can't convert on 4th and 1, or the Flyers give up back-to-back goals, the fans are going to boo. They are upset, angry, and second-and-third-guessing the coach all at once. The only way to express all that is going on in their hearts, heads, and guts, is to let out a deep, resonating BOOOOOOO!!!!! as the players put their heads down and shuffle off the field. Is it effective? Not in the least. Does it make the players tighten up and worry about failure more than they should? Probably. Is it our God-given right as paying sports fans who haven't won a championship in 20-odd years? I guess so. Should we continue to do it? Only if we want to continue to be paying sports fans who haven't won a championship in 30-odd years.

Level 5: Booing a tragic flaw

This, to me, is the big one. It's probably the loudest, longest-lasting boo, and the one that can make anyone - player or fan - sick to their stomach. It's the culmination of an entire season, or seasons, or lifetime, and it's the boo of the tragic flaw. Typically this boo comes out late in the season, when one of our teams is about to blow a game in the way we all knew they would.

Ex: The Phillies have no situational hitting and get shut down by quality pitching. Picture a late September game against the Mets. Our pitching staff has hung in there, giving up 1 run over 7 innings. We are facing Johan Santana, and have managed plenty of double plays and strike outs, but no actual runs. Then we get runners on first and second with no outs. Top of the order up, J-Roll, first pitch groundout, Victorino, goes down swinging, Utley, takes a strike, then pops up to second.

Wait for it.....

.....aaaaaaaaaaand here come the boos.

Now I put this as number 5 because it's probably the most damaging boo on our psyche. This is not a boo you want to take lightly. Am I guilty of it? Not yet, but I could be. This boo is in our nature, and I can't say I defend it, but I understand.

Level off the charts: Booing someone because they aren't someone else.

This occurs when fans believe somebody else should be walking up to the batter's box, or coming into a game for a save situation. Fans are basically saying 'we wish you were someone else, so regardless of how hard you work or how good you are/were/can be, we are going to boo you because of a manager/coach's decision.

Best example: Booing Donovan McNabb at the NFL Draft. We wanted Ricky Williams, we didn't get him. Possibly my least proud moment as a Philadelphia sports fan.

This one also gets to what J-Roll was can a fan possibly boo somebody on Opening Day? Let alone draft day?

I am proud of Philadelphia sports fans, most of the time. But I will never understand how one can claim to support their team one moment and then boo the hell out of them the next.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Can I Get A Do-Over?

I have touched (rambled) on this subject before, (here, and here) but with the start of training camp, I think it's time to revisit that age old issue known as 'the contract situation.'

It's really starting to piss me off. Every year, some of the biggest news heading into training camp is not "how will so-and-so fit in with his new team" or "will the draft picks make a difference" or a million other questions about the state of the team. No, it is always about contract situations. And how half the players on the team are unhappy with theirs.

Gimme a freakin' break.

I understand all the quotes players rattle off. "This is a business." "I am just looking out for my family." "I have outperformed my contract."

Now, that last one is a bit of a sticky spot. In the NFL, contracts are not guaranteed, so a team can cut a player who is underperforming. But if a player overperforms, he does not get anything extra except maybe a bonus here and there. So I'll give them that.

Here's my issue, something that seems to really affect the Eagles more than any other team:

Young players signing long-term contracts extensions (I''m looking at you, Lito, Westbrook, and Shawn Andrews), and then immediately complaining about how they are not fair.

They have to understand what they are doing when they sign through 2013, right? It's called giving up maximum dollars for long-term security. Or are they hiring agents from the Hollywood Upstairs Sports Agency School?

Every year, the price to sign a star free agent goes up. Nate Clements signed a big deal last year, Asante Samuel signed a bigger one this year. If you sign an 8-year contract extension, and then a year later someone who you think you're better than signs a bigger deal, you can't just say "I want a new contract."

Either don't sign the extension, or stop complaining about it.

It wasn't like the Eagles held a gun to their head - they made smart business decisions by locking up young talent for the long-term before they can hit free agency. The Eagles do take on some risk as well - there is guaranteed money in the form of signing bonuses. If a player they think will be good ends up tearing all his ligaments or forgets how to block, they still get that signing bonus ($8.7 million in Lito's case).

I understand you want to get the most bang for your buck, but you can't have it both ways.

If you want to continually get what you are worth on the open market, sign a one-year contract (or 2 or 3, no need to be so drastic). If you want the piece of mind and stability that a long-term contract affords you, go ahead and sign on the dotted line, just don't go bitching about it two years later.

In the case of Westbrook, I don't know what he was thinking when he signed that contract. If you hear him talk, you know he has confidence in his abilities and thinks he is one of the best RBs in the league. So why sign a contract before you show that true potential? The Eagles were able to buy low on Westbrook, getting the extension done right before he burst through as a top 3 running back. Running backs have short shelf lives, and probably only get 1 or 2 really good contracts before they get sent to pasture. I'm sure his agent knew that, I'm sure he knew that, before they signed the deal. Imagine what he could have gotten if he was a free agent this year? He blew it, plain and simple (I guess that's what you get with a 'Nova education).

I remember when they announced Lito Sheppard's and Sheldon Brown's extensions. It was a big deal - locking up our secondary for years to come with two bright young promising stars. I remember chuckling and thinking how the front office (RJ) swindled these guys into extensions, knowing full well that they would be worth so much more in a couple seasons. Well why didn't they know that?

And remember our good friend T.O.? You know what kick-started his removal from the team? It wasn't his relationship with McNabb, or that we lost the Super Bowl, or that he was under so much pressure from concealing his homo-erotic tendencies, no it was his contract. A year into signing a 7 year, $49 million dollar deal with the Eagles he was unsatisfied with it! One year in!You know why? 'Cuz it was backloaded, and he realized the Eagles would cut him before he saw the big money at the end of the contact. Again, let me ask, what kind of agents are they hiring? Do they not read the fine print?

Now, I don't know if this situation can be solved. It's not really the players, front offices, or agents fault (well, it is kind of the agents). It's the whole mess that is the NFL collective bargaining agreement. Matt Ryan will probably make more money with his rookie deal than Westbrook will make in his entire career. Go figure.

So what I am going to do is give some advice to the Phillies: overpay for a quality starting pitcher (Cole Hamels would do just fine). Scout the leagues, target a guy you think will be a stud for 5,6,7 years to come. Sign him to a record contract. Guess what? Within two years, that record contract, that oh-my-god, this is the biggest deal in the history of the MLB, will be an afterthought. Because some team will come along and find the next best guy and give him an even bigger deal two years later. And there won't be anything our pitcher can do about it.