An Anthropological Study of the Phillie Fan: A Loss for the Nationals, a Gain for Science

Phillie fans amuse themselves by watching the “Phillies” (for which they are named) play a game on this field involving bases, balls, and men.

Final Score: Phillies 4, Nationals 2

Dame of the Game: 

The 2-3 Phillie fans who weren’t horrible to me.

Shame of the Game:

The rest of the Phillie fans.

——–

Much has been written of the Phillie fan, that savage creature that has for so long invaded and pillaged the beautiful lands of Navy Yard. Our understanding of these people, however, is colored largely by their behavior while on these raids into our homeland. We know little of the social mores and culture of their native land. Our opinion of the Phillie fan may well have been biased by only observing them in their most aggressive state.

In order to right this scientific injustice, I embarked on a journey to Citizens Bank Park in the distant nation of Philadelphia to gain a greater understanding of the Phillie fan and its society. What follows are my findings, obtained at no small risk to my personal well-being.

***

My first encounter with a Phillie fan occurred as I began the final leg of my journey to the Park, on the “SEPTA” train. In order to board the train, I was required to barter small metal striped tokens, which could in turn be purchased with conventional currency. Had I encountered the Phillie-equivalent of Malinowski’s famous kula ring of the Trobriand Islands?

My $5 bill got me three such tokens, one short of the four needed for the round trip for me and my traveling companion. Overhearing our dilemma, a Phillie fan offered to give me an extra token that he had no immediate use for.  I was unsure what was expected of me, but I nonetheless accepted the token graciously.

This was a much pleasanter introduction to the Phillie society than I had anticipated. My head had been filled with tales of the cruel and ruthless Phillie fan prior to my journey (and indeed I had experienced some of these traits myself in Phillie fans at Nationals Park). Prior to entering the ballpark, however, the only Phillie fans I encountered were either kind and welcoming or pretended not to notice my presence. Have we in Washington been wrong about the true nature of the common Phillie fan? It seemed to be so.

Entering the shrine and primary gathering place of the Phillie culture, known by the natives as “Citizens Bank Park” (more  likely known to you as “Nationals Park North”).

Once inside the stadium, I received my first indication that the myths may not have been wrong after all. A woman employed by the stadium offered to take my picture. This was not a surprise as I was something of a curiosity at the stadium–it was several minutes before I spied anyone other than myself and my companion wearing the garments indicating a District of Columbian heritage. I declined politely, not wishing to make myself any more conspicuous than my foreign clothing already did. A Phillie fan onlooker suggested that I had refused the picture because I “would not want to remember the unpleasant experience that I would have” at Citizens Bank Park. An innocent enough comment, perhaps directed at the supposed likelihood that the Washington Nationals would lose that evening’s game, thus ruining my night (how little he understood the objectivity and emotional distance required of the scientist!) But underneath the remark I could sense fear–of the foreign, of the unknown, of the superior.

Jayson Werth, one of the lucky few who has managed to escape the oppressive Phillies for the brighter future of Washington, ignores the verbal abuse of the less fortunate and envious Phillie fans.

A note on linguistics: the dialect of English used by the Phillie fan is very similar to that used in Washington, but with one minor difference in spelling. Instead of using the letter “f,” the Phillie fan will often replace it with a “ph,” derived from the word “Phillie” itself. Thus, a Phillie fan might rather describe itself as a “Phillie phan.” I will not use this vulgar spelling, for no other reason than that it deeply offends my linguistic sensibilities.

Ryan Howard is thrilled to have been thrown in a giant pit of bread and forced to eat his way out.

As the game progressed and the Phillies baseball team gained an early advantage over the representatives of our home town, the Phillie fans began to transform from their initially pleasant selves into something louder and more uncouth. How this deterioration came about I cannot be entirely sure, but I do have a hypothesis. Alcoholic substances, particularly the popular beverage “beer,” appear to play a large role in Phillie fan culture, social interactions, and mating rituals. These substances are consumed in increasing quantities over the course of a game, with the not entirely surprising result that the consumers soon give in to their more base instincts.

The unwashed Phillie fan throng is never-ending.

To illustrate this discovery: while attempting to sample some of the local cuisine during a break in the 6th inning of the game, I was subjected to repeated verbal taunts on the subject of my foreignness. Examples include such abuse as “Nationals stink!”, “Go back to Washington!”, and most notably a seemingly ritualized chant of “Asshole, asshole, asshole, asshole, asshole (etc.)” supplied by a long line of young Phillie fan males. This last is telling of the direct correlation between the size of a group of male Phillie fans and the extent of the aggressiveness of all individual members of that group.

It may also be indicative of some kind of anal fixation on the part of the Phillie fan culture; more research would be required in order to come to a definite conclusion on this point.

An icon of what is presumably a Phillie deity: a spectral, oddly tooth-shaped figure with an unchanging smile. It is not uncommon for the paranormal and the dental to play significant roles in primitive religions.

The game itself remained tightly-contested throughout, as the Nationals would briefly tie the score before again relinquishing the lead. As the Phillies possessed slightly more runs going into the final inning, they allowed to pitch a man who is the perhaps the embodiment of the Phillie fan ideal in a single figure: Jonathan Papelbon. Papelbon, clearly some kind of warrior-hero to the Phillie fans, entered accompanied by garish and warlike music while the scoreboard displayed stylized lighting of the sort that one might find emblazoned on a Gothic barbarian chief’s helmet. The visual and sonic display was designed to whip the crowd into a riotous frenzy, and in that it succeeded.

The Phillies celebrate their victory as the mob’s bloodlust is sated.

After Papelbon’s sordid deed was accomplished and our poor Nationals were struck down in defeat, the Phillie fans began streaming out of the park, drunk on victory and alcohol. Yet again I was subject to a constant stream of vitriolic xenophobia, with only the very occasional Phillie fan apologizing on behalf of his brethren.

My initial skepticism of the truth of our common perception of the Phillie fan proved to be unwarranted. While the society of the Phillie fans may be somewhat more nuanced than we in Washington tend to give it credit for, and not every Phillie fan deserves the “drunk douchebag” brush with which we tend to paint them, the reality is, on the whole, very close to the legend.

In the end, I count myself lucky to have escaped Citizens Bank Park with my life and material possessions intact. To any future researchers looking to brave the journey to study this topic further, I advise caution. The Phillie fan is a fascinating specimen, but quite frankly a pretty mean one.

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2 thoughts on “An Anthropological Study of the Phillie Fan: A Loss for the Nationals, a Gain for Science

  1. […] two weeks ago, my writing partner took a trip to Philadelphia during which he filed this report. It was an insightful look into an unfamiliar territory, although I wouldn’t recommend […]

  2. […] that makes any sense. I mean, I grant that I have not always…gone out of my way to be nice to them. But is that really reason enough to do things just to spite me? I warn you, Phillies, if […]

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