Only in Philadelphia (The Story the 6-Year-Old Girl Who Shot Me the Middle Finger)
Question: What does a six-year-old girl making an obscene hand gesture have to do with an obnoxious sports fan getting thrown out of a ballpark in Philadelphia? To find out, read on….
Just when I thought that perhaps, just maybe, I was being a bit too harsh in my brutal assessment of Philadelphia as the festering hemorrhoid on a rabid pit bull, earlier this week, an otherwise lovely flower of innocence plopped down in the rear seat of a family sedan, donning golden locks and pig tails, pressed her freckled nose upon the smeared window glass and proceeded to shoot me the dreaded middle finger.
My infraction? Walking on the littered sidewalk at the precise spot where her beaut of a Mommy was apparently trying to make an illegal U-turn.
Okay, I get the message. Loud and clear. When it comes to civility, they sure teach ’em young in Philly, don’t they?
Mommy, while busy breaking traffic laws, apparently missed this golden opportunity to instill some sense of common decency in her impressionable youngster. Had she observed the rude hand gesture that we’re all intimately familiar with (and some of us use regularly as an accessory to turn signals and the car horn), she may very well have reprimanded her little darling. However, Mommy had other priorities, an abrupt summation I’m willing to stand by, this judging by her feeble attempt to re-light the dangling cigarette that was bobbing up and down from her mouth as she swore at pedestrians — me, at least — casually walking on the sidewalk minding our own personal business, oblivious to the dangers posed by a Pontiac Grand AM that hasn’t been washed since 2011. Since the windows were rolled up, it was, after all, impossible to know if Mommy was providing her own repugnant commentary of the encounter to a car brimming with
rug rats children.
Ah yes, Philadelphia.
bar hopping scouting film locations for the hit television show, Poker Night in America, creator Todd Anderson and on-air host Chris Hanson and I “ubered” our way to six different pubs prospective shooting locales throughout the city. Why drive a car and pay $12 to park (when you can find a spot) when there’s Uber an app away, which has to be the coolest thing invented since the fast forward switch on a VCR.
I forgot if we’d just departed our second scouting locale or our third, or maybe it was the fourth, but as we headed to yet another pick up point (total Uber rides that day = 9…..total charges = $72.00) a filthy shitbox in the form of a Pontiac pulled right in front of the three of us, whipping into an alleyway, the gauntlet forcing us to all stop in our tracks. And just as that grimy wagon went back into reverse, angel eyes slowly rose her right hand, and proceeded to flip the bird.
Who knows? Maybe she watches Poker Night in America, recognized Chris Hanson, and wanted to let us know she’s not a fan of the show.
Now, what pray tell, does any of this nonsense about obscenity have to do with a Philly sports fan being ejected from a ballpark?
I’m about to explain. So, please read on.
Later that day, Anderson, Hanson and I were sitting behind the third-base dugout at a Major League Baseball game between the Atlanta Braves and the hometown Philadelphia Phillies, who happen to be in last place at the moment with one of the worst won-loss records in all of baseball. There’s nothing quite like going to a Philadelphia home game when the fan favorites are stuck in last place. Philly fans have a well-deserved reputation for being particularly brutal. They once booed and screamed profanities at Santa Claus during halftime of a Philadelphia Eagles game whilst the jolly man in the red and white suit came off the field and was trying to give away presents to local underprivileged children.
Fuck you, Santa Claus!
Anyway, the Philly fans will turn on the home team when losing in an instant, but they’re always even more caustic with all the visiting sports teams. If hate was a blood sport, Philly fans would be the New York Yankees. Perennial world champions.
So, we’re all having a pretty good time at the ballgame. Since these are “the good seats,” that generally means you tend to see more corporate suck-up types sitting along the baselines. People with families. Children even. Older people, since they have money and baseball is now an old person’s game. Never mind the shitty bleacher seats where casual fans which all seem to be Teamsters can scalp a ticket for $12 and drink Pabst Blue Ribbon all night. These seats we’re sitting in attract the cream of the crop of Philadelphia society.
Still, profanity has no boundaries nor barriers. Seriously, by the third inning, I’d heard about 75 “F-bombs,” and for the record I didn’t once use the derogatory epithet at all (except once when Ryan Howard hit a two-run homer and cost me $570 on my “first five innings” wager). So casual was the collective reaction to hearing profanity spewed in the stands, that there wasn’t any — reaction, I mean. It was just like talking, a manner of speech, yet another adjective ending in -ing. Ripping on the members of the other team and saying derogatory things about the losing home team just seems imbedded into the local culture. It’s become the Philly DNA.
So, what would cause — and what horrible transgression would have to take place — for a sports fan to actually be thrown out and forcibly be removed from the ballpark by security?
Try this: Making a Bruce Jenner reference.
I shit you not.
We knew we’d be in for a good time and our amusement had little to do with baseball, so much as the local fans’ reaction to events on the field. Sitting off to our left in the next section, perhaps 30 feet away, a very large man hoisting a beer (one of several he’d consume and dribble down the front of his Phillies shirt on this night) stood up every five minutes or so and shouting expletives to the players on the field. Think of Chris Farley, or maybe Zach Galifianakis. His shtick was actually pretty good. Even the visiting Braves were smiling when they’d come off the field and hear yet another verbal barrage directed at the players. I felt particularly bad for the third base coach, some retired has-been forced to stand there at the top of every inning with his back to the slob, with his name plastered over the back of his uniform just for added emphasis that the rude comments were intended particularly for this helpless Brave absorbed in his own hand signals, but wanted to deliver a very simple gesture to the heavy-set prankster sitting four rows back. Yeah, a few profanities were peppered into his commentary. But everyone seemed to be having a good time and no one appeared to mind.
By the bottom of the fourth, we discovered it was the big man’s birthday, or at least so he claimed. His half a dozen buddies, all giggling incessantly each time the bruiser stood up and launched yet another tirade, seemed to confirm this occasion. A half-hearted rendition of “Happy Birthday” went nowhere.
Then, in the top of the fifth inning, the big man stood up. This was during a particularly quiet time in the game. No runners were on base. The count was 1-1. There wasn’t much of a sound, except for the murmuring of the 20,000 or so in attendance, occasionally broken up by shouts of “popcorn” and “cold beer” from hawkers in the crowd.
“I’m the next Bruce Jenner!”
This man had a barrel of lungs and his voice must have carried over that stadium like a loudspeaker. Everyone turned to look, and 8,000 sets of eyes on the third-base side of the stadium glanced down to see a 360-pound man chugging a beer having a bit of politically incorrect fun at the expense of what has become a pop circus surrounding a former Olympic athlete.
It’s hard to say how many laughed. Lots. There were some smiles. I suppose it wasn’t really all that much out of line, even though it was insensitive. Some kind of Bruce Jenner joke gets told 200 times a night at various comedy clubs around the country, and a Philadelphia sports stadium is hardly the bastion of societal decorum. Yeah, there were many laughs, I suppose. Within 5 minutes everyone had forgotten about the remark and moved on. It was bottom of the fifth, and by that I don’t mean the end of a bottle.
Surprisingly, when the inning came to a conclusion, some security officers came down the steps and approached the section where the man was sitting. Apparently, there had been a complaint. Or, maybe someone upstairs heard the Bruce Jenner remark and decided to take disciplinary action. Whatever prompted the decision, the man (and his friends) were ejected. They were escorted from the stadium.
There are several directions one could go reacting to this stadium incident, and the encounter I had with the little girl earlier in the day on the city streets. The anti-political correctness crowd will point out that we’ve become way too overly sensitive (in their view) to certain subjects, which now inhibits our free speech. Others will rightfully point out that and individual civility and collective sense of outrage has deteriorated to the point where it’s now impossible to enforce standards of behavior with any sense of perspective or consistency. I do see it both ways.
However, it does make you wonder, and ponder hypotheticals. What if the loyal fan drinking a beer shouting politically-incorrect insults were instead a six-year-old girl shooting the middle finger at the opposing team? Would she (or her parents) have been tossed from the ballpark? I think not.
Only in Philadelphia.