Philly Fans Rudest

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This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and this is The Score.

Pitcher Cliff Lee created headlines this week with his surprise choice of the Philadelphia Phillies as home for ostensibly the rest of his already stellar career. None other than the Yankees, used to getting pretty much every star they pursue with their open check-book policy, failed to woo Lee to the Bronx. And Lee chose Philly over his current Texas Rangers, also offering a multi-year, sweet deal. Much has been written about Lee's unusual decision to leave the Yankees fatter contract, but those stratospheric numbers are hard for us regular folk to compute, similar to hearing how many trillions of light years a certain star is from Earth. The Yankees deal was $150 million over seven years. He signed with the Phillies for $120 million over five years. A long list of factors were evidently in play but one of the reasons he is one of the few to ever turn down suiting up for the fabled Bronx Bombers is that Lee's wife, Kristen, had what she called "terrible" experiences at Yankee Stadium when Lee worked the mound there as an opposing pitcher. Some Yankees fans spit on Kristen and assaulted her with rough and rude language.

How incredibly ironic that Cliff Lee, in turning down the Yankees, left a large lump of cash on the table, in part because the fans were such bullies to his wife. Ironic because it is widely agreed that the rudest, most ill-behaved sports fans in the nation, ahead of Boston, ahead of New York, are the die-hards in Philadelphia. I mean, this is a town that had to resort to installing a courtroom and a jailhouse in the bowels of Veterans Stadium because the fans were so out of control that they were arrested and processed right there during the Eagles games.

When visiting Cowboy Michael Irvin lay motionless on the field for a long 20 minutes, both teams kneeling in silence with worry over possible paralysis, quite a few of the 66,000 Philly fans cheered. It is unspoken behavior that everyone in the stadium waits quietly, in hopes that the fallen player will stand up and walk to the sideline on his own. When the dreaded stretcher was run onto the field to lift Irvin's immobile body to an ambulance, the crowd continued to cheer.

The 1999 NFL draft was particularly memorable because of the deafening boos from Philly fans when their new quarterback was picked. You heard "The Philadelphia Eagles select Donovan…" but his last name, McNabb, was crushed.

An irate Phillies fan, angry at an 11-year-old girl whose father had complained about a bunch of rowdy drunks in the stands, stuck his fingers down his throat and unleashed his rage in vomit on the little girl's body. We can dig up similar boorish stories at other ballparks in other cities. And we can find wonderful, sporting, honorable fans throughout Philadelphia. But, as I said, most polls on the subject of consistently, historically thuggish fans say the City of Brotherly Love takes the prize, no contest.

Let's hope Cliff Lee has great success back in a Phillies uniform. We'd hate his wife to encounter an even more vulgar class of Neanderthal than she encountered at Yankee Stadium.

This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and that's The Score.



Diana Nyad