|Straight to the East Coast's heart|
By Brian Murphy
Special to Page 2
Here at Page 2, we're trying to stir it up.
We're trying to go Biggie-Tupac on you.
In this one, the role of Ulysses S. Grant would be played by Bill Walsh; the role of Robert E. Lee played by Bill Parcells; the role of Abe Lincoln played by Paul Tagliabue.
(And to think: Were Tags to grow the no-mustache beard, there'd be a serious, serious resemblance.)
Anyway, I'm here to fire the first salvo, the shot on Fort Sumter, if you will.
What are my credentials, my bio, my angle?
I won't lie.
Born in Northern California. Reared on frigid nights in Candlestick Park that can compete with a Foxboro winter. Schooled in Southern California. Admired Pac-10 football from the spectacularly friendly confines of the Rose Bowl, UCLA's home turf. Sat near a memorable surfer-stoner dude at the 1989 UCLA-Michigan game. At a critical moment of Bruin success, said surfer-stoner jumped on my back and shouted, repeatedly, "We play some ball on the West Coast!", a mantra I exercise to this day.
Now work and live back in NorCal, where Candlestick has given way to the World's Most Beautiful Ballpark and America's greatest ballplayer.
So you'd think I'm some California nutjob.
Some West Coast lunatic who, given the chance, flashes the hip-hop "extended pinky/crossed middle fingers/extended index finger" sign and shouts "WEST-SIIIIIIIIIIDE!" whenever Jeff Garcia scrambles for a first down.
Not so fast.
This West Coast Fan is here to give his view of the East Coast Sports Fan, and you might be surprised by my opinion.
I have been to many, many East Coast sporting events.
I have been to Yankee Stadium in October. I have been to the Vet on a November Monday night. I have been to the Meadowlands when Bon Jovi played halftime. I have been to Fenway in October.
I have, in short, earned my East Coast stripes. No West Coast poseur here. I know whereof I speak.
And I'm here to tell you that I have an absolutely sick, demented and perverse admiration for you head cases.
East Coast Sports Fan, I am here to tell you that you are nuts.
And it's a beautiful thing.
Like all of life, though, there are ups, and there are downs. So, in the spirit of friendship, I will present my West Coast View of the Best and Worst of the East Coast Sports Fan.
BUT FIRST, A CAVEAT
We must define "East Coast Sports Fan."
This is somewhat problematic.
After all, Miami is on the East Coast of America. I would think, however, that we would all agree that your typical Miami Heat fan is not your typical East Coast fan. Miami is East Coast in atlas-terms only. Miami is East Coast, but it's not East Coast. Know what I mean?
Take Philadelphia, then. It's not technically on the East Coast. It's on the Delaware River, I believe.
But Philly is more East Coast than the Kennedy compound. Know what I mean? And by draping this blanket of "East Coast Sports Fan," I believe we're going to exclude our passionate and epic friends in the fine towns of Cleveland and Pittsburgh. Steelers and Browns fans are, arguably, second and third only to Packers fans, but they're not "East Coast Sports Fans," know what I mean?
(Page 2 could make a serious case for the Flyover States as the Best Sports Fans in America, with Wrigley, Lambeau, the old Three Rivers and the old Cleveland Municipal Stadium as the fulcrum, but that is not our task here today.)
Like a buddy from Philly once told me: "Don't kid yourself. Pittsburgh is the Midwest." I love Steelers fans, but like Al Pacino told Robert Duvall in "The Godfather": "You're out, Tom."
What does that leave us with?
Let's start negative, then move positive.
THE THREE WORST THINGS ABOUT EAST COAST SPORTS FANS
1. You are TERRIBLE college football fans.
College football is an American treasure, right up there with In-N-Out Burger and the seventh-inning stretch. You East Coasters treat it like a WUSA exhibition match.
What, because the power is in the Pac-10, SEC, Big Ten and Big 12 you can't care? Typical East Coast bias. If you rich, fat-cat alumni poured some more cash into the programs at Rutgers or Boston College or Temple, you might have something there. Instead, the fall season -- and who does autumn better than the East Coast? -- lays dormant.
Nothing more depressing than a West Coast guy flipping on the tube on Saturday morning and catching a tilt on the AstroTurf at B.C., in front of 4,700 disinterested Bostonians.
Come on, East Coast! You're better than that.
2. You have serious tolerance/loyalty issues.
I understand that America is a capitalist society, and you only deserve to survive if you're a winner in your chosen field. That said, can anybody abandon ship more quickly than an East Coast sports fan?
Where is the love, East Coast?
3. You do -- and let's be honest, here -- diss the West Coast waaaaay too much.
Here on the West Coast, there's no hatred for the East. We admire the pedigree of Yankees-Red Sox in September, or Giants-Eagles in December. We get it, we admire it, we watch it on TV at 10 a.m.
But do East Coasters return the props? Rarely. There are things about West Coast sports that the East Coast cannot touch: Dusk at Pac Bell Park as you stand on the right field arcade ... the Oakland Coliseum blasting Kool and the Gang's "Celebrate" back in the day when Terry Steinbach roped a game-winning hit ... a Saturday afternoon at Cal's Memorial Stadium in Strawberry Canyon ... the vibe when UCLA and USC break from the huddle for the first play from scrimmage in their November showdown.
But what do we get? Cross-country love? Hands across America?
Nope. Mostly, a Middle Finger across America.
East Coaster -- why so bitter, baby?
THE THREE BEST THINGS ABOUT EAST COAST SPORTS FANS.
1. You are AWESOME baseball fans.
And Yankee Stadium in October? Fuhgedaboutit. I put you guys up against any World Cup crowd, against any Manchester United crowd at Old Trafford. You guys rule. The roll call in the Yankee Stadium bleachers is an American sports tradition on par, if not greater than, the Lambeau Leap.
And I say that having survived the ignominy of Rudy Giuliani's kid showering some stray champagne on my notebook while covering the Yanks' 2000 ALCS clincher over Seattle to set up the Subway Series.
Little punk. I'm still miffed.
Saw Billy Crystal, though. That was cool.
2. The signs, the cheesesteaks and the attitude: One of a kind.
Is there a town in America that can compete with Philadelphia?
The passion. The hardiness. The mullets.
Philly fans have a special place in my heart, and not just because Great-Grandpa Murphy went straight from County Cork to Philadelphia back before 1900. Guess he heard about the cheesesteaks.
Ticked off that they don't have New York's economic and cultural clout, and ticked off that they don't have Washington D.C.'s political clout, Philadelphians move in their own world: Intense, and proud.
And did we mention ticked off?
Then, at halftime, the Niners took a commanding lead.
The fans tore down the sign to reveal a backup plan -- another sign behind it, ready to rock.
It read, if I recall correctly, "FIRE RAY RHODES."
Bipolar fan disorder? Conditional love? Total lunacy?
Yes, yes and yes.
Man, do I love Philly fans.
3. You apppreciate all your history.
What's great about East Coast fans is that you love your lot in life.
Shoveling snow in the winter so you can get your car to Foxboro for kickoff? Sweating at the subway station so you can catch the No. 4 train to Yankee Stadium on a Sunday in the summer?
Entering Fenway for a Yankees game with 85 years of rage inherited from your grandfather and father riding sidesaddle on your shoulder?
There's a lot about East Coast Sports Fans I envy.
As for this rivalry?
I am baffled by so much about you East Coasters, and yet I love so much about you East Coasters.
Let's call it a draw, then.
And I'll promise to buy you an Anchor Steam so we can drink on the right field arcade at Pac Bell -- if you promise to get me a ticket to the right field bleachers in Yankee Stadium, so I can do one roll call with all of you nutjobs.
Brian Murphy of the San Francisco Chronicle writes the "Weekend Water Cooler" every Monday for Page 2.