In my “Bet of the Week” post about video hockey and a real-life Caps/Flyers game, The Foof comments:
You don’t even have a good reason to hate the Flyers anymore. Move on. Why you gotta be a hater?
I don’t have a good reason to hate the Flyers anymore?
Well, allow me to retort; in chronological order even.
1. Number Eighty-Eight
Eric Lindros was one of the dirtiest, cry-baby players in NHL history. His presence—alone—was enough to spawn my hatred of the Flyers. He was the seed. Nowadays? He’s a journeyman; no team wants to keep him. Why would they? I mean, shit man, he’s one hard hit away from a sippy-cup and bib.
2. Playoffs #1
At the end of the 95-96 season—their 4th in the league—the Tampa Bay Lightning made the playoffs for the first time in team history. Their first round opponents? The Flyers. The Lightning were up 2 games to 1 before being outright bitchslapped three games in a row to lose the series at the Thunderdome in St. Pete in front of me, my brother, and 28,181 other fans (an NHL attendance record at the time). Growing hatred; no longer tepid.
3. Just the Fax
A couple of years later, right before the 97-98 season began, the Flyers swiped the “cornerstone” of the Lightning franchise in Chris Gratton. They offered him $23 million over five years with a $9 million signing bonus. At the time, Phil Esposito claimed that the faxed offer from Philly was smudged to the point of illegibility, and was therefore not a binding contract. That made all the papers in Tampa, as did the Flyers’ active avoidance of contact with the Lightning’s front office. They were trying to steal our star player, and at all costs. After league arbitration, they got him. Hatred glowing red.
(Two months later, I moved from Tampa to suburban Washington, DC)
4. Relocation Ennui
While actively hating the Flyers, I attended my first game at the old Caps Center on Halloween 1997, just three weeks after my move. The Caps and Flyers tied after regulation and overtime, and I left with that “well that was a waste of three hours” feeling that most hockey fans experience after a tie. While it didn’t specifically add to my ongoing Flyer hatred, it certainly didn’t bode well for my hockey fandom in my new environment.
5. Playoffs #2
In the magical 03-04 season, the Lightning again faced the Flyers in the post-season, this time in the Eastern Conference finals. The stakes were much higher this time around; the only thing that kept the Lightning from their first ever Stanley Cup Final was the fuckin’ Flyers. The series went back-and-forth for seven games, and was one of the most stress-inducing series I’ve ever seen. For much of the Eastern finals, the Flyers outplayed the Lightning, which only made me hate them more and more. Was it envy, jealousy, pride? Don’t know, don’t care; white-hot-hatred… and the Lightning ultimately prevailed. Suck it.
6. Dickhead Fans
Finally, fans of Philadelphia sports teams are notoriously die-hard and loyal. More times than not, with the introduction of beers, this turns them into complete assholes (except for The Foof and her sister). They are some of the rudest motherfuckers on this side of the glass, although snotty, holier-than-vouz fans visiting from Canada are a close second. Asshole fans make the game worse for everyone; when they come out en masse (read: at Flyers’ away games in DC) that only helps peg the gauge of hatred.
I don’t have a good reason to hate the Flyers anymore? Sorry, Foof… you’re a very good friend of mine, but apparently I have five good reasons… #4 above doesn’t really count. And before you tell me “the past is the past, let it go”… you must realize that hockey fans have memories like elephants (or so the saying goes), and we are not at all forgiving.
Hockey is the one thing I deem grudge-worthy.