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August 16, 2016

It’s not all boos: How Philly fans treat returning star players

Just like last August, the Los Angeles Dodgers leadoff hitter will receive a long standing ovation before the first at-bat of tonight’s game at Citizens Bank Park. The same likely goes for his second and third trips to the plate, too. 

Chase Utley is one of the most popular players to ever put on a Philadelphia uniform, regardless of sport. Unless an unruly group of Mets fans make their way down I-95 (don’t completely rule it out, Utley is Public Enemy No. 1 in Queens), you’ll be able to count the boos at Citizens Bank Park on one hand, if there are any at all.

Utley’s return got me to thinking about a larger question: In general, how do we in Philadelphia handle an established star (or close) returning for the first time in another uniform?

Before drawing any conclusions, let’s go back and revisit a good number of these moments since the turn of the century:


Jimmy Rollins: August 4th, 2015

For a player that was no stranger to calling out Philly fans, J-Roll admitted that the standing ovation he received was longer than he had expected.


LeSean McCoy: December 13th, 2015

Like his father, Rex Ryan is both a great defensive mind and huge troll. He sent McCoy and only McCoy out for the coin toss, and Shady decided to kiss the logo a la Allen Iverson. There were boos, a reported middle finger, and a quick exit from McCoy after the game.

DeSean Jackson: September 21st, 2014

Jackson was booed lustily on his first touch, and he ended up mocking Eagles fans after catching a looooonngg touchdown from Kirk Cousins:

The Eagles managed to win that game, but Washington has won the next three in the post D-Jax era. After wrapping up the NFC East last season, Jackson said he was disturbed by the boos from the fans, noting that he never wanted to leave in the first place.

Andy Reid: September 19th, 2013

Not an athlete, but Reid came back to Philly almost right after he was let go. And with Eagles fans still feeling pretty good about Chip Kelly, Reid received a warm welcome. Then his Chiefs pretty much dominated the Birds.

If Kelly ever makes it back to The Linc, I wouldn’t expect him to get similar treatment.

Donovan McNabb: October 3rd, 2010

There is no debating that McNabb was the greatest quarterback in the history of the franchise. Coming back with a division rival, the fans recognized his major contributions.

After the game (which Washington won), McNabb declared in the locker room that, “Everybody makes mistakes in their lifetime, and they made one last year”:

The next time the teams met up, this happened.

Brian Dawkins: December 27th, 2009

Along with Utley and Allen Iverson (but probably ahead of both of them), Dawkins was the most popular athlete in Philadelphia since 2000. When he came back to The Linc as a Denver Bronco, it wasn’t surprising he didn’t hear “Sucks!” after his name was announced.

Terrell Owens: October 8th, 2006

McNabb outplayed T.O. in the latter’s highly anticipated return to Philly. While The Linc certainly wasn’t a pleasant atmosphere that day, it was nothing for the history books, either. Here are some quotes from the AP gamer:

"Actually, I thought it was going to be worse," Owens said. "I remember when I was here, they would love me. It was the opposite. I don't know, for whatever reason, I just felt like it should have been worse."

"It had an element of hostility more than in a normal away game, but, to the credit of Philadelphia fans, they kept it in check," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said.


Mike Richards: October 15th, 2011

Richards got a decent reception in the pre-game, received a great ovation when the Flyers thanked him on the scoreboard, and then was booed heartily every time he touched the puck.

Eric Lindros: January 12th, 2002

Yeah, The Big E heard it pretty good all afternoon.


Andre Iguodala: October 31st, 2012

Poor quality on this video (and a lot of booing from the people around the camera), but reading some of the stories from that night, Iggy seemed to get a reaction similar to what Richards received. From Brian Windhorst:

The Sixers announced they planned to honor him with a video tribute during the first quarter. Nuggets coach George Karl delayed his huddle so Iguodala could watch some of it.

It featured his series-clinching free throws against the Chicago Bulls from last season's playoffs. That memory plus some other highlights prodded the fans to give Iguodala a standing ovation -- until two minutes later when Iguodala next touched the ball and they began booing him and went right on doing it the rest of the night.

Allen Iverson: March 19th, 2008

In Philly fans’ minds, this one was a no-brainer:

The verdict

Can we learn anything about Philly fans after looking back at all of these moments? Probably not. Besides Owens and perhaps Lindros, you could make the case that none of these players forced their way out of Philly. That doesn’t mean they all received great receptions, though. Many fans didn’t agree with Kelly’s decisions to jettison Jackson and McCoy, but both of those guys still heard boos upon their return to Philly.

Sometimes we boo, sometimes we cheer, and sometimes we do a little of both. With the exception of Lindros, all-time greats tend to receive a pretty positive reception when they’re back in Philadelphia. With Utley coming into town tonight, don’t look for that to change.

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann