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April 13, 2023

The 'Dollar Dog Night' food fight at Citizens Bank Park shouldn't be 'a Philly thing'

Some Phillies fans were ejected when the franks started flying during the loss to the Marlins. This is why no one likes us, and we should care

Opinion Phillies
Phillies Dollar Dog Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

A food fight broke out during 'Dollar Dog Night' Citizens Bank Park on April 11, when the Phillies lost to the Miami Marlins 8-4. It's not the worst offense for Philly sports fans, but it helps explain what some don't want to admit.

Defending Philly sports fans is sometimes an exhausting exercise in futility.

If you praise the city's passion, sports history and knowledge of its teams, video footage will inevitably surface of classless people doing classless things. This is true basically anywhere, but since Philly is a huge sports market with a massive stake in its own pride, problematic behavior here will always be magnified.

And when Philly fans do something like, say, flip an innocent neighbor's car over and jump on top of it before the Super Bowl, it's difficult to point out similarly extreme examples of brainless conduct elsewhere. Yes, there are videos of fights at virtually every stadium in the U.S., but it's hard to deny that Philly fans do some pretty uniquely foul and disappointing things — even if you can count on this community to raise money to fix the flipped car

On Tuesday night, during an eventual 8-4 Phillies loss to the Marlins, some fans started chucking the cheap hot dogs they got for "Dollar Dog Night" in the stands at Citizens Bank Park. It began on the lower level in section 112, near the right foul line, and then spread to the upper deck. Some of the food fight was caught on video.

"It started in our section with them having a hot dog eating contest," Phillies fan Robert Kristovich, who was at the game, told 6ABC. "This kid was eating a bunch of hot dogs, he had 13 and people were trying to get him, people were like, 'Eat another one, eat another one.' So they started throwing hot dogs to him. The guard came over and started yelling, and then it just went nuts."

As the food fight progressed, Kristovich said he started to see water bottles coming from the upper deck. At that point, he decided to get his kids out of the ballpark.

"There were several people who were ejected from our game last night as a result of their unruly behavior, a behavior which the Phillies do not condone," the team said in a statement after the incident. "In addition, our staff took the appropriate action to assist any fans who voiced complaints. Unfortunately, the small minority of people involved in this situation put our regular fan base in a negative light."

The Phillies took some flak last year for not having many "Dollar Dog Night" events. They eventually appeased the fanbase after a dedicated pressure campaign from Crossing Broad's Kyle Pagan, who even contacted U.S. Sen. Bob Casey about it for a home run of political optics. And this is how some fans decided to thank the team.

An optimist might say Philly fans have at least graduated from throwing harder objects. 

Is it the end of the world that hot dogs were thrown? No, it's not a huge deal, in isolation. The problem is that the people who felt united in the idea that throwing food is an all-in-good-fun "Philly thing" had zero regard for the much larger number of people who find it to be an immature waste, a bad example and a poor reflection on Philadelphia fans. 

The irony of this food fight starting because a kid was downing hot dogs like Takeru Kobayashi probably speaks to a larger issue beyond the scope of this debate, but if hot dogs only cost $1, you can't blame people for eating lots of them. 

You can blame people for throwing them, though. 

Isn't anyone in the majority group of Philly fans getting tired of covering for the other group's reckless abandon all the time? Maybe getting a little annoyed that this stuff isn't even surprising, and that the best you can do is sit back and watch with a half-smile? 

Being an edgy, quirky, sometimes ingenious fanbase is a difficult balancing act. Some people would sooner take a hailstorm of hot dogs than see Philly fans soften into the kind of crowd that would perform the nauseating ditty those Padres fans got ridiculed into oblivion for during last year's playoffs.

Certain moments of brash fan behavior — like the famed "Go Birds" meme after the NFC Championship win over the Vikings in 2018 — are part of the mostly harmless lore of Philly sports fans. You might not wish a drunken exchange like that on someone you love, but people being raving fools on video is essentially the currency of our screen-addicted lives in 2023, in sports and everything else. Some of it is just bound to happen, and it's alright to get a healthy laugh from it, but it shouldn't fuel an Olympic quest for vapid attention and escalating mischief.

Philly fans should be embarrassed when an NBA player gives a postgame interview to explain why he confronted a fan sitting court side at the Wells Fargo Center. If a free throw costing the crowd a free fast food item is what awakens the Philly sports fan in you — to the point of shouting obscenities at a pro athlete — then you've lost the distinction between having fun at a sporting event and being pathetic, which is the crusty, tagalong cousin of "letting loose."

To be fair, moralizing about sports sometimes misses the point. There are always counterpoints to arguments about what's acceptably obnoxious behavior. For every Russell Westbrook who can't tolerate getting the middle finger from a Philly fan, there will probably be a Justin Verlander who happily flips it back.

And let's be real, scolding sports fans for being over the top doesn't really work any wonders as a deterrent. No one needs to be told that throwing hot dogs is not their intended use.

Fans view going to games as a meaningful escape from their responsibilities, with a little entitlement thrown in for the ridiculous price of entry. That doesn't mean attending an event comes without any responsibilities of its own. 

The issue is that Philly fans are sometimes a bit too comfortable pushing the envelope, and too many of them don't understand the difference between roleplaying as an a-hole and being one.

It's a bit laughable seeing Philly fans question why there would be a debate about the safety of extending beer sales at Phillies games from the end of the 7th inning to the end of the 8th. Was it the hot dogs? Maybe it was the hot dogs. 

The highs of being a Philly sports fan and reveling in this wild atmosphere are second to no other sports market, on the whole. The reputation the city has is multifaceted in good ways and bad. But if Philly fans don't want to be maligned forever, incidents like Tuesday night's food fight can't happen.

Maybe the people who do outrageous things in the name of supporting Philly teams enjoy being viewed negatively. Is there any way to argue with that or defend it?

Jason Kelce's celebrated slogan — "No one likes us, we don't care" — should never have been interpreted as Philly not caring about how we treat our own teams, their facilities and the guests who use them. It's the ultimate lack of self-awareness to care so much about a sports team that you would act in ways that get you kicked out of a stadium, whether the team is winning or losing.

Good luck getting another "Dollar Dog Night" in the near future, unless the Phillies are gracious about this incident. The team certainly won't have a problem with fans paying a fortune for everything else in the ballpark that costs considerably more than $1.