Hockey fights…out on the street

In this week's River­ward Rant, Joe Quigley looks at the phe­nomen­on of sports fan­at­icism.

We’ve all heard about the hor­rible beat­ing of Neal Aur­ic­chio, the New Jer­sey po­lice of­ficer and Mar­ine vet who was at­tacked by a few idi­ot Fly­ers fans fol­low­ing the Fly­ers’ loss in the Winter Clas­sic on Jan. 2.

Aur­ic­chio was hos­pit­al­ized simply be­cause he was rock­ing a Rangers jer­sey and the knuckle­heads who at­tacked him took of­fense.

The oth­er day on Good Day Phil­adelphia, the an­chors posed this ques­tion: Is it dan­ger­ous to wear a rival team’s jer­sey in a pas­sion­ate sports town like Philly?

The an­swer: Yes, it is.

But I’d like to talk about a dif­fer­ent side of this is­sue. Namely, the kind of no-life loser will­ing to bash in an­oth­er per­son’s head be­cause he’s a fan of a dif­fer­ent team.

To put this “Don’t dis­respect my fa­vor­ite team!” stu­pid­ity in­to per­spect­ive, let’s ima­gine that Fly­ers tough guy Zac Rinaldo is walk­ing to Geno’s Steaks after a game.

As he or­ders a sand­wich, New York Rangers en­for­cer Mike Rupp shows up.

Just hours be­fore, the two had beaten each oth­er sense­less on the ice — and not in a sissy, Sid­ney Crosby type of fight. I’m talk­ing a full-on, two-minutes-straight of wild Mike Tyson-on-skates meat ham­mer­ing.

Do you think Rinaldo and Rupp, even with the hatred they shared on the ice, would start wail­ing on each oth­er in the street?

No. Not even a little bit.

If any­thing, they’d prob­ably shake hands.

Pro ath­letes, even ones who hate each oth­er, aren’t likely to go at it after the game. It’s their job to pound on one an­oth­er.

In prob­ably the most bru­tal hockey fight in the mod­ern era of the NHL, le­gendary slug­gers Bob Probert and Marty Mc­Sor­ley traded punches for more than 120 seconds straight.

At the end of the fight, neither play­er wanted to kill each oth­er. Be­fore the ref­er­ees pulled them apart, Probert and Mc­Sor­ley, both ex­hausted, paused to pat each oth­er on the head.

It was as if they meant to say, “All right man, we’re cool now.”

We can go bey­ond hockey play­ers, most of whom rarely, if ever, fight on the ice.

Can you ima­gine Joe Fra­zi­er and Muhammad Ali, who had one of the most per­son­ally hate­ful rival­ries in sports his­tory, try­ing to kill each oth­er on the street after the Fight of the Cen­tury?

Nope, it wouldn’t hap­pen.

I want to know what drives a Philly sports fan to gang up on a dude in a Rangers jer­sey or chuck their beers at a few Gi­ants fans at an Eagles game.

These people must have laugh­ably bor­ing lives.

They re­mind me of comedi­an Pat­ton Os­walt’s New York foot­ball-fan­at­ic char­ac­ter in the film Big Fan. In the movie, he travels all the way to Philly to as­sault an Eagles fan. He’s the type of mor­on­ic loser who doesn’t have one in­ter­est­ing thing go­ing on in his life, so he chooses to live vi­cari­ously through wealthy ath­letes, tak­ing their ups-and-downs per­son­ally.

There are people who are go­ing to get de­fens­ive and say it’s just the me­dia try­ing to de­mon­ize Philly fans, be­cause fights between fans hap­pen every­where, right?

We can as­sume both of those points are true, but it feels like a dis­pro­por­tion­ate num­ber of these sports-re­lated as­saults hap­pen right here.

We, as a city, earned that repu­ta­tion. We of­ten rev­el in it.

Some think it’s a badge of pride.

I think it’s a sign that cer­tain Philly fans need to get a life.

Be­cause if any­one read­ing this column is the kind of jerk who would hap­pily pound on a dude simply be­cause he’s wear­ing a Cow­boys hat, I want to be the first one to tell you that your fa­vor­ite pro ath­lete prob­ably wouldn’t give you the time of day if you met him in pub­lic.

When the Eagles lose, I sin­cerely doubt that Mi­chael Vick takes the loss as hard as many who are watch­ing on TV at the bar, curs­ing and slam­ming their pint glasses on Sunday af­ter­noons.

These play­ers are do­ing a job. When they’re fin­ished on the field or on the ice, they hap­pily col­lect a hand­some paycheck and go home to their friends and fam­ily.

It’s what people like to call “hav­ing a life.”

Maybe knuckle­heads like the fans who beat up Neal Aur­ic­chio should get one. ••

River­ward Rants re­flects the opin­ions of Joe Quigley, a Fishtown res­id­ent, area nat­ive and writer of the Web site PhillyNeigh­, where he makes cyn­ic­al (and un­censored) com­ments about life in the river wards while shame­lessly ped­dling his nov­el, “Hol­d­out.” He can be reached at

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