This is one fan promotion that will hopefully never fade. In the tradition of the Rally Monkey, 70s Disco Night, ThunderStix, and Propose Marriage To Your Significant Other at Center Court Live On The Megatron, we now have one of the most entertaining off-the-field activities in the history of pro sports. Thanks to modern pyrotechnics and the fetish we American have always held dear for watching things go up in flames, “Blow Up A Symbol Of Your Team’s Futility” is a fad that is spreading faster than a San Diego wildfire.At first, it started out small. Remember the infamous “Bartman Ball?” Back in October, when Steve Bartman reached out for a foul ball and accidentally tipped it away from Chicago Cub’s third baseman Moises Alou, Cubs fans were quick to blame poor Steve for their team’s perennial misfortunes, and as a result, his reputation was the first thing to be destroyed. His face was shown on TV, in the newspapers, in cartoons, and it took all winter for Chicago residents to grow up and realize that the Cubs were entirely capable of blowing their World Series chances against the Marlins without Bartman’s help. Instead of focusing their rage on him, they then decided to take their aggression out on the ball itself. So last month, they crammed the baseball full of explosives, put it in a bulletproof glass case in Harry Caray’s Restaurant, lit a fuse, and to the delight of Cubs fans everywhere, “Blew Up A Symbol Of Their Team’s Futility.”
From there, it grew. We went from blowing up baseballs to imploding entire stadiums, something not so new, unless you know the motive behind Veterans Stadium becoming Veterans Parking Lot. Never has a team’s venue taken so much of the blame for their misfortune than has the Vet for the Eagles and Phillies.
When it was opened in 1971, it was a marvel of sports architecture. On Sunday, it died as a broken-down relic, a multi-purpose venue that wasn’t fit for baseball any better than it was jury-rigged for football. And of course, the Vet was notorious for being the scourge of many ACLs, MCLs, and vertebrae; the fuzzy green cement cover called Astroturf ended careers and eventually forced both teams to search for greener pastures. Across the street from the empty cement shell that took just 58 seconds to become rubble, now stands the Phillies’ new Citizen’s Bank Ballpark and the Eagles’ Lincoln Financial Field. With the push of a plunger and a series of loud booms, the symbol of penny-pinching, consistently awful teams became a memory.
Of course, nothing amuses us more than a good pyrotechnics show. Explosions and fiery displays catch and hold our feeble attention spans. During the gas main break at La Salle last month that turned an intersection near one of the dorms into a giant flamethrower, evening news broadcasts switched between just two camera views for 20 and 30 minutes at a time. Without any new developments in this “breaking news story,” residents of the Delaware Valley watched the 110-foot ball of fire, enchanted as though they were a snake and the gas main were the charmer. Most local news outlets ignored the story the next day because no bystanders were unlucky enough to get hurt. Such a good explosion is ten times as good as chanting obscenities at an injured opponent, and twice as good as a Rally Monkey, if that is even possible. Think Death Star, think Bombs over Baghdad, think Martha Stewart’s career; explosions are the most dazzling and definitive way to bring any situation to a close.
Watch the success of the Cubs and the Phillies this season. Ignore the free-agent acquisitions, the coaching, the effort of the players and management, and focus in on nothing but the ridiculous passion and superstition of the fans and their “symbols of their team’s futility.” If they’re able to reverse fortunes as the smoke clears, sports fans everywhere will be scrambling to find something to tape an M80 to.