By Connor Thomas
Last night, the Phillies and Braves squared off in a get-away game down in Atlanta that was a matchup fit for primetime. From first pitch, the contest lived up to the expectations of a nationally televised Sunday night baseball game, as stars on each side shined one after another. Ozzie Albies, Rhys Hoskins, Didi Gregorius, Freddie Freeman, Bryce Harper, and Ronald Acuna (without the tilde on the n as Braves fans would prefer to pronounce it) all left the yard on baseball’s biggest regular season stage, building a barn burner of a game that stood tied at 6-6 in the top of the 9th inning. Then, controversy struck. Alec Bohm tagged up from 3rd for Philadelphia, and on a very shallow fly ball by Didi Gregorius, the throw from Braves’ left fielder Marcell Ozuna was deemed late. Bohm took an awkward looking slide that Atlanta chose to review, and on the instant replay it appeared that his foot did not even touch the plate on the play. The tag was also questionable, and there was a slight blockage of the camera angle, but it seemed relatively clear that Bohm never touched home.
With everyone in Truist Park seeing the replay multiple times on the scoreboard, the expectation was that the go ahead run would be nullified, but unfortunately for Braves fans, the umpires did not feel the same way. The play was upheld, and all hell broke loose. The boos rained down, and they were joined by trash and debris as the spectators in Atlanta resorted to throwing things onto the field to show their displeasure. It would’ve been an easy moment for the broadcast crew to condemn the actions of the fans that was now causing a delay in the game, but Matt Vasgersian, who was on the broadcast for ESPN Sunday Night Baseball, took another angle. As trash was being heaved towards the field, Vasgersian took a moment to say that “The Phillies could feel right at home in this environment”. Oh, yeah? The Phillies should be used to having trash and bottles thrown at the playing surface? Because that’s what us Philadelphia fans do, right Matt? Delaying a game by endangering fans and players is just what we call another night of baseball here in Philly according to Vasgersian. Nobody tell him that actually there hasn’t been a single incident of unruly conduct that delayed a game in the history of Citizens Bank Park. I guess Matt must have had the night off when a 2012 playoff game between the Braves and Cardinals infamously devolved into chaos as a bad call led to heaps of trash to be thrown onto Turner Field. To this day Vasgersian must wonder why there were so many Philadelphia fans at a playoff game in Atlanta between the Braves and Cardinals.
Or maybe, history would tell you that Braves fans are the more volatile of the two fan bases. But don’t let history get in the way of a funny one liner. Clearly one of the voices of ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball believes that an overblown narrative about Philly fans should mean that our players should have no issue with being put in physical danger from fans during a sporting event. Not only is this an irresponsible comment to make in general, but it’s being pinned unfairly on a fan base that does not deserve such a negative reputation. In a series where a young Phillies fan was lauded for his action of giving a Freddie Freeman homerun ball to a young Braves fan, it’s typical that a national broadcast then turns the despicable actions of fans 700+ miles away from Philadelphia into a shot at the Phillies and their fans. Philadelphians may not be trash throwers like some other fans in the NL East, but we can sure hold a grudge with the best of them. So, Matt Vasgersian, your welcome next time you stop by the city of brotherly love might not be very loving. But that’s what happens when you put yourself on the list of folks playing up an outdated and lazy national narrative. So to Vasgersian, ESPN’s broadcast crew, and Braves fans, I have one bit of advice: be better.