By Connor Thomas
Last night, an awesome night in South Philadelphia was clouded by a single fan’s selfish, childish, and flat out unacceptable behavior. The story this morning should be how incredible Ben Simmons was, or how stupefying Matisse Thybulle’s defense was, or how this first round series with the Washington Wizards should be all but over. Instead, thanks to one individual, the national narrative surrounding the Sixers and their fans is totally different today. If you did not see the incident, it occurred late in last night’s game as Russell Westbrook left the floor with an ankle injury. As Westbrook was heading to the locker room, a fan right above the visitors’ tunnel took a bag of popcorn and dumped it directly onto Westbrook’s head. In the below video you can see the popcorn falling, and an irate Westbrook being restrained by security as he attempted to make his way back out of the tunnel to confront the fan.
Fan dumping his popcorn on Russell Westbrook, who’s walking off after twisting his ankle. Fan should be banned for life. No room for this. pic.twitter.com/DXatcX8l9i
— Derek Bodner (@DerekBodnerNBA) May 27, 2021
It was a totally warranted response from Westbrook, who has had his share of issues in Philadelphia. Part of me wishes that a non-physical confrontation between Westbrook and the fan was allowed, simply to put this individual in his place for his uncalled for action.
Now, there is part of this that some Philadelphia fans seem to not be grasping. The issue here is not the popcorn dumping. In a vacuum, dumping popcorn on someone is a completely harmless action that doesn’t cause any possible harm. How many times have we watched the Phillie Phanatic dump popcorn all over opposing fans at Citizens Bank Park? I am by no means saying that the fan assaulted Westbrook, or intended to cause injury, and that the Wizards star was in any way in danger. The issue here is not the possibility of injury; it’s the lack of respect shown by one person as the rest of the arena gave a man a standing ovation. Now, regardless of the actual harm of the popcorn itself, the whole fan base, and even the entire Philadelphia area will be painted with a broad brush once again by the national media as the bottom of the sports fan barrel.
Unfortunately, the nature of Philadelphia’s reputation means that the actions of 1 single person among thousands of respectful fans applauding Westbrook’s efforts can create an entire narrative that undoes the actions of 99.9999999% of the fans in attendance at the Wells Fargo Center last night. I don’t know what the answer to this problem is. Every fan base has individuals that should flat out not be allowed to attend sporting events because of their inability to act like a mature adult. You can’t possibly keep every one of them out of every sporting event that ever happens in a given city. I guess what that means is that for us in Philly, with the reputation we hold, we need to hold the 99.999999% of the fan base that doesn’t do this to an even higher standard.
Sure, we can boo the hell out of teams and players we don’t like. We can yell at opposing fans at games and we can make it uncomfortable for opponents to play here. But we have to never cross the line from passionate to disorderly. It will not ever be enough to dispel the narrative about Philly fans; at this point we’ve earned that moniker for the rest of time. But despite all of the crap heaped on Philadelphia through faulty narratives by the national pundits, we must remember that guys like the popcorn idiot are not who we truly are.