Philadelphia sports fans, whether fair or not, have a reputation for booing. Whether this reputation is fair has been the cause of a long series of controversies over the years. And now there’s one related to the city’s newest superstar athlete.
Bryce Harper, who signed a 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies in February following an extended free agent pursuit, made his regular season debut with the Phillies Thursday afternoon. Harper went 0-for-3, with an intentional walk, although that walk immediately preceded a grand slam by teammate Rhys Hoskins. The Phillies defeated the Braves, 10-4, according to ESPN.
Fans cheered Harper each time he came to the plate, and the player was also widely praised for wearing green shoes, per NBC Sports, that featured the likeness of the team’s beloved mascot, the Phillie Phanatic. But not long after the game, there was a series of reports — Bryce Harper had been booed, in his very first game, by Philadelphia fans.
The origin of the claim appears to be a video posted to YouTube by reporter Zach Rosenblatt of NJ.com. The video features Harper striking out in one of his at-bats Thursday, his second strikeout of the day. The title of the video, “Phillies fans boo Bryce Harper on Opening Day,” is true in the sense that there was some booing, although it doesn’t appear it came from any significant portion of the crowd at Citizen’s Bank Park. It would be more accurate to say that a handful of people booed.
— Rob Tornoe (@RobTornoe) March 29, 2019
The nature of booing is that if one person or a small group of people does it, it’s kind of an overwhelming sound, and the kind of thing that can be heard easily on a TV broadcast, or a cell phone video taken in the press box and posted to YouTube. And the debate, after a game, over whether or not a player was heavily booed, and if so, whether the booing was deserved, is a familiar one, for anyone who has paid attention to professional sports in Philadelphia for any length of time.
Meanwhile, an alternative explanation soon emerged that at least some of the boos were in reaction not to Harper striking out, but to what was seen as a bad call on an earlier pitch in the same at-bat.
At any rate, Bryce Harper and the Phillies are now one game into the 162-game season, the first of 13 years for which Harper has signed. So expect controversies about Harper and his relationship with Philadelphia fans to arise again during that time.