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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Casual Critic — Glen Macnow and Anthony Gargano's The Great Philadelphia Fan Book

The Great Philadelphia Fan Book proposes to be a defense of the often-berated Philly sports fan. While filled with interesting tidbits and historical background to some of the city's most infamous events, the book is hurt by at least one author's poor writing, up-yours attitude, and a whoa-is-me tone.

Co-written by Glen Macnow and Anthony Gargano, two sports talkshow host on Philadelphia's 610 WIP, the book offers a history of Philly sports and our fandom from 1960 to its publication in 2003. It includes insights into the Philly sports fan, including our love-hate relationship with Mike Schmidt and Randall Cunningham, our lustful hate of the Dallas Cowboys, our former sports-fanatic mayor now governor, Ed Rendell, the worship of Bobby Clarke (the player) and disgust with Bob Clarke (the general manager), and even why we boo. In fact almost every chapter offers insights to events or personalities that strike a chord with the current Philly fan: Buddy Ryan, the Broadstreet Bullies, the 1980 Phillies, and '83 Sixers, just to name a few. The book even explains every national sportswriter's favorite shot to take at Philadelphia because they have nothing better to say — the fact that we booed St. Nick.

I can safely say I hate the Dallas Cowboys and bleed Eagles' green as much as anybody. I grew up during Dallas' dominance over the Birds in most of the '80s with my dad and two of three brothers being Cowboys fans, the third brother somehow latching on to the Rams, and mom not really caring. Eagles-Cowboys Sundays were huge in our house, and I heard more than anyone should ever have to about the stinkin' Cowboys. But, even I found The Great Philadelphia Fan Book a bit over-the-top and whiny at times.

Having listened to Gargano and Macnow for years on WIP, I felt I could easily discern who wrote what. Macnow must have winced painfully to see his work alongside that of Gargano. The South-Philly accent might work on radio, but yo, you gotta do better in a book, youknowwatimtalkinabout? I had fun with the Philly-slant of the book, but it just went too far. Besides Gargano's writing, a major flaw of the book was it's inability to see beyond the Philadelphia skyline.

The booing of Donovan McNabb at the NFL Draft was the primary example. After gushing over the Wing Bowl, an annual WIP promotion created by the morning show headlined by Angelo Cataldi that was literally turning away people from a packed Wachovia Center this year, they barely mention Cataldi in the booing of McNabb. I've enjoyed Cataldi for years, and attempted to get a link exchange going between his site and mine. But devoting just a line or two to the fact that Cataldi — the brainchild of this idiotic train wreck that many saw coming for weeks, and obviously would be mentioned every time McNabb had any success — was "involved" at the end of the chapter was weak. The fact that it was about wanting Rickey Williams with the pick (even before the two careers began to play out), doesn't make it any less stupid.

The other complaint I had with The Great Philadelphia Fan Book was its desire to support Philly's fatalistic attitude. A book needs to stay above the idiots — like the nitwits who watched the Super Bowl and were screaming "McNabb sucks!" right before he took the Birds on a TD-drive to bring his team within three points in the fourth quarter — and the guys who want to rehash every big loss after every new loss. It's old and tiresome from fans, and worse in a book.

Despite its flaws, this is a fun, easy-to-read book, which will help Philadelphia fans relive glories of the past and understand some moments we'd rather forget. This is one for the true fan.

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