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Who is this ‘Philly guy?’

He's not here.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

This week, one Philadelphia sports radio station submitted an uninspired and exhaustively used stereotype as a question to the Twitter masses: "Everyone knows Harper can play... But would he be the right fit in Philadelphia? Would he be a 'Philly guy?'"

It must be truly insufferable to Nationals fans how openly Phillies fans have not only decided that they want Bryce Harper after he is up for free agency, but already slotted him into the lineup. But now, this sort-of joke has drifted past "humorous" and into "analysis," where it will of course die a slow, cringe-worthy death.

This sort of useless question is designed to irritate and prod, and, because we’re all better than that, we can ignore it and move on with their lives. But if we were to be exactly the sort of agitated, petty person who it would annoy, then perhaps we would explore it. Like this.

What is a "Philly guy?"

A "Philly guy" is a guy who works two or three blue collar jobs, jogs from one to the other with a lunch pail in his hand, has trouble making ends meet, and uses sports as a distraction from having his life drained out of him starting at sunrise every morning, screaming at televisions and athletes because he doesn’t have the backbone to scream at his boss.

He boos everyone, he has a mustard-stained Mike Schmidt jersey, he carries a pocket full of batteries. He sells soft pretzels out of the rowhouse his parents owned, but only when he’s not hard at work chipping water ice off the multicolored water ice glaciers floating in the frigid waters off the coast of South Philadelphia.

What do we expect of out "Philly guys?" Hustle. Work hard. Eat cheesesteaks. Go to Wing Bowl. Has multiple prison stories from the Vet. But let’s just step back for one second and unravel this entire argument:


There is no "Philly guy" anymore. There are still certainly blue collar workers in this city, but the image of the "Philly guy" has become an overused cartoon by 2017. The population here is formed by its history and geography, which combine to create the culture. It is different in small ways from other places, but this city’s defining characteristics, the stuff at the center of the "Philly guy," is the same as the stuff at center of other large urban centers: people struggling to push back in an uphill battle against financial, economic, medical, and cultural odds. Anybody with those challenges on their plate when they get up in the morning isn’t going to give a subway rat’s ass about Bryce Harper’s personality. Or the Phillies. Or in many cases, baseball.

The Philly guy is a figment. He’s constructed out of every refuted or disdained folk story of the Philly sports fans who, by the way, don’t even come to baseball games anymore, anyway. So don’t be confused – the question put forth by the radio station wasn’t trying to make a commentary on the gig economy. It was using an obsolete trope, being employed because "FIRST IDEA, CLICK TWEET," is a passage framed and on the wall of the media outlet in question, and because the sheer outrage people have for anyone who makes a baseball game into more than a tepid yawn-starter is inexplicably limitless.

Consider Cole Hamels, a World Series MVP who brought the first sports championship in 25 years to Philadelphia. He spent a lot of his career being lambasted for not being a "Philly guy" because he has long hair and comes from Southern California and his voice is kind of squeaky. He vented a bit on the radio in 2009 about the tough year he'd had and his phrasing made people, most of whom were probably as slovenly as any normal person, complained that he didn’t have their work ethic.

Hamels couldn’t even get people behind him after reaching the pinnacle of the sport. And you know what? One afternoon, he was a "Philly guy," a guy who wanted to be tough and send a message through intangibles. That afternoon was in 2012, when he pegged a rookie named Bryce Harper in the back with a pitch, later admitting he did it on purpose, as a real "Philly guy" welcome to the big leagues for the cocky young kid. And you know what the cocky young kid did? He reached third base and stole home after noticing that Hamels was taking his time on his pick-off moves to first base. He scored. He hustled. He spotted a weakness and exploited it.

Hamels, meanwhile, when at his "Philly guy-est" had never looked dumber.

Bryce Harper:

  • Plays very well at Citizens Bank Park
  • Loves Philadelphia
  • Can be afforded
  • Hates Jonathan Papelbon
  • Once acquired, would really burn a division rival

Whatever a "Philly guy" is, if they don’t want Bryce Harper to play for the Phillies in his prime and when the team can afford to pay his ludicrous salary, then they have a horrible grasp of baseball, how to play it, who is good at it, and what would make the Phillies better.