Marcus Hayes: Can Alec Bohm really get over his ‘Hate this place’ faux pas? Others have. | Sports
To be fair, Alec Bohm just spoke on behalf of thousands of Philadelphia athletes who came before him.
As Bohm walked past shortstop Didi Gregorius after Bohm – a butcher at third base – made a routine play, cameras caught him muttering, “I [expletive] hate this place. Know this: Bohm at this time spoke for Mike Schmidt and Scott Rolen and Ben Simmons and Carson Wentz and, at least occasionally, Eric Lindros.
And, oh, about 5,000 more.
Bohm had made two mistakes, and he would make another, but by then he had made a routine play and he had been mockingly acclaimed for doing so. It was a predictable crowd reaction and a well-deserved humiliation.
Dozens of athletes have complained about Philadelphia fans, but this? It was different. He said the quiet part out loud.
It wasn’t a complaint; it was the indictment of a demanding city, of a frustrated region. He insulted the very marrow, the guts, the soul of the fanbase who consider themselves the best on the planet.
Nothing like this had ever been said before; never. Not “For whom, for what?” Not “If we don’t, we don’t.” Not “baseball heaven”.
How do you come back?
Limit the damage. It’s like that. Immediate and emergency damage control.
As soon as the game ended, Bohm was waiting at his locker to tell the world he was sorry. His veteran teammates told him he had a chance to save his career in Philadelphia, and he listened. He wore a hair shirt, beat himself up, and mortified his character until he oozed blood on the carpet.
It was a face-saving masterstroke. If Hillary Clinton had hated herself the way Bohm hated herself, the past six years could have been very different.
Was Bohm’s apology sincere? Perhaps. Bohm may have been sorry for saying it, but more likely Bohm was sorry for getting caught.
Whether Bohm is sincere or not, Philly has forgiven him. When he was announced as the hitter for Tuesday’s game, around 3,000 of the 26,045 fans at Citizens Bank Park gave him a standing ovation. When he failed, a few hundred also cheered.
“I enjoyed it,” he said.
And it is appreciated.
For the time being.
Chase Utley, Jason Kelce and Bryce Harper learned it early on: no matter what you think of the paying, bawling customer, they’re paying to keep you playing, so biting the hand that feeds you doesn’t make sense. Thus, “World [expletive] champions” from Chase, and “Nobody likes us, we don’t care”, from Kelce, and Harper’s incessant expressions about his freakish brotherly love affair.
It’s a lesson that legions of others, like Jimmy Rollins, Joel Embiid and Simmons, have ignored.
Rollins called Philly fans “favorites” in 2008 and then led the team to a World Series victory.
Simmons told fans to “stay to this side” after deafening boos erupted when he missed two free throws in Game 1 of the 2019 playoffs. Simmons helped win that series and was an All -Star the next two seasons. (Of course, he’s since declined to make the 2021 playoffs, then forced himself out of town in February, so he’ll still be persona non grata in Philadelphia).
Embiid silenced fans in a 2020 game against the Bulls after sinking a game-winning three-pointer, then called himself ‘good [expletive]but he’s spent the past two years making amends.
Even Claude Giroux cracked. The fan-friendly captain admitted in 2018 that players often “try to do too much” when Flyers fans boo. Nobody seemed to care much. The boos continued, but they were never directed at him. Giroux played in two more All-Star Games and, by the time he was traded in March, he had established himself as a Flyers great of all time.
Most of the recent blunders pale in comparison to those of all time.
No one has done more damage than Michael Jack Schmidt, who in 1985 called Philly fans “beyond any help” and claimed his Hall of Fame-level career would have been even more prolific had he played in front of “grateful” fans in Los Angeles. Angeles or Chicago. Schmidt quickly apologized, and since he had won a World Series and two MVPs, and would win another in 1986, he was forgiven.
In 1994, the late Jim Fregosi was the manager of the Phillies, and in a moment of spite he posted what he believed to be an unofficial reflection of the city and its sports radio station: “People who listen to WIP are a bunch of guys in South Philly who [sleep with] their sisters and the people who work at WIP [sleep with] Their mothers.” He apologized a few days later – to fans.
The following year, Ricky Watters came to town as Jeffrey Lurie’s first acquisition. On his Eagles debut, Watters refused to try and catch a pass over midfield late in a long-lost game, then defended his decision saying, “I’m not going to…get knocked out. . For who? For what reason?” For the fans, of course.
Watters apologized two days later, then went to two Pro Bowls during his three seasons as Eagle, and even named his autobiography after his infamous saying.
Many other Philadelphia sports personalities never recovered.
After Scott Rolen forced a trade to St. Louis in 2002, he told ESPN that “I felt like I died and went to heaven.” Which, of course, implies that Philadelphia was the opposite of heaven.
Phillies President Andy MacPhail, in explaining why the mediocre Phillies are unlikely to make a big trade at the looming 2019 trade deadline, said if the current team makes the playoffs, great, but “If we don’t, we won’t.” It not only enraged people buying tickets, but provided comedian Joe Conklin with the material for the best parody song of his illustrious career.
And, of course, my favourite: the 2014 crotch-grab from the closest Jonathan Papelbon. He had missed a save and was getting booed, so he resorted to a vulgarity that portrayed his character perfectly and was ejected. That, plus subsequent contact with a referee, earned him a seven-game suspension from Major League Baseball, but only because league rules did not allow the Phillies to suspend him themselves.
Papelbon pitched once again for the Phillies in Philadelphia.
Will the goodwill last? Perhaps.
Consider the factors that accelerated fan forgiveness.
No. 1: The Phillies didn’t lose Sunday’s game. In fact, they staged a thrilling comeback in the eighth inning, which Bohm started with a six-pitch walk.
No. 2: Bohm has reached base in six of his nine plate appearances. He produces. Production produces absolution.
No. 3: Philadelphia fans are generally empathetic.
They understand his frustration. Not only had he made two mistakes, but after a scintillating rookie campaign in 2020, he was sent to triple-A for the final stretch of the 2021 season. He also just spent three weeks watching top prospect Bryson Stott, a shortstop, stealing his job in spring training.
He too is only 25 years old. There are so many humiliations a 25 year old can take. How much would you pay to lip-read what a 25-year-old John Kruk, Dick Allen or Pat Burrell mumbled during games?
It is remarkable how quickly he seems to have been forgiven. Or, at least, how quickly the initial pardon was granted to him.
But just let his OBP go down to around 0.300 or so.
Bohm has no idea how much he’s going to hate this (expletive) place.