Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Mabel Report (May- Confessions of an Adopted Philly Fan)

The following is the second of what we hope to be many Mabel Reports; you can re-read the first here. It was submitted following the Flyers' win in game 5, and I thought it best to hold off on posting until now- the morning of game one. Enjoy!

After the Flyers game tonight, I went out (though sadly not to party on Broad Street as I am still in Texas  for another week). When I came home, I read Twitter and Facebook, as I usually do. A friend had posted this:
24 hours later and I'm still thinking about, and feeling moved by, the LOST finale. I think that means it did its job.
I'm a media scholar (or at least an aspiring one). I value statements like this, because I value media and culture and what they reveal about us as a society and what our cultural investments reveal about us as individuals. I value statements like this, and investments like this, even if I personally place less value in Lost specifcally. Yet however much I value Lost (or Mad Men, which was part of my thesis and the last year-plus of my academic work, or Friday Night Lights which I genuinely adore) academically or intellecutally, I value statements like this in a completely different way: 
I cried. I don't care if it makes me a dork. I love this team.
Coming home last night, another friend had posted this. I value statements like this perhaps more because they touch me on a far more personal level. Statements like this, teams like this, cities like this, fan bases like this, blogs like this. They move me. It may seem like a silly thing to say about a site about wanting to go to the zoo with Roy Halladay, but alot of people would say its a silly thing to say about a TV show too. 

Though I study television programming, and I love TV, I am not a fan of television. I am not a fan of any television show, at least not in terms of the extratextual investment that has come to define fandom and the media studies subfield of fandom. I do not write fan fiction, or make fan vids. I don't go to conventions. I do not write reviews of the shows I watch or visit message boards. It is not because I find that activity frivolous or meaningless, I just don't partake. Yet on an April afternoon, I took my Curriculm Vitae (in academia we don't have resumes) and made it into a job application for a bolg (not even a blog!) about going to the zoo with Roy Halladay.  My personal investments are not in the television shows I study (though I do invest many hours worth of time and energy into the shows I study). My personal investments are in Philadelphia sports teams (though I do invest intellectual time and academic energy into sports). 24 hours later, I will not be thinking about Lost, or even a show I like more than Lost. 24 hours later, I will be thinking about, and like ZWR, I will be feeling moved by, the Flyers and the city of Philadelphia.

In 2008, I left Philadelphia with my partner who was born and raised in the city and the surrounding counties. He had never left the area for more than a few days before and yet he moved to Austin, Texas with me (or for me). It wasn't easy here. It never got easy or even easier here... for him or really for me. That Fall, however, the Phillies went to and won the World Series. Yes he was angry that after 20+ years of fandom, they only won once he left. Yet it was that World Series victory that from 1,700 miles away showed me that the Phillies could be and would be my team too. That they were our team. That Philly was my home even if I didn't live there anymore. Even if I didn't grow up there.

Now, two years later. The Flyers are priming me to come home-- and it is not easy for me to admit that anywhere might be home. My dad grew up a New York Giants fan in the fifties. I grew up a Hartford Whalers fan in the nineties. And yet as much as I love the Giants, as much as I love the Whalers, they have never for a second given me the feeling of investment, the feeling of home, the feeling of being moved that the Phillies or the Eagles or the Flyers have given me. If I believed in that kind of thing, I might believe that the Flyers or Roy (or maybe ZWR?) were kismet, offering me something when I needed it most, offering me a connection to a place that I'm still not sure that I get to call home, but that I increasingly realize I need to call home.


  1. Interesting and stimulating, especially to me, who grew up in the Philadelphia are and went to grad school in Austin. This is the part I find most curious:

    My personal investments are not in the television shows I study.

    How strange to choose as a career something in which one does not have a personal investment, especially when that career is as larded with obstacles as that of aspiring academic media critic. If you're not doing because you're personally invested in the results, why not just go to law school? The work will still be interesting, and far more reliably remunerative.

    This is not really a criticism, at least not of you, Mabel. Academe discourages, and perhaps even barricades, socially and intellectually, the kinds of investments you've avoided. I remember making this point in a seminar, and the professor noting the difference between belles lettres and academic criticism. But, in my experience, the rigor of the latter is prone to destruction without the personal investments of the former.

  2. A perfect example of the absurd beauty of this bolg that a post like this feels completely at home here. As an ex-aspiring academic/cultural scholar and a current Philly expat, I thank you for eloquently capturing the surrealistic pull of the aura that is Philly, Philly sports, its fan base, and its culture.
    After living half my life outside the Philadelphia area, it is still and always will be home.

  3. Listen to this story of woe about not being present at championships.

    I was born August of 1983. The Sixers just won the championship before I was born, thanks guys.

    Ok, so moving on. Never really left the Philadelphia area until 2003. In that time the Phillies and Flyers lost in their respective championship games.

    In 2003 I go to Penn State. Previously, Penn State is a football powerhouse, but for the 2 years I am there, they suck it up.

    While in the middle of the state, the Eagles go to the Super Bowl, but they lose - not far enough away I guess.

    So, I move back to Philly in 2005 and live there until 2007. After I leave Penn State they go on to win the Orange Bowl.

    In 2006 my family goes to a trip to visit family in Italy, in July. I decide not to go. Italy wins the World Cup as I celebrate, alone, in Philly.

    In 2007 I join the Army. In 2008 the Phillies win the World series and I'm stuck in a shitty bar in Kansas watching the game WITHOUT SOUND.

    I deploy to Iraq, where I am currently. I miss another World Series run by the Phillies, and the Perfect game and the current Stanley cup run.

    The point of this post. Go Phils, Go Flyers, Go Philly, no matter WHERE YOU ARE!

  4. thank you all for the kind words!

    what i mean about personal investments is particularly linked to academic ideas about fandom and what fandom is. i am personally invested in many aspects of my work but again particularly after the last week of lost-mania i am reminded about how the closest parallel for me is sports, not any single tv show.

  5. Thanks for your service Baron. Fellow PSU alum. You're a hero. Great story Mabel.


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