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by Steve Young

Steve Young columns

Philadelphia Flyers owner and major Republican donor, Ed Snider piped in the loudest music he could, but it couldn't camouflage the Philly boos snowing down on Republican VP nominee, Sarah Palin. And in what will be known forever in Philly history as the Palin Curse, it set the scene for one of the Flyer's worst opening night, opening period performances ever as they found themselves down to the New York Rangers, 4-0 before the first period was over.

It should have been a sweet, memorable moment for Philadelphian Kathy O'Connell, voted the Flyers top hockey mom, but Snider forced O'Connell to become part of a national embarrassment when Palin was bought onto the ice next to her to a barrage of boos from the Philly crowd.

Congrats, McCain campaign. Mess up a wet dream? You even ruined a home team's opening night. Sure, the New York Rangers helped, but it wasn't until Palin left the building the Flyers closed the score to 4-3.

Given enough room, Kate Smith has to be turning over in her grave.

In what had to be the most brainless moves in political and sports history -- other than Texas Ranger managing partner, George Bush trading Sammy Sosa to the White Sox for Harold Baines -- Snider brought Palin to drop the ceremonial first puck at the Flyers home opener Saturday night. Besides the fact that it is an overt politically-partisan move by Snider, it completely distracted the united fan front -- and obviously the team -- from what is normally a special evening of team/fan bonding. Snider was obviously too partisan to realize that even a 50-50 reaction from the fans would have boos echoing through the Wachovia Center far louder than cheers.

Now the McCain campaign and Snider will have to deal with embarrassing YouTube clips swirling virally through the net until November 5.

Philadelphia doesn't take kindly to any icon, friendly or not, messing with their sports teams. There are still many unrepentant snowball-throwing terrorists residing in Philly. Has Snider forgotten Santa Claus being pelted with snowballs at the Eagles game?

But even more important than the public humiliation Snider would have provided to Palin and himself, the greatest offense is the defiling of the memory of the Flyers' time-honored symbol of God, country, and the Broadstreet Bullies: Kate Smith.

A great songstress of earlier days with her stirring rendition of "God Bless America," she sang her way into Philadelphia sports lore when the team played her version of "God Bless America" before a game in 1969. The Flyers began to play the song before a number of home games -- and many more of them they won than lost. When Smith made a surprise visit and actually walked onto the Spectrum ice on October 11, 1973 to sing the Flyers' appropriated anthem for their opener against the Toronto Maple Leafs, she carved a place in every Flyers fan's heart forever.

Smith again performed the song before Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals on May 19, 1974, at which the Flyers clinched their first of two back-to-back Stanley Cups. Smith united the fans even more than the game itself, and now Snider decided to spit on her grave while carving a political divide right through the center of the Wachovia Center.

Kate Smith and Philadelphia deserve more.

Steve Young is author of "Great Failures of the Extremely Successful" ( and blogs at

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Albion Monitor   October 3, 2008   (

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