But it is a slur, because it suggests that any attention paid to the local ice hockey team beyond the bare minimum falls on disinterested and empty seats, except during the Stanley Cup playoffs. There is no way of determining this with any degree of accuracy, of course, but there is one category in which fans of the Blade Runners can more than - pardon the bladder pun - hold their own.
And that is in terms of depth and breadth of loyalty and allegiance. Flyers fans, despite those tired, cheap-shot Stepford Wives references, dutifully keep coming back for more. They travel remarkably well and they do not discourage. (See bus with no bathroom.)
It is important to remember their team does not make it easy to continue their support. For starters, it's been 37 years, and counting, since the crimson-splattered gory, er, glory days of the Broad Street Bullies and those brassy Stanley Cup parades.
More frustrating have been those agonizing times when they have come so achingly close. But it's not for not trying. Indeed, of the four major sports teams in Philadelphia, the Flyers have always been the first to react to failure and defeat and the least afraid to make changes. (The Phillies of recent vintage also have demonstrated fearlessness and willingness to wheel and deal.)
In fact, you wonder sometimes if the Flyers go too far, overreacting, succumbing to panic. Nowhere has this been more strikingly evident than here and now. Paul Holmgren general manages the same way he played hockey: fearlessly - all guts, gristle, and grit. He is the embodiment of the quickest way from Point A to Point B is a straight line, with a couple of elbows to the ear.
And so last summer, he took a meat ax to the roster.
Now there is retooling, and there is rebuilding. But this was massacre on ice. When he was done, 10 Flyers who had been Flyers the year before last were dumped unceremoniously on the streets, and eight players from other teams became Flyers. That's a body count of 18 and suggests a purge and a strong message to the remaining mercenaries.
It was a monumental risk on Holmgren's part. His made-over team struggled for a while but now seems to have found its stride. And how does all of this sit with the Flyers Fan Club? Blind allegiance? Withering impatience, à la Eagles faithful? Docile?
"Impatient, yes," said Joe Fisher of the Flyers Fan Club, "but still loyal. You can be both. Isn't that the essence of being a fan?"
Yes, yes it is. It's booing when you sense a lack of effort, feeling free to express your displeasure loudly, but still pledging undying allegiance to the Orange and Black.
"I've always thought that from Mr. Snider on down that they are trying," Fisher said. "I've never questioned that."
Presumably that is the sentiment among other fan club members, who, I must confess, I thought might number, oh say, 27. Wrong, Zamboni Breath.
"Four hundred active members," Fisher said. "All over the States, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, all the Canadian cities, of course. We have a real cross-section, families, couples, singles, young and old."
They have a website, and it is impressive - meticulous and voluminous. There are monthly meetings. Lots of bus trips and other arrange-your-own-transpor-
tation excursions. Last month included a trek to Winnipeg, Edmonton, and Calgary, a daunting swing ambitious enough to impress even Rand McNally.
In their travels, Fisher said, they encounter Flyers fans from other cities, wearing their colors, lighting up large sections of arenas with black, white, and orange, much to the local populace's chagrin.
The club also selects a Flyer who has played with the most heart, and he receives the Hart (as in broadcaster Gene) award of $2,000 to the charity of his choosing.
Fisher, who is closing in on 50, said he was smitten at the first Flyers game he ever saw.
"I was around 10, and we were up top in the very back row at the Spectrum," he said. "Big heater [was] behind us, and we were pounding on it, and even from up there I could see how fast they were, and those collisions . . . wow. I was hooked for keeps."
So, about that 10-hour no-bathroom bus trek to Toronto.
"We were going to use big Wawa cups," Fisher said. "But there were women and children on board, so we made four rest stops."
Counting, fervently, the miles between each one.