Philadelphia’s sports fans have always had a bit of a bad reputation. From infamous snowball throwing incidents that happened decades ago to boo’ing underperforming players on their own teams relentlessly until they inevitably get traded away, the city’s fanbase is synonymous with negativity for many people. It’s led to the city being an undesirable place to call home for a lot of pro athletes. Bryce Harper isn’t one of them.
“I absolutely love playing in Philly. Everybody thinks I’m crazy for that. Everybody thinks I’m telling a lie because I say that I love playing in Philly cause everybody’s like, ‘oh, there’s no way,’ but I just respect the fact that they care so much,” Harper tells Complex over Zoom. “They’ll let you know on a Tuesday night if you’re playing terrible and they’ll let you know on a Friday night that you’re playing great.”
Entering his fourth season with the Philadelphia Phillies, Harper has dealt with his fair share of boos thus far. But he hopes to give them more to cheer about and lead the Phillies to the playoffs for the first time since 2011. With the addition of players like Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos this offseason, it may be the best chance the franchise has had in quite some time. The Phillies fanbase is already excited by the potential from their new lineup this season. And Harper agrees.
“Seeing what [the Phillies] did from 2006 to 2011, they were able to fill that ballpark and were able to have excitement around the whole stadium and the city each time the Phillies got back into town. We want to have that back,” Harper tells Complex. “We don’t just want to have one great year. We want to be able to control the narrative and have a couple years where we’re one of the best teams in baseball.”
Through his latest partnership with Fanatics, the reigning NL MVP is going to be able to provide Phillies fans with some off-the-field memories too. The multi-year deal makes Fanatics the exclusive distributor of Harper memorabilia and collectibles including game-used equipment and signed photos capturing some of his career highlights. “I’ve been waiting a long time to announce an exclusive partner in the autographs and collectibles space, and I’m so excited about teaming up with Fanatics as we get ready to start the season,” Harper said in an official press release.
Harper isn’t the only superstar in Philly right now though. Two of the players that play across the street at Wells Fargo Center for the Philadelphia 76ers, Joel Embiid and James Harden, are also giving the city’s faithful a lot to be excited about. With Embiid an MVP candidate in his own right, Harper likes the Sixers’ chances at finally bringing home the Larry O’Brien trophy that has eluded the franchise since 1983.
“It’s pretty cool to see the city rally around the Sixers, just like they rally around the Eagles or the Phillies,” says Harper. “Just to be able to see the city kinda thriving in the sports world right now, I think the Sixers have a great shot to go get that title of their own.”
Ahead of his latest partnership with Fanatics, we recently got a chance to hop on the phone with the reigning NL MVP to talk about his expectations for the Phillies this season, the Sixers NBA title hopes, how baseball can attract new fans, and more. Check out the conversation below.
(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)