In this edition of Ask An Indie Rock Dude About Sports, we get a bit of insight into the mind of a Philadelphia sports fan…who just happens to be a fixture in the Chicago underground emo/punk scene. Evan Thomas Weiss grew up in Philly but has called the Windy City home for years, and he now has an excellent new record out via his project Into It. Over It.
The album, Standards, was recorded over the course of a month at Tiny Telephone studios in San Francisco…right when the Chicago Blackhawks and Golden State Warriors were winning their respective championships. You can buy the album here. In between band practice and an in-store appearance, Weiss chatted with SI.com about his history with Philly-area teams, his favorite sports documentaries, and what it is he appreciates about watching sports in the first place.
How did you get into sports?
Until I got into music, sports was, like, the number one thing in my life. There was a time, if you caught me before the age of 10, where I could name every member of the Edmonton Oilers. I was so obsessed with hockey and baseball. The town where I grew up in New Jersey is just outside of Philadelphia. The first sporting event I ever went to was going to see the Flyers play the Devils, in ’92 or ’91. There had to have been like two or three bench-clearing brawls and I think that was the moment I decided that hockey is the coolest sport of all time.
Then, the 1993 Phillies were gods to me. I was maybe nine years old then. When you’re nine years old and the baseball team from where you’re from is those dudes…they’re just the most fun baseball team ever.
My love for sports has taken a backseat to music because frankly I’m a better musician than I am an athlete. But I’ve definitely been rediscovering a lot in the last couple of years now that all the Chicago sports teams are really, really likable.
Is the fan culture in Philly really as nasty and vulgar as people make it out to be, or is that overblown?
Oh, we're ruthless. Philadelphia fans are ruthless. And that’s a badge of honor, you have to earn that. Throwing batteries at Santa Claus? Of course! I don’t think that’s weird. That’s just with personalities in general, we’re loudmouths, we speak our minds, and we’re clear and articulate with how we feel. We’ve got a lot to prove. So...I get a kick out of it. I think it’s awesome. Plus, we’ve been raised with rough and tumble teams, like the Flyers in the '80s. That’s what we’ve been exposed to is this grit, which is to be appreciated. It’s part of why those teams are worth coming back to for the people there, despite all the losses.
I’ve found in my own experience that the worlds of those that have a deep interest in music and those that have a deep interest in sports don’t always overlap. Have you had a similar experience?
The scene that I’ve got my hold in since moving to Chicago has a very DIY/punk mentality, and I think there absolutely are a fair amount of friends of mine that would very closely equate being a jock with being a sports fan. And, of course they do! The number one enemy of punks are jocks, it’s completely unavoidable. That’s definitely something I’ve experienced here, sometimes my friends will find out that I’m into sports and they’ll roll their eyes or something. But I’ve never really cared. I’ve never had a record, or a movie, or any other piece of entertainment drive me to the core of my emotion like a great game can. Even a great sports documentary about the humanistic level of things can drive me to tears way easier than an album could or a movie could.
What are some moments in sports that have driven you to those really emotional moments?
A big one was when Harry Kalas died. He was the voice of where I grew up. If you were watching a game, he was the commentator. He had a way of just making the most glorious moments seem just that much more unbelievable. When he passed away, that was a super emotional day, not just for me but for my whole family.
As for another moment…I was living in Chicago when Bartman interrupted the foul ball.
Whoa. What was that like?
We were standing outside of Wrigley Field watching on the giant TV, watching that happen surrounded by hundreds of other people, who were all stunned and upset. That was a huge event. I will never forget that.
You mentioned that hockey is your favorite sport. What is it about hockey that has maintained your interest?
It’s fast, it’s exciting, there aren’t a lot of timeouts, there aren’t a lot of commercials. It’s aggressive but it’s also really graceful, and it’s also unpredictable. I love baseball, but I also can agree that baseball is slow. And I love football, but there are just too many commercials. I love both those sports but get torn on them for those reasons. Hockey is a sport that I’ve always loved to watch, I’ve always loved going to games. I wish I could skate because if I could I would definitely play, too.
Well you’re in a decent city for hockey with the Blackhawks right now, huh?
Oh it’s unbelievable! I’m definitely a Flyers fan, I have an autographed Ron Hextall jersey, I swear by the Flyers….but secretly I’ve been getting way more excited watching the Blackhawks the last few years. I mean, it’s obviously easier to get excited about a winning team, but the way the city has rallied around them has been great. It’s a fun team to watch.
I haven’t totally switched, there just aren’t that many places around here to watch Flyers games. And they also haven’t made the playoffs in a couple years, so there’s really not that much to enjoy from across the country.
I wonder if I’m more of a fan of people rallying around teams, or if I’m a fan of the team itself. I think I might be more of a fan of rallying around a team.
The Flyers aren’t totally out of the playoff race yet. Do you think they can make it?
Well, being a Philadelphia sports fan, I am accustomed to years and years and years of letdowns. Every year is the same. But the love of the team is what keeps you coming back. I would love to see them crush this year, but frankly I need to start watching more of the games. I’ve been so wrapped up in this album push that I haven’t really been able to sit down and enjoy it.
Is it difficult at all to keep up with sports when you’re on the road?
It depends on the time of year. We were actually recording last June, and it was awesome because the Stanley Cup finals and the NBA finals were happening at the same time. The Stanley Cup finals had the Blackhawks, and the NBA finals had the Warriors, and we were in San Francisco. So every single night after recording we would have somebody to root for. And both teams we were rooting for won!
We were staying in Oakland, It was a really awesome to be in that city at that time and be able to experience that type of hype. People were in such a good mood and lighting fireworks off in every direction. That’s such a lucky time to be there. It couldn’t have been better-timed.
I mean, it helps that the Warriors are fun as hell to watch, right?
Oh absolutely. Watching Steph Curry is like watching a video game. He is unbelievable.
It seems like most of what attracts you to sports is the personal impact it can have.
Absolutely. If a team is likable personally to me, then I will like that team. That kind of connection with a team is just as important to me as the team being good. When the Red Sox beat the Yankees in the ALCS. They were the scrappy, dirty-faced, loud-mouthed, rugged dudes. I can relate to that. It's like it's me winning the World Series.
ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentaries are also huge for me. I end up in tears every single time. I just watched the one about the ’85 Bears yesterday and I was losing it.
What’s your favorite sports documentary?
Well, my favorite sports movie is Rudy. My favorite sports documentary, and I’m not sure this would count, but I really loved the Bones Brigade documentary [Bones Brigade: An Autobiography]. It’s about the original young and tough skateboarding posse in the 80s. It’s where Tony Hawk came from, it’s where a lot of legendary skateboarders you would know came from. It just kind follows about how they were really young and rose to stardom and how it just fell apart. I’ve watched it several times and every time it hits me the same way. I definitely recommend that.
As for the 30 for 30 stuff, the Coach V one [Survive and Advance] just killed me. I absolutely loved that documentary. I was a kid when he was really hitting his popularity and everyone knew him. I remember his speech at the ESPYs. It seemed important then even as a preteen, let alone now that I’m 31 and have lost multiple friends and family to cancer, and I can see how much that resonates.