The opinion below does not include acts of assault or property destruction 1. It is very odd to feel the need to include this disclaimer, but people are funny.
On Sunday the Philadelphia Eagles hosted the Minnesota Vikings for the NFC Title Game. It’s been years since Eagles fans have won a playoff game, much less had a chance to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, so the city has been exuberant with pride and glee at our prospects. When national pundits said we had no shot, it didn’t matter because we knew better. When Vegas picked us as home underdogs for a second straight week the city took a cue from a couple of Eagles players and purchased every dog mask in the entire tri-state area 2. When the NFL botched their promotional design stage and put up an announcement declaring a Patriots/Vikings Super Bowl, we grumbled and said, “We’ll show them,” even though most of us knew it was just a mistake 3.”
But late last week news feeds from Minnesota began to make their way into the Philly area which (a) compared Eagles fans to a street gang and (b) seemed to be attempting to frighten people from attending the game. That, more than anything else, irked the region.
Look, we are not a nice fan base. We are not the type of fans who walk up to people wearing opposing colors and say, “Good luck today, I hope you all play well.” We don’t hope that. We want you to loose, and we will heckle and boo and shout “E-A-G-L-E-S Eagles” chants at random intervals. It’s who we are, and there’s no apologies for that. But what so many folks from outside the Philly area fail to understand is how the vast majority of people who are heckling, booing, and chanting are smiling. Yes, there are people who don’t understand this is all a game and take things too far, but more often than not those people are pulled back by actual fans who want nothing to do with that nonsense. In reality, if opposing fans embrace the heckling with a grin those same jeering crowds who are wearing green would offer to buy the out of towners a beer and then argue with their own friends about which cheesesteak place to send the poor unfortunate saps who are delusional enough to root for the other team 4. Heckling opposing fans is supposed to be fun for everyone, and if those in visiting colors show they can take some ribbing with a good nature, then they’re often afforded a space to taunt right back 5.
The hekling is really a test which poses the question, “Are you someone we can respect, even if you root for the other team?” That’s just Philly in general. When people are making fun of you it’s an invitation to engage and show that you can hold up. It’s how we demonstrate friendship 6. It’s when people are nice and polite that you should be worried, because it means you aren’t “in.” We’re only acting that way because we don’t think you can take anything else.
So, no, we aren’t warm and fuzzy. But being afraid of the entire fan base makes zero sense. You just need to understand the culture and learn how to roll with it. Once you do you can participate in the fun, get some great tips on how to enjoy our amazing city, and meet people who would have your back should any idiots come along who don’t get this is all supposed to be entertainment.
Also, don’t dress up the Rocky Statue in your team’s colors. I mean, who thought that would end well?
- The “charming” people who thought it was a good idea to toss unopened beers at Vikings fans before the NFC Title Game, for example, were not supporting the team. They were committing a crime and I hope they are found and prosecuted, along with similar idiots in every city. ↩
- In Philly that roster is Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. Just in case you were wondering. ↩
- No, this wasn’t a conspiracy. The NFL had different versions of that ad for every possible outcome, someone just hit “publish” and it went live across the NFL’s social feeds, which then got crawled by search engines. ↩
- The only exception to this general truth are Dallas Cowboy fans, whom Eagles fans cannot stand as a rule. Even then, however, the Cowboys fans despise by the Eagles’ fan base aren’t legitimate fans with some actual connection to the Dallas area — our ire is reserved for Cowboys fans from Philly who are really just haters. ↩
- Just not in the stands, that’s not ever going to be considered acceptable. ↩
- For example, my Church secretary just texted me to ask if she could use the Church paper cutter for a non-church function. My response was, “NO! NEVER! HOW DARE YOU!” I really did type it in all caps. ↩
Sorry, but I just fundamentally disagree. I understand the nature of giving each other grief. I live in a region with one of the (if not THE) most heated rivalries in all of football (Vikings/Packers). It’s the type of rivalry that seeps into every aspect of life, including family gatherings. Yet we’re still able to be respectful to each other without needing to pass through some form of “test” to see if we’re worth being nice to.
And even if we were to accept your rationale that we need to smile and go along with it, when you have bad eggs, like the ones featured in the news stories, we have no idea who to trust and who not to. How do I know that the person that is heckling me isn’t going to try and punch me if I try to play along? I don’t, and because of that, it becomes a culture of fear, and that’s the problem with trying to justify this type of attitude and behavior.
Yah, we’ll just have to disagree on this – and the Packers/Vikings rivalry isn’t as nice as it looks. One quick search on “Vikings and Packers fans fight” pops up an incident where a Packers fan, who was cutting up a Vikings inflatable after a Vikings win over the Texans, got confronted by a Vikings fan… who was then stabbed seven times. And I don’t seen any need to justify behavior, booing and jeering and chanting is the culture — though I did go back over the video of the beer-throwing and heard people swearing at the opposing fans and saw some folks flipping the bird. That’s not justifiable anywhere and falls under the “assault” disclaimer I put in above. In our personal chat I did mention walking by a tailgate lot wearing opposing colors, especially for a late game, is not a good idea. What I didn’t say is that I’d love to see tailgating become a thing of the past, because any time there is an instance of fan stupidity it begins in one of these lots. But, again, that’s everywhere. If you want to have a discussion about sports and a culture of fear, I think it’s a worthy one to have — but singling out Philadelphia (as is almost always the case in National outlets, not saying you are doing this) isn’t the way to have the conversation.
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