MINNESOTA – Walking around the streets of Minneapolis have given me a new perspective on my hometown. Minnesotans are famously nice and when they find out I’m from Philadelphia, they look at me with a brief moment of shock… followed by disdain and a bit of fear.
It’s the best fan experience I’ve ever had. I’ve transformed from mild-mannered media type to unpredictable rabble-rouser. “That’s right, I’m from Philly. I’m gonna boo cultural and religious icons. I will probably climb up that lamppost if it’s not properly greased. I might punch that horse over there.” They don’t know the meanest thing I’ll probably do is give a 3-star rating to an Uber driver. (Even that is unlikely, every driver has been so helpful.)
While many Philadelphians have more legitimate credentials as trouble-makers, the same dynamic exists. It’s fun to be the bad guy. The more people accentuate the outrageousness of Eagles fans, the more outrageous they behave.
Real trouble—violence, racist or mysoginistic language—has no place in this discussion. Fans who cross that line should be banned from football stadiums for eternity. Hooligans who throw beverages at people in opposing jerseys are just wasting beer. But the general vitriol and general nastiness has always been a point of pride. I grew up going to games at Veterans Stadium in the 1980s and ‘90s. I saw violence, threats and unparalleled profanity. And that was the players and coaches. You should have seen the crowd. It made today’s games at the Linc look like the audience at a polo match.
Not many people are stopping to ask why Eagles fans are so mad. Philadelphia has similar demographics to other East Coast cities that haven’t developed similar fan bases. Despite all their championships, Patriots fans are more paranoid and defensive—possibly for good reason after Deflategate. Redskins fans seem to be angry at management more than the other team. New York is New York. Giants fans are relatively well behaved. Jets fans are closer, possibly because they feel a bit disrespected as the second team in town.
Part of the anger has to be tied into lack of success. Broad Street has been noticeably bereft of parades. The Phillies won in 2008 and Villanova basketball brought home a title in 2016. But the Eagles haven’t won a championship since the 1960 NFL title. The 76ers haven’t won since 1983 and the Flyers haven’t hoisted the Stanley Cup since 1975.
On the positive side, chalk the behavior up to authenticity. Even the worst critics can’t argue that fans don’t want to see this team win. What some people call deplorable, others consider honest. Eagles fans are very honest. And some of them are even nice people.
Just in case the arrival of this rowdy bunch is causing anxiety in Minnesota, I’ve prepared a guide for how to deal with Eagle fans. If you find yourself face to face with someone in green face paint and a Brian Dawkins jersey, here are a few pointers.
• Remind them that you don’t root for the Dallas Cowboys. Unless you do. Then it’s go time.
• Criticize Andy Reid’s clock-management skills.
• Say that you trust the process. Keep it vague.
• Go on and on about how the Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia and how the capital never should have been moved to Washington.
• Note how cool the Eagles celebrity fans are … Bradley Cooper, Mike Trout, Pink.
• Blame former Villanova coach Rollie Massimino for ruining the Big 5.
• Don’t pretend to be informed about cheesesteaks. Pat’s vs. Geno’s has become a cliché. The new trend is claiming roast pork sandwiches are better anyway.
• Learn how to pronounce these places: Manayunk, Conshohocken, Schuylkill.
• Defend Chase Utley. Philadelphians love him.
• Don’t bring up the following: Super Bowls XV and XXXIX, the ’01, ’02 or ’03 NFC title games, Joe Carter, the 1981 NBA Eastern Conference Finals, the Fog Bowl, how Eric Lindross never delivered on the hype, the 2010 Stanley Cup Final … this list could go on for a long time. For Philadephia’s sake, lets hope Super Bowl LII isn’t on this list in the future.
Hopefully after Super Bowl LII, Minnesotans will actually have positive thoughts about Eagles fans. Maybe not like them, but at least appreciate them. A lot of that depends on how they act. Win or lose, I plan to say I’m from Philadelphia with pride.