BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — Ron Kill and his wife, Jane, might be the friendliest people in Minnesota, which is saying something. They’ve been Vikings season ticket holders for 15 years and have seen plenty of opposing fan bases come and go without much torment. But when their son and daughter-in-law went to the NFC championship game in Philadelphia two weeks ago and told them their personal horror stories—bottles thrown, foul language, intimidation and threats—it was too much to take.
Ron went downtown to the Xcel Energy Center and booed the Eagles on Super Bowl Opening Night. At least for a week, he’s a Patriots fan.
“They said it was horrible,” Ron says. “They got beat, big deal, that happens, but you know, when you can’t go out there and feel safe…”
“Terrible,” Jane adds. “Our son said the night before he was afraid for his life. The [manager] at the restaurant stood behind them to make them safe. They were being harassed because he had a Vikings jersey on and they went out to eat.”
She added later: “They also said the little kids were taunting Vikings players too. I mean, how do you teach your kids to do that?”
Imagine the strange, fever-dream universe where the Patriots arrive anywhere outside the six New England states and are the fan favorite. Thanks to a local Tom Brady tie-in (he has family from Minnesota) and an icy relationship between Vikings and Eagles fans, Super Bowl LII has provided that forum. The Mall of America is a United Nations of sorts—diplomacy must be maintained for the greater good—but tensions run high. Vikings fans have been spotted wearing purple shirts with Patriots logos on them, saying “I’m a Vikings fan, Go Patriots!” Eagles fans have been bellowing their signature chant throughout the massive shopping center. One such supporter from Philadelphia, Thomas Nanni, says that when he walked into the mall Thursday, a group of older women approached him and said: “You’re not going to throw beer on us, are you?”
He and his brother, Anthony, drove 19 hours through the night from their house near Philadelphia International Airport to make it here. At a point in their younger lives, they admit, they probably would have been part of the non-ticketed crowd of college-aged kids raising hell in the parking lot. Now, even though they’re much more relaxed, the stereotype remains.
“We got this bad reputation for throwing snowballs at Santa Claus, I mean, we weren’t even born when that happened,” Anthony says. “That was like 1960 [’68, to be exact]. It just seems like something people like to hold on to. Now, granted, you don’t come into our stadium and try and take over. That’s not gonna happen. And you got enough alcohol and crazy people out there…”
Timothy Lindman, dressed in a Minnesota Wild top and snow hat with purple Vikings sweatpants, read the coverage of fan abuse in the Star-Tribune the day after the game. From that point on, he made up his mind about the Eagles.
“Throwing cans and eggs; I mean they’ll throw it at Santa Claus, so they’ll throw it at anyone,” Lindman says. “Now they’re here, so they’ll have a problem. Us Vikings fans are great. We’re not as crazy as Eagles fans.
“I mean, Tom Brady, his grandma and grandpa are from here, he’s gone sunfishing. They like him here, you know?”
Jane Kill says she heard that many Minnesotans wrote to the mayor and also to the online retail giant Amazon, which is considering a new corporate headquarter in Philadelphia, to ask their CEO if he would really put a business in a place where people acted like that. She and her husband agreed that some Eagles fans were O.K. During the NFC title game, one group actually told her son and daughter-in-law that if the Vikings won, they would find them at their seats and help smuggle them out of the stadium. Instead they both swapped their Vikings jerseys for Carson Wentz North Dakota State Jerseys (the Kills aren’t too far from Fargo) and blended in.
Still, it shouldn’t have come to that. The way Jane sees it, karma will find a way. “The ramifications are big-time for them,” she says.
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NOW ON THE MMQB: Albert Breer’s weekly Game Plan column … Kalyn Kahler from the tiny Minnesota town with a big connection to Tom Brady … Andy Benoit on Trey Burton, perhaps poised to become the unlikely hero of Super Bowl LII.
LATER TODAY:George R.R. Martin knows a little something about building a dynasty. He weighs in on the Patriots … Jacob Feldman on the Dilly Dilly craze sure to envelop Super Bowl advertisements and, subsequently, all of your friends who lack a sense of humor … The Super Bowl halftime scorecard from the great Jack Dickey.
1. Ryan Shazier posted a photo to Instagram showing him standing, brace on his left knee, with his arm around Ben Roethlisberger. He’s being discharged from the hospital and moving on to the next round of rehab.
2. The Eagles had a bad second half of practice on Wednesday. Doug Pederson responded.
3. From the Boston Globe: Brian Flores, (potentially) the Patriots’ next great defensive coordinator.
4. Malcolm Jenkins, a fierce advocate for social justice reform, takes the stage in Minneapolis.
5. Aaron Rodgers is one of the league’s most experienced shade-throwers. He said Thursday that the Packers firing his quarterbacks coach “without consulting me” was interesting.
6. Justin Timberlake, who is performing the Super Bowl halftime show, said he will not allow his son to play football when he gets old enough. We’re off to a great start!
7. Pro Football Focus has a great eye for on-field matchups, and they’ve delivered a Sunday dossier well worth your time.
8. Bill Belichick, in a stunning development, doesn’t want to expound on the possibility of winning back-to-back Super Bowls.
9. This Eagles hype video is something, though the horse-punching must have been left on the cutting room floor.
10. There’s a chance this Sunday’s Super Bowl is the coldest on record. So happy I forgot my coat in New Jersey.
A song for Eagles and Vikings fans. May they come together under these fluorescent lights and enjoy the Mall of America together.