I’ve lived in the Twin Cities for three years now, enough to establish a sense of community. And I’ve never hesitated about telling people where I’m from.
I grew up in the Philadelphia area. Worse yet, I’m an Eagles fan.
I didn’t realize the depth of Minnesota’s anger at my brethren until a few days ago, when I walked into Morrissey’s, an Irish pub in Uptown. A few guys were discussing the Vikings-Eagles game and the notorious obnoxiousness of Philly’s football fans. As I sat down, I overheard one of them say, “I’ve never seen a city with people so dedicated to being such jerks.”
I waved. He looked my way. “Hi, Philly native here,” I said, flashing a broad smile.
There was a moment of silence. He was a tall, baldheaded guy with a mustache, a local firefighter I later learned.
“So, are you proud of your people?” he finally asked.
Yes, I answered, I am proud. No, I can’t justify every stupid thing ever done by a drunk Eagles fan. But I think the NFL benefits from having such a passionate, dedicated and idiosyncratic fan base, with working-class roots that run deep.
The firefighter and I went back and forth like this for several minutes. He wasn’t receptive to my argument, but I hope other Minnesotans will be. Because soon a tide of green jersey-wearing folks will be filling bars like Morrissey’s and, my fellow Minnesotans, I believe they deserve your respect.
It’s true that the average Philadelphia sports fan has a chip on his shoulder. It’s part of the way the city sees itself, with many tracing it to our geography on the East Coast.
“We wear that on our sleeves,” Philadelphia playwright Bruce Graham told me. “Nobody gave us nothing. New York is rich and sophisticated. Washington is connected and powerful. Boston is the upper crust. And what’s Philly? We’re cheesesteak.”
Graham, whose play “Philly Fan” has been running off and on in the city for about 15 years, believes that despite rising ticket prices for football games, Philly fans haven’t lost touch with their team’s gritty working-class character. Philly’s stadium complex is still located in South Philly, a former industrial neighborhood and bastion of Eagles fan-bros.
Philly residents routinely see themselves as overlooked and underestimated — it’s such a part of our psychology that Sylvester Stallone once made an entire movie about it. Today Eagles fans embrace this underdog status by wearing dog masks, despite being the No. 1 seed in the NFC.
An underdog mentality translates into a fan base that embraces its rough side. It’s part of who we are, it’s what makes us different from the posh kids in New York or the preppy kids in D.C. And if you have a problem with that, there are many things that I, as an Eagles fan, could tell you. But they’re not printable in a family newspaper. And really, if you were cursed at or someone spilled beer on you at an Eagles playoff game, consider it part of the experience, like getting splashed at a water park. Congratulations, you’ve become more fully alive.
Philadelphia is not unique for having working-class football fans who can be a little on the rough side. But Eagles fans are so notorious that any incident is quickly pinned to the larger narrative, a classic example of confirmation bias.
Some useful context: There were six arrests following the Eagles trouncing of the Vikings. Yes, Vikings got some beer cans thrown at them while walking to the stadium. But I couldn’t find any reports of hospitalizations. As Philly sports Twitter personality @ZooWithRoy pointed out, there were four arrests, 31 ejections and five people transported to hospitals during December’s Packers/Vikings matchup at Lambeau Field.
Some of what’s happening here is a culture clash. Minnesotans take pride in their “Minnesota Nice” manners. Philadelphians take pride in their direct, sometimes coarse and often irreverent way of expressing themselves. That contrast was captured beautifully by a viral video that showed a middle-aged woman in Vikings gear lecturing a young male Eagles fan about “respect” and “Minnesota” while he repeatedly yells “Go Birds!” and wriggles in a manner suggesting excessive alcohol consumption.
Many Star Tribune readers will identify more with the woman, but it’s no surprise that the video was shared widely by Eagles fans.
Want another reason for the backlash? Minnesota does not have a better football team, as evidence shows, and this is their passive-aggressive way of saying: “Well, at least we have better fans.”
I don’t really think so.
Before anyone tells me to go back to Philadelphia, though, let me add one more thing: I don’t have a choice in the matter. Despite my best efforts, my daughter is growing up a Vikings fan, and it’s fair to say that purple is now one of her favorite colors.
Still, I hope she’ll sing a “Fly, Eagles Fly” with me next Sunday. Because if there’s anything that Vikings and Eagles fans should agree on, it’s that the Patriots — and their fans — are the absolute worst.
Jared Goyette is a freelance reporter based in Minneapolis. Follow him on Instagram: @jaredgoyette.