Let’s get something clear upfront. Vikings fans won’t like this column.
They probably will curse at it. Or maybe even pour a beer over my mug shot. Make it an IPA, please, if you must. But here goes.
The Philadelphia Eagles actually are a likable team. They’re easy to root for.
(Ducks for cover.)
Hello, still there?
To say anything nice about the Eagles within Minnesota borders has become a crime punishable by death. It’s pure heresy. The Eagles couldn’t win a popularity contest here if their opponent was a bad case of hemorrhoids.
Scores of angry Vikings fans are rooting for Bill Belichick and Tom Brady to win another Super Bowl ring just because they’re not the Philadelphia Eagles.
But having spent a week around Eagles coaches and players — away from their knucklehead fans — a different perception has emerged. You see a team full of interesting personalities, cool individual stories and a noticeable lack of ego.
Sadly, Philly fans painted an ugly picture with their boorish treatment of Vikings fans at the NFC Championship Game. That reflected poorly on the entire organization by extension.
It’s probably impossible for some to separate emotionally those two entities — fans and players. And that’s understandable. The whole experience of the NFC championship left a very bad taste.
This week has given me a different perspective. The Eagles players actually remind me a lot of the Vikings in terms of their tight-knit camaraderie and belief that no one stands out above the rest. They seem like a selfless group.
“We enjoy each other,” running back LeGarrette Blount said. “That’s a big part of why we win games.”
Winning, of course, makes everyone happy. Good teams usually have a close bond that washes away locker room cliques. The Eagles underdog mantra is a little overcooked by now, but their sense of togetherness doesn’t come across as phony.
“No outside agendas going on,” safety Corey Graham said.
That’s a credit to Doug Pederson, who was coaching high school football 10 years ago and had his credentials questioned when hired by the Eagles two years ago.
Players describe him as “genuine.” Ask Pederson about his creative game plans and aggressive play calling and he shifts credit to his coaching staff and players.
The team’s website released a video Wednesday — Pederson’s 50th birthday — that featured a compilation of Pederson ending team meetings by saying, “I’ll treat you to some ice cream.”
“I love ice cream,” Pederson said Thursday, rubbing his belly. “Can’t you tell?”
Seriously, who roots against that?
Then you listen to quarterback Nick Foles chronicle his meandering career and how he nearly retired two years ago and that someday he hopes to become a high school pastor. He choked back tears as he talked about his wife and daughter and his responsibilities outside of football.
“That’s the stuff that shapes your heart,” he said.
Speaking of heart, Eagles defensive end Chris Long donated his entire $1 million base salary this season to fund educational initiatives and has spent Super Bowl week deflecting praise.
“I’m not the first guy to donate a million bucks to a cause,” he said. “It doesn’t make me some great guy. I just think I have a big platform. The cool thing is fans have met me halfway and been able to double my investment to that cause.”
Philadelphia Pro Bowl right guard Brandon Brooks is a mountain of a man at 6-foot-5 and 335 pounds. The 28-year-old looks like he could bench-press a Fiat, which means he could snap me in half without breaking a sweat.
He smiled when I told him I cover the Vikings and that fans here probably won’t like a column that casts his team in a positive light.
“I know after the game obviously Vikings fans feel a certain way,” he said. “There were certain things that went on that probably shouldn’t have involving fans. But as players, we’re easygoing. Being from Wisconsin [his hometown is Milwaukee], we have like a Midwestern feel, where we’re all family. No guy is bigger than the other.”
Hmm, an Eagles player from Wisconsin? This is a tough sell.