Breaker

What I learned from the worst fans in sports

 

Super Bowl week is here.  Hurray.  After everything that’s happened, it’s quite the year to be hosting.  My office is on the south side of Killebrew Drive in Bloomington- right across the street from the Mall of America.  While turning into our building’s entrance yesterday morning, I noticed something unusual.  Two fully armored Humvees were parked on the corners of the hotel property that connects to the mall.  Apparently, the Eagles are staying there.  Awesome.  Every time I look out the window of my office the rest of the week I’ll get another reminder of my first (and God-willing only) trip to Philadelphia.

The last thing we did was one thing that went well- a visit to Independence Hall.  It affected me a lot more than I anticipated.  I walked out of there with a complete sense of awe at what our founding fathers were able to craft from scratch- the foundation of a democracy where every citizen has the freedom to pursue their personal definition of success and happiness without persecution.  However, a couple of nights before going to see the most significant historical site in Philadelphia, I visited Lincoln Financial Field.  What I experienced there on Sunday night could not have been more different.  In the birthplace of freedom, we weren’t even free to wear purple to a football game.

I’m a fan.  I’m a fan of sports.  I’m a fan of unique experiences.  I’m also a fan of understanding why I and other people do what we do.  I flew to Philadelphia expecting to spend a day in a new city I’d never visited, to watch my favorite team play in a big game.  Thanks to the blizzard back home, I finally got back to Minneapolis a day and a half later than expected.  And after an experience unlike anything I could have imagined, I’ve done some reflecting on what it means to be a fan.

It all started with 3rd and 10 from our own 39-yard line.  The Minneapolis Miracle.  The energy in that building was unbelievable.  If you’ve seen any of the fan reaction videos people took in their

living rooms, it was like that times 66,000.  It was unexpected.  It was
magical.  It was miraculous.  It was a great moment to be a fan.  Everyone was filled with euphoria.  We did that weird hug-and-jump thing people do when they can’t think of any other way to express their excitement.  We high-fived countless strangers.   We screamed; “We’re going to Philly!” and booked our flights before we left the stadium.  (Unless my wife is reading this, in which case I totally talked to her first).

We were going to Philly.

I’ve never been very good at listening to warnings.  I generally assume they’re either meant for someone else or completely blown out of proportion.  But I also do my homework.  After reading about other opposing fans’ experiences in Philadelphia, I thought I knew what I was getting myself into.  I was expecting to hear every word in the book delivered in every way possible.  But as far as the more extreme examples were concerned, I wrote them off as exaggerated and over sensationalized.  Sure, one guy punched a horse last week after the Atlanta game, but that horse may very well have had it coming.  (Seriously- what kind of person punches a HORSE?)   I assumed it was a few drunk idiots.  I figured that surely there couldn’t be an entire population of sane citizens who engage in or accept that type of behavior.  I concluded that the warnings posted online were written by people who were just too sensitive to handle a little good-natured ribbing from some extremely passionate fans.  I assumed that as long as we kept our heads down and didn’t engage with any of the taunting we’d be fine.

I was wrong.  Like, extremely wrong.  In fact, my benefit-of-the-doubt assumptions about Eagles fans may quite possibly be the most wrong I have ever been (and I’m wrong a lot).

The things that Vikings fans were subjected to has already been well-documented.  For my part, I’ll sum it up by sharing the following exchange I had with my wife the next day.

“You’ll never believe what I read about last night. One Vikings fan said that—“

“Honey- I’m just going to stop you right there,” I said, “There is literally nothing you could complete that sentence with that I wouldn’t believe.”

Yes, the things that have been reported actually happened.  They’re not being exaggerated.  They’re not being blown out of proportion.  Honestly, if I hadn’t had all the extra time in the airport to hear these stories firsthand from the people who experienced them, I probably would have dismissed them the same way I dismissed the things I read before coming.  What happened is still hard to believe, and I experienced it firsthand.

Some context; I am 6’5″, 225 pounds.  I have no real fighting skills to speak of, but I’m not a small person and I’m typically not the first one to get picked on.  That certainly didn’t stop them.  At least a half dozen guys put their hands on me.  A few of my favorites included having the hat smacked off my head, being continuously slapped in the face with a towel, getting shoved into a bathroom wall, having various items thrown at me, and being screamed at nose to nose like we were facing off at a title bout weigh-in.  I am comfortable enough in my own skin at this point in my life to drop the tough guy act and admit that there were a few times when I honestly didn’t feel safe.  Police and security staff’s stance on intervening seemed to fall somewhere between disinterested observance and casual amusement.  After talking to dozens of other Vikings fans during the next couple days, I realized that my experience was relatively mild by comparison.

One guy said that he had a lit cigarette put out on his Vikings jersey while walking to the stadium.  Others had beer poured onto their heads.  One woman was fortunate enough to discover it wasn’t beer, but urine.  Most of us had bottles and cans of beer thrown at us, some from the upper level above (one lucky fan left with a souvenir amounting to 18 stitches on his head).  Hats were pulled off and urinated on.  Beer bottles were used as clubs to whack people in the back every time the Eagles made a good play (that’s a lot of whacks).  I talked to a dad whose 17-year-old son was dry-humped from behind while he was attempting to use the urinal.  Another gentleman in his early 60’s had an Eagles fan jump on his back and attempt to ride him like a bull.  Oh yeah, and let’s not forget… another guy punched a police horse for the second straight week (I’m not sure why, but the horse punching almost bothers me more than anything).

These were not isolated incidents.  They happened to fans walking to and from the game.   They happened in the lower level and in the nose bleeds.  They happened to fans covered head to toe in purple and gold and fans who dressed neutral attempting to go unnoticed.  One version or another happened to nearly everyone I talked to.

Was it the majority of Eagles fans?  Definitely not.  I met a number of incredibly nice people who went out of their way to be kind and hospitable.   Most of the fans were cheering on their beloved green while they made my beloved purple look like they forgot which game was being played that day.

But, was it a more than I expected?  Absolutely.  Maybe I was being naive, but I was expecting it to be an extreme minority.  It was much more than that.  “Come on!”, the defenders have said, “There are fans everywhere who cross the line.  It’s not just in Philadelphia.  I was once at a game in _____ and I saw a guy_____….”  Stop it.  Of course there are some in every city.  It’s not just Philadelphia.  But there’s a massive difference between 1 out of 100 and 1 in 10.  To be fair, that’s probably on the low side.  The number of fans who thought that some version of completely unacceptable behavior was totally acceptable was astounding.

So, what is the definition of acceptable fan behavior?  I have to believe that we can all agree that every fan has the right to attend a game without being afraid for their physical safety.  Again, I was fully expecting to hear all kinds of garbage screamed at us.  But I figured that as long as we ignored it, that’s where it would end.  I don’t feel like it’s any fan’s duty to physically engage with opposing fans to defend the honor of a football team.  And no one should have to defend themselves just to go watch theirs play.

Beyond the game day experience itself, I’ve been even more fascinated by the Eagles fans’ responses to what happened.  I was curious- what did they think of their fellow fan’s behavior?  So, I asked around.  I polled employees and fellow patrons at the airport, hotel, and restaurants.  Presumably sober and removed from the excitement of the game, what did they think of what happened?  Some appeared to be lifelong fans and others probably dusted off their Eagles gear when the playoffs started.  But they all had an opinion, and some of the answers I heard continue to fascinate the hell out of me.  While a couple were apologetic, the majority accepted it, and many were even… proud.

“You knew what you were getting yourself into by coming here.”

“That’s just the way Eagles fans are.”

“You had it coming after doing your little chant on the steps of the Art Museum and putting your colors on the Rocky statue.”

“You’re just not passionate fans like we are.”

Hmmmmm. Let’s unpack that last one.  Really? That’s what passion looks like?  I’m passionate.  I wake my kids up in the morning with the SKOL chant.  I bought a pair of purple and gold throwback Air Jordans online to wear to the Super… (most depressing eBay delivery ever).  I flew here to watch my team.  But if Sunday’s fan behavior falls under your definition of passion, we are working from very different dictionaries.  I believe that you can love something without hating the opposite.  I believe you can show support for what you love without being violent towards those who support something else.  Again, this was a football game.  I didn’t break into your home and assault your family.  I paid for a seat in a public stadium to root for my team.

I’ve seen a number of Philly defenders online claim that the Vikings fan’s experience is being exaggerated because our team got completely embarrassed.  This is ludicrous. To suggest that the reaction to what took place is nothing more than sour grapes could not be more absurd.  Philadelphia won because they were the superior team in every possible way.  Period.  A hug and a high five from every Eagles fan in that building wouldn’t have changed what happened on the field.  This is purely about what is reasonable treatment of other human beings who dared to think they could come to your stadium and watch a game with you.

And now you’re coming to our city for the Super Bowl.

The Patriots used to be the last team I would ever hope to win yet another championship.  But after seeing how Philadelphia fans carry themselves?  I’ll be rooting my heart out for The Evil Empire.  The

Emperor and Darth Freaking Vader have somehow become the good guys.  Ready the Storm Troopers, Bill.  Carve ‘em up, Tom.  Call me petty, but the idea of that fan base suffering the disappointment of a loss in the big game makes me feel better.  Listen, I’m sure there are plenty of redeeming qualities about the city and its people.  I mean, it’s now clear to me why Philly is known to be objectively inferior to all other major east coast cities.  But still, if you can’t get to one of them, then Philadelphia is really nice too.  If you’re ever offered an all-expenses paid trip to visit there and you want to field test that new set of body armor your doomsday-prepper cousin gave you for Christmas, you should totally go check it out.  Ok.  That felt good.  I’m done now.  And in my opinion, hoping the Eagles lose the Super Bowl is where it should end.

I’ve heard rumblings of Vikings fans seeking retaliation this week by finding various ways to give them a taste of their own medicine.  I really hope that doesn’t happen.  That’s just not who we are.  We are Minnesota Nice.  Ok…maybe more like Minnesota Passive Aggressive (but no one’s going back to Philly complaining about what a stranger muttered under their breath well out of ear shot).  Seriously, let’s not try and show them how it feels to be mistreated.  Trust me, nothing we could do would surprise them.  If anything, they’d feel like they were back home.  We can’t win at that game, and it’s a game no one should be playing in the first place.  Instead, let’s show them what it feels like to be well-treated as a fan of a team in another fan’s city.

Being a fan has an amazing way of bringing people together.  It can bring out our best and create some awesome moments.  Being a fan also has an uncanny way of dividing people.  It can reveal some ugliness.  We’ve seen extremes of both back to back.  It might be a little awkward during the first Vikings game back at US Bank Stadium next fall.  We’ll see the people we did the weird hugging-and-jumping thing with, and we’ll smile.  That moment was special.  When your team does something great there’s no better time to be a fan.  And when things don’t go your team’s way, being a fan can hurt.  But disappointment and heartache are where the pain should end.  A fan should be free to go watch a game wherever it’s being played without fearing for their safety.  A fan should be able to love something without hating the opposite.  A fan should be able to show support for what they love without being violent towards those who support something else.  It’s amazing that this needs to be said, but clearly it does.

 

 

 

 

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Nathan Terborg

44 thoughts on “What I learned from the worst fans in sports

  • Dexton

    Nate, this post is amazing! Thanks for giving the first hand breakdown of what happened that weekend in Philly. I am glad you told this story, even happier that you were able to find some positive in the grand scheme of things. The history of Philadelphia tells a much different story than the people that you met.

    • Nathan Terborg

      It certainly does. Being in the room where the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were written and signed was truly powerful.

  • Todd Larkin

    Very well written. Great piece. Thanks for sharing. I never thought I would say this but, “Go Pats!!”
    Loved the MN nice passive aggressive comment.

    • Nathan Terborg

      Go Pats is right. I felt the gravity of Minneapolis shift ever so slightly when the Death Star came to town.

  • Kim McVety

    Thanks, Nate. I am hoping that by the Viking fans taking the high road… maybe it will inspire Philly fans when they host games in the future. Looking forward to future posts. You express yourself beautifully.

  • Kristina

    Very well written ❤️

  • Tyler

    Fantastic article man!

  • Joyce

    Great piece. Thank you. The big question for me is will what happened to MN fans be allowed to continue? Will it take someone being critically injured for Philadelphia or the NFL to take action against such boorish behavior? Will Philadelphia take notice when their stadium revenue takes a dive because visiting fans don’t want to risk their personal safety to watch their team play? I will also be cheering for the Patriots to take home a win for their fans.

    • Nathan Terborg

      Excellent questions. While it certainly wasn’t the first time things like that have happened, this may be the most it’s been reported on. So it will be interesting to see if it makes a difference. They have a very established fan base, so I’m not sure how much they depend on visiting fans for revenue.

  • Justin Ehrecke

    Wow! This was a very well written account of a bad experience! I had heard stories about the crazy fan behavior at Eagles games but this is outrageous & scary tbh! I lived in Minnesota for 5 years and definitely can’t imagine this type of thing happening there. Looks like I will also be rooting for the Evil Empire (Patriots) win!

  • Eric Armbrust

    Nate,

    You’re the man. I love reading your story. Thanks for loving me well and sharing the light! It’s amazing to be the minority. I finally know that feeling too. Makes you think a lot about other people’s everyday life!

    Cheers!

    Eric

    • Nathan Terborg

      I thought about that a lot, Eric. When you’ve spent very little time as the minority of a given population, it’s a complete culture shock. Having to evaluate each person you encounter to determine whether or not they’re a threat is extremely draining. And we only had to deal with it for a day. I have a lot more empathy for those who have to deal with that type of constant strain on a daily basis.

  • Jen Burroughs

    Well written and a good reminder to Minnesota fans💜.

  • Jason Scott

    Great informative insight on your experience Nate. Your humor burst through the read. 😂 Sorry you had to ever experience something like that. You’re one of the nicest people I know. Some of East cost people can be ridiculously different and rude. Keep it going 🙏🏽

    • Nathan Terborg

      Thank you Jason- I appreciate that.
      I’ve spent enough time on the east coast to appreciate that style of communication, and I really don’t mind it. There are advantages to immediately knowing exactly where you stand. This was well beyond rude territory.

  • Diane Cole of Apple Valley, MN

    I am sorry that happened to you, and to those you described. I seriously doubt those who got away with that behavior will be able to afford a plane ticket and Super Bowl ticket, hotel, etc. I was born and raised in Philadelphia and like any city I’ve visited or lived in there is evil. Am I discounting it? No. Do I disagree w a 1 in 10 assessment, yes. Am I still sorry you had that experience, deeply sorry. I am sorry when anyone is assaulted ANYWHERE.

    • Nathan Terborg

      Very true. To clarify, my 1 in 10 assessment was purely referencing fans at that stadium who crossed the line. Mob mentality is a fascinating phenomenon of human behavior. The things people will do when they are caught up in the energy of a crowd that is behaving similarly typically has very little in common with the way they behave as individuals out in the world. It doesn’t make them categorically bad people at all (but it wouldn’t be unfair to call them sheep). I’m sure most of the Philly fans who did the worst are otherwise well-behaved… because they are typically in environments where unacceptable behavior has negative and immediate consequences. Lincoln Financial Field does not seem to be such a place.

  • Brooke Reiner

    Great post Nate! Enjoyed reading it. I was not planning to cheer for the Patriots/ Saint Thomas ( Tom Brady) either but after all the stories I heard a couple of weeks ago about the eagle fans, I just can’t get myself to cheer for them. Philadelphia is a cool place though and loved my time while I was visiting . I hope the eagle fans can see good hospitality and respect here and take that back to their field. Great reflection!!

    • Nathan Terborg

      Thanks Brooke. As far as I can tell, one’s rooting interests have yet to affect the actual outcome but it doesn’t keep us from trying:)

  • Suzette

    That is horrible to have people treat other fans like that. I had no idea. Where were all the police? They should have all been arrested. Terrifying read. I’m shocked.

    • Nathan Terborg

      Both police and stadium security were there, but they just didn’t seem interested in getting involved in anything short of a riot.

  • Rebecca

    You didn’t ask your wife before buying Philly tickets!?!? That’s all I heard. Sorry you had been discriminated against- if you took out a few names it might seem like Alabama circa 1963. Maybe now the Packer rivalry can be gone and Vikings fan can just dislike the Eagles. Maybe???

    • Nathan Terborg

      Funny you should mention Packer fans… we were chatting with a gentleman wearing a Green Bay hat at the airport and told him how glad we were to see him!

  • Jeannie Jay

    You articulated it in a way I could never do. It was beyond anything imaginable. People look at me like “was it really that bad?” Yes. And again, it wasn’t the guys in the cheap seats either. No one was off limits. I don’t even need to share my experience because it is as you stated. So you are a big guy, my female cousin and I are approaching 50 and we weren’t off limits either AND I had a jacket over my jersey and she was color neutral. She wouldn’t even wear one. What got me were the “grandma Millie is a whore”. This was said by the self proclaimed father of three daughters. This guy was with other members from their law firm. The saddest was seeing the kids and the dads in shock and dismay that they brought their young sons and daughters to watch their favorite team play. Above all, this behavior is completely abhorrent and there is ZERO excuse to ever tell a 10 year old to F off and throw a can or cup of beer at them while the Philly cops just watched like they were at the donut shop.

    • Nathan Terborg

      Correct. The police might as well have been at the donut shop. If I hadn’t been there myself and subsequently talked to fans of all kinds, I never would have believed it would be as bad for someone like yourself… and children.

      Consider the type of person who kisses his daughters goodbye before going to the game to proudly hold that sign in public. Hopefully their mom is doing double time in the parenting department.

  • Jeannie Jay

    Please edit to favorite team play not win. It was a rule. Thanks

  • Bobbi

    I was there as well and your account is 150% on. And your statements moving forward as also mine. We aren’t them and should only do us. Be nice. I’m a Crew 52 volunteer this week and while it will pain me to show courtesy to those who hurt so many of my fellow Minnesotans, I will as to show all that we can be respectful humans even when we compete.
    SKOL

    • Nathan Terborg

      I feel bad for you, but you’ve clearly got the right attitude. Despite the unusual circumstances, hosting an event of this magnitude is truly a great opportunity to showcase everything our amazing city has to offer.

  • Cathy

    Wow! What a story! I was born and raised in Minnesota and the people here are the most kind-hearted I have ever come in contact with.. My greatest hope is that all Minnesotans take the high road and show the East Coasters what we’re all about. Don’t stoop to the level of those who treated our friends and neighbors the way they did in Philly.

  • Jeff Silkey

    Great post indeed!
    Philly fans are clearly lacking common sense and decency!
    And Roger Goodell, the Eagles and the Philadelphia PD should all be ashamed of themselves!!

    • Nathan Terborg

      It’s cultural. I’d like to think that if I was raised around that type of fan behavior I would choose another path, but who can say for sure? Take a passionate guy who likes to throw things and give him completely different conditioning…

  • Julie

    You are spot on. I was also at the game and witnessed first hand this barbaric, deviant, criminal behavior. We need to push for change so that no one has to experience what we did that day. If you haven’t already done so, please send your letter to the NFL, the Philadelphia police department, Lincoln Financial Field Field and the Vikings headquarters.

    • Nathan Terborg

      One of my fellow travelers has passed it on. We’ll see what happens. Another buddy who was with suggested we find a way to covertly film a documentary to further shine a light on how bad it really is. I think it’s a great idea. Also, I will not be participating.

  • Nanner

    I went to Philly with Nate and a few other friends. This blog is spot on. Very sad sports experience. By far my worst ever. NFL must take action.

  • Patrice Broding

    Nate that is so well written and you are so astute! Proud of you, your insite and ability to still provide a positive outlook. Truly an inspiration for all of us to take the high road and show what true sportsmanship entails. Very happy you made it back in one piece.

  • Nick Tomsche

    This article is definitively an eye opener. I have heard stories before, but reading this and hearing from Justin it is just amazing to hear about the experience. Nate you should become a blogger because not only was this article good, but I was laughing throughout. I now shall be rooting for the evil empire as well. SKOL Vikes, as we always say as fans in MN, we got next year!

  • Sylvia and Richard Timboe

    Nice work Hate…….and. Philadelphia is called the city of brotherly love……yeah right.

  • Huset

    After reading, I immediately started to think of all the directions you could have taken this article. After further review, I realized your discipline to remain focused on describing what transpired pre, post, and during the game had the outcome I think you wanted. It made me think. It made me question a lot of things about the game and society in general.
    · Would I encourage my kids to invest time and energy towards pro sports?
    · What makes Eagle fans taken it to another level and why do they think it’s acceptable?
    · Why do we care more about a game than our fellow citizens?
    · Are people with stronger identities/solid foundations less likely to be drawn to and/or hold NFL/entertainment in such a high regard?
    · Are sports just another mask that we hide behind instead of pursuit of peace that’s waiting within?
    · What does “for the love of the game” mean to an Eagle fan?
    · Is this type of behavior growing worse and further demonstrating how divided our nation is? How truly miss prioritized and cheap are our allegiances are?
    · It’s sad to think that one of the rare occasions we come together as a city is over a football game.
    Great article! I congratulate you on not getting derailed from where you started.

  • Van

    I’ll admit when I scrolled down & saw how long this was, my 1st thought…..I’ll never read it all. But I did. And, Nate, this was beautifully writing about ugly acting.
    Glad you guys made it out (relatively) unscathed & thank you for that moving, detailed account. (Btw, Did you see that video of the eagles fan running into the pole in the subway? Hope that helped some.)

  • C miller

    This is very disturbing on every level. My question is why does the NFL put up with behavior? Why does the city want to be represented this way? Isn’t this the city of brotherly love! Totally disgusting.

  • Bob VanSickle

    Hi Nate. Just wanted to add s short comment. Yes what a great discussion on fan behavior. Just wanted to mention that when we watched the Vikings in Kansas City it was an amazing experience and the KC fans were very warm people. Yes they rooted and yelled for there team But would also hold a door open for an opposing fan. Totally nice experience as opposed to the philly experience. As Minnesota fans we should never be anything like that.

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