I WAS AN EAGLES FAN UNTIL DECEMBER 1, 1985.
Yes, you read that right. I grew up in a Vikings household. I have loved the Vikings for as long as I can remember. I am still the same diehard, lifelong Vikings fan and blogger you've read in this space for most of the past five years. But once upon a time I also rooted for the Philadelphia Eagles.
I was just developing my love for the game of football at the age of four. Like many young kids, I was drawn to certain teams for a simple reason: I liked their uniforms. And in my eyes, nobody had cooler uniforms than the 1980's Philadelphia Eagles. The bold Kelly green and white striping. The cool wings on each side of their helmets. I was sold.
So while I always cheered for the Vikings with my dad, I had a soft spot for the Eagles. I figured there wasn't any harm in rooting for two NFL teams--until that fateful Sunday in 1985. The Vikings were taking on the Eagles at the old Vet Stadium in Philly. I was watching the game at home with my dad and my uncle Scott. Ron Jaworski and the Eagles absolutely dominated the first three quarters of the game and took a 23-0 lead into the fourth quarter. Since I was only 4 1/2, I decided to be a little front-runner as kids are wont to do. (There's a reason why so many 70's kids are big fans of the Cowboys and Steelers today while a lot of current tweens are Patriots fans. Kids like winners.) I started taunting my dad and uncle that my other team, the Eagles, were kicking butt. (In my mind it was obviously because of their superior uniforms.)
But then the comeback happened. Wade Wilson threw three fourth quarter touchdown passes and the Vikings defense returned a fumble for a score to complete a shocking 28-23 comeback victory. To make matters worse, the last two touchdowns were scored by Anthony Carter--my absolute favorite Vikings player. I had bet on the wrong horse.
That day, my dad and uncle taught me a very valuable lesson about fan loyalty. Man, did they rub that victory in my face. "How do you like the Eagles now, Eric?! Why are you so upset?! Your favorite player Anthony Carter scored twice!" I was reduced to tears. It took a very stern scolding from my mom to get my dad and Scott to finally let up. On December 1, 1985, I learned that it's only OK to cheer for one NFL team. I chose the Vikings and never looked back.
(Side note: Even after I converted to full Vikings fandom, I had my parents buy me a Starting Lineup figure of Mike Singletary tackling Mike Quick. I had a ton of those things growing up. I remember absolutely loving the little detachable helmets that came with the players. I mean, look how cool they were!)
Today it's obvious that the life lesson stuck. I'm still a ginormous Vikings fan through the few good times and the numerous bad times. And I still don't like the Eagles at all to this day; it's not like I missed out on a bunch of Super Bowls by abandoning them anyway. My level of disdain for Philly isn't quite at Packers or Bears levels but it's certainly close.
I haven't hated any particular Eagles players that much over the years. It's true that I hated Randall Cunningham for breaking my heart in 1998 and Donovan McNabb for being completely awful in 2011 but that was after they joined the Vikings. I actually appreciate current Eagles players like Nick Foles, LeSean McCoy, and DeSean Jackson. So why do the Eagles leave such a bad taste in my mouth? I bet it won't take you many guesses to get there so I'll just say it: it's their fans. I know how wrong it is to stereotype an entire group of people based on only a handful of interactions with them, but I just can't help myself when it comes to Eagles fans.
Philly fans tend to get a bad rap. I know for a fact that there are plenty of great, knowledgeable, and courteous Eagles fans out there. The guys over at Bleeding Green Nation have always been great to work with. In fact, I'm currently working on our Five Good Questions segment with Brandon from BGN.
It's just too bad I haven't met any of those nice Philadelphia fans in person.
My contempt for Philly fanatics is based on personal experience, not their "rich" history. Yes, they booed Santa about 40 years ago. Yes, the aforementioned Vet Stadium had an actual jail in it. Yes, a few bad apples were in the news this week for allegedly beating the crap out of a Lions fan. I'd honestly let all of that slide if my interactions with Eagles fans were more pleasant.
I have been to both of the Eagles at Vikings games in the past decade. The first one was in October 2007. McNabb and the Eagles beat the killer combo of...wait for it...Kelly Holcomb and Brooks Bollinger...in a rather non-entertaining 23-16 game. Both teams were the picture of mediocrity--they went on to finish with matching 8-8 records. But the Eagles fans in the Dome that day were acting like they had just won a big playoff game.
The next Eagles game at the Metrodome actually was a big playoff game. I'm sure you remember that game after the 2008 season: Tarvaris Jackson sucked, David Akers kicked a lot of field goals, nobody could tackle Brian Westrbook on that screen pass that sealed the game, yada yada yada. This might come as a shock, but the Philadelphia fans in attendance were exponentially more obnoxious before, during, and after that game. If I ever hear "Fly Eagles Fly" or the super clever chant of spelling the word E-A-G-L-E-S over and over again it'll be too soon.
The Philly hoopleheads weren't just limited to the Metrodome either. Since both games were in my pre-married, pre-parenthood days when I lived in downtown Minneapolis, I went out the night before each game. Every conversation I had with an Eagles fan was strikingly similar. It would start out OK with me asking the green-clad fan if they were in town for the game. We'd make small talk and discuss the merits of our respective teams. But then without fail, within five minutes the conversation would take an abrupt turn. The Eagles fan would suddenly yell an expletive-laden diatribe about how my team sucked, clink Rolling Rocks with his buddy, and then turn away. I can appreciate their ardent belief in not fraternizing with the enemy, but come on.
Now I'm not going to sit here and pretend that each Vikings fan is the epitome of Minnesota nice. Every NFL fan base has its fair share of knuckleheads, including ours. (It's why we have banning power here at Daily Norseman.) But it sure feels like every Eagles fan I have had the "pleasure" of meeting in person has gone out of their way to be a jerk.
Again, I don't think every Philadelphia supporter is like that; I'm just telling a (long) story about how the Vikings' opponents on Sunday went from my "1B" team to one of my least favorites.
I didn't share my story to start a flame war in the comments. (Although I suspect it might anyway.) I shared it because I want to warn anyone at the game that those unpleasant Eagles fans will probably be out in full force on Sunday. I think they'll have plenty to sing and chant about because I don't see Minnesota's walking wounded stopping the high-octane Philadelphia attack very often.
If Chip Kelly has been watching the same Coaches Film that I have on NFL Game Rewind, he's going to find a ton of space through the middle of the Viking's zone defenses. The likely return of Harrison Smith will help shore things up on the back end but the likely absence of Xavier Rhodes will open things up on the outside for Jackson and Riley Cooper. I cringe at the thought of McCoy getting into the open field against the Vikings linebackers. (Pro tip: if you have Shady in your fantasy football playoffs this week, start him. That's why they pay me the big bucks, folks.)
Meanwhile we're not sure who will be lining up in Minnesota's offensive backfield. Adrian Peterson probably won't (and probably shouldn't) play. Toby Gerhart won't practice until Friday. It's very possible that Matt Asiata could be toting the rock. It's also very possible that there will be new faces elsewhere along the offense. Rhett Ellison and Chase Ford might be the tight ends instead of Kyle Rudolph and John Carlson. Brandon Fusco, the breakout player of the year on the Vikings offensive line, could be sitting out. Even though Leslie Frazier finally chose Matt Cassel over a healthy Christian Ponder at quarterback and Cordarrelle Patterson is a touchdown waiting to happen every time he touches the ball, I don't see how the Vikings can keep up in the long run. There's always the chance of winning the turnover battle to turn the tide; however, Philadelphia is +9 in that category (the Vikings are -7) and Foles has a 20:1 touchdown to interception ratio going this year.
If I'm right and the Eagles end up pulling away late, at least I can take solace in the fact that I will be miles away and watching the Metrodome's penultimate Vikings game from the comfort of my own home. Eagles fans are much more tolerable with a mute button at my disposal.
(I wish I still had that Starting Lineup figure though; those uniforms are still awesome.)
Prediction: Eagles 37, Vikings 20
And now for the rest of my Week 15 NFL picks (home teams in ALL CAPS):
BRONCOS over Chargers: I almost picked San Diego to win this one...against the 10.5 point spread. You didn't think I'd actually choose San Diego to win outright did you?
FALCONS over Redskins: "Who cares! One of these teams will fall behind us in the draft order if we lose on Sunday!" --most Vikings fans
JAGUARS over Bills: Why have the Jags suddenly turned into a respectable team even though they have barely any recognizable talent? Because their head coach Gus Bradley went to North Dakota State University. Only geniuses come out of NDSU, folks. (Go Bison!)
Bears over BROWNS: Is it weird that I like Chicago's chances better if Jay Cutler sits out and Josh McCown starts again?
COLTS over Texans: Duh. This feels like Gratuitous Picture of the Week territory doesn't it?
Patriots over DOLPHINS: No Gronk, the Pats always struggle in Miami, the Dolphins are fighting for their playoff lives...lots of reasons to pick the upset. So I'm picking the upset of the upset--New England wins again with another How Did He Pull That Win Out Of His Ass Game from Tom Brady.
Seahawks over GIANTS: So much Eli Manning Face potential! I'm so excited!
49ers over BUCCANEERS: Careful, Tampa: you win any more games and they're going to give Schiano a contract extension instead of a pink slip.
Chiefs over RAIDERS: My fantasy team would enjoy lots and lots and lots of Jamaal Charles, please.
PANTHERS over Jets: Speaking of fantasy teams, I have the Carolina defense at home against Geno Smith and the Jets this week in one league. I honestly can't think of a better matchup for the fantasy playoffs.
COWBOYS over Packers: If Aaron Rodgers comes back I'm changing my pick to Green Bay. But as of late Wednesday night it doesn't sound promising so I'll go with Dallas and my Packers quarterback schadenfreude until I hear otherwise.
Cardinals over TITANS: Holy crap Arizona is going to have a winning season. How the hell did that happen?
Saints over RAMS: My Survivor Pool pick of the week, still already eliminated only 3 times (11-3) after choosing the Ravens over the Vikings last week. (Never in doubt, right?) I know it's not in the Superdome, but it's still in a dome, and that should be good enough for Drew Brees to go bonkers again.
Bengals over STEELERS: I predict lots of field goals, lots of hits that will end up being reviewed by the league office, and lots of Cris Collinsworth and Al Michaels pretending the Steelers aren't completely hosed next year when the salary cap blows up in their face.
LIONS over Ravens: Hey look, it's the two teams the Vikings and Eagles just played in the snow last week! And now they're playing inside too! Drink every time ESPN plays B-roll of last week's games to show how different the conditions are this week!
Last week: 10-6
Season so far: 137-70-1