Lessons of Hate from the City of Brotherly Love
In the past 48 hours, there have been lots of news stories about how Minnesota Vikings fans are outraged, appalled, and somehow even surprised by the conduct of many Philadelphia Eagles fans. This ranges from mere hostility while walking through tailgating to the gates, to complaints about being assaulted with batteries and objects. Other complaints include Eagles fans stealing Vikings fans’ hats and throwing them away, or urinating on them, as well as actually being urinated on in the restroom.
Some on Twitter and elsewhere are even decrying two Eagles fans who had a “Fuck Millie” banner, which spawned a #fuckmillie “trend” on Twitter with maybe 40 people following suit. This gesture by a few outliers is unconvincingly used as justification as to why the Patriots need to win the Super Bowl.
Most crucially however, Vikings fans also denounced Eagles fans for cheering when center Pat Elflein went down. Never mind that Vikings fans cheered when Aaron Rodgers was confirmed to be injured and taken off the field on a cart.
Beyond abject hypocrisy — and that is fair to say because there was never a sweeping denunciation of people cheering Rodgers’ injury by large numbers of Vikings fans — Vikings fans also acted poorly.
Although not intimidating or threatening, assembling a cadre of Vikings fans to do that stupid, clap along, sing along “Skol” bit on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art crosses boundaries.
And as inane and tacky as their Rocky Balboa statue is, Philadelphians seem to take it almost as serious as we take the famous Lombardi and Lambeau statues in front of 1265. And these Vikings fans went ahead and wrapped the statute up in purple and gold.
As with all things ostensibly concerning other teams, the most important thing is what this can teach Packers fans; what does this reveal about ourselves, what insight can it offer us as we seek to learn and improve how we do things?
After all, it is the Green Bay Packers and their fans who count the most.
Because the Vikings were favored, and because no one foresaw the sort of blowout that actually transpired, it is undeniable that the Eagles have a most formidable home-field advantage, particularly in the playoffs. Energy and enthusiasm from the fans is the cornerstone of this and any other home field advantage. In Philadelphia, outright hostility, which sometimes even becomes various forms of assault and other criminal activity, is a part of that Philadelphia Eagle fandom.
Compare and contrast that with Lambeau Field, which is known for many positive things, but many negative things as well, including things that some stubbornly regard as positive. Lambeau is known as an older, less energetic crowd. People actually complain when others stand up. Of late, the crowd noise does not presently compare with that of Arrowhead Stadium (Lincoln Financial Field in Seattle should be discounted, as it is loud because Paul Allen’s architects made it loud). Packers fans are known to glad hand opposing fans—even Vikings and Seahawks fans.
These tendencies, coupled with the fact that so many season ticket holders just buy tickets for the enterprising purpose of markup and resale on the secondary market, are big reasons why Lambeau has a problem with too many opposing fans, especially in playoff games (both times with the Giants and Cowboys in the divisional round in 2014). The Packers front office could and should amend the licensing agreement to help ensure more tickets stay in the hands of Packers fans.
But it is also the case that Packers fans, at least those of the glad hand, would-be game show host variety, are too far on the other side of the spectrum. This is not to suggest — in any way — an even tacit or implicit endorsement of throwing D batteries at opposing fans, although this author can certainly understand the temptation in regard to Vikings and Seahawks fans.
However, Packers fans should boo, jeer, and do other things that create an intimidating, hostile milieu for visiting fans of rivals to let them know they are not welcome and they are not liked! Menacing taunts, jeers and expletives are at about the right line.
No, Vikings fans should not be assaulted, absent real fighting words or physical contact they initiate. But it is high time that Packers fans and Lambeau Field stop being so welcoming to people who want to see the Packers lose.
Just as Eagles and other fan fanbases need to learn, after so many decades, to act under the minimal constraints of civility, Packers fans need to learn to get a little mean, show some teeth, and stop welcoming the enemy in our own house. When someone is wearing enemy colors, they need to be made to feel unwelcome and a little uneasy.