I stepped into enemy territory the other day.
I can guess what you’re thinking, and, no, smart mouths, I didn’t go to an all-you-can-eat salad bar. Nor did I wander into a hair-styling competition or an all-day exercise event. Do you see what I did there? By beating you to the punch, I basically nullified any ...
But I digress.
No, I slapped on my Ray Lewis replica jersey and stepped into Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia to show my support to the Baltimore Ravens in their game against the Philadelphia Eagles. There was a group of about 20 of us that went, and exactly four of us were pulling for the Ravens that day. In terms of the big picture, there were about 70,000 people in the stands that day, and I would guess there were about 1,000 Ravens fans in attendance.
So, yeah, we were a bit outnumbered.
And the Ravens were a bit outscored that day, as well, as the Eagles scored a go-ahead touchdown with close to two minutes left to give them a 24-23 victory, and send about 69,000 rabid Eagles fans into a frenzy. Rest assured, this was a fired-up group of fans at the end.
Now, Philadelphia sports fans have a certain reputation, and it’s not necessarily a positive one. They are considered die-hard supporters, in that they believe their teams will win the championship in every sport they participate in when things go well, and think that every player, coach, executive, cheerleader and hotdog vendor should be fired immediately when things don’t go so well. Having lived in the city for several years, and having many friends who support Philadelphia teams, I’d agree with that perception of their fans. And I truly admire them for their enthusiasm.
However, there is another reputation the fans in Philadelphia have, and it’s maybe not as positive. They are considered by many to be the rudest and most inhospitable fans across these fruited plains. Many of you have heard the stories — the fans pelting Santa Claus with snowballs during an Eagles game, the courtroom established at the field to deal with rowdy behavior immediately, the constant booing of their players for poor play, etc. Philly fans are considered fervent, but nasty.
I’ve gone to a lot of games in Philadelphia over the years, ranging from the Eagles to the Phillies to the Flyers, and that reputation is somewhat fair, in that I’ve personally witnessed a lot of disgusting behavior. But I’d also argue that it’s not entirely accurate, because it’s a small group of knuckleheads that seem to embrace the reputation and then take things way too far.
Shaun Lambert, our technical director and resident Seattle Seahawks fan, took up the shield with me and sported a Joe Flacco jersey for the game. On Tuesday, we were talking about the Philadelphia crowd, and we generally agreed on the atmosphere — it was our very unscientific conclusion that 98 percent of the crowd was fantastic, and about 2 percent was a bit out of hand.
The people around us during the game were great. Oh, there was some smack-talk going back and forth, and there’s a slight chance I was an active participant in that banter, but each insult or comment made was met with a laugh or a smile and things stayed good-natured. When the Ravens did something well, I cheered, and nobody gave me a hard time for doing so. When the Eagles stopped the Ravens on fourth-and-short to seal the game, two things happened — my heart broke with the realization that the Ravens lost, and the fans went into overdrive.
But, again, that stayed pretty good-natured for the most part. Oh, there was one particular gentleman who got me a bit fired up for a moment when he pulled me by the shirt, and the taunting was a little bit over-the-top by a few of the more over-served specators, but there was never a time when I thought we were in any kind of physical danger or that I got a bad taste in my mouth for the fans of the team.
I can truly say I walked into enemy territory and was allowed to cheer for my team. You can’t ask for much more than that — anywhere. Thanks for the hospitality, Philly. Had a great time.