NFL: The Hostile Crowd
It happened in 1968, but the event is still part of Philadelphia folklore. The fiery Eagles fans attacked, booed and threw snowballs at none other than Santa Claus. An ongoing anecdote demonstrates how Eagles fans are unique in making life hell for their visitors.
It’s hard to imagine how loud the crowd of 69,000 at Lincoln Financial Field will be tomorrow when it’s time to cheer on their Eagles and give the 49ers their signature salute in the National Conference Finals.
One thing’s for sure, the reputation of hard-boiled Eagles fans extends far beyond Philadelphia. It’s gotten to the point where head coach Nick Sirianni had a press briefing yesterday when a journalist from Germany told him about the bad behavior of the opposing teams… and dear Santa Claus!
“It’s not for nothing that we’re still talking about it!” replied the delighted pilot.
“The crowd inspires us and makes life difficult for other teams. Supporters can be very hostile. I’ve been here before on the coaching staff of other teams and I know how scary it is.
“As players and coaches, we have to treat this game like any other game. Not so the fans. They will be excited about what’s at stake, and I encourage them to be. That will be quite the atmosphere!” he added with a Machiavellian grin.
A unique reputation
Last weekend, when the Giants were in Philadelphia, the New York Post called Eagles Stadium a “house of horrors” on its sports front page.
A few years ago, a GQ magazine poll found Philadelphia fans to be the “worst in sports.”
This week, 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel hinted that the Philadelphia crowd won’t be louder than the 49ers fans.
49ers ace tackle Trent Williams has been fed many times throughout his illustrious career and brought another story to the story.
The man who spent his first nine seasons in Washington had the unique fortune of visiting Linc nine times as a former division rival.
“This place is more than noise. Philly is a market where fans really make a difference. They have the ability to play in our heads. They shout at us and never stop. As soon as you enter the stadium, they will make you feel unwanted.”
Times have changed
Even so, even if the atmosphere at Lincoln Financial Field is amped up, the image of the fans is no longer that of the inaugural era of the defunct Veterans Stadium.
In November 1997, a game against the 49ers resulted in several fights between fans of both teams.
The management of the Eagles chose to attack this recurring problem by building a prison for thugs and a real Court of Justice in the catacombs of the old stadium. Judge Seamus P. McCaffrey, who presided over the “Eagle Court” hearings, had become a real celebrity in Philadelphia.
Those days are gone, but the energy will be at its peak in January 2018, as is the last-place finale.
“It was so electric! I’ve never had such an intimidating experience,” recalled Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon, who was part of the Vikings five years ago.
In the city of brotherly love
Many joke that the NFL stands for “Not for long.” You agree with them when you walk past Lincoln Financial Field, the Eagles’ home stadium, and see a statue of quarterback Nick Foles and head coach Doug Pederson. The two forever celebrated Philadelphia in Super Bowl 52, and a statue immortalizes the moment they discussed the now famously faked “Philly Special.” Five years later, Foles left and became a backup who never won anything else. Pederson now manages the Jaguars. Gone from the Philly sports scene, but never forgotten!
Just a few miles south of downtown Philadelphia, sports fans have it all at the Sports Complex. Adjacent to Eagles Stadium is Wells Fargo Arena, home of the Flyers and 76ers, as well as the Phillies’ Citizens Bank Park. Arena is the dean of the venue, having opened in 1996, followed by the Eagles (2003) and Phillies (2004). According to the city of Philadelphia, this sports fan’s playground receives about 7 million visitors a year and hosts about 380 events. Only nine days are free in January, and sometimes the days are filled with two events. That’s the case with Villanova University basketball in the arena tomorrow at noon and the Eagles at Linz at 3 p.m.
It would almost be an insult to local gastronomy to go to Philadelphia without a bite of the famous “Philly Cheesesteaks”! All kidding aside, this submarine-style sandwich, loaded with sliced beef and melted cheese, has been a hit with locals and tourists alike since the 1930s. Naturally, many restaurants pride themselves on serving up the best in town. One popular spot in the city center at lunchtime is Reading Terminal Market, where stalls serving this typical dish rub shoulders with tons of other stalls of all kinds of food.
Big challenge for young Brock Purdy
To date, young 49ers sensation Brock Purdy has appeared in eight games, only two of them on the road. That’s a tall order awaiting a quarterback in hostile territory in Philadelphia.
The sample is thin, but Purdy has looked good in two road games with two wins, four touchdowns and one interception. He even orchestrated a 10-point second-half comeback in Las Vegas.
But in Seattle, in Week 15, in a raucous stadium, he got his best preparation for the challenge ahead. Even if the amplitude of the moment is on a completely different scale.
“When we played in Seattle, coach [Kyle] It bodes well for what we could potentially experience in the playoffs in Philadelphia, Shanahan said. In these high-stakes games, it’s all about communication, how to handle the scrimmage, and how to get the game started properly at the line of scrimmage. We’ve focused on that this week and it’s going to be big for us,” Purdy said at the Santa Clara briefing.
Respect the opponent
The seventh-round pick in the latest draft will try to become the first rookie quarterback in NFL history to win a Conference Finals game. He would also become the first rookie center to win three playoff games.
Purdy represents one of the big stories in Goodell’s cycle this season, and the Eagles, on the other hand, are far from mired.
“Too many people categorize players by their draft grades. He plays really well. He proved he can win big games. He’s very well covered offensively, which helps him make the right decisions,” praised linebacker TJ Edwards.
A course followed
Eagles running back Nick Sirianni was once a teammate and roommate of Purdy’s head coach Matt Campbell at Iowa State University. So she’s been following Purdy’s career with interest long before it unexpectedly blossomed this fall.
“I could see him winning and he’s still making big plays when it comes to winning,” the 23-year-old midfielder said this week.
Plus, according to NFL Research, the average age of four quarterbacks in four aces is 25 years and 98 days, which is unheard of.
“It’s good for the league,” Sirianni said. “The more young quarterbacks there are playing at a high level, the more interesting the sport becomes.”