Laura Conley, a Minnesota Vikings fan who is trying to rent out her home for the Super Bowl weekend, at home in St. Louis Park, Minn., Jan. 28, 2018. The Vikings came closer than any team ever had to hosting a Super Bowl in its own stadium, only to be crushed by Philadelphia. Now, legions of Eagles fans arriving for the big game could make for an awkward situation. (Jenn Ackerman/The New York Times)
Chad Babcock, who is renting out his home to a Philadelphia Eagles fan for Super Bowl weekend, on his porch in Minneapolis, Jan. 28, 2018. The Minnesota Vikings came closer than any team ever had to hosting a Super Bowl in its own stadium, only to be crushed by Philadelphia. Now, legions of Eagles fans arriving for the big game could make for an awkward situation. (Jenn Ackerman/The New York Times)
A book about Brett Favre in the home of Chad Babcock, a Green Bay Packers fan who is renting out his home to a Philadelphia Eagles fan for Super Bowl weekend, in Minneapolis, Jan. 28, 2018. The Minnesota Vikings came closer than any team ever had to hosting a Super Bowl in its own stadium, only to be crushed by Philadelphia. Now, legions of Eagles fans arriving for the big game could make for an awkward situation. (Jenn Ackerman/The New York Times)
Tim Mahoney, bless his heart, thought his beloved but tormented Minnesota Vikings were, after a 41-year hiatus, headed back to the Super Bowl. And the Super Bowl this season is in Minneapolis. Could you imagine?
“I even said it myself,” Mahoney said. “I thought it was destiny.”
It was not. The Philadelphia Eagles clobbered the Vikings in the NFC championship game, crushing the hopes of thousands upon thousands of Minnesotans. Those same Minnesotans this week will welcome legions of — what’s the proper word here? — fervent Eagles fans into their establishments, homes and public spaces, whether the sting of losing has subsided or not.
“If it wasn’t for the entrepreneurial opportunity, of course I wouldn’t want to have the team that just beat us coming into our place — especially since they’re rowdier than average,” said Tyler Olson, 32, who manages short-term rentals for owners and guests. “But I recognize that it’s part of business. Others may not agree, but that’s my choice.”
Olson was 6 the last time Minneapolis hosted a Super Bowl, in January 1992, when Minnesota avoided this potentially uncomfortable situation by missing the playoffs. The 2017 Vikings tidied their path to a division title by knocking out the star quarterback of the rival Green Bay Packers, Aaron Rodgers, and then defeated the New Orleans Saints in their postseason opener on a 61-yard touchdown as time expired.
Against Philadelphia last week, the Vikings were favored by 3 points. They lost by 31.
“If you’re going to hold a grudge against them, that’s not right,” said Mahoney, 56, an owner of the Loon Cafe, a popular Vikings bar in downtown Minneapolis. “There’s nothing wrong with a little friendly banter, and I’d hope it doesn’t escalate beyond that. Us and the Packers have been doing it for years. At the end we shake hands and have a beer and call it a good day.”
That might be true, but these circumstances are different. Never before had a team come as close as the Vikings to playing a Super Bowl in its home stadium. Imagine spending months planning a party and then being turned away at the door.
“I’m hoping just the passage of time will make things better,” said Brad Christopherson, 42, a real-estate agent and Vikings fan originally from Fargo, North Dakota, who has lived in Minneapolis for two decades. “People here are pretty passive-aggressive. Maybe just some rudeness, potentially. Some glares and looks and things like that.”
Referring to Eagles fans, Christopherson added: “But if they come in all cocky and still going off about stuff related to the game, I can’t say what’s going to happen. Hopefully they’ve moved on and are focused more on the Super Bowl rather than the last game.”
That last game, a 38-7 thrashing, does still linger for Vikings fans — though not just because of the margin of victory, or even the result. Christopherson, and many others, heard about the one-finger salutes, the threats issued and harsh language used in Philadelphia.
In the land of Vikings, some Minnesotans are concerned about what they consider another marauding band: Eagles fans, whose reputation, deserved or not, precedes them.
Although Lincoln Financial Field, where the Eagles play, is generally not a hospitable venue for opposing fans, only a small segment tends to engage in appalling behavior. And, of course, Philadelphians are not the only ones who can act poorly when sports, alcohol and perhaps some stupidity mix together.
Based on conversations with friends, Laura Conley, 31, who is trying to rent out her home for the Super Bowl, said she could envision Minnesotans cheering for the New England Patriots because of how some Vikings fans were treated in Philadelphia.
Jim Fehrenkamp, 41, a co-owner of Mac’s Industrial Sports Bar in Minneapolis, said he will root for New England for the same reason but added that he does not anticipate much friction between the locals and Eagles fans this week. Think fewer rumbles on Nicollet Mall, more stink eyes, if anything.
“I have belief in my city,” Fehrenkamp said, laughing. “At the same time, I also know that if you’re in your hometown, people might be a little more defensive of things. But I’d think that the people who act like that are probably not going to be the ones are going to be coming to the Super Bowl.”
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A Packers fan from Mauston, Wisconsin, Chad Babcock counts himself among the population delighted — or at least not displeased — that Minnesota lost. After the defeat, he heard from friends warning him to be mindful of renting his home, in the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis, to Eagles fans.
Babcock appreciated their concern but he also noted that a large group of Minnesota supporters seemed to instigate at least some of the taunting by dressing up the famed Rocky statue at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in Vikings colors and also performing the Skol chant on the museum’s steps. He disobeyed his friends’ advice.
Through a mutual friend, Babcock was introduced to Jeff Gottesman, of suburban Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania, like him a State Farm insurance agent. Via emails and text messages, they exchanged some good-natured ribbing — and negotiated a deal for next weekend. Babcock and his wife, Beth, a Vikings fan, expect Gottesman to adhere to some basic guidelines.
“No flipping off neighbors that are walking by, no vulgarities, don’t throw beer cans at anybody, those kinds of things,” said Babcock, laughing, who was considering ordering Eagles decorations and party supplies for Gottesman and his six friends. “I kind of warned them that Vikings fans are a little bitter about how they were treated, so be on a swivel.”
The stands at Monday night’s opening festivities at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul teemed with fans wearing Vikings jerseys, who drowned out the mere mention of Eagles with booing. When a small group of Eagles fans mocked the Vikings’ chant by saying “Foles” — for quarterback Nick Foles — instead of skol, it was roundly jeered.
Gottesman said he was not apprehensive at all about going to Minnesota. He attended the NFC championship game, where he saw some behavior that made him cringe, but he said he expected Minnesotans to treat him with the same respect as he showed the four Vikings fans who sat behind him. He offered them tips on how to stay “out of the realm of drunk lunatics” and even swapped phone numbers.
“All of this is blown out of proportion,” said Gottesman, 49, discussing the popular stereotype of Philadelphia fans. “The large majority of fans are not like that.”
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The Twin Cities shall see soon enough. If anything, Conley said, the Eagles fans should be the nervous ones. Asked why, she laughed.
“We’re going to outnumber them.”