By Tom Scheck | APM Reports
Philadelphia Eagles fans are so passionate that they beat themselves up during games.
I know. I did it.
On Christmas night last month, I settled in with my wife's family to watch the Eagles play the Raiders.
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The Davies clan, loyal Vikings fans, nestled up on the couch to keep one eye on the TV and one eye on how the goofy Eagles fan from Bethlehem, Pa., would react to the game. It was a sociological experiment and I was the study subject.
I didn’t disappoint.
As the game went on, I kept telling my in-laws that the Eagles were fine. I told them they’d easily win and secure home-field advantage in the playoffs. Really, it was no big deal, I said.
But my frustration started getting the better of me. At one point, quarterback Nick Foles threw an interception. I started mumbling and pacing. I couldn’t believe a team that looked so good with Carson Wentz could play this poorly under Foles.
The very next play, Oakland turned the ball over. I was so excited I jumped up and attempted to throw an upper cut into the air. Unfortunately, I stumbled on the wood floor and punched myself. It was a square shot to the eye, the type of punch where a flash of light goes straight through to the brain.
"He punched himself in the face,” my nephew cackled.
I now know what it’s like to be the monkey in the zoo.
That punch is a metaphor for being an Eagles fan. We physically beat ourselves up over this team.
And that's the difference between us and Vikings fans: Two days before that Eagles-Raiders matchup, my in-laws spoke in hushed tones about the prospects of their own team against the Packers.
“Shhhhh!” they would say whenever anyone said the Vikings had a shot at scoring a touchdown. The mere suggestion that the Vikings could make it to the Super Bowl was shouted down with a warning that such talk would taunt the football gods.
I marveled at how my family could watch a Vikings game with their hands over their eyes and constantly worry that the sky will fall at any moment.
We may react differently but we are fan bases haunted by our history
Sunday’s game pits fans so anxious that they won't be able to enjoy the game against fans ready to explode in rage to cope with our own disappointment.
Philly fans boo Santa Claus. We punch police horses. We had a jail in the basement of the old stadium. We fire flares in the stadium during a Monday Night Football game. Our coaches placed bounties on players before the Saints made it cool.
We chuck snowballs at Santa not because we hate Christmas. We do it because we get coal in our playoff stocking while Dallas, Washington and New York act like they’re entitled to the Lombardi trophy and have celebrated their success multiple times. (Yes, Vikings fans, I know the trophy is named after the old Packers coach, but you play in a division with the Lions and they have stunk forever.)
In the past few years, I’ve talked about giving up football because of the violence and the injuries and the off-the-field behavior. But then Carson Wentz comes along and gets you believing again.
And just after I came back, Carson Wentz tore his ACL.
We are Charlie Brown and the damn football.
Since 2001, the Eagles have made five NFC Championships but made it to just one Super Bowl. Their two Super Bowl appearances featured a loss to New England in 2005 and a crushing 1981 loss to the Raiders. (That loss broke the heart of a six-year-old boy in the Lehigh Valley.)
Despite the suffering, it’s hard to give up on your team after investing so much time and energy into hoping they’ll win the Super Bowl.
Vikings fans can relate.
For years, my wife has repeatedly said she wants the Vikings to win a Super Bowl -- just once -- so her father dies happy. It’s eerily similar to the comments my mom used to utter about the Eagles and my grandfather.
That’s a lot of hard living for two sets of fan bases.
The Scheck family is now a house divided. My wife is all in for the Vikings. I’m backing the Eagles.
She told me she doesn’t want to watch the game with me because I can be insufferable and loud and animated (see face-punching).
Truth be told, I may not want to watch the game with her, either. But it’s not because she’s insufferable and loud and animated.
It’s because our teams are playing against each other for the chance to go to the Super Bowl.
When it’s over, one of us is going to be really happy. And one of us will continue to wallow in disappointment.
My biggest hope is that the person celebrating will remember the feelings of the other.
My second hope is that I don’t punch myself in the face.
Tom Scheck is a reporter with APM Reports, MPR's investigative unit. He'll be watching Sunday's game dreaming of cheesesteaks and birch beer. As a youth he caddied occasionally for Eagles legend Chuck Bednarik, who is known as Concrete Charlie to Eagles fans.