I am a Giants fan - perhaps one of the most blasphemous comments to make in the city of Philadelphia. I grew up playing catch with my dad in suburban New Jersey streets, and most Sundays, I knelt in front of the television screaming "defense" to unhearing white-and-blue defensive linesmen. If I were lucky, I would get to occasionally pile on layers of long underwear and make that turnpike trek up to the landfill-blanketed Meadowlands.
Philadelphia, of course, was always dangerous territory to any Giants fan, yet I never understood why. However, when I arrived at Penn and absorbed the local football atmosphere, I saw the reality of the violence that is notorious among Eagles fans. Such crimes and misconduct are childish and dangerous and certainly do not belong among responsible, working adults.
"Every week, the fans want to annihilate the other team," loyal fan and College senior Jim Goldblum said.
Both Goldblum and College senior Mike Zubrow attended the infamous Eagles vs. Cowboys game in 1999, in which Dallas wide receiver Michael Irvin suffered a career-ending injury. Although Irvin was clearly immobilized, Eagles fans continued to cheer rowdily - Zubrow's season tickets have been passed down for generations, yet he noted that he was "ashamed" of his fellow fans' reactions and decided not to partake in this blatant disrespect.
In the historic Veterans Stadium, police operated a municipal "Eagles Court" and jail cells, which accommodated the frequent arrests made by police during the games. According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Judge Seamus McCaffrey made 18 arrests during the first court hearings on Nov. 23, 1997. While the newly built Lincoln Financial Field does not contain such extreme disciplinary features, a fan telephone hotline allows for immediate access to stadium police officers.
Why, I wonder, do Eagles fans experience so much more uproar and violent devotion than other fans across the nation? While the idea may be cliche, a city that prides itself on brotherly love should certainly not be presenting such antagonistic and vicious conduct toward opposing teams' fans.
My father - whose devotion to the Giants leads him to away games in places as distant as Dallas and San Francisco - will not attend a game in nearby Philadelphia due to the potential dangers that non-Eagles fans may face.
I posed my question to James McCann, administrative lieutenant in Philadelphia's fourth district, which includes Lincoln Financial Field. He explained that football has been "ingrained in the neighborhood" - a form of "community entertainment" shared by generations of fans. As opposed to younger teams, the Eagles are "almost like cult," rooted in their deep historical presence. Such fanatical attachment to the team often results in misdemeanor, and around "98 percent of the arrests are for intoxication," McCann said.
Both Goldblum and Zubrow witnessed several fights at last weekend's game against the Giants, and, in one instance, two Eagles fans were actually hitting each other. At stadiums across the country, I've seen fans that are just as passionate for their teams, but I rarely see them funnel that passion into violence.
According to Victor Cooper, the director of facilities and security at the Linc, about 40 of the more than 70,000 fans at last weekend's game were removed from the stadium for inappropriate behavior.
But that's to be expected.
"Don't come into the Lincoln expecting people to respect you," Zubrow said. "They're gonna give you an earful."
Interestingly, Goldblum and Zubrow each observed that the Giants' stunning comeback and overtime victory surprisingly led not to violence but instead to deafening silence and a feeling of utter doom.
"It looked like everyone got vomited on," Goldblum said. "I don't think people really had it in them to talk trash."
However, I'm bewildered by the idea that only such a crushing defeat can prevent Philadelphia fans from continuing to ravage the enemies who sit among them. Eagles football is truly the lifeblood of its supporters, and each fumble or interception becomes a personal issue for the individual spectator. Such distress and resultant crime is unreasonable - a football team should never have to have a judicial system or a prison within the confines of its stadium.
"We're like dogs pissing on a tree; it's a territorial thing," Goldblum said. Eagles fans are "the evangelicals of football."
Sharon Udasin is a College senior from East Brunswick, N.J. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Shed a Little Light appears on Mondays.Comments powered by Disqus
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