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McFeely: Wentz says opposing fans know what they're getting into

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz (11) addresses the media during Super Bowl LII Opening Night at Xcel Energy Center. Brace Hemmelgarn / USA TODAY Sports1 / 3
A Philadelphia police officer rides through fans before the NFC Championship game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Minnesota Vikings at Lincoln Financial Field. Bill Streicher / USA TODAY Sports2 / 3
A Philadelphia Eagles fan holds a sign after winning against the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship game at Lincoln Financial Field. Eric Hartline / USA TODAY Sports3 / 3

ST PAUL—If Minnesota Vikings fans were looking to Carson Wentz for help, they're not going to get it.

Many fans who traveled to Philadelphia for the NFC Championship game between the Vikings and the Eagles a couple of weeks ago were appalled—and often frightened—by the behavior of some Eagles fans.

Asked about the topic at Super Bowl media day Monday, Jan. 29, Wentz acknowledged some over-the-top behavior occurred but defended Eagles fans as passionate.

"Rabid" might be a better word, but you get the drift.

"There's plenty of things you see on social media that you just shake your head and say 'why do you have to do that?'" said Wentz, who will not play in the game against the New England Patriots due to an injured knee. "But that stuff happens all over the place. Philly and the fans out there just get more publicized for it."

It's debatable whether fans in other tough markets like New York, Boston, Green Bay or Chicago rise (lower?) to the level of Eagles fans.

Online videos showed Philadelphia fans heaving full cans of beer at Vikings fans wearing purple jerseys and caps. Other fans told of being spit on, shoved, head-butted and threatened.

Fargo radio host Joel Heitkamp of KFGO, in a blog post shared on Facebook nearly 50,000 times, wrote that Philadelphia police did little or nothing to stop the assaults and harassment—even if things happened right in front of them.

"I saw one cop walk up to an Eagles tailgate and ask for a 'soda.' He left with a red solo cup filled with beer," Heitkamp wrote. "I saw another cop witness someone being thrown to the ground, and he didn't so much as flinch. 'Keep moving,' he said."

The harsh verbal assault Vikings fans endured was almost nonstop from the time the tailgate lots outside Lincoln Financial Field opened in the morning until after the game ended at about 10:30 p.m. The taunts didn't stop during the game and, according to those who were in the stands, got worse as Eagles fans drank more alcohol. What started as good fun in the morning was pure nastiness by kickoff.

Chuck Hofius of Perham, Minn., told Forum News Service some Vikings fans "were thinking about changing our names to (expletive) and (expletive) because we'd been called that so many times."

You need only go six letters into the alphabet to cover the first letters of those two words deemed unfit for a family newspaper.

"You just have to be smart as fans. That's who they are. Sometimes they get carried away and that's the part you want to avoid," Wentz said. "But that's the city, that's the culture, that's the passion they have for the Eagles."

His answer will disappoint North Dakota and Minnesota fans who wanted the former North Dakota State star to condemn the abhorrent behavior and call for respectful treatment of opposing fans. To show more brotherly love, if you will.

Justin Smith of Fargo went to the game, where he saw Eagles fans abuse Vikings fans. Smith wrote a letter to the editor that was printed in the The Forum in which he called out Wentz for staying silent.

"If that's the kind of people he is going to play for, he should at least say something to try to stop it. He did not discourage it, condemn it, or even apologize for it," Smith wrote. "Nothing. Silence. He knows it happens every single game. He was in a position to do something to prevent it, but he did nothing. You thought he was a classy guy? Think again."

It's doubtful Wentz would have much effect on Eagles fans—the perpetrators, who are in the minority, are too far gone for that. It's fair to say, though, he's beloved in Philadelphia and using his bully pulpit couldn't hurt. We know this: Eagles fans are surely not going to listen to pleas from the NFL, the police or the politicians. Wentz and his teammates might be the best hope for change.

Wentz didn't seem eager to go down that road at the Xcel Energy Center. He praised fans for creating an "unreal" environment in the Eagles' home stadium during games.

"There's obviously plenty of things you see online that you wish didn't take place, but you also know when you're coming what you are getting yourself into," Wentz said.

Mike McFeely
Mike McFeely is a WDAY (970 AM) radio host and a columnist for The Forum. You can respond to Mike's columns by listening to AM-970 from 8:30-11 a.m. weekdays.
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