Thursday, January 11, 2007

A Sunday in Philadelphia [J. Mark English]

The safest part of the war weary city of Baghdad is referred to as the "Green Zone" due to the intense defense measures taken up by coalition forces. In Philadelphia, there exists another green zone known as Lincoln Financial Field, or the "Linc". There is no safety for a fan of the Big Blue in this green zone.

Last week, my friend, who is an Eagles fan, and myself, a Giants fan, used every possible means to try to get tickets to the playoff game between the two teams. Tickets were hard to come by. One article from the Philadelphia Daily News reported. According to an ad on, a "very attractive younger couple, both in grad school" are willing to let a complete stranger watch them have sex in exchange for two tickets to tomorrow's playoff showdown between the Birds and the New York Giants.

My friend and I were not this desperate for tickets, and were fortunate to find a pair of tickets through connections.

If going to games at Giants Stadium for the last 15 years has taught me anything, its that fans of the opposing team always seem to get their hands on tickets. At the past Giants/Eagles game at Giants Stadium, I would say there were at least a healthy 5,000 Eagle fans in attendance. At the Bears game earlier this year, there could have been close to 15,000 to 20,000 Bear fans.

I figured that this result must be true elsewhere. I would not be alone in Philadelphia showing off my Giant blue, and in anticipation of not being alone, I chose to wear my no. 80, Jeremy Shockey white jersey. I did not chose wisely.

On Sunday morning, we stepped aboard the SEPTA train en route to a pub near City Hall. Though still early in the day, there could be found a gaggle of Eagle fans, dressed in their Dawkins, Westbrook, and McNabb jerseys. I was greeted with a collective "hiss" as if I had leoparcy and there were warnings for me to stay away. I began to feel uncomfortable immediately.

A respectable Eagle fan on the train warned me of the dangers of going to the Linc in a Shockey jersey and recalled a story from the New York Times:

Lou Scalise Jr., wearing a Jeremy Shockey jersey, and his father, in a Tiki Barber jersey, were among the Giant faithful at Lincoln Financial Field on Sept. 17. Lou Jr. said they were “taunted, cursed and even spit at during the game by Eagles fans.”

Michael Martocci, the vice president of Big Blue Travel in Manhattan, which arranged a bus trip for 72 Giants fans, including the Scalises, said: “Every year, the abuse we take from those animals in Philadelphia gets worse and worse. I’m seriously considering having two armed guards sit with us next year.”

The abuse only escalated as the group filed out after the Giants rallied for an overtime victory against the Eagles, the Giants fans said. Scalise, 21, of Copiague, N.Y., said he was pushed from behind several times on a stadium ramp. When Scalise turned around, he said, a man about 6 feet tall and 230 pounds, wearing an Eagles T-shirt and cap, punched him in the nose.

“We were holding the guy and calling for security,” said Robert Anderson, a retired New York City police detective who was part of the group. “But other Eagles fan came down the ramp and started swinging at us. When we went to protect ourselves, the guy who threw the first punch got away.”

Although he did not see the first punch, Lou Scalise Sr. said he turned “to see my son’s face filled with blood.”

The younger Scalise, who is 5-9 and 175 pounds, said: “Those people in Philadelphia are the most classless fans in the world. They’re just a bunch of drunks looking for trouble. I’ll never go back there again.”

After hearing of this story, I began to wish I was home in the comforts of New York, watching the game in my living room, far away from rabid drunk fans.

But alas, I had paid to much for two highly sought after tickets, and I knew that at least there would be several more fans like myself at the stadium to watch my back.

This would not be the case. After a stop at a bar for pitchers of beer, and some grub, my friend and I boarded an all Eagle fans subway to the Linc.

Upon arrival, we walked by the first round of tailgaters, downing as much cheap beer as they could before the game. From the get go, I could hear all sorts of names being thrown at me. It is amazing how many new names I heard that had to do with my sexual preferences, or being an a$$hole, or whatever curse word out there exists. Having had too much liquid at the pub, I had to use an outdoor porta-potty. My biggest fear was being tipped over inside. All the threats of being tipped were just empty threats...thank goodness.

As we got to the security checkpoint, I discoverd that I was one of only a few Giant fans. What made it even worse is that I had a Mets hat on. Cheers of "Giants suck" also turned into "Beltran sucks".

One guy tossed a cup of beer at me, missed, and hit my friend who was wearing a Dawkins jersey.

My ear began to eventually tune out the "Shockey is an a$$", or "go home loser" or "f@#k you bastard." Everyone got some sort of rib was impressive that so many people could be so consistent in their passion against one fan.

On our walk up the ramp to our seats, as we neared the top, a group of "standing only" Eagle fans, numbering maybe close to 300, all turned their collective attention, and hatred of the Giants toward me. As I was shouted at, and jeered, I couldn't help but feel that I was on my way to the gallows, and the crowd was giving me one last reason to hate life on my way to execution.

Fortunately our seats were in a good section, and I was surrounded by the few, if any, Giants in the stadium.

I respect the Giants organization for being as professional as possible. They don't have cheerleaders, or mascots, or men running around with flags, or theme songs...all things the Eagles do have, and all things most college sport teams have. But the Eagles sure make all of those things work, and it was fun to watch the cheerleaders from our vantage point. Also, their fireworks display before, during, and after the game was thrilling to say the least.

The game was close, but in the end the Eagles pulled away. Had the Eagles lost, I fear that this post would be written from a hospital in New Jersey (a Philly hospital wouldn't accept me). Imagine if Shockey had caught a game winning touchdown. Then this post would be an obituary instead...highlighting my stupidity.

As we left the stadium chants of "na na na na, say hey, goodbye" were tossed in my direction. At one point I was elbowed in the chest, but that was the full extend of physical violence I received.

I'm glad I survived this experience. I hope to bring some of the spirit that those crazy fans have to the Meadowlands next year. They sure are dedicated in their determination to make their stadium feel as vile as possible to opposing fans. If that is their goal, then they sure have succeded.

Next week however, LETS GO SAINTS.

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