NFL: Most Hostile Crowd
It happened in 1968, but the event is still part of Philadelphia folklore. The fiery Eagles fans were attacking none other than Santa Claus, booing him and throwing snowballs at him. The enduring anecdote demonstrates how unique Eagles fans are at making life hell for their visitors.
It’s hard to imagine how noisy the 69,000 spectators at Lincoln Financial Field will be tomorrow when it comes time to support their Eagles and give their typical welcome to the 49ers in the National Conference Finals.
One thing is certain, the reputation of hard-boiled Eagles supporters extends far beyond Philadelphia. So much so that yesterday, during head coach Nick Sirianni’s press briefing, a journalist from Germany approached him about the mistreatment of opposing teams… and dear Santa Claus!
« It’s not for nothing that we still talk about it! » replied the delighted pilot.
“Our crowd inspires us and they make life difficult for other teams. Supporters can be very hostile. I’ve been here before on the coaching staff of other teams and I know how intimidating it is.
“As players and coaches, we have to treat this game like any other. Fans aren’t like that. They are going to be excited because of what is at stake and I encourage them to be. It will be quite an atmosphere!”, he added, with a Machiavellian smile.
A unique reputation
Last weekend, when the Giants were in Philadelphia, the New York Post referred on its sports front page to the Eagles stadium as « the house of horrors. »
A few years ago, a poll by GQ magazine ruled that Philadelphia fans were the « worst in sports. »
This week, 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel hinted that the Philadelphia crowd wouldn’t be louder than the 49ers fans.
49ers ace tackle Trent Williams has had his fill many times over his illustrious career and brought another story to the story.
The one who spent his first nine seasons in Washington experienced the incomparable happiness of visiting the « Linc » nine times as a former division rival.
“This place is much more than noise. Philly is a market where the fans really make a difference. They have a knack for playing in our heads. They yell at us and never stop. As soon as you walk into the stadium, they make sure to make you feel unwelcome. »
The times have changed
Nevertheless, even if the atmosphere at Lincoln Financial Field is boosted, the image of the supporters is no longer that of the unleashed era of the defunct Veterans Stadium.
In a game in November 1997, ironically against the 49ers, many battles broke out between fans of both teams.
The management of the Eagles had chosen to attack this recurring problem by installing a prison and a real Court of Justice for the thugs, in the catacombs of the old stadium. Judge Seamus P. McCaffrey, who presided over the “Court of Eagles” hearings, had become a veritable celebrity in Philadelphia.
Those days are over, but the energy will be at its peak, like in the last on-site final in January 2018.
“It was so electric! I had never had such an intimidating experience,” recalled Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon, who was part of the Vikings five years ago, crushed on that fateful day.
In the city of brotherly love
Many have fun saying that the NFL stands for “Not for Long”. You tend to agree with them when you walk past the Eagles’ home stadium, Lincoln Financial Field, and see a statue of quarterback Nick Foles and head coach Doug Pederson. The two marked Philadelphia forever in Super Bowl 52, and the statue immortalizes the moment they discussed the now-famous rigged “Philly Special” game. Five years later, Foles left and became a reservist who never earned anything elsewhere. Pederson now manages the Jaguars. Gone from the Philly sports scene, but never forgotten!
A few miles south of downtown Philadelphia, sports enthusiasts have it all in the Sports Complex area. Next to the Eagles stadium is the Wells Fargo Arena, home to the Flyers and 76ers, as well as the Phillies’ Citizens Bank Park. The arena is the dean of the place, having opened in 1996, while the Eagles (2003) and the Phillies (2004) followed. The city of Philadelphia estimates that this sports-lovers’ playground receives about 7 million visitors a year, attending some 380 events. In January, only nine days are unoccupied and sometimes days are filled with two events. That’s the case tomorrow, with Villanova University basketball at the arena at noon and the Eagles at Linc at 3 p.m.
Going to Philadelphia without taking a bite out of one of its renowned “Philly Cheesesteaks” would almost be considered an affront to the local gastronomy! All kidding aside, this submarine-style sandwich brimming with sliced beef and melted cheese has been a hit with locals and tourists alike since the 1930s. Of course, many restaurants pride themselves on serving the best in town. In the city center at lunchtime, one of the popular places is the Reading Terminal Market, where the kiosks serving this typical dish rub shoulders with tons of other stalls of food of all kinds.
Big challenge for young Brock Purdy
To date, young 49ers sensation Brock Purdy has appeared in eight games, only two of them on the road. It’s a heavy order that awaits the quarterback in hostile terrain, in Philadelphia.
The sample is slim, but Purdy has looked good in his two road games with two wins, four touchdowns and one interception. He even orchestrated a 10-point comeback in the second half in Las Vegas.
It was in Seattle, however, in week 15, in a very noisy stadium, that he got his best preparation for the challenge ahead. Even if the amplitude of the moment will be on a whole different scale.
“When we played in Seattle, coach [Kyle] Shanahan said it was a good situation for what we could potentially experience in the playoffs in Philadelphia. In these very noisy games, it’s all about communication, how to manage the huddle and starting the game the right way at the line of scrimmage. We’ve been focusing on that this week and it’s going to be big for us,” Purdy said in a Santa Clara briefing.
Respect for the adversary
The seventh-round pick in the last draft will try to become the first rookie quarterback in NFL history to win a Conference Finals game. He would also become the first rookie center to win three playoff games.
Purdy represents one of the great stories in the Goodell circuit this season and the Eagles are far from crying mirage, on the contrary.
“Too many people categorize players based on their draft rank. He plays really well. He proved he could win big games. He is very well surrounded on offense, which helps him make good decisions,” praised linebacker TJ Edwards.
A course followed
Eagles driver Nick Sirianni was once the teammate and roommate of Matt Campbell, Purdy’s head coach at Iowa State University. So he’s been following Purdy’s career with interest, long before he unexpectedly blossomed this fall.
« I could see he was a winner and he still makes the big plays when it comes to getting wins, » he said this week of the 23-year-old quarterback.
Moreover, the four quarterbacks in the four aces have an average age of 25 years and 98 days, which is unheard of, according to NFL Research.
« It’s good for the league, » said Sirianni. The more young quarterbacks there are playing at a high level, the more exciting the sport is.”