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I am a lifelong Minnesota Vikings fan. I have lived in Kentucky for the past 40 years but am a Vikings season-ticket holder. Forty-two years ago, when I was 7, my family lived in Rochester, Minn., and my father took me to a Vikings playoff game. I have been a fan ever since.
Following the Vikings' magical regular season this year, I decided it would be a good time to return the favor, so I arranged for airline tickets to take my now-75-year-old father to the Vikings-Saints game on Jan. 14 in Minneapolis. Needless to say, it was an experience we will never forget, and it meant the world to me to watch my favorite team pull out a miracle win while I was with the man who has been most influential in my life.
Having lived in Kentucky for so long, we are used to — and proud of — Southern hospitality. We often comment on how the people in Kentucky have never met a stranger. However, I can honestly say that "Minnesota Nice" is as good as it gets. The people of Minnesota should be proud of how they conduct themselves with class, character and friendliness.
After the Vikings beat the Saints, my father and I decided to go to Philadelphia the following week for the NFC Championship Game. It turned out to be one of the biggest mistakes I have ever made — and it had nothing to do with the outcome of the game. I witnessed, and experienced, the rudest, most obnoxious and violent behavior I have ever seen at a sporting event.
From the moment we got on the subway to go to the game until the time we made it back to our hotel room afterward, we were subjected to constant verbal and physical assault. We were called names I can't repeat because they are unfit for print. We were shoved, had objects thrown at us and were warned that if the Vikings won, we would be lucky to make it out alive.
I have never been to a sporting event where I feared for my safety until last Sunday. All because I had the audacity to come to the game wearing a Vikings jersey.
I wish I could say that this behavior came from only a few individuals. Unfortunately, it was pervasive. And those who did not participate stood idly by and watched it happen. I have no problem with Eagles fans celebrating a historic win. That's the joy of sport. But you can do so with class and not ruin the time of fellow football fans whose only "crime" is being from another part of the country.
I am not sure how it became culturally acceptable in Philadelphia to behave in such a manner, but it's a shame. I was literally embarrassed to be a human.
I say all this because Minnesotans should be proud of who and what they are as people. They are nothing like what we experienced in Philadelphia. I love my Vikings more than anything in the world. I would do anything to see them win a Super Bowl. But I can say this with 100 percent certainty: I would rather lose and be affiliated with Minnesotans than win and be part of what I witnessed from Eagles fans. Character matters — it always has, and it always will. Believe it or not, it's even more important than the outcome of a football game.