MINNEAPOLIS — There I was, 1,200 miles from home in the snow crater known as Minneapolis, bellied up at the wood in Gluek's, a raucous, rollicking sports bar blocks from the stadium with my new best friends: Eagles fans. I'm in alien territory and doubly so. I've trekked all the way out here to sort of watch a Super Bowl — I have no ticket or press pass — and to figure out, after years living in Philly as a transplant, what makes a Philly sports fan tick. Or at least not detest them anymore.
Along the way, I accidentally became one.
Inside the stadium were Philly Twitter personalities @ZooWithRoy and @Cranekicker, my mentors on this odyssey of fandom and fellow passengers through six states in an SUV we christened the Pequod, the vessel with which the megalomaniacal Ahab pursued the white whale in Moby-Dick. Ahab was of course eventually dragged down to the bottom of the sea by said whale.
Blessedly, an inexact metaphor.
Another traveler on our journey, a homicide detective who grew up in the Northeast but stubbornly pulls for the Pats, was also inside. On the trek out, it was Homicide Det. Joe Murray who captained our vessel through the soul-shaking heart of a Midwestern snownado. In the delirium before kickoff, he couldn't help but fork over riches to get inside. ("The excitement was too much," he said.)
In his seat, our friend felt that same gut-turning fear he did in the grip of the horror storm.
With good reason.
At the bar, as the minutes ticked away and the Eagles, for the first time ever, set my heart pounding at surely unhealthy levels, I settled in next to a fellow traveler: Chris Jordan, a 30-year-old South Jersey native who came out here 10 years ago and now teaches college chemistry. Like me, his friends were inside the stadium, and he was at the bar, holding down the fort.
He's been reveling in, for once, the feeling of his team being on top. Almost. Two weeks ago, he gave his students a quiz about the forthcoming NFC Championship that consisted of a single question:
"How will the game end?"
a) The Eagles will win.
b) The Vikings will lose.
"It's fun playing the role of the antagonist," he said. Then we went back to yelling at the television. The Patriots had done something unforgivable again.
I came here to this snow crater to tap into the Philly fan psyche — and I did. I've realized that being a Philly sports fan right now is about more than sports. We're not a city on the cusp of doing big things anymore.
We're doing them.
As evidence, my companions this week, instead of bracing themselves for inevitable disappointment, were calling themselves the Have Fun Gang, a moniker so earnest it almost hurts to type.
"Started crying during the national anthem," ZooWithRoy texted from the game. Their joyous tears pretty much never stopped.
My mentors taught me well.
Because in those heart-pounding, exhilarating final minutes as Zach Ertz clearly established possession and that New England quarterback we knew was a choker all along gloriously fumbled, and the expat chemistry prof and I went bonkers. "It's a feeling I've never felt in my life," he cried, falling to his knees. And my pals inside nearly fell over the railing in delirious celebration, they reported, and even our friend the stubborn detective fan was happy for the city.
At that moment, I wanted nothing more than to be back home. And, of course, so did my pals. They came here to witness history, something generations of fans, including some in their own families, have lived and died waiting to see.
They've seen it now. We all have.
And now it is time to start the joyous, glorious trek home, with the weather reports warning of another winter storm. Who knows what cute Midwestern moniker this one has. The Saskatchewan Screamer. The Minneapolis Monster. The Howler from the North.
Whatever. We feel no fear. The wings of Eagles will bear us back home.