On not being beaten up by Eagles fans

    I was excited when I saw my Carolina Panthers scheduled for week two of the NFL preseason schedule. Despite plenty of warning that Lincoln Financial Field isn’t exactly known as a “friendly” place for opposing fans, I ordered my tickets. When game day arrived, I was ready for the worst.

    As a recent transplant to Philadelphia, I immediately got excited when I saw my Carolina Panthers scheduled for week two of the NFL preseason schedule. One of the saddest aspects of my move north was the knowing that I’d be far away from Panthers home games in Charlotte, so it was nice to see they were coming to me.

    Friends and co-workers quickly reminded me, however, that Lincoln Financial Field isn’t exactly known as a “friendly” place for opposing fans. One friend even emailed me the 2011 GQ article naming Philadelphia fans were “the meanest fans in America.”

    Despite plenty of warning — one friend told me I’d be “lucky to walk out of the stadium” wearing a Panthers jersey — I ordered my tickets. When game day arrived, I was ready for the worst.

    But then an odd thing happened: After we entered the stadium and found our seats, almost nothing happened.

    ‘Panthers Suck!’

    There were a few shouts as we walked through the stadium’s concourse. Eagles fans informed us that the “Panthers suck!” and that we should “Go back to Charlotte!” but it was nothing out of the ordinary. I’ve heard, and probably shouted, much worse at the annual N.C. State–UNC football game.

    Other fans were quite cordial with their game-day smack talk, politely telling me they hoped I was going to “cry all the way home” and that the Eagles would “prove who the real men are.”

    Once we took our seats, any hint of hostility disappeared. This was especially surprising, because I wasn’t trying to blend in, applauding every good play and signaling every Panthers first down (well, the few they produced).

    I stood, with both arms proudly up, to celebrate a Panthers’ field goal without hearing a murmur from rows of Eagles fans behind me. When the Eagles responded with a touchdown, no one said anything to us.

    Our group even got an unexpected treat between the third and fourth quarters. As the stadium speakers played music, we began to dance in our seats. Then someone pointed up to show us we were on the Jumbotron!

    It only lasted a couple seconds (I think they realized we were wearing the “wrong” jerseys), but any night you get to be on the Jumbotron is a good one. 

    We didn’t hear much on the way out of the stadium, either, except for one adorable usher near the parking lot who stopped us and, with a smile, said, “Where are you going? Game’s not over yet.” (We left the game at the two-minute mark after the Eagles got a first down and the Panthers were out of timeouts.)

    Just the preseason?

    I’m still shocked by the generally calm and polite manner of the Eagles fans I encountered. I was told I’d have beer dumped on me and a variety of offensive words shouted angrily at me.

    Were they calm just because it was a meaningless preseason match? Was it because the game was slow and boring? Was it because the Eagles ran up and down and all over the Panthers for the entire first half?

    I can only assume it was a combination of these factors that proved my fears moot. Still, I don’t expect anyone will see me jumping around quite as much during a regular season game at the Link.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.