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From Perham, Minn. to Philly: NFC Championship game was 'worst experience ever'

Vikings fans rallied on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art the day before the ill-fated Vikings-Eagles game on Sunday. Submitted photo

Season ticket-holder Chuck Hofius of Perham, Minn. has traveled to a lot of Vikings road games—twice to Lambeau Field in Green Bay just this year—but he's never had such a bad experience as he did at the Vikings game in Philadelphia on Sunday. Never even close, he said from the Philadelphia airport late Monday afternoon, where his flight had just been delayed for the third time because of bad weather in the Twin Cities.

The trip to the City of Brotherly Love started out fine. "We got here Saturday, and people were really playful and teasing, just having fun," he said. On Sunday he and his husband, Terry, wore their Vikings jerseys for an impromptu rally at the famous steps from the original Rocky movie in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. "There were taunts and jeers, but all of them were playful—until we got to the game, then things changed dramatically," he said.

On the way into the Lincoln Financial Field stadium, a Philadelphia fan shoved Hofius in the chest, and by the end of the first quarter, he said, the Minnesota fans "were thinking about changing our names to (expletive) and (expletive) because we'd been called that so many times," he said.

"After the first half, people were starting to physically threaten us," he said. Hofius was sitting with a small group of Minnesota fans, but that only made them more of a target, he said. "They started throwing beer over their shoulders at us—I got wet a few times," he said.

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The more they drank, the meaner the Eagles fans got, he said. One angry Eagles fan next to Terry finally boiled over, turned to him and said "I may have bad knees, but I've got good fists."

Hofius said they had been warned that things would get really ugly inside the stadium, with people even bringing up stories from a Vikings-Eagles game in 1968, the same year Eagles fans won infamy by pelting a man dressed as Santa Claus with snowballs. But Hofius thought the fears were exaggerated.

"I thought 'get over it, it can't be that bad,'" he said. "But once we were at the game, people were as dead serious as a pounding finger in the chest ... people told us it would be like that, but I thought it was overblown. I've been to a lot of games and been to other stadiums as well, and I've never felt unsafe anywhere else."

While there was a big police presence outside the stadium, inside it was a different story, with just one security person per long row. "He came up every once in a while to calm things down, but he wasn't there much."

Since the Vikings were taking such a beating on the field (they lost the game 38-7) Hofius thought the Eagles fans would ease up, but things just got worse. With each touchdown, people seemed to get angrier and wilder, he said. "People started getting drunk in the second half, they were getting really out of control," he said. "It was getting pretty scary."

The thought of mixing with those Eagles fans while they waited around outside the stadium after the game trying to catch an Uber or a taxi grew really unappealing, and the men decided to leave the game early.

They weren't sorry they did. Their hotel was on Broad Street, and they watched from inside as hundreds of rowdy Philadelphia fans packed the street after game for a wild celebration. Police had even greased up street poles with shortening to try to stop people from climbing them. It didn't work. "They took it as a challenge," Hofius said.

It's too bad the fans were so obnoxious, because the city itself was worth visiting, Hofius said.

"I would come back to Philly, Philly was fun," he said. "We did the tour and got to see the Liberty Bell, though it was closed because of the government shut down, and we had to look through the window ... I'd go back to Philly, but I wouldn't go back to a game here."

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