Tom Stambaugh has been an avid Minnesota Vikings fan his whole life.
The retired Nevis teacher was a season-ticket holder for 20 years when the Vikings played at the Metrodome. In addition to making trips to Minneapolis, he has traveled to other cities, including Green Bay and Chicago, to watch his beloved Vikings.
Stambaugh was looking forward to his trip to Philadelphia to watch the Vikings play for the NFC Championship on Jan. 21.
On the way to Lincoln Financial Field, Stambaugh, his daughter Megan and her husband Ryan sported their Vikings jerseys in anticipation of enjoying in person a battle between the top teams in the division for a trip to Super Bowl LII.
Little did Stambaugh know that it would be a battle just getting to his seat.
Stambaugh and other Vikings fans were the target of hostile Philadelphia fans intent on causing black-and-blue marks on people wearing purple. Videos show Philadelphia fans throwing full beer cans and bottles and yelling vulgar obscenities at Vikings fans as they walked to the stadium. There were reports of a brawl breaking out between rival fans at one of the parking lots during a pre-game tailgating party. People had their Vikings hats stolen, thrown in urinals and urinated on. Philadelphia fans threw food and garbage and spit at anyone wearing purple. Several Vikings fans said they were punched and feared for their lives.
Quite the welcome from the "City of Brotherly Love."
"No matter what you've read or seen, it was worse. I've been a Vikings fan since I was 9 years old, watching Kansas City kill us in our first Super Bowl. I have been through it all and seen it all since the beginning of the Vikes," said Stambaugh. "I've been to road games and you always get heckling and teasing and maybe a few swear words thrown your way. That happens everywhere. The only thing I can say is Philly fans are animals. We took the subway to the stadium and that was no problem. There were a few digs, but nothing bad. We thought we would tailgate with Vikings fans in parking lot M. Walking from the subway to the lot was about a quarter mile. This is where it started. There was no way we could safely get to the M lot. Beer cans were being thrown and Philly fans were chanting (obscenities) in your face. It started with two or three people and soon 15 to 20 would be surrounding you. It was very intimidating. We had no choice but to head back to the stadium. We got to the stadium and once in the concourse, there was the same verbal abuse, very vile and gross. As soon as they saw purple, you were the target. I talked to a security guard and he didn't do anything. His response was I shouldn't have worn purple."
Wearing purple into the bathrooms was also discouraged.
"We were told not to go in the bathrooms with purple on because it was dangerous," said Stambaugh. "Luckily, I had a black North Dakota State jacket with me. I put that on and made sure my jersey was completely covered and said 'Go, Carson Wentz' and I was good."
Stambaugh is an alumnus of NDSU and followed Wentz and the Bison to Frisco, Texas when they won national titles before Wentz was drafted by the Eagles. Wentz was the starting quarterback for Philadelphia before suffering a season-ending injury. Despite not playing in the game, Wentz was shown on the jumbotron, encouraging the already frenzied Philly fans to cheer on their Eagles. That encouragement just made the behavior of the Philadelphia fans worse.
"Once in our seats, the guy to my right would push and bump me every time (Philadelphia) scored or got a first down, which unfortunately was quite often. His wife did apologize for him and tried to switch seats, but he wouldn't let her," said Stambaugh. "Security never came up our aisle until the third quarter. He came up to the fans in purple and told us to leave now because it wouldn't be safe after the game. I always stay for the whole game, no matter what the score is, but we took his advice. Unfortunately, there were still fans in the parking lot. We got the same treatment on the walk to the subway. Once in the subway, it was safe again with a good police presence."
Stambaugh said it was bad enough the Vikings were dominated in a 38-7 loss, but the Philadelphia fans added insults to injury before, during and after the game.
"I would say 60 to 70 percent of the fans were animals and most of the others just sat back and laughed or did nothing. The women were as just bad as the men. As a former Bison, it makes me very disappointed that Carson Wentz represents fans like this. It makes me sad to say these people are citizens of the United States," said Stambaugh. "Football is still just a game to enjoy and have fun, win or lose. As for my Vikings, it's just another heartbreak. I've seen it all since that first Super Bowl loss. I will be back next fall knowing that this is the year we finally win it all. But I will never go back to Philadelphia again for anything."