Cheesesteaks or Cheese Curds? Jim McGuinn shares thoughts on Philly and Minny

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Minnesota versus Philadelphia
The statue honoring Mary Tyler Moore was unveiled May 8, 2002 in Minneapolis. The Rocky statue rests in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. (Mike Ekern/Getty Images; William Thomas Cain/Getty Images)

Yo! Youse guys! Iggles and Vikings! Cheesesteaks and Cheese Curds!

Having lived in Philadelphia for over 13 years, all week people have been asking me who I'm rooting for this weekend, and if I still love the Eagles (the team, not the band). And the truth is, it's complicated. Philadelphia is a complicated city. When I arrived in the mid-'90s, there was a dynamic mayor named Ed Rendell, who infused a new spirit into a city that had been slipping downhill for decades. It's not New York, or D.C., or Boston, and the inferiority complex it feels manifests itself in an often direct and at times combatively surly attitude that would shock many Minnesotans. Rendell's plan was to build it back from the center out; however, that meant that while the downtown and sweet neighborhoods like Society Hill boomed, in huge swaths of the city (West, North, the Great Northeast, South), people struggled. But that also meant Philly could be a bargain compared to other East Coast cities: a place where modern dancers and indie rockers could afford to buy houses, and just under the radar enough yet close to New York and D.C., and cool enough to foster plenty of hipsters, along with The Roots, The War on Drugs, Low Cut Connie, and Dr. Dog.

While living in Philadelphia, I had spurts of fandom for the Eagles. Duce Staley and Donovan McNabb were exciting players in their prime, and the Eagles were knocking on the door many times in the era I lived there. But the franchise also had a dark reputation within the city, and the Eagles fans were — and are — notorious for their passion, but also their outward hostility toward the opposition. I was at a game in 1999 against the Dallas Cowboys — the Eagles' biggest rivals — where Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin was tackled hard, and carried off the field on a stretcher with a spinal cord injury, while Eagles fans cheered. He would never play another snap in the NFL. That made it hard for me to remain a fan.

So while I have hundreds of friends I miss dearly, and thousands of great memories of my time in Philadelphia, from the birth of my son (and meeting Sylvester Stallone the same day!) to seeing and playing incredible rock shows to biking through my South Philly neighborhood, when I left that town in 2009, one of the easiest things to say goodbye to was Philly's NFL franchise.

Not that becoming a Vikings fan was easy. I arrived in time to see the Vikings last get to the NFC Championship, but something felt Frankenstein-ish about seeing an aging Brett Favre exacting his Green Bay revenge in Purple and Gold. With an uninspiring 31-48 record over the next five years, I devoted my sports time to falling in love with hockey and wishing for the Twins and Wolves to also get their acts together. But with the arrival of Mike Zimmer as head coach, things started to turn around. Dads always say — you win championships with defense. And like many, many, many, Vikings fans, watching this year's team has been an amazing ride — made more sweet by how often most counted them down and out. The roots of this drama go back to losing franchise QB Teddy Bridgewater in 2016, coming up with a nifty trade (with the Eagles) to pick up Sam Bradford, but then just when we had accepted and become comfortable with idea of Bradford leading the offense, he went down at the beginning of this year, which is how we ended up with Case Keenum, an undrafted quarterback, throwing an insane amount of passes to Adam Thielen, and undrafted wide receiver. Led by a crushing defense, the Vikings rolled on for a 13-3 season. And do I even need to mention the snatching of victory from the jaws of defeat that went down when the Ghost of Prince blocked a few Saints last weekend?

Call me bandwagonesque, but I'm on board this Vikings train. Forever.

Or if they should happen to lose in Philly, when I'll revert to cheering for whoever is playing against the New England Patriots — even if it's the Eagles. Hey, I used to live there!

Resources

Minnesota Vikings - official site

Philadelphia Eagles - official site

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