ST. PAUL, Minn. — Hell hath no fury like a Viking scorned.
A few thousand people showed up for opening night at Super Bowl LII, formerly known as media day. Two years ago, the NFL moved it from Tuesday afternoon to the Monday night of Super Bowl week. Five years ago, the NFL started selling tickets.
To the Eagles’ dismay.
Captains from both the Eagles and Patriots took the stage at Xcel Energy Center at 9:15 p.m. EST. The Eagles’ captains were roundly booed.
Nick Foles was asked a question by a moderator. His response was drowned out by boos. Malcolm Jenkins went next … as far as you could tell. His lips were moving, anyway.
The Eagles drew the second session of opening night, in which every player and coach from both teams are made available for questions for an hour. The captains met on stage while a floor crew switched name cards on the booths. The captains’ comments served as filler.
Vikings fans, famous for being “Minnesota Nice,” are in general tizzy in the wake of an alarming number of inhospitable acts perpetrated against Vikings fans at the NFC championship game in Philadelphia eight days ago. If they occupy a fair share of the seats come Sunday, expect it to be a boo-Bird Super Bowl.
On Sunday, one Minnesotan greeted a particularly amicable Philadelphian (me) with this dire salutation: “You’re from Philadelphia? We don’t like you very much.” Skol, indeed.
Bootleg T-shirts demeaning Eagles fans and declaring Vikings fans to be Patriots supporters are hot items in the Twin Cities, though, of course, they are generally devoid of vulgarity. This is as crazy as Minneapolis gets.
The crowd at Xcel was made up of more Eagles fans than Patriots supporters, but neither were represented in large numbers. It is, after all, only Monday, and the game is six days away. Nobody vacations in Minnesota in January.
As such, most of the crowd bled purple and gold. They’d heard about the vitriol their friends and neighbors endured the previous week at Lincoln Financial Field, and they were as mad as hornets. They almost made it past breakfast without smiling.
The fallout from championship weekend was probably overblown, as are most embarrassments by Philadelphia fans, but a history of churlish behavior tends to amplify future incidents. This is doubly true when the victims are happy-go-lucky folk from the Land O’ Lakes.
At least the booing spiced up an evening that was downright dull, by opening night standards.
“It’s pretty calm,” said Tony Dungy, who won Super Bowl XI after the 1978 season as a defensive back for the Steelers and won Super Bowl XLI after the 2006 season as the Colts’ coach.
Indeed, the goofball quotient was way, way down, perhaps because the temperature was, too. It was 12 degrees outside when the interviews began. The Super Bowl usually is played somewhere that the rivers aren’t frozen solid. The projected media contingent Monday night was 2,000, slightly less than at other Super Bowls.
This year there was no Latin lovely in a wedding dress to propose to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. However, Guillermo Rodriguez, the intrepid, elfin security guard from Jimmy Kimmel Live!, managed to ask Brady how he kept his teeth so white; Guillermo guessed soda and tequila.
A kid reporter asked Brady what woman was most influential in his life and he diplomatically replied, “My wife [Giselle Bundchen]. And my mom [Galynn].”
Comedian J.B. Smoove of Curb Your Enthusiasm fame made the scene for the fourth year in a row, mugged for the cameras in a cowboy getup and hijacked a few media sessions for The Rich Eisen Show. He proclaimed to Patriots receiver Matthew Slater, son of Hall of Fame tackle Jackie Slater, “I’m gonna call you The Pedigree!”
“My dad would like that,” Matthew replied.
A local TV station interviewed Smoove, who, when asked what a Lady Slipper was, exclaimed, “It’s a drink!” He then described in precise detail the ingredients of a complex cocktail served with frozen gin ice cubes in a glass made of ice.
“What if I told you,” his interviewer said, “it was the state flower of Minnesota?”
They moved on to Smoove’s favorite song by Minneapolis native Prince, who died in April 2016. Smoove said “Let’s Go Crazy,” then, as if to demonstrate his own state of mind, said, “We wish you were here, Prince.” Pause. “We wish your hologram was here.”
There were other unusual affiliations from all over the world. Phillip Hajszan, a correspondent for Puls 4 TV in Austria, made his eighth consecutive Super Bowl, this year dressed as an Austrian football player up top, with shoulder pads and helmet, and lederhosen on the bottom. The costume was a letdown. He came as Mozart two years ago.
There just weren’t many outrageous moments at opening night 2018.
But there was plenty of outrage.